First of all congratulations on a successful Kickstarter campaign. Let’s start from the very beginning. FlickFleet wasn’t the first game you developed, your debut was Zombology. When did you get the idea for the card game and how did you go from idea to final product?
Zombology wasn’t my first game either! I started designing games in 2002 and ran a former publishing company, Reiver Games, during 2006-2011. Zombology was my return to publishing – it was a game that started out as a serious game to give away as a conference giveaway for my employer that slowly morphed into a silly game about ‘scientists’ trying to cure the zombie plague using alternative medicine. Once I’d got it finished I made a few copies in 2015 for the friends who had helped me playtest it, but continued interest in it tempted me back into self-publishing.
Did you learn anything from development of Zombology that helped with the development of FlickFleet?
They are very different games, so there wasn’t a lot that was transferable other than the crafting skills.
When and how did you get into playing tabletop games?
Very young! I remember gaming as a kid (chess, Chinese checkers, Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs), and was into Games Workshop games and then Magic the Gathering as a teen. I got into modern board games around 2000 with the Lord of the Rings game and then Carcassonne.
When did you decide to get into developing games?
I’m a software engineer by training and used to spend my spare time making bits of video games. After a 36 hour game of Mighty Empires in 2002 with a couple of friends, I figured I could make a less random game that played in a sensible amount of time, and I started work on what became Border Reivers – my first self-published game which I released a 100 copy hand-crafted run of in 2006.
Do you plan on re-releasing Border Reivers again under Eurydice Games?
We have no plans to do that at the moment. I’ve done a bit of work on a second edition of Border Reivers a couple of years ago, but it’s some way off ready and probably runs a bit long for the Eurydice style.
What games have had the biggest influence on you?
I’m not sure which games have had the biggest influence, but the games I’ve played the most are Magic the Gathering, Carcassonne, Race for the Galaxy, 6 Nimmt!, 7 Wonders and Ra. I like shorter games that you can play over and over again.
A lot of successful games on Kickstarter are either shorter games with replayability like Exploding Kittens, or big boxes of stuff like Gloomhaven. Do you think that was a contributing factor to your success?
I guess the short length and replayability via scenarios appealed to time-pressured people like myself.
You assemble and handle a lot of the construction of your games yourself. I imagine that is really appealing to buyers, what has the general feedback been?
Some people really love that we make the games ourselves. A recent tweet from a Kickstarter backer said: ‘I should not be surprised but it looks way better (inside and out) than most products *not made* at home!’, so the reception has been really good.
Making the games yourself while designing and testing FlickFleet must have been a lot of work, I’m interested to know about the highs and lows of adding a Kickstarter campaign to your busy schedule. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I did a lot of the Kickstarter preparation during my lunchbreaks at work – designing the Kickstarter page, doing all the images and graphic design and some of the promotion. There were things that needed to be done in the evenings though – the Kickstarter video among them, which was a long night! I usually go to bed pretty early as our youngest wakes a lot in the night still, so my sleep is very broken. The Kickstarter campaign itself brought most of the highs and lows though. I’d been told by a Kickstarter consultant that the box art (hideous mock-up of mine), wasn’t good enough to be successful on Kickstarter, and so I was researching options leading up to and during the campaign – we ended up opening it up to a vote and then could present the final art with a few days to go. Watching the total crawl slowly towards the target during the middle of the campaign was gruelling, and every time someone cancelled their pledge our stomachs dropped – it was very tense!
When FlickFleet was 90% funded with 30 hours left, at this point what was going through your mind? I imagine it was exciting but a nail-biting experience.
Oh, it was! The Kickstarter was a rollercoaster from start to finish – running just before Christmas with lots of competition (which I think is unavoidable nowadays) we had lots of cancelled pledges and things went very slowly in the middle. Paul and I went through the wringer over that month. As the end approached I was clinging to the statistic (from Kickstarter themselves) that 98% of projects that reach 60% funded go on to successfully fund in the end. Optimism was required!
Can you describe what it is like getting such a positive response for your game, and trust by people investing their money in you?
It’s an amazing feeling any time you get someone who has spent money on one of your games go out of their way to write to you and let you know how much they’ve enjoyed it – that’s why we do all this in the first place and it makes it all worthwhile! Just yesterday one of our backers sent us a message saying: ‘We LOVE FlickFleet. We’ve been playing it non-stop all weekend.’ Which is an awesome thing to hear!
Did you do anything to celebrate and mark the FlickFleet campaign reaching its goal?
Breathe and relax! It was very tense right up until the end. We had a couple of cancellations when it hit the target with four hours to go. Nail biting doesn’t begin to describe it! I think I also had a beer 🙂
Kickstarter has launched so many successful games, however many have also failed. From your own experience, what do you think is the key to success?
I don’t think our experience is particularly relevant considering how close we were to failing. I think marketing is key. A big mailing list, a community of people interested in the game (or the theme or the licence) will definitely help. As will killer art and minis.
I am huge fan of dexterity games such as Flick ’em Up. What can you tell us about FlickFleet’s gameplay mechanics?
It’s a game a lot like X-Wing minis or Star Trek Attack Wing, but also a dexterity game – you flick your ships into position and then fire weapons by placing a die on top of the ship and flicking it at an opponent’s ship. If the die hits (and they’re polyhedral dice, so they roll in interesting ways!), the die result describes the damage dealt. The ships vary in size (and some get smaller when damaged), so you can use them to act as cover and positioning is often critical!
How many changes if any did FlickFleet go though during development and testing stages, and what were they?
It’s unusual for my games in that it changed very little from original idea to final product. We tweaked the ship shapes a bit (the fighters were initially half-octagons but ended up as circles) and the dashboards evolved as time went on, but the original idea was pretty close to where it ended up.
FlickFleet being a scenario based game I can imagine expansions in the future, is there anything like that you can talk about?
We’ve a few ideas on that front: more ship types, new weapons and even new races with very different ships. We’re thinking of bringing some of this content back to Kickstarter later this year…
Lastly are there any other games in development or ideas you are currently working on?
There’s a few, though nothing particularly close to being ready – the downside of hand-crafting the games around a full-time job and a young family is that you’ve very little time left for attending conventions and play-testing new ideas. One idea I’m currently thinking about a lot is a semi-cooperative dexterity game with a very unusual theme.
The unusual theme has got me curious, I will have to keep an eye out for that. With such a busy schedule and juggling family life, do you still get to play games often?
I hold a weekly Games Night at my house when I can (about 70% of the time – work travel and holidays clash reasonably often) and a weekly Games Club one lunchtime a week at work. When I we have friends visiting (or visit friends) on a weekend we’ll often play games and Daughter the First (6) also is interested in gaming every now and again. I usually play 15-40 games a month, but lots of those are very short!
Thank you very much Jackson for your time, I have really enjoyed talking to you and we here at Table Flip wish you all the best with Eurydice Games and the future.
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