Thursday, August 30

It's Alive! - 5th Best Horror Game

There's a new GeekList on BoardGameGeek listing the highest rated horror games in the database. It's Alive! is at number 5, which is excellent!

In other news, I've now got a huge pile of copies of It's Alive! at home, all but a few people have been notified that their copies are ready, but there's a delay between notification and payment, hence the stockpile. I'm thinking of opening it up to the public soon now.

Wednesday, August 29

It's Alive! - 100 Sales

I've now sold (i.e. received the money for and shipped) the first one hundred copies of It's Alive! I've a bunch of customers that still haven't replied to my emails letting them know their copies are ready, but I know for a fact that some of my notification emails are being swallowed by spam filters. I'm still not sure how to get around that. I wonder how many haven't heard from me due to spam filters, how many are waiting for more cash to come in first and how many have gone silent because they've changed their minds?

I've another thirty-eight orders outstanding, but a bunch of those are for friends and family who will get them when I see them, and at least fifteen are waiting to hear back from the customer. So the waiting list is feeling a lot shorter. Once I've cleared the waiting list I can make the game properly available, with PayPal buttons on my website, and a listing in the BoardGameGeek marketplace. Once the game is available to buy I should have less of the customers who fail to respond, as I expect that the first thing I'll hear is that I've received the money.

In other news, I've started playtesting some of the submissions I've received. Whether I publish a game of my own or another submission I only really want to go with games that I think are excellent. When playtesting another designer's game I have the advantage that there is a critical review by someone who isn't invested in the game (i.e. me). The game has to convince me that it's worth gambling some of my hard earned cash and a lot of my precious free time on. Whereas when the game is my own that is lacking - I've invested a lot in the game already and I want to see my name in print again, so I've got to look at it really carefully to make sure I'm not favouring it and pushing it out before it is ready. My company is too small to suffer from publishing a game that is not good enough, that kind of thing could really harm my fledgling reputation.

I'm going to hold a six-way play-off between the games I'm considering in the next few weeks in a pub in York one evening. If you'd like to come along and help out let me know in the comments. In return for your time and effort you'll get your name in the credits and a 20% playtesters discount on any of the games you play that I publish.

Saturday, August 25

Scoring Woes

I've been having some issues folding the player shields for It's Alive! Up until now I've been scoring the card with a craft knife, aiming to cut approximately halfway through the card and then folding it neatly along the scored line. Most of the time this is fine, sometimes I don't cut enough, which makes folding it a little harder, but at least the shields look pretty smart. Recently I've had a couple of problems. In the run-up to The Cast Are Dice, I over-cut a couple, actually cutting through the card, so the shield had a hole in it. I had to bin those ones, obviously. At TCAD, Luke (of this blog fame) spotted that I'd given him one of these over-cut shields in his game - I'd obviously not noticed that I'd done it. Damn. So I gave him a new shield, and he was happy, but I was beginning to think I needed a new technique. Yesterday I received an email from one of my customers, whose copy now had a couple of these broken shields after over one hundred plays! I'm going to ship him a couple of replacements (despite him living on another continent), because it's an artifact of the way I've made them, and customer service has to be important to any company, but especially one as small as mine.

This afternoon, in an attempt to fix the problem, I bought a specialist scoring tool from a craft shop. It's like a very small pizza cutter, with a rotary blunt metal blade. I've tried it out this evening, scoring both the inside and the outside of the shield, and neither work very well. Firstly they don't dent the card sufficiently to make it easy to fold, and secondly because the ink on the outside has to be stretched round the fold (rather than separated when I score with a knife) it tears and ends up looking really messy. Back to cutting with a knife, just a bit more carefully.

In other news I've now had ninety-nine people pay for their copies of It's Alive!, very nearly a third of the print run, I've 138 orders, which is nearly half the print run, and probably over half of the amount that will be for sale (once cocked up copies and freebies are discounted). Not bad for less than three months work. The number of orders has been helped by another stocking order, this time from a Bricks-and-Mortar store down South.

Thursday, August 23

Pimping Border Reivers

Tuesday night I went to another designer's house to deliver copies of Border Reivers and It's Alive! which I had traded at cost for a copy of his latest game at cost. We'd spoken at the Expo, and I'd got the impression that they were looking for games, and were vaguely interested in Border Reivers.

So Tuesday night I went over to his house, took It's Alive! and Border Reivers and played both, explaining the rules. It was me, the other designer and a friend of his. We played Border Reivers first, then discussed ways to improve it for a second edition, and then It's Alive! After the game of Border Reivers we discussed the game. I'd been biting my tongue throughout the game, trying to resist mentioning changes while the others were learning the rules. It was a good game, really close and in the end the other designer won economically - though we would each have won on our turn had we been able to stop him. The others both said they enjoyed the game, and I described some ideas I'd had to improve it if it went to a second edition. They had some ideas too, and being far more experienced designers, they were good ones :-)

I dropped hints that I had no plans to do a second edition anytime soon as I didn't want to do anything that demanding by hand, and I didn't have enough cash to do a professional run. Nothing. By this point I realise that I had imagined a lot of stuff, in my excitement at the Expo. D'oh. Ah well.

