Don’t Just be a Designer, be a Collaborator – Guest Blog by Nestor Tyr

It was a mid-May afternoon back a year ago when I first talked with Martin Looij from Keep Exploring Games. He told me he had seen some Facebook posts regarding Tour Operator and wanted to learn more as was creating a traveling-themed game himself. As it turned out, our perspective on the theme was different. His game’s protagonists were tourists while I was designing a game from the standpoint of the occupations in tourism around the world. Nonetheless, we agreed to keep in touch and to help each other with our designs.

Some months later, we talked again. Martin had seen some promo art I got commissioned for Tour Operator and was proposing to check the game for publishing. At the time I was in a dilemma, to self-publish or not, having faith in my game but not much time to market it correctly. I eventually agreed to sign it over to Keep Exploring Games, and on April 9, Tour Operator launched on Kickstarter.

What designers fear in signing their game over to some company is the thought that they will have no further involvement in their creation. “Now sit back and let the publisher run the show,” a fellow designer told me. I didn’t quite follow his advice, and I am glad I didn’t. For the past three months and a half, I have been following Tour Operator in all stages: art, graphic design, previews, promotion and Kickstarter release.

My advice to designers is to offer your help to the publisher, try to stay as close to your game as you can and don’t let your love for it die out. Some publishers prefer to have designers out of their way, but, in truth, you are potentially their most crucial ally in this project. As long as you know your boundaries, respect your publisher and yourself, and keep loving your game, everything will work out for both parties in the end.

The first thing you should do is have a sincere talk with your potential publisher. Explain how you envision your partnership and your involvement in the publishing process and listen to what the publisher wants from you. I am sure that you can work out a collaborative framework that will allow you to contribute to the publishing process. My experience working with Martin Looij and Keep Exploring Games is that a designer can help a lot. A very delicate subject is the game art. Most publishers will exclude the designers from choosing the game’s illustrator but in my case, the illustrator, Thanos Tsilis, was my choice. I had approached him before we had any contract with Keep Exploring Games and Martin was so happy with the art that he wouldn’t want to change the art direction. The same happened with the graphic design we needed for the KS page and the game box. The publisher’s regular graphic designer wasn’t available for some time, so I proposed a friend who closed a deal with the publisher and helped us out at a critical point.

A designer may also help with the game design in general. Martin gladly supported my proposals about the player mats and the size of the city cards, which I wanted big enough to show off our awesome game art. I tried to offer thoughts on why something should be the way I propose but never expected to get my way every time.

Another way a designer may help is promoting the game. There are various Facebook Groups right now which offer both product visibility and direct contact with board gamers and potential clients. Providing info about the rules and the gameplay, answering questions and talking to future backers or industry insiders helps to build an audience for any game, and that’s a job a designer might do very well. I remember the Tour Operator Facebook Group already having almost 800 followers when Keep Exploring Games had taken over, and I continued posting about Tour Operator in several groups during the pre-campaign period, especially art related posts. Get the publisher’s blessing on what sort of sharing is allowed and then keep loving that game!

A designer may also help as a collaborator during the KS campaign, answering relevant backer questions and posting updates. It’s a great experience, and I suggest you ask your publisher to give you collaborator rights. Of course, it goes without saying that you should be sure on the things you are commenting or your answers to the public and you always ask the publisher if something doesn’t stick with you before posting on the KS comments.

So, it’s all that easy? Publishers and designers get along without any problems, any slight little shadow between them? Certainly not. There were viewpoints with which I disagreed with the publisher, such as having a ticket resource instead of a clean plane seats one, or various city card decisions, with me wanting more mainstream cities and sites in the game and Martin Looij going for some more “uncommon” ones. In these cases the rule is simple. The publisher always has the decisive vote because at the end of the day they are more financially liable for the project’s success. Keep this fixed in your mind, and communication will be great.

You’ve got a friend in me: Collaborating with other Kickstarter Creators – Guest Post by Artem Safarov

Your Kickstarter goes live in a few months. Your days are a mix of pride in and anxiety. If you have done your homework and consumed the wisdom of Jamie Stegmaier and James Mathe (and many others) – you know that the most significant predictor of your success now is how much awareness you are going to drum up before the project launches.

