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!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Safe Sweating

Sylvia presenting PM:AR in Pyrkon.
Our booth is behind the crib,” I told Tomasz ja Sylvia from For2players.  They carried our game boxes to the booth. We had 15 minutes to set everything up before the doors opened to the public. The baby in the crib at the neighbouring booth was playing happily, while his mother and other exhibitors and retailers were setting up their displays. 15 minutes was all we needed. Soon the aisle was filled with fantasy creatures, pokemon, warriors and happy people offering “free hugs” on their signs. Pyrkon, an amazing fantasy festival, had started.

The Other Rulebook

Our booth in UKGE was
nicely located close to
our PM:RE manufacturer.
Two weeks after Pyrkon we were carrying games to our booth in Birmingham, for UKGE. Our son was stopped at the door: no minors allowed! I was stunned and the memories of Nuremberg surfaced. I had re-read the exhibitors guide for UKGE just the night before to check set-up times and other instructions and hadn’t found any age limits.

It was in the other rulebook, the rules of the NEC, which I hadn’t read since in March. That one had the age limits and safety regulations. I was soon told that we were breaking several of them. The worst thing was that we were wearing sandals, due to the nice, sunny weather. It was mandatory to have shoes that cover your feet. Luckily we had managed to smuggle most of our stuff to the booth in our sandals, so we just left the exhibiting hall.

Saved by Rubber Boots

The problem was that the safety regulations of the erection phase extended to the area for the press preview. Väinö and I were supposed to present our games there within an hour for the large crows of press people. I managed to get permission for Väinö to enter, with proper shoes. All our other shoes were in our caravan at the camping site but the two of us had rubber boots in the car. So we put the rubber boots on and ran to set up our playing cards and flyers. I know that all the journalists didn’t have “proper shoes” when they walked around checking new games. Man, was I feeling safe sweating in the rubber boots behind our table!

UKGE during the time when sandals were ok.
At UKGE, any time other than the public opening times was considered “building and restocking time” = safety regulation time. So every morning our exhibitor son was forced to wait at the front gate for the convention to open and he had to leave the hall right after closing time.
I remembered the baby in his crib in Pyrkon. We are in the EU - even the British are for a while - and one easily thinks we have the same rules. This tour has taught us, though, that each country is different. Each organization is different. Each board game convention is different. In some countries people can work and be safe with fewer rules.

In Pyrkon we were allowed to camp in the fair area.
That was nice - but noisy because the fantasy parties lasted all night long.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Bloody Business

Something's bloody wrong here!
Something was bothering me, but I couldn’t find out what it was. We had received the first print proofs of Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift Revised Edition from the manufacturer, LongPack Games. The table was covered with big paper sheets and original maps of PM:AR. At first glance the print proofs of maps had looked fine. But just to be sure, I checked every square and compared those to the original maps. It was the map ”Small Nest” where the truth finally hit me: the blood on the floor was grey!

We hunted the missing blood colour for hours. Eventually we found out that one specific effect in a layer in Photoshop files acted differently in CS5 vs. CS5.5. The error could be fixed only with version CS5.5, and only one of our team members had that. Fortunately he had time to help. Making the maps requires several technical steps and it took us two days to fix everything. Still, it was a relief to find and fix the error before actual production.

Nostalgic Moments

We had busy May: development week in Vienna and then 3 conventions in 3 different countries. From Vienna we headed straight north, to Brno. There was a small gaming weekend in a local board game bar. One of our team members, David, lives in Brno, and it was great to meet him again. We had two extra hours before the event, and we used those in the Technical Museum. I could have stayed there the whole day after I found the computer with Bubble Bobble! Oh, what a nostalgic moment!

It was kind of nostalgic to hear the Finnish language, too. A Finnish couple stayed at the same camping place near Brno. They had a boy, a few years younger than ours, but also named Väinö. While the two Väinös were playing, we parents had time to compare traveling experiences and - because Finland is such a small country – to find common friends. The lady was Finnish sculptor Heli Ryhänen, she knew the artists of my home village and had taught my cousin.

Murphy Strikes Again

Many people thought our problems with car and caravan ended when there were none mentioned in latests blog entries. The three flat tyres we had in Italy just didn’t seem like news. Mr. Murphy obviously agreed and created new tricks when we entered Poland, on our way to Pyrkon.

