First we have to say thar this article is gloomier than usual, it talks about the worst accident that has ever happened to Post Scriptum in 17 years of career, which is only the latest of a long series of accidents that have hit all the supply chains in the world. Nevertheless, in the end you’ll find a sparkle of hope which confirms that we are determined not to give up or get discouraged, we will continue to do our work, which we love very much.
Here we go again.
The finish line was in sight: Shogun no Katana’s launch seemed near, it could even be possible for Modena Play fair, that takes place at the end of May. Everything was planned for the delivery of the boxes, and we were looking forward to touching our years’ worth of work, admiring the miniatures, get a whiff of the freshly printed cards smell…
When this happened –> https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/19/china/shanghai-covid-lock...
As you can imagine we had entrusted the production of most of Katana’s materials to a Chinese company, with their offices in Shanghai, the region that is now in complete lockdown.
Obviously, we are first and foremost devastated for the drama that our Chinese colleagues are living, who are being forced to live in fenced houses to prevent them from going out, but even though we can’t compare our situation with theirs, we are also experiencing serious problems.
First of all, we have no clue about when this situation is going to be over. Then, even if they reopened shortly, we can’t predict neither when the production is going to be back at normal pace, nor when our games will be produced or when they will actually be shipped (you won’t be surprised to hear that Katana is not the only game that is in queue to be printed).
It is not sure if we will manage to publish it by Essen 2022, and this is some horrible news for us, as we had already planned a great stand and we now must completely change our plans.
We are sorry about this situation and we completely understand how frustrating it is for our backers and for those who are looking forward to buying it in their favourite shop. We, as boardgames enthusiastic and as Katana’s “parents” couldn’t wait to play with a game for which we have worked so hard and so passionately, from game development to the obsessively thorough care for the materials.
For us as entrepreneurs, this unforeseeable delay gave a serious blow to our business, which relies a lot on this game. We can keep going thanks to a diversified strategy and many collaborations, but we must admit that we are living a time of discouragement and worry for our business.
As we already mentioned in this article, games that are launched on Kickstarter are almost exclusively produced by Chinese companies, for almost all boardgame publishers in the world, and not only because it is more affordable: the companies that we work with have a highly structured business, specifically thought for board games production, with high-tech solutions, especially for the creation of miniatures.
The downside is, as you probably already understood, is that we rely completely on one or two suppliers (for Katana we have one for the miniatures and one for the rest) and when something like this happens there’s nothing you can do.
But here’s the sparkle of hope: as you know, Post Scriptum is the dream of a lifetime, and we won’t let a production delay, no matter how serious, bring us down. We know that the delivery is guaranteed: the advance payments have been paid and the funds for the balance are secured. We only need to be more patient.
It is time for us to find more sustainable alternative solutions, such as new European (or why not American) suppliers, even for more complex materials in our games.
It is not an easy choice, because the costs are higher, the technology is less advanced, and because our Chinese colleagues have proven to be extremely professional, and we have built a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
This is also part of managing a business: predicting how the wind is going to change, unfurl the sails in the right direction to expeditiously sail towards future projects.
We would like to ask you a question: in order to produce somewhere else, we have to use fewer plastic miniatures and more cardboard and wood. What do you expect from our games in this sense? What entices you in a game that doesn’t have miniatures? Printed meeples, paper goods, many boards on the table? We would like to hear your opinion in order to create your ideal game, with the highest quality in reasonable times.
Hit us up on our social media, we can’t wait to hear from you.
And subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
This is a BGG copy of the official blog of Post Scriptum Games. Twitter: @Mario_Sacchi_PS and @PScriptum_games
Archive for A publisher's story
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Crowdfunding has definitely pushed boardgames towards an unexpected and interesting direction. We noticed an interesting fact that boardgames are amongst the most financed products on Kickstarter: in such a growing market, supported by relatively small publishing houses, this pre-financing thrust makes it possible for game developers to experiment and to offer backers – hence buyers – high quality products, with excellent materials and great attention to the aesthetics.
Post scriptum was one of the first few to try it in Italy: our products are particularly suitable, thanks to a loyal fanbase who sees us as a good publisher of games for experts. Kickstarter and Gamefound are also excellent tools to give our games a promotional boost.
Crowdfunding is a smart way for small publishers to add value to their games, while paying attention to details and speaking directly to the target market with a tailored campaign.
But what happens when we decide to create a crowdfunding campaign for one of our games?
We need to think about it in a different way from a traditional publication, simply having good experience in the publishing field is not enough (we already explained how difficult a Kickstarter campaign is here).
