It has been a hard several months, no doubt about it.
We have been back to the drawing board several times on how we can build community and awareness for the game. The board gaming scene is an interesting one in that it is a very unique cross-section of people, which brings the challenge of how to target the game correctly. The approach that we've tried so far is heavily in-person and trying to build excitement for the game through physical introduction to it and demonstrating how fun it is.
But there are only a couple of us, and we can't physically talk to everyone we want or get a physical copy of the game into everyone's hands that we would like. Over the last year of public playtesting and demo'ing around Denver, we had a couple hundred people play the game.
This is a really good exposure rate for what we were doing, but to successfully fund the Kickstarter we would have needed more than 75% of them to buy a copy. While I know that the game is that good and that we will deliver on our promises, there have been some very notable black marks in Kickstarter's history that make it understandable for people to be wary of plopping down around $100 for an unknown self-published designer. So we need to prove ourselves and get the MADMEN Games name out there, along with the awesomeness that is Dwarves with Swords.
Since we can't make a physical experience happen for all of the board game enthusiasts around the world, we're left with delivering a digital experience.
To that end, I've spent the last few months learning the very basics of Python programming and trying to get a testable (i.e. not consumer friendly) version of DwS to accelerate the design iteration. I've also got some basic groundwork done on Tabletopia and TableTop Simulator to help people experience the game without my bearded face interrupting the flow.
But I've hit a wall with the amount of time I can carve out to focus on creating quality code and game mechanics. Quality output takes deep work, deep work takes deep thinking, and deep thinking cannot be done in the 30 minutes between getting home and going to bed.
So we've got two options ahead of us, and both of them start with the Dwarves with Swords team becoming international. Courtney and I are moving overseas so we can devote as much of our time as possible to building and producing the game, while Greg will stay here in the U.S. because he's not completely insane. We are also talking with a writer to start building out the world that the Dwarves live in.
This comes after some major discussion about how to move forward and the best way to get the game published. Ultimately, we need to get out on the board game circuit, of which the "pinnacle" is in Essen. The United States is still king of the hill for quantity of conventions and access to flat-out numbers of people, but it's also the top of the list for costs of living and hours worked per week. Since we will be quitting at least one of our jobs to double down on Dwarves (say that five times fast), the cost of living becomes the limiting factor to what we can accomplish.
So now we get to the point where we need to put up or shut up. I've been negotiating with my current employer about a potential transfer to their home office in Germany. This will get us a lot more runway to work with, but will also demand some of my time. Much less time than it currently does, thanks to the difference in labor laws between the countries, but lost of time nonetheless.
But if that falls through we will move to the cheapest reasonable place in Europe that we can find: Belgrade. This comes after research into the cheapest places to live in the world, most of which are incredibly unsafe for Americans. Thailand is also a good option cost-of-living-wise, but it is about 5,000 miles farther away from SPIEL than Belgrade. Still an option if the flights are super cheap, but for now the place that gives us the longest possible development time is looking to be Belgrade.
Either way we will be dedicating significantly more time to the development of Dwarves with Swords (and more!) over the next 18 months. We have a simple card game in early design stages, and a strategic area-of-control game in conceptual phase. But the most important is still the Group Tactics Masterpiece that is Dwarves with Swords. The major goal for the year is to have a polished product to present at SPIEL in Essen in October 2019. We have until the 15th of May to decide on whether or not to rent a booth, which I am cautiously optimistic for.
So to sum up: Dwarves with Swords isn't going anywhere, but some of the team is. The future is bright, and MADMEN is just getting started.