Monday, April 6

Isolation: Things to be Thankful For

We're now into week three of our isolation, and mine is likely to last around 13 weeks because of my Multiple Sclerosis which makes me high risk.

Lockdown is a pain, I miss the office and my friends there, I miss walking to work, I miss our weekly Games Night at my house and I miss the freedom of weekend trips and being able to pop out whenever I want.

But it's not all bad, and dwelling on the negatives isn't going to help my mental health during what is a stressful time unprecedented during my lifetime.

There's several good things that have eased the discomfort:

  • I'm getting to see a lot more of The Wife and my girls. I get an hour at lunchtime with them every day, plus what used to be my commute time. It's great to spend more time together as a family.
  • At this point we're all still well.
  • I've got into running again, which is great for my health (though I pulled a calf muscle last week, so I'm having some time off to recover).
  • The weather has been pretty good, so my morning runs haven't been awful and I've been able to take the girls into the garden in my lunch breaks.
  • We're getting a lot of jobs done around the house that have been put off for months since our move last summer.
  • We're cooking and baking more, so we're probably eating better.

I realise I'm pretty lucky on a bunch of those, but what about the lockdown has been an (unexpected) benefit for you?

Monday, March 30

Isolation

We’re now at the end of our two weeks of quarantine and can do our own shopping (the UK lockdown prevents us from leaving the house except for that and one exercise session by ourselves once a day).

Despite the fact that I’m saving 60-80 minutes a day on commuting I’ve actually got less time for Eurydice stuff as I’m taking longer lunch breaks to give The Wife a break from looking after the girls all day and the kids are going to bed later so we have less evening available.

I have managed to playtest Coalescence a few times with Daughter the First though and am looking forward to iterating the scoring cards when I get a chance.

I’ve also held my first online Games Night last week too, we used Google Hangouts for video chat and played a couple of games of 7 Wonders and one of Tsuro using the iPad/Android apps. 7 Wonders went pretty smoothly once we got used to the AI and the round timer, Tsuro was a massive pain to set up online games (can’t cancel accidental ones, the friend codes didn’t always work, difficult to work out what you need to do and in what order). Carcassonne has worked pretty well during the test the week before, but there are apparently three different versions (old iOS, old Android and new Asmodee) and we’re not sure if there’s any cross-connectivity between them. So it might only work when everyone has the same version.

We want to try Race for the Galaxy too as that’s a favourite, so hopefully we’ll have a few options for the next several weeks of distant gaming.

This week I'm mostly sending messages, it's time for our monthly Kickstarter update and also our first quarterly email newsletter of 2020!

Monday, March 23

Holding Pattern

A lot can change in a week. At the end of the day that my last post went live I found out that due to The Toddler’s (almost certainly not COVID but better safe than sorry) cough we were all housebound for two weeks and as someone with Multiple Sclerosis I count as a ‘vulnerable person’ who will probably be told to stay self-isolating for twelve weeks from this weekend. So possibly 13 weeks of largely staying indoors.

To combat this I’ve taken up early morning runs (allowed under the rules) instead of walking to work and started figuring out an online version of my weekly Games Night (three of us did a test on Friday of Google Hangouts for video chat and the Carcassonne iPad app, which worked pretty well once we’d got over the teething troubles).

But I can’t get to the Post Office at the moment and so I’ve taken down the Facebook ads we were running to drive FlickFleet sales, and Paul is still waiting for a new garage door, so Kickstarter rewards cutting is stalled too.

We’re the lucky ones though. Our day jobs are pretty secure and because we run Eurydice Games as a side hustle we have essentially zero overheads. Spare a thought (and a few pounds/dollars if you can afford it) for those Indy publishers that are relying on that for their income, their food and their rent/mortgage in these troubled times.

On the plus side, I've managed to fix my prototyping printer (it needed a new printhead) so I can start printing prototypes again and Daughter the First and I got a few games of Coalescence in on Saturday morning.


The new planets look amazing!

I've also got the first (of hopefully two) #CraftWednesday designs up on Redbubble.

You can get it on t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases, notebooks and mugs!

Stay safe everyone and we wish you well.

Monday, March 16

And So It Begins

We’re now approaching significant restrictions in the UK and obviously there are many places far worse than us that are already under lockdown or similar.

