A new year, a new approach

2018 was a busy year for Second Thunder but, as many Open Combat players will know, I didn’t manage to get any new product released. This year I aim to finally release a number of products that have been bubbling along for far too long.

Most notable of the releases that didn’t materialise last year is the Black Powder supplement for Open Combat.

There are a number of reasons why I didn’t get this book finished in 2018. Without going into too many details it boils down two things: 1. My working on multiple supplements concurrently so as to keep an eye on any cross-compatibility issues resulted in me failing to focus in on the ‘just finish it’ stage on any of them. 2. We had some pretty big time-consuming changes in family life and being a one-man-band business everything stops if I have to put the metaphorical tools down for an extended period of time (everything is fine, by the way, it just took a lot of time to adjust).

But, after much juggling and wriggling things are finally settling into new patterns and I can finally focus back on supporting Open Combat and getting all the cool new things I’ve been working on finished.

There will be some changes to my approach this year though.

I’m taking a year off from the UK trade show circuit

I love the UK trade show circuit. We’re blessed with loads of wargaming shows on our small island and it’s brilliant.

One of my favourite parts is meeting you guys, the players of Open Combat, chatting to players is one of the most rewarding parts of writing and publishing rules. Hearing what people are doing with the game, answering questions and listening to suggestions all go to help feed the creative machine perpetually whirring away at the back of my mind. The same goes for all the new people I meet at shows too whether it’s simply interested observers who want to have a chat about what I’m doing or painters/terrain makers just wanting a short chat about the hobby in general, it all feeds into the hobby brain for later digestion.

A more ‘nuts and bolts’ benefit of attending shows is the sales. Selling stuff is clearly important (it keeps a half-starved creative from completely starving) and I thank everyone that has supported me at the shows last year and bought into Open Combat, especially those of you that still wanted to buy after listening to me talk at 100mph when you visited my stand!

Another perhaps easily overlooked benefit of being at wargaming shows is exposure. I know, I know… some of you may be thinking “exposure doesn’t pay the bills” and that’s very true but we wargamers take our time over decisions, particularly when looking at new rules. In my experience attending shows and being present at all the different venues has been hugely beneficial to spreading the word about Open Combat. I’ve had many people buy from me who had first heard of Open Combat by seeing me at a show several months prior, or else have ‘seen me around for a while now’ and finally decided to take a closer look. Another way to get exposure is paid-for advertising, either in magazines or online. All of this has it’s place but being physically present and chatting to people, especially about rules where you can take interested gamers through a few examples of play is an incredibly powerful way to spread awareness of a game and wargames shows provide this opportunity.

I’ll also miss the camaraderie with other traders, big and small, even when sometimes it’s just a wave and a nod at someone I’ve been meaning to speak to but we’ve been too busy to chat during the show.

So with all of that said you might be wondering why am I taking a year off the circuit? (… and yes – I’m not even trading at the ‘big’ ones)

There’s a few reasons, in no particular order they come down to:

Time – Attending shows uses up a lot of weekends in the year. Last year involved a lot of juggling diaries in our household, this year is going to be very busy too so I could really do with having flexibility and my weekends available over this next 12 months.

Energy – Attending trade shows as a one-man business promoting rules, particularly the busy shows or the multiple day events, is very tiring, I’m talking constantly. It can physically and/or emotionally drain me for a day or two after the event, particularly if I’ve had very long drive each way. This has a number of knock-on effects but the main one is that it essentially knocks back writing time (see writing below).

Writing – I’ve found that I have to ‘sink to depth’ (rather like a submarine submerging) to write fluently for any length of time. If I get into the writing groove and the words are flowing but I have to stop or I have the groove disrupted and I have to ‘surface’ I then have to go through the whole process of sinking to depth again, which takes time. Attending shows, at least attending as many as I have tried to do this last few years, has meant that I have had very stop-start, sporadic writing periods which has not been very helpful when it comes to completing things.

Perspective – This is perhaps a bit of an unusual reason but it’s important to me when I have my marketing hat on. I want to attend a few shows as a regular attendee to assess them from a visitors perspective. I can then feed this point of view back into how I approach my attendance when I return to the show circuit in 2020. I know I could improve on the way I do things at shows but when I’m actually trading at shows on my own I don’t have a chance to look around the show, let alone consider how I could improve my approach. I’m wanting to do that this year. So I’ll visit a handful of shows this year for a few hours to wander around and think over how I can improve my own stand.

Filling the ‘exposure’ void

As I mentioned above, the trade shows provide important exposure for small companies and that physical presence is particularly important when showing how rules work. It’s also a great way to communicate what is happening with things and how different projects might be progressing. How am I going to maintain an Open Combat presence in the minds of existing and prospective players this year?

There’s several components to my new approach for this year which I’ll talk about as we get into the swing of the year but one of the main elements is that I’m going to publish a quarterly newsletter.

The Second Thunder Newsletter

Inside I’ll be promoting new Open Combat products, other new releases as they come along and highlighting interesting discussions on the forums and/or social media. I’ll promote any Open Combat organised play events that may be occurring over the year too. I might even manage to get some ‘play through’ videos sorted this year!

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ll be doing through the newsletter is providing links to work in progress documents so that players can have a tinker about with new rules in development. I’ll set something up on the forum for conversations to be kept in the same place.

It will hopefully keep Open Combat in mind while I’m off the show circuit and establish something which we can continue when I renew my attendance at shows.

I’ll be publishing the first issue of the Newsletter at the end of January and you can sign up using the form below.

Sign up for the Second Thunder Newsletter

Note: You’ll have to click on the confirmation email you get (and prove you’re not a robot) as I think the process is a double opt-in process. I think that’s how I’ve set it up – you’ll find out when you stick you email in!