So, you do the best you can. You are signed up to all the Facebook groups. You even go to r/boardgames on Reddit from time to time, looking for opportunities to mention your game. You talk it up as much as you can. And you probably wish there would be someone there who would care as much as you do to amplify all the good vibes you are putting out there.

Well, I have good news for you! There is someone like that. They are your fellow Kickstarter creators. You probably thought they were your opponents or competitors, haven’t you? Silly talk. Your real obstacle is the sheer amount of game information out there, creating a level of noise with which it is hard to compete. The individual people who share your dream, however, are your potential greatest allies.

Let’s see why:

  • They know the environment you are in because they are also a part of the same community
  • They are well-versed in the current interests/preferences of the community
  • They have a presence on social media platforms because they want to share their message
  • They share the drive to see a passion project succeed

So why not help each other? Find a project you like, reach out to the creator and see if there is an opportunity for collaboration. The ways to collaborate are many, but at the very basic level even if you have a connection with someone who is more likely to like/upvote your content or provide positive comments on mentions of your game – that’s so much more valuable than mentioning your game to deafening silence.

I had the pleasure of forming such a connection with Casey Hill who has recently wrapped up his Kickstarter for Arkon (smashing many stretch goals in the process, earning 800% of his goal).

Arkon is a light, gorgeous-looking card game that mixes strategy of Hero Realms with bluffing and social deduction. You can pre-order it for just over $20 here.

Our collaboration was not a particularly official one – we just got to talking about our projects, liked what we both saw and formed a habit of supporting each other’s content. And it makes a difference. The supportive public voice that such connections can provide is invaluable for visibility of your project, and it leads to a mutually beneficial relationship, opening future avenues of collaboration. I am grateful to Casey for his support and providing his view of our interaction below:

Casey: When I started out on my journey as a game creator, there was a lot I didn’t know. One of the things I did know, was that broadly and repetitively promoting your work in boardgame groups was a sure-fire way to foster ill-will. So, I decided to start with a) trying to find game creators who were doing it right and learn from them and b) try to see how I could give back.

For the first item there, I began by engaging with a handful of creators that I found were producing compelling content. The key here is don’t game this. Don’t be disingenuous. Start by liking and commenting on stuff about which you actually care; things you would follow, like and comment on regardless of any benefit in return. Comments that show thought and engagement with the material are better than likes. One of the creators I connected with was Artem. I found the work he was doing on his new game fascinating, I loved the art, and I dug the theme. Above all that, I saw him as an amiable and authentic person. When I reached out with some questions after a bit, he was happy to share his insights. We started to build a genuine relationship around mutual respect as founders and what we liked in each other’s games. Having allies to help you amplify your voice is enormous but treat this as you would a relationship in real life and share/like/comment on the stuff that you actually like and find interesting.

Excited about this idea? Here are some suggestions on how to go about it:

  • Be realistic in who you approach. Pick creators on your “level”. You might love Ryan Laukat’s stuff, but he’s probably ok for social media support without your help :). But there are plenty of small shops doing remarkable things.
  • Approach creators of projects that you genuinely like. If you are going to be telling people something is fantastic – you better believe it yourself. The last thing I want to suggest is to misrepresent something in which you have little interest.
  • Give as much as you get. This kind of support is a two-way street. If you expect help and engagement from others – make sure you are just as committed to helping their projects.

So, go ahead – reach out to someone today, show interest in their project, make a friend and see if they like what you’ve made. More of these connections will make sure that our community thrives as we continue to create meaningful games!

Unbroken is a solo game of survival and revenge in a world of dark fantasy, on Kickstarter now. You play as a lone survivor of a monster ambush. Wounded, alone and unarmed you must navigate the dark caverns, recover from wounds, craft weapons from scraps and fight your way back to freedom. Unbroken is a 20-30-minute game of resource management and pushing your luck. If you enjoy a challenging, decision-driven experience in a tight playtime – Unbroken is available for an affordable $23!

Announcing New York Slice Legacy!

