Die of the Dead

A lot of people have asked what Radical 8 Games is going to do next, and finally I can announce the answer. We will be Kickstarting ‘Die of the Dead’ a beautiful and ingenious dice rolling game themed around the Día de Muertos, designed by James Allan (Jimmy Box of Frogs) with incredible artwork by Mexican artist Rusmbell. You can check it out at Airecon this March, and sign up to our mailing list for information, dates, contests and more!

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Die of the Dead Update- July

Hi everyone, hope you’re all well. And staying sane and hopefully even happy during lockdown.

Die of the Dead update- we have actually sent our first prototype copy out for a preview! Should have another one ready by tomorrow, and hopefully another arriving not too long after that. The issue is still the dice, although I’ve resigned myself to making everything else by hand (even after telling Martin that this is something I definitely won’t be doing, I actually enjoy it for small runs, no matter how time consuming it is), the dice have proven a challenge.

Here’s a photo of some of my prototype tools- a laser printer, card cutter for thin card jobs, and a new addition- a laser cutter for thicker card.

Ignore the mess!

Tried the laser cutter on some blank dice with the intention of engraving the pattern to fill in with watered down acrylic paint. Turns out the detail is far to intricate for such a thing:

Exquisite
Melted acryclic

So the current plan is to try stickered dice- hopefully this will be able to ably represent the aesthetics of the dice well. Then I’ve just got to make the boxes, but that’s where I shine.

Anyway, that’s enought prototype talk. Suffice to say, we should be able to get a few copies out to reviewers and previewers quickly. We are still aiming for a late August Kickstarter, but that does depend on the time-frame these previews can get done by. Without conventions making sure people can read about the game, watch videos of it in action, and see if it’s for them (it is) is absolutely vital. And given the complexity and intricacy of the components this is proving to be a bigger job than usual. Hopefully I’ll have more information on this by next week. Thanks for reading!

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June Update

For once my lackadaisical approach to booking UKGE accomodation has actually come in useful, sadly. This weekend was of course supposed to be the UKGE, and with it Die of the Dead getting its second convention outing, to amaze thousands of people. Sad times. However, this isn’t a sad update, but a happy one! Or at least, an informative one.

The Games Crafter in the US is back and working, they’re one of the companies who have been making Die of the Dead prototypes, or at least part of them. Whilst shipping to the UK is expensive, at least it’s happening. Unfortunately the company which provides the other part of the prototype, the custom dice, is still not back, so we are still waiting on them before we can get prototypes out to people. That said, if anybody does know of a european company which will screenprint small quantities of dice, and are safely working, please let us know (similarly with laser cut cardstock)!

Finally we’re currently working on a virtual copy of the game. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into the tactility and presence of the components, which isn’t something that can come across online, but given the UKGE is going virtual this year we want to make sure we can be a part of that.

Thanks, and hope everyone’s hanging in there. Can’t believe this is the first UKGE I’m not attending since 2012! Mark

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Lockdown

It’s been over a month since Airecon. It feels weird to write that, because it feels from a previous erg ago, and yet being housebound has made all the days roll into one. It’s been a month of getting used to working from home, remotely playing tabletop games, regular checking in with friends and family (online), and looking after a puppy (yes, we got a new puppy the day before lockdown).

This is Elsie

Back in March was Airecon, and it was a massive success. Thanks to everyone who played Die of the Dead, and thanks for the overwhelmingly positive response we got. We knew the game was special, but this confirmed it and then some. There was also a suprising number of people who wanted the spare DotD T-shirt (it is a beautiful game after all). With a superb weekend of demoing we were all ready to start ramping up the demo copies and prepare for the UKGE!

And then the world closed down.

Since then we postponed the launch until after the UKGE, and started to get our eggs in order, but clearly so much has changed since. The UKGE has been cancelled this year, and our prototype manufacturers are closed until further notice. These both present different problems to overcome- without prototypes we can’t get any reviews or previews. Without the UKGE we miss the best option to show off the game to the public -we can’t show off the incredibly well thought through components and stress the fun that comes from the tactility of the game, things which don’t come through as much in video walkthroughs.

