Thursday, January 31

Jorvik - Getting There...

I played Jorvik and couple of times on the weekend with Dunk, and a couple more times last night with Dave. Dunk described it as 'A working game now' and Dave as 'Nearly ready'. Not the most exciting of endorsements, but they show that progress is being made in the minds of my play-testers.

By exploring last night's scores you get some more interesting information. It's a card game, so luck of the draw is a factor, but to what degree? Here are those scores (individual round scores in brackets):

(10,18) 28(12,23) 35
(15, 29) 44(16,28) 44
(9,18) 27(15,24) 39
(15,19) 34(13,26) 39

What can I possibly get from that? Well, here's a few things:

  • There's not a huge amount of luck - my scores don't vary by much and I know what I'm doing
  • It's a game you get better at with practice (the most experienced player usually wins, the least experienced shows improvement)
  • It's possible to turn things around in the second half of the game (the loser of the first half doesn't necessarily lose the whole game)

The first point has been influenced by a couple of things, a decent hand-size means a player has more choice, coupled with the addition of a new rule which boosts the weaker cards - your draw is less important if all the cards are roughly equal in 'value'.

This probably comes down to working out how to use the priests to greatest effect, and learning the deck composition which helps guide how to position your cards to benefit from likely future draws.

I struggled for a long time with the last point, but in the end it turned out to be as simple as make the first round lower scoring than the second.

I need to do some more testing, and will probably tweak the deck slightly as I work out how the addition of the priests has changed the relative value of each card, but it's getting there. I now need to speak to my Dad some more about the artwork.

Tuesday, January 29

It's Alive! - 100 Ratings

It's Alive! now has 100 ratings on BoardGameGeek. The average is 7.08, which is enough to push it well inside the top 1,000.

Interestingly, only 87 people list it as owned, despite 217 sales. I guess either a lot of my customers aren't active on BGG, or they don't track their games collection on it.

In other news, my Google AdWords ad campaign is not working at the moment - I have a support call in. Once it's fixed and I have some statistics, I'll get back to you with how effective it's been.

Monday, January 28

Hello, My Name Is Jack...

... remember me? It's been a hectic week at work, and as a result my blogging has suffered, but I've still managed to get some work done on the games.

It's Alive!

Lots to report on the IA front. I've managed to build up some stock again after my bulk sale to an Italian shop, eight copies again, not as many as I'd like, but the post-Chrimbo lull means that it's enough at the moment.

On Wednesday I was stuck in London for the night with work, so I popped along to Swiggers board games club to pimp/demo/sell It's Alive! I'd set myself the target of two sales, and was slightly disappointed with only one, but I got to meet Nigel Buckle, designer of Celtic Quest who'd bought a copy of Border Reivers from me last year. He was along demoing his next game Ascendancy which is being published by JKLM Games in time for the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June. Ascendancy is like a quicker version of Twilight Imperium apparently. People seemed to enjoy It's Alive!, but no-one was feeling the love. The last game was the most fun, despite someone wandering over and slagging it off to the players just as I was trying to explain how to play. I tried out the variants I'd posted on BoardGameGeek in a couple of the games - good fun, perhaps a little less harsh.

I also received a £30 voucher for Google advertising, so I'm trying that out too. It's early days yet, when I've an idea about how effective it is, I'll let you know.

Codename: Jorvik

I've made a couple of tweaks to Jovik. I had the ideas several days ago, but I'd not got around to trying them out. I saw Dunk on the weekend, and while The Wife and Lucy were out dress-shopping for their (Lucy & Dunk's, not Lucy & The Wife's) wedding, Dunk and I played a load of games including Jorvik. I've started making a prototype on the computer, but this was still using my lurid felt-tipped version, with some hastily scribbled additions in pen. They're a definite improvement, and once I've finished making a (slightly) prettier computer version I'm going to lend that to Paul and Lisa for blind playtesting. It's getting there. Doing the computer version really feels like it too, it's settling down now.

