Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Matt takes the plunge

Matt Worden has taken the indie publication leap of faith with his game, Jump Gate.  It sounds like he's stepping out in a big way, committing 1/3 of his garage and what's probably a good chunk of cash to publish independently.  The numbers make it look like 1,000 copies, which means his cost-per-game is probably too high to make it very profitable through distribution (unless he has a list price higher than I think he will, or costs lower), but with the press he's gotten from the Games award, maybe he can get enough orders direct from retailers or from consumers so that  he won't need distribution sales to be profitable.

Anyway - good luck to him; the "assembly party" he has planned sounds like a lot of fun, and it's neat to see somebody taking the leap.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


One of the two games I entered in the Hippodice competition has made it through the first cut.  Yoggity didn't make the cut from 190 to 50, but they asked to see Diggity for the second round.  Pretty neat.  I'll see how it goes - the final results are in March.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sailing the LLCs

In response to my post on Visible Hand's incorporation, Reader Daniel writes:

What is this LLC, can you pleas inform us non US people of the two options and how they differ. We have a simular system in Sweden but we have 5 diferent types of companies we can chouse from depending on several difrent factors. So it would be nice to get an insight in how youre system works as well.
OK, big disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer, and I'm mostly feeling my way through this.  So, I'm going to explain my reasoning, but it should not (NOT) be used as any kind of legal or business advice.  I'm probably wrong about big chunks of this. Get your own legal advice.

An LLC is a "Limited Liability Company," which is a common U.S. entity available in nearly all states.  It's a little bit of a legal construction - the idea is that it's an easy way to form a company without a lot of hassle.

The two main advantages for what I'm doing are:

  • Limited liability -  If someone decided to sue my company for some reason, they could sue me through the LLC, but if they won, they couldn't claim my personal assets (house, savings, etc.) in damages.  Suppose there were a horrible case - I publish a game, a child chokes on one of the pieces, or the manufacturer I use uses lead-based paints without telling me or something.  If I get sued, and there's an award of millions of dollars in damages, then the most I can lose is the company and its assets - not my personal belongings, unless I personally misrepresented the company or committed fraud or something like that.  It's my impression that people in Sweden aren't as litigious as Americans, but it's a real concern here.
  • Pass-through taxation - If I actually make money at this, then it's relatively simple with an LLC to pass the income through the company to me without having to pay corporate income taxes.  In other types of corporations, it would be possible that income the company made would be subject to corporate tax, and then the money that was left would be subject to my personal income tax, so it would be double-taxed.

In North Carolina, where I live, the LLC was easy to set up - it was a one-page form and it cost me $125.  There's another annual fee to keep the company operating - $200 per year.  So, pretty big money for a hobby, but small money for an actual company, and the liability protection was worth it for me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stock options

Michael Keller over at Game Designer Wannabe has formed his own publishing company and apparently issued stock certificates.  Pretty awesome.  I've got my LLC in place and registered with the state, which was not cheap, and the city now wants me to buy a privilege license, which will be another chunk of money.

As for the ownership of the company, I haven't felt the need to issue stock, since I don't have any other investors or owners, but I guess I might get there someday.  It would be fun, anyway, but probably not worth the legal hassle at this point.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hercules: The Later Years - Rules

The following is my entry for the BGDF design showdown for October.  Enjoy...

Hercules: The Later Years


After his labors, Hercules rested on his laurels. Literally – he had a whole pile of laurels upon which to rest. But over time, his fame faded, and he’s now badly in need of drachmas to support his lavish demigod lifestyle. You are Hercules’ new agent, trying to find him some paying gigs that fit his skillset.


  • 108 cards
  • Starter pawn
  • Game Board
  • 30 coins per player


Give each player 10 coins. Place the other coins in reserve. Place the game board in the center of the table. Shuffle the cards and place them in a pile face down. The player most likely to have been sired by Zeus takes the starter pawn.


Each turn has two phases described below.

