Off to the Printer

posted in: Mint Tin Pirates, uncategorized | 0

Phew, working for a living and trying to do your own thing can be challenging (read: real life gets in the way!).  =p

I’m in a push to get playing card files out to Printer Studio tonight and the “official” prototype ones for Mint Tin Pirates are done. woot! =D

I create mock-ups in Fireworks and use a letter-sized template to print 16 cards per sheet (mini poker card size) to save paper and keep card cutting easy.

Once the paper prototype has been blind playtested – Pirates and Aliens have each seen a tad over 100 games with about 25 different people – I export the vectors to FXG (File > Export > FXG and Images) and then tweak in Illustrator.

The last bit was the card back. For this I found public domain images, one from a painting by a US Navy Seaman in the late 1700’s and another from a 1798 book. As with any US government image, video, or audio from the military or NASA, American citizens can use those without restrictions.

The backs are fine for these prototypes but not for the actual Kickstarter version of Mint Tin Pirates. All art will be further tweaked before the “production” version is printed.

These images are double the actual size (mini poker cards); the top is the print-safe area and the bottom is the full bleed.

Avast! Now onto Mint Tin Aliens! (oops, too much pirate on the brain!) =D

I hope you have a great day and get to spend some time on your personal projects! =)

pirates-mini-cards-trim-s pirates-mini-cards-s

Dice and Shot Glasses – what’s not to love?

posted in: dice, Monsters vs. Humans | 0

I’m like a little kid!

Yesterday after work, I saw the UPS truck pull up and ran out to meet the driver and grab my package – 250 custom dice for Monsters vs. Humans!

That silly game will Kickstart in the next three weeks and I wanted to be certain that I could get all of its components in a timely manner.  =)

custom dice by Joseph of Chessex Dice in Indiana
custom BarConic 1 ounce shot glasses from Florida

Juggling it all and having fun

posted in: games | 0

Life gets in the way!

Whether it’s family life, personal challenges, work, friends, commitments, or personal endeavors – there’s always a balance that should be struck.

“Balance” is a nice euphemism for an idyllic, albeit mostly elusive, set of circumstances in our lives that both compete for our time and energy and recharge us.

I have 5 kid’s books in various stages of completion. Some are with the editor, one is with the illustrator, the InDesign templates are done, and all are in line to be published in November and that date seems reasonable.

I’m also working on two Kickstarter projects for 3 games – one of which I’d like to launch in 3 weeks and another in September.

The first one has been fun to create and a great learning experience so far. It’s a simple and silly game mentioned in a past post and uses shot glasses and custom dice.

Keep an eye out for Monsters vs. Humans – A Shooter Game.  =D

The second one’s getting down to the wire and causing some angst in the “life balance” department!

Final play testing occurs tomorrow night at a local Meetup and then it’s full steam ahead for game reviewer prototypes. This second project is a pair of mint tin games.

All of the game components are in good shape – I have the mint tins which are the game boxes, loads of mini meeples, and the dice.

But . . . what’s missing is the final artwork for the labels and the mini cards! =(

I’m doing the art myself and have some of it done but sometimes I get stressed out (that and an intense week long training course I’m attending for work next week! bah!). =p

Well, I just have to smile and keep in mind that stuff like this, making games and writing books, isn’t a bad burden at all! =)

a mashup of actual medieval woodcut art that I’ll use as the inspiration for what I’ll create as vector art


Printer Studio mini cards

posted in: games, Mint Tin Games | 0

Printer Studio has a good reputation in the game community and certainly has good pricing. For Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Villagers, mini cards will be used. These are half the size of a poker card and fit well in the mint tins.

However, I’ve never seen the cards first hand and needed to before finalizing the Kickstarter page. I needed business cards and typically use mini Moo cards but figured I’d get a 54 card deck of mini cards instead. A bonus is that these cards are much less than the mini Moos and come out to about a nickel a piece.

What better to spark a conversation about upcoming Kickstarter projects than to have a quirky business card.

