Sunday, December 20, 2015

Current state of KWG

Hail and well met,

This has been an exciting and busy week for Knight Watch Games.  We have received several more orders for our terrain, mostly through our ETSY shop.   So far we have made the following items:2 wagons, a fountain, several dungeon, graveyard and tavern kits and the prototype portal. The response we are getting from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.  

A good example of this can be found on our ETSY shop:

Reviewed by Paladin2 on April 20, 2013
Game Terrain - Bedroom Accessory Kit

The craftsmanship was amazing! The details was wonderfully done. If you are looking to enhance your game play, this is the shop to go to. Thank you for your great artistry.

It makes us feel proud and excited to know our work is being enjoyed by our customers.  Our very first customer to buy terrain from us is still coming back to buy additional pieces:

Reviewed by txnyteacher on December 5, 2015

This is a awesome set for gaming. Everything was well made and painted. The shipping was super fast. I can't wait till Brenda opens up the shop again. My third purchase from this shop with more planned.

It was also with great pride that we provided Desmond Blackstone with a portal that played a dominate role in his 6th year anniversary game.  His group has been adventuring together for six years and they are still going strong.  Impressive.  His blog can be read here: BlackstoneBureau
Desmond took some awesome pictures of his game in progress. I want to share some of them here:

Looks awesome doesn't it?

Knight Watch Games is currently working on our customization room/chamber system.  We are also finishing the 2nd edition of the portal so that you can swap out the inserts in an easier way. 

We are going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens tonight with our whole family. I'm pretty sure our after-movie party will be spent playing X-Wing miniatures with Poe Dameron against the First Order TIE pilots.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'Tis the Season...

It's the holiday season...and Santa Claus is bringing you an ugly sweater. Or a tie.  Or cologne.  Or something else that a you don't really want. Why?  Because, your a gamer. And as much as they love you, your relatives aren't gamers and don't have a clue what to buy for one.

You could try to explain it.  Go ahead, describe a dungeon crawl and watch their faces distort into confusion. Attempt to provide a visual example by pulling out your phone and googling "Beholder" and watch their body language change, communicating the non-verbal message "Nevermind". Can you blame them?

I recall the first time I saw my husband's personal belongings.  We were just back from our honeymoon and combining our two households. While he was stationed in Georgia, everything had been placed in long-term storage for three years.  He was excited to see his stuff again and was talking it up a little. Peering into the dank storage unit, I watched him begin to unwrap his possessions.  He chose a few items and carefully passed them to me for placement in the U-Haul. Swords, armor, and chain mail came out first.  "Cool", I thought to myself. 

Next, D&D miniatures were unveiled, followed by a few dusty terrain pieces, and rolled up play mats.  Noticing my puzzled look, he tossed a book my way. It was the original Monster Manual.  "Oh, I know this game", I replied sheepishly.  "My brother used to play in our kitchen with his friends."

"And this is Sergeant Will Killmany", he announced with a big grin, introducing me to his 6 foot mannequin in full SWAT gear. "Because he WILL kill many.  I joined in the laughter, but thought, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"

Fun is what I got myself into.  We are a gamer couple now and it is said that the couple that plays together stays together. 

My first Christmas present from Paraic was an airsoft gun.  The next was a beautiful set of mini pewter dice and a shoulder bag with the message, "Jesus Saves and takes half damage".  The point is, only gamers know what to buy for gamers.  

If you don't have a gift-giving gamer in your life, you'll be shopping for yourself this Christmas.  A fellow geek, Wayne Brekke of Worlds of Waynecraft, came up with a idea for a gamer gift that keeps on giving.  It is a monthly subscription called the Dungeon Crate and was specifically designed for tabletop and roleplaying gamers.

The monthly crate will be launching soon.  You can head over to the website and sign up to be kept in the loop.  According to Wayne, "A typical box will have about 6 items in it (give or take a few freebies). Items may include: dice, dice bags, T-shirt, brushes for mini painting, game tokens, coins, miniatures, mini flats, terrain pieces, 3D furnishings for dungeon tiles, RPG jewelry, crafting and art supplies, fantasy art, and whatever else we can get our hands on."

Paraic and I are particularly excited about the Dungeon Crate.  Last week, we became the first official supplier for the project.  Do yourself a yourself a Dungeon Crate subscription this holiday season.  It will be like Christmas all year long.