We still want to get the Kickstarter done this year- the game is ready after all! Airecon has shown it’s something people enjoy playing, with beautiful components and a real table presence. So we’re going to be optimistic about this. Currently we’re waiting on the prototype manufacturers, but when we can get some prototypes made, however long that will be, we’ll be able to get them out to reviewers, prevewiers, and (according to circumstances) hopefully get them in front of some games clubs. We might not be able to get demos at the UKGE, but then neither will any games, so hopefully some good online buzz will have to make up for it (this is where I ask everyone who’s enoyed the game to casually constantly mention it to everyone they know).

So that’s a short summary of the plan. As always, we’re monitoring the situation, but we know we’ve got a special game, and we want to get it in people’s hands asap. (I’m also waiting to play my copy of Eclipse with the expansion I picked up at Airecon asap. These weeks are dragging.) Fingers crossed.

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Die of the Dead Update

Hi everyone, after an amazing Airecon we have been reviewing the situation regarding getting Die of the Dead on Kickstarter. We really want to demo it at the UKGE to give as many people a chance to play before backing, so we will probably be delaying until August to allow for this.
If we do we will spend the time improving the game, getting the balance just perfect, and making sure we’re print ready for as soon as the KS finishes.
So, if you enjoyed playing the game at Airecon, or just like the look of it from videos and pictures, please continue to support us and tell people about us. And the next update will be a look back at Airecon. It was amazing. Thank you.

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Airecon 2020

In just over 1 week, the best convention in Yorkshire, and possibly the world, opens its doors. But in addition to the Denby Dale Beer Festival, Airecon is also on that weekend, so I’m going to that instead. Yes, I will be there from Friday evening until they kick us out on Sunday, demoing Die of the Dead. And if you visit Friday during the day you’ll get to meet the designer James Allen, as he kindly steps in where I am unable to. So please come along and say hi, play a game, or just shake a casket. We can’t promise freebies like stickers, but there will be sticker freebies, and that’s a promise.

In addition, whilst we’re not selling copies of Forks there (too busy demoing Die of the Dead), we will be giving out any copies pre-purchased from our online store. Just select ‘Pick up at Airecon’ and save on p&p.

And in the evenings, well, hopefully I will just be playing game after game after game on Blood on the Clocktower. Only ever getting executed when good, as is traditional.

Hope to see you there!

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Post Protospiel Spiel

I was going to write my final post about making a card game today, but I’m still full of ideas and adrenaline, despite being exhausted, from Protospiel Notts yesterday. It was a genuinely fantastic event, big thanks to Chris Kingsnorth for organising it, and Alex for telling me about it (numerous times, weirdly sometimes I need persuading for obviously fantastic ideas). So I just wanted to praise it, and post some tips for myself when going to the next (there has to be a next).

The event itself seemed to be a huge success, definitely from my experience, but I didn’t speak to a single person there who was disappointed in any way. I’ve been to my fair share of playtesting focused events, meetups, and helped run and been on the playtesting stand at conventions, but the atmosphere when an entire day is devoted to it, and everybody is there ready to reciprocate all testing, was very different indeed. Whilst I was initially unsure on reciprocating play, given how game lengths vary so much, it worked perfectly. We played shorter games multiple times, and had snapshots or vertical slices of the longer games.

Also a big shout out to all the people there. Really nice to see a bunch of familiar faces, and everyone was incredibly friendly. Also polite to a fault, always offering to try out somebody else’s game before asking to playtest there’s. There was a real sense of community and working together to make these games the best they can be. And it worked- we’ve managed to improve our next game*, through playing, talking and, mainly, simplifying. Always simplifying.

