For those who don’t know, can you give a brief overview of subQuark and the games you publish?
subQuark is our small press publishing company. It started out with the intent of publishing a series of early reader books. There are four books written but a poor choice in an illustrator means they’ll be out later than expected.
However, this turned out to be a good thing in that we created our first two games in the lull and successfully Kickstarted them.
Since then, we’ve done a second Kickstarter that succeeded far beyond our wildest dreams (and stretched us greatly in making them).
As a publisher, I feel we need to be hands-on. Not simply pass our work on to a third party and that makes our Mint Tin Games so rewarding for us.
See our past Kickstarters here.
What keeps subQuark coming back to the tiny format? Do you tend to play a lot of small titles yourself?
Great question—the first game we designed is ZOMBALAMBA—a full-sized one that’s about 90% done. As I started looking into manufacturing the game, I was disappointed that there were no high-level facilities in the US.
So I started looking for alternatives to expensive parts, like the game box itself. While doing that, I came across mint tins and wondered about making games that fit those.
We tend to play normal-sized games like Ticket to Ride, Keyflower, and Castles of Burgundy. We didn’t have any smaller games until after we started with Kickstarter—now we have small ones like Tiny Epic Defenders and Avignon: A Clash of Popes (that’s what happens when you back over 700 projects—we wouldn’t ask others to back our dreams if we didn’t back others’).
What’s the tiniest functioning game you’ve ever designed?
Our tiniest game is Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse. It’s a tin less than half the size of a normal mint tin. It’s small but packed to the max with 5 dice, 11 meeples, 2 wood cubes, a minted coin, and instructions. Because it’s so small, it was crucial to make every part of it important, so the game box itself is a part of the game.
PLUS . . . Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse has a seven-piece soundtrack!
I was slightly amazed to discover all subQuark titles are self-produced. What made you and Kate decide to take this route?
I was scared to put production in the hands of someone offshore. I was also concerned about things like the Port of Los Angeles Longshoreman strike that caused many Kickstarter games to be delivered late as cargo ships sat anchored off California a few years ago.
If we make a promise, such as a reward, then we need to keep that promise. And to keep a promise like that, you need to be able to control as much as possible or have some alternative ways to make good on your promise.
For our games, we have more than one vendor that can provide materials to us. It’s much easier to get replacement dice than to start game prototyping process all over again with another manufacturer.
A well-respected game guru once criticized us as not having a scalable solution and to that I’d point to our ability to deliver 4,000 games for our last Kickstarter on time!
So far we have just over 7,000 games in 49 countries—not bad for a two-person operation.
We don’t have an outside manufacturer, we’re the designer/publisher/marketer, we ship ourselves, and we don’t have a game distributor. While that also means we don’t have retail volume, it also means we can have a higher margin and a lower cost to the game player.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering home production?
Do lots of research. And when you can’t stand to Google any more, do more research!
Then be ready to pour all your time and energy into it.
We inspected 44,000 meeples and looked at each of the six sides of the 20,000 dice. It was a lot of work but it was in our control and we got it done like we promised.
There were many nights when I’d come home from work and want to take a break, just watch an hour of TV, but thanks to Kate, we pushed through and it was awesome to get all the rewards out in time.
A friend from our Game Meetup group did a Kickstarter of a “big box” game manufactured offshore and gave himself over a year to deliver the rewards. He’s now running two months behind and might have to start up with another manufacturer.
Research, triple check everything, understand the pitfalls, plan for redundancy, plan for failure, then work your butt off, and the most important thing with it all: have fun, it’s work, but it’s a blast too!.
Oh . . . and one of the biggest time savers passed on to me, if you’re going to ship yourself, is to get a thermal printer. Sounds minor, but it’s a phenomenal tool.
What’s next for subQuark? What can we expect in 2018?
We hope to Kickstart Mint Tin LunaSyr this year. It’s a two player and our longest one to date at around 45 minutes to an hour.
It’s all about seeing whose crew is the best at lunar mining. It’s set collection, worker placement, and resource management, and it’s all going into a round mint tin!
Want a Mint Tin of your own? Get a 15% discount on all titles with the promo code SweetLemon at www.subQuark.com.
But that’s not all! subQuark is giving away two free copies of Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse, anywhere in the world.
Just comment below with the theme you’d like to see subQuark take on next. We’ll announce the two best ideas in February 2018!