From the two of us, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

The "Blackstone Portal" project

Knight Watch Games recently received a custom order to build a portal that housed a demonic entity.

We enthusiastically agreed, thinking it a simple endeavor. $35 in the bank...or so we thought.

Paraic started thinking of how to have the normal portal transform to house the demonic attacking monster and his solution, while creative, took a lot more work that he thought....

The runes say "Blackstone Portal" in honor of the customer.

The placid inviting portal....a wary adventurer approaches...

The demon attacks !

I'm pretty sure this is a one-way door.

The two inserts are secured to the portal with magnets.  While the workmanship is amateurish, the final effect is not bad.  

We will be offering this same design in our Online shop...but I think the price will be a little higher than $35.  What would you pay?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Faulty doppelgangers.

Brenda and I have been working hard to perfect the Knight Watch Game website and online store. While researching the current game terrain community, we discovered several websites that are paying us the highest compliments.

By compliments, I really mean they are taking our product designs and copying them.  Not only do they copy the design of the terrain, they practically cut/paste the items description from our online catalog.

We are honored to be copied, and admit we have done something similar in regards to Bruce Hirst's creations, and some other designers over the years.  However, a glaring difference gnaws at me... neither Bruce Hirst, nor the other designers, are trying to make a living from their original creations. They were either building the terrain to display the capabilities of their molds (Bruce), or they were making items to use around their personal gaming tables.

It is reassuring to us that when we see these copied items, we notice that the workmanship and attention to detail is sub-par.  Our Knight Watch Games products are high quality and meticulously painted.  Our competition has a way to go before offering terrain superior to ours.

We are currently perfecting the design of a modular kit that allows for buildings and rooms to change appearance easily. Coupled with our accessory kits, the customer has an infinite number of chambers and structures to use during gaming sessions.  Keep an eye on the store for pictures of the final product.

It's now the holiday season and we at Knight Watch Games wish you the best.

Friday, November 27, 2015

It's real....all of it.

We've been working hard on building up the terrain inventory and fullfilling the orders placed. Within the first two weeks of the online store being open, Knight Watch Games has received orders for over $400 of products.  Exciting !

While fullfilling orders is certainly an awesome way to spend our time, I admit I prefer designing and building new, original creations.  I'm swept up in the current Star Wars fervor and am playing around with the Fantasy Flight Game, Star Wars Imperial Assault.

The game is a interesting miniature strategy game that pits the heroes of the rebellion against the might of the Empire.   The game  utilizes graphic maps to depict the tactical situation. The map is composed of various pieces that are fitted together to make the full map. I didn't like the maps as they were too small and the pictures hard to comprehend.

I realized it was possible to build the same tactical maps in 3D using the Hirst molds.  A little creativity was needed to solved the thin wall issue, but a solution was presented by a fellow Hirst builder, Bumyong.  I followed his lead and came up with my own variations.

My goal is to build each of the Imperial Assault map pieces (there are over 60 of them!)  Wish me luck.  Commissioned Imperial Assault terrain is certainly available in our online store.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Knight Watch Games Milestone!

Yesterday was a milestone for Knight Watch Games -- we received our first order from a customer. The order was placed via our ETSY shop for a substantial $185.  This is great news and bodes well. We had opened the shop only three days prior.  Time to get casting!

Brenda and I have our terrain-making workshop set up much like an assembly line. There is a station for mixing and pouring the plaster into the molds (a messy business), another for extracting the cured bricks and sorting them into bins, a station for building the various projects and finally a station for painting the pieces.  With this arrangement, there is always something "cooking".  Brenda tends to gravitate towards the sorting and painting portions of the process, while Paraic is the caster and builder.  Great harmony.

During our shopping sprees, we encountered numerous people who were interested in our shop and we realized we had no business cards to help set the hook.  We quickly drafted a design and got a batch printed from Staples. It feels good to have something to hand to interested parties that we meet during our outings.

On a related note, we are both very happy to be back in the States, and specifically back in our hometown of San Antonio.  The list of things we missed while stationed in Europe is a long one, with tacos, family and menus in English being at the top.  It's great to be back and its awesome to get such wonderful support from everyone regarding our Knight Watch Games efforts.  Adventures await!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 10 essentials to a great gaming store.

