Wednesday, October 29

Back From Essen

And exhausted! I slept really badly the whole time, coupled with busy and long days I'm really tired now.

Essen was really hard work, but very successful. I didn't really get to play many games (I demoed It's Alive! several times and Carpe Astra a few times), but other than that nothing at the fair. In the evenings we played a game of Dominion that lasted two hours (we were tired!) and a game of Axiom too - that was it!

First a big thank you to Dunk, Lucy and Mal who helped me man the stall for the four days of the fair, as well as setting up, tearing down and in the case of Lucy driving us to Essen. You did an awesome job guys. Also, huge thanks to Michael (Danke schoen!) for demoing the game in German for far more than the hour he promised on Saturday morning. Dean and John from Ludorum Games, who carted all my games over also deserve a shout out. I also really appreciated those of you who stopped by and mentioned you read my blog!

We shared our stand with Peter Strujif and friends of Geode games, Peter's ceaseless enthusiasm was also great - thanks!

I took (or at least Dean took for me) 840 copies of It's Alive!, the Carpe Astra prototype and a rough version of Sumeria. I returned with only four of the It's Alive! copies! Heidelberger in Germany took some, FRED in the US took loads and I sold plenty to punters too. My turnover during the four days of Essen was double that of the whole of last year, and the event was profitable for me after all the convention costs and the costs of the games are accounted for. I now have distributors in Germany, Holland, Belgium and two in the US, plus I know of shops in Estonia, Italy, Holland and Germany who took some stock.

Hopefully, I'll be able to provide a slightly more coherent review in a few days, in the meantime, I need to catch up on sleep, do the paperwork for the show and do my VAT return. Plus, I've a bunch of household stuff to do as our flat goes on the market this weekend!

Monday, October 20

One Day to Go!

There's just over 24 hours before I set off for Essen. Today has been a medium-busy day, but it's not over yet. It started with a physio appointment, then I popped into town to buy the things I'd not got yet: a float (change), a map of Europe, tablecloths for our stall and poster frames.

I'd left the posters fairly last minute, The Wife had given me some help last night getting rid of a lot of the text to make them 'punchier'. Then I asked Michael to translate the few words I had left into German (Danke schoen! Ich muss dich viele Bier kaufen!). This morning I added the German text before I went to the physio and The Wife took them to work where they can print them for a reasonable fee. After my trip into town I took the afternoon fairly easy - I'm going to be very busy over the next few days, so I might as well have a fairly easy day today. When the call came in though I had to drop every thing and head off to the print shop to collect my posters. When I checked them over the game posters were fine but the poster for the company had no black on it! Where it should have printed black it didn't. This led to a red, white and sky blue logo (the black bit is a 'rich black' 50% Cyan 100% Black, and the black hadn't printed). The guy at the print shop reckoned this was a problem with their setup where black doesn't print if there isn't a little of the other channels present (i.e. 1% Cyan, 1% Magenta, 1% Yellow and 100% Black not 0% Cyan, 0% Magenta, 0% Yellow and 100% Black). He couldn't do anything with the PDF I'd given him, he needed the original InDesign file. So I went home, got the original file and went back. He worked his magic and the printing worked fine this time.

This evening I'm going round to Paul's for a games night (I've only got a few left before we move :-( ) and to use his garage for gluing my playtest copy of Carpe Astra. I'm making a new one with the final artwork. I can then cut it out tomorrow while I wait in for a delivery and a couple of flat valuations. I've also got a few things to print out tomorrow - shouldn't take too long.

Travel plans: Tomorrow evening my mate Mal will arrive around lunchtime, and then around 5 Dunk and his wife will get here. Dunk's driving us over to Hull for the overnight ferry (yeay! should be great fun, I've not been on an overnight ferry since I was about 14. Of course, it's quite windy today, so it might be less fun :-X ) Then we drive over to Essen hopefully arriving about lunchtime. Wednesday afternoon we set up the stall, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun do the show, and then get the Monday night ferry home. Dean of Ludorum Games will be on the same ferry will all my games so it should be good fun :-)

See (some of) you there!

Friday, October 17

Ding! Ding! Change Ends.

It's all change at Reiver Towers. The games to the other UK distributor were collected yesterday, so our bedroom feels palatial all of a sudden, now the space has been freed up. I heard back from the US distributor last night, the pallet deal may have fallen through, though they are interested in collecting some stock at Essen. I'm going to ring them later to see if I can save it, if nothing else it's one less pallet to ship down South.

Down South? Why would I be shipping my pallets to the South I hear you ask? The Wife has just got a job down there, so we'll be moving towards the end of this year, beginning of next. I'll need to arrange a new warehouse down there and then ship my games to it. The more I can sell before then (and hence the less I have to ship) the better.

