Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Spanish Flu

In September, we drove over the Alps, once again. Small hints of the approaching winter followed our trip. In the Brenner pass we saw some snow on top of the mountains. Austria had got 40 cm of snow the previous week but a new heat wave had melted most of it. In Italy the camping site closed their beach, only because the calendar showed the end of the summer season. For us, the +26c water of the Mediterranean sea was warm enough, so we drove to France where beaches were still open. Perhaps it was due to long days at the beach, or perhaps the onsetting autumn, but when we finally reached Spain, we all had ‘flu.

Spanish Champion

It took me a while to find the huge packet of tissues I had bought in Switzerland earlier this year, but it was well needed. On the day we had to build our booth at JOKOS convention, I was feeling so ill the guys had to manage without me. Fortunately Ruymán arrived to help as during the fair, so I didn’t have to talk so much.

Väinö playing Half Pint Heroes.
The JOKOS event was very small and we were the only foreigners there. Väinö had time to look at other booths and learn new games. He’s a fast learner and arrived back to our booth with a free copy of a game: he had beaten the guy presenting the game on his first try. On the last day there was a Half Pint Heroes tournament. Two Spanish men and Väinö were the only participants. After two rounds, it was already clear who would win. When Väinö got his prize I comforted the men that at least they managed to play the whole game and not lose in six rounds…

Timo presenting Perdition's Mouth to Sandy Petersen in Cordoba. 

Spanish Parking

When the Northern parts of Finland got the first snow of this winter, we were sweating in +30c in Valencia. We met our friend Paco, and I was brave enough to cook paella for a Spaniard. Väinö had already recovered from the flu, but Timo and I were coughing badly. Paco got us some medication from the pharmacy.

We tried to rest but a good night’s sleep with a cough is nearly impossible. So perhaps I wasn’t very patient that evening, when we went to present Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift at a local store. We were running late and needed a parking place for our van. Eventually I found one and sent the coordinates to Timo, who was driving around the streets. While I was standing on the parking spot waiting, a Spanish man decided he would take the space. He almost drove over me, and when I refused to move, he called the police. At that point Timo arrived and tried to reverse into the space, but the other car was blocking his way. A nice local guy told the Spaniard there was another free space just up the road. His car would fit there but not our van. The guy just wouldn’t listen, though.

I couldn’t understand his behavior and stated that aloud, in my very Finnish, straight-talking, way. As I mentioned: I perhaps wasn’t at my best at the time. Dear Paco arrived to talk some sense to the guy but he was stubborn. Eventually he had to move his car, because he was blocking a garage driveway. We were able to park and go do our work. Paco stayed behind to talk with the police, who arrived a bit later.

I learned that reserving parking space is illegal in Spain. Anyhow, the police explained to the guy that these things happen every day with tourists and there is nothing they can do about it – and that they actually have better things to do than solving parking problems.

Spanish Health Care

The fair in Cordoba was held
in a medieval building with fountains.
The Spanish ‘flu we got wasn’t as bad as the original, in 1918, but the cough was as stubborn and annoying as the this-is-my-parking-spot-guy. So, just before the Cordoba fair, Timo and I went to see a doctor. The receptionist at out camping site pointed us to a ”Centro de Salud” of the nearby village. The clerk there didn’t speak any English. We had to call to Ruymán who then translated our issue to her.

After about 30 mins of waiting we got to a doctor. She didn’t speak any English either. We were prepared, though, and had our symptoms written in a mobile phone, using a translation website - deepl.com. She listened to our lungs and gave us a prescription for antibiotics. We managed to explain that I’m allergic to penicillin. So she wrote me a different prescription.

In the pharmacy, nobody spoke English. They wrote the dosage on the boxes, in black ink: 1-1-1 for Timo and 1 for me. (Three times a day and once a day). I replied with a nod and the one word of Spanish I had learned: vale (OK).

The visit to the doctors didn’t cost us anything. We had our European health insurance cards with us and that was enough. One more reason to like the EU: public health care belongs to all EU members.

