In the book industry, it’s very easy to self-publish. With a Word or Google document, you can sell on Amazon in 48 hours as a Kindle Direct book! o_O
Doing a paperback book is pretty straightforward too.
Amazon’s CreateSpace is easy and inexpensive (under $50 including an ISBN number). With a bit more effort, you can become a “real” book publisher and use Lightning Source presses to print your book. This press prints many mainstream publishers like Penguin. They print around 16 million books per month.
What about games?
There’s a negative stigma with self-publishing but we see that falling away in industries like music.
The “gatekeepers” – music producers, book publishers, and even game publishers – don’t like self-publishing. It cuts into their pockets.
Did you know that the typical game designer gets 5 to 10% the MSRP? And some only 3%!
In book publishing, authors get around 10%. Doesn’t matter if you’re J.K. Rowling or me.
Back to the stigma. One reason it’s negative is that, without gatekeepers, a lot of crap gets published (books, music, and games – movies too). But that also means some good stuff never gets published. There are many stories of things that were thought not worthy to publish which later proved to be successful (Harry Potter, for example).
Apart from wading through loads of crappy published stuff, it’s also hard for people to discover self-published things.
I love going to my friendly local game store, Diversions PG, and looking at their selection of games. But even though they make me feel like a rock star and Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens was developed in the Meetups they host, they’ll never carry those games. =(
They don’t have the capability to deal with me or the three others from our Meetups that have self-published games. It’s easier to deal with a few game distributors (ordering, invoicing, returns) rather than a zillion self-publishers around the world.
Apart (again) from crappy stuff and difficulty in finding decent self-published games, there’s another reason the self-publishing stigma is negative. There’s a lot of crappy stuff made with crappy components!
This last point is one that I love about self-publishing. I control, to an extent, the quality of the components we use. The selection of components, cards, etc, is more limited than I like, but at least there are choices.
I’m proud to only use Chessex dice for example. We could have gone with cheaper dice and saved a few cents per game but that would affect the number of games we donate. Chessex came through with a discount that let us double those donations! A cheaper vendor would not have stepped up like that. *yay Chessex!*
Here’s a last example (woof, clearly a soap box issue for me!) – the instructions for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse.
Making this game in a small mint tin is a driving factor in its design. But that’s not an excuse to use crappy stuff.
So far it has ten mini meeples, one standard meeple, five 12 mm dice, and two cubes. There isn’t room for much more but it does need instructions. Game play is simple and we could say “go to blahblah.com to see the rules” but that doesn’t seem right for a tabletop game, regardless of its size.
Since everything is used in the game, including the tin itself, all its contents will get dumped out every time it’s played.
The instructions will be constantly removed and repacked. Handling like this, especially in a restaurant setting since this is how the Mint Tin Games came about, means a good chance that they’ll get wet and maybe even greasy (not to say game peeps eat greasy food!). *yum, a burrito today sounds excellent for lunch* =p
That means something other than normal glossy paper. Lo and behold, synthetic paper! A little research and here’s one that feels and folds like normal paper but stands up well – Ruff N Tuff Non-Tear paper!
It’s ten times more expensive than glossy paper and hard to find a printer that will work with it AND cut/fold it to the size we need. So in true subQuark spirit, we’ll just print it ourselves and do the cutting and folding. Won’t be as fancy as a real publisher since I only have a black ink LaserJet, but it should last many, many plays.
This choice on something as mundane as instructions is only possible with self-publishing. And it’s the apocalypse after all, so ya just need good paper! =D
Happy New Year everybody! =)
Direct YouTube link to see it in larger HD formats . . .
Something that’s come up a few times since Mint Tin Pirates launched is what’s the story in my head for it.
It’s as simple as two pirate galleons crossing paths in the high seas. The ships are classic 16th century Spanish galleons as often depicted in pirate movies. But they could be French Corsairs or any ship you like (even steampunk ships).
For the game, the ships aren’t tied together and maybe 10 yards apart. A warm breeze blows and gentle sea swells are interrupted by an occasional abrupt wave. I think back to when I was 10 and my father had a 32 foot red snapper fishing boat and we’d go way out in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast.
