Other proof

Hello! I'm Malachi Ray Rempen, and you can call me Mal, because you are my friend. For the past ten years I've been doing the web comic Itchy Feet, about travel and language learning. In 2017 I launched my first Kickstarter for the Itchy Feet card game, and that did well enough that in 2020 I made a board game based on my passion and background, filmmaking - called Roll Camera! THAT did well enough ($212k if you including the post-campaign shipping and addon funds) that this year I decided to quit my day job (as well as my filmmaking ambitions, for now anyway) and now I'm gonna focus on designing, illustrating and publishing my own board games and comics! I hope it wasn't a huge mistake 😬

My current project is a reprint and expansion to Roll Camera! which is in its final hours.

I can talk about self-publishing, crowdfunding, explaining to your wife why board games are the wave of the future, learning German, having a cat (which I know reddit knows very little about), drawing bean people, or whatever the heck else.

Ask me anything!

Comments: 120 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

extra_specticles60 karma

Did you Jump To Conclusions?

malachi_rempen49 karma

Clearly I did about the interest anyone would have in this AMA 😅

BestCatEva4 karma

Aww, naw! It just showed up in my scroll — I’m interested in this. What board games did you play as a kid?

malachi_rempen4 karma

My dad is German so we played games like Fang den Hut, Malefitz and Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht. We were not allowed to play Monopoly

chokobeans26 karma

Tell us more about your fulfillment process. I'm interested in the background stuff.

  • How did you find a manufacturer to print your pieces and the board. Why did you go with the one you're with? (and who are they?)
  • Are you manufacturing them per order, or by x1000 orders? Are you paying for those minimum quantities upfront?
  • How are you going to deal with shipping to customers? If you have 10k boxes to ship out, how are you storing that merchandise, how are you shipping those boxes to the carrier? Are you using your own gas to drive to the carrier? Do you rent a truck?
  • How did you estimate your current project would take $10.5k to manufacture?

malachi_rempen18 karma

I went with Whatz Games out of Shanghai, mostly because Roll Camera! had a tricky clapper box design and all the other manufacturers I talked to said "nah we can't do it." Whatz said, "we'll send you a sample in 10 days." They're great, quality stuff.

I round up the order number (plus about 15% contingency) to the nearest 500. Might not be the most cost effective way to do it but I'd prefer to have less overstock hanging around than a better per unit discount. I'm all about keeping operations tight. I pay for the difference up front yes, but I recoup that with online / convention sales down the road.

Luckily I am not doing all the fulfillment myself! I hire out fulfillment hubs in each global region (USA/CA, UK, EU, AUS and Asia) and they do all that hard stuff.

The $10.5k estimate was based on the factory's minimum order quantity (1000) and the cost to print and freight the expansion across the ocean. I would have lost money with $10.5k but I was pretty sure we'd pass it.

MentallyMusing12 karma

What kind of board games do you design? As a mom of a toddler I find the market completely void of family games that intelligently include the little ones

malachi_rempen21 karma

Ooh, I can make some recommendations for you - Balloons by Chicco is great because it ages up with the kid, and it's not competitive so it teaches cooperation. The Busytown game has been a hit with my son, also cooperative - kind of a mix between a race and Where's Waldo, but with Richard Scarry people which is great. And then you can't really go wrong with anything by the publisher Haba. Lots of wood and natural materials, and gameplay that won't make adults want to die from boredom or annoyance.

I don't design games for kids that young, but I try to aim for "all ages" generally speaking, which usually means 10+.

shinigurai8 karma

I'd love to know how you raised that much. My wife wants to quit her job and chase her dream but there's no way we can afford it. Crowdsourcing is her solution but I just don't see it happening. How did you manage to be so successful?

malachi_rempen25 karma

I don't think it makes sense to chase the dream out of the blue - for me anyway, that was too great a risk. When I launched my first Kickstarter I already had a following for my web comic. I would never have done it otherwise. And at that point I had been doing the comic for six years straight, never missing a week, for free. So although I didn't plan it that way, I had put in my time beforehand, for many years, developing and cultivating that audience. That's where you gotta start. In the online / crowdfunding world, you have to give give give give give before you can ask for anything in return. It's not easy.

r_a_butt_lol8 karma

Could I see a picture of said cat?

malachi_rempen14 karma

fvelloso8 karma

How do you make it work financially: being a dad and taking a leap of faith in a passion project?

malachi_rempen15 karma

It's a bit of a gamble! My wife just got a good job in the healthcare industry but she works long hours, so I was in a position anyway where I was going to need to take more dad responsibility. Which I was happy to do - so it was win-win for both of us. It's not a long term solution but it'll give us some runway.

skiddelybop6 karma

Have you heard anything about how Ted and Robin are doing these days?

malachi_rempen1 karma


danimal60006 karma

Have you ever seen a ghost?

malachi_rempen13 karma

No, I don't think ghosts are real, though I kinda wish they were. I had a dream once where I died and I really wanted to tell my wife so I called her on this phone that was on the wall that somehow went between the worlds. We cried about how I was dead. Sure would be nice to be able to get phone calls from the dead, don't you think? Or maybe not.