Before starting the campaign, the game’s rules must be completed. At this stage we free our minds to find unique and fun solutions to expand the game:
–productive and aesthetically pleasing ideas (such as Shogun no Katana’s miniatures, suggested by the author Federico Randazzo);
–gameplay ideas and expansions (such as the expansion included in Katana and the campaign mode).
Then we develop a structured business plan, where we plan:
–costs of the material for the base game, any additions that we might foresee for stretch goals and the different prizes, and all the subsequent implications (for instance… do the add-ons fit in the box?);
–the set-up of the Kickstarter page;
–the promotion of the campaign on our channels.
At this stage, we complete all these ideas for the campaign: obviously we need most of the illustrations to be ready to design promotional content and videos; for the most complex materials we create detailed mock-ups that can give an idea of what we want to offer our backers. Then we decide most of the additional rules and the expansions.
And, finally, we get to the best part: the campaign!
“You commit yourself… then you see”. (Napoleon)
The campaign is a very delicate moment, it is exciting, stressful, and everything can change according to backers’ reaction, their responses, and their ideas.
It can happen that just changing the order of the features shown on the page, contributions suddenly go up.
It can happen that a user comes up with a canny idea for a stretch goal and we implement it on the spot.
It can happen that we need to constantly adjust the promotions that we show every day and the goals that we want to achieve.
Just like in a sport competition, preparation is necessary, but it’s not enough, everything evolves in that moment.
Now, after 3 increasingly more successful crowdfunding campaigns, we have a solid structure and we get ready for future campaigns by discussing with the authors about more and more engaging and a ambitious ideas that we could implement in our Placentiagames. More and more often, authors who suggest games to us already think about the crowdfunding campaign, suggesting interesting materials or game design ideas that increase the value of the final product.
One thing is for sure, without our backers’ support and advice, Placentia games wouldn’t look as nice and wouldn’t be as well-finished as we think they are. We wouldn’t be able to give the same value to the design choices if we were to sell them directly on the traditional market. In one word we wouldn’t be able to DARE, or if you prefer, we wouldn’t have as much FUN and create more and more ambitious games.
Without you, Placentia Games wouldn’t exist, and for this reason we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because you make it possible for us to create games in which we really believe, to have a structure where we can experiment and to raise the quality bar. THANK YOU!
Do you want to know what the next Placentia game is? Follow us on our Telegram channel!
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A few months ago, we had the chance to tell you about the difficult production situation in the board games universe (we talked about it here!) but many of you asked us more generic questions about our production work.
Here’s a series of FAQs we received during the life of Post Scriptum.
1) When does the actual production work start for a game that is being developed?
We start the printing process when the game is basically complete. It can happen that the rules’ translation isn’t finished, but it is quite a rare condition. But it can happen to send some components to be manufactured in advance, such as, miniatures, or wooden parts, which require a longer printing process in comparison to other material, and are always the first things that are completely designed. On the other hand, the carboard parts need more time to create the perfect design composition (and, among other things, they often represent precisely the wooden figures and this is another reason why they must already be definitive).
Sometimes, we had to ask our suppliers to replace a file very close to the actual printing day, maybe we realised there was a mistake, but luckily this hardly ever happens!
2) Who is involved in production?
Let’s start from the author, who normally doesn’t deal with publishing. However, we want them to have the chance to give their opinion, and to be able to follow every step of the process, giving their approval, in fact we have added this condition to the standard contract.
Then, first of all, there are two professionals who are involved: the one who deals with illustrations and the one who deals with the design.
Illustration is a very delicate topic: the most wanted artists are in high demand, and not everybody is able to create images in every desired style. In our case we have an in-house illustrator, Sara, who illustrates many of our works, but she can also choose different artists if the game requires a different style, or as it often happens, she simply doesn’t have time to illustrate all the games. Sara’s opinion, as a matter of fact, has been fundamental for Mario, Tambu and Matteo to choose Giorgia Lanza as illustrator for Shogun no Katana.
The illustration work starts from a concept that has to be developed, and this process requires at least a month of research, in which we keep on evaluating new drafts.
Talking about the graphic design, i.e. the creation of all the elements which don’t need to be drawn, such as icons, and the layout of cards and rules, we generally work with Paolo Vallerga, from Scribabs. Graphic design requires a lot of experience in the board games world, because, on top of the appearance, you need to keep into account the functionality of the components, the icons’ readability, the clarity of examples in rulebooks… it is a particularly important aspect of the game’s production, so much so that we organise specific playtests to understand the feeling of the game using its components and the design. For some specific cases we rely on 3D modellers, to create miniatures, like in the case of Alan D’Amico for Shogun no Katana’s characters.
