Monday, December 31
I'm considering re-printing games that are now out of print as a different avenue for Reiver Games.
I've started a Geeklist on BoardGameGeek for people to suggest games that need re-printing, and it's generating some interesting ideas.
In other news, I woke up at 6:20am this morning, and couldn't get back to sleep. Mal is visiting, so I couldn't go in the living room, and I didn't want to disturb The Wife seeing as we've a late night planned tonight, so I just lay there in the dark. My head was buzzing with ideas about Codename: Network, one of the submissions I've received, which could hopefully improve it...
Thursday, December 27
That's right, according to TNT, they've found my box of boxes. It's due to be delivered on Monday 31st, so all being well I can send off my sales then. Of course, they've still got to deliver it to me, and let's be honest, they've not got a great track record when it comes to delivering stuff to me.
In other news, it's been a fairly quiet Christmas for games, with a few games of Magic with The Wife, and a couple of games of Incan Gold with my family. I've had a few games design ideas though, an all new game inspired by my 4 month old niece, and some ideas to improve (I hope!) Codename: Jorvik. Must get scribbling. In other news, I'm still putting off doing my accounts for last year despite bringing everything down here. Time is running out though.
Monday, December 24
There's still no news about the missing boxes, lost by TNT en route from the London boxmakers. I rang them again today, now their inventory system is experiencing some problems, so they are not sure where they are. I'll try again after Christmas. I figured it wouldn't be too much of a problem, I wasn't expecting many sales over Christmas, but I sold two yesterday (saving me from the ignominy of my first week without a sales since It's Alive! was released). I had to send the poor customers apologetic emails, warning them I was out of stock for at least a week, possibly longer, and offering them a refund. Fortunately, both were very understanding, and didn't mind waiting. Still I feel like bad for providing poor customer service, and slow turn-arounds on their orders.
We're now down in Bristol for Christmas, staying with The Wife's family. I've had a chance to get four games of Codename: Jorvik in (using the new scoring suggested by Dave and a couple of other scoring simplifications), and one of Codename: Artist. Artist's scoring is way out, I managed to win a game 134:10 - needs a lot of work, it should never be possible to crush someone like that - I aim for much closer scores.
In other news, Merry Christmas everyone!
Friday, December 21
Today I was working from home, and the rest of the It's Alive! boxes were due to arrive. Needless to say they haven't. I phoned TNT and they couldn't find them, so I'm not going to get them now until New Year's Eve at the earliest. So if I get any orders over Christmas they'll have to wait.
They don't even know if they've lost them, so I may never get them, which will be a huge faff as I'll need to claim the money, get the artwork printed again and then get the boxes made again, which will take several weeks.
Last time TNT managed to deliver my boxes plus a job-lot of Cisco Routers, so their ineptitude is pretty staggering.
Russin' frussin' couriers.
Thursday, December 20
When I arrived home this evening in the post there was an invoice from my boxmaker. So what? I can hear your thinking (good ears, huh?). This invoice was different, in a quite exciting way. I've received my fair share of invoices up until now, but they've all been along the 'You gave us X pounds, so we're grudging giving you something in return' variety. This one was of the 'Here's some stuff, you've got thirty days to pay us, or we're sending Big Joe round with his 2x4 and his Rottweilers' variety. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right. I'm now a respectable businessman, so respectable, people will give me things before I pay for them. Sweet!
In a bizarre addendum to this, the invoice is for 92 boxes, I could have sworn I only gave them 83 copies of the artwork! Either my basic ability to count has left me (damn you, maths degree!) or they're giving me boxes for some other game too! Anyway, I'm feeling a little light-headed (hence the whimsical nature of this post), I must be coming down with something. In a vain effort to ward off whatever lurgy is headed my way, I'm going to go round to Paul's and drink mulled wine (medicinally, honest) and play games.
Now all I have to do is remember to pay the damn invoice.
I had to go down to London on fairly short notice today. I get the train, which takes just under two hours. GNER used to have the franchise that allowed them to operate the London-Scotland (via York) trains, but lost it recently to National Express. I write this to you from the train, as National Express have decided to allow all customers free use of the WiFi on the trains - yeay!
As I'm still without boxes for It's Alive! I've had yet more time to think: What's Next? On BoardGameGeek last night I asked what games people thought were best for small publishers like myself to publish. It led to an interesting discussion, with the general feeling being things like It's Alive! quick and simple games that are easy to explain, fairly cheap and have fun themes. The next two games of my own that I've got in the pipeline are a historical 2-player game and an abstract game, so perhaps they are not the best games to be going with. This information will guide my choice for RG0003, the next game I publish.
What are your thoughts? Themed or abstract? Light or heavy? Short or long? Number of players? Cheap or expensive? Bear in mind som of the choices are mutually exclusive!
Wednesday, December 19
Don't get excited, it's the games that are naked - not the players!
