What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Writing's on the Wall

It's been four years (to the day) since I last wrote something on this blog.  It's been a weird and interesting trip.  Here's the cliffsnotes version:

In late 2018, I launched a successful Kickstarter for my Ballista line of gaming supplements.  Up to that point, Arcana Creations had started stepping up production both in terms of gaming material as well as launching our Arcana Elements imprint that did fiction and non-fiction books.  We were also increasing our exposure via in person shows and conventions.  Things were good!

In 2019, things got busier and since I also have a full time job, the first casualty of my busy schedule was this very blog. The shows were a greater success, fulfillment of the KS was finished, and we were doing more projects. We even signed on to help another indie-publisher to take a project off their hands in order to rewrite, do layout, and publish a small RPG title for them!  Things were looking up and 2020 was going to be a FANTASTIC year.

2020 was fantastic alright... fantastically bad.

Licensed by Louis Porter, Jr. Design

Covid hit and impacted the world and pretty much shut everything down in its tracks. Any momentum and growth we had was essentially lost with the pandemic. Plans to try and direct the flow of traffic from shows to an online store never happened. Everything got put on hold.

2021 wasn't much better and I lost my father at the start of that year. Having taken a year off due to the pandemic, I decided to start publishing things regardless but I wasn't in the headspace for it. We managed to publish two novels that year and started doing shows towards the end of that year as things were opening up more and more.

Realizing that the momentum Arcana Creations had eroded in 2020 and 2021, I increased the shows in 2022 but my circumstances changed once again and effectively, our base of operations moved from Montreal to a small hamlet about a couple outside of Montreal in the Eastern Townships.  We bought an OLD house which gives me the space I needed but the tradeoff was the amount of work that we had (and still need) to do for it.  The second half of 2022 has been predominated by the purchase, move, and basic renos.

At the start of 2023, things are looking GOOD again.  Creatively speaking, I've gotten my spark back. I have have clearer picture of various objectives I want to pursue this year. Most importantly, a variety of projects that got stuck in limbo were becoming unstuck.

And then, Wizards of the Coast basically shit the bed.

While a lot of things have since been sorted out, the repercussions will be long felt for the tabletop industry. Some of my prior publications and current projects are being re-worked to avoid any future entanglements but I'm equally excited to do so.  I won't go into too much detail about that whole OGL drama here but it's given me another kick in the pants with regards to some of my projects.

All that said, the past 4 years have given me some perspective on where I want to take Arcana Creations as well as what is feasible and practical to do.  I've taken a couple steps back in order to move forward again and it seems right that I go back and start writing here again.  I'm also been talking to another friend in the publishing space about partnering up and doing some joint projects together -- just like I did when I started out back in 2009.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Board Game Overload!

As a kid growing up, I liked playing board games and cards. Up to the age of 12 or 13, most of this sort of gaming was confined to the likes of Monopoly, Stratego, and Risk. Then one X-Mas back in 1989, I received a copy of Axis & Allies and I marveled at the complexity of the game. There were so many different components and what seemed to be a large game board! I loved it and I equally enjoyed Shogun (also a Milton Bradley game) that another one of my friends had.

At that age, I had also started playing D&D. Because of this, Axis & Allies was pulled out 'once in a while' and really, all board games ended up sharing that fate. Things pretty much remained that way for years afterwards. If it wasn't D&D, it was another tabletop RPG.

About 10-15 years ago, I ended up getting roped in to play this game called Settlers of Catan along with few other board games that I had never heard of before. As it turns out, this was the beginning of some sort of board game renaissance! The tipping point for me was a game called 'Antike'. It is sort of a board game equivalent of Civilization were you compete against other ancient cultures for dominance. It is not overly complex but it isn't a game reliant on a 'luck mechanic' (as in dice or cards) either.

On my next trip to Montreal (I had been living a couple hours away at the time), I picked up a copy for myself, along with what looked to be a fun Tile-Based game called Drakon. My actual move to Montreal came less than a year later and once there, I made some new friends. I was introduced to (and acquired) games like Ticket to Ride, Shadows Over Camelot, Citadels, and a few others. Somewhat wisely, I decided to try and avoid games that were too alike in terms of game play and mechanics. Yet somehow, that didn't help much.

I remember a year or so into my new board gaming habit, Fantasy Flight was doing some sort of X-Mas promotion were I could get some games for $5 USD each plus what was almost reasonable shipping charges (BOY have things changed). The Canadian / US exchange rate was also a lot more favorable back then than it is now so it didn't take too long to acquire a bunch of new games in one fell swoop! I also was constantly on the look out for other deals and sales and I picked up quite a few other games that way. With all of that, plus the ever growing expansions for some games, it didn't take long for the cabinet that held my games to start overflowing.