Phase I: Card Auction

Draw one card from the deck per player in the game. All but one of these should be placed face up; the last should be face down and hidden from all players. So, if there are four players, turn three cards face up and place the fourth face down. These are the cards up for bid.
The player with the starter pawn bids first by placing as many coins as she wishes on top of one of the cards. Only one bid may be placed at a time, and a player may not refuse to bid. Bidding progresses around the table to the left. Each subsequent player may either bid on an unbid card or add coins to an already-bid card. For example, if Andromeda bids two coins on a Conquer card, and Antigone adds a coin to that card, Antigone’s total bid is three coins, and Andromeda’s bid is no longer valid.
Bidding continues until each card is allocated to a player. Players cannot change their bid amounts or switch cards unless outbid. When outbid, a player may request that her coins be refunded and replaced by the higher bidder.
When bids are resolved, each player must pay the total amount they bid to collect their card. Unused coins are returned to their owners.
Deadbeat Rule: If a player bids more coins than she has, the auction is cancelled and then repeated without the deadbeat player participating. The extra unbid card is discarded.

Phase II: Playing Cards

Beginning with the starting player and moving left, players may play their cards as follows:
Draw Cards: The player discards the draw card and takes the indicated number of new cards.
Object and Action cards: If a player has both an action (Conquer, Capture, Clean Out, Endorse) and an object (Used Chariot Dealership, Temple, Hydra, Politician), she may play them to make Hercules complete a task. The player discards the cards, takes a new coin of her color from the reserve, and places it on the game board at the appropriate spot for the action and the object.
Fees: Each action and object has a value associated with it. To determine the fee paid for the task, multiply the cards. For example, Capture has value 3 and Temple has value 2, so capturing the temple is worth 3x2=6 coins. A player who captures the temple collects a fee of 6 coins. Fees are printed on the board task spaces.
Repeating a task: The first time a task is completed, it requires only one action and one object card. Each subsequent time, the task costs one more of each. For example, the second time someone endorses a politician, it takes two Endorse cards and two Politician cards. The fee remains the same regardless of how often the task is completed. The player’s coin is placed on the board on top of any previous coins. Players may repeat tasks they’ve completed.
Bonus cards: Some action and object cards are marked double or triple. This means that they may count as more than one card when completing a task. The fee paid for the task remains the same. Players may “overpay” for a task.
Players may make as many plays as they wish. When all players have had one chance to play cards, the starter pawn goes to the next player, and a new Card Auction phase begins.


The game ends when there are not enough cards in the deck for a full card auction. At that point, the game is scored as follows:
  • Each task completed – 1 point.
  • Most unspent coins – 2 points.
  • Each chain of coins across the board – 3 points. A chain is any unbroken string of coins which connects opposite sides of the board. The coins in a chain must be adjacent. Each individual coin may only be used in one chain.
The highest scoring player wins. For tiebreakers, use the most unspent coins and then the most unplayed cards.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Hippodice preliminary results on Nov. 17

    The Hippodice site says they'll have the preliminary first-round results up on November 17.  Pretty exciting.  The games that make it through this first round (based only on rules, a short description, and some pictures) will go on to the next round, where you send an actual copy of the game in for them to play.  I'm hopeful that my two entries make the cut, but we'll see. I'll have to figure out how to get my two games to them and through customs before Dec. 1, but there's probably a way.

    BGDF October Showdown results

    Looks like I came in a close third of four.  A bit frustrating; this time around I actually designed the game pretty quickly after the contest parameters were announced, and I got a set of my game made by TheGameCrafter.com in time to test it out before the contest deadline.  My game is fun - my kids have asked to play it several times since we got it, and I've enjoyed it every time.

    Of course, tastes may vary, but both of the games ahead of me in the competition invoke a bunch of cards that are never shown, so you have no idea if the game will be balanced or how it will play.  The first place game is actually pretty similar to mine; there's a card auction, and you're trying to create tasks by bidding on cards.  The artwork for the few cards shown is top notch, and the game is described pretty well, but it's hard to know how it would actually play out without knowing the card distribution and card types.

    The 2nd place game shows only one card out of the 124 invoked in the rules.  The graphic design here is also good, although the board is mostly covered with little numbers.  I imagine it would be fun, but it's a little hard to know again because you don't see any of the parts.

    I guess I shouldn't get hung up on this - voting for anything is of course a bit hard to predict, and I'm just doing this for fun.  My game is good and works well; I have a few other ideas to make it even better, but it's a good time even in the early version, and it has pretty good replay value.

    I'll put the rules up here.  My artistic ability is a bit too crude for now, but maybe I can work on that part too and even release it.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Ion Award competition

    Here's another competition of which I just recently learned.  Looks like a reasonable deal; you send them a description, they chose a subset of submitted games to test out, and then you get judged by a panel of game publishers.  It costs $10, and you can enter multiple times.