Today, Bézier Games announced the upcoming release of New York Slice Legacy, the very first Legacy game that you eat while you play! Co-designed by Rob Daviau, Jeffrey D. Allers, and Ted Alspach, the game will debut at Gen Con with a general release in early September.

The Original

New York Slice is an “I cut, you choose” game where players have to divide up a pizza knowing that they’ll end up with the section that none of their opponents want. The challenge is collecting the best pizza, avoiding anchovies, and getting the right specials to manage a victory!

Adding Legacy

New York Slice Legacy builds on the original game, and brings something entirely new to Legacy gaming by making it a culinary experience! You can play the game with any pizza, so all you have to do is order in (or make your own!) and your game night is ready to start!

A New York Slice Legacy campaign adds all new layers of strategy. With permanent changes each game, every decision (and every bite!) counts. Will you keep those slices as leftovers for next game, or will you fit them in now? Will you upgrade your plate size or your stomach? The choice is yours, but we know one thing for sure – this will be the most fulFILLING Legacy game you’ve ever played!

New York Slice Legacy plays with 2-4 players, and each game takes about 45 minutes to play. The game contains plates for each player, a pizza cutter to help slice the portions each round, a scoring pad, all new player abilities, secret upgrades, and brand new specials that can even be added to the original game for more variety once the legacy campaign is complete!

New York Slice Legacy will debut at Gen Con 2018 and is currently available for preorder. Don’t miss out on this brand new game that is good enough to eat!

Guest Blog with Petter Olsen – Do I Have Enough Followers?

Sorry for the hiatus! It’s been a busy few weeks. I have both helped launch two Kickstarter campaigns, Infinities: Defiance of Fate and Castles of Caleira, as well as attended two industry conventions, New York Toy Fair and Expedition Prototype and Industry Con (EPIC). In that time I let The Good, The Bad, and the Misinformed slip a couple of weeks, so for that, I apologize and promise to start up again as soon as possible.

In this time, I have talked to numerous creators about their strategies on Kickstarter, and one of those creators was none other than Petter Olsen. Petter is mid-campaign for his game, Donning the Purple, but took time to explain a bit about how he is best able to determine social clout and how that relates to his Kickstarter conversions.

You can support Petter by backing Donning the Purple, on Kickstarter now.

Your Crowd Size

So how do you know when are you ready to launch your campaign on Kickstarter? That depends on a lot of factors. In this article, I’m going to talk about one of those factors: Your crowd size.

Once your budget is in order, you probably know how many backers you minimum will need to fund your project. In this example, let’s say you need 300 backers.

It is crucial that you bring your audience to Kickstarter, but how do you know when your crowd is at the correct size to even think about having a launch date? Sadly, the social media world is not a place where one fan on your Facebook page equals one backer.

Spreadsheets

To help answer the crowd size question, I always start by placing my social media following across the web into a spreadsheet. I also put in my conversion rate for each platform from my prior campaigns as well as traffic to my website where I blog regularly. Tracking where your blog audience is coming from is a very powerful metric for new creators who do not have a campaign yet.

The conversion rates that I have may be different than yours, so put in the numbers that fit with your marketing results. Remember the numbers are dependent on how active you are on each platform. It takes a lot of time and effort to create engagement among your followers.

Conversion Probability

So how does this work? At the moment, I have 781 fans on the Facebook page. I think that I can get approximately 5 percent of those fans to back my campaign based on the history of my analytics data. That means I will get conservatively 39 backers who are also my Facebook fans. Then I do this on Twitter, Instagram, BGG and other social media accounts I manage. I also include the members of any relevant groups I admin. Each one of these has different conversion rates. The place where I get most response and backers from is my email list. They are active and responsive, so I calculate I will have a 10 percent conversion rate from the list members.

In the end, I add up all the converted backer numbers, and if that total is near my target goal backer count, I know I have enough to launch.

Guest Blog: The Very Basics of Game Prototyping, Part One

While creators seem to be getting better at the prototyping process, there are still new creators making waves on Kickstarter every week. That’s why I wanted to start covering elements of crowdfunding that I often take for granted, but are crucial to the process of self-publishing. I invited Jonathan Thwaites to contribute a two-part lesson on prototyping and I hope you enjoy it. Part One will focus on rapidly creating basic prototypes, while Part Two will focus on manufacturing higher quality prototypes.