The next day I emailed him asking whether he was interested in doing a second edition of Border Reivers. I figured I needed to ask him straight out, since it clearly wasn't his intention, so I needed to make mine clear. The worst he could do was say 'Hell, no. It's awful'. What did I have to lose?

His reply? He'd not thought of that. Now he is thinking about it. Result!

Archaeology gets ranked

Well, Archaeology finally got its 30th ranking on BoardGameGeek, and so is now the proud father of 2342nd spot. Not quite up to Jack & Yehuda's level, but it's on its way!

In other news, Archaeology - The Card Game is at the printers and should be released at the end of next week (unless anything goes horribly wrong). The print run is 125 copies, and the rules will be available on BGG any day now.

Wednesday, August 22

It's Alive! Climbs The Ratings

It's Alive! now has forty-four ratings, which due to the Bayesian nature of the BoardGameGeek rankings means that it has climbed the rankings quite quickly. It's now the 1276th Best Game in the world, which considering only thirty-nine people on the Geek own it is not bad. There are over 31,000 games listed on BGG, so to be near the top 1,000 is something I'm very proud of.

You can also nominate It's Alive! for an award in the Golden Geek Awards - BGG's equivalent of the Oscars.

In other news I went to another publisher's house last night to play Border Reivers and It's Alive! I'm hoping they will consider publishing a second edition of Border Reivers. They enjoyed both games, and we discussed a bunch of things that could be done to improve Border Reivers for a second edition. They had a bunch of ideas that I'm keen to try out. Now I just need to find the time.

Monday, August 20

What A Week!

Last week was a blinder of a week. The combination of shipping twelves copies to Games Lore and The Cast Are Dice convention lead to my highest weekly sales of It's Alive! so far. Thirty copies! Games Lore received the games today and apparently two have sold already :-)

The Cast Are Dice

This year's con was slightly bigger than last year as it starts to become established. Nick and Sue of Shire Games had 169 tickets pre-ordered plus a few on the day. Nick had reserved me a table right in the entrance that you pretty much had to walk past, so the location was perfect. I was right next to Dean of Ludorum Games who was demoing Fagin's Gang and a new prototype that was getting a lot of positive feedback. Dean and I chatted throughout the con and he gave me a lot of really useful advice about professional runs, having made 1,000 copies of Fagin's Gang last year in Germany.

After being stymied at the Expo by a lack of stock (both my printer's presses broke the week before so I didn't get any artwork until the Thursday morning, leaving me two days to make as many copies as possible), I was determined to take far more than I needed. I was donating a couple of copies to the raffle table, delivering four pre-orders and hoped to sell ten. So I reckoned I needed about sixteen copies. I took twenty-six. Anything I didn't sell would go to the next people on the waiting list.

Sales-wise I set myself the target of ten sales, to match the income I got from selling five copies of Border Reivers last year. By the end of Saturday I had six, and I got another six plus one order on Sunday, so I'm counting that as thirteen, a good result in my book.

As well as seventeen games of It's Alive! over the two days I also managed to get a game of Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga and fellow blogger Luke's Tour. Both were very enjoyable. I meant to play Luke's games last year but I didn't find him until a couple of minutes before he left, and even after a year's waiting the game definitely lived up to my expectations - great stuff. Rumour has it Border Reivers also hit the table somewhere, which is nice.

This Week

This week is already off to a good start, I've sold three copies already (in the last eighteen hours), and tomorrow after work I'm off to see another publisher to demo Border Reivers and It's Alive!

Thursday, August 16

TCAD Construction Update

I've been frantically making copies in the run-up to The Cast Are Dice, to avoid running out of stock at the convention like I did at the Expo. Last week I managed seventeen copies, and so far this week I've managed fourteen. I'm off work tomorrow though, and The Wife is out in the evening so I'm hoping to get at least another twelve done. I've fourteen copies stacked up ready to go, so hopefully twenty-six in total as stock at the con. That should be more than enough.

In other news, Parcel Force are collecting my largest order tomorrow, twelve copies for a UK internet retailer. It's going to be really cool seeing one of Reiver Games' offerings for sale in a retail setting. One small step down the road towards being a real publisher...

Monday, August 13

Feeling The It's Alive! Love

Someone out there really likes it:

They've never played it though.

In other news it's still doing well on BoardGameGeek, up to 34 ratings now and still well over 7. I reckon another couple of decent ratings should push it into the top 1,500. Hopefully after TCAD it will gain a handful of new ratings...