Spanish Rats

We had the honor to be part of the jury evaluating candidates for the Spanish game of the year. During one weekend, we played over 10 different board games from Spanish designers. We realised, not for the first time, how important a part of the playing experience a good rulebook is. You should always give your rules to someone who knows nothing about your game, for them to read. Before publishing.

We found some very interesting games, like Gretchinz!, a Warhammer 40,000 racing game. The tiny cardboard cars were delightful. I wanted to blast other players’ cars for much longer than the game lasted. The best laughs, we had while playing Mia!, It’s a simple card game but the rules have different variants.

Väinö liked Ratland, a lot. It’s a worker-placement game, where you collect cheese with your rats and try to grow your population. He was happy to find a store selling the game at the Cordoba fair and managed to swap one copy of Darwinning! for it. The designer of Ratland was at the neighbouring booth, so he even got his box signed.

Spanish Memories

We spent a month in Spain. Our road back north, towards Essen Spiel, went through the areas we drove through at the end of February. This time there was no snow but we could see the damage left by a recent hurricane. When we approached San Sebastian, I suddenly realised the scenery reminded me of Finland: hills covered with pine trees.

We have less than two months left on our tour but we will drive to Spain one more time, in November, for the DAU convention, in Barcelona. I will have a lot of unforgettable memories of Spain after this year.

PS. After I wrote this our car broke. Engine stopped working while I was driving. We need to find another car so that we can finish this tour and go back home. Also you can help us to solve this, pledge now, thank you!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

30 Tons of Games

The Revised Edition of Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift is ready. Gameboards, scenario sheets, cards and rulebooks are printed. Heroes and enemies manufactured. Punchboards are waiting for punching. We have been working on the Revised Edition for over a year. Even if the product is ready, the work is not yet finished. The games need transporting. Let me clarify: the 30 tons of games we produced need transporting from one continent to three other continents. Quite a task for a micro-company...

Quality Time

Printproofs of Perdition's Mouth.
It has been quite challenging to keep to our production schedule while we have been on tour. The hard part has been nominating a delivery address for physical print proofs and production samples. You know, an address where we knew we would be within 2 weeks and stay there over 2 days. There haven’t been many places like that. When the production samples got stuck in German customs for 5 days due to a not-so-accurate packing list, it really made our life difficult. A company can get up to 5 production samples without any custom fees. We got one package, but of 10 different products. So 10 samples, because the packing list had only one line ”board game sample”. Tiny, but costly error.

Timo and I checked all the products in the heat of the German summer. It took some hours to go through all the different language versions of PM:RE, to see if they had the correct sheets and cards, count all the miniatures, check the UPC codes... We also checked the packing and functionality of the new insert. We found errors. It is always frustrating at this time of the production, when you really want give the green light and get things rolling. When you are running out of time on the agreed schedule. Even if we know it’s better to find them at this point and not when the first customer sends you a request for missing parts.

The quality is more important than the schedule. I believe all players are happier to get a decent game week or two later than originally assumed, than get a game on time but with flaws. Nevertheless, ironing out every small typo is virtually impossible. Something will be left in the final product and we know our fans will find those.

Carton, Pallet And Container

Darwinning! is much smaller game.
The whole European shipment was one pallet.
Once we were convinced the game box has all the components it is supposed to have, we allowed the manufacturer to proceed. We gave instructions of how many game boxes and items should go into a carton. I made an Excel spreadsheet with all pre-orders of each item and started to count how many cartons of each item we need in Europe, USA and Australia. Then we made a sales estimation for each area. Based on these numbers we provided packing instructions to the Chinese manufacturer and asked how many pallets to each location this would be.

There are different sizes for pallets. It took a while to establish an understanding with the Chinese of the correct – and cheapest – pallet size and height. Based on the numbers of pallets we got from China, Timo started to organise transportation. From China to Europe there are two alternatives: ocean freight or a train. The train is faster and not so much more expensive. We used it for PM:TG. We decided to transport a small part (just 4 tons!!) by train so we could have some games in Essen Spiel.

