Getting Art

pt 2 of how to publish a small card game

You’ve designed your card game, playtested it until it’s in a state you’re happy with, and you want to make it and sell it. One of the biggest obstacles to this is the art; where to source it from and how much it costs. If you’re already something of an artist yourself then excellent, but most of us can’t draw for toffee, so need to get it elsewhere. Hopefully some of these experiences regarding art are helpful.

  1. Art isn’t graphic design. Before you go looking for artwork ensure you understand what you want your cards to look like. For Forks I had a chat with some friends who suggested some looks, and we settled on a clear yet distinct look. This meant when I needed to source the artwork for the cards I could specify dimensions, colour and give as much detail as possible about what I needed.
  2. How much art do you actually need? If you’ve got ~50 cards, each with unique art, that is going to cost a lot. Consider ways to cut down on the art requirements per card. Can cards share the artwork, or zoom in on different parts of the same art? Can a change in colour help to differentiate? Does every card need a piece of artwork? Also, are you remembering art for the box and the back of cards? For Forks, we used the boxart for the art for the back of the cards, changing the colour and removing different parts depending upon the type of card. This allowed us to get the most out of the most expensive piece of art.
  3. Is it possible to use pre-existing art? If you like something, approach the artist and ask how much to use it commercially. This is what I did for some of the logos, and it should work out much cheaper than paying for commissions.
  4. Budget for a good artist for the most critical pieces. As I detailed here: https://radical8games.com/forks/designer-diary-8-choice-art/ unlike the logos on the card, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted for the box art, just something striking, clean and distinct. In this case I decided to budget much more for something which I would be discussing with the artist, rather than just telling them what I want. The results ended up being fantastic, and suitable for use not just on the box, but on the back of each card.
  5. Where to look. I used conceptart.org, which was a wonderful resource full of artists who actually listened to commission requests before pitching. Unfortunately that’s now dead. I’d now recommend Deviant Art for small commissions. If you offer a paying job you will be able to find someone to fit your budget. Just make sure you look at their previous work and how much they read your commission, because there are a number of artists there who reply to every commission offer no matter what. Other sites like ArtStation allow you to contact artists directly, but charge a fee for posting adverts.
  6. Write a contract before exchanging money or art. It doesn’t need to be filled with legalese, just a clear expectation of:
    • When you will pay (I did two payments- half up front with the rest to follow after milestones have been met)
    • The timescale you agree on, and what will happen if they’re not met
    • How many revisions you can expect, and what will happen if you exceed that number
    • What format you will receive the artwork in, and at what resolution if digital
    • Confirm that the art will be used for commercial purposes, and whether or not you want exclusivity of it.
  7. The cost will vary massively, and you should be able to find something to fit your budget. I don’t want to give a price here, because you’ll be able to find a hundred examples that prove me wrong. The more you can budget per art, the better it will be, but if you’re desperate to get lots of low quality pieces you will be able to do that (to a point), but at that stage it will feel exploitative. Better to think cleverly about your art requirements.

I hope I haven’t missed anything about the art, really it’s a case of knowing what you want, budgeting for as good art as you can get, and making sure yourartist also knows what you want. Let me know if I’ve missed anything out!

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What’s Stopping You?

pt 1 of how to publish a small card game

I was at a Van Gogh exhibition today, and the quote “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”, admittedly this was followed up by “The sadness will last forever”, but that initial quote still sums up the importance of taking a risk. And self-publishing your own card game is a big risk. So what’s stopping you?

Costs? The biggest cost will be artwork, followed by production of prototype copies for reviewers. Assuming a Kickstarter route, provided you have costed everything else up accurately you won’t pay out for anything else until you’ve got the money. As for the artwork, clever design is required- a card game requiring unique art on every card will be prohibitively expensive, but rarely is such a thing needed.

Contacts? It’s a myth that games publishing is some exclusive club you need to break into. All you really need is a facebook account and a willingness to approach people at conventions. Most people want to discuss there projects with each other, and there are always reviewers, podcasters and bloggers looking for games to review and designers to chat with. You just need to reach out to them.

Lack of confidence in your game? If you’ve designed a small card game, playtested it to a point where your happy with it and people enjoy it, you’ve nothing to be concerned about. You’ve already done so much more than other people in terms of games design, and if people enjoy it it’s by definition an enjoyable game. Some people won’t like it, but you can’t let that hold you back- even your favourite game is hated by someone, just don’t take negative comments personally.

The legal stuff? I’ll be writing primarily for UK designers, and am not a lawyer, but this was my main concern, and one which needed a bit of research, but the legal side of self-publishing is actually navigable. Labels required to be on the package, CE marking, starting a company- I’ll try and explain what I’ve done for these to ease other people through them.

Time? This one I can’t help with. Publishing Forks took all of my spare time over a period of months, and a good proportion of spare time outside of that. If you have lots of time commitments and can’t dedicate your time to self publishing, then it’s probably not for you. Especially as soon as you become customer facing on Kickstarter (although, I did manage to go on holiday in Japan for two weeks between Kickstarter and fulfillment, so you can have some time to yourself).

Inclination? If your not inclined to self-publish then don’t. You’d end up spending all of your time doing stuff you don’t like and it would drag.

So whilst there are some reasons for not self-publishing, there are more which can easily be overcome. Clearly if you want to go the publisher route there are loads of benefits to that- I’m not suggesting that self-publishing is objectively better, just wanting to help those people who want to (I loved the ability to keep control). I’m definitely no expert, just talking from experience. If you can think of any other reasons people might be reluctant to self-publish, or any other comments, please let me know!

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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!

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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

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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!

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Kickstarter finished loved!

Thanks to all backers, sharers, bloggers, podcasters, reviewers, play testers and supporters! We funded massively over our modest expectations. If you are interested, but missed the Kickstarter, or a retailer please send me an email at mark@radical8games.com and I’ll get in touch. Thanks

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Final 48 Hours for Forks on Kickstarter!

We have funded and hit all stretch goals. It’s been a fantastic journey, but the Kickstarter is now coming to a close. If you haven’t backed you have a got a limited time to do so and get the version which includes all stretch goals and Kickstarter exclusives.

Link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/radical8games/forks-a-card-game-about-embezzling-investing-and-c?ref=bpvvga

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Kickstarter is now Live!

A quick update today to announce we have launched on Kickstarter!

The link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/radical8games/forks-a-card-game-about-embezzling-investing-and-c?ref=project_build

For the first 48 hours Forks is just £10 with UK P&P included! Please check it out, especially if you like clever small box card games.

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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!

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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.

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