The 1600s saw the first European use of the hand mortar and cast iron bombshell (grenade). I picture a hollow cannon ball filled with black powder with a fuse. They weren’t sophisticated like modern grenades and their damage could vary greatly. I also picture these often as used by Wile E. Coyote.
I imagine 12 pound cannons on these ships. A ship wouldn’t have many 12 pound cannons because the weight of the cannon balls and the cannon itself; this was an important factor for sailing speed. Eight pound cannons were more common, but I wanted these to be less in number with conservative use (takes more black powder and slower to load) but they pack a huge punch if they hit their target.
The flintlock pistols are just single shot weapons and it wasn’t uncommon for a pirate to have several on them ready to go. I picture a pirate shooting these and handing them to someone hiding below the rails who’s reloading them as quickly as possible. That could result in poorly packed shots and maybe even the ball rolling out!
As a young teenager, my dad gave me a .50 caliber percussion cap brass derringer replica. He never intended me to actually shoot it but I made an oak bullet mold, melted lead tire weights and made a dozen balls for it! I somehow obtained percussion caps (these came about immediately after flintlocks but work in the same manner), some black powder, and wadding (this holds the powder and then the ball in place).
I shot at an aluminum pie tin and quickly saw how incredibly inaccurate a non-rifled pistol is! Rifling makes a bullet spin as it travels down the barrel and makes it fly straight (I knew a bachelors in physical science would pay off some day!). =p
The knife, or throwing dirk in this case, is a balanced knife designed to be thrown with some accuracy. Again, as a kid, I had some throwing knives (what the heck kind of environment was I in! sheesh!). They were small knives and not like today’s tactical knives, more like carnival sideshow ones. I laced leather shoelace handles onto them and used to imagine I was a pirate (I was probably doing this when I was 10 to 12 years old!). o_O
Throwing a knife to hit a target isn’t so hard, but having the point hit, and not the handle, is a learned skill. Lots of practice and some luck. Imagine doing that on a rocking boat with some sea spray and you’d have to be mega pirate to hit anything!
So now you see my perspective on these weapons, mixed with a little naive experience.
In Mint Tin Pirates, one card represents that you have the weapon and the second card represents it’s ready (ready to light for the bombs, loaded for the cannons or guns, and sharp for the knives).
The card pair represents weapons ready for use now.
The dice roll represents the luck inherent to the weapon and the conditions at hand (waves, sea spray, wind).
The bomb fuse could fall out, you could miss with your throw, the enemy might kick it away, or they could move out of the way.
The cannon could be packed too tightly and blow up, the cannon could miss with the pitch of a wave or not enough or too much powder, or the powder could be wet.
Naval trivia: The British Royal Navy traditionally sailed with Plymouth Navy Strength Gin (57% versus 41.2%). It’s said that even if this gin spilled on gunpowder, the powder would still burn! Now that’s quite a navy! *not intended as an endorsement to drink while playing Mint Tin Pirates*=D
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
For the pistols, similar issues and luck exist as the cannons. They were very inaccurate at more than a few feet and, in the heat of battle, reloading was sloppy at best.
The cannon has high odds of success (wide range of dice values) but it’s devastating when they miss and they take longer to untie, roll back, clean, reload, roll forward, re-tie, aim, and then fire (thus more scarce in the deck).
Bombs are broadly damaging in their explosion, so luck favours them a bit but not as much as cannons.
Knives and pistols could, conceivably, be in good supply and more accessible, but their accuracy stinks, so the odds are lower for success.
Now onto more imagination – Davy Jones’ Locker and the treason card.
That’s pretty much pure Caribbean voodoo and in staying with the pirate meme. Davy Jone’s Locker is the watery grave a fallen pirate is condemned to but, as in Hollywood movies, there are ways to get those pirates back! But that has a lot of unknowns and needs luck to pull off your evil voodoo ways. =p
The treason card – there are only two in the deck because they can really turn the tide (pun!) of the game. But I thought it should be there because a pirate might think the riches or captain of the other ship is better. And honestly, as pirates, how much loyalty would they have?