Then we contact both Chinese and European suppliers, according to our requirements, to create all the materials.
3) How are all the parts, such as the cards and the punch-out sheets created?
Without going into details, as it’s not our job, we can say that cards are printed onto very big sheets, which are then cut out by a grid of blades. The grid is structured to have a standard size, like poker cards.
Punch-out sheets are made by cutting cardboard with custom blades, which sometimes are handmade.
All materials are then entrusted to the packaging company, and in the end, everything is sent to the warehouses who eventually will send them to final players (in our case, our Kickstarter’s backers) or to distributors or specific shops.
Do you have any more questions for the Post Scriptum team? Write to us on our social media pages and subscribe to our Telegram channel to be updated on all our blog articles!
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Our job is not made only of games to develop and of boxes to fill with cardboard tokens and meeples. For a game publisher it’s also fundamental to build good relationships and to create strict collaborations which often turn into beautiful friendships.
For this, we think we’re lucky: in the gaming clubs where we play every week, we had the opportunity to meet people who are passionate gamers, who recognized the value of our products and they have become real fans of Post Scriptum, loyal supporters and tireless testers. Some of them started to create games, and with great pleasure we supported them with our experience, tested their prototypes and gave development advice.
Danilo Festa, one of our trusty play-testers in the years has become an all-round game designer, who can develop both complex games and fun party games (he is the author of Pazzaparola, the latest amusing card game published by Post Scriptum!).
One day in May 2019 he asked us to try a new game that he had created, a Roll & Write transposition of Florenza, which we immediately tried. Not only it fully convinced us, we even decided to publish it by the end of the same year, with the title: Florenza Dice Game!
But what did we like of Florenza Dice Game? Danilo was great at converting the original game into a portable version which is quick to set up, but also keeping the original flavour and complexity. Opposite to many Roll & Write games on the market, Florenza Dice game is a real Euro Game, challenging and full of possible strategies, which requires one hour of intense playing.
Florenza Dice Game is a great alternative to its predecessors, with the advantage that it can be set up in literally 5 seconds!
The decision to publish the game after only a few months from the first test forced us to speed up development and production times, but we had two big advantages: on a development level, the set-up speed and the game duration allowed us to try the game in many occasions and try it even several times on the same night, thanks to playtesters who were willing to play more than one game in a row, and to the many players who were drawn to the tables and were curious to try the prototype; on a publishing level we had an extensive archive of illustrations that we could use, created for the previous games of the Florenza series, reducing times (and costs!) of production.
During the production stage we worked a lot together with Paolo Vallerga from Scribabs to find the most ergonomic solution, in order to keep the players’ boards as clear and easy to use as possible. We also considered to add some erasable boards, instead of paper blocks, but we soon realised that players love keeping the sheets of paper with the results of their games!
We decided to add pencils with eraser to the box because, even though the game doesn’t entail erasing anything on the boards, playtests pointed out that it was possible for players to make mistakes or to want to undo their last moves.
Short anecdote about this: we had asked the printing factory to add 4 pencils inside each box, but by mistake they added only one. This forced us to contact another company near our warehouse to open all the boxes and add the missing pencils, and to cellowrap them again. This goes to prove that the publishers’ job can have problems even for games that are apparently easy to manage!
In the end, in a few months, we developed a game that we’re really proud of, that is fun and challenging, and I would easily recommend for game nights. After this great experience, the next Post Scriptum game has been created to reduce the set-up time to the minimum and the author is another dear friend, and tireless playtester for our games. We’ll annnounce it soon!
Follow us on telegram to read about all the secrets of new Post Scriptum games and their creators!
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In the last article, (you can read it here) we had the chance to talk about Florenza X Anniversary’s Game Development. What are the choices and the changes that we made to this edition of Placentia Games’ best seller?
For the Florenza’s anniversary edition we wanted to step up the game and bring it to the level of our most recent production, and adding more functional game ergonomics, with clearer iconography and a more readable layout of the elements.
Our aim was to develop a Kickstarter worthy product, while skipping the crowdfunding platform itself: our fans demand for a re-print was really high, so this was the right game with which we could try this approach (you proved us right… there are only a few copies left before it sells out!)
First of all, it was time we freshened up the materials, replacing the obsolete cubes with prettier, modern, wooden components.
Tambu created different versions of the molds for the resources (wood, fabric, iron, spices, marble, and gold), which we presented to our suppliers. They sent us the samples that we used to make a decision for the final shapes, then we updated the games graphics with those created by Sara.
