My experience at Essen Spiel

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So here we are, roughly three days since the halls of Essen closed and everyone went back to their normal lives. It took me a day and a half to get back to my life in Indiana and then another day and a half or so to physically recover and answer all the emails that had piled up since I left. At this point, I think I’m finally ready to talk about my experience.

In one sense, it was really great. I met so many fans and Kickstarter backers, and everyone was very impressed with the game and so excited to see it and talk to me read more…

The Endless Adventure

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As production finishes up for Gloomhaven, I find myself returning to the game to complete some unfinished business. It has always been my plan to release some extra content for the game online once it is finally released, but that day has been so far off for so long, those plans seemed perpetually stuck in the back of my mind.

As the release of Gloomhaven grows ever nearer, however, it looks like I should actually put in the time to get the extra content finished and make it special.

One of the main reasons I want to provide additional content for a game that already has a stupid amount of content is that I still feel beholden to my backers and supporters. We raised almost $400,000 during the Kickstarter for Gloomhaven, constantly unlocking crazy stretch goals, but in the year since then (I know, it’s been a year…), I’ve received over $100,000 in additional pre-orders. It seems to me that that is deserving of at least one more massive stretch goal.

Equally important, though, is my hope that releasing more content for Gloomhaven digitally will encourage other people to do the same. It’s the same reason I ran the contests for fan-made scenarios during the Kickstarter. I wanted people to see how easy it was to pick up the game system and run with it in new directions, either within the campaign world or in an entirely different world of their own creation.

I really hope Gloomhaven will attract a vibrant, creative community that will come up with stuff I never imagined. I think I was the right person to build the system, but I will be the first to tell you that there are better story-tellers out there than me. I think people will be pleased with the campaign and the world I created, but the systems full potential has yet to be explored creatively.

Of course, there are some inherent issues in releasing digital content. Gloomhaven is not a video game after all. It is a physical product, and its physicality is a large part of its charm. When I offer you a PDF of new item cards you can download and print out, there’s no way they’re going to look the same as the item cards that came in the box. Since you don’t have to randomize your items at any point, the difference isn’t game-breaking, but it can still be disappointing.

In the grand scheme of things, what I’d like to do is, after a year or so, possibly round up all my favorite digital content for the game, and actually get it professionally printed as a mini expansion. As for bigger expansions to Gloomhaven, well, that’s a discussion for another time.

So I Guess I’m Going to Essen

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Well, the plane ticket is purchased and the booth is paid for. It looks like I’m going to Essen Spiel this year. I really, really wanted to go last year, but my financial situation was very tight, and I just couldn’t make it work. This year isn’t much better – everything I have is going into printing and shipping as many copies of Gloomhaven as I can – but I figure I can sell enough pre-orders at the show to make it worth the expenditure.

Now, of course, I’ve been apprehensive about doing another convention in a foreign country after the exhausting experience I had doing Gen Con in my own back yard, but I figure doing the pre-orders should make the whole thing much less stressful. The main source of stress at a convention is getting a physical product to the show and then making sure they are all in the right place and they all get sold. Removing the concept of a physical product gives me much less anxiety as I look forward to the convention.

There is some anxiety, though, from a number of sources. First of all, as I said, I need to make it worth my while, so just the idea of having a target number of pre-sales to make causes a little stress, even if there’s no physical product. What makes it especially weird is that the copies of Gloomhaven bound for Europe will already be on a boat when Essen rolls around, and normal pre-sales will already have stopped, since I can’t change that number once the boat sets sail.

That means I need to anticipate the number of pre-orders I am going to make at Essen beforehand and get that many extra copies onto the boat bound for the EU. It’s almost like I do have product at the convention, it’s just that the product is a month late.

There’s also the normal anxiety of traveling to a foreign country and having to figure out where you are going and what you are doing. Luckily, I’ve been to Germany before, but it has been a while. I used to speak German pretty well, actually, but now I could probably only communicate very basic ideas, and only if the person I’m talking to has a lot of patience. I’m hoping it will be good enough to navigate the transportation system and check into the apartment I’m renting.

I guess I’m also hoping that people won’t mind being taught Gloomhaven in English, because I certainly won’t be able to do it any other way.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’ve been lucky enough to find a handful of fans who are regular Essen attendees and have been kind enough to help me out at the booth running demos. Maybe they’ll be able to do German demos. I honestly don’t know how big of a language barrier there is going to be over there. I remember my semester abroad in Heidelberg I spent about 90% of the time speaking English, but that was because I mainly hung out with other Americans.

Don’t judge me.

In addition to the fans, I’m also flying my brother out to help with the booth, which is super-exciting for me. I haven’t seen him in over a year, and I’ve been wanting to have him come out to a convention for a long time now. First it was supposed to be Essen last year, but then that fell through, then he was supposed to come help out at Gen Con last month, but unforeseen circumstances ruined that at the last minute. But this time! Spiel 2016! We’re gonna make it happen!

That is, as long as we can get some advanced final production copies of Gloomhaven in time for the show. That’s pretty much the last hurdle. As long as the production stays on schedule, I’ll be able to show people exactly what a massive, massive beast of a game Gloomhaven is, and I think it’s going to grab a lot of people’s attention.

Break on Through

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Now that I’ve had sufficient time to recover from Gen Con and shoot some videos of me killing skeletons, I have finally returned my gaze to the latest project, lovingly titled “Nameless Factory Game, except not actually about building factories.”

Last time on our intrepid adventure, I had just gotten back from a failed play test session in which my carefully thought-out plans to stop players from being complete dicks to each other had totally failed read more…

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