Finland-Bound in July

Now that Ropecon has announced it, I can say that I’ll be a Guest of Honor at Ropecon XX in Espoo, Finland on July 26-28 this year. I’m really looking forward to it, and hope to see you there if you’re in the neighborhood!

Ropecon’s announcement is here.

Time “Marches” On…

If there’s one thing that really hits home as a freelancer, it’s the relentless March of time. Okay, I’ll stop with the March puns, I’ve got it out of my system now, I promise.  Anyway, seriously, time really rushes past as a freelancer. There’s a steady drain on your savings, while you race the clock to set up deals and sell games before the last grains of sand run out of your bank account. As I’ve said before, it’s scary for me, as I’ve had a steady paycheck for almost 15 years.

Fortunately, I’m doing pretty well so far. I’ve sold 4 games for sure since leaving FFG, have a pretty solid 5th, and have 2 more games finished and ready to sell, hopefully in a couple weeks at the GAMA Trade Show. Depending on how fast the publishers are, there might actually be quite a few games with my name on them out this year. We’ll just have to wait and see, really.

My main focus in February has been Rattler, now that Tweedledee and TopHat are pretty much finished up. I’ve made good progress on Rattler, and done a lot of world design for it. It’s an unusual setting that I’m very excited about. I’ve even seen a couple of pieces of test art for it, and that’s always exciting stuff for me. In March, Fury is going to start being my focus as I brainstorm and start designing for it, and hopefully I’ll be able to finish Rattler.

I will say that my favorite part of every game is seeing it come to life through art and components. I love opening up a new game that I’ve designed and pawing through the bits. There’s nothing better than the smell of a freshly opened game. Heck, I can even tell you what country a pack of cards were printed in by the smell of their ink (my friend Eric Lang showed me that trick).

In conventions this month, I’ll be going to the GAMA Trade Show, as I mentioned earlier, which is in Las Vegas. Maybe I’ll try and catch a show while I’m there if I’m not totally swamped with meetings. I’ve always kind of wanted to see the Blue Man Group perform, or maybe a Cirque du Soleil show. I doubt I’ll do too much gambling, though, maybe just a bit of slots and blackjack for the heck of it. Some other folks in the industry are pretty good poker players, but I’m only average, so I’ll stay out of the annual poker tournament.

I may also be heading out somewhere in the country to make an appearance for TableTop Day on March 30. Details haven’t been finalized yet, but if all goes well, Eric and I, as well as the publisher, will be showing off Tweedledee that day. I’ll let you guys know as soon as the trip is finalized where I’ll be appearing. If it happens to be in your area, come by and see us.

So, March is going to be a busy month for me, but I’m greatly looking forward to it.

It is Pitch Black…

So, tonight I wandered by the FFG Event Center to see what was going on, and it turned out that Jeremy Stomberg had something for me. As some of you may know, I got to have my face immortalized on an Android: Netrunner card, and tonight I got a framed version of that, suitable for hanging on my wall (even if my photography isn’t the best).

A handsome devil, isn't he?

The card was a runner named Whizzard, after my old BBS handle (“Tell us again about the online world that existed before the internet, Grandpa!”). He’s sporting a t-shirt with a quote from Zork, one of the games that changed my life and set me on the road to becoming a game designer. I’m not entirely sure how Whizzard lost his left arm, but I like to imagine it got crushed beneath a giant, runaway d20 at Gencon in a freak gaming accident.

Close-up of the plaque

Here’s a close-up of the little plaque on the bottom of the picture frame. Very nice touch, guys. It will soon go up on my wall with the framed color proof of the cover of Magdar, and the original framed art of the undead sailing ship from the 2-page black & white spread in the 7th Sea Game Master’s Guide.

Still Tidying Up Around Here

No big news here, just a small update noting that the Isle of Misfit Bits has a new entry, and that I’m still working on organizing and improving the website. If you have any suggestions on things to make the site better, please leave me a comment, and I’ll see if it’s something I have the time/desire to do. Also, if you aren’t following me on twitter (@KevinWilson42), you may want to do so, as most of my short daily news tidbits wind up on there.

Only 3 More Months of Winter!

Living in Minnesota, I’ve gotten mostly used to the idea that Spring starts around the beginning of May, but I admit that February can be a rough time for me, given that I’m originally from Florida. Still, it’s easy to stay inside and focus on games when it’s 30 below outside, so it helps me concentrate on my work, if nothing else.