We’ve been trying to expedite some of the shipping to beat the lockdown, with some success, but I’m expecting many of the remaining rewards to fall foul of it.

Take it easy everyone, stay safe and look after each other.

Monday, March 9

Yay! Boo! Yay! Boo!

It’s been a mixed week.

Yay: Paul has sent all but 12 of the rewards due in April now, four of those are to friends that we will deliver by hand, one is still waiting on a shipping address and the other seven will go early next week.

He’s got everything he needs to start sending the first twenty-odd October rewards too.

Boo: Paul’s garage door is broken. He needs to open the door to run the extraction hose from the laser cutter outside while cutting, so until it’s fixed we can’t make any more games. It shouldn’t get in the way of the October deadline, but will delay the last few rewards at least a few weeks.

Yay: I went to my third consecutive Newcastle Playtest last week with Coalescence again. It’s getting better again - making solid progress. We also had some good ideas to improve it further. I’m really glad the Newcastle Playtest is running again. I didn’t make it along at all last year (work travel or hand-crafting FlickFleet always got in the way) and it eventually petered out. I restarted it in January and we’ve now had three good back-to-back sessions :-)

Coalescence taking shape (pun intended!)

Boo: I also took along the other game I’m working on which had had its first test with Paul a couple of weeks ago. I’ve totally broken it! Time to roll back a load of changes and try to approach it in a different direction.

Monday, March 2

Shipping Machine!

Just over a week ago I went down to Paul’s house to sign all the deluxe rewards so that Paul could start shipping them.

Last week Paul shipped the first 120(!) rewards, these are all ones due to arrive by the end of April and they should all arrive within a couple of weeks. We’ve only got another 100 rewards to send now, and several of those are just hand-deliveries to friends. The April rewards are all ready to go, they just need parcelling up and taking to the Post Office.

The rest still require laser cutting, but there’s fewer of them, they are faster to cut due to the lack of etching and they’re not due until October. Things are looking good for another early completion :-)

While Paul’s been doing that I’ve been trying to frantically keep up with the books (we don’t record a sale until it ships) and working on a couple of prototypes ahead of tomorrow’s #NewcastlePlaytest session.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks!

Monday, February 24

Ready to Ship!

I spent Friday evening and Saturday daytime with Paul in York. Now the boxes for the games and expansions in the second Kickstarter have arrived, I needed to get down to York to sign almost 300 of them that are the deluxe rewards (the deluxe ones are signed, numbered, inscribed and optionally personalised on the inside of the box lid).


These are the games we signed, we did nearly twice as many expansions!

We did that in batches of 25 to give my arm and hand a rest between batches and in between batches talked games, marketing, game design, what’s next for FlickFleet and tried out the two new prototypes I'd brought with me (Coalescence and an idea we had together last time I visited with my family that I finished on the train down!).

It was a great and very productive 24 hours and we’re now in a position where we can start shipping the bulk of the rewards - everything due by the end of April is ready to parcel up and post and the rest of the rewards just need the laser-cutting and bits bagging done. We’re still on track for finishing fulfilment early again :-)

Monday, February 17

Designer Diary: Coalescence

As I mentioned last week, I’ve started designing games again after a crazy year of construction last year.

The first of these is Coalescence - a game of solar system engineering.

The theme for this one came first (I think it’s unique too!) - you start with a solar system at the proto-planetary disc stage (an amorphous disc of gas and dust) and take it to a finished solar system with planets and moons.

I first tried this game out with Paul towards the end of last year. At that point I was thinking of an action selection game with hidden goals that partially overlapped so there could be one or many winners.

As is often the case, that first game didn’t go very well (way too short and it didn’t feel particularly interesting).

The next step (at the end of last year) was to turn it into a dexterity game where the board mirrored the gravity well of the solar system - a layered board where things naturally fell towards the centre of the board:


The first dexterity prototype

I took that to the first session of Newcastle Playtest in early January. The dexterity element brought an immediacy that had been missing and also an element of chaos, which suits the theme of trillions of pieces interacting through gravity as they spiral round the new born star.

There were however a number of things that needed attention: the board was made of layers of 5mm foam core stacked on top of each other - the resulting steps were so high it was pretty much impossible to flick away from the star. That version was the first to feature the hidden goals, but they were very binary - by halfway through the game you knew you had won or lost, which made the rest a bit pointless. And there was no story for why you were doing it.