When researching game components, I came across two posts about Printer Studio cards that helped me decide to use them. And I’m happy with what I received. To add to the online info about Printer Studio cards for game designers, I’ve snapped some pics and added captions to them. You can see a bigger version of each pic by clicking it. =)

These are the 310 gram per square metre cards with a linen finish. Even though these are printed in California, the paper comes from France and has a great feel, springiness, and snap. The linen finish creates a cushion of air for effortless shuffling.

Only the 54 card decks come with this little box, other sizes are just shrink-wrapped (these were shrink-wrapped as well).
The plastic window is small and meant for a bar code – the first card you upload into their online designer tool will be the top card visible
Colour was true to what I expected and I created the art at 600 dpi (300 dpi would have been fine, but I’m a bit persnickety) =D
You can see the printing and cutting drift and I won’t be using a border like these in the actual games. I wanted to see if the colour filled the sides and it does not.
The linen finish is clearly seen here and these cards have a plastic coating to help them last longer.
A nice fit in the mint tins, leaving plenty of space for the dice, meeples, and cubes.
There’s a black layer of mesh patterned paper sandwiched between the card face and card back to prevent being able to see through the cards. In normal light you absolutely can’t see through them.

Shooter Game – Humans v. Monsters

posted in: games | 0

It’s been a beautiful morning here on the New Hampshire Seacoast and I’ve spent a few hours writing on book four of the ChuChu Chicken & Pedro the Goat books.

As a break from that, I thought about a simple game that may help me ease into Kickstarter. My thought is rather than jumping in with a full blown “do or die” project, why not dip my toe in with something smaller that I can learn from.

Humans versus Monsters! A drinking game? Perhaps!  =)

You don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun with this (I don’t drink anymore but I do miss my Friday evening martinis . . . ).

If this moves ahead, it would be a short 13 day Kickstarter with a low funding amount – maybe $500 from what I’ve priced out so far – 2 custom dice which I already have a couple dozen of for another game, a custom printed shot glass, and a micro game-board (a waterproof PVC poker card).

Here’s the game-board:



Wow! My life suddenly got better

posted in: games | 0

I’ve always been easily amused. Growing up in Canada on a bee farm without a TV and as an only kid is a big factor in that.

As such, my discovery of an inexpensive ($9.59 – 40% off sale) paper trimmer totally made my day, week, and probably month!

I went looking for a hexagonal paper punch that a friend at work told me about and right next to it was the bestest thing ever! *cue angel choir*  =)

I’ve cut out hundreds (maybe even thousands) of mini poker cards in the last month and a game set takes me like 25 minutes to complete (I may be slightly persnickety in that task). This amazing invention (tops the wheel and fire in my book) has changed my world.

All that to say – have a great weekend! =)

2014-06-06 07.49
hmm, mini hex tiles cut from custom printed playing cards?

clockwise from top left – past prototype cards (which I save to draw on the back of), evil scissors (bah), Printer Studio card sample pack, extra large hexagon squeeze punch, tiny hex tiles (maybe a Min Tin Zombalamba is in order), surecut card making paper trimmer, and round ‘n round twist and flip corner punch

Slow down and enjoy bees drinking water

posted in: books, ChuChu & Pedro | 0

It’s so easy to get all crazy and for life to be hectic. That’s probably one of the reasons that ChuChu & Pedro are finally getting published. They’re a way for me to connect with being a kid on a bee farm in Canada (bees are really tiny to lasso). =D

It seems like forever ago in some ways but sometimes it’s like it was yesterday. Beautiful summer days of exploring with my dog without a care in the world.

While writing, I wanted to be certain if bees drink water. I remember them gathering at the edge of a small creek but wasn’t sure if they were drinking water or doing something else (gathering clay like a mud dauber?).

This video made me stop and breathe and be thankful for so many things in my life. =)

direct link –

Don’t be too stubborn

It’s easy to think about writing a book or think about creating a game – following through is where it can get tough.

Being stubborn and having perseverance are important but don’t mean the same thing.

Stubbornness is holding fast to an idea and perseverance is moving ahead, despite obstacles.