NewMasterKush2 karma

You wish ghosts were real? Why the fuck you wish that. "I wish life was infinitely more terrifying" That's like birds wishing that cats had wings...

malachi_rempen9 karma

They might not be mean ghosts. If I was a ghost I would try not to be spooky

Codeglee4 karma

How did you go about sourcing the manufacturing and printing partners to pull off something like this?

malachi_rempen6 karma

Luckily for board games there are companies all the way down the chain from manufacturing to freight to fulfillment and warehousing that specialize in working with crowdfunded projects. So I basically just needed to ask around (usually on Facebook groups) to find the best ones. It was not very difficult.

PresentzAdvance4 karma

Have you met the One Who Walks Behind the Rows ? ....because he wants you too Malachi

malachi_rempen1 karma

I understood that reference

LegalAction3 karma

Would you bet on 2 and 7 off suit?

malachi_rempen2 karma

If this is a poker thing, I have no idea.

Deezl-Vegas3 karma

Hey! Stop by Meepleville in Las Vegas! It's an amazing board game cafe

What are some general ground rules for designing board games?

malachi_rempen9 karma

Cool! Would love to come by.

Some general rules for game design from my own experience and bias: input randomness (where randomness sets the scene, like rolling dice that you will spend later, or drawing from a deck to create a hand from which to choose a card to play) is almost always better than output randomness (where randomness determines the result, like rolling dice to pass a skill check or where the card you need is buried somewhere in the deck and you need to keep drawing to find it), unless you can mitigate the output randomness through other mechanisms.

Also, whenever you can, offer the players a choice. Good games offer interesting choices, and when the game decides things for you, it's not a choice. Related to that, for a player, an obvious choice is the same thing as not having a choice at all.

Also, the BEST skill you can have as a board game designer is observation. When people try out your game, shut up and watch them. Don't say anything. It's really hard, but watching their body language, how they interact with the game, what interests them, what bores them - that will tell you everything you need to know about your design - IF they are your target audience.

Also, don't be quick to defend your game in its early stages, it is terrible; everyone's early-stage games are terrible. Your job is to figure out what's not terrible and chip out the rest. That takes a thick skin and listening to and watching people struggle through your terrible game until it's not terrible. Everyone goes through that phase. What makes a pro is whether you can work through that phase.

But also don't be a perfectionist. Nothing is perfect, just get it done.

lituponfire3 karma

Did you have the funds to quit your job and if not, how supportive was your wife before you made any income?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Sort of, I mean I always made a point of having enough for about 3-4 months just in case I ever wanted to up and leave. Also my wife ended her schooling for being a diabetes nurse and started making enough money that we can test these waters a bit. Worked out for both of us because I can be more stay at home dad now that she's working more. We'll see!

Worried-Objective2912 karma

Are u really any happier?

malachi_rempen1 karma


Worried-Objective2911 karma

Really happy or fake happy? Cause we all are sad deep down most of the times

malachi_rempen1 karma

How do you know that is true for everyone?

Riblord2 karma

What boardgames do you like to play?

malachi_rempen2 karma

My favorite right now is Pax Pamir 2nd Edition, which is gorgeous to look at, easy to teach, fun from 1 to 5 players and everywhere in between, and INCREDIBLY tense. It's a masterwork. I like pretty much anything else by that designer, Cole Wehrle.

Olde942 karma

What is your favorite boardgame (that is not your own)

Also: had you been able to bring any experience from film production in to product production?

(Also also, thanks for making space in the box for the expansion! I’m eagerly waiting!)

malachi_rempen1 karma

Pax Pamir 2nd Edition is the GOAT as far as I'm concerned. I don't like to play my own games :D

Re: film production experience to product production - great question. Actually it's been completely different, and I've had to learn a whole new set of skills. I was never involved in distribution and exhibition in film, so the whole logistics thing was brand new to me. But I always enjoy learning new things. Filmmaking skills have served me better when it comes to the actual game design and marketing than the production, really.

