Monday, May 21

Hectic Couple of Weeks

It was Beer and Pretzels this weekend, a convention I’ve attended a lot over the last ten years, usually with my mate Terry, whose games group I was a member of when we lived down south (‘09-‘11). I missed it last year as The Baby was due within a week of it, and this year I’ve had to skip it again as it’s just before a crazy week.

Next weekend we drive to Oxford for a wedding, then Salisbury for a holiday with my whole family (16 of us!) then drive home just in time for me to drive to Birmingham for The UK Games Expo. I’ll only be at the Expo on Sunday for the day (where, shameless plug, I’ll be giving a seminar on hand-crafting games during which I’ll craft a copy of Zombology from scratch - Sunday, 1-2pm in the Piazza Small).

Last week and this week have been very busy as a result, but it’s been great to make some decent progress after months of sleep-deprived survival.

I’ve been trying to get 13 more copies of Zombology finished so I’ve got some stock for the Expo, so I’ve spent my evenings on that after the girls are asleep and I’ve cleaned up and eaten. At the same time I’ve spent my lunchbreaks at work on FlickFleet art. Last week it was the ship dashboards, which are nearly finished now, next up is making the rule book prettier and finishing a first rough cut of the box art.

Here’s a look at the latest dashboard style - any feedback? I’d love to know what you like and what you don’t!

Monday, May 14

How To: Craft a Tray and Lid Box

Last week on Google+ long time reader Derek asked for more details on how to make game boxes. So here's a detailed tutorial on how I made the boxes for Border Reivers, It's Alive 1st Edition and the two hand-crafted versions of Zombology I've done. It's quite long, but there's lots of pictures to break it up!

If you found this interesting and are planning on attending the UK Games Expo at the beginnging of June in Birmingham you can see me hand-craft a copy of Zombology from scratch in front of a live audience! My Made by Hand seminar is 1-2pm on Sunday 3rd June in the Piazza Small.

For this tutorial you'll need a good ruler with a steel cutting edge (ideally that lies flat with the cutting surface) and a clear scale for measuring, a self-healing cutting mat and a sharp knife (I use an Xacto-style knife with snap off blades).

So, let's get started. The first thing you'll need to do is choose a box size. For this I strongly recommend choosing a game you own and making your box that size. There's three good reasons for this:

  • You can empty that game's box and check the bits fit in ok

  • Games look cool on the shelf if they are all the same size - it's easier to store them and stores to stock them

  • If you want your game to go into manufacturing, using a standard box size saves you the cost of tooling new dies for the box blanks and labels, shipping crates, etc.

  • My personal philosophy is that the game box should be the smallest one that the components can comfortably fit in, but if you're hoping to go into retail your box needs to reflect your MSRP. Being the only £25 game on the small games shelf really hurt sales of Sumeria. Once you know your manufacturing cost, times that by five and go into a game store - how big are the boxes for games that cost that much?

    Once you've picked a box size, measure the width (W), height (H) and depth (D - the distance between the lid opening and the top of the lid) of the box lid. The dimensions of your box blank (BW and BH) are W+2*D by H+2*D. You need two rectangles of greyboard (chipboard I think in the US and Canada) that size. I usually use 750micron (0.75 millimetres thick) greyboard for a small box or light game and 1250micron (1.25 millimetres thick) for heavy or larger games.

    On that greyboard measure out two rectangles that are BW by BH. Then draw lines that are D in from every edge on one of them (this is your box lid). For the tray the lines need to be further in, for a 750micron thick box you can draw them D + 1mm in, for 1.25micron greyboard you'll need D + 2mm. Making the box blanks the same total size means that the tray is smaller, but taller than the lid - this means you have a small amount of tray showing when the lid is on, so it's easier to open the box.

    The next step is to cut the small squares out from each corner of the tray and lid blanks, and to score (gently scratch with a knife - not all the way through) the remaining bits of the lines you drew.

    Now turn the blanks over so the drawn and scored lines are underneath and fold the sides of the tray and lid up along the scored lines.

    The final step of making the blanks is to tape the box corners. I use Scotch Magic Tape for this as it has a nice matt surface that the label sticks to nicely.

    For a prototype I'll often stop there:

    But for a hand-crafted game you want this to look like a real game that's been professionally manufactured. So you need labels. In the old days I used to get these printed onto paper (and then professionally laminated for durability) and then glue them on by coating them in watered down PVA glue. This is an awful idea - don't do that! For a smaller game where high fidelity isn't critical you can print onto label paper (I think you can get it in up to A4/Letter size), but I've started using Vinyl labels (also professionally laminated) for Zombology which are awesome (if expensive). Your box art will need to be W+2*D+30mm by H+2*H+30mm so that there's 15mm of label on each side to wrap over the box into the inside. Do the box label art (and getting it all the right way up!) is enough content for another post, needless to say you'll have to get this right!

    My next step is to cut out the labels. You want the long edges to go from the corners of the box top/bottom straight out to the edge of the label (you can make them 2 or 3mm narrower at the label edge if you want - this makes the wrap slightly smoother on the inside, but it slows down cutting a bit as you can't do both cuts at the same time without moving the ruler). The shorter edges need to go from the corners of the box tray/lid 45° to the depth of the box, before going straight out to the label edge - see below:

    Once you've cut out the labels, take the box lid label and the box lid blank (be careful at this point - the box blank lid and tray look almost identical!). Remove the label backing and place it face down. Place the box blank on top, being very careful to line up all four corners of the box blank with the corners cut into the label. Press down firmly across the whole blank surface to get a good adhesion to the label.

    The next step is to do the shorter sides. Roll the blank onto one short side, pressing firmly along the blank to make sure it adheres well to the label. Now cut from just inside the corner of the box to the label edge (so the cut goes slightly towards the middle of label edge), and then again towards the corner of the label where the 45° cut turns towards the label edge. You want to err towards the 45° cut at this point, you don't want any label ending above the blank edge when you wrap the label over the corners.

    Now starting in the middle and working out towards the corners, pinch the label over the edge of the blank. Make sure the label sticks really well both on the inside and the outside of the box edge.

    You can now wrap the two diagonally cut pieces round the corners of the box - this strengthens the box corners and also ensures that none of the greyboard will be visible on the corners. Repeat the last four steps on the other short side.

    Next up are the long edges. Roll the box blank onto one of the long edges and press down firmly along the edge to ensure the label sticks well across the whole edge.

