The Spirits of Christmas are in hiding…

…until our Kickstarter campaign this Christmas 2024!

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Spirits of Christmas

A light cooperative strategy card game in which players act as the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future from the beloved story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  You must work together to take Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey through the past, present, and future, showing Scrooge the consequences of his actions in the hope that he will see the error of his ways before his time is up! Gameplay involves taking actions on a simple rondel and playing sets of cards to accomplish objectives.

Board Game Perspective Previews the Game!

Check out their excellent presentation, and don’t miss their informative banter!

The Game Boy Geek Previews the Game!

Spirits of Christmas: Overview

Spirits of Christmas Game Design Log

Listed in order from newest to oldest entries.

2/15/2024

Well, the artist is about halfway through making revisions to the artwork for Spirits of Christmas. We decided to move away from an actual watercolor style and to a brushed digital art style, and it looks great. I look forward to sharing the art soon.

The artwork will hopefully be done by this spring. I will be working with various printers to get new quotes, and I will be redesigning the format of some of the components, including the game box, to economize the package and make it more efficient to produce and ship. It is, after all, primarily a card game, so I think we can improve its size footprint even more.

Despite my blog post nearly a year ago (below), I have given it some more thought.  

Given the time frame at this point, it seems that the timeline for development and production will work best for a Kickstarter campaign this holiday season 2024, running it through the holidays. This will allow nearly a full year for the production and shipping of the product to reach customers in time for Christmas 2025, and hopefully much sooner.

3/3/2023

I have decided against crowdfunding this project at this time, and due to the nature of a game with a seasonal theme, there are new plans for its release. Here is the story of the crowdfunding plan, and why I have decided to change directions.

It's difficult to market a holiday-themed game, and we know it. Regardless of how much fun a Christmas game is, it can be hard to "plan" your Christmas fun this far in advance.  I thought I would share a little about how we designed the plan for the Spirits of Christmas campaign to help you understand our approach to the campaign and our experiences with it.

We got inspired, designed the game, and prepared the art over a period of about 1 year, all while I was working on and releasing the print-and-play version of Fortress of Terror, which was a big success. With the production window for a holiday-themed game being rather limited, we decided to put the finishing touches on Spirits of Christmas since it was nearly done.

I sent Spirits of Christmas for playtesting during the holidays, and our playtesting team was FABULOUS. It went from being a good game to a great one, thanks to them. I thought that playtesting a Christmas game during the Christmas season would be best as it would make the experience much more authentic for better results. Our team also contributed via proofreading and creating additional elements such as a Tabletop Simulator version of the game, which we used for marketing purposes.

I knew that the best way to release this game was probably to just print a minimum amount of copies of the game (2000) and have it ready to market and sell just before the holidays. However, lacking the funds to do this, we knew we had to crowdfund it. The dilemma: if we crowdfunded DURING the Christmas holidays, when people are "in the mood for Christmas stuff", there would be more eyes on it for sure, but this is also the time notorious for being the worst time for a Kickstarter campaign, and knowing they couldn't get the game until next Christmas would certainly be a "buzz-kill".  Alternatively, we could crowdfund in Feb/March, when the Chinese factories go back online after the long Chinese New Year, giving us plenty of time to get the game manufactured and fulfilled to backers before the holidays, and a shorter time for backers to wait for the game. This was a LOGICAL move, but marketing isn't always about logic, is it? There is a large emotional component, and combined with the typical FOMO necessary to draw a crowd, it is critical to a campaign's success. We opted for a February launch, and I think this hurt our campaign due to lack of thematic interest.

We decided to be prudent with our advertising dollars and had 2 previews done, and both Board Game Perspective and The Game Boy Geek did a fantastic job. We advertised a lot via Facebook, both during the holidays and then again before the campaign. Looking back, we grabbed a LOT more followers to the campaign during December on these ads. We gained fewer right before launch. I can only think it was due to the time of year.