Once we invest effort into an idea, we tend to hold on to it. That’s good, to a point, because we’ll have thoughts of “how will I deal with x, y, and z?”

But is your idea a good one?

Time will tell. Maybe a little luck too. And certainly how you deal with stubbornness and perseverance.

  • J.K. Rowling was turned down by several publishers.
  • Madonna spent years working to be a dancer. One night she filled in for a singer.

If Rowling had accepted rejection or Madonna held fast to being a dancer, we might not know of either one.

I’m no Rowling and no Madonna (lol, on many, many fronts!) but I am inspired by them and hope that I can balance stubbornness and perseverance wisely.

My kid’s book series, ChuChu Chicken & Pedro the Goat, had been an idea for 7 years. Now the first two are being edited and the first is being illustrated.  The InDesign templates and ISBN numbers are ready and they’ll be published in November. This project took a lot of perseverance. =

My games are a different story (oh no! no pun intended!). =p

I started with a “euro” game and, a few months and some playtesting later, the concept and components are defined. Looking at self-publishing, just like my books, I ran into reality! $26 in components plus a homemade game bag.  =(

Do I rework the game to use fewer components and change die-cut tiles to something easier? Change the graphics I’ve spent hours on plus the Kickstarter page? Give up the dream of a maker movement, non-offshored, game?

The Rowling/Madonna moment!

My decision – move it to the back burner but create a new game that will be self-published. Mint Tin Pirates was born and, thanks to game design meetups, Mint Tin Knights came about too. Two games will make for a more interesting Kickstarter in August.

But . . . what I thought would be a genius reworking of Pirates to become Knights felt like an unimaginative reskinning of Pirates. It would feel like a ripoff as a Kickstarter reward.

Ugh, another Rowling/Madonna moment! o_O

Like the first one, this turned out to be good! o/

Mint Tin Villagers! A 2 person cooperative 10 minute filler game with a vastly different feel to Pirates.

Time will tell if I’ve dealt with stubbornness and perseverance wisely.

What about you? Any ideas you’d like to move to projects – why not this week?  (^.^)

2014-06-03 07.00
so many pieces of paper cut and so many playtests – stubborn perseverance?

Researching woodcut playing cards

For Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Knights, I’d like a late medieval woodcut printed style for the playing cards.

Woodcut printed cards probably came to Europe in the 1300s but had been in China and Japan since the 700s.

The medieval age ended in the 1400s but knights went beyond that and the earliest recorded piracy on the high seas was the 14th Century BC!

So far so good on the time period, but what about the weapons in these games?

Cannons, knives, crossbows, and maces were in existence before the 1400s. But I wondered about blackpowder pistols and grenades.

The first European handheld cannons were in the 1400s  – essentially pistols (but not flintlock) – and the first cast iron hand bombs (grenades) appeared in Europe in 1467.

Why the historic fuss over a light casual filler game?

It’s purely a personal thing – I think being rooted in history adds a bit for some players.

Of course, having cards that can return a lost pirate as a Pirate Ghost or a dead knight as a Phantom Knight isn’t historically true, but it is accurate with people’s beliefs throughout time that ghosts and spirits may exist. =)

In this search of woodcut playing cards, I came across some historic trivia and it’s a wonder that we have card games at all!

St. Bernadino printed as a holy card (aka St. Buzzkill)
  • 1377 Paris – An ordinance forbids card games on work days.
  • 1379 Switzerland – Card games prohibited.
  • 1382 Lille (France) – Dice & card games are forbidden.
  • 1395 Amsterdam – Playing cards are authorised (yay!) but forbidden 2 years later in Leyden (boo!).
  • 1397 Ulm (Germany) – Prohibition against playing cards.
  • 1397 Paris – Working people are once again forbidden to play dice & card games on work days.
  • 1402 Ulm – Written reference to Kartenmaler & Kartenmacher (card painter & maker) means that playing cards are a thriving business.
  • 1404 France – Cardinal Louis de Bar forbids the clergy from playing card games.
  • 1423 Italy – St. Bernadino of Siena preaches against games and playing cards – urges sinners to repent and burn them. Later, St. Bernie convinces an out-of-business playing card maker to print holy cards! *good grief*
  • 1423 Nuremberg (Germany) – Woodcut printed card manufacturing is a regular trade. o/

And it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s that card backs were printed to reduce card marking on plain white card backs.