    Starting in the middle again and working out towards the corners, pinch the label over the edge of the blank. Make sure the label sticks really well both on the inside and the outside of the box edge. If you cut the long edge straight out to the label edge you might need to pay attention to pressing the label into the corners on the inside, which is less of a problem if you cut the label slightly in towards the middle. Repeat this process on the other long edge.

    Repeat this process on the box tray and Hey Presto! you have a professional looking tray and lid box!

    I hope this was helpful - let me know in the comments if you'd like any more details or another How To post on something else (e.g. box art layout).

    Monday, May 7

    Brief but Thankful

    I usually write my blog posts in my lunch break at work or, failing that, at the weekend. This week I’ve spent my lunch breaks finishing off my new website (any feedback appreciated!) and this weekend we’re going away to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! So needless to say I’ll not be spending a decent chunk of our holiday writing a long blog post!

    So this is a short one to say: in your quest to be successful at designing games (or whatever else it is that you want to achieve) make sure you have a support network. One or more people who love you and want you to be happy and succeed. They could be a partner, spouse, parent, child, sibling or best mate. Find them and treasure them - their support is priceless.

    And thank you to The Wife for being mine for the last 21 years!

    Monday, April 30

    All At Once

    April was going pretty slowly in terms of Zombology sales, I’d been focusing on FlickFleet again (and learning about Kickstarter! - Jamey Stegmaier’s book is great by the way), and although I’d made a batch of Zombology I’d not sold any at all. My sales targets are pretty low and I’d already missed last quarter’s by a little, so I wasn’t relishing the chance to slip back by another whole month. I popped into my local FLGS, Travelling Man and they have a small press shelf where people who hand-craft comics can sell their wares. They were willing to take on Zombology too. I chose a price - £12.99, similar to other similarly-sized games in the store, and it has the benefit that it’s cheaper for the customer than buying it from my website with UK shipping, but means that after the shop’s cut the take home for me is similar to a web sale after PayPal fees and shipping.

    Price of place on the Small Press shelf

    I gave them three copies on sale or return on Thursday and by Monday they’d already sold one! This was the start of a great week. I got another order on Tuesday while on the train to Manchester for work and then sold a couple to people I’d met through work on Friday and then another online order on Friday evening. Saturday one of my tweets went unexpectedly ‘viral’ (viral for me - it got a bunch of RTs from people I don’t know including John Kovalic, the artist of Munchkin) and I got a couple more orders - including my first Print and Play one!

    Saturday I also made it along to Newcastle Gamers for their International Tabletop Day session - I just joined for a couple of hours in the evening, but I got to play a few games of mine and Sentinels of the Multiverse for the first time (I wasn’t a fan - maybe we had an unusual set-up or draw, but it felt very mechanical).

    Finally, this morning when I checked with Travelling Man they'd sold another one too, so I delivered them another two and invoiced them for the two copies they've sold. I've ended April ahead of target!

    This week I’ve got Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday and then Games Night on Thursday before a weekend away to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! Time flies!

    Monday, April 23

    Final Changes

    This week has been all about tweaking FlickFleet. There are now three blindplaytesting copies in three different countries. Three sets of people trying to learn the game from my rulebook and then provide feedback on the rulebook and the game. The first set of feedback has come in with some great suggestions for improving the rulebook and some comments about the game.

    The playtester found the game fundamentally fun and loved a few bits about it, but there were a couple of things he didn't enjoy. The biggest problem he has was that it is possible to get yourself into a situation where victory is impossible for one of the players. I'd seen this happen a few times - it's an asymmetric game, so the players often have different forces, and some of the ships need to be played in a particular way to be successful (e.g. carriers need to launch their fighters and bombers quickly as they are weak on their own) and the ramming rules were an attempt to dealt with this, but clearly for new players without my experience (or strategy advice) the problem was bigger than I realised.

    Clearly this situation is no fun at all for the loser and not much fun for the winner, so it was something that needed addressing. The playtester had even volunteered a couple of suggestions that he thought might fixed the problem - which was great.

    As a designer you will get a lot of suggestions about your game. Some will be great, some will be rubbish. Some will be great, but take your game in a direction you are unhappy with. One of the things you need to be good at is to take the suggestions (and where not spelled out work out the root issue) and then decide what to do with them. Are they a good idea? Do they take your game in a direction you are happy with? What's the problem the suggestion is trying to fix? Is there a better or different solution to that problem you should also consider? Is that problem just that the the game is not the suggester's type of game? Perhaps the suggester's perceived problem is not a problem in your eyes, or something you are happy to live with? As creator of the game, the editorial control lies with you until you sign it over to a publisher.

    As it turns out the problems spotted by the playtester were an issue and something I wanted to address. Paul (my co-designer) and I talked it over and we had an alternative solution that we've been trying out this week (and over the weekend while Paul was visiting with his family). It seems at first blush that our solution improves the game and largely addresses the problem. As a result of this feedback the game has improved, despite the fact we didn't go with the playtester's suggestion. Hopefully, he will find our solution addresses the problem as he experienced it too.

    Remember that playtesters suggestions are valid, and are shaped by their experience of your game. But the control lies with you. Are you happy to leave the problem they experience un-addressed? If not, is their suggestion the best resolution to the problem they experienced? It might be. Or it might not. You decide!

    Monday, April 16

    Lots Going On

    After last week's Kickstarter revelation I've had a week of many different tasks.

    Before I can Kickstart the game I need to get the rules finished, the ship dashboards done and do the box art. I've a rough cut of the ship dashboards already, and a first stab at the rules that are currently being blind playtested in three separate countries. The box is very much a rough sketch though.

    This week, during the hours of 5-6:30 I've taken The Baby downstairs a couple of times to give The Wife a bit more sleep. A couple of times The Baby has gone back to sleep so I've had an hour or so sat on the sofa in the dark with my iPad. I bought the Procreate drawing app and I've been having a play with that to flesh out the box art. One of its coolest features is that it automatically builds a time-lapse video of your work. It's so cool I've created an Instagram account to share it!

