Thoughts on the Old Year 2018

December 27, 2018

Oh my word, where has the year gone? Coming up on 2019... That's a weird number, right? It feels like a weird number. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Anyway, let's talk about the year that is familiar, or at least should be by now. If 2018 had a theme for me, I think it would be "Too Many Conventions." At the end of last year, I talked about adding four new conventions to the schedule: BGG Cruise, UK Games Expo, Heavy Con, and PAX Unplugged. I got through all of those, and also ended up going to Dice Tower Con for the first time as well, mainly because Gloomhaven got nominated for, like, a million Dice Tower Awards. I also went to South By Southwest, again because of a Gloomhaven award, even though it's not really a game convention, and my wife and I just spent an entire week watching movies, which was a transcendent experience. Oh, and Protospiel Indy! I almost forgot about that. So that's seven more conventions, three of them over a week long, on top of the other conventions I regularly attend: RobbCon, Geekway to the West, Origins, Gen Con, GrandCon, Essen Spiel, and BGG.Con. That's another seven... Holy crap! It only now just dawned on me that I doubled the amount of my yearly conventions! That is a good quarter of the year dedicated to traveling around and not getting a lot of creative work done. Plus I got sick a few times and had to spend some time recovering... I guess what I am trying to say is that I didn't feel all that productive over the last year. And conventions were a big part of that, but they also can't be fully to blame. As also discussed last year, I dialed back on that incessant drive to get things done as quickly as possible, ostensibly to enjoy my life a little more and be happier. And that worked in some regards, but, at the same time, I inevitably get mad at myself because I'm not getting enough work done. So I'm either miserable because I am working too hard, or miserable that I am not working hard enough. Well, "miserable" is a little strong. "Disheartened" maybe? Either way, I can't seem to win. Which is not to say I am not happy. Going to conventions and seeing all my convention friends makes me extremely happy. Playing video games all day makes me happy. But making bad-ass Gloomhaven content also makes me happy, and I think we just needed to do more of that. I did run a community-driven expedition earlier in the year that was super-fun, and we're in the middle of a new one right now, which has some of the most insane scenarios I've ever designed. So I guess what I'm really saying is that it could have been worse. I had a good year, and even if I didn't make as much progress on the big, unnamed Gloomhaven expansion as I would have liked, it's really not that big of a deal. We've got Forgotten Circles coming out early next year, and all these community scenarios - I don't think people can legitimately complain about a lack of content. "It will take however much time it takes," has always been my mantra, and that is still the case. It will emerge eventually, and benefit from the long gestation period.
Just doing some play testing...
Another major part of the year was the release of Founders of Gloomhaven, which had a very interesting and instructive life cycle. So let's talk about that for a bit. I have eclectic tastes, I suppose, and Founders of Gloomhaven was an eclectic project. From the beginning, it was a game that I found very interesting, but knew it would engage a smaller audience than Gloomhaven. It was designed for a very specific audience: myself. So I made the game, put "Gloomhaven" in the title, and everyone seemed to think it was second coming or something. I tried to make it very clear what people were getting, that it wasn't Gloomhaven, but that didn't seem to deter many people, and it certainly didn't deter retailers. Then it came out. Some people loved it. Some people liked it, but had problems with the rule book. Some people were very frustrated by it and didn't like it at all. It started getting not so great reviews, and many retailers realized they ordered way too many copies and started discounting heavily. Some guy on Amazon ordered way, way too many copies from multiple distributors because he thought it was going to be another Gloomhaven situation where he wouldn't be fully allocated. When he was, he started dumping them and single-handedly dropped the price on Amazon from the MSRP of $70 to about $24, which was far less than what he bought them for. Not sure what the strategy there was, but it was sad to see. All of this is okay. Like I said, I made it for myself, and I'm happy it exists. What really bummed me out was this review, though. Someone was really excited about the game, started reading the bad reviews, and didn't even bother to play their own copy for months, only to find out after a long wait that they really did enjoy it. I just think about all the people who would really like the game, but won't even bother with it because of the response of others. Board game quality is not a universal line. Just like Gloomhaven is not everyone's number one game, just because someone else with different tastes didn't like something, doesn't mean someone else won't. And the good news is that, if you're curious about trying the game, it is dirt-cheap. Oh well. Hundreds and hundreds of games fall into obscurity every year. It's the nature of the business, and, as the designer of Gloomhaven, I'm not really in a position to complain about it, but it is interesting to see the other side of the coin. I mean, I saw it already with Forge War, but oh well. So anyway, speaking of Gloomhaven, it really cleaned up in awards season this year! That was a fun and humbling experience. Six golden geeks, five Dice Tower Awards, two Origins Awards, SXSW Board Game of the Year, so many reviewers' top game of the year, it was just nuts. And 2017 was such a great year for games, too! I just revised my top 10 games list, and was kind of surprised so many 2017 titles made the list. To sweep so many awards among such marvelous competition was really quite mind-blowing. I will also note that my blog output was a little lacking this last year, too. Looks like I made nine posts, including this one, which is a little sad. I'm going to try to do better in the new year, of course, but we'll talk about that next week, when I look forward to 2019 (such a weird number). We'll talk about Forgotten Circles, the big expansion, Return to Dark Tower, the Gloomhaven video game, and the possibility of improving Cephalofair Games with more staff. Exciting times!

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