The original Dark Imp plan
The original idea for The Dark Imp was to publish regular BuzzleBoxes – board game and puzzle boxes. BuzzleBoxes contain a small game in a tin, a coaster game, three puzzles, three game cards and a bigger box game.
Each BuzzleBox is based around a theme. For example, BuzzleBox 1’s theme is ‘Gardens and Chickens’, which contains Gnome Grown and Don’t Count Your Chickens. All the puzzles are flower and garden themed and the game cards include explanations of Flower Garden and Cactus. All being well, BuzzleBox 3 (astronauts and asteroids) will come out in early July. Neatly completing a trilogy of BuzzleBoxes.
Since the initial BuzzleBox only plan, I’ve branched out and experimented with all sorts of different games and formats. I’ve designed and published Cracker Games, Coaster Games, Placemat Games, Notepad Games and Print & Play Games.
Through this immersion in game design and publishing over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about the board games industry, my customer base and what I want to do and spend my time on.
21 things I’ve learned
In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ve learned. Of course, in retrospect, some of these are blindingly obvious.
- It’s hard to sell games to people who aren’t looking for games.
- Many people are put off big rule books
- Surprisingly many people don’t want to read any rules at all… even rules on the back of a coaster.
- Lots of non-gaming families are only interested in playing mainstream party games.
- I don’t want to dumb my games down for the mainstream audience.
- As long as the game is good, gamers enjoy games in unusual formats
- Regardless of whether the games is good, non-gamers like the idea of games in unusual formats, though they might not actually play them
- Adults underestimate the complexity that children can handle in a game. Usually this is an excuse for not reading rules (see number 3).
- Assembling games from their component parts takes ages and I don’t like it.
- Board gamers would love to hook resistant friends and family into the hobby.
- I get very grumpy if I go for long periods without designing new games.
- I don’t really enjoy running events, even gaming ones (except low-level game nights at my house).
- I enjoy creating audio but not video.
- I love being part of the board game community. It is such a supportive industry with incredibly diverse and fabulous people. I want to do more things within this community.
- I enjoy playtesting other people’s games and working with people to improve their games.
- It’s hard to find good playtesters.
- Manufacturing overseas or having suppliers overseas is a bit of a nightmare. Timescales, minimum order quantities, shipping costs and import duty are all on the rise.
- By and large and particularly if you’re focusing on the mainstream market… board game publishing is very much a seasonal business. Up to 80% of the sales come in the last quarter of the year.
- I like running Kickstarters, though it’s really hard to concentrate on anything else when a campaign is live. Doing two Kickstarter campaigns in a year is too much!
- Social media takes loads of time.
- I love working on games commissions.
So, what’s does the future look like for The Dark Imp?
Here are the Top Five headlines:
- We’ll be focusing on publishing small format games that are really giftable, which we’re starting to get a reputation for. Expect more coaster games, greetings card games, notepad games and games on other things too. I’ll continue designing bigger games, but I’ll aim to license these to other publishers with larger audiences rather than publish them through The Dark Imp. BuzzleBox 3: Astronauts & Asteroids – which contains Uranus! & Countdown Confusion amongst other things – will be the last new BuzzleBox for the foreseeable future. I’m not planning on publishing any further bigger box games. There may be some new tin games from time to time.
- The Dark Imp will run an annual September Kickstarter. These campaigns will always be for easily manufactured games that can be quickly fulfilled. Many will have a Christmas theme. Ho ho ho!
- My show – The Game School – on Teacher Hug Radio will continue to run fortnightly. The audience is growing and the ideas are flowing. I’m always on the hunt for guests who do something interesting around games and education (get in touch if this is you). Videos will only be released when new games come out.
- The aim will be to keep manufacturing local to the point of sale – minimising shipping costs for the customer. So I’ll be manufacturing in the UK for UK sales. For my forthcoming Kickstarter, I’ll be trialling a dual centre print run – US backers will receive games printed in the US, UK backers will receive games printed in the UK.
- I want to be more involved in the wider tabletop games community. Tell me about your events and games that need playtesting. Tell me about your Kickstarter projects and head-scratching design problems. I’d love to hear. I’ll be doing more on Twitter and less on all other social platforms. So you know where to find me!