One crazy month

Photo by my friend Joe Pilkus

I’m sure I’m not alone in the fact that this last month and a half as been quite crazy. I remember about mid-March when the pandemic really started getting serious in the US, and I decided to still go to Piranha Pig Con (pictured above), and then visit my wife’s family out in Virginia.

Fortunately, those high-risk activities didn’t result in anything bad, but when we returned to Indiana, we returned to a world that just felt different. My wife and I immediately decided to go into full quarantine, both because we didn’t know whether we’d been exposed on our trip, and because we didn’t want to get exposed in the future either.

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The launch has shifted, and that’s okay

I don’t have to explain to you how chaotic this last week has been, and I’m sure you don’t need any more statistics at this point. What I’d like to do, though, is briefly explain how Cephalofair Games has been affected by recent events, and what we will be doing moving forward.

We have been lucky. Everyone who works for Cephalofair does that work from home, and so that work can continue for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been speed bumps this last week. Social distancing, school closures, and strict quarantine in some areas have made things more challenging for us.

Without beating around the bush too much more, I am announcing that we will be pushing back the launch of the Kickstarter by one week, until March 31. This will give us enough time to catch up on some things to bring forward the best possible project, and will hopefully give us the security to launch this when everyone’s lives – ours and yours – are not in such flux. I am just hoping that after another week, we can all get settled into this new normal a little more.

With all the closures happening across the world, we totally understand that people may want to be more conservative with their spending, and we will be as accommodating as possible in that regard. $1 pledges will get access to the pledge manager, and we will keep that open as late as we can to give people as much opportunity as possible.

But we are forging ahead because we think people will need something positive in these times. And we are planning on throwing one giant, month-long party. Like I said, we’ve been lucky to have not been affected as hard by this as a lot of other people, and it just felt wrong to deny people this celebration they’ve been waiting so long for just because of the possibility it would be mildly inconvenient or slightly less lucrative.

Cephalofair Games has always been about doing what is right by our customers, and we think the best thing for all of us is to give us a week to make sure everything is ready to go, and then commence with the partying.

In fact, I want to do one better than that and still launch something cool on the 24th – a new community-driven campaign. With everyone cooped up in their houses, it seemed like an ideal time to give you all more Gloomhaven scenarios to enjoy. It will be called “The Blacksmith and the Bear”, and you can find out more about it on Tuesday.

And then on the 31st, be sure to join us for the official Kickstarter launch of Frosthaven! If you need an easy reminder of the new time, you can sign up to be notified on the preview page.

Why I’m Excited About Frosthaven

I feel like I’ve been talking about this a lot, but, ahead of the Kickstarter launch, I wanted to get into all the cool stuff in Frosthaven and why I put it in there. Hopefully this will be somewhat succinct, but we’ll see what happens.

So let’s start at the beginning, though it’s hard to remember exactly where that is. It feels like ever since I created this world, I wanted to play in it as much as possible. Gloomhaven was just the beginning, and when I thought about other dangerous, wild places, the northern coast immediately came to mind. It felt perfectly natural that we would explore there next.

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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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