-- By Ghoul

I recently watched the Dice Tower's top 10 essential things for a good gaming store.  You can watch the same video here:

The panel, consisting of Tom Vasal, Zee Garcia and Sam Healey, discuss the essential components in a successful gaming store.  Many of their personal choices were shared by the other two.  I compiled their combined thoughts and listed them below.  I will discuss the value of each of these and illustrate how Knight Watch Games plans on capitalizing on them.

1. Good Lighting.   All three panelist agreed that having good lighting allows for customers to enjoy their games.  The problems of glare and sickly yellow lighting was noted as huge turn-offs.  The dreaded flickering light was also stated as a immediate shop fail.  Not only does good lighting allow for game play, it sets a tone in the store of openness.  The products on the shelves can be displayed and the customers can be seen.

Knight Watch Games plans to have a mixture of ambient lighting and spot lighting.  The ambient light will come from fixtures disguised as torches throwing light towards the ceiling and off the walls. We wanted the light to simulate the warm glow from flames, but we worry that customers wont like the more subdued lighting.  Florescent overhead lighting doesn't seem to enhance the ambiance we are aiming for.   To counteract the soft warm light of the torches in the store, the tables will have multiple chandeliers hanging over them.  While it will look like the chandelier is just holding candles, within the ring of candles there will be a high-powered spot lamp aimed down at the table, which will illuminate the play area, but leave the rest of the area subdued.

2. Comfortable Chairs.  Again, all three panelists agrees that the chairs in a store either promote the gaming experience or they severely detract from it.  The chairs need to be sturdy and accept a wide-range of body types.  Gamers will be sitting in the chairs for hours so they must be comfortable enough.

Knight Watch Games plans on having at least three types of seating available, depending on which table the customer is sitting.   At the "lower-caste" tables, there will be benches that can accommodate three players at a time.   The benches will have cushions.

The "higher-caste" tables will have individual stools that are sturdy, cushioned and large enough for a single customer.

Lastly, at the "Nobles" table there will be chairs that are wide enough for anyone, strong but regal. The chairs will have a high back and a cushioned seat.

3. "Modernization" Tom Vasal heavily recommends that a store be "modernized" By this he means that a store should have a contemporary cash register, inventory system and effective AC/Heater.

KWG is planning on using a tablet to facilitate the Point of Sale system.  It will automatically update the inventory and well as produce a paper receit for customer records.  We will also be using the online store to help facilitate sales.  Customers will be able to order an item online and pick it up at the shop with no problem.  We are also using an online registration system to allow players to register for tournaments ahead of time.

4. Snacks.   It is agreed that gamers love eating while playing games.  While Cheetos and Mt Dew seem to be the quintessential snack, the gaming community (and society at large) is veering towards healthier alternatives.

KWG is going to provides things to eat through a company called "Healthy Vending".   They offer tasty alternative to the typical chips and candy.  Brenda is a big proponent of eating healthy and wants to pass this onto our customers.  It is an additional benefit that the healthy foods will have less grease to get onto the games.

5. Demos  According to the Dice Tower, customers want to see and handle games before they buy them.  It is expected that stores have games that can be play-tested before the commitment of buying. Not only do customers want to see the contents of the game box, they want to see the game mechanics in action, so store owners need to be prepared to demo games to potential customers.

Knight Watch Games already has over $2000 worth of games slotted for open play at the store.  These include Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, Imperial Assault, Armada, Magic:TG, Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder.  We plan to add many more games as time passes.

6. Distinct/professional employee appearance.  It has been stated that customers want to know who is a worker in the store and who is a customer.  When customers have questions, need assistance, or want to talk with an employee, they should not have to guess who that actually is.  It seems some stores have their employees mix in with the players and fail to perform the customer service role.

Both Brenda and myself have a clear understanding of what it means to be store owners.  It does NOT mean that we get to play more games and hang out with friends.  We know it means that we are offering a service to customers and need to be available to assist those customers at any time.  To make that easier, Brenda and I will be wearing either our Knight Watch Games store t-shirts or an ensemble that could only be called a costume.  Both of us are going to go out of our way to greet customers and say farewell when they leave.  We see Knight Watch Games as our home and we are your host.

7. Well-stocked product.  One of the major benefits of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is the immediate gratification of getting the product right when you pay for it.  Its rather disappointing to go shopping for something in a game store only to be told that it is not in stock.

If a customer asks for a game we do not have in stock, we will make every effort to get a copy for you right away.