We quickly learned that we need full containers for shipping the remaining part of our games. You know, those colossal metal boxes you see in harbours. After Timo had found a freight company with a reasonable price for 20ft containers, the Chinese gave us new numbers. Their first calculations were off by 10 cubic meters! We would need a 40ft container for the European shipment. The taller 40ft container.
Hamburg harbour. Look at the amount of containers on that ship!

The Trade War

When you think this shipping task couldn’t get any more demanding, the War begins. And now I mean the trade war between China and USA. Board games have been free of any tariffs. But as you know, the situation with duties can change as fast as Mr Trump can tweet. Due to the war, shipping prices from China to the US have risen radically: A container from China to USA costs double the cost of the same container to any European port, or more. Everybody wants to get their products to the US before any new tariffs are introduced. The latest news also suggests that toys from China will have a tariff. At the moment, nobody knows whether this will also affect board games.

All we can do is ship our games and hope for the best. Typhoons, hurricanes, pirates and tariffs: stay away, Perdition’s Mouth is coming!

Perdition’s Mouth Gameplay on Youtube

Many PM reviews have been filmed. It is a really good game for filming as it has quite a lot of fantastic looking components. You can even find some playthroughs of the introductory scenario. Today, we can now offer you something even better than that.

HitPointsGaming is a team of game enthusiasts, that record their play of various games. They already finished three (full!) Kingdom Death campaigns and many others. We are happy they agreed to film a play of Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift gameplay as well. And this time we do not speak about the well known 1a scenario, they started the campaign the hard way. The quality of their recording and cut is way better than the overall Youtube standard. Just see yourself, right here!

Friday, 31 August 2018

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Many cars in Brussels
look like they have
met this guy...
Let’s make one thing clear: Brussels and cars are not meant to go together. Period. No amount of history, no international atmosphere, no golden decorations at the Grand Place can fix that. The heart of Europe is suffering from lousy cholesterol, blocked veins in the form of traffic jams. It’s filled with road construction, one-way streets, too few parking spaces and the worst driving culture I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, go driving in Brussels. If you are still happy after three minutes, I’ll buy you a beer. The beer there is good.

From Dawn to Dust

Brussel Game Festival was a nice change from the normal conventions. It’s held outdoors, in the Cinquantenaire Park. The organisers provide small tents for booths and punters arrive at the place through a magnificent triumphal arch. That is, of course, if they know how to drive there…

We had our car packed ready, parking permission printed and coordinates for the car park. With the help of Google Maps navigation, we were driving to set up the booth. ”You have reached your destination” the navigator announced – when we were in a tunnel, under the park! After a lot of swearing, desperate zooming of the map, illegal parking and a phone call to the organisers, we finally managed to enter the park with our van.
Timo presented Darwinning! to  Boardgame Heaven.

The park seemed to be a lovely place for a gaming event until the wind got going. Fine dust from the paths of the park flew around and covered everything. Every now and then we had to chase treasure cards and brochures flying away. During the weekend we had several rain showers, during which we had to quickly collect presentation material together and move our tables further under the tent.

Our booth was full the whole weekend.

The Coffee Queue

Even though we had to empty our tent-booth every evening, the event was pretty smooth and pleasant to be part of. Except in the mornings. I need my morning coffee to wake up. Convention days are so exhausting that extra coffee is mandatory.

In the coffee queue. They tried to keep me happy, anyway...
We got food and drink coupons from the organisers. For beer, there were three tents with several beer taps. For coffee, only two machines, which made one cup at a time. A long time. It’s not a very effective way to serve exhibitors.

In Finland, the organiser would have made 50 litres of filtered coffee in a large container with a tap. Pouring a cup would have taken 2 seconds. Don't tell me about freshly ground beans and sophisticated flavour. At the fair, in the morning, people are not looking for a barista experience. They need caffeine. Whatever liquid form you serve it in, they are happy.

Touring Traditions

We stayed in Brussels at the same place we were at during our February visit: the youth hostel Aubergess des Jeunesse. If you ever want to torture yourself by going to Brussels with a caravan or a motorhome, I can recommend this place. The centre of Brussels is within walking distance.