    Started sketching out a #FlickFleet box illustration

    A post shared by Jackson Pope (@jacksonpopeeg) on

    I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination (to the chagrin of my father who was an art teacher for nearly 35 years), but one of the ways I'll keep costs down on the hand-made run of FlickFleet is by doing the art myself (possible stretch goal if it's wildly successful: professional art! By an actual artist!). Using an app like Procreate that lets me tweak things as I go is definitely my best chance of coming up with something acceptable. I've invested in an Apple Pencil to allow me to do the finer work (my large hands aren't designed for fingertip art on a tablet!). I've also taken to watching/listening to Procreate tutorials while washing up! Now that's multi-tasking!

    In addition to this early morning shift I've been using my lunch breaks at work to revisit my website. It was a pretty hurried effort last autumn while simultaneously trying to get Zombology off the ground and when I showed it to my friend Wilka he described it as 'retro', which clearly meant old-fashioned and a bit rubbish. I've not had much time to work on it recently, but I've been refreshing it a bit this last week. Hopefully there'll be a refresh coming in the next week or two.

    All in all, pretty busy!

    Monday, April 9

    Time For Humble Pie

    If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know my views on Kickstarter. I'm not a fan. Evidence: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C.

    You'll also know I've been working hard on FlickFleet for the last six months or so, and I'm clearly planning to bring it to market in the future. Behind the scenes I've been getting quotes for a small run like the 200 copies I'm making of Zombology. It turns out that acrylic is expensive, and commercial laser cutting is very expensive. And because you're paying for laser time, there's very little in the way of economies of scale. I could make a 200 copy run, but the cost to me would be so high that I'd need to charge £40 for the game, which is too high for what it is.

    There is another option. I could buy a laser cutter and do the cutting myself. This would mean the laser cutting would essentially be free (though I'd obviously need to cover the cost of the laser cutter over time). If I made 300 copies I'd be able to pay for the laser cutter and the materials and charge £30 a game for FlickFleet - which is much more reasonable. The only downside is that I can't afford to buy the materials for 300 games and a laser cutter. I'd need to seek alternative funding. A great example of that would be Kickstarter. :-(

    Time to eat some humble pie.

    Blueberry Pie
    Blueberry Pie by Andrew Malone on Flickr

    I need to swallow my pride and admit that Kickstarter really is the best venue to get FlickFleet made at a price that's reasonable. By admitting I was wrong I can save the potential customers £10, which seeing as lots of them will be my biggest fans is the right thing to do.

    So, reluctantly I've decided to Kickstart a small print run of FlickFleet, probably in the September timeframe. I'll set the target high enough to cover the cost of a laser cutter and take it from there. Marketing isn't my strong suit, so I'm certainly not expecting Fireball Island levels of success, but hopefully with a low target I'll be able to sneak across the line and get the funds I need to make a small run.

    If you have any advice on running Kickstarters, or who to speak to, what to read or listen to on the subject I'm all ears - I'll need all the help I can get!

    Monday, April 2

    Crowdsourced Art Direction!

    I'm currently on holiday in Bristol, so I'm auto-posting this post that I wrote last week. Over the last couple of weeks I've started to make a more 'finished' looking set of ship dashboards for FlickFleet. These dashboards serve two purposes - they remind you what actions each ship can take and they show the status of the ship in terms of whether the shields are still up and which bits of the ship are currently damaged and inoperable. There are three types of large ship in FlickFleet - destroyers, carriers and dreadnoughts. Each has different capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Here are the latest versions of their dashboards, I would really appreciate any feedback you have on the look, and also the clarity of information.

    The destroyer - a heavily armed but flimsy gun boat

    The destroyer has two shields (damaged on a 1-10 die result), 3 guns (damaged on 1-3), plus shield generator (5) and engines (6). A result of four will destroy them once their shields are down. They can be moved by flicking the rear three surfaces, as long as the engines are not damaged. They also have an engineering location that cannot be damaged that allows you to repair a damaged location.

    The carrier - weak by itself, but it carries a lot of fighters and bombers

    The carrier has two shields (damaged on a 1-10 die result), a gun (damaged on 1), a fighter bay (damaged on a 2 or 3) that allows you to launch a couple of fighter wings during the game, a bomber bay (4) that allows you to launch a bomber wing, plus shield generator (5) and engines (6). They can be moved by flicking the rear three surfaces, as long as the engines are not damaged. They also have an engineering location that cannot be damaged that allows you to repair a damaged location.

    The dreadnought - fear its might

    The destroyer has four shields (damaged on a 1-10 die result), nuclear warheads (damaged on 1), two guns (damaged on a 2 or 3), a fighter bay (damaged on a 4) that allows you to launch a couple of fighter wings during the game, plus shield generator (5) and engines (6). They can be moved by flicking the rear three surfaces, as long as the engines are not damaged. They also have an engineering location that cannot be damaged that allows you to repair a damaged location or repair the hull. In addition to the locations above, dreadnoughts also have three hull points.

    How clearly do you think that information is portrayed? Do you like the look? Any thoughts or comments?

    Monday, March 26

    What's The Point?

    When interviewed by The Cardboard Herald and W. Eric Martin back in January one of the first questions they both asked was why I'm doing what I'm doing. Why hand-craft games rather than submit them to publishers? Why fund it myself rather than go the Kickstarter route?

    Both good and valid questions, and despite the fact that I know why I'm doing it, I flailed around a bit for an answer when on the record. As a result I've spent some time thinking about why I'm doing this. Why I'm risking my own money and investing a decent chunk of my time into the project. It's not to start a company that will become a full-time concern for me - I've tried that and failed spectacularly once already, and while Jamey Stegmaier has the skills, I don't - I accept that.

    So, in a very buzzword bingo, corporate-speak-esque fashion (I am a manager in a large corporation in my day job after all), I've decided to codify my mission, values and strategy. While that seems frankly ridiculous in a company with only one person (me), I figure the time spent thinking about it is probably time well spent, and if I can codify them I've them got something written down that I can refer to and check that I'm still heading in the right direction. I can also use them as a yardstick: Has my behaviour lived up to my aspirations?

    By publicising them here I'm committing to them, and you guys can hold me accountable too!

    So here they are:


    I'm passionate about playing, designing and crafting games and sharing my designs with other gamers


    Crafting unique board gaming experiences


    Craftsmanship in everything I do
    Building community
    Encouraging and supporting crafting in others
    Lightening the mood with humour
    Supporting charities


    Make small, profit-making hand-crafted print runs of unusual games finished to a very high standard
    Grow the business to make larger/more complex games possible in future
    Re-prints of popular games can be licensed to other publishers or not
    Make my games available to other crafters as Print and Play editions
    Build a crafting community

    What do you think of them?