A couple of weeks ago I took a new prototype along Newcastle Playtest:


The second dexterity prototype

This one was made from layers of card so the steps (5 instead of 2) were easier to cross. I’d swapped out the wooden cubes for the gems in Incan Gold which had a much more interesting shape and added a time limit to the game rather than playing until you ran out of rocks to flick. I made the board bigger and I also came up with a story hook:

Captain, there is a new solar system forming in Sector X/A9-4. I don’t need to tell you how tactical important that location is. We need that system to be perfect for us to colonise. Your mission is to go there with a stealth ship and a fleet of mass-driver drones and give things a nudge so it ends up how we want it. Like everyone else we’ve signed the galactic treaties that forbid this, so your presence and actions must go undetected - this is strictly on the quiet. Of course we expect everyone else to do the same, so expect inference too. Get this right and your career will be stellar.

The final change, suggested by one of the playtesters, was to have hidden scoring criteria instead of goals. So you would spend the whole game trying to get more points rather than you play until you met your win condition and then lose interest. It was much better all round.

Next up is to swap the six hastily scribbled hidden scoring cards for a wider selection and then work on balancing them properly.

Like the sound of this? Let me know in the comments or sign up to our newsletter to stay informed.

Monday, February 10

Designing Again

Last year I spent making FlickFleet copies. It was all-encompassing. We needed to make about 300 for the first Kickstarter’s rewards and each one was entirely hand-made. At the beginning of the year my half of the construction (making the boxes, cutting the dashboards and packing the contents in the box) took me about 25 minutes per game. 

I work full time and have two young kids so my chance to do this is in the evenings after the kids are asleep and we’ve tidied up for the day, so I started somewhere between 8:30 and 9pm. My youngest sleeps terribly so to survive I need to get to bed pretty early - ideally 10pm. As a result I ended up spending three nights a week making games for most of the year.

As a result of that and wanting to spend some time with The Wife after the kids were asleep, I did pretty much nothing last year except making games. In 2012 I set up a playtesting group with another designer. Last year I didn’t make it once (and he’s moved on too, so it petered out). We have a local games club that meets twice a month. I didn’t make it to that either. Nor did I do any real games design either. Even after Paul (who works 3 days a week and has an older kid) took a load of the manufacturing off my plate.

This time we’ve managed to reach the scale where we can get the dashboards cut for us and the boxes manufactured too (they’re finally turning up at Paul’s today!), so Paul is going to do all the construction (which is laser cutting the bits, bagging everything and then putting stuff in the boxes).

I’ll finish off the remaining stock from the first Kickstarter, do the books, website, marketing and admin stuff.

This frees up a lot of my time (especially good as I started a new job last week!) and as a result I’ve been in the mood for designing again. I’ve restarted the playtest group, started work on two designs and almost made it to Newcastle Gamers (the bi-monthly games club) this week, but was foiled by a truly terrible night’s sleep the preceding night.

I’ve got two ideas on the go at the moment: Coalescence: a dexterity game of solar system engineering and a multi-session game set in the FlickFleet universe that Paul and I came up with over breakfast on our recent trip to York.


I’ll be sharing more about these two games over the next few weeks.

Monday, February 3

Taking the Pledge

We didn't use a pledge manager (a separate system for managing fulfilment, late pledges and pledge upgrades after the Kickstarter closes, e.g. Backerkit or Gamefound) for our first Kickstarter and weren't intending to for our second. As the second Kickstarter came to an end and it was clear we weren't going to unlock all the stretch goals, people started asking if they could get the missed stretch goals as add-ons in a pledge manager. We asked backers if they wanted a pledge manager and nearly 70% of respondents said yes. So we found ourselves at the end of the campaign quickly fishing around for a pledge manager we were not intending to use.

We were not expecting to generate much income through this, so ones like Backerkit that charge a flat fee were a bit off-putting. In the end we found Gamefound which is free to both backers and creators (I've no idea how they fund themselves!). So we went with that.

At the end of the Kickstarter we raised £13,162 which, after dropped pledges, fell to £12,879. The pledge manager ran for about a month and allowed people who missed the Kickstarter to late pledge at Kickstarter prices, people who wanted to upgrade their pledges to do so and anyone to add some extra asteroids on to their order for only £3-4 with free shipping for a single copy.

