Grand Opening on

boardcrafting amazon store launch_birch set_accessary for settler's of catan

Last week, I launched Boardcrafting on Amazon. It was a bit of a challenge jumping through all their hoops – particularly for a small company like mine, as I don’t have any UPC codes or any pictures with a white background ready to go. But I know from my own behavior, when I’m looking to buy a gift or an accessory Amazon is the first place I go.

Right now the listing is an experiment. Besides the hoops that one has to jump through, it’s something like $40 per month to list products on Amazon. So I’ll be watching it closely and evaluating whether it’s worth it. Also to that end, I’ve discounted the Amazon price by 10%.

If you have time, I’d love for readers to have a look at the Amazon listing page and let me know if there are any ways I could improve it. Also, I know Amazon gives different search results to different people. If you could go to the Amazon homepage and search for “catan” and let me know how many pages deep in the search results you have to go before my product shows up, that would be helpful too!

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Laser-cut Hive Picnic

Laser-cut Hive tiles on a blanket
At the Stern Grove Music Festival this year I decided to encourage insect invaders on the picnic blanket. These are my personal set of Hive tiles, laser-cut and etched, with my own insect designs.

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Indiegogo campaign for sculpted / 3D printed player pieces

colored 3d player pieces on a board

So this is cool…

Filipe Lopez has started an Indiegogo campaign to make hybrid 3D-printed / sculpted player pieces for playing Settlers of Catan. The campaign is already funded but has some “stretch goals” to achieve.

I think the pieces look great and would be a fun compliment to the boards I make.

The Bajosocial Blog has some more detailed photos of the pieces.

Posted in community, Kickstarter | 1 Comment

Koji Matsumoto’s Catan / Game of Thrones Combo

Closeup of acrylic Catan hexes and pieces
Koji Matsumoto has created a beautiful take on a Settlers of Catan board. Entitled “Settlers of the Iron Throne”, it takes thematic guidance from the Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin (aka “Game of Thrones” for people like me who have only seen the TV show). His media are acrylic and silkscreen which deliver some great bold colors.

I especially like how Koji made detailed pieces like the roads and cities.

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Imitation is the Sincerest

two images of the polish dominion caddy
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I guess. This is a product from Poland, with some familiar design.

Posted in Dominion Caddy | 2 Comments

Boardcrafting at Kubla Con

Myself and players at the Boardcrafting booth
A couple weeks ago I brought Boardcrafting to Kubla Con, and it was a weekend of learning and connecting.

I’ve been devoting a lot of consideration and time to the marketing of my products this year. I had been thinking for a while of doing trade shows / conventions, and Kubla Con was the perfect first foray, due to its proximity (Burlingame, California) and reasonable price.

The most rewarding thing from going to the show were the “wow”s. Frequently, people would come by and have some great reaction, a double-take, a jaw-drop, a “wow” or an “oooh”, or be compelled to reach out and touch the boards and the pieces. These people get it – we instantly shared an appreciation for what a board game could be, what the experience of playing could be.

The environment was very entrepreneur-rich and supportive. Across from my booth was Emoteez who just launched a Kickstarter campaign for their customizable kids’ apparel. (As someone whose entire business was created via Kickstarter, I strongly encourage you to check it out and share the link around!)

Down the aisle from me was Geek Chic, creators of stunning gaming furniture. I got a lot of good advice from Amanda, and was really inspired to see the passion and quality evident in their products. It buttressed my belief that there is a market out there of people willing to make an investment to get a great experience.

One thing I noticed was, in the large open gaming room, nobody was playing Puerto Rico, and a lot of people were playing Agricola. I wonder if Agricola has supplanted Puerto Rico as the popular, heavy-strategy board game nowadays. If you have any insights on the matter, please comment below or send me an email.

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Anodized aluminum Catan pieces

Cities, settlements, and roads made of anodized aluminum
I just saw this Kickstarter campaign pop up, and I really appreciate the elegance of these Settlers accessories. They’d be a fine match to go along with one of my boards. I think I may get some for myself…

Campaign link

Web page

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Puerto Rico: Building on Buildings

labelled sketch of a design for improved Puerto Rico buildings
One of my ideas for improving Puerto Rico is to change the component for the buildings. Currently the buildings look like this:
image of buildings of official Puerto Rico game
Improvements I want to implement are as follows:

  • separate the price and quarry effect information from the actual building component. Once a player buys a building, they no longer need this information, it just unnecessarily occupies space on their mat. Also, this lets players easily set up the board for the popular switched University / Factory variant
  • add an indented place for the Colonist, so that it stays nice looking
  • make the effect of the building an icon rather than text
Posted in boardgame engineering, design | 2 Comments

Art, Ego, Identity

Pile of wooden 5 coins for the Puerto Rico board game
Against my introverted nature, I have been meeting a lot of new people over the past couple months. During introductions, often I will be asked “so what do you do?”, a question which, in buried parts of my brain becomes “what are you?