    Monday, March 19

    Sizing a Hand-Crafted Print Run

    FlickFleet is coming along nicely so one of the many things I'm working on at the moment is pricing and sizing the print run.

    As with Zombology, I'm intending to do a small, limited edition run first where I make the boxes by hand and cut out the ship dashboards by hand (though I'll be buying in the wooden pieces and laser cutting the acrylic ships).

    So how big a print run should I do? In a perfect world I'd like to do a print run that I can comfortably hand-craft and sell through within a year. The smaller the print run, the more confident I am of both those things. At the same time, the bigger the print run, the better the economies of scale, so the cheaper each copy is to make and the cheaper I can price them (which will hopefully make them easier to sell). Although, of course the initial outlay is higher.

    FlickFleet up close

    The other thing to consider is the number of pre-orders. For a professional run or a Kickstarter, the more of these the better. For a small hand-made run it's not that simple. Since it takes me time (at this point I'm estimating 1-1.5 hours) to make each copy, and I'm doing this in my evenings after the kids go to bed, I actually don't want too many - it'll just put me under a lot of pressure to get them done and delay building up stock and promoting the game. For Zombology I had 20 pre-orders (on top of the 30 copy run I'd already sold out of to friends and family), which was 10% of the print run and about 15 hours of crafting to make. The Baby was only 3 months old at that point, so our sleep was dreadful (it's still pretty bad!), so that was a lot of evenings and took about a month to complete. Ideally I'd have about 20-25% of the print run spoken for up front, which will still mean a chunk of evenings and probably a calendar month of construction.

    The biggest factor for FlickFleet's cost though is the laser cutting, for which there isn't much in the way of economies of scale (you're paying for cutting time which scales linearly with number of copies). One of the options I'm exploring is buying a laser cutter. They are very expensive, but it would save me a lot of cost per game and I would be able to amortize it over the games (and potentially other projects).

    At the moment it looks like I could do it for £30 if I do the laser cutting myself and £40 if I outsource the laser cutting. That £10 is a big deal, £40 is a lot to ask for for a hand-made game.

    I'm toying with either a 200 (Zombology-sized) or 300 (It's Alive! First Edition-sized) print run. Numbers of pre-orders is probably what I'll
    use to make the decision on run size, and they are coming in surprisingly quickly at the moment, considering the fact I've not announced it or even worked out the price!

    Hopefully I'll be ready to decide and make an announcement shortly - keep your eyes peeled!

    Monday, March 12

    A lesson in Doing it Right

    I noticed in passing Jamey Stegmaier's 2017 Stonemaier Games Stakeholder Report on twitter this week. It's an incredible read. Especially when you compare it to his inspiration, the Steve Jackson Games equivalent. And my earlier admission of failure.

    What made it especially interesting to me was comparing it with my first attempt at running a publisher, Reiver Games, and my current self-publishing project Eurydice Games.

    Jamey has been fantastically successful. Fantastically. Fair play to him, he's exceptionally good at what he does. Stonemaier have one full-time employee (Jamey) and made $7.1 million in 2017. That's more than double what they made in 2016. Plus, importantly they were profitable.

    Their first game (Viticulture) was published just four years earlier. $0 - $7.1 million in turnover in four years. Now that's impressive. For comparison, Reiver Games ran for 5 years, its best turnover was around £22,000 and I never took a salary from it. Clearly Jamey does this way, way better than me.

    Reiver Games was founded in 2006 and was just hand-crafted runs until mid-2008. I made the jump to 'professional' publisher then, just before the stock market crash in September 2008 when lots of people's spare cash dried up. I invested a small amount of my own money in it at the beginning, then a fairly large amount of my life insurance payout and then took out a loan. Servicing that loan killed Reiver Games. Stonemaier by comparison have no debt.

    Now probably the biggest difference between us is Kickstarter. Kickstarter was founded in 2009 and Jamey has initially released most of his games through it, with great success. Pretty much everyone who is new to publishing (and quite a few old hands) now launch new games through Kickstarter, but it wasn't available in the UK until after Reiver Games had shut down and I'm still uncomfortable with it now. Which probably explains why I'm hand-crafting small print runs again and Jamey is turning over millions of dollars.

    In addition to the fantastic success Jamey has deservedly raked in, there's several things in that report that staggered me.

    Jamey has been that successful making one new game a year, plus a couple of expansions. When I was running Reiver Games I was convinced the only way to be successful was to have a lot of games on your books like Z-Man or Rio Grande. That was always my aim: get to the point where I had several games coming out a year. Hopefully one of them would be a smash hit, but if not, half a dozen less successful games meant that you could more easily sell to distributors and shops and meant that brand awareness would build as people saw your logo in more and more places. But even in these days, when there are thousands of new games appearing on Kickstarter, Jamey has been hugely successful with one new game a year. That goes to show the quality of the games he's producing, and the fan-base he's built.

    The print runs show just how successful he's been. At the time of Reiver Games people talked about 5,000-10,000 copy runs being for very good games, with maybe up to 50-70,000 if the game won Spiel des Jahres or something similar. My 'professional' Reiver Games print runs were 3,000, 2,000 and then 3,000 (for It's Alive!, Carpe Astra and Sumeria respectively). Nowadays I'm hoping that I can find 200 people interested in Zombology (which admittedly is a niche, within a niche, within a niche!). Stonemaier have five games in circulation with between 31,000 and 150,000 copies in the wild. Those are epic print runs, and with such large runs come some huge economies of scale - something I never successfully achieved.

    Even with those however, Jamey admits that his margins aren't where he wants them. He's aiming for manufacturing costs to be 14-20% of retail. He's not quite there yet. During my Reiver Games days I was aiming for 20%, but only managed it once. It was nearly 30% for It's Alive!, about 25% for Carpe Astra and finally 20% for Sumeria, for which I did a larger run (so some economies of scale) and bumped up the price to £25. Sadly, with my obsession for small boxes all that meant was my game was the only £25 game on the small box shelf, the rest were all £18-22. Looking really expensive by comparison didn't help me since the vast majority of my sales were through shops and distributors. Now that I'm making games by hand and selling directly I don't need to worry about shops and distributors getting their cuts, so I'm aiming for 50% (it's just under 40% for Zombology and due to the laser cutting and perspex it'll probably be over 60% for FlickFleet :-( ).