Monday I had to take the day off work as the one and only bus to work was cancelled (I found out later the bus company had received a batch of dubious fuel, and all the buses were stalling - they had to empty and refuel them, which took several hours). So, I've a day to myself, with no plans - what to do? Let this post be a warning to you, as I list just how much games design/hobby publishing takes over your life.
Well, I was in town already, and I had a game to post to The Netherlands and some sales cash to pay in to the bank. Neither the Post Office or the bank opens until 9am though, so I spent twenty minutes wandering round town aimlessly in the cold, until they opened. Then in went the money and off went the game. The Wife in her infinite wisdom recommended that I make some games seeing as I had the day off and I had no stock. Usually the first thing I need when making a game is the box in which to place the pieces, but the box delivery wasn't due until Tuesday (I'm finally getting them Friday - I have to wait in for a plumber to fix our leaking washing machine). In an unusual step I made the game components without boxes to put them in, just building a pile of game components. During the course of the morning I managed four games worth. Hence the 'naked games' of the title (You can see their bits!).
In the afternoon, my mate Dave (who's already on holiday for Christmas - jammy sod!) came round and we playtested a bunch of games. Codename: Jorvik of mine (which has changed a lot since he last saw it), and two submissions he'd not played yet: Codenames: Harvest and Harry. I'd only played Harvest once myself (it's the most recent addition to my prototype collection), and although Dave was screwed by a slight error in play compounded by an unlucky card draw, he still enjoyed this most of the games we played. We gave Harry a go too, but we played slightly modified rules, and there was one rule we weren't sure about. It's good but I'm not sure it's good enough :-(
Sunday, December 16
After a run on It's Alive! orders, I'm now out of stock temporarily. I sold ten this week, which cleaned me out, and I can't even make any more until the boxes arrive on Tuesday. I can't take Tuesday off work though, as I've my departmental Christmas meal at work, so I might not get them until Wednesday.
As a result I've decided not to go on the radio, since telling everyone what a great Christmas present It's Alive! would make will backfire if I can't get any ready in time to deliver before Christmas.
Instead of making games, I've managed to get a few games of Jorvik (soloing still) in today around my weekend chores, plus a first play of Codename: Harvest - my latest submission. Jorvik went well (including taking down the extra information I mentioned a couple of days ago). I tried one strategy that I thought might be unbalanced, and although it got a much large score than before, the other player won! Choosing that strategy boosts your points, but it also helps your opponent.
Playing Harvest brought home to me the importance of blind-playtesting - where you give the game and the written rules to someone who has not played it before and get them to play the game from the rules. Although the rules seemed very well written when I first received them, it's not until you try playing the game that you realise where all the small cracks are - what do you do in this situation? Does this card work like that or slightly differently? I've now got a bunch of questions to email off to the designer. First impressions were promising though.
Friday, December 14
One of the factors that is often used to describe a board/card game is randomness. How much will events outside your control such as drawing cards, dice rolls or other random factors affect your chances of winning?
While playtesting Codename: Jorvik, I got to thinking that a good way to determine the level of randomness is to play a game between people of equal skill using the same strategy. Don't have an evil twin? Play against yourself. In games where you score the game, play against yourself a bunch of times, and the look at the scores that result. If they vary a lot, then there is a lot of randomness, if they don't (or you get a lot of draws) then there isn't.
I've also stepped up my recording of my games of Jorvik. At first I was just recording scores, and who started (in an attempt to spot any first player advantage). Now I'm adding a few others to the mix:
- Which cards are left over? The game may finish with cards not used, recording those might spot cards that get used less often, or weaker cards.
- How many cards are left over? Is using all your cards a better (or worse) strategy?
- Strategy used - Does one strategy consistantly win?
Recording these details as I play will allow me to spot (slightly more scientifically than 'a feeling') potential problems with the game, and adjust it accordingly. In particular, I'm expecting to change the distribution of cards a fair bit in response to the info I get.
In other news I sold six of the nine copies I've got in the flat at the moment on the back of the review on Joystiq.com yesterday, which leaves me some to take down to Beyond Monopoly!, my local games club when I pop down tomorrow. Oh, and the local radio station have invited me back on Monday morning to talk about board games (and It's Alive! in particular) in the context of the Christmas board games sales spike.
Thursday, December 13
With construction stalled on It's Alive! (I've bagged all the bits and I've no boxes at home to make any more copies until the next delivery from my boxmaker), I've had some time to think more about the third game from the Reiver Games' stable. I've a few promising submissions, and I've one more en route. Two of my games are nearly ready too, Codename: Jorvik and Codename: Artist.
I've been working from home the last couple of days. With time to kill at lunchtime and after work, I've spent some time giving Jorvik a thorough run-through. It's a 2-player card game, with an estimated play time of 15 - 30 minutes. I've played a bunch of games solo, trying out different ideas quickly to see what works and what doesn't.
