Creature College Update 13 – Fighting the Hamster of Chaos

PS Update 13

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Welcome to Creature college Update 13

In homage to the late great Terry Pratchett, “If complete and utter chaos was an escaped rabid hamster with little pointy teeth then I’d be the sort standing next to a hamster wheel dressed as a carrot trying to tempt the hamster into a tiny box muttering “Here Squeaky, here boy””. We’ve definitely been in overdrive this month. Three cons, updating the website, finishing stretch goals, filming play through videos, running competitions and working with our artist, designer and media studio to get ready for our Kickstarter. My wife has hardly seen me, the children have formed their own self-ruling proto-civilization on the top floor of our family home and given my bleary eyed state at work my colleagues have adopted the mistaken belief that I spend my evening crawling bars sampling the heady Cheltenham nightlife as an elderly Lothario.

So what has actually been happening? Well with less than two months to our Kickstarter now it’s been all hands to the rigging to try and get everything ready.

Website

Well for those who haven’t already noticed we’ve completely revamped an updated the website. Partly so we could add new features but mostly because the old website looked like it had been created by a five year old with a bunch of multi-coloured crayons. The new website is a big improvement, it has play-through videos, our rule book, details of other projects and even a shop where you can buy some of our natty Creature related merchandise. We only have t-shirts available in the shop so far but that will change over the next few weeks as we get closer in to the Kickstarter. You can take a look at the new website at http://www.happyottergames.com/.

Reviews

We’ve now sent sample games out to all of our reviewers and there are some really well known names on the list. Keep an eye on the website for details of the reviews as they become available.

Stretch Goals

All our stretch goal art work is finished and we’re currently working on our extra stretch goal items with our fabby printer Wingo Games. We’ll publish more details on these as they become available but take a look at these cute little suckers!

StretchMost of these guys have already been named by our friends over at The Boardgame Group but there’s still one naming competition left so keep an eye out and join in!

Play-through Video

We know that you’ve been dying to find out more about how Creature College plays so we’ve filmed this neat little video to take you through the game. It’s hard to see the cards so at some point we may film a top down view as well. You can take a look at the video on the front of our website http://www.happyottergames.com/.

We’ve arrived on Board Game Geek!

So we now have our own Board Game Geek page!

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/179433/creature-college

We’d love for you to go take a look at our page, vote on our page and become a fan! We’d love you, and hug you and call you George ( unless you’re a girl in which case we’ll call you George).

Ninja Snails

We’re currently working on a game to be released after Creature College. We don’t plan on being a one-game-wonder! It will be a few months yet but we can give you a sneak peak at our concept art! Here is our Hashimoto Clan Leader. Ninja Snails is a card game that we think will have two decks of just over 100 cards in total. The aim of the game will be to defeat other ninja houses to collect koku. The person at the end of the game with the most koku will win.

hashimoto final Hashimoto-ideas

Well that about wraps it up for this addition of the Newsletter. We’ll be running more fabby competitions and all sorts of other good stuff will be happening in the run up to the Kickstarter so keep an eye out and thank you for all the support you’ve given us as our community. We couldn’t do this without you!

All the best,

Orhan.

Printing Your Game Overseas

Wingo Games at UK Games Expo

Wingo Games exhibiting with Happy Otter Games at UK Games Expo

So you’ve finished and play-tested your proto-type and you’re ready to look for a printer. Getting your game printed can feel like a bit of a mine-field and depending on who you ask you’re going to get some wildly varying quotes for printing. Five of the first things to bare in mind are:

  1. You’re going to want prototypes and these are best done with the printer you’re going to be using to produce the game. This way you get to catch places where they may not have understood what you want up front
  2. If you’re going to use traditional distribution to get your game into stores then you’re going to want to have a very low base cost as retailers look for very large margins on games (up to and over 50%)
  3. The printer you choose should be experienced at producing games and have the technical ability to realise your dream. Make sure that you look carefully at what they’ve produced before and if possible…get references
  4. They should be easy to communicate with and responsive. If you ask a company for something and it takes two weeks to get a response (to a simple question) you should consider walking away. When you’re on tight deadlines the last thing you want is an unresponsive printer
  5. You’ll need them to be flexible at times. You need to feel like your printer is coming with you on your boardgame journey and they’re willing to work with you to make your game work