Jonathan is a freelance tabletop game developer who has worked such games as No Escape, Vikings: Raid & Conquer and Trailer Park Boys: Park Wars. Currently, Jonathan is developing games using app integration. If you would like to contact Jonathan regarding his services, email him at jonathan@noescapegame.com.

Getting Started Prototyping

I’ve been asked by a few people how I create prototypes. One of the first things people need to know is that there is no specific right way. The tools and techniques I use are what I have found work for me. If you see some useful information, please use it as a base to find the best method that works for you.

Before making a prototype, I create a basic template for it. I have used Publisher and Word, and their free equivalents from OpenOffice, Draw and Writer. Publisher/Draw works great for quickly laying the general shapes I’m going to be using. This step allows me to create a page full of the template shapes I will need, and copy it as is necessary. This stage also creates cut lines for me when I cut them out later.

Don’t worry about rounded edges on your templates, even if the final product will have them. Starting this way makes it easy to add text and to add pictures and background images later without needing to rebuild your template. Square or Rectangle shapes can be set right beside each other, but leave extra space between hexagons or complex shapes. I may have less per page than I could optimally fit, but this will make the cutting process more manageable.

I make quick notes of the rules, ideas and concepts I will be using in Word/Writer. I create a working file that I can quickly add or remove information from. This also becomes the outline for my rules later one.

The Prototype Design

When I am making Playing Cards, I will sometimes use pre-designed templates for printing business cards. This can save time if I have a lot of cards in the game, as ten cards fit a sheet (8 max for regular playing cards). You can purchase blank pop-out business cards sheets from most stationary stores reasonably cheaply, and play perfectly well for prototypes. I only use this method when the time is a factor, as making cards this way is swift, but costs more. I have also used this technique for creating Print and Play games, as this makes it easier and faster for the person who downloads it.
I also have several cheap, regular playing card decks from the dollar store and a few packs of penny sleeves. This allows me to quickly print a card idea, cut it out, and slip in the paper with the card for stability.

If I need to make character cards, or oversized cards, I will often use templates for printing postcards, as pop-out postcard sheets are also available from most stationary stores. Again, however, I only use this method when the time is a factor, or for creating Print and Play games.

When I need tokens, I have a pile of glass beads I have left over from years ago. While you can buy these from a craft store, a lot of people use them in centerpieces at their weddings. Ask around among people you know and see if they have any of these just sitting around, or make a post onto your local Facebook shop and swap page asking about them.

If I am designing Tokens for printing (usually later in the process), I made a template with has two pages, with one-inch circles evenly spaced throughout page one, and the second sheet duplicated with all circles reversed. This allows me to add text or a picture onto each side of the token.

Quick Prototyping

Once I have my template in place, it is time to print everything and cut it out. This is where setting things up initially in the models will pay off. If you are printing cards, and you have dollar store cards and sleeves ready, print onto regular paper. For everything else, I recommend printing onto cardstock. I use 110lb cardstock for printing as it’s thick enough that it’s difficult to see through.

In cutting out the prototype, I have several tools. The three most important in my opinion are a metal ruler, a handheld rotary cutter, and a self-healing mat. I have found rotary cutters make cleaner edges on my prototypes than straight-edged cutters. Look for a rotary cutter and self-healing mat in a sewing store, and it will be cheaper than at a crafting store. Cutting of oddly shaped pieces will still need a straight blade.

Because of how we set the prototype up earlier, merely lay the ruler across one common edge of all the shapes, and roll your blade across for a nice clean cut. This makes it very easy to cut out Hexagon shapes (something several people have mentioned they find difficult) as your template has your cut lines (shape edges) set up for you, and rows of hexagons come out together.

In Part Two of this blog, Jonathan will discuss creating high-quality presentation prototypes. We hope this information helps you in the next prototype you make.

Stephanie Kwok: Getting Lost in the Crowd

Stephanie Kwok of First Fish Games knows a thing or two about having the oxygen stolen out of the room by larger and more successful publishers. Seeing as a lot of campaigns were being negatively affected by 7th Continent’s massive success recently, I figured it was timely to invite her to talk about what she experienced during her relaunch effort and why she may have been better off in the long run for doing so.

