Saturday, March 23, 2019

Video preview of Wrath

I made a video for my new boardgame design, Wrath. This is a game I've been working on for about a year. I'm entering it in a design contest which requires a video, so here's the video. The game is set on an island being destroyed by three angry gods. Players compete to survive the curses and save their villages by sucking up to the only remaining friendly god. The game involves buildings, worker placement, economic management, and being capriciously screwed by angry deities. I still have some changes and additions I want to make, but this describes the idea pretty well.

Facebook video for Dr. Esker - SPOILERS!

It looks like they've got Dr. Esker's Notebook available in their board game room at the Connect Games Escape Room in Fredericksburg, VA, which is totally cool. They posted a video about this to Facebook at the link below, but be careful - there are spoilers for one of the puzzles in the video if you look too closely.

James' Games Video (on Facebook)

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Working on Dr. Esker's Notebook has given me some energy to go back and get some of my earlier projects going again. I spent a good chunk of the weekend working on Yoggity. The earlier version was for playtesting and contests only, so I updated it to have a nicer folding gameboard and a printed box at It was hard to keep the cost down, because the nicer board was $8 and the box was $10 all by themselves. To compensate, I changed some of the plastic parts to cheaper cardboard laser-cut chits. I got it in at just a little over $38, which is probably too much for this, but I can't do better at TGC. I've ordered a copy of the update, so I'll see how it looks when I get it. Still really liking the art that was done for me by Jason Greeno of Greeno Design.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Weird Ebay reseller

This is weird. Somebody is selling two "new" copies of my game on Ebay, for $6 over new list price. They can't really be new, because the only new copies are in my basement and in the Amazon warehouse. Only two people have bought more than one copy at a time, and they're not ebay marketers - I know them personally. I also know where all the single copies that exist got sent to. So, a puzzle.

I'm not sure if they have used or promotional copies somehow, or if they're planning on fulfilling through Amazon or through me (although neither Amazon nor me offers two day shipping, which the Ebay seller promises). I guess it's possible they bought from Amazon and are repackaging, trying to make an extra $6 from markup. Or maybe it's that they're some kind of game store upselling trade-ins. Their other items for sale are all board games. If so, it would be hard for them to have gotten two copies already, and they wouldn't be new.

Obviously this doesn't really compete with me, because they are selling above my price, but it's weird. If people want to sell the game in game stores, I'm totally happy offering a discount for distribution.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Amazon early reviewer program

I signed up for Amazon's Early Reviewer program for Doctor Esker's Notebook, and I just got my first review through it. For $60, Amazon will offer buyers of the game a $3 Amazon gift card to purchasers who review my product until they give out five cards for five reviews. I don't have any input or control over the content of the reviews or who Amazon decides to ask. So, a pretty good deal for Amazon - they get $60 in exchange for giving out $15 in gift cards, which are only good on Amazon anyway.

Despite the benefit to Amazon and the cost, it has value for me too. I signed up for this before I had any reviews, because I thought it would help if there were early reviews on Amazon for a product few people had likely heard of, especially if the reviews came from verified customers. In the interim, four reviews have appeared there from other folks. So, at the end of this program, if five people take the gift card bait from Amazon, I'll at least have nine reviews.

This seems like a good idea, especially given all the controversy Amazon has faced with regard to review-stuffing scams. In this case, the reviews have bought the game from Amazon and should be providing authentic reviews, so they're just being compensated for sharing their opinion, whatever it is.

For more info on the program, see here.

Esker business update

For those of you following the business side of my indie game publishing project with Doctor Esker's Notebook, here's an update. I'm up to 115 total sales with revenues of $1,108, set against costs of $3,530, for a current (but shrinking) loss of $2,422.

The bulk of the costs is the development process and the print run, but I continue to have additional costs with marketing and promotion. If I sell out the entire rest of print run, I probably have another $8,800 in potential revenue, which (barring massive future marketing expenses) would make the project profitable. That assumes my time is worthless - if we paid me even a minimum-wage hourly rate for my work on the project, I'm deep underwater. Given that this is a so far a passion project, I'm fine with my time being counted as free.

Here are the numbers is in graph form:

The time axis advances to the right here, showing increasing revenue compared to mostly fixed costs, but the time isn't linear - it's just whenever I do an update.

For this one, time is linear - this is the history of the project starting with the print run at the end of last year, with additional costs added to revenues as time progresses to the right.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Plankton Games on Facebook

Hey, if you wouldn't mind, please like Plankton Games on Facebook. Here's the page:

Some guy who's account is clearly hacked or fake took the planktongames username, and Facebook doesn't care, so I had to add the "co." I guess I should be flattered that my trademark is worth stealing.


TGC Esker Contest Continues

Only four more days until we know the winner of the TheGameCrafter Doctor Esker's Notebook Puzzle and Parts Challenge. 624 entries so far, which is wild. Who will win free games?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cubist podcast appearance

I had the great pleasure to be on The Cubist podcast with host Bill Corey, talking about puzzle game design and lots of other topics. Give it a listen!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sponsored contest at TGC

I had the idea that I might be able to run a giveaway on The Game Crafter for Dr. Esker's Notebook. I have used TGC for nearly all of my game prototype production and boardgame publishing since I first heard of them in 2009, and I'm a huge fan of the site. I contacted them, and it turned out Tavis (one of the founders, and their marketing guy) was about to do a contest celebrating their adding their 2000th game piece type to their inventory.

I came up with ten clues to ten of their many, many parts, and Tavis and I developed the contest from there. I also sponsored up to ten copies of Dr. Esker's Notebook as prizes. If you want to give it a try, the link is here:

TGC Esker Contest Link

Tavis' video intro is here:

I had fun doing this, and I think it will potentially end up generating some exposure for me. I'm not sure how much I'll end up spending on the sponsorship - high-end case, it would probably be around $170 if all the winners win games and all of them are overseas, but I think it will probably be more like $40-$60 in games and postage. If I sell 5-7 games from the publicity, I make that back, but it will be hard (or impossible) to know if anybody buys for that reason. 

The contest has been live for 14 hours, and there are already 338 participants, so that's pretty good. I'll keep following it to see how it goes.