I hope that sheds some light on the attacks and the heavy luck in Mint Tin Pirates.
In the heat of a sea battle with old tech weapons – luck abounds! But you can still play strategy and, as some reviewers have said, the strategy can be deep, but that’s all in your hands. =)
Now about that gold and the ghost! Without either, I think the game stays true to the pirate meme and is all about resources at hand and a good dose of luck.
But Brett from our local game design meetup said I needed something for snake eyes and he wanted a kraken to be released! Snake eyes is rare with only a 2.8% chance of being rolled. But I did like that something special should happen for doubles, for what could be seen as good luck smiling down on a band of misfit pirates (as opposed to non-misfit?). =D
What could that luck be? A gold treasure maybe? It adds something to fidgit with while playing and does favour the bearer with more resources in the form of an extra card. This fits in my head anyway (lol, lots of room for cubes in there!).
The pirate ghost is a total nod to Scooby Doo! And helps, a little, with a potential runaway leader. With such a short play game, a runaway leader isn’t a big concern, but that’s my attempt at addressing it.
As a ghost, I first wanted weapons to not have the same affect, after all, it’s a ghost!
But . . . that would mean complicating the already minimal rules (and space for the rules). Since it’s paranormal, I took creative license and figured that a two card handicap would help represent the challenges that being a ghost might present. And it should truly be a last measure (although Kate beats me regularly with the ghost and that sucks). =D
Oh, another thing about Mint Tin Pirates, the cannon doing damage to the ship is a way to keep the game from going too long. Without the damage, a game could go long as the Sorry Man, I Farted crew demonstrated with a 30 minute battle. But I think those guys (and Katie) are true pirates (or reincarnated ones) that push the strategy of the game to the max. They also created the 4 player variant – talk about fantastic imaginations! =)
The game was balanced to play, most of the time, without the need to reshuffle the deck.
But if that is too fast, you can play the sea dog variation that Kate and I sometimes do. I also call it the injured or wounded pirate but yelling out “Avast, tis Sea Dog Pirates sailing these seas!” is fun (and geeky. This almost always need a reshuffle of discarded cards and you play each meeple with two positions.
The pirate meeples start in the standing position and lay down when first wounded (the treason card takes a laying down pirate first, if possible). This doubles the numbers of hits you can take. You can also count cannon hits twice by counting down and then back up the damage track.
For me, Mint Tin Pirates is about light play that let’s me be part of the surroundings and chat with Loco Coco’s wait staff say and answer “Yes!” when they ask if I want guacamole on the side! =)
This post started as an answer to what was I thinking for this game and I’ll end by sharing what I’m thinking next . . .
Mint Tin Pirates: Pizza Party Edition
Six player, big hinged tin, an island with treasure, and coves to do ship repairs!
Form alliances, betray others, and be a scurvy dog! Happy Holidays All!
Quandary – use mini cards to keep cost down or go full-size poker cards and full-size dice? *pizza not included* =D
As a game maker I do lots of assembly at home for the games we* publish.
With the current first pair, Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens, a big labor point is the labeling (second printing in full swing).
I don’t mind it but it’s slow at about 70 an hour and, because I use distilled water in the process, I think they should dry overnight. Since they have to be out where a fan can blow on them, I use the dining room table and can only fit 140 at a time, but that’s part of what defines them as maker movement or kitchen table industrialism (literally!). =)
For the next Kickstarter, I’d like to do a pair of games again. It offsets the shipping cost and provides a better value for backers. It costs the same to ship one as it does two . . .
One of those games is close to hardcore-legit-outside-play-testing and I’d like those copies to be close to the final version. This allows play testers to concentrate on game play and not wonder what the final this or that will look like.
For this game, Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, there’s an extra challenge of being in a mini mint tin. The current labels I use, from MOO of Rhode Island, are exterior grade vinyl that fit fairly well on normal-sized mint tins but MOO doesn’t have a smaller rectangular one. They do have 11⁄2 inch circles and that could work, but. . .
. . .rather than settling, maybe I can do better?