Olde942 karma

I don’t like to play my own games

Too much play testing? ;)

malachi_rempen1 karma

Yeah actually, that's exactly it. I've played more Roll Camera than any other game on the planet

Olde941 karma

That tends to happen when you make something. Also the direct way to make a hobby a boring task if you want to take a hobby further than hobby level

malachi_rempen1 karma

Yeah totally. My wife won't play board games with me because "it's work" now. D'oh!

APleasantMemory2 karma

I have a card game and a board game I've designed. They've been play-tested and seem pretty solid. But what is the next step to actually selling them?

malachi_rempen4 karma

Well, if you have something of a following online, you can go the crowdfunding route and self-publish like I did. If not, you might be better off pitching to publishers - many publishers are looking for design submissions to license. In that case you should prepare a sell sheet (a one-page description and pitch for your game), and look around for publishers that produce games for a similar audience as yours.

N35t0r2 karma

I was at Essen, didn't manage to find a spot to play, but still really liked the game.

I don't have a credit card though (just recently moved to Germany and have to wait for my residency papers for that)

Is there an alternative to Kickstarter where I can pay via bank transfer/direct debit?

malachi_rempen2 karma

We'll have a late pledge option after the campaign closes where there should be some alternative payment methods, hopefully something that will work for you. Worst case, get in touch with me when you're settled and sorted and I'll make sure you get a copy.

tzartzam2 karma

You do a lot of the roles of a designer-publisher yourself (design, illustrate, crowdfund), which is great! What's your weak spot? Which part of the process arenyou outsourcing most?

malachi_rempen2 karma

On Itchy Feet I had an excellent co-designer, Maxime Rioux, and with this new project, the Roll Camera B-Movie Expansion, I brought on the also excellent John Velgus, who was meant to just develop but it turned into a co-design role anyway. Roll Camera! the original game I did fully by myself, and I found that I really have a hard time with the grind of development - this is the part of the process where the game is mostly done design-wise, but you need to exhaustively playtest it in order to refine the rough edges and balance it properly and catch edge cases. I was happy to outsource this part to Velgus, and I will probably do that again.

Of course I also don't do my own freight management, manufacturing or fulfillment - those are all done by companies I hire out. But the Kickstarter campaign, game design and illustration parts I quite like.

Just-Seaworthiness392 karma

What did you do for a living before the comics? Awesome artwork btw!

malachi_rempen2 karma

Thanks! I was a filmmaker and I also ran a film school at a private university here in Berlin. Hence the film themed board game

Anotherskip2 karma

I make flatter than normal dice. 4.5mm high×44mm around for D20's. Do you see these as being useful for shipping purposes?

malachi_rempen5 karma

I suppose if it makes it easier to fit into a box, sure. But how can a D20 be shaped like that? Having trouble imagining it

Anotherskip8 karma

It is essentially a hollow 20 sided barrel die with added interior mechanics to prevent cocking strung on strings/lines for rolling. You can find some pics here turning dice

malachi_rempen8 karma

😮 This is the craziest thing I've ever seen

carlosgnet2 karma

How many countries have your visited? Favourite ones?

malachi_rempen4 karma

47, according to this map. New Zealand I think has been my favorite. Just gorgeous, friendly, and quick to drive around. Top of my list right now is Canada (only been to Victoria, would love to see the east coast), and Tanzania.

ZSpectre2 karma

Do one of your games happen to have a cat centered theme?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Not yet! But anything is possible

guywhoisalive2 karma

I've been designing my own Board game as well but never thought to crowd fund it ( playing the lottery is my main source of revenue for inventions etc. )

Do you plan to create each individual board on your own or take it to a manufacturer?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Nice! What’s your game about? I will print my game in China with my manufacturing partner there. It’s very streamlined these days.

hinnsvartingi2 karma

Starting out, how much “Buffer” cash did you need to keep your family, cats and board game business fed and afloat? What tips would you give someone thinking of quitting their 9-5 to pursue a similar dream?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Basically I planned for about six months worth of buffer. BUT I would warn anyone attempting the same thing that you should not be stepping into the blue. You need to have some momentum going or it’s too big a risk. That’s my advice anyway!

ThomasLikesGames2 karma

What made you quit your job?

malachi_rempen1 karma

I needed the time to do game and comic stuff - nights and weekends weren’t cutting it.

Eis_ber2 karma

What kind of board games will you plan to focus on in the future? Party games, card games, strategy games, roll and move types?