You can pre-order the First Fish Games title Get Off My Land! by following this link.

But We Double and Triple Checked!

When you’re a first-time publisher trying to make a name for yourself, you know the journey is going to be long and complicated. Imagine you’re all set up ready to launch your first project. You and your partners have double checked everything… or at least you thought you did. But it’s too late! You’ve clicked the launch button on Kickstarter and there is no going back!

This situation is precisely what happened to us at First Fish Games. We launched our first game, Get Off My Land!, in April 2017. We thought it would be clever to align our launch date with a local convention. It was, except that we made a huge mistake with our numbers that we thought were correct. Remember, we double and triple checked. This is why you never rush just because you are trying to hit a certain launch date. If you think you’re not ready, push the date. We started to see the trickle of complaints come in about the price being too high. Apparently, we failed to notice that we had mixed up our CAD and USD numbers and set the funding goal and pledge amounts way too high.

Real-time Campaign Triage

We panicked. We already posted the campaign link to numerous Facebook groups, we paid for ads, and we even held a launch party for our friends at a local gaming restaurant. What were we to do? We immediately tried to fix the problem by adding new pledge tiers with the correct price and had existing backers switch to the new one so we could close the incorrect one. This worked pretty well except that we still couldn’t change the end funding goal which was about 20k too high. We already lost momentum because of the incorrect funding goal deterring people. We got lucky. We had a small group of backers who were big fans of the game and were willing to do everything in their power to help us succeed. Even though we made a huge mistake, everyone recognized that we did our best to solve the issue. They had faith in us and our game and gave us the confidence to keep going forward. Without our dear backers, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were, even if we failed.

What now? We were halfway through our campaign and we knew it was not looking good. It didn’t help to have a huge campaign like ‘Rising Sun’ running at the same time and also ending on the same day. We didn’t start on the same day as CMON, they just had a shorter campaign. We made sure to message backers who canceled to see if we could have done anything better, but their answers were usually “I am tight on money” or “I would rather back X.” We had a decision to make. Should we keep the campaign running until the end and see if we could miraculously fund or cancel the campaign and accept the losses? Both options lead to a relaunch, but what were the benefits of choosing one over the other? We decided to keep the campaign running and cancel on the last day. This gave us time to improve on the campaign page itself and work out the numbers correctly. We told our backers our plan, we set a relaunch date, and we prepared ourselves for any negative comments. Luckily for us, we didn’t get much negativity. We set the relaunch just one week from our cancellation date because we didn’t have much to change on the project other than the numbers and maybe a little reorganization of the campaign page layout.

Relaunch With a Dedicated Crowd

We set the time of the relaunch to 9 am PST so that we could click launch before we left for work in the morning. Some of the events that happened that morning I will never forget. At around 8:30 am, we got a message on Facebook asking us if we could launch early. They were eagerly waiting at their computer. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to favor anyone, so we kept our 9 am launch. Also, I had Kickstarter notifications on my phone. As I was clicking the ‘launch’ button on Kickstarter, not even 2 seconds had passed after clicking the button, and I got a notification on my phone that said we had our first backer. This made me extremely happy because it meant that someone was waiting for it, maybe even refreshing their page waiting for me to click launch. This was one of the best feelings I’ve had on this journey so far.

Twenty-one hours into the relaunch, we funded. What? We did less promotion on social media, less paid ads, and yet we funded in less than 24 hours!

There is Never a Perfect Time

Remember I mentioned Rising Sun ending on the same day as our first campaign? We thought we were smart and specifically chose our dates to avoid when other big games were launching or finishing. But we forgot that competitors could run a shorter campaign, which means they started after us but ended on the same day. This time, Gloomhaven and Brass were both live at the same time as our relaunch.

Ugh.

Our mid-campaign lull was painful. Our average daily pledges were extremely low compared to our first campaign and some days even ended with a net negative amount of backers. This was extremely stressful to watch even if we knew we had almost no control over it.

