It's that time of year again, we're just over two weeks away from Spiel '09 (or International Spieletage '09 to give it its full name). Spiel is the largest event on the board gaming calendar, a chance to demo and sell you games to over 150,000 (predominantly German) board game fans.
Last year my preparation for Essen was all a bit last minute and I vowed to be more organised this year. I've not succeeded in any significant way :-(. I did manage to book my accomodation in March, and I obviously got my booth organised in time for the May deadline, but I only booked my booth furniture a couple of weeks ago, and the saga of how I'm getting my crew of awesome volunteers and my games to Essen is ongoing!
Last year I took three volunteers: Mal, Dunk and Lucy. They were awesome, they worked extremely hard, were knackered like I was and they were doing it as a favour to me, not for personal financial gain. We all shared a car, (which Dunk and Lucy drove - again with the awesome), got the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and stayed in a couple of self-catering apartments. Dean from Ludorum Games, took my games for me in his van (we're racking up a lot of awesome here), I just paid £35 to ship a pallet of games from my warehouse to his house and then him some petrol money.
It all worked out ok. I liked the self-catering apartments (only 10 minutes walk from the venue, fairly affordable and they allowed us to cook for ourselves and hence eat cheaply). I booked the same place again this year. The ferry cost about £400, and was fun in a roadtrip kind of way.
Yet again I left several important things to the last minute. Who I was taking was up in the air until last week. Dunk and Lucy had volunteered again (gluttons for punishment!) and I was hoping to take The Wife. Sadly work commitments had ruled out The Wife a couple of weeks ago, and Lucy was unsure too. It might just have been Dunk and I. Four people on the stand takes some of the pressure off, you can take a break, wander round or come in late/sneak off early. Just the two of us would have been very hard work. So I started looking around for replacements. In the end Lucy was able to make it (yeay!) and I found a fourth in Andrew - one of my playtesters. Excellent. People sorted. Now I can sort out travel.
Games first. I'd phoned around last week and none of the other UK publishers I know had any space in their vans. Not a problem. I could hire a van and drive it over full of games like Dean had done last year. I phoned a few van companies and got a quote of £192. The Wife sensibly pointed out that since I haven't driven on the continent before (on the wrong side of the road!) and I have a medical condition, I should probably have a co-pilot who can share the driving. £66 for a 2nd driver. Then I phone the ferry company. Last year I'd paid £400 for a return ferry ticket for four people, a four-berth cabin and a car. This year I was looking for two people, a two-berth cabin and a small van (Citroen Berlingo about the size of a car). I'm chatting to the woman on the phone and she asks what the vehicle registration is.
"I don't know - it's a hired van." I reply.
"Van?" she asks, "What are you taking?"
"Some board games to a trade show."
"Oh, you'll need to speak to our freight department." They quote me £755. It's going to cost me over a grand to get my games there. A grand! A GRAND! Ok, that plan goes out of the window. After examining the options for just getting a freight company to ship the games there, I think I can go down that route, but it's not booked yet and nor are the flights for the four of us.
There's a couple of other things I want to get sorted too. Last year my Point of Sale consisted of a few posters I'd got printed at York University, which then fitted in simple top and bottom frames (don't ask how long that took - they were a nightmare!). I wanted something a bit more professional looking this year, so I've been looking at getting some vinyl banners done. Time's getting a little tight (especially considering I haven't designed them yet), but I've found a company online today that have a 48 hour turnaround, so that can be put off for a day or two.
The other thing was some kind of uniform (no, not french maids and firemen!). Last year we were all in civvies, so it was hard for passing people to work out who to speak to. I'm getting some sweatshirts done with the Reiver Games logo, so it will be clear who's working the stand and who's visiting it. At first I thought of T-shirts, but I seem to remember wearing a jumper all the time last year due to the temperature, so a sweatshirt seems like a better idea. They have a 7-14 working day turnaround (I found out today with 9 working days left), but I spoke to them on the phone today and for such a small order it shouldn't be a problem.
I found out about the ferry price this morning. I've spent the day trying to sort out getting the games to Essen, getting us to Essen, and sorting out the sweatshirts and banners. Numerous phonecalls to various companies (several in Germany) and not a small amount of stress. I'll be glad when I get there.