    The plusses would seem to be that you get judges who are within the industry and are actual publishers.  The $10 (plus postage) is cheap for this kind of thing.  Most of the European competitions and the Mensa competition here in the U.S. have pretty steep entry fees - in the case of Mensa, it's $200!  Fine if you're an established company, but pretty harsh on somebody self-funding.

    Anyway, I might send my two finished games in for this - it sounds like fun.  Not sure I could get to Utah on short notice, but it sounds like that's not mandatory.  I really appreciate these conventions being willing to sponsor design contests - it's a neat way to polish your products and maybe get some exposure if you do well.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Jump Gate jumps to production

    Matt Worden's Jump Gate, which won the 2010 Game of the Year award from Games Magazine, is moving into a boxed edition (and presumably thus away from TheGameCrafter.com).  Matt has pictures of the box here.

    The box doesn't seem to have an ISBN, or a CE Mark, but it does have the strict CPSIA-directed age of 12 or higher and a small-parts choking hazard warning.  Maybe that other stuff is coming, although if Matt's selling exclusively from his website, then he probably won't need them.  Not sure of the print run size is big or small, but a box like that is only economical for distribution if you're up around 2000-3000 copies, and that probably takes an investment of at least $10,000 to $15,000.  So, maybe he's doing a smaller print run for self-selling - that would work too, if the Games prize drives enough traffic to him.

    I'd have thought that the award might let him get published by a traditional publisher, say a Rio Grande or Z-Man.  I'm not sure if he pursued those options and they didn't work, or if he just wanted to capitalize on the prize himself more quickly.  Either way, it's exciting to see him go for it with independent publication, and I wish him well.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    October BGDF design showdown

    My entry is in.  An interesting contest assignment this month - the theme is Hercules and his labors, plus you have to use three of a list of common game mechanics together in one game.  I ended up with a fun one, I think.  I test-played it with my family, and it seemed to work pretty well (although I lost to my wife).

    More details on my entry when the voting closes - it has to be secret until then.  Woo.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Distribution: the challenge

    really interesting post over at the Starlit Citadel detailing why paying middlemen (i.e. distributors) is actually a good deal for retailers rather than ordering direct from manufacturers.  The math is compelling, if depressing.  I think the suggestion for co-op distribution is good; likewise, I think in my case I might be able to get below a $15/unit shipping charge, but I don't think it would help that much - still too much benefit to retailers for placing big, diverse orders at distributors that handle a wide variety of games.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    New SuperiorPOD products

    SuperiorPOD has unveiled a new web interface and some new products, both of which are improvements.  The old website was a bear to use; you had to download templates and FTP them back, and it was tough to figure out the ordering process and your order status.  It also had a number of clunky web design elements and misspellings, which didn't affect the product but made them seem less serious.  For 18 card decks, the new web site seems to allow you to create your cards within a graphic editor; that's probably a lot easier for most folks to use, although I think I'd rather still make my art in a commercial program on my home computer and transfer it in finished form.  That's still the system for the larger card decks.

    They're also offering custom printed tuck boxes for a variety of deck sizes, from the traditional 54 up to 108 in a side-by-side two-deck format.  That's really neat.  With this improvement, you really have a chance to print up a small print run of a game and sell it individually without making the big investment of large scale printing.

    The drawbacks?  Well, the tuck boxes cost about $0.50 to $1.00 each depending on quantity, and the cards are reasonable but not cheap - they also get discounted in quantity, but you're still going to be paying six to ten cents a card.  So, for Diggity, for example, I could do the 108-card deck and box and get to about $9 a copy ordering six at a time.  That's a price I could probably barely make money at if I were selling them myself over the web or at conventions or whatever, but not something you could go into bigger production with, and the box is a tuckbox rather than a setup box, so it won't look as nice as sturdier packaging.

    I had issues with delays (not quality) with SuperiorPOD when I ordered through them which I've detailed here, and TheGameCrafter recently ended their relationship with SuperiorPOD based on quality concerns, but SuperiorPOD did make me a nice set of quality games.

    They say they've got a faster digital press now, so orders get out within two weeks.  They also say they'll assemble finished copies of your game if you get them printed at the same time you order the boxes.  Shrink wrapped too.  Pretty neat.

    The website is way better now, and the boxes are something TheGameCrafter can't do yet, so they may well be worth a look if you're looking to print good quality card games in small numbers.