Forks- Post KS thoughts

Now that Forks has been Kickstarted, manufactured and sent to all backers, it’s time for a look back at how the entire process went. Not the design- I’ve already written about that (and as with most games it’s just about playtesting, playtesting, playtesting), but about launching the Kickstarter, promoting it, making it (oof!), delivering it, and everything that went with it. Whilst there were a whole bunch of things I could have done better, or at least more efficiently, overall it was a great success, and one which was suprisingly do-able. A number of people have approached me since, and asked questions about how the whole thing works, always because they’ve got an idea for a game in their head. Now, I had a lot of people to thank for helping me, but there was still so much I had to work out myself. From the best way to make boxes, and where things could be sourced from, to legalise such as CE marking and shipping invoices. I intend to write a guide to help anybody to produce a small box card game for cheap, and hopefully Kickstart it successfully. Or at least let people learn from what I did, whether the mistakes or successes.

However, before all that, here’s a quick overview of some of the basic successes and regrets which happened before the Kickstarter:

Success! Despite not getting a proper gaming table at Airecon, I was able to demo it a few times there, give away demo copies to reviewers, and hang around with great people who’ve gone on to have major successes on KS. It’s a fantastic convention and I simply couldn’t have made Forks without it.

Regret 🙁 Not getting a demo table at Airecon. This is my own fault, and one that comes from prevaricating too much, rather than cracking on and booking everything. I’m too worried about what would happen if I didn’t need it, that I miss out when it actually comes to needing it. Be confident and book things in time.

Success! Had a decent internet presence in a certain corner of the internet world called rllmuk. However, this is more because that’s my online home rather than any concerted effort to drive support. A better success would be getting advice from Nick Welford on how to drive Facebook traffic, and went from literally nothing to pretty much nothing, but still made progress and got a good number of sales through FB.

Regret 🙁 Despite reading the BGG designer forums all the time, I neglected to post in there about Forks, which was a missed opportunity. I had a blog, but did little to engage with the people on the forums, even though I have done for umpteen other games I never published. Not really sure shy, probably the fear of finally producing something to be judged upon, but definitely a missed opportunity.

Success! Getting prototypes out in time for reviewers.

Regret 🙁 Leaving it so late and paying a hefty fee to get their production expedited.

Success! The artwork. George was fantastic, and despite being on holiday in Australia during the time art was being discussed, I still enjoyed this work. No regrets on this one. Seriously couldn’t be happier with it.

So those are a few things about the campaign. Finance wise it made a tiny profit, not bad considering I’m including fees for my card making machine and webpage etc. It does give me a loooow amount per hour I worked for if broken down as a wage, but I successfully released a game, which is more than money. I mean, my goal at the start was just to not accidentally go bankrupt, so I’m happy with profit. Especially as it gives an excellent foundation for the next game!

The End of the Beginning

Over the last few days I have dispatched almost all copied of Forks. A few copies have been held back for people who need to confirm there address, but otherwise over 250 copies are winging their way over the world, to the US, Australia, Europe and plenty more throughout the UK. It’s been a long journey (much more time spent wrapping boxes then I thought there would be!) but it’s almost done.

Obviously, nothing’s ever really done, and with the fulfillment of Forks finished it means new things can emerge! For one, there’s now a shop on this website (and eventually on Amazon), https://radical8games.com/store/, where people can buy Forks (plus the KS included mini-expansion). The postage is still subsidised, thought not to the level in the Kickstarter. So if you enjoy the game and want to get it as a present, or are interested but missed the KS, now you can order more copies. Whilst I’m relishing a break from the manufacturing process, we do have a limited number of additional copies from the print run, so if you really want a copy order when you can, as I don’t know when (if) more will be made.

Finally I’m going to write a ‘How to kickstart, manufacturer and fulfill a simple card game’ piece for this site and Boardgamegeek, as a lot of brilliant people have asked for advice, and the truth is it’s easier than you might think. That might take a while though, so don’t expect it immediately. Otherwise, keep an eye out for our next game, and if you like Forks please let us know, either through messaging or leave us a review/comment on Boardgamegeek!

Thanks, Mark

Working 9-5

It’s been over a month since my last blog update, so here;s a quick update to say the reason for that is because I’m working on getting Forks made. Cards are printed, rules are being proofread (here: main instructions stretch goal instructions) and boxes are being made. Here’s a quick show of how the boxes are coming along:

First sheets of greyboard are cut into nets for boxes

Then these are taped into boxes

Then the laminated wrap is cut to shape

This is applied to the box, which strengthens the sides and protects it (as well as looks good)

Resulting in the final box!

Designer Diary 8: Choice Art

Whilst I liked the logos created for the companies, I didn’t want the box art just to be a composition of all the logos. Instead I wanted something which represented the game’s theme of offering a choice. I also wanted something bold, crisp and abstract.

