Self-Publishing The Hard Way - Highs And Lows
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Five years ago after a bad gaming experience, I decided I could do this game design lark. Five years later and my first game has been available for nearly a year and I'm making the last few copies. I've also got a second game by another designer in the pipeline.

Was it worth the endless hours of hard graft?
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1. Board Game: Mighty Empires [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:5937]
Board Game: Mighty Empires
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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It all started with a game of Mighty Empires about five years and a half years ago. My mate Tim had found his old copy in the attic and suggested that Dunk and I come down for a weekend to play the game. 'It takes a while.' said Tim. Boy, was he right. We played for thirty-six hours of game time. Stopping only to eat, sleep and relieve ourselves of the beers needed to make a game that long bearable. After thirty-five hours, Tim was the clear leader, with Dunk trailing him. I was getting creamed.

Then something insane happened, there was some kind of dragon event and all of a sudden I was in second place, with Tim a shadow of his former self - through no fault of his own. Screw that! We went home with the game unfinished.
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2. Board Game: The Christmas Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Christmas Game
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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That Christmas, I decided I would try and come up with a similar game that could play in an hour and a half. So I started scribbling and solo-ing a few early ideas.
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3. Board Game: 1000 Blank White Cards [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:3803]
Board Game: 1000 Blank White Cards
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I was play testing an early version against The Wife. After the game she recommended some kind of concealed strategy, she didn't like that everything in the game was visible - there were no real surprises possible. The next prototype featured strategy cards that have become one of the central components of the game, and one of my favourites.
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4. Board Game: Friends [Average Rating:3.99 Overall Rank:18943]
Board Game: Friends
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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Over the next year or so, I played the game a lot with my gamer friends. It changed often, sometimes even mid-game. But slowly it started to settle down. Fortunately, they were good enough friends that they could criticise the game without fear of hurting my feelings - the game got steadily better as a result.
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5. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2661]
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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I made several prototypes using foamcore and thick card for the tiles, coloured card for the cards and FIMO sculptures for the game pieces. Components came and went, and each prototype looked slightly more 'professional' than the last. Artwork was done by hand on or the computer, in some cases I painted with acrylics, some was pencil crayon.
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6. Board Game: Border Reivers [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:12898]
Board Game: Border Reivers
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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It's got a name! I was living in Newcastle upon Tyne at the time, and the Border Reivers were local history. The English/Scottish border had been a fairly lawless land in the middle ages, and I felt that theme fitted the mechanics nicely. Still, it was a bit pasted on!
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7. Board Game: Black Box [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3475]
Board Game: Black Box
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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The game settled down, and eventually I considered it finished. I slipped my prototype into a Tupperware box and left it alone for eighteen months.
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8. Board Game: Executive Decision [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:6339]
Board Game: Executive Decision
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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Last year I decided that I had a finished game - and it had sat in a Tupperware box for a year and a half. Time for it to see the light of day. I started using the Geek for research, and trying to price up components and select suppliers. I had limited funds so to make the game affordable I would have to do a larger print run than I was comfortable with (100) and do almost all of the construction by hand.
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9. Board Game: Blueprint [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
Board Game: Blueprint
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I chose my suppliers:
http://www.stressfreeprint.co.uk for the printing
http://www.craftcreations.co.uk for the box and tiles board
http://www.plasticsforgames.co.uk for the dice & card stands
http://www.game-components.com for the wooden pieces
http://www.staples.co.uk for the glue and packaging

And priced it up. I'd have to charge 30GBP a copy, towards the top end of game prices in the UK, but not ridiculous, and it is a hand-made game. I'd sign and number each copy as a sweetener.
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10. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:227]
Board Game: Modern Art
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I set about doing all the artwork for the game. I used Paint Shop Pro for all the drawing stuff, and wrote computer programs to overlay anything that need pixel-perfect alignment such as overlaid text. It took absolutely ages, several months at least. All the artwork was at 300dpi, so the files were huge, Paint Shop was very slow and every now and again it crashed.

Graphic design is not my strong point. Fortunately, my Dad is a graphic designer and artist (he did the box illustration), The Wife has a good eye for it and I could get some feedback on early attempts here on the Geek - thanks guys!
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11. Board Game: Play the Game [Average Rating:5.80 Unranked]
Board Game: Play the Game
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I held a playtesting event in a local pub and invited guys from the local games club along. I left them alone with the rules while I sat and watched, taking notes. I got a lot of good feedback which enabled me to significantly improve the explanation of the rules.

Plus, four out of seven of them ordered a copy. Mint
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12. Board Game: House Rules [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Board Game: House Rules
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I decided to do the rulebook in Microsoft Publisher. I was going to print the rulebook myself on a laser printer, and then staple it into a nice A5 booklet. To make it look a little more professional I decided to get the rulebook cover professionally printed in full colour.