Väinö came back from summer holiday and
started working right away. These players came
from Spain and we will meet them
later this year in Spanish conventions.
Getting out from Brussels turned out to be very difficult this time. The first route was under construction, and getting another option required three different satnav systems. And still, we took a wrong lane in a tunnel. But we decided to drive on, just to get out of the city. We didn’t have a clear plan about where to go for the next night. We have three weeks for a drive to Barcelona. Plenty can happen, many places could be visited.

All of a sudden, we noticed we were heading south, towards Luxembourg. You remember February when we accidentally ended up there… The only country during this tour where we didn’t stay overnight. So we decided to fix that and refresh our memories of Luxembourg. It’s good to have traditions: all roads to (and from) Brussels go via Luxembourg!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Wall and Bubble

”We need to take the next exit,” I told Timo, raising my eyes from the satnav. ”Hmm… the exit seems to be on the other side of that wall...” We were driving along a German autobahn, towards Berlin. The road was under construction and we were driving in a temporary lane. We looked over the thick wall and saw other cars taking the exit. And the next one. After 15 kilometres the construction work ended and we were finally able to leave the autobahn. A small detour to the campsite.

Cool Berlin Con
Berlin Boardgame Con was held in a building called the ”Kühlhaus” - cool house. It looked cool: old brick walls, iron stairways and a 2 level high opening hall in the middle, with wide balconies on each side. Due to the heat bubble covering the whole of Europe, though, it was anything but cool inside.

Since we are now very professional participants of gaming conventions, we were well prepared. Among other booth furniture, we carried our portable fridge to the site. So during the hot fair days, we had cold drinks available. It also protected the Hunter & Cron chocolates, that we got from the organiser, from melting!

Berlin Con was the fourth convention in Germany for us, this year. I don’t know if it was because of the warm weather, summertime or just the lively atmosphere of Berlin, but people there were really happy and relaxed. We had the very first copies of Darwinning! there and the feedback was extremely positive. An overview of Darwinning! can be seen soon on Hunter & Cron’s site.

Heat and Flood

Butterfly reading Kindle with Timo.
The heat wave forced us to replan our schedules. We have been avoiding travelling and choosing camping sites with swimming pools. We don’t have air conditioning in the caravan, so during the daytime, it is really hot. It is difficult to work when your brain’s melting and the computer gets overheated.
Entrepreneur can
work in bikinis!

Fortunately, the nights have been cooler. In the evenings it’s nice to sit outside and play board games. I bought Azul – the game of the year - from Berlin and so far I have lost all but one game against Timo.

Finland has also got its share of the heat and Lapland has had the warmest summer ever. My garden is there on its own. Our neighbour sent me some pictures, and despite the drought, it’s blooming.

Lovely neighbours fixing our road at home.
One morning, I read on the news that it had been raining at home. A lot. 27.6 mm in one hour and over 46 mm over the day. Just for reference: ”heavy rain” is categorised as 7 mm/hour. I asked our neighbour if everything was ok at our place (I knew the tenant was on vacation). The reply was two pictures from our courtyard road. Part of the sandy road had been washed downhill. Just like I had feared. Even before I asked for help, our neighbour sent me another picture - of them fixing the road. Some people are just pure gold!
This summer will be remembered as the warmest and driest for decades.

PS. When we left Berlin, we noticed one of the caravan tires had a screw in it… I’ve lost count of these. We used the same procedure as with the previous ones: Google the closest garage, get the tire fixed, continue. It delayed us for about 30 minutes. Like the autobahn wall coming into Berlin.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Over, Under And By The Sea

Blairdrummond caravan parkrhododrendrons and a chocolate cake in the oven.
“That was some excellent reversing! I could never do that!” the man in the neighbour pitch announced after Timo had parked our caravan to the most beautiful camping place we had ever seen. Large rhododendrons were blooming all around us. “Would you like to drink tea or coffee?” his wife asked. I was quite confused. During the over 5 months of travelling, we had never had conversations with other campers. Just the polite “Good morning!” and that’s it. I told the lady I’m a coffee drinker, Timo drinks tea and our child likes hot chocolate. She disappeared in their own caravan and arrived after a while with three large mugs. What an excellent start for our holiday in Scotland!

