Thoughts on the Old Year 2019

December 30, 2019

Thoughts on the Old Year 2019

It is always entertaining to go back and read my New Year's post from the old year and see whether all those prognostications and anticipations have come to pass. And then, of course, we must ruminate on them, and figure out if we can learn any lessons about how things line up.

At the end of the day (or year, I suppose), I am quite happy with how things have turned out this past year. Probably more so than in previous years when I have lamented that I just didn't get enough done.

Did I get enough done this year? Well, no, of course I wanted to do more, but at least I feel better about it than I usually do, and I think that is all thanks to Price Johnson, whom I hired to take over operations and marketing early last year. Taking all of that stuff off my plate has just been a godsend, allowing me to focus better on everything I wanted to focus on.

Of course, there was a learning curve to the hire, and we spent a lot of time early in the year getting back up to speed on everything Cephalofair Games had fallen behind on. We eventually fell behind again on customer service, Price's original job, but we're working on fixing that now. All in all, it has been significant forward progress. There is, of course, just always more progress to be made.

Very early in the year, I also got it in my head to design a new game. Or rather, pick up work on one of my older games. I think I was just tired of working on Frosthaven stuff and needed a break. It wasn't really intended to go anywhere, but I put significant effort into it, play tested it at a lot of conventions, and was able to refine it significantly. It had a lot of problems, though, and it still needs a lot of work - work that I've had to put to the side in the second half of the year to get everything else done.

But between that design and working on Price with new projects, I didn't get back into the groove of working on Frosthaven in earnest until May or June, which was about the time I got it into my head to work on an entirely new project, Jaws of the Lion.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Summa

But before we talk about that, Forgotten Circles also released around that time, which is a big thing I was anticipating last year. Some people loved it, some people didn't love it. Marcel obviously changed some things, particularly with the scenario book layout, which I think overall was good - all the different sections, allowing for obfuscation of information - but it did bring with it some annoyances that made the scenarios last longer. And the increased difficulty, combined with the obfuscation, was frustrating for some people.

Obviously, any time you change the formula for something that people love, you won't be able to keep everyone happy. Some will think it was a good change, and some will think it's bad. But you can't just keep doing the same thing over and over without change or you are not really succeeding in giving your fan base what you should be giving them, which is new and interesting experiences.

So I think there's some great stuff in Forgotten Circles, and it allowed us to learn some lessons for the future. If I had to do it again (and I might, if we reprint the expansion), I'd probably have two scenario books - one for the main page of the scenario, and one for the smaller sections - and I'd give more information upfront, so that no setup was required mid-scenario.

But anyway, Jaws of the Lion - the thing I did not anticipate, but ended up dominating the second half of my year. I've talked about it in previous blogs, and really, designing more Gloomhaven content wasn't the big issue with this project. Obviously, it takes time, but that was mostly done back in September. What has become the biggest hurdle since then was fine-tuning the first five scenarios and the rule book to ease new players into the game as smoothly as possible. Lots of play tests and rules iterations have taken place, but I think we are finally in a good place, and this tutorial should be done soon, which is good, since we need to get the files off to the printer soon.

And all this isn't to say that I haven't been working on Frosthaven. (By the way, isn't it nice I can just say the name instead of having to say "the big expansion"? I think it's nice.) It's just, as always, I haven't been able to work on it as much as I want. And I say that every year, and every year I think I'll have more time to work on it next year, and somehow that never comes true. And I was really excited at the start of last year because I thought it was definitely going to happen - I was going to get to work on Frosthaven to my heart's content - but then it didn't, so it is pretty disappointing.

I think the original plan was to run the Kickstarter back in September, but that certainly didn't happen. Now that Jaws of the Lion is wrapping up, though, we'll have enough time to get the Kickstarter off the ground in March, and then next year, next year, I will definitely have to work on it more. Finish it, even. But that we can talk about in the next blog.

And, of course, let's not forget about Return to Dark Tower, the other game I have been working on, which will be launching on Kickstarter in just a couple weeks. It's weird talking about another company's game, though, because I'm not sure what they want me saying. I guess I'll have to figure that out when I start interacting with the Kickstarter. But for now, yeah. It has been a fun and interesting experience so far, and I'm very interested to see what happens on January 14!

And the digital game! That has been a fun experience so far, seeing people interact with Gloomhaven in a different way. At this point, I feel like the primary audience is still fans of the board game, so I am looking forward to when it leaves early access and catches that larger video game audience. And also goes to iOS so Mac people can enjoy the game and stop bothering me about it.

So now the only left to talk about from the last year is conventions. My big push last year was to attend fewer conventions, because I felt they were taking up too much of my time. Did that happen? I don't know. I went to 13 conventions in 2018, but we'll have to count my conventions this year, with new ones bolded:

Piranha Pig Con, Robb Con, Leiria Con, Geekway to the West, Indy Pop Con, Heavy Con, Origins, Dice Tower Con, Gen Con, PAX West, SHUX, Gloom Cabin, Spiel, BGG.Con, and PAX Unplugged.

Crap, even if I don't count Gloom Cabin (which is where a group of guys play tested Jaws of the Lion for a week in a cabin near Seattle), that's still more conventions than I attended last year. No doubt I'll be able to cut some of those for next year, but with just as little doubt, more conventions will surely creep in.

They are a huge time sink, but, oh well. They also provided me with some of the best experiences I've had all year. Like the entirety of Piranha Pig Con and Robb Con, playing some really great 18XX games at Heavy Con and Origins, and totally dominating PAX Unplugged, then getting to go to Disney World with my wife and friends afterwards. It's just hard to say no when you don't know what great, unbelievable experience might be waiting for you.

So let's hope there's some more of those on the horizon. I'll see you next week to talk about what they could be.

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