Monday, December 11

Winding Down

Last week was a quiet one. After a busy and demanding week in Belgium the week before, I took some time to catch up on sleep (when I could - Daughter the Second is not sleeping well at the moment, so I spent a fair chunk of the week up in the night or early with her). So I made no progress on Zombology until the weekend - there's no chance at all that I'll hit my quarterly production target, but there's still a good chance of hitting my sales target.

The highlights of the week were FlickFleet related. I made it along to Newcastle Playtest (for only the second time since the birth of Daughter the Second back in May) and we played four games of FlickFleet. The feedback was good again ('better than Flick 'Em Up'!) and there was nothing glaringly wrong, but a couple of ideas surfaced and I started to try those out. At the end of Games Night I got another play in using one of those and I think it could be an improvement.

FlickFleet at Newcastle Playtest
FlickFleet at Newcastle Playtest

Since Thursday night's play at the end of Games Night I've finally had some inspiration for several more changes - I'm looking forward to trying those out shortly. I've also been collecting some market research via Google+ and twitter polls!

This week is also pretty busy (we've a big meeting at work with a couple of nights out including our office Christmas party), but I'm hoping to get some gaming in at the weekend when we head down to York to visit Paul and his family. Paul was instrumental in the first idea of FlickFleet, so I'm hoping to show him the progress I've made too.

Monday, December 4

NaGa DeMon 2017 - Part 9: Complete

My goal during NaGa DeMon this year, as with a couple of the previous years that I've taken part in, was to make concrete progress on a game idea, while benefitting from the wisdom of the crowd to help me consider things from a different angle.

At the beginning of the month I had played FlickFleet a grand total of 7 times, but versions with wildly different levels of maturity and none with all the pieces I thought I needed to give a true reflection of the game in my head.

During the month of November I played it another 9 times, all with the components I wanted and all were very well received. I got some great ideas on production, feedback on the rules (which I wrote up of the first time) and I even started designing the box. As with previous years the competition I ran started off very well with lots of interest and then things tailed off a bit in the second half of the month - I struggle to retain people's interest! We did get one late entrant, Steve who gave me some great information about scroll saws and then further advice in a follow up email, but Todd carried it in the end.

The final scores were:

10Officer CadetNot A Cyborg Zircher
6Very Petty OfficerGames Book
5Very Petty OfficerSteven Davis
4Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassChris Preston
3Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassMike Jones
2Ensign (Expendable) 3rd Class7isprime
1Red ShirtEric Francis

So Todd, I'll be reaching out shortly to get some contact details to arrange delivery of your prototype, which probably won't arrive until January I'm afraid.

Friday, December 1

And We're Back!

I've spent the last week (since Sunday afternoon) in Brussels for a work training course. I'm now finally on my way home. It's been a gruelling week, the course was excellent, but mentally and emotionally challenging and I've slept badly while I was away, so I'm shattered now. I had hoped to come back refreshed after a week without being woken in the night by a baby, but that was not to be.

There is another way I am back too: after a month of NaGa DeMon (more on that in Monday's blog post) I'm now back to focusing on Zombology.

In November I've put a lot of work into making progress on FlickFleet and I've learnt a lot and have made the first decent chunk of progress on it, but Zombology has suffered - I didn't quite meet my November production target and I put little effort into promoting it or making progress on the website and other things I need to do to drive people's awareness of it.

I now need to swing back the other way and make decent progress on Zombology (while not completely abandoning FlickFleet). The first thing I've done in that regard is to announce a promotion on BGG where I give £5 to charity for the first 33 (the number of games I have in stock currently, plus the number I hope to make in December) copies of Zombology I sell during December. That £5 is more or less the profit I make per game, but will come from our personal funds, not Eurydice Games. The Wife and I have chosen five charities we want to (and currently do) support to receive those donations, but the Zombology purchaser gets to pick which of the five they would like 'their' £5 to go to (from that list).

Hopefully it will achieve a triple goal of encouraging us to donate more to charity this month that we had planned, raise awareness of Eurydice Games, Zombology and the great work these charities do and also hopefully lead to a few extra sales.

I have a couple of other ideas to work on too, including hopefully playing it at games clubs more this month.

While in Belgium I managed to get to Outpost Gamecenter and play Zombology a couple of times (plus Between Two Cities and Vanuatu) with some lovely, welcoming Belgian gamers. The four who played it liked it enough to play twice, but not enough to buy it.