The workers have been updated too, in this case, Tambu had a brilliant intuition: we couldn’t create a satisfying mold of a whole figure, so he suggested using a recognizable icon that could be functional to the setting, Cosimo de Medici’s profile portrait. An idea that fit perfectly the game and with an impactful component that’s also pleasant to handle.
Moreover, we also replaced the notes, that players considered a bit old-fashioned, with shield-shaped tokens, which are smaller and easier to handle. Opposite to what happened with the first edition, now we have providers that guarantee the quality of these components.
Moving on to graphics and illustrations, we had two main needs: on one hand we had to update everything according to the newly added rules, on the other hand, we had to solve a few readability and clarity problems. In particular, Mario and Matteo, who know the game inside—out, followed the restyling to make sure that the most important details were in the most visible positions.
We also carefully designed the iconography, in order to harmonize all the elements of the board, the tiles and the district boards. For instance, now, all the elements that generate income are highlighted in purple on all the game’s components.
The main board has been re-built too in order to make each element more visible and easier to read for all the players, we took the opportunity to reinforce the setting: we asked Sara to draw up some details that we love, such as the paintbrush, the hammer and the geometry compass, which help the players to fit the shoes of the big renaissance designers. We think she managed really well to maintain a stylistic coherence with the rest. Moreover, Paolo Vallerga from Scribabs, our trusted graphic designer, carried out a great “sorting and reusing” job, with all the previous illustrations from the previous editions, and the Card Game, to pick those that are more suitable to the new style.
For what concerns the Workshop tiles, we decided to simplify their aspect, and make them more visible and clear, with identification colours, so that all the players could have a good global vision, mostly on the opponents player boards, which is a fundamental aspect for the gameplay. It wasn’t an accident that we moved District Workshops to the top part of the district boards, i.e. closer to the centre of the table, where the other players can see them.
It took us a year to develop Florenza X Anniversary, including the updates to the game design and the graphics and illustrations restyling. It was almost like creating a game from scratch, however, we’re very proud and happy, we are sure that now Florenza, which we believe a jewel of eurogames, has fulfilled its full potential, and is up-to-date with market’s current production.
What do you think? Do you agree with our choices? Let us know what you think on social media and subscribe to our Telegram channel not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
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I must admit that in 2020 I was too naive.
I thought that I was privileged because I had the chance to work from home every day, carrying out loads of projects, as usual, and I still think I am privileged. Of course, cancelling all the game fairs was a terrible blow for us, especially due to the lack of B2B meetings with clients, suppliers, and reviewers etc., however, on the other hand, the online sales rocketed and probably the number of players in the world increased too, with people approaching our hobby thanks to forced lockdowns. And to top it all off, Shogun no Katana’s Kickstarter Campaign had been really successful.
For this reason, I naively thought that the pandemic didn’t have such a big effect on our job. Well… 2021 brought me back to the sad reality.
Probably, readers of a blog like this one have already read many posts on Facebook or Twitter where publishers or other industry insiders complain about this year’s productive situation, because everything is slower and more complex than usual and because shipping costs from China have increased unpredictably (in the scale of 500/600%), with terrible consequences on publishers’ business plans, especially in relation to their Kickstarter campaigns.
This alone would already be a terrible news, especially because the world of games publishing is mainly made up of small companies (even though in many cases they don’t look small), that would struggle to take such a sudden unexpected blow, and it might be impossible for them to recover. In our case we don’t know yet how things will go: considering that Shogun no Katana is not ready yet for shipping, and that quotes change on a daily basis, we don’t know what the future holds for us. We know that we are a solid company and that we can absorb higher expenses than what we had predicted, however, we won’t put our mind at ease until we know how much higher the expenses will be.
Obviously, this solution will have consequences on our games in the coming years. At the moment we’re working on three new games that are going to be launched on Kickstarter and I can’t hide that I am a bit more nervous than usual (as if I wasn’t nervous enough in general, when launching a new campaign).
“Why don’t you produce in Europe so?” You might wonder. First of all, it’s not always possible for technical reasons, because some components (such as miniatures, but also many more) are created only in East Asia. But it is true that we could import only those components and print everything else here, but here’s the side effect: because producing in China is difficult, all the European suppliers at the moment are overworked and have ridiculously long printing queues. For example: to carry out our third-party consultancy work we have been working closely with different printers, one in particular who prints at least 30,000 boxes a year for us and had guaranteed certain delivery times for 2021 if we agreed to print more (which we did). During the first quarter they actually met the deadlines, but in April they emailed us communicating that they would push the deadline back one month. This implied a considerable change in our plans, but nothing too drastic, because we had planned our productions well in advance and we were ready to face this type of issue. The problem was that a week later they pushed back the deadlines one more month, saying that they weren’t accepting any more orders for 2021, except for their main customers, which included us. To sum up, we ended up closing all the productions of the year with our main supplier by July, which had never happened before.
