Greetings dear WarStager!
First of all, please accept our best wishes for this New Year! May your dices give you great rolls and may you win a lot of battles and have a lot of fun doing so :)
As we are writing this update, it is now the Chinese New Year season and our suppliers, like all people in China, are taking their big annual break. But before they left for the holidays, they completed all the remaining work of WarStages manufacturing, aside from casting a few more clips and printing the cardboard packaging for the Cathedrals. So we are now waiting for them to come back and we'll be able to have them verify everything one last time, then start packing and send everything!
We are told that they should be back at work on February 10, so initial shipping could start between 10 to 15 days after this.
However, as you can imagine, the epidemic of coronavirus might have a direct impact on our carefully laid plans. That is actually why this update is coming late, because since nothing was to happen until our manufacturers would come back from their holidays, we were waiting to have more information on the potential impact the flu epidemic might have on our collaboration.
We've been in contact with them during their holidays and were happy to learn that they and their loved ones are all in good health. Also, at this stage, their area seems to have not been too impacted by the virus.
We were waiting to have more specific information about what might happen, but since there is nothing new at this point in time and as it is impossible to know how things will evolve in the next 2 or 3 weeks, we decided to share with you the information that we have so far.
As soon as they are back in office, we will review all the detailed information about the size of the boxes, exact weights, how many containers need to be sent (right now we cannot know if it's one container or two, which as you can imagine makes quite a change in the shipping cost and management), etc.
So with that information, we will be able to get finalized quotes from the shipping companies we've been in touch with and the shipping will start.
As soon as we have the final quotes, we will contact you to give you the shipping price for your rewards. We will collect the shipping fees and start shipping.
What we don't know at this time is if shipping will be made from China directly to your home, or if everything will be sent into a container (or two) to Europe (or America) and dispatched from there. The choice for this will be based on what will be most cost-effective.
Since the middle of December, we spent a lot of our time working on the packaging: How to make the most effective packaging to protect the Cathedrals, how this packaging would fit with various shipping methods, etc.
We also reviewed the last few little adjustments that needed to be made to a few cardboard elements as a few pieces still proved not to assemble properly. The diecut blades needed for a few furniture like the Gothic-O-Matic computer had to be tested again and reworked so the parts would have a perfect fit.
Finally, we received the clips samples and after a retake on the Hinge clips, we approved them for production in the first days of January. Most of the clips got cast between then and January 15, when the manufacturer closed doors for the Chinese New Year Holiday season.
If you are interested, read about all the details and see photos and videos below.
Also, scroll to the bottom of this update for the wrap-up.
On December 19th, we started working on how we would package the cathedral. As the manufacturing costs are much higher than expected, we've had to opt for very plain packaging. Our main concern is the protection of your cathedrals, so we chose a strong corrugated cardboard box. As you will see below, it was a bit more complex than expected, mostly due to the language barrier ;)
One of the concerns was how to fit the plastic clips in the box without having to create a hollow space in the box that might make the parcel much more fragile.
Catherine, our contact at the manufacturing company, offered a simple solution: to place a cardboard insert between the clips and the punch boards and have all the clips in plastic bags arranged by type.
But I had another concern: the boxes are going to be VERY heavy. My fear is that if they get dropped during shipping, their weight might crush the angles of the punch boards, so I asked Catherine to add padding inside the box; I also asked her to double the cardboard box.
The next day, Catherine came with a first option for this: adding foam corners all around the box. She told us it would be more effective and cheaper than doubling the cardboard box.
We got back to it on Monday. To me, her solution was not good: it would produce a lot of hollow space on the sides of the cardboard boxes (the space shown by the green arrows in the photo) which would mean that any hit on the box would punch a hole through it. So I asked her to fill that hollow space too.
After she made some cost calculation and agreed with that, I sent a recap about the packaging
That day we also received an image of the final version of the clips that they had just mailed out to us.
We all had a break for Christmas and got back to it on Saturday when she sent me the templates for the boxes so that I could design the graphics to be printed onto them.
But what I got made no sense, I couldn't understand how these boxes would fold and assemble. And having designed a lot of packaging in the past, I was a bit puzzled by that.
Also, on the screengrab below, you can see that I was concerned because I hadn't received a confirmation that the foam padding would be on the sides but also on the top and bottom of the boxes.
The reason for this was that she had made calculations and the additional layers of foam would greatly augment the thickness of the boxes and so make the shipping price skyrocket (shipping price is calculated through a combination of volume and weight). So we decided to keep the foam on all sides and just have thicker cardboard protection on top and bottom. From their experience, Catherine told us it would be more than enough.