Codename: Network

Dunk and I also got a couple of games of Network in too. The first one showed off most of my changes to good effect, but it was too easy to play and didn't feature enough interaction. We made some fairly major changes, and then tried those out. It was a definite improvement. I sent them off to the designer, and less than 48 hours later he'd tried them out and come back with some more changes. They sound really interesting, maybe I'll get a chance to modify my prototype accordingly and try it out with Dave on Wednesday. I'm getting a real buzz out of collaberating with the designer on Network. When he sent it in, it was in a much earlier state than I wanted really, and I nearly discounted it on that basis. But because he knew it needed a lot of work he's very keen to try out improvements and I can be more involved with the design.

Anyway, that's enough for now, I've almost used up my lunch-break!

Thursday, January 17


I've got a few copies in stock so I've been pressing on with my accounts. I've done up to last July now, and seeing as this financial year has been much busier things are going much slower. Still, I now know that I had almost as much turnover in the first five months of this financial year as I got in the whole (nine months) of last year. Yeay!

I've been trying to be a bit more active on BoardGameGeek in an effort to bring It's Alive! to the attention of more people. It's working, I got two orders on Wednesday after posting it on a Geeklist, one from the US and one from Sweden. Went I went to the Post Office at lunchtime to post those copies I got talking to the Postmaster. It turns out he has a passing interest in party games, and was interested in seeing my catalogue. Ain't got no catalogue, but I promised to take a copy in next time I'm in there. After selling a couple of copies of Border Reivers to my bank last year, selling a copy to the Post Office would be the next logical step. I'm incorrigible.

I've also been thinking more about Codename: Jorvik and Codename: Network. I've had another idea for Jorvik which improves upon a previous idea. It's no longer a pure card game, but the addition of two wooden pieces won't push up the weight or price by much, and I think they add quite a lot to the game. Network I've still got issues with my scoring ideas, and I think I might boost the number of categories from six to seven, to improve player interaction.

Sunday, January 13

Busy Sunday

We spent Saturday helping a friend decorate - which left me with only Sunday to work on my games. I wanted to get my books done for last financial year (6th April 2006 - 5th April 2007), and I also needed to make a few games as I was out of stock again.

I'd previously got my Mum (who used to do this professionally) to show me the ropes, and over the last few days I'd got the other stuff I needed ready in preparation. I was missing an invoice from a supplier, so I got them to send me a duplicate, and I had to print out a few invoices I only had on the computer. I also had to get my PayPal transactions printed out. Foolishly I'd not requested a monthly report from PayPal initially, and since I can only get those for the last three months (needless to say I've now turned them on), I had to download a spreadsheet of all the transactions for that year, and then format them myself into a reasonable layout for printing. With all that done, all I had to do today was fill in the books for the nine months from July '06 to April 5th '07 (I didn't start trading until July). I still needed to phone Mum several times during the day to answer various special cases I wasn't sure about. In the end it took the better part of the day, but it's done now, so I've got two weeks in which to fill out the tax return form online. The Wife made me promise to catch up and then do them every month, which makes a lot of sense, as I've been much busier this financial year, so there's a lot to do, and leaving it all to the last minute would be a bad idea.

This evening I made four copies of It's Alive! so I can fulfil any orders I get. Tired now.

Thursday, January 10

No Stock -> Stock -> No Stock

After weeks of no stock over Christmas due to the TNT fiasco, I finally got the boxes. Sigh of relief.

I've spent this week making some games, getting some stock back in. I've made twelve copies over the course of the week, which has been great. I figure that twelve copies is a nice minimum stock level to have, more copies than I've sold in any preceding week except when I've sold in bulk to a shop. I've also slightly tweaked my cutting out method which makes things quicker I think. Initially I made a few mistakes, but I've tweaked it still further, and I think it should be less error-prone now. So I'm feeling quite good about things, decent stock levels, slightly quicker method for making It's Alive! Good week.

Then I run out of stock again! I got an enquiry from a shop owner in Italy who had played a friend's copy. They wanted to stock it in their shop. I offered them the same deal as the UK shops I'd dealt with (12 copies at 70% MSRP + shipping & handling), and they ordered. I've found a new courier who'll deliver to Europe for £24 GBP too, which is good to know. Now it's an excellent week :-)

In other news, I got to try out that new version of Networking with Dave on Tuesday, he enjoyed it though the scoring was obviously broken. I suggested my changes to the designer (who's already published!) and he loved them. Superb week! Now all I need to do is fix the problems with the new idea, and see if I can get it working.

Saturday, January 5

At Last!