Some thoughts and tips for my future self and anybody else going to a protospiel:

  • Take a bottle of water. There was free water there, but I still didn’t drink enough. And you’ll end up talking a lot. Also a snack.
  • Remember your book for taking notes. Obvious, but easily forgettable.
  • If you’ve got a game longer than an hour (by a fair margin), work out which part of the game you want playtested. Come up with a consistent setup for the mid-game or end-game if necessary. Otherwise put a time-limit on it and make sure everyone is aware of it.
  • If playing a shorter game, offer to play it multiple times. Especially if yours is twice the length.
  • Listen to all feedback, good or bad, and accept all comments. You might not agree with them, but take them on board. A player’s suggestions might not work, but their feelings are their feelings.
  • Try to find where the fun in the game is. If it’s heavy, choosing the options should be fun, if there’s combat it should be fun for both players, more casual, make sure the fun is clouded by rules.
  • Understand your audience and make it clear to the playtesters. It’s still worth getting all ranges of players to try your prototype, but don’t feel you need to eliminate randomness from your game just because your playtesters were very deep eurogamers. Just make sure they know what they’re playtesting first.
  • Don’t focus on the singular negative feedback! When playtesting Forks I’d have 9/10 people love the game, but my worrying mind would always go back to the 1 who didn’t. No game is universially loved, even Agricola is disliked by someone.
  • However, if multiple people dislike something, it probably needs changing. A question came up, “How do you know if a game is bad, or just not to the players’ tastes?” And the simple answer is the numbers of players feeling each way.
  • Watch people playing, and think about what to record beforehand. Time of game is the obvious one, but also see what people do and what choices they make. It’s good to have hard data, rather than ask them how many times they took a particular action.
  • When playing, try to think about how you are feeling- what are you finding fun, what is preventing you from having more fun, how much are you having to think.
  • When feeding back, don’t suggest changes you’d make without explaining why you’d make them. Some designers don’t want suggestions at all, some do, but the important thing is why you feel that change ought to be made.
  • Be honest but fair with your feedback. Don’t sugar coat anything, but remember that a designer has poured their love into the game before going to town on it.
  • When asking for feedback, try to be specific with your questions. The more specific you are, the better you can hone in on what improvements could be made.
  • Stay in touch with the designer! Share twitter handles or email addresses. Not only is this just a nice way of building the community, it means if an idea pops into your head later on you can let them know.

*Something beautiful coming this way soon

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Going Postal

You’ve got all the art, ran a successful Kickstarter and manufactured everything? It’s time to post everything out. This stage is going to be as simple as you make it, but it’s going to cost. We need to consider:

  • Keeping everything in good condition and packaging costs
  • Domestic and foreign postage costs
  • Posting goods abroad (including friendly shipping)
  • Logistics

First thing we need are postage costs. Again, this is primarily for a UK audience, so here are the Royal Mail costs:

Hopefully now you can see why thickness of the deck is important. If you’ve got 50 cards you’ll be about 150g. Expect to pay around £1.32 per game for domestic UK postage. If you’re thickness is 2.6cm, you’re paying £3.00 per game. Might not sound much, but for a small box £12 game that’s a bite either your losing, or your asking your customers to pay.

However, for cheaper and more efficient postage, I used https://www.parcel2go.com/services/letters-and-small-parcels Drop of addressed packages and they’ll post them, and for cheaper too. You don’t get proof of postage, but in return you’ll save hours. If you’ve got ~200 games to post in the UK they come recommended.

Internationally there are a lot of companies who will do friendly batch dispatching, but they simply aren’t worth it for games this size. Here are the international Royal Mail prices

Again, you want to be a large letter at this point, but your looking at around £5 per game no matter where it goes. We partially subsidised this for Forks, moreso for Americans. All batch dispatching companies started at £5 per parcel minimum plus an initial setup payment.

For packaging we went with thin layers of card shrinkwrapped to keep the game free from scuffs. This was measured out to keep the game as a large letter, and we did test posts to make sure everything arrived in perfect condition. For some reason we also sent the mini-expansion as a stretch goal, which meant trying to keep a small pack of cards from getting bent. For this we used glue dots and card, and I haven’t heard anything negative yet (let me know if there was an issue though, please!). Grey polythene postage bags kept the thickness razor thin.

For labels we did a mail-merge from the Kickstarter and just printed them onto labels from a regular printer. However, for international orders there are a few other things you’ll need:

A7 document wallets. For international orders you’ll need to enclose an invoice on the outside for any customs checks. For invoices I just did a mail merge again from Kickstarter with details of how much was paid, how much was paid in shipping, tax paid (0 when not VAT registered).

