Friday, October 30

Looking Back

Despite the slight disappointment of Essen, things are still going very well considering how new I am to this. While at Essen I sold my 4,000th game. 4,000! That's way more than I ever expected to make, let alone sell at the beginning. So I'm going to do a brief retrospective about how things have changed in the just over three years since I started Reiver Games.

October 2006

In October 2006 my company was four months old. I had released Border Reivers only three months ago, and was still manically constructing copies by hand in my spare time. Each copy of Border Reivers took three hours to assemble from the pieces I had ordered - since I had to construct the boxes, tiles and cards from scratch. Things seemed to be going pretty well, I was making good progress through the print run, and the people I met at shows seemed to enjoy it. But giving up my weekends and evenings (and even some holiday from work) to manufacture the copies was hard work. I was already doing slightly better than I had hoped, but never in a million years did I think I would have sold 4,000 games in three years time.

October 2007

A year later it felt like the company was going somewhere. I'd sold out of the original 100 copies of Border Reivers and made a reasonable profit. I was now a publisher too: Yehuda's It's Alive! was the second game in my catalogue, released five months earlier in June. Loads of people self-publish their own board game design, fewer make the jump to publisher of other peoples' games too. It's Alive! was selling well and proving very popular, I'd decided to make 300 of these, again largely by hand in my spare time around a full-time job, and I was on course to sell out of these too within the year. Could I do this professionally? I was beginning to wonder...

October 2008

Six months earlier I'd made the jump to full-time publisher, quitting my fairly well-paid job in IT Project Management for a life of playing board games and begging for food. The first five months of full-time work had been disappointing, I'd decided to re-print It's Alive! professionally after selling out of the 300 copies limited edition in May. The reprint had taken a lot longer to manufacture than I had hoped, and I had spent many months without any products at all. Still It's Alive! had finally arrived in September, and I'd just got back from my first Essen. Essen had been a huge success and I was on a real high. I'd take 840 copies (a full pallet) of It's Alive! to Essen. Sales to punters hadn't been huge (I'd not really advertised at all) but I'd got rid of the rest of my stock to a couple of distributors and picked up four distributors in total. I was ready to conquer the world!

October 2009

In the year since last Essen things have gone extremely well. I've picked up six distributors in North America, seven in Europe and two in the far East. I've released another two games: Carpe Astra and Sumeria and sales look promising. I've still not broken even on any of my games, but they continue to sell well (after a Summer dip) so I'm hopefully that I'll reach that point on at least one of them fairly soon. Essen this year was slightly disappointing, I'd hoped my advertising spend would have led to more sales to customers, and the freight prices for carting my games to and from the show meant that I didn't make a boat-load of cash (like I did last year). But with no brand new games and good distribution in Europe, there were more people there who owned my games, rather than had never heard of them. Still, I've got interest from a whole bunch of new distributors and the Christmas season is approaching, so I'm hopeful of better things to come.

I'm now beginning to feel like a proper publisher - I've several games in stock, pretty good distribution and people are beginning to know who I am. Onwards and upwards!


jordan said...

Love following your progress, and getting a look behind the scenes. Keep up the great work!

Jack said...

Hiya Jordan,

Thanks for reading!



Lily said...


I'm actually new to your blog and I find it extremely useful. I have just started up a board games (for grown-ups) distribution company and whilst it been hard work, it's been great. I am also looking to design a board game in the future and have found your experience encouraging. It has been extremely difficult to find advice on this topic so i am grateful that i came across your blog.

Thanks and goodluck on your progress!

Jack said...

Hiya Lily,

Glad you've found it useful.

Distributor, you say? I could alway use more distributors - where are you based?



Hulken said...

Hi Jack!

It was nice meting you and finaly being able to put a face to the name. =)

I realy enjoyed playing the games with you and youre friends. (very nice peaple by the way =)

Sorry to hear the sals of sumeria did not go as well as you had hoped. I will keep my fingers x'ed that the sales pick up in december.

By the way, I have a question fore you about braking even. You posted that you stil havent broken even on anny of the games. How mutch of the print run do you have to sell befor braking even?

Best regards Daniel

Jack said...

Hiya Daniel,

Yeah - it was good to meet you too :-)

Regarding breaking even, in an ideal world my break even point would be about 50%. My games all need quite a lot more than than to break even, especially It's Alive!, which I got the pricing wrong on.

Bigger print runs would help help, as this reduces the cost per game of the fixed costs, but of course then you need to sell more copies in total.



Hulken said...

Care to post annything about the submissions you mentioned on twitter?

By the way whay sort of game are you looking fore?

Jack said...

Hiya Daniel,

There's more information about how to submit games (and what sort of games I'm looking for) on my website:

I don't like to talk much about the submissions I've received until they are nearly ready.



Darren, London said...

Jack, I wrote down my thoughts on opening Sumeria. I can email them to you if you'd be interested in that sort of thing. I've only played the game once, so I can't really comment on it yet.

How did you go about getting the art done for your games? I was thinking of asking my local university (Greenwich) if they would have any art students interested in that sort of thing. Is that crazy? How did you find your artists? The cover art for Sumeria is just gorgeous. I was thinking of going the student route to save money. Is the back of the box more graphic design than art? I reckon I can do that part myself once the art is done. What are your thoughts?

Jack said...

Hiya Darren,

It was good to meet you at Essen as well :)

For It's Alive! and Carpe Astra I used a friend whose style of art I thought would be appropriate. Using a friend meant it was cheaper than the price of a professional artist.

For Sumeria I needed a different style so I contacted one of the artists who had visited my stand at Essen the previous year.

Students are likely to be much cheaper, but getting a professional to do it can save a lot of headaches as they know all the technical stuff (margins, colour profiles, etc.) and so their stuff will be ready to go straight away whereas a student may make some mistakes due to lack of experience of the technical details.

One way to find potential artists is to look on BGG for the artists of similar styles of games that you like then approach them directly.