This morning the boxes finally arrived from the boxmaker via TNT. I waited in all morning (as I had done on two previous days) but this time they turned up. Ninety-two boxes in pristine condition despite all the backing-and-forthing. Some of these were already spoken for, I'd received three orders from the States over the Christmas break, and just after the boxes arrived I received another from the UK - great timing! First thing I did was count them, I thought I'd only sent eighty-three copies of the artwork to the boxmakers, so getting ninety-two back was an unexpected bonus. Next thing I did was write a cheque - I was invoiced for the boxes before Christmas when they were first due to arrive, and the terms were that I had to pay within thirty days. I figure I've waited long enough, any longer and I might forget. After that I popped to the Post Office and posted the four copies off, just in time to catch today's post.

Although I've got no stock at the moment, the arrival of the boxes mean that I can make more tomorrow, so hopefully by the end of tomorrow I should have a good few copies.

In other news, the exciting news I alluded to in my last post is not that The Wife is pregnant (nice guess though, Dunk!). It's something else...

Looking Forward to 2008

This is Reiver Games' third calendar year (I formed the company in July 2006), and I've been lucky enough that things have gone from strength to strength. In 2006 I decided to go for it, and released my first game design. Border Reivers did well, getting positive reviews and selling well. In 2007 I released the first Reiver game by another designer, Yehuda's It's Alive! It was launched at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June, where I also sold out of Border Reivers. The Expo was my first 'trade show'-style convention and it was a huge success, with my entire stock disappearing in 3.5 hours and I took a further thirty orders. By the end of the year I'd sold two hundred out of the three hundred run of It's Alive! So how do I hope to improve things in 2008?


So far I've concentrated on one game at a time, with the exception of those first 3.5 hours at the Expo. This year I don't want to spend any time without a game to sell, hopefully overlapping the runs a bit better so I have periods when I have two games available. I also hope to release two games this year, as opposed to one each of the two previous years. To achieve this I'm hoping to release a submission (as yet to be decided) and one of my own games (probably Jorvik). Releasing a submission will reduce the burden of development on me, and Jorvik is fairly easy to manufacture, being a simple card game. There is also the possibility of a professional run of It's Alive! assuming it sells out in a reasonable amount of time, and continues to be well-received. I'm thinking I'm going to stick to getting the boxes professionally manufactured even on the hand-made runs, as this provides a notable step-up in quality, and saves me about an hour per game construction time. These are goals that are a stretch, but you've got to set goals that are achievable, while being challenging or you'll never get anywhere.


In 2006 I went to two conventions: The Cast Are Dice and Psychocon. In 2007 I managed four: Beer & Pretzels, the Expo, The Cast Are Dice and MidCon. While this definitely introduced me to a larger audience I also started being more honest with myself about the cost of attending conventions. In 2006 I paid for all the food, hotels and travel myself, only charging the business for convention fees and commissions. Last year I started charging everything to the company, and keeping track of how much the trip cost me / made me as a whole. The Expo was a clear winner, with a huge take, and a healthy profit after paying for fuel, hotel for The Wife, Dave and I and the convention fees (a whopping £75). The others all made me money, but not a huge amount. As a result I'm considering attending fewer conventions this year not more. But the most exciting one is obviously Essen in Germany, which I would really like to attend this year. There's not much point unless I've got a lot of stock though. The Expo is a cert, Essen and TCAD are likely. Others are possible, but unlikely.


I'm also hoping to be able to make a pretty big announcement in a few months time - keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, January 3

It's Alive! in Top 1,000!

Everyday I check the BoardGameGeek page for It's Alive!. I want to see what Geeklists it has been added to, who's rating it what, who's saying what about it and to track its overall position in the BoardGameGeek chart. For the last month or so it has been hovering just outside the top 1,000 (out of nearly 30,000 games in the database). Today it cracked it! 995 :-) This is especially impressive since the charts are weighted towards games that have been rated by lots of people, so small run games like It's Alive! will find it harder to break in.

This comes two days after I sold the 200th copy (though of course I can't ship it yet because TNT are still pissing around with the rest of the boxes. Two hundred copies out of the three hundred run in seven months. I'm pretty pleased with that. Once I get the boxes I'll make a song and dance out of that, the publicity will hopefully lead to more sales.