Polish roads are narrow, curvy and bumpy. A bit more bumpy than other countries. So somewhere in the middle of a Polish country road, we heard a loud crash. We stopped and found our 6 meter long awning lying on the road side. It required some geometrical appraisal and strong muscles to get that thing in the caravan. We found out that the distance from the end of our bed to the kitchen window is exactly same as our awning.

My dearest friend, Google, was again helpful. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my search gave me a 24/7 caravan repair shop just 40 km away in the direction we were going. Well, they didn’t speak any English there. And Google navigation directed us to the wrong place. But after three phone calls (mixing English and German), one false address and navigation based on a Facebook page, we eventually found the repair shop on a suburban backyard. There was an Ukrainian worker, no common language. He understood the problem after seeing the muddy and scratched awning on the kitchen table and the empty holders outside the caravan. It was soon fixed and costed less than 30 euros.

So Family Multamäki beat Mr. Murphy again, fast and furious. Murphy made his revenge the next morning and ripped one mudguard off the caravan with the help of bushes at the campsite. But who needs mudguards, anyway.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Rest rooms and rooms without rest

It was small, but totally in a wrong place...
The thunderstorm was a welcome surprise. We’d been suffering 30 degree temperatures for days, sweating in the car for hours, driving from Italy to Slovenia. Now it was raining and lightning was brightening the sky every now and then. We had found a nice campsite in a nature reserve near the Postojna cave. I run through the pouring rain to a toilet building. I locked the door, sat down and... saw a snake on the floor. It was staring at me, licking the air with its tongue. Thunder roared close by. ”My life is a horror movie...”

Tricky Toilets

Toilet at a gas station in France.
If you press the wrong button,
you might end up to space...
During this tour I have seen a great variation of toilets. Even the ones in motorway rest places have usually been nice and clean. In Finland the public toilets often look like a health hazard. Earlier this year, in France, I talked with a service patrol that takes care of the motorway rest places, ”aires”. They had noticed our Finnish registration number and wanted to congratulate us. This was during the Olympic games and Finland had just won a medal in skiing. One of them was dreaming of driving to Finland with a caravan. What odd dreams people have!

Campsites usually have toilets and showers. But there is a big variation of what that means in practice. Some toilets don’t have paper, at all. Or it is in big rolls outside the toilet. It’s something you learn to check. After the incident in Slovenia, I started to also check the floor and corners for intruders. Fortunately, I have only found butterflies so far.

Our campsite in Modena had toilets without seats. You know, the type where you squat down and hope that you don’t pee on your pants. Only the handicapped toilet had a proper seat. So I decided to be one for a week. Don’t get me wrong. As a Lappish girl and after spending a lot of time on fishing or hunting trips in the wilderness, I’m used to ”bush-pee” while hundreds of mosquitos admire my butt. But in the civilized world I would like to have some comfort.
Restaurant toilet in St. Gaudens, France.

Five Star Shower

Five stars: Camping Bozanov.
Many campsites charge for warm water, especially during the winter time. So you need coins or tokens to have a shower. Usually you then get 4 minutes of water, which might – or might not – be warm. I have started to really appreciate the ability to adjust the water temperature.

I hate showers with movement detectors, because the movement detectors hate me. After desperately waving my hands in front of a detector I might get water for 3 seconds. In the Alps, the shower lights worked with a movement detector. So I ended up having a shower in the dark, no matter what kind of acrobatic movements I tried to do in that one square meter cubicle.

The most beautiful toilet and shower I have found in a campsite is in the Czech Republic, near the Polish border, at Camping Bozanov. When I went to take a picture of the shower room for this blog, there was a lady drying her hair. It must look weird when someone is taking a picture out of a shower. So I felt a bit embarrassed, and quickly explained what I was doing and why. ”I totally agree, this is 5 star class!” she replied and helped to keep a door open so I could take my pictures. She was British, worked in a campsite, but had taken a year off and was now traveling with her husband. What an interesting way to spend a year...

Notice in a toilet, Camping Vienna.


I survived the Slovenian toilet without snake bites. I didn't even scream! (Because I was too scared even to breath...) When I told the receptionist about the snake, he didn't seem surprised. If you have a campsite in a nature reserve, you have to accept visiting animals also.