We had no idea what to expect, but it end up raising an additional £1,688 (an additional 13.1%), of which £552 came from nine late pledges and £442 from add-ons (the asteroids). The remaining £694 came from people who had backed the Kickstarter adding extra copies of the game or expansion or upgrading from standard to deluxe copies. Which is pretty incredible and way beyond what we expected.


Gamefound dashboard for FlickFleet

For comparison on our first Kickstarter we just used the Kickstarter reward surveys and offered to take PayPal payment for anyone interested in an upgrade (we had seven upgrades and an additional deluxe and standard ordered for a total of £198 (an additional 1.6%). It's not a fair comparison as we didn't have an equivalent of the £3-4 add-on, but it's clear the pledge manager was a good thing from a sales point-of-view.

It was not all smooth sailing, however.

Before we get into this, the problems were exacerbated by my own mistake: I told backers (via a Kickstarter update) that the Pledge Manager was live for late pledges before I'd loaded in their rewards from Kickstarter. Some of them immediately leapt on to Gamefound and completed their Gamefound order before I'd uploaded their Kickstarter credits or the rewards for which they had pledged. Afraid this was the beginning of an avalanche of excited backers jumping on early, I quickly uploaded the credits only and cancelled the too-early orders.

So now people who know how to use Gamefound could re-select the rewards they got through Kickstarter and add on anything extra they wanted while only paying for the add-ons or upgrades. But quite a few people didn't realise they needed to add their original pledge to the order (due to my mistake), so we got several orders for just an add-on (and shipping on that), which later needed cancelling along with info to the backer on how to correct the (my!) mistake.

I've spent about 40 hours over the last couple of weeks building a fulfilment spreadsheet from three sources: PayPal (where we received the upgrade/add-on/late pledge money), Gamefound and Kickstarter. I've had to cross-reference them all to ensure we didn't miss anyone. I've had to deal with Kickstarter backers who haven't fulfilled the pledge manager (about 10%), all the erroneous pledges caused by my mistake and include the late pledges that weren't in Kickstarter. That has been just about doable, but clearly is not sustainable if our next Kickstarter is (a lot) more successful. Having to merge the two formats and then do a three way cross-check has been very painful and slow. And even after all the chasing, I'm still missing 6 shipping addresses (about 2%) and 57 (about 34%) lots of personalisation info. The Gamefound support was good (they have a guy in the UK), and things were definitely made worse by my mistakes, but I wonder how much effort would have been saved if I done things right in the first place.

Monday, January 27

A Meeting of Minds

Paul and I live about 100 miles apart, he lives in York (where we used to live) and me in Newcastle.

We meet up every couple of months or so for a nice family weekend together and some gaming and Eurydice scheming.

This weekend was one of those. We had a lovely time all hanging out together and Paul taught me three new games (Montana, Fabled Fruit and Century Golem Edition) all of which I really enjoyed. We also spent a decent chunk of time thinking about FlickFleet scenarios, the next FlickFleet release and we had an idea over Sunday breakfast for a new (very different!) game set in the FlickFleet universe that we spent all day Sunday fleshing out in between eating, reading stories to the kids and soft play.

Paul and I being apart is not usually a big problem for Eurydice (most of the stuff can be done via WhatsApp and meeting every couple of months), but we’re in one of the times when it does. The deluxe copies of FlickFleet and the expansion from our second Kickstarter need to be signed by both of us. Those boxes arrive at Paul’s this week (hopefully Thursday), so I can’t do my signatures before then. Paul has everything ready to put in the first 130 or so boxes but can’t post them until I’ve signed them.

So I’ve taken this Friday (my last day in my current job) off and I’ll be travelling down to his house on Thursday after work to spend Thursday evening and Friday frantically signing boxes! Once that’s done we can start fulfilling the Kickstarter at a decent pace.

I’m also hoping to knock up a first cut of our new idea to try out on Thursday evening once we get bored of box signing!


Paul's garage mid construction!

Tuesday, January 21

Almost Ready!

Things are starting to move now on the second Kickstarter fulfilment. Last week I made a couple of outstanding website orders and all the Alpha Wing pledges that hadn’t upgraded to a different level in the Pledge manager and I’ve been posting those in my lunch breaks.