A CN22 form. These are easy but time consuming to fill in. You’ll be sick of them by the time you finish. It’s all self-explanatory except for HS Tariff number. For a card game the number is 95044000. Make sure you put UK as country of origin (assuming you’ve gone the self-manufacturing route). These you can pick up for free from any post office- just ask and they’ll give them to you. Better you fill them in elsewhere then on the counter.

The total value is there, and it’s probably worth talking about friendly shipping now. Until Brexit is done/revoked Europe is an unknown. Currently you can ship there with no tariffs in place. USA and Australia have high import thresholds which you are not going to breach with a small card game. Check for other types of game, but generally assume you are friendly to the USA and Australia until calculated otherwise. Canada is different. If your game is worth £10 it should be okay depending upon exchange rate. At £12 you’ll likely be above the threshold, and your customer will have to pay tariffs. Tread carefully! If you offer freindly Canadian shipping and charge £12 for the game, you’ll either have to lie on the CN22 and invoice (don’t do this), offer to refund any tarrifs and fees paid by your customers (not ideal at all, and technically not friendly shipping), or find a Canadian distributor (this will cost you more than you have got for the game).

Overall expect to pay ~£1.40 for domestic postage and ~£5.10 for international postage and packaging. If you charge for this on Kickstarter rather than a pledge manager, people will prefer it, but you’ll lose 10% of those postage costs as well. Feel free to subsidise these as much as you think you can, or shift costs to the game (I think people would rather pay £10 for a game and £2 postage, then £8 for a game and £4 postage, even though the total cost is the same), but make sure you’ve considered them. The worst Kickstarter results have been from ignoring p&p.

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Making Your Own Boxes

If you’re happy getting your boxes made, by either the printers making your cards or elsewhere, feel free to skip this post. Because here I’m just going to explain how I made the boxes. So you’ve probably already realised this post

via GIPHY

I first got the idea of making my own boxes after reading Jackson Pope’s site about handcrafting games. The link is here: http://creationandplay.blogspot.com/2018/05/how-to-craft-tray-and-lid-box.html and full of excellent advice, not all of which I’m about to copy here. The entire website is really useful for anybody interested in games design, production or publishing, so I recommend giving it a read.

I did things slightly differently to Jackson. First thing I did was purchase a Cricut Explore. There are machines which will cut card for you, and save an incredible amount of time when it comes to cutting out the boxes. They’re also useful for cutting out shapes and constructs for prototyping. Mine was second hand and cost around £200, and whilst it’s by no means essential, I wouldn’t have done it without one.

The net of my box was determined by two things- card size and UK postage designations. The maximum height, including packing, could be 2.5cm. Taking into account the thickness of the card I was using (75mm greyboard), I went with a length of 89mm for the box (91mm for the lid); width of 65mm for the box (67mm for the lid), and height of 19mm for the box (17mm for the lid). The 2mm allowed the lid to fit whilst still being a snug fit, and the gap in height meant it could be gripped from below.

The Cricut design is here: https://design.cricut.com/#/design/151555166 (that’t the first design I’ve linked to, so let me know if it doesn’t work). With a simple cut around the perimeter and score the rectangle in the middle. Here’s an image of it:

I went through a number of iterations before landing on this. Hence the name of the file.

The Cricut itself worked a charm. Except when it didn’t. But I learnt through going through a number of sheets of grey board: take care of your cutting mat and blade. I didn’t think about it, but I was using that machine to it’s fullest. I didn’t realise how badly until after a number of poor cuts I tried replacing the blade and mat. All the following cuts were like a hot knife through butter. My cut was a pressure of 300, done three times over, which gave me enough time to fold and stick together the previous box by the time the next one was done.

Once I’d made 300 boxes, it was time to cover them. Jackson recommends vinyl, and I did have some great success with matt laminated vinyl, but after some discussions with a local printing company they persuaded me to try matt laminated paper, and there was no difference. Well, actually, one- it cost about a third as much as the vinyl.