I’ve gotten a bunch done since I made my last blog entry, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. However, first let me clarify the schedule of this blog. I intend to update it once a month on the 5th, with other news on my games coming out irregularly as I’m allowed to give out information. This can be found on the blog/news page of my new website at and on my blog page at

What’s that? New website? Yes! I’ve gotten myself a nice little website put together that I hope will be a useful source of information both for potential clients and for fans. It’s nothing too fancy, but I’ll be keeping up-to-date information about current and upcoming games on the site, as well as a collection of short anecdotes about games I’ve done in the past on my ludography page. All of these entries can be found under the “GAMES” entry on the website’s menu. In addition, I hope to add some more stuff under “JUST FOR FUN” soon that you’ll all enjoy. For now, I’ve posted the first entry for the Isle of Misfit Bits. You see, I’ve collected a number of misshapen bits and dice over the years that I find both amusing and educational about the manufacturing process. Eventually, I hope others will share their own freakishly malformed but lovable game pieces with me so that I can post them there as well.

Of course, January wasn’t all fun and games for me. I made significant progress on both project Rattler and Tweedledee, and I’m feeling really good about project TopHat, which I dragged back out into testing after letting it lie fallow for a couple months. I like giving a design a nice break and then going back to it with fresh eyes if I can. After the last playtest and making a few more tweaks, I’d have to say TopHat is ready to go once I find a buyer. Other ideas have been bubbling up as well, stuff that I don’t even have codenames for yet. I will say that one idea I’m going to pursue next year has me VERY excited, and promises to be a whole new type of game.

Lastly, I got my first check in the mail for work I’ve done since leaving FFG, so that’s a relief. It’s definitely a truism as a freelancer that getting paid can take a long time. Companies are perfectly willing to pay, it’s just there’s a lot of hoops to jump through first. Personally, I’m just glad that things are starting to get rolling!

Welcome to 2013

January 05, 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s been a month since my last blog post, so it seems like a good time for a new update. I’ve been jumping back and forth between a number of games, working on concepts, content, and rules, all while planning out my year. This is by far the most organized I’ve ever been, but I still have a long way to go, given that my natural state is chaos.

First, let’s look at the games I’m working on now (disguised to protect the innocent):

Project Rattler – A big adventure game with an original theme. I’m working on content for this game now and hope to have a signed deal for it in the next week or so. Should have the bulk of it finished by the end of this month. I can’t wait until I can start seeing art and graphic design for this one, it’s gonna be frickin’ sweet.

Projects Tweedledee and Tweedledum – Two collaborations with my good friend Eric Lang. The two games are very different from each other, but I’m really excited by both, and the contracts for these will hopefully be dealt with soon as well. They’re based on existing IPs that I think are really fun, and the art for them promises to be amazing. These two games should be mostly finished by the end of this month as well. Incidentally, a big thanks to @eric_lang (on Twitter) for getting me involved in these games, which provided a welcome early opportunity for me as I was just getting started freelancing.

Project Tophat – Tophat is a euro style game designed for a fast play time that handles a large number of players. This game is finished and in testing. I’m hopeful that I can sell it to a German publisher and branch out a bit. Perhaps at Gathering of Friends? We’ll see.

Project Lottery – A very simple card game that I’m hopeful will find a home in the educational/mainstream market. Like Tophat, it’s finished and in testing. It has done very well with the casual gamers I’ve shown it to, but is a distinct departure from my usual market, so it’s a bit of an experiment for me. This is actually one of my favorite things about freelancing – I can just make whatever I feel like as long as I’m willing to risk the time on it. If it sells, great! If not, I’ll just keep on trying until it does.

Project Volcano – This is another high adventure board game in the early concept stages. I’ve got the theme, a couple of interesting mechanics, and few pieces of art scrounged off of Google for inspiration. Should be working out the contract for this game this month and getting started in earnest on it in February if all goes well.

Project Fury – The last project I’ve currently got in the works. It’s largely nothing more than a glint in my eyes and a few basic concepts at this point. I’ll probably be talking about the contract for this one in Feb. or March and getting started on it in April, which will take me through into Con season. Speaking of which…

The conventions I’m planning on attending this year are looking like this:

  • March: GAMA Trade Show
  • April: Gathering of Friends
  • July: Guest of Honor at a Convention TBA (Don’t want to jump the gun on any announcement the Con wants to make)
  • August: Gencon (This Con is simply required for anyone serious about being in the game industry in the US.)

I actually had to turn down a Guest of Honor appearance at another Con in July as well. I felt bad about it, but 3 Cons in 4 weeks (one of which is Gencon, my busiest week of the year) is just too much for me. There was no way I could afford that kind of schedule disruption this year. Still, it’s a wonderful problem to be blessed with, right?

