Spotlight on… Reiver Games – Independent UK Publisher

I hope that Boardgames in Blighty can be a place to promote and support the UK Board Game industry so with no further ado, let me introduce Jackson Pope of Reiver Games…

What is your view of boardgaming here in the UK? What would you like to see done which could help board gaming become more mainstream amongst the public? How do we compare to other places you’ve marketed your games?

I think boardgaming in the UK is still definitely a niche market, but gaining in popularity. A surprisingly large number of people have heard of modern games like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne. I still think there’s a long way to go before it’s as popular as it is in Germany though. I think board game clubs are a great way to introduce gaming to new people, and through them to grow the hobby.

How did you get into game design/publishing?

I played an extremely longer and painful game with some friends nearly ten years ago. At the end of the game (when we gave up) I thought I could make a less random game that played in a much shorter period of time. Unlike the bits of computer games I’d been making in my spare time up until then, a board game I could make on my own from scratch. That lead to my first game: Border Reivers. A couple of years after I thought I’d finished the game, I decided to try to make a few copies and sell them over the Internet. I made 100 copies by hand, and sold them all within a year. During that year Yehuda Berlinger, an Israeli games blogger contacted me, asking if I was interested in doing the same with his game. I made 300 copies of It’s Alive! and again they sold out within a year. At that point I quit my job in IT Project Management to make games full-time.

What has been your most successful design/published game so far? What kind of feedback have you received?

I get a lot of good feedback (and some less good of course!). It’s Alive! remains my most successful game (though it has been out the longest). I’ve sold well over 2,000 copies of It’s Alive!

Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the finished product? Tell us about the ups and downs, why you chose your mechanics and theme, etc.

I don’t do much of the designing myself. Usually a designer will send me a game that I’ll play a few times to get a feel of it. If I like it I’ll send it out to my playtest groups around the world. If the feedback from them makes me think the game will be a commercial success I license the game, contract an artist, do the graphic designer and send it to a printer. It’s usually another couple of months before I see the finished product. Collating the feedback is probably the most ‘up-and-down’ bit. Trying to sift through feedback from people who love it and people who hate it, trying to determine whether there’s a market for the game, and what you can do to make it more successful.

Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?

Printing small runs that you assemble yourself is a great way to start off and get a feel for the market without risking a lot of your own money. That, and playtest, playtest, playtest. Especially with people you don’t know and from the rulebook (without instruction).

What project(s) are you currently working on and can you give us a sense of what the  theme, mechanics, etc. and when we should be able to purchase the game(s)?

I’ve a great silly, fun card game that I hope to be ready to announce in a few weeks, and release at the big games fair in Essen, Germany in October.

What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you hate?

I like ‘eurogames’ like Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Agricola and theme-heavy games like Battlestar Galactica and Space Hulk. I’m not a fan of wargames, or really heavy economic games.

Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?

I like most themes, especially sci-fi and anything unusual. Mechanics-wise, I like tile-laying and auctions, not such a fan of party games and roll-and-move games like Monopoly.

Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions?

I hope to be at Beer and Pretzels in Burton on Trent in May, the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June and Essen, Germany in October, the rest is a moveable feast 🙂

Thanks for interviewing me.

Cheers,

Jack

http://www.reivergames.co.uk/index.php

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Middle Earth Quest

Yes I’m a Tolkien fan so already the expectations were high and thankfully at first pass, this game is AWESOME. The theme is wonderfully done and the mechanics are easily understood. Having this and War of the Ring is just so cool! Looking forward to more plays… SOON! Absolutely hits the Tolkien sweet spot. 🙂

Players take on the roles of heroes or as the Dark Lord Sauron in the time between Bilbo Baggins’ adventure at the Lonely Mountain (see The Hobbit) and when Frodo becomes the ringbearer (see The Fellowship of the Ring). First rate production quality by Fantasy Flight, excellent design by Christian Petersen, Corey Konieczka and Tim Uren makes for a Middle Earth EXPERIENCE, not just a game!

The heroes spend their time on quests and trying to collect favour and training from key Middle Earth characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, etc. Meanwhile the Dark Lord’s influence continues to spread across Middle Earth and present threats and conflict for the characters.

I have only scraped the surface of this bad boy and can’t wait to play again. In the photos below, I used my LOTR Combat Hex figures to make it all look even cooler than it already does! I am in Lord of the Rings Heaven!!!!

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31563/middle-earth-quest

Return of the Heroes

We had a great time playing this fun game published by Pegasus Spiele and designed by Lutz Stepponat. The players take on the role of a character in a fantasy setting. Typical stuff from fantasy games, fighter, dwarf, wizard, cleric… you know the drill. The players then run around collecting artifacts, useful items, weapons, and encountering badies of all sorts. They have to complete missions too which gives a sense of theme and purpose.  Then after they have built up enough strength and powers, off they go to take on the Big Baddie.

A fairly light game but the rules need a little work and getting used to and I highly recommend that it is best played in a silly mood where you use olde worlde language… We went into Monty Python & the Holy Grail one liners and it was hilarious. So a serious game, no. But loads of fun with the right crowd. Loads of replay value due to the random draw of encounter tiles and random board setup that you can use as an option.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/8170/return-of-the-heroes

Vineta

This game centers on an island in the middle of the game board. Each turn a part of the island sinks beneath flooding with players trying to sink as many of the other players minions as possible, while protecting their own.

Wildly chaotic and random, lots of screw-your-neighbour activity which gets nasty rather than fun in the 6 player version. You can really feel picked on in this one. The mechanics work but there is no room for planning or much strategy as luck plays a heavy part.

One major design flaw is that the Red and Orange tiles look very similar if you don’t have a very bright room so this causes confusion.

All in all, an OK game that is worth an occasional play for a laugh with the right crew like my gaming group buddies.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/27532/vineta

Pasteboard & Plastic XI

I attended Pasteboard & Plastic XI, organised by Dick Ruck.

When I was there it wasn’t as well attended as I’ve seen in the past but a nice crowd nonetheless. The games I saw being played –

Giants

Hansa Teutonica

Middle Earth Quest

Summoner Wars

Dungeonlords

Sadly I felt unwell and had to leave early but many thanks to Dick for organising. Profits went to the local scouts which is great. Thanks to all for the fun! For info on P&P and dates for the next game days, see my tab on Conventions.

Here is the link to the Boardgamegeek Metalist which includes game lists from each event.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/33185/pasteboard-and-plastic-meta-list

Tinner’s Trail

Played this at Pasteboard & Plastic Game Day.

Tinners’ Trail is set in nineteenth century Cornwall. You are mining for copper and tin, attempting to sell when the prices are high. To reduce the cost of mining you can place developments, such as ports, adits, and trains. Once you have made your money you invest it in industries outside of Cornwall, which gains you victory points. The earlier you invest the better the return.

This game to me is the type of Euro game that I like least as it is a brain burner with a number of different mechanics which relate but in my mind are not logical in their connection. There is minimal theme really and there is simply too much to think about.

I enjoyed the company but for me the game was pretty dry, boring, bereft of life, pushing up the daisies, gone to meet it’s maker… You get the picture.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/35570/tinners-trail