Gloomhaven ended shortly before ours ended, and Brass finished on the same day. As much as you don’t want to blame anyone else for your failings, sometimes it’s tough not to do so. We knew we did our best and put our best project forward, but it is hard to compete with well-known designers and established publishers.

We powered through and raised roughly $30,000 over our funding goal and hit almost all our stretch goals. We threw in the last one as a show of goodwill to our backers.

Our game is currently being manufactured and about one week from completion. We have our freight and fulfillment centers lined up, and we even have some distributors buying large quantities from us. We are no CMON or Roxley, but we are proud of our achievements so far as a first-time publisher. Maybe one day we’ll be launching the campaign to watch out for!

Eduardo Baraf: Theme is a Product

Eduardo Baraf is the head honcho over at Pencil First Games, having published many critically acclaimed titles and helped out the community at large with his YouTube content and guest posts online. His product, Herbaceous, even made the Reviewers Game of the Quarter this Spring. I asked Ed to write this guest post about how he got into the specific niche of serene theming in games, and he graciously accepted.

You still have a few days left to support Eduardo Baraf’s latest game, Sunset Over Water, on Kickstarter.

“So, Ed, Why Herbs?!”

Fine question! Perhaps I should answer with another question: “Why NOT herbs?!”

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my career making games. I’ve made them independently, in a work-for-hire studio, in a successful development house, and at an IP juggernaut – Disney. As I said, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my career making games, but I was not always making games targeted for me. I still have scars from doing quality assurance on the Atari lineup. One, 12-hour shift on Dora the Explorer changes a man…

Back when I was a student at the University of Michigan, I made “my” game. It was an old-school, top-down, RPG based on a campus: Crisis Wolverine: Insurrection Green. MSU was a demonic force trying to take over the college, and only the students could stop them. The Jock was the Fighter, the Sorority Girl the Red Mage, the Goth kid the Black Mage, and Johnny Foreshadow, the one-eyed android, set the stage. It was EPIC.

Once you’ve made “your” game and you’ve made dozens of commercial games, you get to the point where you can be passionate about something that isn’t all about you. A game is a game, but it is also a product with an audience. You can certainly make the game YOU want to play, but you can also make the game YOU want to play with your family, or that you hope OTHER families will play. You might even be more objective when creating something that isn’t quite as close to your heart.

When I saw the incredible herb art from Beth Sobel on Facebook, I immediately knew that they should be in a game, because, again, “Why not herbs?” I can think of hundreds of games with Dragons, but none with Dill. I can think of tons with Towers, but none with Tarragon. You get the point. Taking another step, if I was going to make a game with herbs, I knew that it ought to be a game that you could play with your grandmother over a cup of tea. More of those games deserve to exist, and I knew the people who could help me make it happen.

Your Game is a Product Whether You Like it or Not

Unless you are hiding it under your bed or handing it out to friends, your “game” is a product whether you like it or not.

Often I see game designers focused on their game and gameplay, which is an excellent place to start, but less frequently do I find creators then switch to looking it as a product. Once you start thinking about your game as a product you need to start thinking about the market and the buyer/audience for that product. Making that transition is one of the keys to success on Kickstarter and beyond. You want to know who’d be interested in the type of game you are making, why, and how to communicate the value proposition to them.

This message was on full display with Herbaceous when I launched it on Kickstarter and as it reached retail. There is a large audience of gamers dying for fresh and welcoming content. It isn’t about to push Gloomhaven or The 7th Continent out of the way, but more than enough to run a successful Kickstarter and drive into retail. Everything about the Herbaceous campaign was meant to be welcoming, easy to understand, and a simple decision for you or someone whom you’d love to bring into the gaming fold.

While Herbaceous flowed from a serendipitous moment, Sunset Over Water came from a team that set out to make on another welcoming game. Heading into Sunset, we knew we wanted to make a fresh game, but at the same time leverage and build on the audience we tapped into for Herbaceous. Again, if you headed over and looked at the Sunset Over Water campaign, you can see how we are drawing a line to those people. It comes up in the campaign video, structure of the page, video coverage, etc. It was quite exciting to have such a clear target in mind when bringing together all aspects of the game. We’re thrilled with the results and are confident people will love it.

So Should We All Run Down Micro-Themes?