Left is the new right

We had planned to spend the whole of June in the UK after UKGE. We had several team members we wanted to see, and Scotland was an area that really interested us. I didn’t dare to think much of that month beforehand, because the left side traffic gave me nightmares.

We arrived in the UK via Eurotunnel, under the sea. Not the cheapest way, but very easy. Although, so far the only passport control we have had, was in Calais where police officers also checked our caravan. In Finland, there has been news about the illegal immigrants' attempts to enter the Eurotunnel, so we were not surprised by the strict security checks.
The further north we drove,
the more amazing was the view.

The left side traffic did require some attention though. In all the crossings and roundabouts it was good that two people looked at where the other cars might come from and to which lane we are supposed to go.

The British Weather

After the nice and sunny time in Italy and central Europe, we were prepared to have a bit cooler June, with a lot of rain. You know, the typical British weather. But as we learned already in March: there is nothing typical in this year’s weather!
"Hector was here."

The beautiful, sunny weather during UKGE continued for the whole month. OK, the Hector-storm went over us in Edinborough and dropped a 5-meter long branch of a tree at the camping site. Then it was raining for a day, but even the rain was warm!

From island to another

The magical Fairy Pools.

The friendly neighbours at the camping site recommended us the Isle of Skye. We had been warned about the narrow roads in North, but they had been there with a caravan with no problems. The Isle of Skye has a special meaning for Timo. He has been playing for years a role game that happens on the island. So we decided to go there, to see the Fairy Pools and other sights he has been walking for years in his imagination.

Our caravan on a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

We were supposed to take the new bridge to the island, but I forgot the tell that to the navigator. So we ended up straight to the ferry harbour. And of course, we couldn’t fit into the next ferry (we needed a place of 6 cars). Driving to the bridge would have taken 3 hours, so we just waited, had lunch and enjoyed the lovely sea view. Did I already mention, that it was sunny and warm?
"So long as the gorse is in flower the kissing season is open."
An old saying I heard, and learned the gorse blooms all year round.

I had expected Scottish hills to be covered with grass, moss, heather and rocks. Of course, those existed, but the number of blooming flowers was surprising. Not only the tree-sized rhododendrons but also other bushes and trees, covered in golden yellow. I saw irises and orchids, stonecrops and wild roses. Many of them similar to home. And my soul enjoyed every single one of them.
Timo on the corner stone of the covenant of Talisker in Ars Magica. 

The Jewel Among the Slate

Väinö tried slate mining.

After an excellent week around Scotland, we headed to the Snowdonia area in Wales. There we had one colder and misty day, but we spend it underground in the old slate mine. The over 100 years old mine area provided many attractions to tourists. And due to that fact, that our home floors and yard is covered with slate (from Alta, Norway), I felt like home walking across on the grey stone.

The precious jewel of our trip turned out the be Emrys, the owner of Llys Derwen Camping in Snowdonia. We left his campsite in the Midsummer eve, planning to have a barbeque in the evening with our friend at Silverstone. To make a long story short: wrong road choice, too narrow and going up to a steep hill, caravan tire exploded, reversing broke the clutch (again!), we got stuck in a curve and blocked the whole road.

The pretty red car of Royal Mail stopped close by. Fortunately, mailman's tour ended right before our caravan, so we didn’t stop the mail deliveries. I asked the mailman our location and contacted, once again, The Automobile and Touring Club of Finland (ATCF) for towing help. To Bwlch. I had to spell it many times. Welsh names are lovely!

Timo phoned Emrys, and he came to wonder about the situation. Before the British partner of ATCF even managed to confirm the request of help, Emrys had organised us a new tire, car towing and repair for the clutch and a tractor to pull the caravan back to his camping site. All this in the weirdly pleasant sounding Welsh.

Grandma’s Stories

Our family will never forget that Midsummer. I burned my neck spending hours in the sun, waiting for the towing on the hilltop, looking at the fantastic view of mountains and sea. Sheep, falcons and wild goats wondered of our caravan blocking the road. We had a great evening at Emrys’ camping site with other campers sharing our experiences and Scottish whiskey.