So where to print? If you run a google search for game printing you’ll get a raft of companies coming up that print games. For early good looking prototypes Game Crafter is a good first stop but if you’re going to require non-standard pieces or large print runs at a low cost per game then you probably don’t want to use them for your production run. If you live in Western Europe or the US you’ll find a lot of great printers. The benefits of printing in country are:

  • You can go and sit down with the printers and brief them in person (In the US this could involve a plane flight 🙂 )
  • You don’t have to worry too much about transportation
  • Depending on where you live and where you’re transporting to import duties and VAT cease to be so much of a problem for you
  • People speak your language both literally and figuratively

So given all these great benefits of printing in country, why do so many games companies (even Kickstarters) print over seas. In the first instance there is only one over-riding reason; COST. Simply it’s cheaper per unit to print overseas than in either the US or Western Europe. The difference in cost can be staggering, quotes for my game in the UK were coming in at around $25 – $35 for 1000 units, my base cost in China is closer to $12, even with transportation costs this doesn’t come anywhere close to $25. Prices in Eastern Europe (Poland/Czech) aren’t necessarily quite as good although you can get some excellent prices and you have the benefit of working with a company within the EU. So bearing in mind the huge financial benefits to printing overseas, what are the downsides?

  • You need to find a reputable printer who is easy to work with and both of these can be a challenge if you’re not fortunate
  • Language can be hard if the printer’s contact staff don’t have good English
  • It can be hard to assess quality of materials unless your printer is willing to send you pictures or samples
  • You can feel a bit disconnected from the process
  • You may have both VAT to pay (reclaimable in the UK if you’re VAT registered) and import taxes (Games are 0% rated in the UK and come under the import code 9504908000)

So how can you lessen the impact of these downsides? Find yourself a great overseas printer. This is down to word of mouth recommendations for people that have used them. I was very fortunate to hit upon Wingo Games almost straight off the mark. They were kind enough to provide a couple of references one of whom had been another Kickstarter project. The references were good so I asked them to quote on the game. I was immediately impressed by the level of contact that I received from Wingo, despite the fact that they company turns over millions of dollars a year my contact, Ivan (they all use western names to make themselves easier to interact with), made me feel like I was Wingo’s only customer. I have contact with Ivan maybe every couple of days and he’ll regularly drop me a line just to ask me how things are going. His English is close to perfect.

They were very flexible with me for my sample games which was very much appreciated as samples are very expensive. Typically a printer will have to include the same set up costs for a big print run in the costs for your sample games. This means that some of the quotes that you receive for samples can seem astronomical so flexibility here is very much appreciated.

The next thing that impressed me was the quality of the sample games:

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Here is Creature College in all its glory. You can’t feel the quality of the materials but suffice it to say (and I fully accept that this is a little bit weird) I sometimes just run my hands over the box to feel the finish! I was very impressed with the quality of work from the thickness of the box cardboard and design of the insert straight through to the print quality in my rule book.

Finally you want to feel that your printer is a real partner. As you can see from the title picture Wingo Games has shared a stall with me at conventions and we’ll be at Essen together in the fall. I don’t heap praise on a partner without good reason but Wingo Games are a vital piece in the potential success of Happy Otter Games and Creature College.

I hope this little guide has been useful. If you’re interested in my experiences and just want to chat about your own project then feel free to drop me a line at orhan@happyottergames.com. I’m happy to put people in touch with Wingo but you can also contact them yourself at sales06@wingogames.com.cn.

Creature College Update 12 – The Frenetic Otter!