My tin supplier can do embossing and lithography, but only for runs of 10 to 20,000! Apart from the massive quantity, they cost more than the current hand applied label and tin (I don’t count anything for my labour – I’d just be watching TV anyway). I’d rather keep the price down, if I can keep a consistent and decent look.
After all, a game box (or tin) affects game play by setting expectations and reinforcing the game’s theme.
Could I emboss these myself?
It just happens that you can have hardened steel hand stamps custom made!
But what about color and fine print? o_O
Well, color would be out (I looked at two color rubber stamping for industrial purposes but wasn’t moved by it). And the fine print? The stuff like don’t let 3 years olds eat meeples and this game is for 2 players?
That won’t fit on such a tiny surface (13⁄4” x 11⁄4” usable space) and can be included as a piece of paper or maybe the MOO circle label could be on the back with that info – as a utilitarian, rather than design, piece.
The custom hand stamps are awesome but I’m stamping very thin steel, so do I need something that heavy duty?
Nope, well at least I don’t think so.=)
I’ve had 3D printed stainless steel and sterling silver done by Shapeways in the past and both are very durable. Turns out I can do a stainless 3D plate for this game for $50!
No need to have tins dry overnight and never worry about running out of labels.*thumbs up*
I made the following 3D file and for $6 I’m having a plastic one printed to see about its size and detail (I bet the holes in the letters don’t show up in the tin – too small). I’ll blog about it when I get it in a few weeks.
Hmm, 18K gold for $7,000 or platinum for $16,000? Now those are kickstarter rewards! =)
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! =)
* – we = (Kate & I) times the most fantastic backers2 in the world! =)
Designing games is fun – after all, they’re games! =D
I carry little notebooks with me that I jot ideas into, do pricing calculations, draw out game titles, and doodle in.
BUT . . . as a game gets to a critical point, such as just before play testing with the game design meetup group and again before play testing with strangers, I like drawing it out in an 11″ by 14 ” spiral-bound sketch book.
I figure if I can’t make it smoothly flow on paper, I won’t be able to make it flow for whatever it is – website, eLearning course, 450 pound smoker, book (overall arc), or game. *yes, I melted the vinyl siding in that pic!* =p
I also use pencils without erasers – that keeps me from getting caught up in how straight a line is and forces me to stay focused on the overall brainstorming. There’s time, later, to refine drawings. =)
With games, it’s tempting to just start pulling components together – especially if you happen to have a zillion meeples, cubes, and dice laying around. =D
I do enjoy the form factor aspect of a game, so that figures prominently in the design, but as a high level guide that can change if it needs to for the sake of the game. For example, Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse (MTMA) started as a challenge from Kate to make a game that fits in an Altoids Smalls tin – about a third of a normal mint tin (actually 29%, see the math in this older post). That’s what form factor means to me, the final product’s packaging and/or other constraints.
Sketching the flow of a game creates a different perspective and helps me view it both holistically and to isolate each part of the game play.
Here’s what sketching out MTMA today did:
- Confirmed that a second way to lose fits without adding much to tiny its instructions:
- As a 2 player, simultaneous play game a bit like the Escape series, but without the need for a timer (soundtrack), this competitive game can end when one player wins. *duh, novel eh?* =p
- The second way to lose is via the monster which has some “AI” built in. Artificial Intelligence sounds a bit haughty to me but that’s the term people use and I guess it’s an accurate way to think of it. If the monster wins, both players lose. o_O
- Created a 3 condition part of the game that, until it was drawn out, was only 2. Sketching it out made clear that a third condition could:
- easily be added,
- made sense in the game play,
- added the opportunity for player strategy, and
- didn’t add complexity to the instructions.
- Reduced another 2 condition part to 1 condition:
- More conditions often make for more fun in the way of painful decisions (strategy options). But this one added complexity to the instructions AND added too much thinking for the chaos this game should convey.
I may have never made these changes without sketching and, for me, this requires discipline because I just want to start tossing dice and moving meeples! =D
Sketching it out also helps see options that a player may see on their own.
In Mint Tin Pirates, it was important to be really fast, like the possibility of 5 minutes, and that meant balancing the game to play without having to reshuffle discarded cards for the majority of games.
