Hyperbole Games 2017 Road Map
Back in November 2016 I wrote my annual report. It may come off as pretty bleak reading, because the summary is effectively I'm not a very good publisher and I failed a lot last year. It's actually fine! But, whereas that article was primarily about what I'm not going to do, this post is about what I am going to do. Some of it is a consequence of the items discussed in the other post, but much of it is also very good stuff. So, if you're curious about what I'm up to this coming year, keep reading.
More Short, Small, Artsy Projects
Druids was an experiment at the end of last year that went incredibly well. I had almost 250 people buy the game. I've delivered it, feedback seems to be positive, and now it's finished. In an age where the hype is dominated by massive, component rich games like Scythe, everything from CMON, or the Tiny Epic series, it was cool to see that something a bit atypical and rough in parts (the rules, for one, printed via Kinkos) could be successful. Now, all three of those publishers would hang from the shower rod if they only sold 250 copies, but I have different goals.
When I started Hyperbole, I did so because I like a great deal of the publishing process. Design, writing rules, proofing, hiring artists and graphic designers, overseeing manufacturing, fulfillment, customer service. I enjoy all of that. I also wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I wanted to see if I could succeed in business. But, I had other core goals that were in dire contrast to this success pillar, namely, I focused on creating games I wanted to create - marketability be damned - and while I worked very hard at con attendance and so forth, I didn't commit fully to establishing a successful sales organization with outreach to retailers and distributors.
Therefore, I've realigned my goals, and what success means to me. Success means I make the games I want, I work with artists, I choose the most viable manufacturing path...and sales be damned. Hyperbole Games was never going to replace my day job. It's never going to be really profitable. So, why should I lie to myself and seek that path? It doesn't make sense. Something that was really telling to me was that I'm just about as satisfied with Druids - 250 - as I am with Cry Havoc - way more than that. I take joy in the creation and somebody appreciating it. That's good to know.
Therefore, there will be more projects like Druids, starting with Solstice. Solstice is a design that is over a year old and will be greatly enjoyed by some people and despised by others. It's a weird game, a game that takes a learning game, and it's something I love. Solstice is being illustrated currently by John Ariosa. I expect he'll finish sometime in January or early February. At that point I'll order a proof copy and do a final series of test for balance, text, and so forth. I'll run a limited Kickstarter for it at the end of February or early March and will fulfill it soon after.
Solstice will have a few tiers. There will be a cards only + tuck box approach, which should be relatively cheaper. I'm using DriveThruCards. Their cards are quite excellent. Their tuck box, and really all tuck boxes, aren't great. But, there aren't many cost effective options for boxes at this scale and for many reasons I don't want to create a wooden box for this project. At this level, players will need to use a pen and paper or substitute tokens to play. There will also be a level that offers that, plus custom wooden tokens for points, casualties, and a first player marker. That will cost a little more, but will still be very reasonable and delivered in a very short time frame. My goal is to break even to cover art costs. Beyond that, I'd like a little profit to fund the next project.
After Solstice I have a few options. I have a new abstract game in testing that is a spiritual successor to Druids. All new mechanisms, but an abstract within a similar vein (in some senses) to Druids. I'd also like to do new things with the Druids movement mechanism and terrain mechanism, minus the stones, so that might lead to something.
Longer term, most likely 2018, I'd like to release Gaia. Like Solstice it is a passion project that will be really appreciated by some people, and easily overlooked by others. That makes it a perfect project for my catalog. For those not familiar, Gaia is a CCG like game, minus the collection, where players create 9 cards decks out of a 54 card pool. It does a lot of neat things, such as creating, altering, and destroying a planet, summoning powerful creatures, and creating powerful combos in a brisk back and forth game. It tested pretty well last year in blind testing and I'm going to introduce some changes soon that I think will take it to the next level.
Some Bigger, Ambitious Things
Solstice is largely finished, which is good as I have a few other irons in the fire. Two I cannot talk about. One of those I expect to go nowhere - it happens - and the other of which is going places and is my priority. But, busy things.
After those, I have York. I discussed the development of this a few weeks back in this post here. I'd be happy to work on it with a publisher if any are interested and want to discuss it. Sure, why not?
The scope of York will likely make this a 2018 at the earliest project, I'd like to do a traditional printing of York (see: Chinese manufacturing) and only order enough to cover the Kickstarter. Basically, if I can get 1000 backers, I order the minimum, they don't go to stores, and the rest I sell here and there. Firstly, I'd love to explore some art styles and presentations that are less marketable than, say, traditional sci fi or high fantasy. Secondly, I have ideas on ways to make the game look and feel special that doesn't come with the price tag (and manufacturing complexity) of miniatures.
I plan to do something with York, and I anticipate a big part of my Cry Havoc royalty going towards art creation for it.
I had a lot of fun attending conventions as Hyperbole Games last year, but that is almost 100% not happening this year. For one, I lose money on almost all of them and as my efforts in distribution are more or less dead now, I can't even justify it as a marketing expense. Secondly, I spent so much time last year trying to make this company work that I didn't really get a vacation for myself. This year I want to visit Gettysburg. I'll probably try to go back to Japan. I haven't been to New York City in years and I'd like to rectify that.
But, also, my favorite part of conventions is seeing Joshua Buergel or Chris Darden (for example) and a.) drinking and b.) playing games about the Napoleonic Wars, which incur outrageous accents. I don't need to go to a con for that, and I'd rather meet these folks somewhere and bring our own games.
However, I did already pay for a KublaCon booth last year before it was clear that all was lost. May 2016 was such a charming time! This year I'll be there with Hocus, Farmageddon (new!), a few copies of Druids (new!), Solstice (new!), and some wooden tokens for Hocus (new!). If I do well, I'll probably go ahead and book for 2018. KublaCon is fairly cheap, is local, and if people demonstrate that they're willing to buy my weird artsy stuff now, it's likely they'll be interested next year.
Otherwise, I won't be at any cons as a publisher. I also won't be at Origins, GenCon, or BGG as a designer or regular attendee unless asked by a partner who also helps finance it. I don't really love these cons, and the cost doesn't often trump spending a long Saturday with friends locally. I'm totally glad some folks love cons. They're absurdly hit or mess for me, especially when I don't have a booth at which to work.
As my business goes from "trying to be legitimate" to "making artsy stuff," I won't need the ceremonial trappings of an LLC. It is very expensive to have one in California and I'll be switching to a legal construct that is more appropriate.
This sounds sad, but it's not really a big deal. I think of it this way. Years ago it was clear I had a bald spot, so I started buzzing my hair very short. Now, it's very apparent I have a bald spot. It looks lousy. So, I now shave my head down to the skin.
I don't need an LLC when I'm this bald.
Overall, I think that's it. Things are simpler, but still busy. I've realigned against things that are most important to me. I'm designing, creating, working with artists, and staying busy. In the end, I should lose a lot less money and "stay in my lane" a bit more.
What are you doing in 2017?