    The other thing that stood out was the size of Jamey's audience. He's got 33,000 people on his mailing list (I've started from scratch again, so I've only got 60!), 9,000 twitter followers (to my 2,250) and is active on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube where I don't even have accounts. He's clearly doing a lot of things right.

    For those of you coming here for advice on getting into game (self-)publishing, you should be going to Jamey. Come here for the cautionary tale instead!

    Monday, March 5

    A Busy Week

    It's been a very busy week this week. I've shipped the first two blind playtesting copies of FlickFleet, made my first batch of Zombology in ages (I've been focussing on FlickFleet for the last couple of months), had a UK Games Expo seminar accepted and then spent the weekend with Paul (my FlickFleet co-designer) doing some gaming, some playtesting and attending Beyond Monopoly, the club in York, for the first time in probably nine years. Finally, I found out that FlickFleet is not a finalist in the Cardboard Edison Award - despite really positive feedback from the judges.

    The blind playtesting is a crucial step in the development of a game. You're sending a copy of the game, complete with rulebook to strangers for their feedback. They will have to learn the game from the rulebook, as if they'd bought it in a shop and then play it - rightly or wrongly based on their reading of your rulebook. You will then get feedback on the quality of the rulebook, what wasn't clear or was missing and their opinions of the game. From strangers. Who unlike the people you will have mostly been testing with, are not your friends and are less inclined to go easy on you to protect your feelings. It's an invaluable opportunity to find the weak spots in your rulebook (writing rules well is very hard, and invariably you will have missing things or made statements that can be interpreted in different ways), and to get a better idea how a random punter would experience and feel about your game - it's also a great opportunity to get a better idea of what the market reception of your game might be.
    A blind playtest copy ready to go in the post

    Zombology has suffered a bit over the last couple of months. I'd built up a decent stock in December, and while I intended to keep cranking out copies in January and February, sales were not fast enough to demand it (though on track!) and I spent what little time I had (The Baby has been sleeping terribly since Christmas, so I've been going to bed early and Eurydice time is between kids' bedtime and mine, a time period that has been heavily squeezed!) on FlickFleet instead. In January I was trying to get a Cardboard Edison Award submission done (more on that later) and then this month it's been upgrading my copy, getting a copy to Paul and then working on the blind playtesting copies. With a trip to Beyond Monopoly last weekend though I needed to boost my slowly diminishing stock a bit - I'd rather take far more than I need than have fewer than I could have sold. I got six boxes and three games made during the week, which meant I had 15 copies to take with me to Beyond Monopoly.

    On Monday I also heard that the seminar idea I had pitched to the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June (me hand-crafting a copy of Zombology live in front of an audience while talking about my experiences running Reiver and Eurydice Games and the many tips and tricks I've picked up over 16 years of hand-crafting games). It's going to be 1-2pm on Sunday 3rd June and spaces are limited to 50 people, so if you're interested I'd get there early!

    Friday evening we braved the snow and drove down to York to see Paul and his family again. I was too tired in the evenings for our usual playtesting and gaming (baby-related sleep deprivation again!), but Paul and I made it along to Beyond Monopoly on Saturday afternoon - the big games club in York I used to attend when I lived there. While there I spent the afternoon demoing Zombology and playtesting FlickFleet and I sold two copies of Zombology :-) It was also great to catch up with some old gaming buddies. There was a lot of interest in FlickFleet too - several people signed up to my mailing list to be kept in the loop.

    The week ended with the news that FlickFleet had not made the cut for the Cardboard Edison Awards finalists. From a field of 192 the judges had to pick approximately fifteen based on a video introduction, a rulebook and a brief overview. My video (done the night before submission) was spectacularly uninspiring - I sounded terribly dull and not at all excited about my game, and the rulebook was pretty poor too - it was also last minute, and had no examples and not enough diagrams. I could really have done with getting the new rulebook (finished last week) done in time for the submission at the end of January.

    This week I'm hoping to make it to Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday to show off the latest FlickFleet changes and get peoples' opinions on them.

    Monday, February 26

    Secret Sauce

    The title sounds much raunchier than this blog post actually is!

    I was asked on Friday evening on twitter if I could share some of my ‘Hand-crafting secret sauce’ by a fellow game designer and Zombology customer. His question was specifically around three things: tools, costs and time.

    The tools question is pretty easy to answer as I did a post on this years ago, but I’m still using the same tools. The corner rounding tool has halved in price since I bought it in 2006, so it’s not quite so expensive any more.

    In terms of costs, Zombology is pretty straightforward. Shipping is the cost of the padded envelope (I bought them in bulk so they were only 30p each) plus Royal Mail 1st class postage to the UK (£3.40) or standard parcel elsewhere (£4.10 to Europe, £5.65 to Australia and New Zealand or £5.15 to everywhere else). For those copies I sell via my website PayPal fees vary between 67p and just over a pound.

    The cost of manufacture for Zombology comes down to printing alone. I bought box card (750 micron thick greyboard), box labels, rules sheet and card sheets from a local digital printer. Printing is one of those things where there are real economies of scale. The first copy is really expensive, but the more you do the cheaper it gets. I wanted to sell Zombology (which is 108 cards and a rules sheet in a two deck card box like No Thanks! or 6 Nimmt! comes in) for £10, which is more or less the retail price of a game that size in the UK. I also wanted to do it at a profit so that I had some money to pay for advertising, a website, trips to conventions, making prototypes of new games and to grow the company so I can make bigger print runs or more complex games in future.

    When I was pricing it up the cost for 100 copies was £585, so £5.85 per game. If I sold all 100 copies at full price (I’ve already given away four for reviews, my copy, etc. so that's not going to happen!) then I could make at most £415 minus PayPal fees. Which doesn’t leave a lot for all the other things I’ve mentioned above.

    150 copies was £630 (£4.20 per copy) with an absolute maximum profit of £870, and 200 was £790 (£3.95 per copy minus PayPal fees) with a maximum profit of £1,210. Could I sell 200 copies? That’s the £790 question. Sales are on track at the moment, but without any marketing budget or any real marketing skills it’s hard work, especially with the constant stream of amazing looking Kickstarters with their stretch goals and hundreds of minis. We will have to wait and see.