I’ve also been catching up on the bookkeeping and trying to collate the Gamefound orders with the Kickstarter backers. Due to an error on my part we didn’t load Kickstarter backers chosen rewards into Gamefound so we have the late pledges and ~90% of people with a Gamefound order and then a bunch of people who haven’t completed the pledge manager so I’ve got to track them down in Kickstarter instead (and chase them for their shipping address). I’m trying to build a single spreadsheet that contains all the information to make fulfilment as straightforward as possible.

The manufacturing orders I whinged about last week are sorting themselves out - the missing acrylic (plus a couple more sheets I needed to order due to another mistake of mine :-( ) arrived on Friday and the missing wooden bits were restocked at our supplier last Friday too and are shipping today. The boxes are due to arrive on Monday 27th and then it's just a case of cutting the bits, bagging them and shipping them.

I was hoping to spend the last day of my current job (31st) going down to York to help Paul with the boxing of bits and to sign all the deluxe boxes, but he's travelling to a convention that day, so we'll need to do that another day instead.

Exciting times!

Monday, January 13

The Course of True Love...

You know where I’m going with this!

The orders for the FlickFleet fulfilment are not running smooth. Half of the wooden bits order have arrived, they are out of stock of the rest and will send it on when it arrives from their supplier. Annoyingly the bits they've run out of are the ones we’ve run out of too, so we can’t make any more full game sets until they get here.

The acrylic arrived last week. Or at least some of it did. Despite asking them to arrange delivery with Paul (he needed to be in at home to receive it), they didn’t - just emailing me an hour(!) before it was due to arrive at Paul’s. I quickly told him and he raced home from work and it arrived a couple of hours later. When it did arrive, three of the colours were missing. We got on the phone and they were very apologetic and said it would be delivered next morning. It was, but it was only then that Paul double checked and the previous day’s delivery was missing 8 grey sheets (of 155) and 88 red sheets out of 185 (nearly half!). Needless to say we’re chasing that at the moment. And the clear sheets are too small. Not a happy customer.

However, the boxes order is going ok. The proofs are arriving today and assuming they are fine they will be printed next week. Once we’ve got those we can start shipping the sets we’ve got made up.

Paul and I met up yesterday to swap bits. Last year he was cutting the 1st edition box labels and greyboard so I’ve taken all of that plus a decent number of bagged up games so that I can keep fulfilling website/retail orders using the 1st edition leftovers. I've collected the 2nd edition and expansion rules and dashboards from the printers in Newcastle, so I handed all of that over along with some shipping boxes.

This year Paul is taking on all of the construction and shipping in addition to the laser-cutting (thankfully it's a lot easier this year as the dashboards are pre-cut and the boxes made for us). I will continue to do the website, accounts, social media/marketing and graphic design.

Just to prove it's not all going badly, here's a look at some bits coming off the laser-cutter:


The fluorescent objective tokens

Monday, January 6

All Change

Happy New Year everyone! I hope all had a good winter break/Christmas.

Last week was both quiet and busy. We had four website orders, but I need to meet Paul and get some bits before I can fulfill all of them. I proofed and placed the order for the expansion printing (rules and dashboards) which I’ll collect on Friday and the box proofs are on the way.

There was a problem with the wooden bits order (only half of it arrived) but I hope that will be resolved soon. We’re almost at the point where we can start fulfilling the Kickstarter rewards...

In other news I restarted the Newcastle Playtest group which I co-founded but have been unable to attend for over a year due to FlickFleet crafting and work travel. That’s tomorrow! I’m really looking forward to it. Over the weekend I’ve been making a prototype for another space-themed dexterity game that I’ll be taking along to try out. It’s very early days on this one, so we’ll see how much work it needs. Probably loads.

In yet otherer news I handed in my notice at work last Thursday. I’m going to a new job, still in Newcastle city centre so I can still walk to work and it should include less travel, certainly in the short term, so that’s another bonus. It’s going to be a wrench, I’ve been with my present employer for 8.5 years and have worked there three times over the last 19 years. I’ve known a lot of my colleagues for 19 years and consider several of them my closest friends. Fortunately the new job is with a former sister company, so I’ve known a lot of them for 19 years too!