Friday, September 26

Another Short Day

The Wife and I are off to Bristol this afternoon to visit our folks, so I'm just doing a half-day today. I've got until the end of next week to finish the box and rules for Carpe Astra, so I'm under the cosh a bit at the moment. I'm taking my computer with me, so I can continue working down there. We're not coming back until Tuesday, so I'll need it on Monday and Tuesday to make some progress.

The rules are coming on nicely. Initially they were just a text file with the rules written out in. I did several versions like that, then I sent the game to a few playtesters in the US and Germany. At that point I needed to include some rough diagrams to explain things a little better. I whipped up some quick diagrams in Photoshop, and conbined them with the text in InDesign to make some rough and ready PDF rules. There was no background art, the diagrams were line drawings and the text needed some love, but in essence everything was there.

The playtesters came back with loads of comments about how to improve the wording/clarity of the rules and I got to the point where the rules were pretty much written, but really ugly. So this week's work has been to 'pretty them up'. I've been going through the diagrams, replacing the line-art with pictures of the components. I've added a 'components' page showing pictures of the various bits, and I'm adding a few extra diagrams too. I've extended the rules from 2 pages of A4 to 3, folded into an A5 booklet, which gives me room for the components page, a front cover and a back page showing the scoring. It also allows me a little more room for the explanation - letting me cover a few more things in detail - the less the first-time player has to guess the better!

I've also got to do the box, but I'll leave that until I get back next week.

In other news, the UK distributor I've been waiting to hear from finally got back to me on Tuesday, saying they'd cut me a purchase order on Wednesday. No sign of it yet though...

Monday, September 22

Strangely Curtailed Week

This week is a short one, despite being one of two I've got to finish the rules and box art for Carpe Astra. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I'm at hospital in the mornings receiving a dose of steroids (I'll be ripped next time you see me - honest, you won't recognise me), and then Thursday or Friday we're heading down to Bristol again to see our folks.

Hopefully, I'll still be able to do some work while I'm down there, so I won't suffer too badly from lack of time.

Back to the current though, and yesterday and today I posted some pictures of the Carpe Astra art to the BoardGameGeek page. So far it's just examples of the card art. Getting the tiles art up there is a little more complicated. I'm going to post them too my website too after posting this, then I'm going to concentrate on the rules/box.

Saturday I got to the Psychocon games convention in Leeds for a bit. I got to play Carpe Astra with a couple of my previous playtesters (who both thought it was much better than the last time they had played it) and I got Jorvik out for a couple of games too. I also handed over a box of It's Alive! to the guy running the con who also runs Patriot Games, a couple of shops in Sheffield and Huddersfield - so It's Alive! is now available in that neck of the woods too. I also had a chat with the MD of Travelling Man. He's now collected most of the copies of It's Alive! from the York store, and will be running the rest to their other shops in Newcastle & Manchester in the next week or so. He gave me a load more advice, promised to chase the UK distributor on my behalf and also told me about a comics convention they are running in Leeds in November that it might be worth attending. I can see It's alive! appealing to the comics crowd, so it might well be worth it (it's pretty cheap too).

Anyway, enough wittering - I've got images to post...

Friday, September 19


I finally got the cards & boards artwork off to the printers in Germany :-) The Germans reckon it will take 8 - 10 weeks to make, so all being well the games will arrive in my warehouse somewhere between the 14th and the 28th November. Later than I planned by a long shot, but at least it's moving. I'm hoping the estimates from the German manufacturers are more accurate than the UK manufacturers, but we shall see.

In other news of the the two UK distributors that are going to stock It's Alive! have finally got their copies. They're taking them on consignment, so I was just waiting to receive the consignment agreement through the post. They'd sent it to my Post Office Box, which it turns out is not working. So I've had to get them to send it to my home address instead. I'm still waiting to hear from the other UK distributor. Hopefully, they'll get back to me soon. I've just spoken to one of the shops I'm dealing with, they want to get it from the UK distributor - so they are going to nag them about it on Monday. Hopefully, that'll help get the job done.

