November 15, 2013 by brennon
It might be argued that the greatest artist in the universe could work all day every day and paint more technically perfect items of absolute beauty than any artist ever has before, but that all would be for naught if nobody ever knew.
I raise this idea because although Lords of War has, thankfully, been very well received by critics, we have found it next to impossible to let people know it’s out there.
Our fans, the mass of which now thankfully numbers in the hundreds (but not thousands), also tend to be quite passionate about the game, willing to write to us, send photos of themselves playing or take an active role in our Facebook group. But we have struggled – and I mean really struggled – to get the game into people’s hands.
Normally, games publishers work with distributors to get this done. They are the experts, and so it became fundamentally important to us that a) we focused on the UK market, as we couldn’t afford to ship much beyond it, and that b) we build relationships with distributors which could last beyond Lords of War and onto the games we hoped (and still hope) to publish in the future.
With this in mind, way back in 2010 I contacted the UK’s largest games distributor, Esdevium Games, and told them what we were planning to do with Lords of War. I imagine Esdevium receives dozens of these emails on a weekly basis, and so I wasn’t particularly surprised that they didn’t get back to me. Much as we had bombarded the biggest games publishers in the world with inquiries, we figured that until we had the game to show people then all our airy words would just be ignored.
As the respective shapes of Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves and Lords of War: Elves versus Lizardmen began to solidify, and Steve began to steadily produce pieces of artwork (and our bank balances gradually started to look less and less healthy), Nick and I began to contact Esdevium more regularly. We sent them updates, early versions of the cards and the packaging.
Sadly, we still heard nothing back.
We Google’d who was who in the company and tried to call them, but they were always in a meeting or out of the office. I’m not joking when I say that between us Nick and I called Esdevium over 50 times and never spoke to anyone beyond reception. Of course it was frustrating, but as we played the game with demo groups and select retailers, and flashed the artwork about a bit, we knew we were onto something.
Surely, in time, Esdevium would have to pick up the phone?
Eventually, we did receive one email, from Esdevium which informed us that when the game was published then they would look at it. To make that happen, of course, Nick and I would have to pay for a full print run. This didn’t worry us because we figured that the game would be so good that after one look Esdevium would want thousands of copies anyway.
Looking back, I realise that if I knew how hard it was going to be to even get through the door at Esdevium then we would have never embarked on this crazy enterprise!
Compounding issues, as 2012 stretched on our ambitions had to be scaled down. As we had made the decision to print in the UK (in an effort to support British industry and the nation’s economy) it became incredibly clear that not only could we not afford to print Elves versus Lizardmen, but with the costs of printing Orcs versus Dwarves alone being so high then we would not even be able to finish the Lizardmen artwork.
After a very sad conversation with Nick, and another very sad conversation with Steve, we concluded that all resources had to be focussed on Orcs versus Dwarves. The printing schedules meant that there was no way we would have the game out in time for Colours 2012, the Newbury war game show where we had hoped to launch, and the next big opportunity was not until December, at Dragonmeet in London.
Once we had made the decision to delay the launch until Dragonmeet, despite feeling deeply sad about the winnowing down of our ambitions (from three double-decks at launch to two, then to one – and the launch taking place over sixth months after we had wanted), we were really just raring to go.
Elsewhere, my life had changed. During the Summer of 2011, Dnyan (my then girlfriend) and I had been caught up in the Tottenham riots. They had taken place literally outside our front door, and with buildings around us burning and morale generally very low we resolved to move closer to Nick and out of the city. Furthermore, we had decided to get married, and by the Summer of 2012 I had found a new job in Sussex.
In July, August and September of 2012 I therefore found myself starting my new job, moving house, getting married and managing the finalisation of artwork and print specs for Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves. It was a manic few months, but by the end of October we finally had the first three copies of Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves – two of which we dispatched to Esdevium Games via special delivery on the day they arrived.
As Nick and I played our first game of Lords of War on properly printed card stock, with all the artwork in place, designed to exactly our specifications, we were proud as punch. The game looked and felt brilliant – and with the last of our savings spent on booking our stalls at Salute 2013, UK Games Expo 2013 and printing vast banners for our stall at Dragonmeet, we imagined that we had all but made it.
But Esdevium didn’t get back to us. Not in November, or after the launch of the game on December 1st. And not in the New Year, either. We continued to call and email, but the lack of communication continued. And with nobody to help us connect with retailers or customers, all of our money spent and Elves versus Lizardmen languishing, half finished, we spent months trying not to panic.
Before that however, we still had a lot to think about – the launch for one. The website for another. And we had met some developers who were interested in making a Lords of War app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Oh, and I had a universe to build…
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