    I could have made the game much cheaper than that, but I made a couple of decisions which push up the costs and the quality. It's squeezing my margins and forcing me to do larger runs, but it's a decision I still stand by. I craft games to a very high standard. I do it in my spare time around a young family, after the girls go to bed. And seeing as I’m usually up around 5am, I don’t go to bed late myself, so time is very limited.

    Decision one was to use vinyl stickers for the box labels. When I did Border Reivers and It’s Alive! I printed the box labels on paper and then hand glued them onto the box blanks using watered down PVA glue. It took ages and was really awkward. With less time available I’m all about saving time and effort where possible. The vinyl stickers are very expensive, but they are very quick and easy to stick on.

    Decision two was to keep laminating the cards and box labels. The printer applies a very thin coat of plastic over the artwork and then melts it into the paper. It makes the cards and box more hardwearing, slightly water resistant and it feels really nice in your hands. Again it’s totally worth it. I want people to be amazed that I’ve made the games by hand, not think they look and feel shoddy.
    A Zombology before I start crafting

    The final question was about time. I make the games in batches of six (the number of boxes I get out of a single sheet of SRA2 greyboard. Each batch takes about four hours (it was 4.5, but I’ve honed it over the twelve batches I’ve made so far), so it’s about 40 mins per game. The boxes take about 15 minutes each including cutting out, folding, taping, cutting out the labels and then labelling. Folding the rules is about 2 minutes and then cutting out all 108 cards takes 20 mins. Rounding all the corners using the aforementioned tool takes the final three minutes!

    I submitted a seminar idea for the UK Games Expo this year where I hand-craft a game in front of a live audience, explaining how and why I’m doing what I’m doing, along with sharing some tips and tricks on what I’ve found works and what doesn’t. I should find out today whether or not I’ve been accepted...

    Monday, February 19

    The Slow March of Progress

    The Baby is sleeping particularly badly at the moment, a combination of teething x4 and a filthy cold. As a result The Wife and (to a lesser extent) I are also sleeping really badly too. To survive we're going to bed crazy early, which considering my Eurydice Games time is after the kids go to bed means I'm making little progress at the moment. I am making some though.

    The Father-in-law was up at the beginning of the week, and bless him he did a bunch of my chores, which freed up some time. That meant that one evening I finished early enough to do some bagging of bits for the FlickFleet prototype, and then Thursday before Games Night I had a few minutes to cut out my ship dashboards and make a box. With the exception of the rule book (which is currently undergoing a revision), I have an up-to-date copy! That should make teaching it to people a bit easier - playing with out of date dashboards was very confusing.

    I also spent a couple of lunch breaks mocking up a FlickFleet box:

    Mock up of a FlickFleet box design

    What are your thoughts? Obviously, the art is just placeholders at the moment, to get a feel for the composition. Feedback on twitter earlier in the week was it wasn't clear that the shadowy hand was flicking the beige ship - maybe extending the middle to little fingers would help.

    Sunday, February 11

    FlickFleet Status Update

    I'm investing a lot of time into FlickFleet at the moment. A couple of weeks ago it was preparing for the Cardboard Edison Award entry, and then getting Paul's prototype ready to hand over. I've decided to redo the rule book before sending out the remaining prototypes as the one I did for Cardboard Edison was pretty rushed. I think it was ok to learn the game from, but it needed more diagrams and some examples and that was too big a job to do before the submission deadline. I've been working a bit on that this week, and also starting to think about the design assets I need to publish it: box art, pretty rule book and a logo.

    Sunday night we had another very broken night's sleep with The Baby (neither 2:25am nor 4:15am are time to start the day - she was confused). I ended up being awake for two and a half hours as in between calming her down enough to get her back to sleep I was lying in bed desperately trying to sleep, but actually designing the logo and box art in my head :-(

    Paul and I have also been thinking about another action for ships - the helm. It was in a very early cut of the game but disappeared when the ships began to move with flicking instead of templates. Adding it in again adds another hard decision to make and removes some of the frustration (but also the fun) of a bad flick ending up with a ship pointing in a crazy direction. I need to try it out this week to see if it improves things.

    I've a first cut at a manufacturing cost too. Unlike X-Wing I wanted the game to come with everything you need, rather than the bear minimum required to play. It looks like that is going to end up retailing around £35-40, rather than the £25-30 I was aiming for. I'll have to do some market research to see if that's a show stopper for people...

    This week's goal, after my father-in-law departs is to finish off and post the prototypes, which means finishing the rules upgrade first!

    Monday, February 5

    FlickFleet: A Meeting of Minds

    This week just gone has been all about FlickFleet. At the beginning of the week I was trying to get everything in place for a Cardboard Edison Award submission. I needed a short intro (easy!), a rulebook (needed a lot of work!) and a less than 5 minute video overview. I revised the rulebook, adding a few more diagrams and three scenarios (only one of which I'd tested!) and then ran out of time. I think it's just about good enough to learn the game from, but it desperately needs another revision with more diagrams and some examples. The final piece of the puzzle was a video which my mate Wilka helped me with. As always when you see your hear yourself in recorded form it was excruciating. I've a face for radio and a voice for silent films. It's hard to imagine that someone could make a game as fun as FlickFleet sound more boring. Next time, I need to bring some energy, enthusiasm and personality.

    But, I submitted it anyway. I'm really hoping to get some decent feedback from the process. I'm one of 192 entrants, of which about ten will be chosen as finalists based on the overview, video and rulebook. Those finalists will have to submit a prototype at the end of the month.

    With the Award submission out of the way, the next focus is making some prototypes. I spent three of my lunch breaks last week on that: taking the second set of perspex (delivered to me and not random stranger in London) to give to my mate Dan for laser cutting; collecting a bag of pieces from Dan and then collecting the ship dashboards from the printers (my printer is still broken).

    I wanted to get at least one finished, before my mate Paul (the co-designer) arrived for the weekend with his family on Friday evening. I had to strip the plastic coatings off the ships, bag the ships and wooden bits, cut out the dashboards, make a box and finally fold and staple the rulebooks. I finished five minutes after they arrived!

    Paul's prototype in the flesh

    Paul had the original idea for FlickFleet back in the Summer of 2016 and has had several critical ideas during the development. Until now though the only copy in existence has been mine and I've been doing the lion's share of the playtesting and development.