Olde941 karma

Yeah with earlier games being smaller than roll camera i’d like to know if you/he will follow the smaller party route or go more large and potentially complex

malachi_rempen1 karma

For the time being I'll probably hover around the complexity level of Roll Camera, because it's still quite a challenge to design, for me. My tastes as a player have moved past that level into the more complex games, but I'm not ready yet to tackle like a big strategy game, although I do have ideas for a few that would fit the bill once I am ready. As for party games I might go back to them someday, who knows

Olde942 karma

I’ll keep following on kickstarter! While i love complex games (Terra forrming mars, viticulture, etc.) my mom is glad roll camera is not. It’s eady to learn easy to play and i love the colaborative aspect!

malachi_rempen1 karma

Great! Thanks

IAreAEngineer2 karma

I love board games! Always a fun activity. Other than your own games, what are some of your favorites for adults?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Well I don't consider my own games among my favorites 😅

I like anything by Cole Wehrle - Pax Pamir 2e, Root, Oath are all great. They're complex, though, and can be tough with the wrong group.

jrgdiz2 karma

Can you tell us something about the Itchy Feet game or Roll Camera that worked really different at the start of playtest and what made you change it?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Itchy Feet - this game was originally meant to be about language learning, where you had to piece together how to phrase the sentence "two beers please" in a procedurally generated language before the "waiter" arrives. Turns out grammar is not a fun game!

Roll Camera - for the longest time I had this mechanic called the "crew mood," which was a big fat dice that you rolled at the start of your turn with different faces on it. When the crew was in a bad mood, you drew problem (bad) cards. In a good mood, you could play idea (good) cards. Turns out letting random chance determine whether the turn will go well or poorly is not fun!

Olde942 karma

And were there mechanics that were too complex/problematic to add?

malachi_rempen2 karma

For the Roll Camera expansion we wanted to add a semi-competitive mode, but this turned out to be too complex and fiddly.

Xeynid2 karma

What board game do you think has your favorite graphic design right now? Do you think there's a different game that has "objectively better" graphic design?

malachi_rempen1 karma

As far as graphic design, I think Ryan Laukat and the folks at Leder Games (Kyle Ferrin, et al) are jostling for position of greatest ever. They make absolutely beautiful, whimsical, FUN art that is also clean and very easy to parse at a glance. They're my graphical heroes

Cooked_Ghost2 karma

It's our best boy Mal! I'm going to go off the track a bit here - what made you decide to move to Germany? And what did you find most difficult about living in a whole new country and learning a whole new (difficult) language? Is there any advice you'd give to young Mal to help him on his adventure?

malachi_rempen2 karma

Yoooo cooked ghost

I wanted to pursue filmmaking, and while living in France / Italy, everyone said I needed to go either to Paris or Berlin. I was kinda done with France at the time so I decided to venture somewhere new!

Most difficult: managing the bureaucracy. In Berlin, everyone is happy to speak English (to the point where it's often hard to practice German!) EXCEPT the government workers who either can't or refuse, and that's when you need it the most...

Advice to young Mal: don't take yourself so seriously :)

XmasJ2 karma

Hello Mal, hope you're doing well. My question is: are you religious, and do you believe in God?

Wish you best of luck in your new ventures!

malachi_rempen3 karma

Thanks! I am not religious, and I don’t believe in a traditional god, but I’m also open to being wrong.

Foggmanatic1 karma

Do you need any help making games?

malachi_rempen3 karma

Not at the moment, unless you like playtesting early crappy prototypes!

Capital-Archer-4551 karma

So I've been thinking of an adult version of the game 'Twister'. Where you put colored vinyl dots on each other (oiled perhaps) and then spin the wheel to see where your hands? Feet? Who knows goes? It could be very adult. Do you think there would be a market for such a thing? Maybe call it ' Teaser' to avoid copyright infringement, Idk? 18 to order and can solicit adult stores?

malachi_rempen1 karma

Believe in yourself and anything is possible

LoganGyre1 karma

Please teach me!!!!

For real ive been dabbling in the board game market for years now and have rule sets cards and binders full of ideas but every time i try to start working on it life just gets in the way. How did you make time to do this or were you able to have enough set aside to quit work first and go for it?

malachi_rempen1 karma

Well I designed and published two games before quitting anything. I did not trust the self-publishing thing to support my family and I (still not 100% sure about it!). So you gotta make your own time and just do it.

The best advice I ever received was: you have to make time for your creative efforts, because no one else will. NO ONE ELSE will make that time for you, so you have to create it for yourself and fiercely protect it. That's the first step.

Good luck!

Ramp_Spaghetti-8 karma

Why does your being a dad or husband lead off? Do you think that makes you special?

malachi_rempen5 karma

Well it's a bit more of a risk to quit your job when you have a family. I thought so anyway