A Year In The Board Games Industry
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Just over a year ago I quit my job in IT Project Management to work on my board games publishing company full-time. What's it like trying to scrape a living from the hobby industry? Read more to find out.
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1. Board Game Publisher: Reiver Games
 
Jackson Pope
United Kingdom
Newcastle upon Tyne
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I'd been running Reiver Games as a hobby for two years. I set it up in July 2006 to publish a game I'd designed: Border Reivers and a year later I'd released It's Alive! Both these game were very small runs, made entirely by hand and had sold out within a year. 100 copies of Border Reivers and 300 copies of It's Alive! I'd even got three shops to carry my hand-made games. I'd not taken any money out of the company as salary, but the company had made a small profit during both of its first two years.
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2. Board Game: Poisson d'Avril [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:6805]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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April: My first month was mostly taken up with getting the last few copies of It's Alive! constructed by hand. I'd previously been working on this in my spare time, on weekends and in the evenings after work, or taking a few days off work to concentrate on building up stock for competitions. With each copy taking nearly an hour to assemble it was strenuous work, but it felt great to be busy, and to be constructing games during the day rather than in my 'free' time.
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3. Board Game: The First of May [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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May: I went to the Beer and Pretzels convention in Burton-on-Trent for the second time and sold out of the last of the hand-made copies of It's Alive! I also took Carpe Astra a prototype that Ted Cheatham and I had been working on. It got some good feedback, and I made several changes to the scoring which made things much more interesting as a result of the feedback I got. Of course selling out of It's Alive! was good, but it left me in the unenviable position of being someone who sold board games for a living with no games to sell. Gulp! Time to get something else ready.
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4. Board Game: June 6 [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:7571]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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June: The UK Games Expo, where I had launched It's Alive! so successfully in the previous year was a bit weird for me this year. I had no games to sell so I didn't have a booth this year, instead the organisers had invited me to be on the panel for the 'UK Game of the Year' competition. I got to play several of the entrants before the cometition, the rest at the show. It was a strong field, and in the end Ice Flow won the award. I was now actively trying to get It's Alive! reprinted so that I had something to sell. I also got to meet W. Eric Martin, the editor of Boardgame News, I showed him a couple of my prototypes and got to play the forthcoming Dominion in return.
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5. Board Game: Lock 'n Load Tactical: Dark July 43 [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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July: Another dry month. I'd sent It's Alive! to the manufacturer (my first professionally manufactured game!) and was going through the manufacturing process for the first time. The manufacturer reckoned the game would be ready in 3-5 weeks. I'd approached a couple of manufacturers, the one in the UK was much quicker (3-5 weeks instead of 8-10) and they could also do the small cards. More thumb-twiddling though as I was still without any stock. At some point I'd have to start selling some games or this company would quickly die a death.
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6. Board Game: August Fury [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:11594]
Jackson Pope
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August: My manufacturer were really starting to piss me off about now, the original 3-5 weeks was now around 10, and as the sales guy left on holiday I found out the games I was expecting now were still three weeks away. Thankfully I'd been doing the odd day contracting at my former employer, and the money was covering the several months without any stock.
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7. Board Game: September [Average Rating:5.20 Overall Rank:15812]
Jackson Pope
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September: Woot! The professional run of It's Alive! arrived at the beginning of the month. I shipped all the pre-orders and stocked a few distributors and shops. Things are finally off to a start selling games. I decided to do Carpe Astra as my next game, but sadly it's not going to be ready in time for Essen. I can however take pre-orders there. Carpe Astra was manufactured in Germany by a different manufacturer who were considerably cheaper.
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8. Board Game: The Hunt for Red October [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:7747]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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October: A superb month! I started dealing with the German manufacturer in earnest and their customer service was fantastic. I went to Essen for the first time with three friends to help me run my stall. It was a knockout show, I picked up three new distributors and lay the groundwork for two more. I sold a full pallet of It's Alive! at the show to distributors and punters and take a bunch of pre-orders for Carpe Astra. My turnover for the month was huge, I made a big profit from the show and things are finally starting to look up.
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9. Board Game: Red November [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:1688]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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November: Another good month. Eight weeks after It's Alive! is released I finally picked up the largest UK distributor. Several distributors re-ordered stock after they've sold out of their initial purchases. Carpe Astra arrived from Germany and the production quality is fantastic. Feeling good! Sadly, the GBP has started it's decline as the economic climate worsens and Carpe Astra (paid for in Euros) is noticably more expensive than I'd bargained for as a result - there go my margins :-(
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10. Board Game: The Christmas Game [Average Rating:4.22 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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December: Another pretty good month. I lined up distribution in Scandinavia and Spain and continued selling It's Alive! and Carpe Astra. The Wife has got a job down South, so we do several trips looking for a new home down there and sell our flat in York. I investigated moving my stock down South too, but warehousing is three times as expensive near London as it is in York so I decided to leave my stock where it is.
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11. Board Game: Janus [Average Rating:5.62 Overall Rank:14192]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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January: Another fantastic month - my best since Essen in October. I lined up several new distributors (the two biggest US distributors, plus a second German distributor and a Taiwanese distributor). These initial stocking orders lead to an excellent month's sales. In other news, I moved Sumeria, which I had intended to release in October at Essen, forward to the UK Games Expo in June - time to get cracking on this!
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12. Board Game: Kasserine: The Baptism of Fire, February 1943 [Average Rating:3.69 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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February: With all my distributors stocked up things slow down. February's sales are pretty weak. Things were pressing on with Sumeria though - I lined up a German artist who approached me at Essen and he's keen to do the job. After a little haggling over the price we're good to go.
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13. Board Game: The Long March [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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March: Another slow month. Things aren't looking so good now and the boundless optimism of January is looking a little over-egged. My distributors were still well-stocked so there were very few orders coming in. Advice on BGG is to run one of the BGG competitions to raise awareness, so I contacted Chad and started arranging it.
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14. Board Game: Across 5 Aprils [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3060]
Jackson Pope
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Newcastle upon Tyne
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April: A year of working for myself. Things are starting to feel settled down here in the South, I've a couple of game groups, and I've got some friends willing to help me playtest the wealth of submissions I'm receiving. The BGG competition is a huge success - Carpe Astra sits at the top of the BGG Hot Games list for 10 days. I get enquiries from three new distributors (though no orders as yet) and Carpe Astra gets an honourable mention in Mike Siggins' Sumo Awards and is added to Bruno Faidutti's Ideal Game Library. Sumeria has gone to the printers, and should be ready in time for the Expo. Still with sales continuing slowly I need to think seriously about my income - am I going to get this to the point where I'll be able to earn an income from it? I do several sales visits to shops in London and the South-East and they all seem keen to stock my games. These sales visits seem like a pretty good use of my time.
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15. Board Game: 1864: Year of Decision [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked]
Jackson Pope
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My first full-time year as a game publisher is a mixed bag. If I'm to carry this on, I need to be able to make a living from it. Due to the late arrival of the games (after several months of nothing to sell) my sales for the tax year from April-April fall well short of the up-front cost of manufacturing 5,000 games. Reiver Games makes its first loss. It's not all doom and gloom though, I've picked up 18 distributors covering North America, most of Europe and a couple of places further East. I've three more distributors interested in carry my games. Sales are up 400% on the previous year and I'm well situated in stock. The BGG competition has raised a lot of interest, and hopefully sales will pick up in the next month or two. We shall see...
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