The American distributor I've been speaking to are also almost ready to jump - they're just calculating shipping costs. They may decide yet to wait until Essen, which would be a shame, as it would miss the Halloween marketing opportunity. It's tight at the moment, but might just work.

Bizarre email conversation of the day:

Lady from Scotland: 'I'm organising a do about the Border Reivers, shame the game is no longer available. Is there any chance you'd make some more if we ordered 100?

Me:'It took me 3 hours a copy to make it by hand, I'm not doing that again! Minimum order for professional run is 1,000 so not really worth it.'

Lady from Scotland: 'How much for 1,000?'

Me: 'Gor blimey Guvn'r, I dunno? About £10K?'

Lady from Scotland: 'Can't afford that. I'll be back in touch if I can sort out a sponsorship deal.'

Weird. Especially the bit where I came over all Dick Van Dyke.

Wednesday, September 17

Books and Art

Yesterday I spent the afternoon doing my books. I'd let them slip a bit and desperately needed to catch up. It's a boring job, but it needs to be done. Running a game company isn't all about the playing of games, sometimes you have to spend time running a company :-( Still, I made some progress, and I'll do some more soon, trying to bring them right up to date.

Today has mostly been spent on Carpe Astra. After I showed off the art at my playtesting night last Wednesday I got some feedback about things that could be clearer or less confusing. I asked the artist to make some tweaks based on this feedback and when I got the tweaked stuff back today I spent most of the day updating things and proof-reading all the cards. I'm going to start converting things to PDF format next and then submit them to the printer today/tomorrow. Once the card and board artwork has gone I've got two weeks to do the rules and box art. The rules are 'fixed' now, but the rule set I've got doesn't have any art yet and could do with more proof-reading. Still, if I get it to the printers this week things are underway, hopefully I'll get the finished games back in ten weeks or less...

Monday, September 15

Back & Limping

My parents were visiting for the weekend. I had hoped to ship out the last of the orders on Friday, so that the boxes were gone from the flat before they arrived, but unfortunately neither the Germans or the UK distributor I was waiting to hear from got back to me, so I had to just sling the games in the bedroom while they were here.

I did however manage to get accommodation for Essen sorted (hmm, I think I left that a little too late - note for next year - sort something sooner!). So Friday wasn't a complete write off. I spent a fair chunk of the day cleaning and tidying though, so not much progress.

The weekend was fairly games free, obviously my parents wanted to see the finished It's Alive!, collect the copy they'd bought from me and see the art for Carpe Astra. Dad's a retired art teacher, so I always value his opinions when it comes to the art, and he liked the look of the new stuff, so that was good. We played a few games of Carcassonne on Saturday with Mum and Dad, which they both enjoyed - and they're not gamers by any stretch of the imagination.

Today I'm back in the saddle, I've been amending the Carpe Astra rules with some feedback from my playtesters and tweaking the cards to include feedback too. I also went to the bank, made harder by another MS attack which is interfering with my walking. By the end of the 2.5 miles I was really struggling, and limping quite noticeably. Still, I'm seeing the Nurse tomorrow, hopefully they'll put me back on the steroids and I can develop a rippling physique.

Thursday, September 11

I Can See My Sofa!

Three more boxes of It's Alive! have been collected today, freeing up valuable space in my flat. I've still got boxes for a couple of UK distributors at home, and I'm hoping to get confirmation of an order from Germany. I'm still in negotiations for US ditribution, I'm going to try to speak to the guy on the phone this afternoon and hopefully nail an agreement.

My parents are coming to visit this weekend, so I really would like to get shot of the boxes I've got at home tomorrow. I'm waiting on a consignment agreement from one of them (my fault - I made a typo in the address so the copy they returned to me is lost in the post) and a purchase order from the other. I've not managed to get through to my contact at all at that company, I've left him a few phone messages, which he has yet to return, and my emails go unanswered too. Hopefully I'll hear from him this afternoon, but I'm not holding out any hope.

