Conquering PAX Unplugged

You’d think that designing and publishing the #1 game on Board Game Geek would make you feel all-powerful, like some sort of god in the Board Game Pantheon, but that’s not really the case. Generally, I feel like a pretty normal person simply leading a pretty great life. Which, on its own, is perfectly spectacular.

But there are moments where get a glimpse at this thing. This weird, magnetic force that reminds me, “Hey, you did this thing, and hundreds of thousands of people love it, and that’s pretty significant. It’s something to feel good about.”

It happens mostly at conventions, when I meet people who tell me how much Gloomhaven has meant to their family, or they ask me to sign their rule book, or I meet a luminary in the industry and they treat me as an equal (not that they wouldn’t necessarily treat everyone as an equal, but it’s still a good feeling).

Of course, there’s a dark side to this thing, as well. There’s a fine line between feeling important and feeling self-important – that you are better than everyone else. And that’s definitely not something to descend into, especially at conventions where your fans should be celebrated.

And all this is to say, there was a moment at PAXU. An important moment, but hopefully not too self-important. Where the was a line of people waiting to have their picture taken with a Frosthaven cosplayer, in front of a beautiful back-lit partition, underneath a giant, spinning box. When all our demo spots filled up as soon as we opened them, and I had just talked for an hour straight in front of hundreds of people like I don’t have social anxiety, because I was talking about the thing I was most passionate about.

In that moment, I looked around the convention hall and saw people wearing our silly Algox horns. From every point of view. They were inescapable. They had infested the entire hall, and it brought me the greatest joy.

We had conquered the convention.

Of course, that word “we” is incredibly important. I certainly didn’t conquer anything by myself. First of all, I’d still be running sad little demos on folding tables and chairs in a 10’x10′ booth if it weren’t for Price. And running conventions is just one of the myriad of ways he has strengthened Cephalofair Games and enabled me to focus on what I am good at. The man is a goddamn wizard, and that was never more apparent than at PAXU.

But there are so many other people too. We could not have found a better cosplayer. Monica from GeeksAGoGo as the Banner Spear was a powerful, life-injecting force at the photo booth, amping up the crowd and really getting into it. The whole photo booth thing was my biggest question mark coming into the convention, but she and her husband Bill demonstrated that I had nothing to worry about.

And then there was Tom Vasel, making sure the other big question mark – the panel – went well. He was very gracious to agree to get up there with me and make sure I stayed on topic.

Of course, there was also our superb convention staff, Justin, Hadley, both Tims, Matt, and Monique. And of course Chris, our event lead, who does such an amazing, professional job at every convention he attends with us. Not to mention Marcie and Kristyn, Price and my better halves, who not only support us in everyday life, but also absolutely killed it on the sales desk.

And at the risk of turning this into some sort of over-long acceptance speech, Talisman Sabre Terrain also needs a shout-out for making the greatest Gloomhaven 3D terrain sets I have ever seen for our demo tables.

But, anyway, if you can’t tell, attending PAXU just made me feel really happy and really lucky to have all these people supporting this great endeavor.

And now that our big announcement is finally out in the world, I hope to use theses blogs to go into more detail about the Frosthaven design process leading up to the Kickstarter in March. There is one more thing unaddressed, however, that needs to be discussed before I sign off.

I’ve been talking for some time about getting the Cephalofair Games web store launched before Christmas, and, well, Christmas is a week away. To put it plainly, that goal was too ambitious with everything we had going on with PAXU and Frosthaven and Jaws of the Lion. At the end of the day, we wanted to do it well, and doing it well is taking more time than anticipated.

For many who have requested replacement parts, it is clear that our customer service has been lacking in the last couple months, and we need to focus on fixing that before offering to sell more things, and especially before the Kickstarter launches. It is being fixed, but it takes time. Right now, we are looking at a deadline of end of February to get the web store up, and looking at the whole picture with all the information, that feels much more like an achievable goal.

So that’s another thing to look forward to in the new year, but for now, I hope you have a great Christmas, even if it is without Gloomhaven merch!

So I Should Probably Talk about the New Thing

I’ve been trying to crack this problem of getting Gloomhaven to a wider, more casual demographic for a while. Around this time last year I was working on a Gloomhaven card game. Something simple in a small box that would feel like Gloomhaven, even if the mechanics were totally different. I remember play testing it at a convention, and somebody told me that it felt a lot like Splendor, which was enough for me to pack it up and never look at it again.

What I eventually realized was that a watered-down card game with the same name was never going to capture people like Gloomhaven has done. The only thing that would capture people like Gloomhaven is Gloomhaven.

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Tidings of What is to Come

So I was going through my Gloomhaven subscriptions on BoardGameGeek, and I saw someone complaining that I hadn’t really given any updates in a while about what’s coming down the line for Gloomhaven, what’s happening with that “big box expansion”, and all that sort of stuff. I mean, I haven’t given a blog update on anything in a long while, but this topic felt particularly pressing, so I thought, “Yeah, you’re right, internet person. I should update people about what is going on!

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Time to get to work

So I’ve been working on this “big box” expansion to Gloomhaven for a long time. I remember writing a post in November 2016 about spending a National Novel Writing month working on the story for it. That was quite a while ago.

I’ve also pined year after year that I wasn’t getting enough time to work on it. Conventions, business-related things – something always seems to get in the way. I’m no longer toiling away in a vacuum. There are lots of external forces to contend with.

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Cephalofair Games hires its first full-time employee!

Running my own business was never something I wanted to do. When I put my first game on Kickstarter, it was largely just to challenge myself. I wanted to design a game and release it into the world.

In hindsight, it might have been better just to find a publisher for it. But also in hindsight, it eventually led me to where I am today, which is not a bad place to be. Except that I am running my own business, and I don’t really have the skills required to do that effectively.

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Thoughts on the New Year 2019

And so, the new year begins. Of course, the calendar is kind of arbitrary. I could reflect on what is to come in the next 365 days at any point, but when all that counting rolls over into a new number, it seems like a convenient time.

So what is to come in 2019? Hopefully a lot of things. But maybe not too many. Just the right amount of things to keep me busy and give me time to enjoy myself in the process. (more…)