The matt laminated sheets were all printed and I picked them up. I had to cut them out, which was probably the most laborious part of the manufacturing process. I initially started by doing small wing cuts at the corners, keeping as much of the material as possible. Unfortunately, this resulted in some of the sides not sticking to the inside of the box, as there was too much material there. Instead I just cut rectangles form the corners, trying to match the outline of the box closely, whilst leaving a small amount of overlap to keep things structurally sound. The rest followed Jackson’s guide to a tee: start by placing the lid/box face down on the laminate, fold it onto the front and rear side. Fold the flaps around, cut the tops at the corners and fold the rest onto the inner part of the box. Then fold the longer sides up and over.

All of this took longer than actually cutting out the boxes. For one thing, with the Cricut doing all the work I was able to just sit back and watch tv (or SGDQ, which I managed to catch incredibly amounts of), but when wrapping the boxes I had to be focused all the time. But the results were worth it. If you want to make a 2-part lidded box then I hope this was helpful, and get a cricut.

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Printing the Cards

I’m writing this from a UK persepctive, so anybody reading this in the USA will probably have closer card printers.

There are three things you’ll need to get printed for your card game. The cards, a box and the rules. Some people combine 1 & 3 and print the rules on additional cards, which will save money at the expense of being able to have the rules on one sheet. If you get the cards printed through a company which does set numbers of cards and won’t change in single increments than this can be a money saver or impossible depending upon the card numbers.

When it comes to card numbers, one thing you need to consider is the size of the box required. In the UK if you need to post anything over 2.5cm the cost goes from a large letter to a small parcel. This includes the packing you need to include to make sure it gets to its destination in one piece. If you need over 60 cards and want to keep postage costs down you need to consider a double deck box, which will obviously increase the box price.

Once you know exactly how many cards you need you can start looking at the printing options. Obviously China is an option, but unlike larger games the savings on card games compared to EU printing aren’t that great, and outweighed by the need to have CE testing and shipping costs. Ivory Games Maker and Cartamundi are obvious UK printing options here, but unless you are printing a lot expect to pay significantly more for them. In the end I went with Ludocards. Their pricing is transparent, easy to see (instant quotes), all safety checks on the materials has been done and they were easy to communicate with. They were also a lot more competitive on price. The great thing about using them was when I was running the Kickstarter I could price in additional cards quickly for the stretch goals.

For the artwork it was just a matter of using the templates provided. Photoshop is the easiest for me, so it was just a case of making sure the bleed etc was correct, then saving the whole thing as a multi-page pdf.

There are a few things to consider when using Ludocards:

  • The tuck boxes aren’t great. For my promo copies I didn’t get them laminated, which may have made a difference, but the box quality was what made me want to make my own. I’ll talk more about making my own next time, but definitely check out the tuck box quality before deciding upon using it to sell. I can’t talk about the other boxes as I never ordered them. One good thing about this was I knew that my boxes would be considered large letters instead of small parcels (the postage costs of which was untenable).
  • You need to ask via email for things such as spray varnishing, which is free, but something I expected as standard. If you’re aware of this it’s no problem though.
  • Additional leaflets are expensive for what they are. This is understandable as it does complicate the manufacturing process somewhat, but you can get them printed elsewhere for a fraction of the price. We’re talking 0.85 euro vs 0.10 euro per leaflet.
  • If you are getting them printed cards only, it actually isn’t always cheaper to get them printed in sets. When I needed sets of 60 cards, it was actually cheaper to get them printed in sets of 120. This changed depending upon the total sets I wanted, with the cheapests varying between 60, 120, 180 and 240 depending upon the numbers. We’re talking a few pence per set, but if you’re on a budget that adds up, heres an example of a spreadsheet I made to work it out:
Luckily I like spreadsheets
  • Don’t forget to add the 22% tax, unless you’re VAT registered (which, unless you expect to sell a lot of your game, it doesn’t really make sense to be if you can avoid it (disclaimer- I am not an accountant))
  • Brexit. God knows what’s going to happen here, but on the flip side if you manufacturer in the EU and the UK you won’t get hit with US China tarrifs.

I had my cards printed at Ludocards, made the boxes myself, and had the rules leaflets printed at an online printing company. I’ll go over making a box next post, as it’s quite detailed, but leaflets are suprisingly easy- any leaflet printing company will give you quotes instantly. Your rules leaflet should fold up to be the size of your cards and printed double sided. For costs I paid a little over £25 for 400 rules leaflets.

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