HINDSIGHT, AND 2020 (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Every year right at the end I like to write a blog-thing talking up all the games we plan to release the following year. But I'm not doing that this year.

That's because when I did it last year, I rattled off over twenty-plus titles that we had scheduled for 2019 and early 2020, and only about half of those actually made it out the door despite our best efforts. Medical issues and familial obligations stretched us thin, and frankly, releasing fewer games made it a thin year financially as well. But we've muddled through and are looking forward to getting some of those long-gestating designs onto your tables.

Some of those games have been in the hamper for a very long time. We signed and announced At All Costs back in 2017, and Streets of Shadows in 2018. The designers of both games have been very patient with us, and they're among the first games on our release schedule for next year. My own design Aurelian, Restorer of the World has been finished, except for art, since late 2018, but won't be coming out until very late in 2020, mostly so that it doesn't release too close to our other solitaire Roman Empire game, Robert DeLeskie's Stilicho, Last of the Romans - which we signed last fall and will likely be releasing this coming spring.

We're used to a much quicker turnaround time - usually publishing the game within six months to a year after signing it, depending on the amount of additional development needed. We had a pretty long pipeline going into 2019, but our truncated release schedule just pushed everything forward. We now have enough games not only to see us through 2020 but also a good chunk of 2021.

Our greatest strength is being scrappy and flexible. Here's a story that illustrates that. In the spring of 2018, a first-time designer sent us her game. We played it, fell in love with it, and published it that fall. That designer was Erin Lee Escobedo, and that game was Meltwater. It's been a hit commercially and critically and is one of our flagship titles - one that we're proudest to have published. And we were able to do that because we had that flexibility.

Now, with literally dozens of titles stretching out before us, we don't feel particularly flexible, and that's a problem. And of course, this is something that's only going to get worse so long as we keep signing new games, so midway through 2019 we basically stopped accepting submissions from new designers. That's going to continue to be our policy until we can get our "to-do" list shrunk down to a reasonable size, and reclaim that quick, scrappy feel.

So, the plan for 2020 is for us to hit the ground running. The vast majority of the games we have on the docket are ­done - it's just a matter of doing the final layout and QC before publishing. We're not going to announce those titles now - learned our lesson last year! - other than to confirm that, yes, Mary, 2020 will see the release of Dinosaur Table Battles.

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