Carpe Astra is nearly there (though I feel like I've been saying that for months!). I held a playtesting session at my flat last night (amongst the boxes) and it went really well. Only a couple of minor changes since last week, but I think they improve things. I've sent the 'final' rules off to Ted in the US for feedback, as well as a couple of other playtesters in the US and Germany. I finished laying out the cards and boards yesterday and managed to get them printed in time for my playtest evening. As a result I could get some feedback from my playtesters, which has led to a couple of changes which I intend to make in the next day or two. It's all coming together. I hope to submit the art to the manufacturers next week, then I've two weeks to get the box and the rules to them. Exciting times.

In other news, this has been a community blog since the beginning, but there's never been many contributors, and recently there's only been me. I decided that I'd like to make Creation and Play a personal effort, and so I contacted my fellow contributors a couple of days ago and they all said 'go for it'. So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Luke, Bobby, Phil and Dave for all their contributions to Creation and Play and wish them best of luck in their future games designs. From now on Creation and Play will be known as 'The Voice of Reiver Games' :-p

Tuesday, September 9

Another Busy Day

Yesterday I popped over to the warehouse to collect another 34 boxes of games ready for shipping. I also found a box-maker just round the corner that make cardboard boxes suitable for boxing up the flimsy cartons. I bought one suitable for 2 cartons, one for 6, and a couple of 8s and 12s. This morning I found out that the 12s are going to be way too heavy, so I went back and swapped two 12s for four more 6s. The sixes will weigh about 16 Kg, much better than the 32 Kg for the 12.

Today, I've mostly been boxing up cartons ready for shipping. Sadly, most of the shipping will have to wait until tomorrow, as I'm still waiting on a few delivery addresses and purchase orders, but it's definitely coming together now. While I wait to arrange the shipping our flat has a hint of the warehouse about it. It's a pretty small flat, and we've currently got 45 boxes of six at home. I've also entered into serious discussions with FRED Distribution Inc. about US distribution for It's Alive! I'm hoping we can reach an agreement that suits both of us, as widespread US distribution is key to selling all 3,000 copies.

In between getting It's Alive! ready to ship, I've also been working away at laying out the Carpe Astra artwork. It's coming together nicely, I've nearly finished the cards, with the boards about half-done. It's definitely a busy week!

Monday, September 8

A Day of Rest

or not. One of things you quickly learn working for yourself is that 'normal' nine-to-five hours go right out the window. In some ways I was used to this, as I'd been running Reiver Games in my spare time for eighteen months before turning pro. I'm also ideally set up, since The Wife usually works one day of the weekend, so I can too. Yesterday, a Sunday, and traditional day of rest I did twelve hours work laying out the components for Carpe Astra.

I spent most of that time on the cards, as they, along with the boards, need to go to the printers first. Since Friday I've received most of the remaining artwork, which meant that I could do the layout for the final components. I'd done mock-ups of the layout for the prototypes I sent out a couple of months ago for testing in the US and Germany, but several things had to change for the real thing. I had to go through the cards replacing all the guild logos (each card has one, two or three guild logos on it) with the final art, and then I had to tweak the text layout. It was a little close to the border of the new art, so I had to move it in. This of course then requires adjusting as the text starts to drop off the bottom of the frame. So I spent most of the afternoon and evening editing the text.

Today I have to sort out some boxes to box-up cartons of It's Alive! for shipping out to shops and distributors. I've a few orders of multiple cartons (a 2, a 5, a couple of 8s and a couple of 12s), and the boxes could do with grouping together, as a more sturdy box means the games inside are less likely to be damaged in transit. There's a box shop just round the corner I'm investigating this morning, but if they don't have anything useful there's an online shop that does boxes to your specifications (though at what cost I don't know yet).