    Now Paul finally has his own copy for testing with his friends, and it meant that we had a updated version to try out together over the weekend. We ended up playing all the scenarios (the two I hadn't tried yet twice each, and the other one once) and managed to work out a couple of kinks. The new jigsawed bombers worked much better and the scenarios were surprisingly together and fun considering I'd just thought them up one morning on the way to work and then typed them up. We also spent the day on Sunday with Paul coming up with scenario after scenario. I'm hoping to have four or five in the rulebook and then a bunch more on the website - for a long time this looked like it would be a bit of a stretch, now, not so much!

    Scenario testing

    This week I'm travelling for work again, but I'm also hoping to get some more prototypes done for sending out to some blind playtesters.

    Monday, January 29

    FlickFleet Prototype Revision

    Last week I finally made some progress on Zombology crafting again after a five week hiatus that included Christmas and various work trips. My aim this quarter is to make 12 games each month and then an additional six at some point during the quarter. With three evenings left in January I'm at six for the quarter so far :-(

    On a brighter note, I finally made it along to Newcastle Gamers for the first time since October. It was also my first visit with unclaimed Zombology stock, so I tweeted about bringing it and mentioned it on the Meetup page too. After a quick game of Keltis das Kartenspiel with Olly, John S and Neil, I asked around if anyone was interested and managed to drum up six people who were. We played a game, and then Trevor requested a second game. Afterwards I made my (pretty weak!) sales pitch: 'I've made these myself. I've got a quarterly mailing list if you'd like to subscribe, or you can buy a copy if you like for £10. If you don't want to do either of those that's fine.' I took four mailing list subscriptions and sold three copies! Which considering two of the six were a couple means a 60% conversion rate - I'm happy with that! Afterwards we play a couple of games of Codenames, which was great fun too - I'd only played the Pictures version before, so it was nice to see the original version. It was great to make it to Newcastle Gamers, I rarely make it because of kid-related exhaustion, visitors or visiting friends and family or work travel.

    This week is going to be very busy. By Wednesday I need to do my tax return and I'm hoping to submit FlickFleet to the Cardboard Edison Award. I've never submitted a game to a competition before, so it'll be interesting to see how that goes. I've got a really good feeling about FlickFleet (the feedback has been very positive) so hopefully we'll either do well or get some good feedback from the judges. I've been working on the rulebook in preparation, so that's starting to take shape a bit more, with pictures and scenarios included now.

    On the weekend my friend Paul (my FlickFleet co-designer) and his family are coming to visit, so I'm hoping to get the next version of FlickFleet prototypes made in time for that (at least his copy!). I've made some changes to the rules and some minor changes to the laser-cut pieces. I've also significantly changed the ship dashboard cards and the wooden piece requirements. I'm getting five copies made, a refresh of mine, one for Paul (hence the rush!), a couple of playtest copies and one that will either go to Cardboard Edison if we make the first cut or another playtest copy. I meant to do these ages ago, but my printer broke and then the Perspex I need for the laser-cutting was delivered to London in error, so they've had to send me another copy that will hopefully arrive today. Assuming they get here in time I'll drop them off with Dan for laser-cutting on Wednesday and then hopefully assemble the rest early next week.
    The FlickFleet dreanought
    The dreadnought faces off

    I've still not managed to fix the printer, so I might need to go to some professionals for the prototype printing, which will probably end up being surprisingly expensive, despite the fact that I only need 12 sheets of card printed and I can provide the card.

    Monday, January 22

    The Sentiment Behind Craft Wednesday

    If you follow me on twitter you've probably spotted my #CraftWednesday activity on, unsurprisingly, Wednesdays. I started it towards the end of last year and I'm pleased to say that it's been reasonably successful with a decent number of people getting involved, quite a few of them from week to week.

    What is #CraftWednesday I hear you ask? Every Wednesday I post a series of tweets about cool board game-related crafting activities that I've seen during the previous week and then check in with the people who have previously got involved to see how they are getting on.

    I've chosen crafting as the topic as it's something close to my heart. One of the reasons I started a second board game publishing company is because I missed the hand-crafting days of the beginning of Reiver Games - I love doing the graphic design, and hand-crafting the physical games. I also enjoy doing the art, though not as much (and I'm worse at that bit!). I am by nature a maker of things. Since as far back as I can remember I've preferred making things in my spare time to consuming them (it's been variously designing roleplaying missions and scenery, painting miniatures, writing bits of computer games, making mobile apps and for a long time designing, doing the graphic design and then hand-crafting board and card games, both prototypes and for sale). I love the creativity, keeping busy and focused and finally the pride you feel looking at what you've accomplished.

    I strongly believe that a board game (which have been my passion for at least thirteen or fourteen years, and if you include tabletop roleplaying and CCGs then it's nearer to 25) isn't a game if it's sat in a box on someone's shelf (whether yours or the customer's) - it's just a collection of pieces. Games are only really games when they are being played, so obviously I want the games I designed to get played. There's a couple of traditional routes to this: approach a professional publisher or Kickstart it yourself. Which are both fine, but approaching a publisher means that the design and graphic design is done by someone else and the crafting is done by a factory.

    Kickstarter lets you take control, but I don't think I've got the chops or the marketing skills to do a large run successfully through Kickstarter, I'm a little uncomfortable with the Kickstarter model, plus around my young family and busy job I don't want the hassle of trying to sell off the remaining stock to shops and distributors or organise and pay for the warehousing of it. I've done that before and I know how much work is involved.

    So, here I am happily hand-crafting small print runs, desperately hoping that I'm good enough at marketing (and the games are popular enough) for me to sell out of the 200 copies of Zombology that I have in flight.

    But #CraftWednesday is not about me, it's about the rest of the community of gaming-related crafters. It's about sharing the cool stuff that people are making, whether it's for sale, as a gift to a friend or a stranger or as a personal project to enhance the gaming experience in your own house. It's pretty broad, covering everything from hand-made dice trays, through laser-cut dice towers, scribbled prototypes, hand-sewn game pouches and bags and 3D printed game pieces or scenery. It's about celebrating the great stuff that people are making and sharing all that creativity more widely. It's about reaching out to those members of the community who share my love of making things and sharing their projects, achievements and successes with a wider audience.

