John Company: Second Edition

Created by Cole Wehrle

John Company late pledges have closed. John Company will have limited availability in Q3 2022. Sign up for our mailing list if you want to be notified when John Company is back in stock. Pax Pamir and metal coins available on wehrlegig.com.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

An Unboxing Video + Production News
14 days ago – Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 05:05:36 AM

Hiya backers! 

Drew here today. I hope everyone has been finding a good way to pass the time until John Company arrives. We're still several weeks away, but we are getting closer to fulfillment day by day. I am going to keep this June update relatively brief and start it with this wonderfully long unboxing video Cole recorded yesterday morning. If you want a thorough walkthrough of every component in John Company, you're gonna love this:

If there was ever a moment you thought John Company did have enough content in this box for you, I hope this video convinces you otherwise. We've said it many times before, but we are so happy with how the physical production turned out.

📦Production News📦

Currently, each copy of John Company is being assembled, shrink wrapped, packed into cartons, and cartons loaded on pallets. The assembly and ship preparation stage takes weeks, but we're on track for the games leaving the factory around this time next month. This means that estimated fulfillment dates are still generally on target.  

VFI Asia: Southeast Asia orders being sent from VFI Asia will start up later next month and roll out to VFI's partner fulfillment centers through September. You'll be some of the first people to receive tracking information from John Company, but sometimes it will be coming from different sources depending on the fulfillment partner VFI is connecting through, so keep a close eye on your email!

AUS/NZ: You'll likely be next in fulfillment timeline with the games estimated to arrive in August and fulfillment hopefully starting before August is out. Again, you'll get address confirmations on a rolling basis. 

EU/US/CA/Rest of world: For most of our other backers, you can estimate you'll receive tracking information for your pledge in September and some in October. Address confirmations will continue to be sent out on a rolling basis. 

Like we've done in the past, I'll share the freight info when I get it from our logistics partners, so for those shipping vessel heads out there, you can watch along at home! That'll come in the next update. Also, if ever you cannot access your pledge or need help with whatever reason, please reach out directly to us at support@wehrlegig.com as soon as you can so we can make sure we can safely plan delivery for you! 

Okay that's all for now. Our next update will come after the games leave the factory, so expect to hear from us again at the end of July. Until then, happy gaming!


Drew


--Oh! Before I go, I figured I should let you know that we are working on something new. We haven't announced what the game is or when it will come exactly, but know we are brewing up an exciting project. There are a lot of details we have to suss out still, but I cannot wait to tell y'all about it soon. We put up a teaser email sign up here but know we'll be sending you another update all about it when we officially announce the project later this year.

Steady on! John Company continues mass production.
2 months ago – Tue, May 03, 2022 at 02:27:19 PM

Hello everyone.

It’s been a month or so since our last update and I am happy to say we are still chugging along through mass production! The punchboard sheets are printed and drying. Wood pieces have had their portrait designs applied. The Resin elephants have been cast from their molds. There are a lot of unique pieces in this box, and this has been quite the production for our team at Panda Manufacturing.

In today’s update, I wanted to go over the timeline, as well as remind folks of the coming address confirmation, as well as share some news about the game's MSRP and PnP.

Shipping Timeline

John Company will be in its mass production stage for another 4 weeks or so and then will move into a few weeks of assembly and palletization at the end of May. We expect all of the games will be ready to leave the factory in mid to late June in which they will then start their voyage to our different international shipping hubs.

Our Southeast Asia Fulfillment partner, VFI Asia, will be the first to receive John Company and the earliest orders will be fulfilled by VFI starting as soon as the first week of July, and then throughout the SEA region through all of July- September. VFI works with other crowdfunding campaign and sends large shipments to partner game stores/shippers in the SEA region to help with fulfillment, so SEA fulfillment times will vary and they will have regional updates for our project listed soon on their website: http://vfi.asia/hubs/