8. Well-behaved customers.  Hardly anyone can honestly say that they enjoy being in a gaming store that has loud, obnoxious, and rude players.  Gaming is an activity that is supposed to be fun. Shopping is supposed to be fun.

KWG has a code of conduct that we will enforce within our walls.  We want Knight Watch Games to be an accepting, friendly and fun place to hang out.  We will correct any behaviors we deem getting in the way of that goal.  Of course, we will do it privately and with due respect, but we will not tolerate customers that don't follow the rules.

9. Plenty of space to play. The store should have plenty room for anyone to play that doesn't impede a customer's shopping. The gaming area should allow players to comfortably set up the game and its accessories without encroching on other player's space. Gamers tend to be on the larger side and they shouldn't feel like a sardine when playing at a store.

Knight Watch Games is looking to lease at least 1800 sq feet, with a majority of that being play area. Long wooden play tables will easily seat 30 players.  Special game board inserts will be designed to augment the table to allow for larger play areas for games like X-Wing, D&D, or Warhammer. The benches and chairs are designed for comfort, space, and function.  We want people to be comfortable.

10. Clean Store.  This is the most emphasized component of a successful gaming shop.  Customers want the store to be uncluttered and clean.  The checkout counter should be free from product and allow customers to put their merchandise on it.  Even more important, the bathrooms should be cleaned.  Often.

KWG vows to keep the store as clean as possible. Having two dogs in the store will be a challenge with the dog hair, but we will minimize this as best we can.  The bathroom will be clean and clutter free.  After all, this is our home, and we want it to be yours too.  We'll make sure it is fit for guests.

What other elements of a game store are essential?  If you can think of something, let us know and we tell you what plans Knight Watch Games has in that regard.

We look forward to serving you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


-- by Lotus

"Where have you traveled? "

This is the number one question posed to military families while stationed in Europe. Because it is so easy to visit numerous different countries, Americans experience a sense of profound wanderlust.  Social media is rife with touristy snapshots of mini-trips to Paris or Rome. American military families are capturing memories that they will have for a lifetime.

Paraic and I have had our share of adventures while stationed in Germany, but if someone were to ask me about my favorite place, I’d have to say Lokki’s.  In the little village of Oberusal, there is a hobby shop named Lokki oHg. A Finnish couple own the store, which provides a peculiar variety of services…Friday Night Magic, computer repair, and a bed & breakfast.  From the instant you walk in the door, you sense you are in someone’s home.  Bernd and Liisa (along with their owl, hawk and two dogs, who all roam freely) have transformed their quaint Bavarian style residence into a unique and charming environment. Paraic and I were instantly inspired.  It was during those weekly FNM events at Lokki’s that the concept of Knight Watch Games was born.

Paraic has returned from his deployment to Africa and we are spending all of our energy on designing a business plan for our upcoming game store, Knight Watch Games.  At first, we wanted to create a version of Lokki’s by purchasing a building that would serve as both home and retail space with our pups, Mishra and Urza, serving as the store’s welcome wolves.  How cool would it be to wake up in the morning and walk downstairs to work?  The plan was solid and the financial figures calculated, but lenders don’t care as much about an idea or how much passion one possesses, as they do about getting paid.  So, the store-in-residence idea has been scaled down to a traditional retail hobby shop, but when you walk into Knight Watch Games, you’ll know you are home.

Picture this: Mishra and Urza are snoozing on their beds in the corner, when the chime of the front door bell indicates a guest.  Often too lazy to greet you, they re-position themselves and fall right back into deep sleep.  Even though you just parked in a large paved lot and strolled past several major retailers before you entered, the immediate sights, sounds, and smells transport you to a medieval great hall. 

Dark timbers on the walls hold sconces of torches that light the room in warm hues. Wrought iron chandeliers sway from the timber beams spanning the ceiling. The wooden floors echo your footfalls as you walk in. Paraic is casually arranging books when he turns to greet you. Though you cannot see her, you know Brenda is here because you can smell fresh coffee brewing. 

The room is full of long, dark worn tables, complete with benches where familiar faces look up to smile, then continue playing their games. As you move further into the room, a large leather chair tempts you to sit. You settle in and while you wait for FNM to begin, soft music playing the background transports you to an age of chivalry, magic and mystery.  You realize you are very much at home.