The rules have changed in minor ways after each play as I tweak things, and I think it's definitely improving. I'm trying to smooth things out so the rules are as simple as possible while providing a challenging and fun game. I'm also trying to get it to involve some player confrontation, but not too much. The recent changes I've made have simplified card placement, at the expense of slightly more complicated scoring. By easing the restrictions on card placement it's easier to play cards, and hence your less likely to be unable to play a card on your turn. It also simplifies the rules (in terms of complexity and word count). The slightly more complicated scoring thematically makes sense (which is important to me), and gives you a secondary goal for card placement - which makes the game slightly deeper (it's still pretty light fare). I'm going to play it a bunch more, trying out a few more ideas. Once the rules settle down a bit then I'll be ready to try it out on a few friends, write the rules up and get some blind-playtesting done.
For the moment, though, it's back to the tweaking and solo-play.
In other news, It's Alive! has been reviewed on Joystiq.com. The reviews lead to three sales within half an hour of posting, and seeing as I've only got nine copies finished at the moment pending further boxes, this could get interesting...
Tuesday, December 4
Well, I'm back, and after another debacle where Delta lost my luggage again (two for two - outstanding!), I'm back in the saddle.
I arrived home around lunchtime yesterday, and promptly read my emails, caught up on the blogs I read and posted the game orders I'd received while in the States. I've been off work today as well, catching up on sleep and writing a GeekList on BoardGameGeek about where I've sold games to, and how my customers heard about my games. If you're making games yourself, the information might give you a few ideas, and will hopefully prove useful.
This afternoon I'm going to make a bunch more games, but I've only got seven more boxes left until the box manufacturer ships me the rest, so that will be the limiting factor.
In other news, the designer of Codename: Escape got back to me yesterday about his game. The email I'd sent him didn't enunciate why I wasn't willing to publish it very clearly, so if he's willing to move on a couple of things that might still be in the running.
Sunday, December 2
Another month has passed in a blur. I've been pretty busy once again for work, and a busy month for games too. Since I've been out of the country so much, I've not ended up playing many games, but I've still been busy.
Not a huge amount of games played this month, but I attended MidCon so It's Alive! has a good showing. Also several games played for the first time, thanks to Paul's games nights.
Plus three games playing once, and all for the first time: Fearsome Floors, League of Six and San Marco. Of the three, Friedemann Friese's F-alliterating Fearsome Floors was the one I like least - a bit too chaotic for my tastes. There wasn't much between League of Six and San Marco, both solid Euros, but I guess I have a slight preference for League of Six - plus it's Czech! I live there for a couple of months, so I have a soft spot for it.
Looking forward to December, I hope to make it to Beyond Monopoly! my local games club once, plus with less travel for work, holidays with our families and the return of my gaming buddy Dave from Afghanistan, I'm hoping for a decent month of gaming.
Turning to creation it's been a pretty good month. Sales of It's Alive! have been almost twice last month's poor showing. I've received a whole bunch of prototypes too.It's Alive!
It's been a good month for It's Alive! Twenty sales, plus a few orders by friends, and my first sales to Japan and Sweden. It had a disappointing outing at MidCon, but a good month over all. I also decided to get the last lot of boxes professionally made. The professional boxes are slightly higher quality, and getting the last few made will save me about eighty hours of construction.Codename: Escape
Unfortunately I've had to drop this one. I enjoyed the game, but the theme (which is some ways is superb), is a little too controversial. I wanted to tweak it a little, make it more fantastic and less controversial, while still in the same vein. The designer wanted to keep the original theme, which of course he's entitled to do, so I've passed it over. Hopefully it'll see the light of day elsewhere.Codename: Harvest
Another new submission, which after reading the rules, I've requested in prototype form. Hopefully it will have arrived by the time I get home.
Saturday, December 1
This week I'm in the US for work. We arrived in New York on Monday, and after our conncting flight to Washington was delayed by a couple of hours it was promptly cancelled. So we decided to stay in New York, since we were due to return on Tuesday anyway. Despite both us and our luggage being in JFK airport, we couldn't retrieve it, it had to go on the plane the next morning, and after a few round trips to Dulles airport, I finally got my luggage back on Thursday :-(.
After a few days work, we've got a few days off to enjoy the city, and yesterday afternoon I visited a couple of NYC game shops. First I dropped in to Neutral Ground where the staff were very friendly and helpful, then The Compleat Strategist which has an awesome number of games. My main aim was to discover a reasonable retail price for It's Alive in the States. At the moment, making them by hand my only option is to price them according to what it costs me to make them, but that's expensive by US standards, not least because of the exchange rate. Judging by games in these shops that I know the price of in the UK, $25 seems about right. Do my US readers agree?
In other news, it's been a pretty good week for sales, with three sales to the US and my first sale to Sweden. They'll all be shipped on my return.