If you want the game to last longer, and don’t mind doing a reshuffle, simply add injured pirates to the game play. No need for extra meeples, just have the first successful attack lay a meeple down on the boat. This means a meeple can be standing or injured, thereby doubling the effective meeple count. And count up and down once on the cannon damage track, if desired.
Game players are clever people and leaving games open a bit allows for all kinds of creative twists, such as the “injured pirate” variation and Nick Shaw’s awesome solo and combo variants to the first set of Mint Tin Games.
Happy gaming over the holidays! =)
What a fantastic and wonderful experience. Even loading the mail truck in 39 degree weather with rain and 20 mph wind!=D
It’s wonderful receiving so many tweets with your photos expressing how smoothly Mint Tin Games – Pirates & Aliens ran. I wish I could say that was all me . . . but it wasn’t.
Lots of reading about KS, especially games in KS, was the secret to this running smoothly.
For example, we were glad to have a laser-jet printer for the mailing labels and that the games were in multiple layers of plastic. Nothing fell into a puddle but the outside of packages did get wet.
Some reading led us to use a laser-jet for the labels because they’re waterproof – no smudging. We found a laser-jet for around $100 based on reviews from Etsy and eBay sellers that mentioned it handled thick label paper without gumming up. Some printers have issues with labels separating inside – yikes! o_O
Those “minor” details all added up to a smooth project (plus I’m persnickety, and maybe a tad OCD, and Kate’s practical and calm and undoubtedly my better half in many ways). *awww*
However, I don’t consider this KS done yet. Not until all packages are delivered.
I expect some international ones may take all of December, even with “First Class” mail. Most US ones should be done this week.
Games went out to Malyasia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Northern Baffin Island (way remote Canada), Norway, Japan, Tasmania (how cool is that!), Mexico, Brasil, and many others. Even to a US Navy Aircraft Carrier! =)
It’s also been wonderful receiving your tweets with photos of you and/or your kids playing the games, that’s far more reward than a funded Kickstarter – I can’t express how much that warms both our hearts. Thank you.
So wazz next?
I’ve got kids’ transition books (7 to 9 year olds) that should see the first one printed in February. Five books are written and the first three have been professional edited. They each have about 16 black and white line art drawings from a professional illustrator (my 16th century woodcut art style for drawing a cannon doesn’t translate well to drawing a chicken and a goat!). The first one is illustrated and the second is underway.
BUT . . . that doesn’t slow down new games. *thumbs up*
Each thing, games and books, act as a break from the other. And Kate is on fire for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse! That’s really her game. Not sure if that title still works – she introduced a Godzilla-like monster – hmm, I guess that’s pretty apocalyptic and still works (I love the juxtaposition of mini and apocalypse).
Plus, I have a full-sized game called Zombalamba I’d love to get out there, just need to find a local source for hex-based tiles
So stay tuned and the Kickstarters aren’t over! Happy Holidays!
Phew! Make that a double phew! =D
I’m not sure where to start in sharing the behind-the-scenes of the Mint Tin Games Kickstarter.
The single most important aspect about it continues to be the backers.
Calling the supporters “backers” doesn’t do justice to how I feel about each one. They’re far more than backers.
They believed, they encouraged, and they actively shaped this project.
They have expanded my perspective and forever changed how I look at games. Their influence even affected game development yesterday at lunch while we brainstormed about Mint Tin Villagers. These next games needs to even better (including the kooky Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, which might get a title change since it now features Kate’s monster). =p
Mint Tin Villagers is cooperative and tiny, but it needs a big heart to be worthy.
Mint Tin Games’ backers are perhaps more accurately portrayed as game design collaborators (for sure in my heart). =)
The moral support is phenomenal and there wasn’t a single negative comment. Kickstarter puts money front and center, but the support from backers far exceeds any dollar amount.
Speaking of money, here’s something telling about how awesome the 802 backers have been . . .
It’s not unusual for a project to have 5 to 10% of its pledges fail. This can be due to expired credit cards, incorrect information, etc. Kickstarter provides those backers with this information but the “gurus” tell you to count on 5% of those pledges to never get paid.