I bet when I later tell this story to my grandchildren, they will reply: “Don’t exaggerate grandma! We can believe everything else, except that it was warm and sunny all the time!”

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Did You Saw The Saw?

Olazábal and The Saw at UKGE.
Picture by I Play Red, thanks!
It was early morning. Olazábal was walking through corridors, alert, finger ready to pull the power button of her circular saw. She soon spotted a familiar, tall figure with grey hair. “It’s time to introduce The Saw to him..”, Olazábal thought. She approached the figure with determined steps. She pulled the trigger and The Saw started spinning with a hissing sound. “Remember me?” she asked, grinning and pointing at the guy, with The Saw. “OMG! What is that?” Rahdo asked with a surprised smile.

The Making of Olazábal

In Perdition’s Mouth one of the heroes, Olazábal, is a female dwarf. She has a circular saw, powered by steam, as a weapon. For almost a year I have been preparing an Olazábal costume. The clothes and the beard were the easy part. You might remember her from the Kickstarter video of Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift Revised Edition. The weapon was trickier to do.

These machines are
just so beautiful!
A box in our car has all kinds of cogwheels and pipes for the saw but I had lacked inspiration for building it. I found the inspiration in The Technical Museum in Brno, which had big, working, steam machines! The sunny days in Czechia gave me time to spray paint cogwheels, pressure meters and the shoulder pads I had bought from Modena Play. Of course, the lack of proper tools made the build a bit demanding and I ended up finishing the saw with duct tape (at least it was orange!).

SteampunkAndFantasy had the latex wrench.
They also had some nice steampunk corsets
- but unfortunately Olazábal does not wear one...
Pyrkon and its great variation of handcrafts provided me with the one missing part for the costume: a latex wrench. Olazábal was finally ready to enter the crowded corridors of the cult of board gamers at UKGE.

Network With Faces

Good business networks are something you really need in the board game industry. It is not enough that you have a great game idea, perhaps even new mechanics to present. You need good graphics, previews, reviews, retailers and, of course, the buyers. UKGE was an excellent place to build our network.

Rahdo listening the idea of Darwinning!
This time I was without the beard.
I really liked meeting Rahdo. He made a preview of Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift when it was first on Kickstarter. He was very happy to see how far we had got with the game. I asked if he would have time to learn about Darwinning!. He noticed my lunch fruits and answered: “Only if you give me a banana, I need something to eat.” So he got his banana, and learned that there is a humorous card game coming that he can soon review.

Giles Pound makes reviews, podcasts and blogs on his site, Both Sides of My Table. It is always nice to present games to people who really love gaming. It’s even better if you can provide them with something new. You can check here what Giles has to say about Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift!

Jamie Noble, the artist of
the original 
Olazábal art.
After UKGE we drove north, to meet Paul “Catweazel” Tunaley. We really like his learn-to-play videos. During a nice dinner of Indian food we had a good talk about board games and upcoming videos.

Tristan Hall has designed
new scenario for 
and her friends in PM:RE.
Even though all reviewers are important for our business, really, I most enjoy meeting the players. The people who stop at the booth just to tell us “I’m your backer, I really like your  games”. They are the reason why we are in this business. It’s great to meet those happy faces.

Come And Meet Us!

“I dropped my pledge and I’ve been regretting that ever since. I came to fix my error.” A guy said to me at our booth, as he bought Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift. Yeah, that happens. If you have made such an error, or have missed our games and campaigns for other reasons, don’t worry! Our tour continues, just come and meet us!

Our current schedule for the next few months is:

Berlin Brettspiele Con, Germany 21.-22.7.
Brussels Game Festival, Belgium 24.-26.8.
Jokos, Spain 21.-23.9. (please don’t let it snow…)
Cordoba, Spain 11.-13.10.
Essen Spiel, Germany 25.-28.10.
Spielwiesn, Germany, 16.-18.11.
And some more...

Do send us a hint if you know a good convention!