The acquisition of all these games weren't the problem though...Finding the time to play them given everything else I had going on was. We had a couple of friends we routinely played various board games with -- almost on a weekly basis. But they had their own games and between us we had favorites that we kept revisiting. This meant there were some games that we have collectively owned for years and have never played!

I decided on a 3-point course of action: I decided at that point to greatly reduce the the rate at which I acquired games. I decided to try and focus on the ones I already had. And finally, I decided to try and sell some of the ones that I could do with out. Selling these off is harder than it should be because people want to spend as little as possible and because shipping isn't cheap! I did manage to part with a few that I knew wouldn't get played ever again for one reason or another.

For a few years, things were good. I rarely picked up a new board game as I didn't see the need. Sure, I had other things to sink cash into and, despite being a fan of various Kickstarter projects, I backed only TWO small board games in six years! That said, something happened in 2018 and I ended up backing SEVEN board game related projects last year. These have started coming in last Fall. Three of them are BIG ONES too and I need to find places for all these games soon. I also probably need to purge some older un-played or disliked titles -- even if I have to give them away!

I love board games and the social aspects of some of these games. I just don't have the time to play all of them and I don't think I ever will. The friends I mentioned earlier? They've reached the same conclusion. For myself, I think I need to refine the criteria for keeping games in my collection.

This gaming renaissance that we've been experiencing for the past ten years? Maybe those days are numbered as we all become collectively buried by the newest fantastic game. Kickstarter has certainly been a driving force for this too. Crowdfunding has both been a blessing and a curse and while it has allowed for many games to be made that wouldn't have been published otherwise. It also means many games will just come and go as dedicated board gamers just move on from game board to game board.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Where The Ground Crumbles Before Me...

Whelp... Getting traction on a blog can be challenging. Over the years, I've seen ups and downs.

Now as part of Google's shut down of G+, the first steps of separating the interconnectedness of things have been taken. I've always enjoying navigating Google Plus even if it wasn't a popular platform, it became one adored by many gamers such as myself. It was also an easy way to get people to glance at my odd musings on the blog.

Without it, I'm not sure how well it will fair but I hope it remains steady.

Guess I may have to share this on Twitter and Facebook more or consider other options.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

3D Printing & Sci-Fi Outposts

I have two 3D Printers at present -- a Prusa i3 Mk3 which I've owned since Spring of 2018 and a Creality Ender 3 which I put together during the holidays. Both have been working at printing up some goodies like some great terrain pieces I'm planning to use for Kill Team. Working with the Ender 3 has been a different experience than my Mk3. Let me say that I *love* the reliability of my Mk3 and it has printed countless of hours with a success rate (out of the box) of over 96%

When I bought my Mk3, it wasn't cheap. Because I needed to put it into production almost immediately and because I didn't want any possible downtime putting it together and dialing it in, I chose a fully assembled model. That cost me $999 USD plus and additional $100 USD in shipping. On top of that, there was customs charges. After the USD to CAD exchange rate, it was no small investment. Given what I got out of it, I don't regret the purchase and I would love to have another.

Realistically, this was not in the budget.

A newer printer (which wasn't on my radar when I initially bought the Mk3) was, and this was Creality's newest offering -- the Ender 3. As I mentioned recently, I managed to pick it up with a flash sale on Amazon making it already cheaper than it normally is (a little over $200 USD). In truth, I wanted to have a second 3D printer for a while but I held off on the Ender 3 for a few reasons:

  • Unlike the Mk3, the Ender 3 is not use a direct drive extruder but a bowden tube setup.
  • The Ender 3 is has had thermal runaway protection disabled
  • No automated bed leveling
  • Issues with various parts due to cost-cutting measure
  • Frame is in separate pieces in the kit
The Mk3 has spoiled me in many ways but no printer is quite at the consumer level where you can press a button and 'go'. But I feel the Mk3 does get pretty close to this level of ease. It was a bit different when it comes to the Ender 3. As a kit, the Ender 3 isn't too difficult to put together but invariably, there will be issues if you aren't careful when assembling the printer as you need to make sure the frame is perfectly squared to the bed. Just a tiny variance can affect the quality of the print, even if it 'looks' straight. Some of the pieces used are a bit on the sub-standard side and some choices boggle the mind. The extruder in the kit is plastic and wear and tear is a valid concern. The bed is frequently warped which makes bed leveling a problem of course and, since you have to manually do this, it can be a frustrating start into the 3D printing hobby.