Creature College Update 12

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Welcome to Creature college Update 12

Sheesh, well it seems like a age since I managed to update everyone! So what’s been happening since our last update. Our big news was that our sample games arrived from China and our fabulous printer Wingo did an awesome job. The sample games look terrific and they arrived just in time for UK Games Expo where we managed to meet a bunch of our great fans and play some really fun games of Creature College. It’s also let us send copies out for review and we currently have two reviews pending with some more planned.

We’re now firmly into conventions season with several great cons planned over the summer. We’ll be at London Anime and Gaming Con on the 4th and 5th of July and Lavecon on the 11th and 12th of July, so come and join us for a game if you can! We’ll be playing demo games, running competitions and generally having a lot of fun!

We’re also now firmly in launch mode with a bunch of stuff happening in the background to get us ready for Kickstarter in late September. We’re working with our friends across at Ironbelly Studios in Montreal on our Kickstarter video, preparing the artwork for our stretch goals, working with our designer on our Kickstarter page, setting up distribution networks and basically figuring out the 100 other small details that will hopefully ensure that we’re “Not at home to Mr. cock-up” at any point during or after our Kickstarter campaign. 🙂

We’ve also been planning how we will share a stand at Spiel 2015, Essen with our fantastic printer Wingo which will be slap bang in the middle of our Kickstarter Campaign!

We went a little crazy with competitions in May/June. Not only did we give away our customary monthly competition prize (Kimberly Snelgrove) and ran three impromptu competitions on The Boardgame Group, but we also gave away over 40 prizes in our UK Games Expo competition.

As always we’d like to give a shout out for a couple of other Kickstarter initiatives that we think are worthwhile. Currently both are a little ways from their funding targets but they’re both really great projects. The first is Foe Hunters by Larry Lembke of Spellforge Games. The second is “For the Love of Spock” run by Adam Nemoy, Leonard Nemoy’s son who is trying to get the funding for a documentary about his fathers life in time to have it ready for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek next year.

Sample Copies of Creature College

We believed it was very important for us to have full production quality copies of Creature College to send out for review and to play with at conventions so we’ve worked very hard with Wingo to make it happen. Below you can see what the game actually looks like and what we will deliver to Kickstarter pledges.

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UK Games Expo

UK Games Expo was fantastic. We got to meet so many great people who really made the show for us. We ran many demo games and Creature College was very well received by everyone who played a game. It was great to meet all the brilliant folks from the Boardgame group, Katerina Demeanour, Ty Voyce, Declan Noonan, Matt Prowse and Dan Voyce for dinner and games on the Saturday night. A huge thank you as well to all our friends who pitched up at the stall to give us support with the best game of the weekend almost certainly being with Dan Macmillan, Garry Hewitt and the Northampton crowd. Also many thanks to Leon from Wingo who helped make it a great show for us and was kind enough to gave away dice to everyone who came to our stand! Perhaps the biggest star of the show for us though was Ty Voyce who made us a whole pile of *branded cupcakes*! Thanks again Ty…they were scrummy!

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The Kickstarter Video

We’re working on our video with the great folks over at Ironbelly Studios in Montreal and we can give you a sneak peak into some of the work that we’ve been doing with them to prepare for our Kickstarter.

Please back Foe Hunters!

Our friend Larry Lembke from Spellforge Games has launched his Kickstarter for Foe Hunters. This is a great game with some stellar reviews so go and take a look at it and help Larry make his funding target!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spellforgegames/foe-hunters-a-cooperative-fantasy-deckbuilding-gam/widget/video.html

Well that about wraps it up for update 12. Thank you to all our brilliant fans for all the support and come and see us at one of the shows!

Creature College Weekly Update Week 10 – Competitions, Posters and Goats

Weekly Update 10

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 10 News Round Up!