Making the rulebooks was surprisingly complicated. I had to manaully back up the pages so they were double-sided - which I got wrong a few times. I also had to fold each sheet individually and then staple them with a long-arm stapler. I used clothes pegs to hold the sheets together while I was stapling them to try to get them lined up well with each other. It worked okay. Not great, but ok. Time to make a rulebook: 15 minutes.
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13. Board Game: Tiles [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:14913]
Board Game: Tiles
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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I had to construct the 72 triangular tiles myself from four sheets of A3 paper and a large sheet of 2mm thick greyboard.

This is an awful job. I'm doing it with 3M Display Mount spray glue (which covers everything - so I now have to do it in a friends garage with a massive dustsheet down) and a steel ruler and craft knife. I've cut myself numerous times, and if ever there was a recipe for Repetitive Strain Injury, it's cutting out 7,200 tiles with a craft knife. Time to make 72 tiles: 1 hour and 10 minutes
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14. Board Game: Wild Cards [Average Rating:5.10 Unranked]
Board Game: Wild Cards
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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The cards start out as two A3 sheets of 300gsm card. I have to cut 25 cards out of each sheet with a steel ruler and craft knife and then round all of the corners.

Fortunately I got my hands on a very expensive corner-rounding tool from www.chilvers-repro.co.uk. It could do a stack 1cm thick at a time, and seeing I had to do 20,000 corners to do it would speed things up a lot. Time to make a deck of cards: 30 minutes.
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15. Board Game: Fun-in-a-Box: The Dr. Seuss Matching Game [Average Rating:3.89 Unranked]
Board Game: Fun-in-a-Box: The Dr. Seuss Matching Game
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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The box I made out of 1mm thick greyboard. I had to glue the artwork on to it. The printer recommended using 135gsm paper as it wouldn't wrinkle (like thinner paper might), but to be honest that was the thinnest he could print on, so I suspect an ulterior motive. Still, it works fine.

I glue the label on using water-down PVA glue. I've got to hold it in place for 30 or so seconds for it to bind, but the glue can be wiped off (especially since the artwork is laminated), and it's much easier to use than the spray glue for stuff that needs to be folded and cut out. Time to make a box: 45 minutes.
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16. Board Game: Rush Hour [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:7360]
Board Game: Rush Hour
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I decided to launch Border Reivers at The Cast Are Dice, a brand new convention in Stoke on Trent.

Things were very tight in the week or two before the convention. The wooden pieces were delayed coming from Germany, and the print jobs were too. I offered the printers a customer testimonial, and hinted that I needed the print job in a hurry. They put a rush on it In the end everything arrived just in time
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17. Board Game: Convention! [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Convention!
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I had managed to get ten copies finished in time for the convention. That was way more than I expected to sell, but rather to many than too few. I was hoping to sell maybe three copies.

In the end I sold five, 20% of the people I played it with bought a copy, and 1 in 26 attendees bought a copy. I was very happy with that!
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18. Board Game: Catch Me If You Can [Average Rating:3.08 Unranked]
Board Game: Catch Me If You Can
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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The next few months were a constant game of catch-up. I had ten pre-orders to fulfill, and the orders were coming in as fast as I could make a copy (three hours of construction per game!).

On the side I started designing more games.
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19. Board Game: Web [Average Rating:5.28 Unranked]
Board Game: Web
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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My friend Mal did me a new website (which is great - ta, Mal!). When I published it, I had the ability to advertise the game more effectively.

I also got an email from another designer offering me a game of his to publish.
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20. Board Game: Candle Quest [Average Rating:6.92 Unranked]
Board Game: Candle Quest
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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Yehuda sent me a protoype of his 'The Menorah Game' to see if I wanted to publish it. Becoming a publisher. Big step. I'd have to think about contracts, and designers' cuts.

Still it was a great game, so I went for it.
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21. Board Game: San Francisco [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:6157]
Board Game: San Francisco
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Around Christmas my sales had slowed down a bit. A review in BBC Mind Games magazine which I was hoping would come out in the issue before Christmas instead came out in early January when everyone was broke.

Still, I got a promotion at work, and the new job required international travel. I was off to San Francisco I knew the US/UK exchange rate was losing me sales, so I offered free shipping to the first five customers to contact me. Board Game News covered Border Reivers at just the right time and the five copies went within 11 hours. That was my best week's sales so far, with eight sales.
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22. Board Game: It's Alive! [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:3374]
Board Game: It's Alive!
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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I decided to publish Yehuda's game, but I wanted to re-theme it as a game where you play mad scientists trying to create and monster and bring it to life. He was ok with that, so we exchanged contracts and I started to publicise it. Pre-orders flooded in
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23. Board Game: Profit & Loss [Average Rating:3.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Profit & Loss
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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My first financial year was profitable (I'm not paying myself though!), which was one of the two goals I set myself. The other is to sell out of Border Reivers within a year - which is still on track.
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24. Board Game: The Big Push: The Battle of the Somme [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:11970]
Board Game: The Big Push: The Battle of the Somme
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Now I'm under the cosh again, trying to sell enough copies of Border Reivers to fund It's Alive! I want to release it at the UK Games Expo at the beginning of June, but there's a lot of work left to do, and I'm still a couple of hundred quid short.

I'm lining up some publicity though, considering some special offers and I've my two biggest conventions yet lined up in the next two months...
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