In this episode, We reveal some of the secrets of CO-OP: the co-op game! But GASP! What could they be? Read on …
CO-OP Runs Its Course
Today I went to Isle of Games (a game store in Tucson) to buy the very last copy of CO-OP in distribution. In the irony of ironies, I was buying my own game from the game store! Why? Interestingly enough, I had two people email me this week to ask for a copy of the CO-OP. Two people I couldn’t say no to.
Clint has previously and ever so graciously given me copies of his books:
- Writing Virtual Environments for Software Visualization
- Program Monitoring and Visualization
… and I wanted to return the generosity. Clint had told me his son took his copy of CO-OP off to college, and that he himself didn’t have a copy at home. So, he asked me for one. I have just a few copies left for myself, partly because I *like* playing my own game, and partly because it’s fun to remember, and partly it’s a potential resume for game companies in the future. So, I went down to Heroes and Villains and bought a copy. Their last copy.
“Wait, I thought you said you bought your last copy at Isle of Games,
not Heroes and Villains?”
I did. The second-to-last copy was at Heroes and Villains. The last
copy is (or at least was) at Heroes and Villains.
Well, as I said, two people this week emailed me asking for a copy. Scott and Jen, who had missed the original Kickstarter (because they have little ones) asked for a copy. Of course, I was happy to oblige my good friends.
I had always hoped CO-OP would do better. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for the success I had with CO-OP! I had great backers and great play-testers and just a great experience making the game. I just had hoped I would do a little better.
I am just happy now that people (like Clint and Scott and Jen) want to play it. I get enormous happiness just knowing some people are playing my game.
But, it’s clear now CO-OP has run it’s course:
- I am sold out, and I have only gotten the two emails (the two above) asking for a reprint/new copy.
- I sent a copy to the Dice Tower and they didn’t review it. (To be fair, Tom was very upfront with me saying they have a huge queue and it may not get reviewed). I think I had always hoped a good review from the Dice Tower would spur the game on for a second reprint.
- I did get a very good review from George Jaros on GJJGames, but he didn’t like it very much. (But it was a very well done review: see here).
What Did I Learn?
The GJJGame review had some real good stuff in it. Here are some reflections on some of his points.
- Art Matters. Probably the biggest ding CO-OP had from the review was the art. I am very happy with the artists who helped me out (as a personal favor: Bob Diven and Derek Jones: thank you!), but a lot of my art was clip art that I bought (and it wasn’t cheap either!). But, at the end of day, my art should have been better. (It was quite a journey looking for art, maybe someday I will write about it here …)
- Price. I went out of my way to make the cheapest game I could with my limited resources. From the Games Crafter, the cheapest I could get my game was $28 per game–I had to print at least 100 for that price (Without that volume discount, they game would have been about $50 per copy!) Also, at the very end, I went ahead and upgraded all the cards to Linen and UV coating for an extra $6 per game. So my cost per game (at the volume 100 mark) was $28 + $6 = $34. That’s my cost to make the game.
- Shipping Is Expensive! I tried to find the best shippping, but Naked Shipping couldn’t help me out unless I had more than 100 to ship (maybe more)? So, for the small print run I had, the cheapest/secure/protected way to ship was the USPS Priority Mail envelope, at $7.15 per game. (I was able to shave a few dollars if someone ordered two copies). So, when I charged $28 (+ $6 for shipping) in my Kickstarter, I was making absolutely no money. I was just doing it because I wanted to get my game made. At the very end, I was able to consolidate some shipping to New Mexico, California, and Arizona (where the majority of my supporters were), so I was able to pay the extra $6 per game for upgraded cards.
- Outrageous price. I guess when the GJJ review said the game cost was outrageous, he’s comparing it to other mass-marker games: If I had the game printed in China, it would have been about $12,000 for 1000 games (plus shipping). Then maybe I could have charged less. But, my Kickstarter only made about $3000, so I had to go with something that would work with my meager budget.
At the end of the day, I did the best I could for my customers on the price and art without losing my shirt.
At the end of the day, it was a wash for me. But I didn’t do it for the
profit. I did it because I love games.
Wall of Text
An interesting passage from the review called the CO-OP rulebook a wall of text. And you know what? He’s right!
In my job, I read a lot of technical reports, journals, and articles which are typically mostly text. I personally have no trouble with lots of text. I think this also stems from my background as an RPG player from Dungeons and Dragons growing up (and Pathfinder more recently). RPGs tend to be very text heavy and that doesn’t bother me.
