Monday, December 28

2015 The Year In Review

For the third year in a row I set myself some goals at the beginning of the year in four categories: blogging, playing games, designing games and app development. They were meant to be a stretch, but achievable so here's how I got on.

I set myself three blogging goals this year: 10% growth in page views, blog every Monday and do something for NaGa DeMon. All modest and achievable, or so I thought. Blog page views have been climbing steadily since I started blogging again back in 2012, but for some reason around April they suddenly dived. Whether Blogger have started blocking spam bots or I've suddenly become far more boring than I already was (which would be a real stretch!), the readership tanked and never recovered. I was aiming for 45.5K page views and I only managed 36K, which was 15% down on last year. Epic fail. I did manage to blog every Monday (as far as I recall) and I did something for NaGa DeMon (publishing the handmade run of Zombology) so mixed success on the blogging front.

My most popular posts were:

  1. Why Aren't I KickStarting
  2. After The Drought, The Deluge
  3. New Games Company Checklist

My gaming goals were to play at least 365 games and to have played every game in my collection at least ten times (with exceptions). At this point, with a few days to go I've racked up 413 plays with the following over ten plays this year:

  • 58 plays: Unpublished prototype (mostly Zombology)
  • 27 plays: Ra (I think all on the iPad)
  • 22 plays: King of Tokyo (one of the games I had to play ten times - nailed that one!)
  • 20 plays: Carcassonne (all but one play on the iPad)
  • 20 plays: Pandemic (iPad)
  • 17 plays: Hey! That's My Fish (iPad)
  • 15 plays: Lords of Waterdeep (iPad)
  • 12 plays: Galaxy Trucker (ten plays list again and all on the iPad)
  • 12 plays: Stone Age (mostly, but not all, iPad)
  • 11 plays: No Thanks! (A Games Night filler favourite)
  • 10 plays: Coup (Games Night favourite)
  • 10 plays: Martian Dice (some in the flesh, some on the app I wrote for my phone)

The other goal was to have played every game I own at least ten times by the end of the year. Not necessarily during this year, if I've played it at least ten times in the past I didn't have to play it this year at all. I started the year with seventy-something plays required to hit that goal, and I didn't quite make it (there are four games at nine and two at eight plays left at this point and that's almost certainly how it's going to end). Close. But no cigar.

I've found the ten plays goal useful for honing my collection (I gave away 11 Nimmt!, 20th Century, Divinare, Euphoria, El Grande and Thurn und Taxis) but to be honest I've also found it to be a bind, it drove the games selection at almost every Games Night I had and sucked the fun out of things a bit. I mustn't get myself into a similar mess next year.

Another notable thing this year was the start of what I hope will be a large part of my life from now on. I've been a gamer since I was little. I've been a dad for three and a half years. But this year, I became a Gamer Dad. The Daughter has a few (very simple) games made by Orchard Toys: Where's My Cupcake?, The Lunch Box Game, A Game of Ladybirds and, since Christmas, Monster Dominos. She's learnt to take turns, roll dice, draw tiles and match symbols. She's also learnt to win and is in the process of learning to lose gracefully (that one might take a bit longer!). Where's My Cupcake?, a particular favourite, almost got a listing above with nine plays this year. As yet none of these games require any skill, it's just taking turns and following the rules. I don't want to rush her into proper gaming, I want it to be something that she wants to do for fun, rather than something I push onto her because I want to do it. We'll see how next year develops and what makes it into the list of ten least ten plays at the end of next year.

Designing Games
Only one goal here, self publish a game again this year with my own art. Well it was a roller coaster, but I just about pulled this one off. It started out with the goal of publishing a 50 or 100 copy run of either Zombology or Dragon Dance. Then that turned into making a 150 copy run of Zombology at £9 each. I took 20 pre-orders and started getting ready for that, setting up a bank account and everything and then disaster: I got promoted at work. Ok, that's not really a disaster, but it put paid to any notion I had of becoming a hobby games publisher again. At the last minute I decided to just make the twenty copies for the pre-orderers for NaGa DeMon at cost which I hoped I could get around the £9 I had initially advertised. Do you see what I did there? Folding two goals into one? Cheeky, but I make the rules so, I figure, acceptable. It turned out I needed to make thirty to hit the £9 cost so I wouldn't lose any money on it (but not make any either). During November I only finished fourteen of them (so I failed NaGa DeMon!) but the others just need the cards doing and I've shipped six of them, so that counts as a success as far as my goal for the year goes.