Have a great weekend! =)

1414 Barcelona (Spain) - Uncut Moorish card sheet printed from woodblocks with bold black outlines (hey, the first Print-and-Play!)
1414 Barcelona (Spain) – Uncut Moorish card sheet printed from woodblocks with bold black outlines (hey, the first Print-and-Play!)
1638 Sevilla (Spain) – Later cards but printed with woodcuts and painted using stencils – I like the faded look and misalignment on the colours, much like cheap newspaper comics

More info can be found online and particularly at Early references to Playing Cards

The value of an editor – for books and games!

posted in: games, publishing | 2

An editor is a necessity when publishing a book. Or at least in publishing a book that one hopes has some level of success.

Two million new books are published every year (wiki by country).


One way not to stand out is to have typos, poor grammar, and a host of other issues that a good editor will help alleviate.

Yes, an editor does cost but what’s the cost of having mistakes and a poorly written sentence? Or worse, confusing structure!

And there are different types of editors too. (nooo! a coordinate conjunction starting a sentence!) =p

Developmental editors help shape entire story arcs, change or restructure entire books, even add or remove characters. These editors are rare, and the least used, but if you ever have a chance to use one – wow! Mine is a beast! =)

She does her developmental edits with pencil and writes copious notes everywhere from between lines, to the margins, to the backs of pages. Some edits are easy such as “you already said this” or “if this is set today, drop this onomatopoeia – cameras no longer make these sounds” and some are more robust and challenging such as “how about placing this content on page 24”.

I cherish her edits and, even though they can be daunting to execute, they certainly improve my writing.

Then there’s content editing – more of a page-by-page, paragraph-to-paragraph look. For this French-Canadian, I appreciate this greatly. I resist writing in proper English since I’m writing in America but I do dislike zeds used in the place of an “s” and the loss of “u”s from colourful prose. *rolls eyes & realises I’m full of it*  =D

And, finally, copy editing – the last chance for true typos – a mundane task but ever so critical.

For books, the need for an editor is a clear and a long standing practice. For self-published indie authors, an editor is vital even if it’s in the form of friends (several). And here’s an idea if your budget is just too tight – put your book up in a Google Group!

Think that’s a nutty idea? It’s not mine, it’s what Guy Kawasaki did with his book titled APE.

So what about games?

Ah, that’s what prompted this blog post!

My fave online game reviewer Erin from The Geeky Gimp wrote a fair and detailed review Tabletop Game Review #5 – Paperback. She paints a full and detailed picture of the game – truly the next best thing to playing it first hand.

Her review was positive and she liked the game. However . . . one simple-to-correct thing stood out and it’s the kind of thing a good editor would have caught.

Is it a major thing?

That’s subjective and I’d be upset if I had this type of error in my filler mint tin games (filler is game-specific terminology and an example of “lingo” that should be defined, if used in instructions).

Terminology in Paperback’s instructions refer to something that isn’t a common phrase, even in the tabletop game world, or anything that can be found online. I also searched for the errant phrase, “length track”, and only came up with references to running! o_O

2014-05-29 07.33
nothing to do with this post – just stunning in the morning sun =)

Your game instructions shouldn’t require the internet unless you purposely tell players to see rich storyline instructions on your website. This would be in addition to the included instructions, not in lieu of them. Having players resort to an internet search to try to understand your game is as bad as a typo or poor grammar in a novel, except that game rules are much shorter than a novel!

Game instructions aren’t particularly fun to write but they are vital. They shape your players initial opinion of your game once they sit down to play it.

Don’t let instructions be an afterthought – they’re probably the first thing your players really look at. A professional editor’s time is well worth the cost.

A possible alternative to an editor, or maybe something to do before using an editor, is to spend $25 on The Game Crafter’s very cool service – Sanity tests. =)