Most everyone I playtested with had no problem with the wall of text. English majors, Electrical Engineers, Computer Scientists, Physicists, Ph.D.s in Family Sciences, Game Store Owners. But, maybe I didn’t quite have enough people to blind playtest the rules,
so I never heard that the text was a problem.
But, the review was right. There should have been more pictures, more set-ups, more examples showing the cards in action, more pictures. Okay. Lesson learned!
I am happy that the review noted the rules were complete.
Sentinels of The Multiverse
A final thought about the GJJGames Review:
As quick note, I give Sentinels of the Multiverse (SOTM) a 10/10 on BoardGameGeek. It is one of my favorite games of all time. I give myself a 9/10 for CO-OP (but I am biased).
What I take away from that: if you like SOTM , you may like CO-OP. If you don’t like SOTM, you probably won’t like CO-OP.
Isle of Games
Isle of Games was very supportive as a game store during this whole process: the were backers on my kickstarter, they helped me refine and playtest the game at the store during open play, and were generally very supportive. Heroes and Villains was supportive as well, which I am thankful for.
So, at the end of the day, when I have to buy my own game back from Heroes and Villains and Isle of Games, there’s something poetic about that. They helped me and I was able to help them sell some games and do business.
At this point, I think CO-OP has run its course. It’s now sold out everywhere. Unless something big happens, I don’t plan to reprint the game.
Today, to celebrate CO-OP: the co-op game running its course, I played a few solo games with 3 CO-OP characters: Henry Hall, CherryPit Jones, and CP Junior with the “Live Life to the Fullest!” Scenario. I do think this is my favorite scenario in the game.
It was quite humorous that my first celebratory play was THE WORST GAME OF CO-OP I EVER HAVE PLAYED! I lost, and I lost hard! This was demonstrating some of the randomness GJJGames was worried about. But then, I thought about it some more, and I remember many games of Pandemic, Ghost Stories, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and Arkham Horror where we just lost quickly because of bad card draws. There was randomness, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game! I think it’s okay if sometime the randomness beats you down (as long as it doesn’t happen all the time). It just makes me want to play again right away.
So, I played CO-OP again right away! I played again and barely won in the last round. This is my usual experience with CO-OP: on the last round, I usually just barely win or barely lose. (“If only I had one more action!!! Wait, if he goes first, ah-ha! We can win!”)
I am very proud of CO-OP. I think it’s a fun game.
Here are some secrets about CO-OP you may not know.
- The “CP” in “CP Junior” stands for “CherryPit” because CP Junior is CherryPit Jones’ son.
- A bigger secret: Leigh Galbreif is CP Junior’s Mom! (Gasp!) That’s why CP is BOTH a Hippie and Bizzie.
- I have a script for “CO-OP: the movie” somewhere. The premise: CP Junior has just graduated with an MBA and is coming back to the store to say hi to this Dad. While helping his Dad with some paperwork, CP finds the legal notice in the mail that the city will sell the store’s assets to pay back-taxes if they don’t come up with the money soon. CP enlists people in the community to help him, including his Mom. The cards in the Groove deck tell the story of the movie as CP does Random Acts of Kindness (which help him) and some old lawyer he used to play guitar with. In some last crazy scheme at the end of the movie, CP saves the CO-OP and reunites his Dad and Mom. Yay! I even have some songs picked out. (Yes, mostly Hippie songs).
- CO-OP: the co-op game started life as an entry into the Greater Than Games: Meta game contest. It didn’t win or even place. I think that’s because the game wasn’t quite as mature back then. (The Goods cards weren’t added yet, see below).
- The Goods cards were a later edition to the game, and they all came from a mammoth brain-storm session down in Las Cruces, NM. 90% of those silly goods were thought up by Chris C., Joe G., Kurt D., Mike H., and John M.. The GJJ Games review said the Goods cards were one of his favorite parts of the game! Thanks guys!
And the biggest secret of all: the premise of CO-OP: the co-op game is very loosely based on a King of the Hill episode called “Raise the Steaks!”
In this episode, Hank has terrible steak from MegaLoMart and finds the CO-OP in town has amazing meat for steaks. Hank (reluctantly) has to join the CO-OP to get the steaks, but finds out he’s the only one who really understands how to run a business. The CO-OP members keep the VIBE up, and Hank keeps the place running. In the meantime, MegaLoMart has designs on taking over the CO-OP …
That King of the Hill episode is one of my favorite of all time: It shows two groups, typically in conflict, working together: the Hippies and the Business-minded people (from which I coined the term Bizzie for the CO-OP game). They find common ground. And it seemed like the perfect premise for a cooperative game.
Play a game of CO-OP then watch the “Raise the Steaks!” episode. I think you will laugh and find common ground.