I'd mentioned to the people on my course that I was a board game designer too, and several people expressed an interest (the fools!), so I showed them the finished game. At which point several of them wanted to play it, so during a break on Thursday afternoon we played six games (with I think six different people many of whom played several or all six games). The game was well received and I sold three when we returned to the main room! A couple of the other attendees want me to send them some details via email too.

It was a great week, but I'll be delighted to get home and now need to take some time to consolidate everything I've learnt this week.

Monday, November 27

NaGa DeMon 2017: Part 8: Production Considerations

It's far too early to be thinking about production for FlickFleet, so I've spent a good chunk of this week thinking about production considerations for FlickFleet *shakes head*.

I'd like the game to retail (i.e. the price on my website) to be about £30 ideally. My first quote for the laser cutting was going to be £60 per game (regardless of print run size), then there would be the box, rules, ship cards and wooden pieces on top of that. I'd end up losing a ton of money unless I priced it around £100! Which is clearly a crazy price.

Since then I've been looking around for other options, and I found another company that would do it for £20 (so probably £40-£50 retail once the other stuff is included) and then last week I bumped into the MakerSpace people who reckoned (wild guess at this point) about £3 per game plus £10 per month, so assuming 16 games a month around £3.50 a game. That price doesn't include perspex (which is about £7.50), so the two of them are about £11. Then there's the box card and labels, rulebook, ship cards and wooden bits. My guess is it'll end up being in the £30-£40 range with this option.
FlickFleet ships arrayed
FlickFleet ships
Obviously I need to price up the boxes, rulebooks, ship cards and wooden bits at volume. I also need to check the pricing on the laser cutting at MakerSpace, but it's not looking obscenely expensive like it was to begin with. It turns out the perspex is the really expensive part, so I've laid out 4 games worth of perspex pieces on a bigger piece of perspex and done it more efficiently - I've got from 500x400mm down to 470x395mm (which over a lot of games actually saves quite a lot!). I had to lose a destroyer from each player's allotment, but 3 destroyers, 2 carriers and a dreadnought (plus all their fighters and bombers) is plenty for a decent sized game and several different scenarios.

Before I can think seriously about production I need to do a bunch of things: playtest the crap out of it (in progress, I'm hoping to playtest it with Belgians this week during my trip to Brussels!), confirm ship points values, come up with some scenarios, write up the rules properly in InDesign with examples, images, etc. and design a box.

I've got some time in my evenings during my trip to Brussels (I arrived about 8pm last night, I should be back around 7pm tonight, Tuesday I'm at Outpost for demoing Zombology and playtesting FlickFleet, Wednesday I should be back by 6pm), so I can start work on some of those. Probably the things I'll focus on are the box design and the rulebook, keep your eyes peeled for another blog post on Wednesday evening letting you know how I've got on...

Finally, here's an update on the PIP situation, no movement again this week, the competition for the free, unique early prototype closes on Thursday, so if you'd like to get your hands on the free prototype time is running out!

10Officer CadetNot A Cyborg Zircher
6Very Petty OfficerGames Book
4Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassChris Preston
3Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassMike Jones
2Ensign (Expendable) 3rd Class7isprime
1Red ShirtEric Francis

Thursday, November 23

NaGa DeMon 2017 - Part 7: Too 'Good'

And by too good I don't mean great, I mean good, just too much.

Traditionally when I design a game the first play is curtailed about a third of the way through. We agree never to talk about it again and I go away and work on the hideously broken mess that was the physical incarnation of a game that was great in my head. Later, once I've fixed the most glaring errors, we reconvene and as we play it's still broken, but not so broken. Maybe we change a couple of rules as we go, evolving things that don't work in practice. This can go on for months.

Eventually, we reach a point where the game is reasonably stable and it's only the occasional edge case where something unusual happens that requires a change to the rules. But by this point the game has been through several iterations, and lots of ideas have been tried out. Some have worked, others not so much. But there's a possibility space around the current rules where I've got a good understanding about what changing various things about the game does to the feel of the game. And I've lots of ideas about what I can change to improve it.

FlickFleet is an anomaly in that regard. I first played it (once!) in July with MDF toy food. It was fun and definitely worth pursuing.

Hmm, spaceships you say?
Hmm, spaceships you say?