While late June and July will see fulfillment starting up, the bulk of the containers with John Company will still be traveling across the ocean as they move through their freight phase. We’re planning most of the shipments will arrive throughout August and will be able to reach the fulfillment stage for US/CAN/EU/AUS/INT’L orders at the end of August and into September. In the last few years, there have been so much uncertainty with shipping timelines, as as I’m sure you’ve heard about, but our timeline estimations are generous and should well accommodate this project. At the latest, we could have nearly all orders sent out by the beginning of October, but there is a very good chance we will be done in September. I know this isn’t March like we initially guessed when we launched in 2021, but we know you are going to love the extra work we put into the game with this added time

More Dates

We’ve already locked and charged Backerkit balances, so the next important email to look out for is when we will send address verifications. Those will start rolling out final starting address confirmation emails on the week of May 23 for Southeast Asia backers. We don’t confirm shipping addresses for backers until we are about 3-4 weeks away from shipping your pledge, so US/CAN/EU/INT’L folks can expect addresses to be confirmed in late July (first confirmation emails for US/CA/EU during the week of July 18) while the games on the cargo vessel. If you are moving countries, that address change has to be done manually, so please send an email to support@wehrlegig.com with your request. All addresses will be locked by July 25 so we can organize the remaining shipping lists. We want to make sure we hit fulfillment with a running start!

For pre-order folks, we’re going to push back our pre-order window again to keep things open through May. We wrote that pre-orders were closing down in April but that was when were expecting mass production to be complete in May. We’ll shut down the Backerkit late-pledge pre-order store on May 27th. The games will be leaving the factory in early/mid-June so that will give us a couple of weeks to collect addresses before the first wave of orders is sent out. After we close the Backerkit pre-order store down, we will no longer be selling John Company at the pre-order price $90, though we plan to have John Company still open for purchase again later this year. Like Pax Pamir, our overflow/remaining JoCo stock will be available but will have limited shipping options through our webstore moving forward.

Acronyms! MSRP and PnPs

I want to take a moment thank you for brining this massive project into existence. You cannot be reminded enough that we couldn’t have don’t this without your support. The production value and increased shipping cost of this project, even since we crowd funded a year ago, has continually increased and we have not updated the John Company's MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) to reflect the production stamp. We initially estimated this would be a $100 MSRP production, but we’ve starting to communicate to retailers ahead of its international release this should be listed at $125 to accommodate for the significantly higher production costs of the title. This will not affect any Backerkit or Kickstarter pledges. It's worth noting that Cole and I price our games somewhat aggressively. If a more traditional publisher were to have published this game, it would easily be priced at $150 or more. There is just so much stuff in this box. 

The PnP (print-and-play) files will be coming soon. As a general practice, we try to wait until mass production is complete to make sure they completely align with the printed game. So, expect an update from us sometime in June with access to those. Cole will probably update the digital tabletop mod around that time as well. 

----

Alright, that’s the update. Feel free to comment and let me know if you have any questions, but otherwise May should be relatively quiet until the games start assembled and packed at the end of the month. Another update will come in June with a detailed fulfillment plan and more news. As always, reach out to support@wehrlegig.com if you have any questions about your pledge or anything else.

Drew

Tray Design
4 months ago – Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 06:27:56 AM

Hello everyone,

I don't have any big production updates for you today. Everything has been well underway for several weeks. We're starting to get a sense of what our timeline for the game will be, but it's too early to say much more than we've already said. Our next update will include some dates for regional address locking and an approximate fulfillment schedule. 

Today's update is just for those of you who want to learn about tray design. If you're not interested, I'd encourage you to skip this update. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. 

Design Goals

Both Drew and I like small boxes that don't contain much air. I suspect this has to do with the fact that we both routinely bike to our gaming nights and have never had much space in our homes or little apartments for a game collection. Of course, we still find ways to stuff them into every nook and cranny.

Though it is straightforward in some regards, figuring out a game's box size and designing a sensible insert is one of the trickiest parts of a game's product design. The core problem is simple: inserts have to do different things for different people. 

For the factory, the insert needs help the game be assembled easily. Nearly every board game is loaded by hand, and a smart insert can go a long way in helping factory workers avoid errors. Inserts need to protect the games components (mostly from each other) as they cross the ocean as well as protect the game as it moves through whatever domestic mail service will be handling final delivery. 