Nah – I’m not saying that. I’m merely saying that the world is full of incredible themes and incredible audiences who are hungry for content. The trick is to identify them and understand your game as a product. Who’s going to like it, why, and how will you market to them? Often you can see missteps too, trend following games (fantasy, Minis, Party) or games that are great but have theme/audience mismatches. There is a lot more that goes into product planning and marketing than you might think. I highly recommend you think and talk about it with your team early and often.

When Scythe Fans Create Sub-communities

One of the beautiful things about Kickstarter is that fans from all walks of life and creative capacities will create right alongside the creator. Fans often mold games into a custom solution for their play group. Matthew Duhan is one such fan, so I invited him to talk about his journey from simply being a fan of Stonemaier Games’ Scythe to launching his very own 3D-printed game storage business. You can support Matthew’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Immersive Worlds

Scythe by Stonemaier Games has won many awards and fan adulations since the game came out last year. Scythe immerses you in a world that many of other games sometimes fall short of for me. It is a title our gaming group is always willing to play.

When I first received my copy of Scythe, our play group found that the Encounter Tokens were hard to see on the board. But physical improvements and customizations can always be made for most any game. Since I owned a 3D printer and had done some 3D modeling in the past, I decided to make my 3D versions of the Encounter Tokens. I released those on Thingiverse under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial license.

The tokens were a big hit, both within our gaming group and online. They were much easier to see on the board and added to the feel of the game. Being 3D, they also made for a better experience when a character moved to a hex with one and got to pick it up.

Turning Passion into Business

I started making more and selling them online through my store and followed it up with a replacement for the Action Tokens. These are the wooden pawns used by each faction on the player mat to show what action they took. Our gaming group felt that the small wooden pawns are a little too plain compared to the other great pieces. I designed the Action Tokens to resemble wax seal stamps, with the faction logo on the top. We have found them much easier to use and see on the player boards and harder to accidentally knock over.

Next came something much more ambitious. To add to the experience, as well as make it easier to set up and put away the game, I wanted to make boxes to hold all the wooden pieces, mechs, and character tokens for each faction. They were designed to be small chests that could fit into the world of Scythe. A lot of time and effort, and discarded test prints went into developing these just right so that all seven factions would fit into the game box in a single layer, and all the pieces would fit into the boxes. It was important that the Scythe box can close. The Faction Boxes now fit entirely in a single layer in both the base Scythe box and the “Legendary Box” due out later this year.

Each Faction box has a separate lid which has the Faction logo printed in dual color, using the official authorized images for accessories from Stonemaier Games. They have recessed holders for the mechs, with a small lip to help hold them in place, so they don’t move around in transport. The custom Action Token also fits into a special place in the box. There is a separate section for the character and another section that holds all the wooden pieces (workers, structures, upgrades, stars, etc.). There is also a section to contain the airship from The Wind Gambit expansion, with the combat dial fitting neatly on top.

I have also modeled a coin holder. It is designed to compactly hold all coins for Scythe, including the additional $2 and $50 coins available separately. The coin box has a lid which fits snugly for easy storage and transport. It is designed to fit in the bottom layer along with the Faction boxes, leaving enough room for the various decks of cards.

The Problem With Scale

I have been happy playing with the accessories I have created – the Faction Boxes, Coin Holder, Encounter Tokens, and Action Tokens. However, I have been getting requests from people to make complete sets for them as well. My current 3D printer cannot handle the number of prints I would need to make to satisfy these orders. I will need to switch the colors manually, and each box takes several hours to produce. To create one set would take almost a week! Thus, I started a Kickstarter campaign (http://bit.ly/GG3DScythe) to raise the money required to get an upgraded printer, the Formbot T-Rex dual color 3D Printer. It can print with two different colors at once and has a large build size to allow me to print 6 Faction boxes at once. This process will save a lot of time, and allow these to be printed and sent to others who want them much more quickly.

I considered manufacturing these on a larger scale, but this again challenges my problem of scale. For these to be mass produced, I would need 10,000+ units with plastic molding done overseas for it to make sense financially. Wherever this goes, I am happy to make a bespoke custom product here in the US for as long as I am able.

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