    It's also about encouraging that effort. On a recent training course I heard that research has found that setting yourself a goal is great but by itself it is not enough. You are significantly more likely to achieve it if you: write it down, come up with a plan, commit to a supportive friend to doing it and provide regular updates to that friend. Doing each of those things increased the chance of success, doing them all was the most successful option. I've taken that research to heart and I've set up a Board of Advisers for Eurydice Games to help keep me accountable. I realised though that I could give that back. By spending a chunk of my time on a weekly basis checking in with people on their crafting projects I could help them be successful.

    That's time well spent!

    Monday, January 15

    On the Road Again

    Last week in the US was a partial success from a Eurydice Games point of view. I arrived on Monday afternoon and after being up since 10pm the night before (US time) went to the office, to an early dinner and then to bed (at 6:30pm!). Which was just as well, since I was up at 1:30am on Tuesday to do a podcast Interview with Jack Eddy from The Cardboard Herald at 2am (which was 10pm for him in Alaska!). It was a great chat that lasted over an hour and Jack tells me it will be available in a few weeks. Hopefully the jet lag, lack of sleep and early start don't make me sound too stupid!

    I had hoped to find a Games group that I could join on Wednesday night, but despite asking on twitter, Google+, BGG and Meetup I was unable to find a group in time. I awoke at 4:30 (I don't travel well!) on Thursday, my last day in Massachusetts to a message from Chip Beauvais (designer of Universal Rule) telling me about a group that would have been perfect for the previous evening :-/ I'll definitely join them on my next trip to Massachusetts (I get there three or four times a year).

    Thursday I flew down to Raleigh/Durham for further work meetings on Friday. But I had Thursday evening free. This was fortuitous since I had thought that W. Eric Martin (editor of BGG News) lived in Massachusetts so I'd looked him up on BGG only to find he lives near Raleigh! I'd met Eric a few times during my Reiver Games days and was keen to show him Zombology and get his feedback on my FlickFleet prototype. He's started a series of short video interviews of board game creatives too, so I agreed to another interview and we were both happy. It was a great evening. Eric turned up with his very professional looking video equipment and then after a short video interview we chatted about Zombology and played a couple of games of FlickFleet. Eric also had some great ideas about FlickFleet too.

    He shoots! (photo courtesy of W. Eric Martin)

    I got back on Saturday morning, and this afternoon I'm off again to Manchester this time for an early meeting tomorrow. I'm going to swing by Tabletop Manchester and hopefully get to play Zombology with a few people and maybe even get a few sales - I'll also be taking FlickFleet too.

    I need to play more games of Zombology with people - it's going to be critical to helping me hit my targets and sell the games, which I need to do to fund the publishing of FlickFleet later.

    Monday, January 8

    Media Week!

    I'm travelling to near Boston, MA for work this week as I do a few times a year. This time I've arranged a couple of things Eurydice Games-related to do in my spare time during my trip. As usual I'll probably be awake from very early in the morning (jet-lag is not my friend) so I'll have some time to spend doing some work on the website and the FlickFleet rules too.

    This month I need to get a few new FlickFleet prototypes made: updating mine, one for my co-designer Paul, plus one for Todd (who won my NaGa DeMon competition back in November) and a couple for far flung playtesters. I need to re-write the rules to reflect the changes Paul and I made just before Christmas and order more perspex, dice & wooden tokens and get some greyboard to make the boxes - all of which I can do in the early hours from my hotel room in America. When I get back I'll have to get the laser-cutting done, print the new ship cards (hampered by the fact that my printer is now broken) and assemble the prototypes ready for shipping.

    I also want to make some improvements to the website (I need to add a page linking to the Zombology reviews and BGG, plus add a few more customer testimonials) and I need to pay the charities the money I pledged as part of my Charity December promotion.

    But the most exciting part of the trip is a couple of interviews I'm doing. Tuesday morning I'm being interviewed by Jack Eddy of The Cardboard Herald (it's much easier when I'm on US Eastern time than when I'm at home seeing as he's in Alaska, nine hours behind GMT!) and then on Thursday I'm meeting up with W. Eric Martin, the editor of BoardGameGeek News. I met him a couple of times while I was running Reiver Games, at the UK Games Expo and again at Essen, but I last met him in the flesh about 8 years ago. Eric lives fairly close to our office in North Carolina, so while I'm down there on Thursday and Friday I'm going to meet up with him to show him Zombology and my FlickFleet prototype (with old ship cards - stupid broken printer!) and do a video interview too.

    Hopefully both of these efforts will help raise the profile of me and Eurydice Games and might even lead to a couple of sales further down the line. For now though I need to go and catch a flight!

    Monday, January 1

    Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2018!

    2017 was a momentous year for me. Not only was my second daughter born during it, but I also started my second board game publishing company making hand-crafted board and card games. Question: What kind of idiot starts a company months after the birth of their child, when they already know how much work is involved in starting a company, hand-crafting games and raising a baby? Answer: My kind of idiot.

    It's been hard work (as I knew it would be), but it's been rewarding on both fronts. Daughter the Second is now mostly sitting up, eating real food and still sleeping like a baby (i.e. badly). Eurydice Games is off to a great start: Zombology has got some great reviews on BGG, a decent average score and I've sold nearly a quarter of the print run and made a third. I've also got another game that's coming on really well too in FlickFleet.

    Unlike last time round I've got a Business Plan, and according to that things aren't quite on track - I hit my 2017 sales target but I didn't get all the games I wanted to make in December made (it was a busy month with some work travel, work meetings and evening events, Christmas holidays and some particularly poor sleep from the baby, so I had few evenings available for crafting and I was often too knackered on those evenings to do it. I think I'll reduce my construction targets in 2018, I'm still aiming to make all the games within a year of the launch of Zombology in September 2017 though.

    One of the things that has changed since I ran my first company is Kickstarter, and it has democratised the publication of board games, allowing every person and their dog to publish a game - so the marketplace is a lot more crowded. It's no longer possible to have a fairly basic website and shout at the internet via twitter and Google+ and expect your games to sell out. I need to do things differently.

    There's a bunch of people out there who really like Zombology, and a bunch more who will love it if they come across it, but with all the Kickstarter noise that's pretty unlikely. The most successful route to sales that I've had so far has been actually playing it with people - I need to ensure that I'm introducing new people to Zombology every month and hopefully that'll allow me to keep hitting my targets. I'm also hoping to step up my media efforts (a forthcoming trip to the US is going to feature a podcast segment and a video interview). I need to get to conventions and games clubs and introduce people to it on a much wider scale - there's a goal for 2018!