It is a question I don’t answer consistently. Even before such introductions, alone, I find myself holding mock interviews of this type, during which I practice replying “I’m an artist“. That’s what I want to say. That’s the vision of my life I hope to be leading. That’s what I’ve wanted to be since childhood. (ok, ok, one of the things I’ve wanted to be). Despite this silent practice, I struggle to tell people what I am.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. Spurred on by another, non-Boardcrafting art project, I have been mulling this question: can one represent the essential “I” to others? If so, how? What succeeds? What fails? Which truths are the strange, surprising truths worth making art about? Is it all just too terribly pretentious? Is it all just dancing about architecture?

That project wasn’t supposed to affect Boardcrafting, but art is life, and life is art, and effects ripple through.

I’ve also been thinking about ego and where it fits in. Art is creation and creation is born of ego. Art transitions from the zygote of mere notion, through to embryonic idea, to newborn art by a pathway of ego. Viability is judged by automatic, internal chemistry and the idea is either terminated while still in the mind or carried forward into the world. Ego is that chemistry, that judge.

Ego is a necessary player, but can hinder as well.

I’ve been working on a project for Puerto Rico. With this project, I intend to do the same thing I did with Catan – to re-imagine the components and the appearance. The problem is, it took me over a year to do the art and design for the Catan project (even with help). The prospect of that strains my patience and threatens my business (I had the safety of a full-time job while I was working on Catan).

So here I am, wanting to create the appearance of the Puerto Rico components, wanting to be someone who can credibly claim to be an artist, but facing the fact that stubbornly holding on to those wants will hurt me.

From my analysis, I’ve been led to a new perspective. I need to see my art not in terms of visual arrangements of lines and pixels, for, under an astringent, honest light, I don’t feel that is really my important contribution. My contribution is engineering a means to an experience. By detaching from some ego, I see that I don’t care about my signature on some austere museum piece. I want my creations to be used.

For the art I make with Boardcrafting to really live, it needs a participating audience. The art of Boardcrafting doesn’t happen until people get together around the artifacts. This is a collaboration where the players too are creators of art. Our contributions sum to an experience. This is play. This is togetherness.

Acknowledging the true art of Boardcrafting has helped me accept seeking help from others.

I have been seeing Ben Didier’s work for a while and never known it. I’m a big fan of CBC Radio 3. Its songs and personalities have been a connection to my previous home country. I have frequented the CBC website, which is often adorned with Ben’s typography and illustration. But it wasn’t until Ryan North tweeted about Ben’s Canadian Beer Band designs that I connected the images to the artist originating them.

Ben has been working with me on some designs for Puerto Rico. Above you can see tests for what will be a replacement for the “5” doubloon. It has me excited. For me, looking at these beautiful pieces is a reward that reinforces some ego-detachment and the expression of my identity in the truer art of Boardcrafting.

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Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road

boy whittling wood contrasted with chinese factory workers
If I want to keep my apartment, I need to grow my business.

Sometimes reality presents you with hard, insoluble little nuggets like that. You can’t dress them up or push them aside. I moved into my apartment as a well-salaried tech worker and now I’m an entrepreneur making wooden board games. I sometimes jokingly present myself as a “whittler”, but it seems less of a joke on those afternoons I spend hours and more hours merely peeling tape off of my laser-cut creations.

The obvious alternative, moving production to a cheap-labour locale, is something I reject. There’s no sense doing anything in life if it isn’t done with moral confidence. And besides human rights and environmental impact, there’s also quality control – the Boardcrafting brand is intimately tied to me, and I need to be able to ensure the products reflect well upon it.

So I’m trying to come up with a way to grow well. This month I have been trying to make connections on two fronts – with local manufacturers and with artists. The eventual manufacturing partnership will mean no more tape-peeling and a regular flow magically appearing at my doorstep so that I can have on-hand inventory. The artistic partnership is somewhat heartbreaking in its necessity. I loved creating the art for the Catan and Dominion products. But it also took a long time for me to do it, and as I assess my ambitions for this year, I see doing the art myself would impose too much of a delay. Besides, there are people out there with more drawing and design skill than I.

Both efforts will, I hope, free some time up so that I can do marketing in arenas other than Kickstarter. This year, I’m going to be hitting up some trade shows. I’ll write about that experience in a future post.

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