While here in Germany, I have traveled extensively and experienced places many will only ever see in pictures.  Yet, when people ask me "Where have you traveled?" I answer that my best trips were flying TIE Fighters across the galaxy to Alderaan, exploring the town of Two Creek Crossing in the Forgotten Realms, and battling for Zendikar.  I don't begrudge them the looks of confusion I get,  it’s just my personal flavor of wanderlust. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Breaking up is hard to do.

-- by Lotus
Breaking up is hard to do, except when one is following their dreams.

My husband is currently on another deployment, this time Africa.  Thankfully, this is a short one - only six months.   Meanwhile, I am living in our current duty station of Wiesbaden, Germany, trying to learn the language, building a network of friends, and just barely staying sane. 

Yep, he’s ARMY (Hooah) and has been for about 8 years.   I joined the party about 5 years ago when he swept me off my feet in a fairytale-style romance.  At the time, I was enjoying a long career with a local company in San Antonio.  The pay was awesome (the company Mercedes a nice perk) and the downtown apartment was every city girl's dream.  I felt like Carrie in Sex & the City (minus the active sex life).

When we got married, I had to reinvent myself.  As you may know, it is hard for a military spouse to keep a career.  Mention to a potential employer that you’ll be moving to another duty station in a couple of years and they place your impressive resume in the “Not a Chance” pile.  No hard feelings…I was a business manager too.  I get it.

Did I mention my husband is a total geek?  Dungeons and Dragons, first-person shooter games, Magic: The Gathering, and airsoft are just a few of the immersive hobbies that became my world when we got hitched.  Fortunately, my own previous hobbies were minimal due to working long hours, so I welcomed the change…and love every minute of it!  Who knew role-playing games could be so much fun? 

A few years ago, we decided to host a weekly D&D campaign in our home (Ft. Hood at the time.)  Working long hours himself, Paraic decided to pass along his miniature terrain building skills to me.  He taught me how to create stone blocks using silicone molds and plaster, how to build them into miniature replica of castles, taverns, & ruins, how to paint them and even add flocking and weathering touches.  The pieces we created together became the setting for our miniature D&D town of Two Creek Crossing.
Our players loved the terrain so much, Paraic suggested I try selling the pieces online.  A year later, I was operating successful Ebay and ETSY online markets, devoted solely to miniature fantasy terrain.  Every time my ETSY phone app would signal a sale by making a little cash-register chime, I’d get goosebumps.  The satisfaction I experience from creative expression is unlike anything I ever felt holding down an executive position in an office setting. The feedback from my customers motivated me to look for inspiration, create new pieces and continue to expand my business.

It was just about that time that we received orders to Germany.  The idea of living is Europe is much cooler than actually living here.  While we are grateful to have the opportunity to travel and experience the German culture, we find it difficult to get our game on here. ARMY housing is…well, let’s just say that I had a larger apartment than this when I was a 19 year old cashier at Burger Time.  
Not only does the lack of space and the prohibitive business laws prevent me from operating a home-based business, the cramped quarters make it difficult to host games here. We made several efforts to get involved in games at local hobby stores, but the language barrier is a real issue. If you can’t talk trash to your opponent, games become seriously competitive and stressful. So, Magic is out.  D&D is out. Airsoft is illegal here and so we have thrown ourselves in to our newest hobby - Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures games.  Excellent game, but even dogfighting becomes boring after a while (whining ends soon, I promise). 
Paraic’s answer to this is to design an X-Wing campaign, allowing the game play to last for weeks, even months.  He is in Africa now, researching other campaign style games and incorporating some of their rules and ideas into our G.E.E.K campaign – Galactic Epic Escalating Konflict. 

Back to the breaking up part…

Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.  Paraic and I Skype every night from Germany to Africa.  We talk about the GEEK campaign and about life in Germany for me and the pups (we opted out of parenting humans).  Our conversations inevitably go philosophical and the more we talk, the more we realize that we are not happy.  While the ARMY has been good to us, it is keeping us apart too often and holding us back creatively.  So one night, we entertained the idea of separating from the military.  I suggested we use all of our passion, creativity, gaming knowledge, business management experience, and Veteran resources to open our own hobby shop.  It was something we had talked about before in a “wouldn’t it be cool if” sort of way, but that day, it was a viable option on the table.  “Let’s do it”, he said. 

 So, we are breaking up with you ARMY.  It was a successful relationship in that we were good for each other and we can part friends, but life is short and we’d like to return to our own planet now.