I'm starting to feel on top of my Essen preparations. I've got a few things left to do, but nothing too onerous. The German lessons have suffered, but at least things will be under control at the fair (I hope!).

Thursday, October 16

Yeay! Bedroom Space!

When I got up this morning I found a purchase order from the UK distributor I've been waiting on. As a result, I'll be shipping their order to them today. This frees up valuable space in my bedroom :-)

Yesterday saw the collection of my first re-stocking order for another UK distributor, along with a pallet full of games that Dean of Ludorum Games is taking to Essen for me.

With the games gone from my bedroom, the only two orders that are causing me any gyp are whether or not the Americans want to collect a pallet at Essen as discussed, and a late payment from a UK shop which I'm chasing. One less thing to worry about before Essen.

Yesterday, I finally brought my bookeeping up-to-date. I've been really slack about doing them so there was a lot to do, but now I can just file my VAT return on my return from Essen, as I've done the books up to the end of last month (the VAT return is for July-September and has to be filed by the end of this month). I'm going to try to stay on top of them from now on, doing them each month as I go.

Today's main effort will be doing the posters for hanging at my booth at Essen. I'm doing three: It's Alive!, Carpe Astra and the Reiver Games logo. Peter Strujif from Geode Games (who is sharing my stand) has a fourth. The Wife has found out than the University print shop will do them pretty cheap, and it's just round the corner, so I can send them off tomorrow or Monday.

Things seem almost under control now...

Monday, October 13

It's All Go At Reiver Towers

Hmmm. Reiver Towers. I like that. When (not if!) Reiver Games is a massive world-spanning corporation, I think the Headquarters should be called that.

Anyway, back on topic. Today has been pretty busy. This morning I started going for a swim again before work. I've had a few weeks off, with injuries and the MS attack. On my return I've been trying to sort out the last few things for Essen (shipping the games over there for a start!).

If that wasn't enough to be getting on with, I've been trying to get the Carpe Astra Geeklist together, received my first re-order and got the proofs and plots from Germany for Carpe Astra.

The re-order is great news. With a UK distributor still dragging their heels (I've now been told I should get the PO this week), it's great that the other one are selling it successfully. They sold over a third of their stock in the first two weeks and the rest in the next two weeks. I'm sending them some more this week.

The stuff from Germany is the plots (showing location and cut lines, but not colour-accurate) and the proofs (colour accurate, but not showing cut lines). I need to check it all and then send them back signed confirmation via fax. I don't have a fax machine or a scanner though, which makes things slightly more complicated.

Around all this I need to do my German lessons and I had a doctor's appointment at lunchtime too!

Sunday, October 12

Struggling For Time

I've a lot I want to get done in time for Essen. In particular, I want to make a lot of progress on my German lessons. I did German while at school sixteen years ago, but seeing as I've never been to Germany, and my trips to Austria and Switzerland have been few and far between, I've not had much opportunity to practice. As a result I've forgotten most of what I learnt.

In the week or so leading up to Essen I'm trying to cram in as many German lessons as possible. Initially, I was aiming for one of the 30 lessons each day. I'd already done a few (though that was a few months ago, so I did a quick refresher) and although it means I'm going to only get halfway through the course, I will at least know something.

I've already slipped behind. Today I've got to do almost all of yesterday's lesson and then today's. Tomorrow I've a doctor's appointment and then physio the day after.

On top of the German I've several things to arrange for the show too. I've got to sort out getting my games to Germany (Dean of Ludorum Games is going to cart them over for me in a van, so I've only got to get them to Hull) and hopefully sort out delivery to the US distributor at Essen. Sort out my stand dressing and ensure I've got everything I need to take with me ready to go.


Friday, October 10

Getting Exciting Now!

A couple of days ago I received a white sample of the Carpe Astra bits. I got a box, the insert and the punchboards, nothing had any print on it and the punchboards weren't die-cut, but it was enough to get me excited. This will be my first game with an insert and my first game that is linen-finished (box and punchboards - not cards). Somehow it feels more professional that way.

Carpe Astra is still on course for the end of November, despite the glitches in the box art that needed fixing (twice). I'm now trying to pimp it to distributors and shops in preparation for getting some stock. I'll put some ads up, probably on my return from Essen.

In other news, I've now finished my books for last financial year, and I'm going to start this year's this afternoon. Last year my sales grew 250% and my profit nearly 1000%, but it's still small fry, and I wasn't taking any wages out of the company. Due to the late arrive of It's Alive! and its knock on delay on Carpe Astra I doubt I'll make any profit this year, but my sales should be significantly up again.

I also got paid by one of my customers yesterday - a day early. Yeay! I've got some tardy customers too who I've got to chase for payment this afternoon.

I'm also trying to find time to do my German lessons. I got a course for my birthday, and I did a few lessons back then, but I've been slack and not done anything since. I'm trying to do a lesson every day between now and Essen to refresh me. I'll still be pretty poor - but it's the thought that counts (I hope!).