This afternoon I intend to pop over to my warehouse again and pick up some more games so that I can box them up and have the orders collected from my flat tomorrow. It'll mean our flat looks like a warehouse, but hopefully only for one night! In other news, Boards and Bits have upped their order :-)

Wednesday, September 3

It's Allliiiiiive!

After many weeks (actually months) since I last had something to sell I've now had confirmation that It's Alive! will arrive at my warehouse tomorrow! Yeay!

I've posted the changes to the website (taking the pre-order information down) and I'll contact all the pre-orders today to arrange payment and shipping.

It really feels like things are coming together. I heard from one of the two big US distributors yesterday, they are interested in taking a full pallet (840 games, or 27% of the print run), and are now trying to strike a deal where they pay for half and take half on consignment (they pay me when they sell them). If they do decide to take that pallet then 45% of the print run will be spoken for, a very respectable percentage.

The combination of those sales and hopefully several at Essen will make my bank balance much healthier.

In other news, the 10mm gap between cuts for the Carpe Astra boards can be reduced in certain circumstances, so I'm going to send them an example, to see if they are happy with my layout.

Tuesday, September 2

Carpe Astra - Coming Together

First, an aside: It looks like It's Alive! will arrive this week as planned. I think the earlier problems with arrival dates were down to dealing with an overly optimistic sales guy, since I've been dealing with the Production Manager, his estimates seem to be right on the money (if longer than I'd hoped).

Carpe Astra seems to be proceeding nicely though. I've got art coming from the artist all the time now, often with a few emails a day arriving. To whet your appetite, I've posted the logos for the six guilds (left to right: Traders, Settlers, Priests, Politicians, The Military and Engineers) below and an example tile too. The tile has the die-line superimposed. As usual, click on each image to see a larger version.

I've spent the day on Carpe Astra, first of all the meeting at the bank to secure finance (apparently I'm a 'valued customer', and my credit score with them is such that they were willing to lend me 40% more than I wanted at 4% less APR than their standard rate). Since then I've been creating guides for the artists, showing him the exact dimensions of the art I require, including the bleed (areas outside the item that the background needs to cover in case of cutting error), and margins (areas inside the item that the main content cannot enter, again due to potential cutting errors). I've been doing them in Adobe InDesign and then exporting them as JPEGs at the right resolution. The rest of the day I'll spend again in InDesign, this time laying out the various cardboard components on the boards that will appear in the box. I have to lay the art on one layer, and the die-lines on another, and obviously both need to line up! The German manufacturers say that I should leave 10mm between items on the boards, and between and item and the edge, but they've sent me an example layout (on which they based their calculations) which has probably 7mm between items, so I've asked them what to do. I can still make a start though, I can always tweak things later.

Monday, September 1


I'm hoping to receive the It's Alive! print run in a few days time. In that spirit I've spent much of today preparing for its arrival. I've contacted most of the shops and distributors who have placed orders with me to confirm quantities and warn them it's nearly ready. I've also developed a new version of my website (which I'll not post for a few days) which takes out all mention of the It's Alive! pre-order and adds a 'Stockists' page listing everyone I know who will be stocking the game.

Meanwhile, Carpe Astra is coming on, I've a final quote from the manufacturer in Germany, which means I can start laying things out (now that I know the exact combination of pieces on the boards, etc.). I've also started getting final art back from the artist, and it's looking mint :-)

Because of the delays getting It's Alive! ready (I was originally hoping to have it in stock in July!), I'm suffering a bit of a cashflow crisis. Pretty much all my money will go on the It's Alive! manufacturing costs, so I've no money left to do Carpe Astra. It's going to be a month or two before I start getting that back too. I have to pay for It's Alive! up front, but I'm invoicing my customers, and they'll have a month to pay. I want to get Carpe Astra out soon though, so tomorrow I'm off to see about a bank loan. I'm hoping they'll lend me enough money to tide me over until I start recouping the It's Alive! costs, that way I can get on with Carpe Astra. Once I've two products out I can afford to slow down a little, with my third game targeted for next Spring.