I posted the job up on conceptart.org. I was reassured by the number of other games companies posting for freelance art requirements there, and I wanted to make sure I was offering a fair wage for the art I wanted. It was an incredibly easy process, and I had plenty of applicants. In the end I went with George Adams, for one thing he’s in the country, making communication much more convenient, and I loved the style of art on his portfolio.

Looking back over the work he did for me- drafts, retouches, colour palletes etc- it’s easily been one of the best outlays of money in this whole project. I’ve collected some, but not all, of the prototype box art imagery to show how it developed. Along the way I explained the theme of embezzling money from companies, but you can see how a representation of giving a choice became central.

In current news we are less than a week away from our Kickstarter launching! Make sure you check back next Tuesday to not miss the early bird, or sign up to our newsletter!

Designer Diary 7: Asymmetric Abilities

It was a playtest session earlier this year which persuaded me to finally include Abilities in the base copy of the game (or at least, the playtesters did). I’d originally come up with variable player powers (abilities) when I was thinking how I could extend this into a fully fledged Kickstarter, and whilst everyone had fun playing with them, I was concerned about them distracting from the simplicity of the game as it stood. It was a needless worry. The Ability cards introduced a rambunctious sense of excitement to proceedings. And in most cases completely eliminating issues with calculating from almost perfect information. A lot of these cards came from suggestions, or players misunderstanding rules, such as investing cards face down. Situations in which I thought, that’s not the right way to play but it would be interesting if you played like that.

The interesting nature of ability cards like these come in their asymmetry. They lead to different ways of playing, and help enable suprises from other players’ actions. To this end it’s important to keep them as straightforward as possible- you don’t want players to be attending to everyone else’s powers, but rather have them aware of them without it being a focus. The other option with different powers is how much of a game changer they are to be. I consider this difference in terms of Agricola and Feast for Odin.

In Agricola your occupations and minor improvements will massively change your strategy. Each occupation should elicit ‘ooohs’ from your opponents as they becom envious of your new power. Every single one has an impact on the game, or isn’t worth playing. They are big influential powers that only one player can use. The space for playing them is highly contested. In the first edition there were some crazy imbalances.

In Feast for Odin, occupations are small things which might alter one or two of your moves. Occasionally they’ll hint at a direction, but on the whole they’re small fry. Sometimes you’ll just play them for the few points they are worth. But they’re all so milquetoast they’re essentially balanced.

For me, if players have random asymmetric powers, I want them to be impactful. I want a game with them to feel different to the game without. To this end, powerful abilities are the way I went. Those abilities which weren’t having an impact have gone. But I also wanted to keep them streamlined- which means that they tend to be small rules tweaks. At first they might look straightforward and small- being able to discard a card instead of investing one seems like something minor. But through playing the game players see exactly how that small tweak can have a great impact.

Designer Diary 6: ETC Industries

The theme of Forks came about quite early on, during the Wibbell competition. Why would the cards with the lowest values in the middle be negative, well because they’re being audited for having all their investment mysteriously dissapear. Post-competition I needed to decide upon my companies, frst choice- comic or realistic? I went realistic, partly to step away from other games with businesses where they don’t look like businesses. I also didn’t want a central theme to them all, such as animals or foods. I wanted all the businesses to be as distinct as possible.

An early discussion with Tyler led to a number of names and ideas for businesses, as well as logos, being conjured up. After a quick internet search it turned out all of them already exist. It turned out thinking up fake companies is more difficult then it might first appear. Especially when it came to a company with a three letter initialism ending with ‘Finance’ or ‘Insurance’. Seriously, if you pick three letters at random and add ‘Finance’ to the end, then they already exist.

After much thinking and scouring, 6 companies were created, including logos. The colours are all pastel colours, again to differentiate them from companies and logos already in boardgames, and to avoid classic colour-confused colours such as red/green. Additionally, most of the names try to describe the company in some way, or at least have another meaning.

For those wondering, Apidae is a type of Bee, after it was discovered pharmecutical companies with ‘bee’ and ‘pollen’ in the name already exist. That enables us to keep the hexagon (beehive inspired) but everyone who I’ve played it with pronounces it “‘appy day” which is fine by me. DTV is an initialisation for ‘drain tempering valve’ and Oxime is already a type of chemical compound, so no company in those areas would use those names. Or if they did they are ungoogleable. The wild rock dove is an ancestor to the pigeon (I belive, I am ready to be corrected by bird enthusiasts on that front), hence the connection to communication.

Even though we came up with 6 companies, after much playtesting, Box Resolute (what I would call a freight company) was dropped to 5-player, which won’t be in the base game (sticking to 2-4 players). But here was the logo anyway

I had the strangest compliment on each of these when I was on the Unlucky Frog podcast, and Josh said they were realistically ordinary. Just what I wanted. You can hear that here (along with some other stuff we chat about, including colonialism in games) https://unluckyfrog.podbean.com/e/for-forks-sake-featuring-mark-stockton-pitt-of-radical-8-games. If you haven’t heard it give it a listen- it was great fun to be on and they’re a great podcast.