On Sunday, we received new images of the very last correction that needed to be made on some of the punchboards: some of the diecuts needed a little bit of fine-tuning, especially for the assembly of the Gothic-o-Matic 2000 computer. And this time, it was perfect!
So this meant that they could punch out all the remaining printed sheets.
We also received more explanation on the cardboard boxes templates for print, but despite Catherine's efforts, it was still very hard to understand how the parts of the box were supposed to fold onto themselves.
On Monday, we received the clips samples. They were great. The fitting was perfect. We just had a very few of the hinge clips that were not working properly: the connections between the two parts of the clip would be too loose and so the hinge would "break down" as soon as you would move it.
Meanwhile we were still trying to make sense of the cardboard boxes templates… with little success ;)
Catherine reported the hinge issue to her mould makers so that they could make the needed adjustments.
She also sent me a bunch of new images for the boxes and I finally understood that the templates were only showing half of a box. It was getting clearer…
On Thursday 2, Catherine sent me some new documents and finally, I saw the light!!!
The reason for all that confusion was that earlier in December I had sent her a mockup of what I had in mind for the Artwork to check with her if it would work.
She had validated my images. So I assumed that we would have a box similar to the one on my mockup. Catherine never told me that they would use a different type of box and since they were sending me only templates with half of the box, nothing made sense.
Finally with the full templates she sent me that day, I understood that we were talking about two completely different types of boxes
I thought we would be good on that front, but there were more surprises to come…
The next day I sent the first version of the box art to make sure it would match Catherine's team's requirements.
I got an answer from Catherine the next morning telling me that my artwork (similar to the one she had approved on my mockup) could not be printed on the cardboard boxes because it was too high-resolution, with too many details, and that the printing machine for this cardboard could only print very simple and big stuff.
Of course I was disappointed and not happy. But having worked with printers all over the world for many, many years, I am accustomed to the fact that at least half of them are incapable of giving you precise specs about what they can or cannot print, what type of files they need, what resolution their printing machine is capable of, etc.
It may sound crazy, but it happens ALL THE TIME!
And I certainly could not blame Catherine for this. As a sales person / project manager, she is somehow between the hammer and the anvil as she has to deal with tons of technical constraints she can only learn about as she goes through them, one project at a time.
Anyway, it meant trying to gather more precise information and get back to the drawing board...
I reworked the box art with Claudia, our graphic artist, and we sent a new, simplified version to Catherine on Tuesday so she could check it out with her team.
Two days later, Catherine got feedback from her team telling me that all image artwork had to go, that they could only print on the sides of the boxes and that all small text had to go… Frustrating… but, that's how it goes.
On the good side, the casting of the clips was moving at full swing. Here is a video of the plastic injection machine doing its thing.
We've also got some info about how the boxes could be loaded in containers if we were to ship everything in one go in Europe or America. Depending on how we would choose to load all the boxes it could take up to two full cargo containers!
I won't bore you with more details about the not very sexy things we dealt with the following week.
Basically we had two more rounds of changes on the artwork and asked Catherine many questions and data related to shipping.
It took quite some time to get all the needed information and Catherine was only able to gather the answers to all of our questions on her first day of holidays. This meant that the shipping companies were now on holiday too and that we would have to wait for February 10 to finalize everything...
So, that's it, all the punch boards have been printed and cut, 90% of the clips have been manufactured, leaving something like 3-4 days of manufacturing at worse, and we are waiting for Catherine's green light to launch the manufacturing of the game mats which will take 3 days to produce.
As you can imagine, a lot is now depending on the Coronavirus epidemic and how our suppliers will be able to get back to work.
Once they all get back and we've been able to get the final quotes for shipping, we will get back to you with more info on how we will collect the shipping fees and send the rewards your way.
There are times in a company's life when uncertainty can happen in the most unexpected and sudden way. In the early days of Raging Heroes, as we were waiting for our foundry to send many of our first models, an unusual event got in the way: the massive volcano explosion in Iceland which spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that planes were grounded for days on end. But we pushed through and eventually things got back to normal.
Ten years later, the sudden outbreak of the Coronavirus is certainly one thing that could never be anticipated in a Kickstarter fulfilment. And it's hitting closer to home than it would have a couple of years ago, because beyond the business aspect, our Chinese suppliers have become colleagues and friends.
To know that they are at risk is very sobering, and makes us follow this unfolding event with our heart and not just as something distant and remote from our daily lives.
I don't think we could have anticipated that our Kickstarters and business ventures would have such a far-reaching impact into our human experience. And so please allow me to end this update with our warmest wishes of good health, high hopes, and broad horizons for all of our futures.
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