To become self-employed and then also to play board games, that is the dream of many amateur authors and game lovers. Because: What could be better than turning your hobby into a job? Travis and Holly Hancock dared to quit their jobs for their own game publisher.
The year 2010. The year when it all began.
Travis kept the idea in his head and developed it further, it took two years until he had designed self-made playing cards and a rulebook based on his ideas. And that idea stayed. Life went on: he finished college, married Holly, and took a full-time job. But over the years he continued to refine the idea. The theme of the game changed again until its first game was launched on Kickstarter in 2015: Salem 1692.
It stayed with witches and it remained a social deduction game. But it became clearer what kind of game it should be. Travis and Holly, now as a team, wanted to develop games that you can play with many people, where forever long rules fall away and raise the mood. They are also based on dark times in history. They wanted everything that makes a good game: excitement, liveliness, community and fun. This is how the series came about: The Dark Cities.
What started as a family project has been much more successful than hoped. The couple works on a new game for about a year before it hits the market. The most important thing is to test the games with many different people, whether you are a strategy lover or a party game player from time to time, because in the end you want to appeal to as many people as possible with the game.
During that time we literally have over a hundred versions of the game, test it over five hundred times with different groups, and make big and small changes along the way. Meanwhile we start to find a theme and the game takes its shape.
You have to go step by step if you want to become self-employed, because it is always a risk, especially with a family. After releasing their first game in 2015 and seeing its success, both switched to part-time positions to work more intensively on their next project. Travis was working in online marketing until then, and Holly was a fourth grade teacher.
At least Travis had already gained experience in marketing and was able to take care of social media channels and his own website. But the production processes initially presented both of them with some difficulties. Holly took on the task of dealing with graphic design and they started working with the artist Sarah Keele, who designed the illustrations from then on.
Support from industry experts helped
Travis sought help from people who had been in the industry for a long time and went to Coventions to find out more about logistics, costs and manufacturing. It quickly became clear that the online market was best suited to make a name at the beginning. With Kickstarter, production costs can be covered and the risk minimized. Amazon has an international market and they can promote and sell the games on their own website.
The production is currently located in China. But to find the right manufacturer who manufactures the products in the appropriate quality, took quite a while. But the quality of the game plays a crucial role. Travis believes that a game with a broken box is reluctant to pull it off the shelf, and he's probably right. The great book boxes bring a flair that is rarely achieved with a simple box.
Although the transition period, with part-time work and planning and creating a board game can be very stressful, Travis saw it as the safest way to go. He advises “working on something great on the side, posting it on a website or on Kickstarter, and then making the switch as soon as it goes well.” ¹ The game market is growing all the time, and it takes a bit of luck or a good idea to get noticed. .
We had to make our games stand out in every way. We strolled through a handicraft shop and saw a fake book box on a shelf and immediately fell in love with the idea. Books are something magical to a lot of people and we wanted to give you exactly that feeling when you open our box and see the game for the first time.
The idea of packing a game in a book box turned out to be brilliant. Not only does it look good, it also piques interest. In addition, the respective book covers match the historical topics. The box limits the size of the game, but it also makes it easy to transport.
So far you have realized three games. Travis advises frequent gamblers Tortuga 1667 and Salem 1692 rather for beginners as it is strategically the least complex. Deadwood 1876 is something in between, according to him.
Your campaign for the latest game from the Facade Games publisher is currently running Kickstarter and is now on the last legs. More than 13.000 members have already supported the project and made sure that all stretch goals can be met.
In Bristol 1350 it's about getting yourself out of town as quickly as possible before you get infected with the Black Death. Only healthy people make it out of the city safely and into the saving countryside. The problem is you don't sit alone in the car but share the space with other players and if 6 symptom points become apparent, when the car leaves the city, you lose the game.
So a decision has to be made on every train, do you deal with the symptoms of fellow passengers, do you just throw them out of the car or do you push the car forward?
Bristol 1350 is a game for up to nine players and is a mixture of strategy and social inference. With lies, flattery and bribes, as a sick person, you have to convince others to come out of the city and as a healthy person you have to estimate precisely how to drive the car forward quickly but healthily. Communication between the individual players gives liveliness to what has happened and increases the tension. The players themselves shape the game and its outcome.