We had a decent group following the Kickstarter launch page and subscribed to the newsletter. It maybe wasn’t enough to fund right away, but we hoped to make at least a sizeable dent in the funding goal on day one.  Our funding goal was what we actually needed to get this project printed and freighted to the fulfillment hub. Some companies are perhaps able to make much smaller goals, using existing capital to subsidize the campaign, but we could not do that at the time.

While I think we did everything well in preparing and launching the campaign, I think the "theme dilemma" of being a holiday game is what hamstrung the campaign. Realizing that we just probably wouldn't have the momentum needed to fund, I reached out to backers and explained the situation, gave them a chance to provide their own feedback, and then canceled the project.

At this point, I think the best thing for us is to wait and print Spirits of Christmas without a crowdfunding campaign and simply market and sell the games during the holiday season. If I could go back and do everything again, I would have postponed SoC and done the upcoming RWI Fantasy campaign first, while planning to print SoC in 2024 without crowdfunding.

We are now moving forward into the Roll-With-It Fantasy Boxed Set campaign with fervor, and we look forward to an exciting and successful campaign over the next few months.

Hopefully this story will be helpful to some with similar aspirations. This situation could likely be applied to any theme that is seasonal in nature. The most important thing to do is to gather data, learn from your experiences, pick yourself up and move forward to the next exciting opportunity!

And the Spirits will be back, when Christmas approaches…

2/25/2023

We are ramping up for the Kickstarter launch on Tuesday, Feb 28 at 11:00 AM (EST, USA).

We will be using Panda Games Manufacturing to produce the game, and they have been right with us all along the way as we prepare to send them the files they need to get started in the production process. Those will be submitted by March 3, allowing time for them to review the files and get them verified during the Kickstarter campaign in order to be ready to go into production at the close of the campaign.

Fulfillrite has been excellent in communication, answering my questions and providing helpful feedback to make sure product fulfillment goes smoothly later this year.

We have a well-known board game personality offering to produce a how-to-play video for Spirits of Christmas, but only if we meet our goal in the first 24 hours. I am confident that the backers will help us make it happen! Who is this personality? You’ll find out on launch day!

2/15/2023

Things are chugging along nicely, but I am exhausted. Trying to pace myself to make it to the end!

Two content creators have provided video content for the campaign, and we are excited about that. These professionals have done a fantastic job representing the game from their own individual angles, and I think these videos will really help everyone decide whether Spirits of Christmas is the right game for them.

The Kickstarter campaign page is 99% complete. After getting our most recent quotes from Panda, we should be able to put the final touches on the campaign page and, after a round of proofreading and editing, it will be ready to launch on Feb 28.

A major characteristic of this campaign that I refuse to budge on is delivering the product to backers before the Holiday season 2023. This means making sure all assets have already been submitted to the factory by the time the campaign launches so that the approval process will be complete by the time the campaign ends. I am personally working to make sure the process happens as quickly and efficiently as possible. By the time the campaign ends and funds have been received from Kickstarter, I want to be able to tell the factory to hit the PRINT button!

While stretch goals are not necessary, they are a lot of fun for many backers, as they “gamify” the campaign and increase the excitement. However, if not kept in check, stretch goals can really slow things down in fulfillment. Therefore, we plan to have stretch goals, but they will be very manageable, predetermined, and the files for these stretch goals will be submitted in advance along with everything else so that, if they are unlocked, they will be ready to go and not slow down the production process.

Spirits of Christmas plays well with families. However, after preparing and reviewing the final version of the rulebook, I have decided to raise the printed age range on the game to 12 and up rather than 10 and up. While the rules are easy enough to be digested by younger players, I want to be sure that the rulebook is easily navigated by those within the printed age range. Customers with younger children need not worry about playing the game together with them, but they just may need some help to learn from the rulebook.

Launching February 28. Still lots to do, but we have paced ourselves to be able to launch prepared and on time. Whew!