So it’s been quite a week this week. Mostly it’s consisted of preparing files for our printer Wingo in China. This basically entails writing lots of instructions, checking through all the files and ensuring that we haven’t made any of those silly little mistakes that you notice later and think to yourself “Why didn’t I check everything through more carefully?” The last piece to this particular puzzle has been integrating all the feedback on the rules which was finished this morning. Now we’re in full publicity mode of UK Games Expo which happens at the end of this month. Mike Legan, our brilliant artist has been working on poster art which we’ll share later in the Newsletter and we’ve been working on some freebies to give away at the show. The other exciting piece of news is that it looks like we’re going to launch a little earlier than we originally thought. You’ve probably seen the odd piece where we’ve mentioned November but it now looks like we’ll be launching over the Essen Games Show in October!

We also have a winner for our April competition. Frank Auge won our $150(£40) prize and chose Cthulu Wars as his prize which is currently winging it’s way towards him! We’ll post pics of Frank with his prize as soon as we’re able to. We also published our first game review of Greenbrier Games’ Ninja Dice. You can read the review here.

Finally our friends Arthur and Veronica Critchfield launched their game Gruff on Kickstarter yesterday. We were able to drop in on their Skype launch event and have a chat with Brent whilst Veronica drew the most amazing Mutated Monster Goat mural in the background. We just want to say one thing:

BACK GRUFF NOW

Mutated Monster Goats….come on people! Joking aside this is a great game with fantastic artwork and a strong well play tested design. At only $25 for the bottom tier it’s one of the cheaper Kickstarters to back. It’s almost funded already. This will be a Kickstarter that you’re very pleased you’ve backed.

UK Games Expo, 29th – 31st May

So we will have stand 7 in the Library at UK Games Expo this year. We’re going to be playing the first sample version of Creature College, running competitions, collecting for charity (hopefully) and generally having a great time. We’ve started an event on Facebook and if you’re on this side of the pond (i.e. In the UK) we’d love to meet you and have a game!

UK Games Expo Event

Just look for our poster…you won’t be able to miss us!

Ninja Dice Review

We love Ninja Dice as a great little filler game for the end of an evening or to take with you on holiday. You can get Ninja Dice from Green Brier games. Read the review here.

Ninja-Dice

Back Gruff on Kickstarter!

This is a game that needs to get backed and then some. Not only does it have Mutated Monster Goats in it, reason enough to back it in our books, but it has fabulous artwork, a great design and compelling game-play. But don’t take our word for it, take a look at the Kickstarter video and the review video below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/31839895/gruff-the-tactical-card-game-of-mutated-monster-go/widget/video.html

Well that about wraps it up for this week folks. Have a great week and we’ll have more exciting news next week!

All the best,

Orhan.

Ninja Dice by Greenbrier Games – Review

Ninja-Dice

Recently I’ve been playing Ninja Dice from Green Brier Games with my kids quite a lot so I thought it was about time I wrote a short review. Ninja Dice was a Kickstarter launched in 2013 and it rapidly achieved and then smashed its funding goal.

The first thing to notice about the game is that it’s production is lovely and very well thought through. The dice are large enough and the printing clear enough so that you don’t have to peer too closely to see the symbols, the little plastic Koku (Japanese coins) look and feel right and to top it all off it comes in a natty little square Ninja pouch!

To play the game the players in turn have to beat the “house”, in other words by throwing the black dice one person creates a “house of obstacles” that the next person clockwise (the active player) has to beat by rolling five white dice. To beat the house the active Ninja has to roll symbols that counter the house’s security. So..the house may have rolled two guards, four servants and two locks….the active Ninja would need to throw enough fights, sneaks or keys to match in order to beat the house. If the Active Ninja beats the house they get a koku for every dice they’ve beaten, an extra koku for beating the house and still another koku if they do it by sneaking past everything (no fighting). The active player can continue rolling any combination of dice until he either beats the house or the other players drive him out of time.

Now here’s the clever bit…where the dice fall matters! So when the active player throws his white dice all the other players also roll a single die with coloured symbols. If an arrow turns up this symbol has a horizontal line in front of it and any player with dice in front of that line can have a Koku stolen from them unless they’ve thrown an arrow catch symbol.