After a few months I finally got some bits laser cut and played it again four times at Newcastle Playtest in October. It was definitely still fun. We made a couple of changes after the first game and then left it alone. I'd not yet ordered the wooden pieces or made the ship cards, so the bookkeeping was all done with pencil and paper, which was sub-optimal, but hey, early prototype, so who cares.

Just in time for NaGa DeMon in November I did the ship cards and the wooden pieces arrived. I've also played it a lot in November. And it works, which is surprising. It's been getting great feedback ("I prefer it to X-Wing", "It's as good as Flick 'Em Up") and it's good fun.

But it's not yet great. And with nothing obviously broken I'm struggling to see what I should be changing to see if I can get it from good to great.

Any ideas?

Monday, November 20

NaGa DeMon 2017 Part 6: Making a Scene

Last week I played a couple of games of FlickFleet (bring the Dreadnought into play for the first time in the office lunch break sessions), which let me tweak the Destroyer's point value slightly - I think I under cooked it - it's more like 12 than 9 points (though it is especially vulnerable to fighters and bombers).

I've also been thinking about how I could get it made and whether it's possible to get the laser cutting done professionally at an affordable price. I've found a company who will do it for £20 a copy including perspex and VAT, which is much better than my first quote, but still very expensive. Then quite by fluke I bumped into the guys from the Newcastle Maker Space at a craft fair on the weekend. I spent some time talking to one of them about the project and he reckons it would be about £3 a copy (plus £10 a month membership). So if I could make 4 a week that would be less than £3.50 a game (plus perspex). This is looking much more affordable (if far more draining on my time as I would have to be there to run the machine).

Now that the points values are starting to take shape I can start considering some scenarios for the game. I know that two destroyers are more or less equal to a fully-laden carrier and three are equivalent to a fully-laden dreadnought, so there are a couple of fair-ish fights that I need to come up with a story for. But in scenarios there are other things you can do than just a points-based fair fight (which is the point of free play). I can play with things like reinforcements arriving halfway through a game or goals other than destroy your opponents (cross the board and exit before being destroyed, protect a departing civilian ship, stay alive until reinforcements arrive, etc.). I think having a turn counter would help with a few of these. What scenario ideas do you have?

Tonight I'm having the first playtesting night at my house since I started Eurydice Games (I've been meaning to do this for months but work travel has kept getting in the way). Hopefully we can try out a few of these ideas and then I can write some of them up into the rules that I published a while ago.

The dreadnought launches its fighters
The dreadnought launches its fighters

Finally, here's an update on the PIP situation, no movement at all this week, there's only two weeks left now, so if you'd like to get your hands on the free prototype time is running out!

10Officer CadetNot A Cyborg Zircher
6Very Petty OfficerGames Book
4Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassChris Preston
3Ensign (Expendable) 3rd ClassMike Jones
2Ensign (Expendable) 3rd Class7isprime
1Red ShirtEric Francis

Wednesday, November 15

NaGa DeMon 2017 Part 5: All Shapes and Sizes

I got a couple more games of FlickFleet in at lunchtime today and I've another planned for Friday lunchtime too. I'm using these games to continue to work on the point values for the ships (I think Destroyers need to go up a bit) and also to see if there's anything I can do to simplify things without losing the essence of the game.

Still no changes to the rules or ships at this point.

In other news, I've started to think at a very early stage about the manufacturing of the game. The biggest stumbling block is going to be the cost of laser-cutting the pieces, seeing as the cost is largely proportional to the laser burning time, so more copies is more expensive - there's little in the way of economies of scale.

I've done a very simple first stab at the ship shapes - just something to get me started. Since making my copy in September I've changed the way the ships move (you now flick them too) so my original plan for the bomber wings (three stacked chevrons) no longer works - when you flick them they separate. To combat this, the next version will jigsaw together so moving them doesn't cause them to separate.

The ship shapes are an interesting conundrum. I want them to be big enough to not get knocked around too much by the dice and yet small enough that they don't use up too much perspex. I want them to look visually like spaceships, but to minimise the length of their outlines to reduce total burn time. On top of that there's some constraints of the manufacturing process, if they are made out of 5mm thick perspex, they shouldn't have bits less than 5mm thick to minimise warping from the laser heat.

This is what I've got so far:

FlickFleet ships to scale

What do you think?