Sunday, August 12

A Busy Week

That was a very busy week. The first week making games with the professional boxes. I finished seventeen games this week. That's nearly three times the average for hand-made boxes. At this rate I will clear my backlog fairly quickly. I'm already up to copy number 86. If you ordered a copy with a lower number and you haven't received an email from me telling you your copy is ready yet, that is due to a spam filter somewhere eating my email. Drop me a line and I'll let you know about payment and delivery.

I've received the cash for my largest order (twelve copies for an online store in the UK), made the games, and started stockpiling games for The Cast Are Dice in Stoke-on-Trent next weekend. After running out of copies so quickly at the Expo I'm determined to take more than I need. I sold five copies of Border Reivers at last year's con, at twice the price. I'm hoping for around ten sales of It's Alive! this year. I'm hoping to take between twenty and thirty to ensure I've got plenty!

In other news I've been in touch with a couple of UK publishers, discussing future runs of both Border Reivers and It's Alive! When there's anything to report I'll let you know...

Wednesday, August 8

Speeding Up

Now that the boxes have arrived I can make a copy of It's Alive! in just over thirty minutes. Up until now it's taken nearly ninety. I've been making about six copies a week on average so far, it would have been more, but we've had a lot of weekend plans with either friends or family visting us or us visiting them. This week I've made seven already, in only three days. It's going much better. The next order I have to fulfill is a special one. At the Expo the owner of a UK online games store played It's Alive! and really liked it. He liked it so much that he wanted to stock it in his shop. He'd never got involved with hand-made games before, only the professional ones, but this one he wanted. I was obviously ecstatic, and after I got back we ironed out the details via email. I'm trying to get his order of twelve copies together now, should be done by the weekend. It'll be really exciting to see one of Reiver Games' games for sale at an outlet that I've bought games from for probably six or more years. It'll feel like I've arrived!

This weekend we were down in Bristol visiting my parents, The Wife's parents and some friends from school. I showed Codename: Artist and Codename: Jorvik to my family, in particular my Dad, whose brain works totally differently to mine. He's not a gamer at all, but he has a very creative brain, his years as an art teacher mean he automatically thinks of the visual aspect of games, and he's always thinking up new ideas, far more off the wall (and hence innovative) than anything I could come up with. I wanted to show him Jorvik, because he and Mum had played it months ago, and it had changed significantly since they had played it. I was also considering asking him to do the artwork for it. The game's not ready yet, but I can start laying the foundations. When I got to their house I saw one of his latest paintings, half done in the living room. I really like some of the effects in it, and I thought they would be a really good fit for Jorvik, while being innovative enough to really stand out from the crowd with respect to artwork. He agreed to try out a few things for me.

I also wanted to show him Artist, as the whole game came from an idea of his. He had given me a single word, and asked me to design a game around it. I didn't recognise the word, but it was the surname of an artist. He suggested I design a game based upon the artist's body of work. So I did. It's still fairly early on, but I'm really excited about this one. I'd like to do Jorvik next as it's really simple to make, but I think this one might be more ready. It's going to be an abstract strategy game, which is something I've not tried before. I played a few turns with my dad on Saturday, and then a game with my brother, his girlfriend and my sister on Sunday. They all liked it, and Dad was very excited. The scoring was a bit problematic (12, 12, 12, 10!) but the mechanics seemed to work pretty well.

Now that I can get through It's Alive! copies much quicker I need to start thinking of the next step. I've two prototypes at home from a couple of designers (one fairly high profile :-) ) another two from a published designer on their way, and Artist and Jorvik. I'm thinking of doing a six-way face-off, getting a load of play-testers round to play them all and get an idea of which ones are most ready to go. That'll be a good night :-)

Wednesday, August 1

Can I Press You To A Router?

I'm not that impressed by TNT. The boxes were supposed to arrive last Friday, instead they turn up on Tuesday. The delivery guy gives me four boxes. Four! I was expecting one. But I check, and the labels on all of them are addressed to me. So I sign the delivery note ('It says two but there are four') and lug them up two flights of stairs. The two smallest boxes are the heaviest - heavier than I was expecting, bizarre. The first box I open (one of the smaller ones) is full of Cisco Routers. Five of them. So now my already tiny flat is rammed with someone else's IT hardware. I contact TNT to tell them of their mistake, and the woman on the phone says she will have to log a support call and get the support team to ring me within an hour. They don't. So I'm going to somehow arrange to get TNT to come and collect the routers and ship them to the right address. I'll probably have to stay in for them too.

In happier news, the boxes are pretty good. They're a little sturdier than the hand made ones, and although the registration on the tray artwork is slightly out, it took The Wife a good while to spot it knowing there was something wrong. I've got 143, which should keep me in games for quite a while and allow me to clear the backlog of orders fairly sharpish.

I've also started pricing up a professional run of It's Alive! to follow on from the hand-made one. At the moment it's proving to be very expensive, just the boxes and wooden bits (pre-bagged) come to 116% of my budget. I'm going to have to find some cheaper suppliers. I'm also going to try Carti Mundi as I know they made the Canal Mania second edition which is nice quality.