There is also a Kanji symbol on the white active player dice that has the ability to multiply white dice that fall in front of it making it easier for the active player to beat the house.

Each of the die with coloured symbols on it has an hour glass symbol on one of the sides. Whenever one of these is rolled it is taken out of play and placed next to the house. All the players roll their dice at the same time as the active Ninja either rolls or re-rolls. Once the house is beaten or all the coloured dice have rolled an hourglass the round ends and the house and Active Ninja dice pass clockwise. Note that if all the hourglass symbols come up before the Active Ninja has beaten the house then the round immediately ends and the Active Ninja gets no Koku!

Once everyone has been the Active Ninja the turn ends and the next turn begins adding a sixth dice to the house which makes it harder to beat. A seventh die is added in the third turn.

This is a great space filler game…it takes about 20 minutes to play and is good fun but don’t try and overthink it! If I had any criticism at all it would be that if you don’t like luck in games then Ninja Dice may not be your thing. The game also has a “locations” expansion and a Kage Masters expansion (recently on Kickstarter) neither of which I’ve tried yet but they apparently add a lot to the game! So my recommendation 4/5, go and buy this game as a great little end of evening game.

You can find it here:

http://www.greenbriergames.com/main/

Creature College Weekly Update Week 9 – The Eagle Has Landed!

Weekly Update 9

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 9 News Round Up!

So this week we’re more excited than a very excited person who’s just won the lottery and got engaged to Scarlett Johansson all in the same week! Creature College is winging it’s way piecemeal to Wingo Games our wonderful printers in Guang Dong Province China as I type! They’ll be creating 5 prototypes for us that we can send out to reviewers, use for marketing and, oh, I don’t know…play even. Mike Legan, our fantastic artist, is busy working on a poster for our marketing materials at UK Games Expo which we’ll share as soon as it arrives. We’re also working on several other games in concept but more on those in future months. We’ve been running our “Name a Creature” Competition in The Boardgame Group on Facebook this week and we’ve had some fantastic entries. Many thanks to Micheal Scott Matecha, Josh Tolpa, Matthew Roberts, Matt Prowse and Ryan Myers for their winning entries and to everyone who took part. We’d also like to give a shout for two games this week. Midnight Zombie Marathon, which has 17 days left to run on Kickstarter and Gruff, a tactical card game involving mutated monster goats which will start on Kickstarter 1st May. We also finished the back of our box this week and we’re very nearly finished with our rules. We hope to be sharing a .pdf later next week.

Last but definitely not least, we’ll be giving away a £80($120) of board games of the winners choice to whoever wins our April “Win a board game competition”, but to make it even more interesting, we’ll add an extra £20($30) to that if we can add another 30 people to our mailing list by the end of April! That’s right £100($150) of games to the winner of the competition in April if we can add another 30 people to the list.

The “Name a Creature” Competition

Well it has to be said that this was a storming success. Unsurprisingly the community on Facebooks The Boardgame Group rose to the challenge brilliantly and we’d like to say a great big thank you to everyone who took part. Thanks to you Snuze Mumblethump, Briney Hydrosnuffles, Ruby Rumblestone, Sparx Franklin and Singe Flappingsworth will all be immortalised on our cards. The competition was such a success that we’ll probably run another of these competitions in the not-too-distant future.

Baby Mer-Dragon

Midnight Zombie Marathon and Gruff

MZM and Gruff are two great Kickstarters. MZM is funded already and Gruff takes off on May 1st. Arthur has done a fabulous job with Gruff and it really is a phenomenal game. We highly recommend that you take a look at it when it launches….mutated monster goats….who’s not going to love that right?

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The Back of Our Box!