Essen Spiel in October is a pretty solid no for me this year (gotta watch my expenses until I can get some royalties flowing, as Essen is really expensive), and BGG.CON in November is a strong maybe. I’ll have to see how my finances look as we get closer to it. Next year, hopefully both of those conventions will be a yes right from the start.

The First Two Months (Part 2)

December 05, 2012

First thing I did after leaving FFG was research into starting a company. I won’t bore you with the details, and frankly I don’t want to give any hopefuls the idea that they need to do so to sell their games (they don’t), but it makes sense in my situation, so I’m working on starting a sole proprietor LLC, both for tax reasons and legal protection. Hopefully, I’ll have the process finished by the end of the month.

But, aside from all that boring junk, I spent time getting the word out that I was now a freelancer. After all, I knew that I was now in charge of selling my own “brand”. Thankfully, that’s a zillion times easier these days than it was before the internet. I posted up an announcement on BGG, started a twitter feed (@KevinWilson42), and popped over to LinkedIn to make sure my connections were all up to date.
Still in the queue, I plan to start up a website that will carry a copy of this blog, blurbs on my published games as well as news on upcoming games, and the “Island of Misfit Bits” so that I have something just for fun on there (I can’t wait to show off the Grinch die). Fortunately I’ve got a good friend who’s up on all the modern tech stuff to help me out. I may have a degree in AI, but I haven’t done any computer stuff professionally for 10 years aside from using InDesign.
If it seems like all this has eaten into my game design time, well, you’d be right, of course. This is important stuff, though. As a freelancer, you have to do a lot of self-promotion in the same way that a book author does. Designer diaries, convention appearances, all that stuff is part of the freelance job if you want to succeed. It’s a competitive market, and visibility is life.
Anyhow, you’ve been patient, so let’s get on to the actual game designs I’ve been working on.
I’ve already finished two games and moved them into testing. One is a very simple card game I’d like to see in the mainstream/educational market, while the other is a Euro game that I want to place in the German market initially, if I can. It has a short play time and supports a lot of players while still allowing a reasonable amount of strategy, so I’m hopeful it’ll do well. These games were a departure for me, but I feel it’s important to develop some breadth to my library of designs.
I’m also working on a game that’s more like what folks expect from me, which I’ll refer to as project Rattler for now. The basic game framework is designed, now all I have to do is write the content and test it. Rattler is in the process of being sold to a company, so that’s looking good.
Finally, I’ve just started work with Eric Lang on two projects I’m referring to as Tweedledee and Tweedledum for now. Although I’ve been good friends with Eric for years, I’ve never gotten to work on anything with him before, so these two projects promise to be a treat for me.
And that, my dear readers, is the state of freelancing, 7 weeks in. No money coming in just yet, but several deals approaching closure, and a lot of progress made, both on game designs and getting organized.

The First Two Months (Part 1)

December 03, 2012

It’s been almost two months since I left Fantasy Flight Games now, and I thought I’d start sharing my thoughts on the experience.

As some of you know, I spent 10 years at FFG, first as an RPG editor, then later as a board and card game designer. I not only designed a number of successful games (such as Descent: Journeys in the Dark and Sid Meier’s Civilization), I also co-designed one extremely successful game (Arkham Horror) and redeveloped a number of classic games (including Cosmic Encounter).

When I first gave notice, it was a gigantic leap of faith for me, but I felt it was time to move my career in a new direction. Christian, fortunately, was very understanding about the move and has since been supportive with both advice and offers of projects for me. Similarly, dozens of folks came out of the woodwork on with well wishes, and a number of other game companies started contacting me, either with offers of work or simply to establish lines of communication. All in all, it was a very gratifying affirmation of my career in games.

Still, moving to become a full-time freelancer has been challenging, even with all the advantages I have as an already established game designer. You lack the stability of a steady paycheck and (in the US at least) the safety net of health insurance is simply too expensive to consider until I’m more set up. The unknown is a way of life now, and that’s probably the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make.

Fortunately, I’ve worked from home for several years, so I have a lot of experience at being a self-starter and maintaining discipline. I’ve found it to be important for me to have a reasonably steady schedule, including activities that get me out of the apartment to interact with other people at least 3 or 4 times a week. Speaking of which, it’s just about time for my weekly walk with friends, so I’d better cut this short for now. In the next day or two, I’ll finish up this first blog post by talking a little about what I’ve been up to so far. I won’t be discussing any game specifics or naming any company names yet, of course, but you may find it interesting anyway.