Wednesday, October 8


I've finally got through to the UK distributors. My contact (who's obviously an exceptionally busy man) is now off on holiday, so I spoke to someone else on the team instead. He said they'll do the purchase order this week. In other news, the other UK distributor seem to be doing pretty well, they've sold over a third of their stock in the first couple of weeks :-)

I was out of the office again yesterday, so when I got back I had a few things to sort out. The German manufacturers had spotted a couple of problems with the box design, so I fixed those and sent them off this morning. Now that the box and rules have gone to the printers I've posted the rules and some box pictures on my website and BoardGameGeek. I've been waiting for the rules to be up before I put the advert up, as I doubted that anyone would order a copy with so little information being available (except my true fans - thanks guys!). Now that the extra info is available I might do a BGG GeekList showing how the game evolved over time. Anyone interested?

I need to go back to doing my books too. It's dull, but I've got to submit a VAT return at the end of the month, so they need to be right up to date for that. I guess that'll be this afternoon's travail.

Friday, October 3


My mate Mal is coming down for a long weekend this morning. This afternoon I've got to send off the art for the box and the rules. Mal has a good head for design. Hmmm. I'm seeing a cunning plan here. Mal arrives and is put to work critiquing the box design. I'm sure he'll be able to come up with some ideas to improve it further. Excellent. What's even better is that though I know Mal reads this, he's on the train at the moment - so he won't get an early warning and pull out :-)

In other news, I'm still really struggling to get a purchase order out of the other UK distributor. I've tried to email him (last response, the only one so far, was that he'd do me a purchase order last Wednesday - still no sign of that). I've tried to phone him (the receptionist always says he's busy, he doesn't return my calls). I know a bunch of shops want to buy from them, but they still don't have any stock, nearly a month after the game was available. It's very frustrating.

Thursday, October 2

Aaaahhh!... Panic Over!

Today I'm trying to finish off the box design. I need to send it to the printers along with the rules tomorrow. I've also got a friend visiting this weekend, so I really need to get both finished today. Still, I'm hoping it won't take that long. I've got a starting place (the It's Alive! box design has all the important stuff on it) and I'm definitely getting the hang of Adobe InDesign now.

Back to the title. I've been chasing a couple of shipping companies to get proof that the games I've sent via them have shipped outside the EU, so that I can zero-rate the sales for VAT. In fact I've already not charged the customer VAT so if I don't get the proof the VAT is coming out of my pocket. Obviously I don't want that to happen, so I chased the shippers for the documentation. One of them replied with:

Games? What games? We've not received anything.

Aaaahhh! I sent them weeks ago. The customer has already paid me. Where the hell are they? Check with the couriers. They were apparently delivered on the 11th September. Forward the information to the shipper:

Oh! Those games. Yes, they were received and sent on. Here's the paperwork you asked for.

I swear I've visibly aged today.

In other news, it looks like the German distributor I've lined up will take some stock at Essen. Hopefully they'll take whatever I've got left, so that I don't need to send anything back to the UK.

Wednesday, October 1

Trust The Artist, Luke.

We've been away in Bristol for a few days, to visit our folks. I managed to get some work in while I was down there, but not a huge amount.

When we arrived Friday evening I had an email from the German manufacturers of Carpe Astra, they'd spotted that I'd accidentally reversed some of the art on the back of the punchboards, was I happy for them to continue, or did I want to submit a correction?

I'm more impressed with them as each day passes. Not only was this an excellent catch, but I got the following response when I asked when I'd get the games back:

We've scheduled your production for week 47, it'll take a day to print, a day to collate and then a few days to ship so you'll get them back either end of week 47 or week 48.

Now that's organised. I've also received an email yesterday saying that the tool maker for the punchboard die-cuts has had to round the corners on the triangle support markers. Was I happy with that? They sent me the corrected die-lines. Estimated diameter of the rounded corners? 1mm! And they still bothered to check I was happy. Hell! I wouldn't have even noticed! Needless to say I'm pretty chuffed with them at the moment.

I've got until the end of the week to get the art for the box and the rules to the manufacturer. Over the weekend I laid out the rules and sent them to a few friends for proof-reading. I've had some excellent feedback and amended them accordingly.

Next up the box. When I showed my local playtesters the box design I had cobbled together based on the logo and the cover illustration from the artist they were so-so about it. I'd made some 'interesting' layout decisions. The background I'd come up with was a starfield (like the one on Race for the Galaxy) and the logo was very clean, black and white. Neither of these now fitted very well with the rest of the art which has a grungy, steampunk feel to it. As a result I've decided to use the force artist. He does fantastic stuff when I just let him get on with it. So I've asked him to grunge up the logo a bit, and design a new box that's more in keeping with the rest of the components. Initial drafts look good...