We shared the design of the front of our box a while ago but Will, our fabulous designer has done his magic with the back of the box as well. He’s created a fabulously sexy image design that we’re very excited about! Drop us a note and tell us what you think! Our rules should be out this next week and well share them with you as a .pdf file!

back_front3

Win £80($120) of Board Games of Your Choice

Just for April and to celebrate finishing Creature College and sending it to the printers we’re doubling our normal monthly prize from £40($60) to £80($120). This means that one lucky winner will get to choose £80($120) worth of games! Not only that but if we manage to add another 30 people to our subscriber list by the end of the month we’ll top that up to £100($150)!

Win a Boardgame Banner April

Well that’s it for this week folks. Have a great week and get your friends signed up to the Newsletter!

All the best,

Orhan.

Creature College Weekly Update Week 8 – A Blast From The Past

Weekly Update 8

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 8 News Round Up!

Well, here we are…only six weeks to go until UK Games Expo and getting perilously close to beginning our sample printing. Just the back of the box to polish, two and a half more battle cards to produce and our rules booklet to design and we’re there! To celebrate we’re offering double our monthly prize so in April you can win £80($120) of games of your choice…ever wanted to have that really big game? Well now’s your chance! If you’re not subscribed to our news letter go ahead and do so and you’ll automatically be entered into this draw and every draw until we launch in the Autumn. We’d also like to give a shout out for Midnight Zombie Marathon, a game currently on Kickstarter. This looks like a great little card game to use as a 30 minute filler and at $15 for US pledgers, well worth a try! We’ve backed it and Aaron will be creating some pledges for those outside of the US that want to pledge – they only need $1500 so help us get them over their funding target! The rest of this week’s update is really a bit of a blast from the past…looking at Creature College from it’s inception to where we are today. We’ll be releasing some of our embarrassing early prototypes and game scribbles and also the first picture of what the game looks like in play.

Win £80($120) of games in April!

Tell your friends, call out the majorettes and the tumbling clowns (even the scary ones that look a little like the ebil clown from the horror movies) and shout it from the parapets (if you happen to have a parapet, otherwise your front porch will do). We’re giving away £80 ($120) worth of games of your choice in April. Some lucky person in some far flung corner of the globe will be getting a mitt full of goodies and all they have to do is subscribe to our newsletter here.

April Special

Midnight Zombie Marathon – Help us get these guys over their target

We’d really like this game to succeed. It looks like fun and it’s very nicely produced. I guess it’s their first game and Aaron and guys at Arche Nemesis Games LLC have obviously put a lot of work into getting the look and feel right. So head over to Kickstarter and give these guys some love. Let’s get them over their funding target!

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A Blast from the past!

So…how did Creature College start out? The morning after a drunken dinner party and feeling rather hung over but having foolishly agreed to create a game for my mates…this happened:

Notes

Yes…these inane scribbles were the first thoughts that made their way onto paper and roughly described the first version of the game. It took about a day to produce Creature College v 0.1 and at that point (before we’d encountered the sweaty armpitted monster of copyright) it was called “Mad Scientist”. I remember having my wife and friends sat around a table cutting out hastily produced cards and tokens. The result of the first version looked something like this (actually this is something like the third or fourth version but the 1st version was too embarrassing to photograph!):

Before

It’s interesting that many of the elements of the game actually did make it through the process of play testing, but a lot of mechanics and items didn’t as well. Money went, we had a points track at one stage and that went too…in fact most of our play testing involved removing things! The first game was a real stinker…it took about two hours to play and was about as exciting as searching your bogeys for little brown bits (I’ve never done this….honest). However through countless play tests and many iterations we’ve dragged the game kicking and screaming into a sleek starship of a game that’s fast paced (45 minutes) and fun with plenty of “oh you didn’t just do that!” moments. This is what it looks like now just prior to our first sample print run:

After

If anyone is interested in game design and has some questions regarding how we’ve got to where we are then by all means drop me an email at orhan@happyottergames.com. You can read more about our story in the event magazine for UK Games Expo when it comes out and we may reprint the article on or website depending on permissions. Have a fabby week everyone! Orhan.