The problem is that, usually, our consultancy work receives more requests in the last months of the year, with the request of receiving the games by Christmas. Actually, our main strength has always been being able to ensure extremely short turnaround times, and making “miracles” which would otherwise be impossible. It took us years to set up a quick and efficient production chain, based on the fact that, putting together the works of many clients we have more commercial power than what they have as individuals. We still have this strength, because we also work with other providers who are interested in receiving big orders like ours, but it is obvious that any change to normal routines imply extra work, and it creates a queue for them, who, in turn have to increase their turnaround times. And of course all this has an impact also on the production of new games for our catalogue.
This is the sorest point because planning future publications is already very complicated and risky, especially when you have to choose the print run, and to this we had already met further difficulties due to the impossibility of meeting our partner in fair, but now we aren’t sure of when our games can reach the destination or how much it will cost to produce them.
Even on games that were planned and that I considered “done and dusted” there were delays, because all (all!) the providers say that paper provision is more difficult and more expensive than it has ever been, I tell you for sure that this situation is unprecedented, certainly in my 16 years of activity with Post Scriptum.
Publishing a game is long and difficult, and often it’s also very stressful. You have to put together the work of different professionals, taking care with passion and precision every detail of the rules, the art, the materials, the promotion, and this year we face the unprecedented risk that this work is jeopardised by external factors that we could have never foreseen.
For what concerns Post Scripum, I can ensure you that business is moving forward and that our games will still be published, but please note that for every game that we’ll publish in the coming months there should have been at least another that should have been published and is still waiting for better times.
What pushes us to go forward is the enthusiasm that you show for every Kickstarter campaign and for every publication, so please continue supporting us, and all of your favourite publishers!
And subscribe to https://t.me/postscriptumgames not to miss any of Post Scriptum’s articles!
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“If you aim high, you might reach above the clouds”
Shogun no Katana, by Federico Randazzo and P.S. Martensen, is our most ambitious project branded Placentia Games: an epic work that took 5 years of development alongside different projects, a massive kickstarter campaign with more than 2000 backers and approximately 150.000€ raised. We are more than happy with these numbers.
What made us believe so much in Shogun no Katana and invest so much time in it?
The reason why we fell in love with this game was that every idea, since the very first draft, was oozing feudal Japan vibes, with fluid and elegant dynamics, like in Hokusai’s most fascinating works. Well, on top of the fact that we loved the game itself!
We wanted the players to feel like real katanas forger and to convey the essence of this noble art with ancient origins.
Aiming at holding this vision throughout the whole development, since the beginning we decided to give great value to our settings, providing every rule and every component with a philological meaning. Tambu carried out extensive research, studying clothes, tools, and dynasties’ coats of arms, in order to make everything believable and respectful of the Japanese world.
We needed some help for this challenge (because understanding the rich Japanese tradition is a Titanic effort!), so we asked Dai Kurahara, professor at Tokyo Denki University, expert researcher of Japanese documents, with a great passion for war games, and Silvia Teodora Vallerga, who graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in the history of Japan and who currently lives in Tokyo. Thanks to Dai and Silvia we avoided mistakes that would compromise the setting credibility: for example, we edited our noble women’s illustrations, because we had drawn them with their hair tied up, as Western people tend to imagine Japanese women, but historically, it was actually compulsory for women of high status, to keep their hair down. Moreover, we received precious advice for the selection of the four main resources for the creation of katanas.
Considering this philological process, it might seem weird that the idea of adding miniature statues came up only halfway through development: it was Federico Randazzo himself, during a gaming exposition, who thought about changing the original wooden components with miniature statues.
This turned out to be the last missing piece that make Shogun no Katana complete: the original tokens did not do justice to Giorgia Lanza’s meticulous work, the illustrator who found the perfect balance between modern taste and traditional style. We had to make the game characters such as the Monk, the Geisha and the Samurai more real.
When the Kickstarter campaign was about to start, we decided to stop everything and take more time to face this challenge.
But this is another story, we are going to talk about it in the next article
We cannot know if players will love Shogun no Katana as much as we do. But one thing is sure: we have put in all the energy and all the effort to finish it, perfect it, make it polished and elegant, both in terms of gameplay and the experience. We hope that whoever decides to dive into the Far East to craft and polish the legendary katanas will feel all this. For us it was certainly a long journey that made us grow and find new potential – in the world of board games but also in our inner world.
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