And sure enough, there were 24 “errored” transactions the day after the project ended (that’s about 3%).
BUT I’m proud to say that all of those have been fixed and there are ZERO unpaid pledges!
That says a lot about this project’s backers and falls in line with my love and respect of them all as really great individuals. =)
Am I really this sentimental? Those that have chatted extensively with me know that I am.
I also am indebted to the gracious reviewers who spent time to play these, craft their words, and share their opinions. Their words gave this project a running start and they were backers before it even launched.
So enough of this mushy stuff for now, more thoughts on Kickstarter will follow, but I have tins to label, meeples to sort, dice to inspect, donations to build, and a tremendous amount of gratitude.
Stay in touch via Twitter @subQuark, where I’ll announce updates, including a second printing of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens, status on the games being made for donations, and the next games on Kickstarter. I’ll also be tweeting about the upcoming set of five children’s books that will start printing in January (chapter books for 7 – 9 year olds).
You can also check subQuark.com for occasional updates. Thanks! =)
This is really kooky and all Kate’s fault! Out at a local tiny family restaurant, she pulls a beat up Altoids Smalls container from her purse, tosses it like a gauntlet onto the table, and says “how about this for a game?”
Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens were a huge logistical challenge. The game play was heavily dictated by the form factor. 64 cards is the max that will fit, especially when the cards puff up a little from shuffling and bending. And there was no way to get instructions printed and folded to fit the tin without costing a few dollars each! =(
So a mini tin?
My American can supplier does have a size close to it and 720 come in a carton, but they are less than half the size of the normal mint tin! o_O
- normal – 3-11/16″ x 2-5/16″ x 3/4″
or 6.4 cubic inches
- mini – 2-5/16″ x 1-7/8″ x 1/2″
or 2.17 cubic inches
But . . . 12mm dice fit, mini meeples fit, so there’s the challenge. A logistical and game play challenge.
No cards? Ugh, that limits what you can do big time!
But here it is below, kind of in action, I almost gave up because my shoulder was hurting from frantically rolling the dice so many times and so quickly (and lunch came!). It’s a bit like cutthroat Escape: The Curse of the Temple.
What about the Inimitable Kate?
She’s a beast. She’s ruthless and laughs when she knocks me back down or tosses me out of the shelter!
Maybe this will be the next Kickstarter, but another game too, I do like the pairs! =)
btw, if you read the blog but didn’t know, Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens is live on Kickstarter!
Recycled image below from two posts back, but it makes me grin! =D
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday is the Go Date for our Mint Tin Games Kickstarter! o_O
Here’s the Kickstarter video. It’s pretty raw but genuine (I was a nervous wreck filming this with my ancient Flip video!).
You want to really laugh? Turn on the automatic YouTube captions! =p
And the two images here are just a test to make sure the copy-and-paste code for “social” images works (The KS page turns it into a link but seems to work). =)
While at dinner the other night, Kate and I were talking about the upcoming Kickstarter (OMG! this Tuesday! I’m such a friggin’ nervous wreck!) and the next games we want to make.
She takes an empty Altoids Smalls tin from her purse and says
what about Mint Tin Minis?
And she was serious! o_O
There are some big advantages to make games a la Maker Movement style at home with materials that aren’t all custom made. It’s allowed us to send out 3 dozen each of Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Aliens to out-of-state play test groups and then reviewers, and even sell some! With a “traditional” board game, prototypes would have easily cost 5 to 10 times more!
I have a game design meetup friend who launched a successful Kickstarter but his prototypes ran $50 each!
Not only cost, but space advantages too!
I posted earlier the pic of a carton of 432 mint tins and Bella the cat. It’s not a shoe box but it’s also not so big as to be a logistical issue.
So when Kate tossed out the mini gauntlet at dinner, I pulled out dice and meeples from my messenger bag and started futzing with game ideas while waiting for our food (hmm, seems to be a common theme with us). =D
So 4 12mm d6, 8 mini meeples and one normal sized “monster” meeple, plus instructions printed on a components wrapper (like the paper in Altoids), may actually work! The outside label might be the biggest challenge (and making a fun game!). =)