December Report

Another month, another monthly report.

I'm going to resist the urge to do a retrospective on the year, I figure there's enough of those doing the rounds at the moment. Instead, I'll do this monthly report and a look forward to what I hope to achieve with Reiver Games this year.


It's been a very busy month in terms of games played. There were a few games nights at Paul's that I actually managed to get to, Dave returned from Afghanistan, I made it to Beyond Monopoly!, the odd game over Christmas with family and then a New Year's Eve party to round things off. I managed not only a lot of games played, but also learnt a fair few new ones, which is always nice, and helps my game design.

Here's what I got up to this month:

Plus the shrapnel with one play each: Byzantium, Canal Mania, Capt'n Clever, 6 Nimmt, Citadels, For Sale, Hare and Tortoise, Hey! That's My Fish!, O Zoo Le Mio, Race For The Galaxy, Ticket To Ride, TransEuropa and Wyatt Earp.

Micropul, Byzantium, Capt'n Clever, Hare and Tortoise, O Zoo le Mio, Race for the Galaxy and Wyatt Earp were all new to me. Micropul I played solo online, and it seemed like an interesting game, but the abstract nature puts me off slightly, and the artwork, while pretty could be more informative. Byzantium was a really nice game with an interesting mechanic in that all players play both sides of a conflict. Capt'n Clever was surprisingly deep for a kids game. Hare and Tortoise (which won the Spiel des Jahres the year I was born!) felt a little dated, but had a nice mechanic in the use of triangular numbers to control movement. O Zoo le Mio was another nice game, fun and attractive but nothing outstanding. Race for the Galaxy was my favourite new game of the month, like San Juan, but more involved and space-themed. Finally Wyatt Earp just didn't do it for me, something about it just seemed clunky. Special mention to Carcassonne: The Tower, which was my favourite new game (including expansions). The last of the main four Carcassonne expansions, the in-laws gave it to me for Christmas (though The Wife chose it - she rocks!). It adds a new dimension (literally - vertical!) to Carcassonne, and a lot more conflict to the basic game. It was this that boosted Carcassonne so high up my list of plays this month - great fun :-).


Despite the huge number of games played I still got a decent amount done from a creation point of view. The problems with TNT and the It's Alive! boxes meant I had some time on my hands. I've used this to do a lot of work on Codename: Jorvik, try out a few ideas for Codename: Artist and got a few plays of Codename: Harvest and Codename: Harry in.


Jorvik has come on leaps and bounds this month, I've tried out loads of new ideas, some worked, others didn't but overall progress has been made. I'm hoping to finish it this year, so I need to keep trying things out.


I've played a few games of this, my latest submission. The game seems quite neat, and has some nice ideas, but I've some concerns about the learning curve. It's quite easy to make a mistake the first couple of times you play and that can really hurt you. Seeing as a lot of my potential customers will only play it once at a convention, I can't afford to have them put off by a bad play. I've made some suggestions and the designer is trying them out.


I've not done much on Escape this month, I turned it down last month, but the designer has come back to me, and is going to try out some changes to address the reasons why I turned it down.


Only one play of this, but it showed quite clearly how knackered the latest attempt at scoring was. The final score: me: 134, brother-in-law: 10. That needs a lot of work! I've added a couple more things which make it slightly more 'Euro', but I'm not sure whether this is a good idea. It's an abstract, so making it a Euro-abstract hybrid might mean it ends up appealing to fans of neither.

In other news, I need to do my tax self-assessment by the end of the month, so I started it in anger last night, and then got stuck. Fortunately my Mum used to do books as a living so I asked her what to do. It's not that much fun.

Tuesday, January 1

Happy New Year!

Just a quick Happy New Year! from Creation and Play.

I've a couple of longer posts coming up, but for the moment I'm pretty busy. I had an excellent New Year, playing a lot of Carcassonne with The Tower expansion (a gift from the in-laws). It's excellent, adding a lot of conflict to the game - there was an awful lot of swearing punctuating our games :-) I also found out that TNT, who were supposed to deliver the It's Alive! boxes again (third time!) on New Year's Eve, that they've gone missing again!. Needless to say I was not best pleased, but a few games with friends finally managed to improve my mood.

I'm off now to send Yehuda his royalties for It's Alive!