1/18/2023

The game and artwork are all complete! The blind play-testing phase was a great success. We had 5 different groups blind-playtesting the game from many different locations, and we had a great time reporting our plays and discussing ways to make Spirits of Christmas even better. We have improved specific details that enhance gameplay, a few graphic design adjustments to make it easier intuitively, and even added some different gameplay variants, including different options for how to communicate with each other during play. The “Haunted” communication variant and the “Story” gameplay variant are most exciting.

We have gotten manufacturing quotes for the project, and I have so far been impressed with how Panda GM has worked so well with us. We have also been talking with fulfillment partners, and Fulfillrite was especially helpful. We have not made final decisions on manufacturing and fulfillment partners just yet, but we are confident that we will partner with just the right folks to help us bring SoC to your tables with high quality and efficiency well before the 2023 holidays.

Next we will be researching to find the best pledge manager that fits us and the project.

We have a major game reviewer that has agreed to do a professional preview video of SoC, which will go live on launch day. We are excited to have this excellent reviewer be a part of the Spirits of Christmas campaign journey.

Who is it? You’ll find out on February 28…

1/4/2023

Happy New Year! And we hope Spirits of Christmas will make many people happy this year, especially around the holidays, with this delightful (at least I think so) strategy game, heavy on theme from A Christmas Carol. I have 5 different play-testing teams blind-testing the game, and we are getting great feedback. Only a few small issues really needed to be address to make this a really good game, but the play-testers are giving feedback that will make this a GREAT game, I believe. I love great collaborative teamwork!  

So my big, honest thought right now - will it arrive to backers in time for Christmas…<nail-biting>.  Well, after talking to the manufacturer, our plan is to go into pre-production (a few weeks) immediately at the close of the campaign, and then straight into mass production (2-3 months) immediately thereafter. So, by summertime, we should have a bunch of games ready to move by freight out of the manufacturing warehouses and out to the fulfillment centers worldwide. Give 1-2 months for freight/delivery to FC/packing, we have games shipping out to backers during September-October at the latest. That is the plan.

One thing that gives me peace about this process arriving on time is that there are no complicated custom aspects of the game - meaning, none of the components we are using will complicate the manufacturing process to the point of having delay risks (like, say, the fact that we have no plastic miniatures really will help this!). And as for stretch goals…well, let’s just say that adding physical components along the way that are not planned for will NOT be happening. That would really complicate this whole thing and slow us down. We may still have a few stretch goals for fun, but they won’t be anything like “50 new cards!” or “10 plastic miniatures!” Nope.

I do love my minis though…it would be fun to have them for the ghosts and Scrooge. But, maybe some other time.

12/4/2022

Emmie has finished the cover art, and it is wonderful to behold. I asked her for a traditional Christmas piece, in watercolor, where Scrooge and the four ghosts are all seen. I wanted Scrooge to be the focal point, with the eyes then pulled to Marley, then the Past, then Present, then the viewer notices the Future ghost last.  She pulled this off well, at least for me. Artwork is being updated in our various channels and marketing is about to begin to prepare for the 1st quarter 2023 Kickstarter launch.

11/16/2022

Preparing details from manufacturers. New artwork for the rondel (it will be lovely) and all new cover art (it will also be lovely) is in process.

11/13/2022

We did indeed get great feedback from JeffCon. Playtesters expressed their disappointment that they couldn’t buy the game right away for this holiday season! As the artwork continues, we will begin getting the word out about crowdfunding in early spring 2023.

11/9/2022

The game design is complete, and I just received a proof copy of the prototype in order to use for public playtesting. The first major round of public playtesting will occur this weekend at JeffCon 2022 in Charlotte, NC (11/11-12/2022). Hoping for some great feedback, and really hoping to see gamers having a great time with it. It’s an especially good time to playtest for thematic draw-in, as the holidays are right before us. Harder to get into the theme in July. :o)

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