PPS. So many events and so little time to write. I try to catch up now that we have a summer break in conventions and both Darwinning! and PM:RE in production.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Sleepless in Italy

Our first stop in Italy, Dro and Camping Paolino
Ding-dong. I was lying in my bed and listened the church bells. Central and Southern Europe is filled with churches and their bells make a loud noice. Every hour, the most annoying ones every 15 minutes. Ding-a-ling-clang-dong. Three times. So it was three o’clock. AM. I can’t even count how many times I have woken up in the middle of night because of church bells. No matter were we in Germany, France, Spain or Switzerland. But this time I hadn’t woken up. I was in Italy and at 3 am just about to go to sleep.

Boardgames for Dogs and Robots

We came to Italy for Modena PLAY. This was the tenth time PLAY was arranged. The event has grown a lot, but has managed to maintain a relaxed atmosphere. What was surprising to me, was the opening hours. In Italy, most of the activity begins after 6pm, so the fair is open until 8 pm. On Saturday the fair was open 11 hours!

From the very first day it was clear that Italian gamers like cosplay. We soon got used to gladiators, faeries, robots and stormtroopers that kept passing the booth. Unlike in any other convention, the doors were open also to four legged friends. You had to be careful when moving in the crowd not to stumble on a labradorian retriever laying relaxed in the middle of an aisle.

We met many of our Italian gamers and the resellers we have been working with. It was also great to meet MarcoValtriani who is one of the quest designers in Perdition’s Mouth Revised Edition. And also our dear friend Dagmar de Cassan – this was the third time during our tour!
Marco Valtriani and Timo in Modena PLAY.

Midnight Hobbies

Pietro played Darwinning with a dragon
- a special Kickstarter species
designed by Dagmar de Cassan.
After PLAY we had two weeks of gaming events booked with local gaming clubs, thanks to our translator Fabio and to Pietro Cremona. Pietro and his players were one of the many play test groups for Perdition’s Mouth. We wanted to get their opinion of Darwinning, too. Of course we were also spreading the happy news of soon available Italian version of Perdition’s Mouth Revised Edition.

These gaming events were in the evening. In Finland that would be ”soon after 6pm”. But in Italy, it meant ”starting after dinner, at 9pm”. In the first evening I was too tired to join in, so Timo and Väinö went together. I woke up half past midnight, and they were still not back. It was pouring rain, so I was a bit worried and phoned to Timo. I heard they had just left the event– and it would still take over half an hour for driving. After second evening we noticed that these evenings were too late for Väinö. Even if we didn’t have to wake up early in the morning, this changed schedule was tiring.

It was the third evening, when I got in bed at 3am. Even if we were demoing the introduction scenario of Perdition’s Mouth, the plays took many hours. I honestly can’t understand how our Italian players were able to wake up to work after these hobby evenings. But I’m starting to understand the afternoon siesta…

Missing Sauna and Speed

Adjusting to caravan life has been surprisingly easy. I mean, I haven’t really missed anything. Except sauna. Surprisingly we found one at a camping place next to Lake Garda. It was heated just for us, no extra charge. It had nice temperature of +80 C and we were allowed to throw water on the stove. The only minus side was, that the water in the bucket had some eucalyptus drops in it. Way too much eucalyptus. We changed the water twice, rinsed the bucket, and then it was possible to have proper ”löyly”.

In Italy we have also missed proper internet. Most of the camping places do not offer wifi, at least not for free. And even with money, the speed of data transfer is depressingly slow. There are data limits for the free roaming. When we have two games under production and a lot graphics to transfer, the lack of fibre optic is really noticeable.

Lake Garda.

Cheers for Sausages

We had also booked a vacation in Rome. In our case, vacation does not mean ”time when you do not have work”. It means ”time when you can relax a bit more”. Timo’s parents came also to Rome and offered to accommodate Väinö in their hotel. So me and Timo were able to spend some time together.

It was sunny, temperature nice +25. We bought a barbecue, an outdoor mattress, some sausages and good rucola salad from Lidl. We opened up a bottle of champagne. A proper champagne, that Timo had got as a present almost 20 years ago. We ate our dinner from plastic plates, under the sun roof and listened to extremely loud pigeons. That I would a call a proper vacation!