App Development
I'm still slowly learning German using the excellent Duolingo, but there's some stuff I'd like it to do that it doesn't, most notably, show verb conjugations and adjective declensions in a table and present similar words together. I'd started writing an app for that on my phone, and my goal was to finish and publish that this year. I've made some progress on that (it's now useable and I do use it on my phone) but it's not yet ready for public consumption, not even as an early beta/alpha, so another failure I'm afraid. I want to go back to working on that next year.

All in all it's been another good year, hard work and I didn't achieve everything I set out to at the beginning, but still good fun! Here's hoping for another good year next year.

Monday, December 21

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

As expected, it was a week of no progress. After Monday's trip to Manchester, we had several nights of interrupted sleep as The Daughter was down with a filthy cold that kept waking her (and by extension us) up throughout the night. I also had a couple of nights out with work: our Christmas party and a night out with the numerous visitors who were over for our three day planning meeting. With the nights out, the broken sleep and then coming down with the filthy cold myself, it was spectacularly unproductive.

This week will at least feature a Games Night (I've managed to cram an extra one in tonight, for Christmas, complete with mulled wine and mince pies :-) ), and I'll take a bunch of games down to Bristol for our family Christmas trip, so hopefully there'll be a few more games played before the year is out.

When I get back from Bristol I need to buy some packaging so I can start posting the Zombology copies and finish off the final 16 sets of cards. Then I can get the Print on Demand art done and start on something new (or at least different!) for 2016.

I hope those of you who celebrate it have a great Christmas, and I'll see you on the flip side for my 2015 round up post next Monday.

Monday, December 14

The Second Coming

No sooner had my parents' visit come to an end then my father-in-law turns up! It's been a busy couple of weeks with guests. I did manage to squeeze in a trip to Manchester for work and a Games Night between the two though.

Games Night was good, we had a new starter so, rather than try to split up the seven of us into two tables so we could cram in another couple of games from my ten plays list, we just got a lot of big games in instead. It felt quite liberating to not be controlling everyone's gaming through the ten plays list - I'll not be doing something similar next year - too prescriptive!

I managed to get a couple of hours of Zombology construction in during this weekend, so I've now finished off all the boxes, and all that remains is to cut out the cards for the last sixteen copies, which I estimate is about eleven hours' work. I've spent 24 so far, so it should be about 1 hour and ten minutes per copy when all is said and done,

I doubt I'll make any progress this week, I missed Newcastle Gamers on Saturday due to my father-in-law's visit (and the snow!), I'm writing this on my way to Manchester again for work and then I'm out on Wednesday and Friday for work dos including the office Christmas party. Around all that it would be nice to spend some time with The Wife seeing as we've had so many visitors recently.

Next week I've got one final Games Night of 2015 and then we're off down to Bristol for Christmas with our families. I think Zombology will have to wait until 2016.

In other news, I watched the Tabletop episode for Libertalia (not sure why) and promptly bought Libertalia (damn you, Wil Wheaton!). Buying a game unplayed is quite unusual for me, so we'll  see how that goes, but it looked fun, was a good length (under an hour is popular at Games Night) and I don't own any pirate games, so it gives us something to play on International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I've also bought Splendor, Las Vegas and It's Alive! for the iPad. I've had a quick try of each of them and first impressions are:

  • Las Vegas: Too much animation, creams the battery and Game Center login every time is annoying
  • It's Alive!: Auction games don't work well Pass and Play (should have remembered this from Settlers of Catan)
  • Splendor: Mint.

Monday, December 7

NaGa DeMon Post Script: Late Ruling

Another week, another blog post written in a hotel (this time at Manchester Airport, for work).

So my last blog post was written on the morning of the last day of NaGa DeMon and spelt out exactly what I had achieved during the month of November. It turns out that I also spent that evening folding, signing and numbering the rulebooks too, and that was still November, so that counts. So I got the twenty copies completed except for 6 games worth of cards (about four hours work). On top of that I've also got another ten sets of cards and eight box labels to do to complete the thirty copy print run. So there's not a huge amount to do.

Once the thirty copies are done and posted I'm going to finish off the artwork for the Print on Demand version and get that uploaded and available and also make the game available Print and Play too - lots of ways to Zombology!

Then Zombology is done. It's been my main focus for a couple of years now, so it's going to be weird to put it aside and go back to (or start) something else. My options are:

  • Codename: Vacuum
  • Border Reivers 2nd Edition
  • Dragon Dance

I'm not sure what I'll feel like in the New Year, but I'm going to need to pick something up!

In other news, I didn't make much progress this week with my parents visiting, but I did manage to get a game of Eclipse in on the iPad on the way to London for work, so that's now ticked off my ten plays list. That just leaves nine plays of six different games left. I've got somewhere between one and three Games Nights left this year, a possible Newcastle Gamers next weekend and maybe some Christmas gaming. I'll get pretty close I think, but not quite make it.