The biggest one for me was the issue with thermal runaway protection having been disabled for many of these earlier printers. Fortunately, this is ONE thing that has changed recently. Newer Ender 3's have been going out with this enabled. Experiencing thermal runaway when this is disabled is a sure way to get a fire happening and NO ONE wants that!

With the price being even lower than usual, I was able to order the Ender 3 as well as get a glass bed to resolve the possibility of the bed being warped and a metal extruder to replace the stock plastic one. At that price, it would have been possible to buy FOUR Ender 3's for the cost of my Mk3.

With that cost savings, there is a trade-off when it comes to convenience. Dialing in the Ender 3 seems more of an art than anything else sometimes and if it wasn't for previous experience, it might have taken me much longer to do. For the newcomer to 3D Printing, I'd would be happy to recommend the investment but I'd also stipulate that they need to sit through a lot of videos in terms of properly assembling one of these kits and how to properly set up the printer for optimal use.

BOTH of my printers are configured as they should be and right now I'm printing some Sci-Fi terrain. As it turns out, this isn't only for me -- a friend asked me to print up some pieces to replace his Space Hulk cardboard tiles. I've printed a couple of test pieces and I'm liking how they look so far:

The terrain is part of a larger set which I stumbled upon Kickstarter a few months back called Outpost: Origins by Dragon's Rest. The models are extremely detailed and look fantastic! They were also great value given the price on Kickstarter though looking at their website, not everything that has been released to backers is available for purchase yet. I assume they will come when all pieces have been made available.

At this stage, I'm printing various pieces for different configurations. The first two (the red and silver) were only the beginning as I am looking to see how closely I can match the Space Hulk maps for tabletop play. Worse case... these are going to become part of terrain for Kill Team.  ;)


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Operation: Kill Team

Well, there are two things that have recently happened that I'm tying together. Sometime back in August, I picked up the new Kill Team rulebook that was released by Games Workshop. Long time readers of the blog may recall that I've skirted the line with their company and their products before. Frankly, the frustrate me to no end and their business practices did have me cash out of 40K about a year after I got into it. One of the reasons I got into some of their stuff in the first place was because it was one of the Lord of the Rings kits that got me started into painting miniatures. For the record, it was a pack of Goblins of Moria. Their prices have also increased in the past couple of years and, in my opinion, some of their stuff is just too damned expensive.

Kill Team is a different beast entirely though. The investment you need is relatively small compared to other product lines they carry. Better yet, if you are someone who is a fan of Warhammer 40K, it gives you an inexpensive opportunity to play with other units outside of the usual army you happen to be fielding for your games at the time. I picked up the book and, while I still had some odds and ends to put together a Kill Team without spending another dollar, I chose to pick up something I wanted to try out and play -- the Tau.

Outside the Rulebook, the game doesn't need to cost you that much to play. The Core Rulebook is $40 USD where-as a team will typically cost you in the $30 - $60 USD range. Aside from terrain to game on, you actually don't need much of anything else to pay. Naturally there are plenty of ways to spend more money including boxed 'Kill Zones' which essentially give you terrain to play with but not all that necessary if you already have some or prefer to make your own!

The Tau happened to be inexpensive for me and I've always like the look of these units. I started painting my units (a non-standard scheme) towards the end of August. They still aren't finished and I haven't touched since the end of August either.

When it comes to terrain, I have chosen to print my own terrain. I have a Prusa Mk3 which has been in steady use since May of last year and, less than a month ago, I assembled a new printer. This was a far more economical option as I took advantage of an Amazon Prime Flash Sale and picked up an Ender 3 by Creality. It still needs a bit of work but it is printing well enough and I'm getting decent prints off of it. With the two printers now working, I've started printing pieces to make my own set of terrain to use in Kill Team.

First and foremost, I've been printing some sci-fi crates I found on Thingiverse:


I've got three printed now and I'm printing a variant with no doors. I also printed a whole bunch of these (they also served as some test prints for the new Ender 3):


But I'm also planning on printing a bunch of these for the terrain:


With some crates, barrels, scaffolding, and a couple other odds and ends, I think I've got the beginnings of something solid for terrain to do a few Kill Team matches on. Still a bit of printing to do and I'm going to consider a few more things to print to fill out a good sized area but, while some of this stuff is printing, I'm hoping to finally get back to and finish painting my Kill Team stuff during the course of the next few weeks.