This is a very different demand than the one players put on their game's insert. For a player, an insert should help store a game and, if possible, make set up and tear down as seamless as possible. Of course, here we begin to get into trouble. Some players will want to toss minis in a bin (that's me and my copy of Heroquest). Other players will want to an insert to carefully cradle each and every piece so they don't get broken. 

And of course there is the issue of sleeves. Sleeves tend to be about 5mm taller and wider than a card. Worse still, they tend to be 40-100% thicker! Now if they have weight on them they will compress to the lower end of that range but this is a huge difference. Designing an insert that works perfectly for everyone is impossible. You have to go into the process expecting to make some compromises. 

My general philosophy is to design a tray first for the non-sleeved player but to provide space for sleeved cards so players with them can still use the insert. The primary goal is two fold: I want an insert to speed up setup and teardown (keep it simple!) and to potentially have some function within the game. This often leads me to create very simple inserts that prize that functionality over pretty much anything else. 

Making the Insert

I start by spending a little time in Adobe Illustrator, blocking out the components and coming up with a rough plan. One of the most important parts of this process is to figure out what the box's internal "stack" is going to look like. I knew there would be three layers. At the top, there would be bags of the player pieces. Beneath that, there would be a mounted board, player boards, rules, etc. Then, at the bottom level, there would be the two level insert. 

For determining the depth of the insert, I chose to key the bottom level to about 25mm (the depth of the tower piece). With everything else being known, this gave the top tray about 16mm.  This was nice because it ensured a shallower tray that could be easily used during the game, but it might present some space options. I roughed out a basic layout, but I didn't want to commit to any layout just yet. I had to get physical first.

Building trays by hand is surprisingly easy. All you really need is some thin chip board and access to a paper cutter and some nice packing tape. First, cut long strips equal to the height of your tray (so 25mm and 16mm strips in this case.) Then, cut out the bases. 

Next, lay out the pieces to get a feel for how the tray will be organized. After this you can take your precut strips and fold and tape them as needed. 

At this stage we don't need to get too precise. After all, the plastic walls are going to be 3-4mm and we will want to round our corners. The main thing is to just make sure the tray is feasible and makes sense in practice. 

Factory Specs

Next I take these photos back over to Illustrator and map out a precise design. This isn't a final design--the engineers at Panda will do that. Instead, this is just a guideline for them. 

After a little back-and-forth with the factory, the tray arrived yesterday.  Generally, things turned out great. Here's a picture of the tray loaded as if the cards were not sleeved.

Now, you'll notice the cards are, in fact, sleeved. This is because I didn't want to unsleeve all of my cards and instead just reduced the decks to reflect the difference in height. You'll also notice that the tower levels do not fill the chamber on the top of the bottom (rightmost) tray. I only have a few white cast prototype pieces, so I just checked to make sure that the top section could hold 4 rows of 5 (it can!). The resin towers levels are a bit thicker so they couldn't all fit. You'll see them in some pictures as placeholders. 

The tray turned out very similar to my final design. The basic strategy to this organization is simple. Nearly everything you need to setup the game is at the very bottom, in the tray that will remain in the box. That middle-left box contains all of the pieces which are used every game, so players will often first take those pieces out and just place them in their corresponding spots on the board. Any cards that aren't used in the scenario can remain in the bottom tray but everything else should be placed in or near the area of play. 

In contrast, the two removeable trays contain pieces which are frequently added and removed from the game state such as coins, ships, etc. Pieces that require some fishing (like the uniquely named ships) have a larger tray so that it's easier to find the ship you're looking for.  NOTE: the coin tray will fit the metal coins but probably not both the metal coins and punchboard (this actually might be possible, but I don't have a full set of metal coins to test with). If you don't sleeve your cards, you might be able to fit both or two sets of metal coins in the box. 

When packing up the game, the two smaller trays are place on top of the large tray, then a plastic lid is placed over everything to seal it in. (We're looking into adding a finger hole to the plastic lid if possible). 

Then the board and player boards and anything roughly US-letter sized goes on next (the solo rulebook and playaids etc). 

Finally, all of the player pieces and the rules are placed on top. I like to keep all of the cards that go with each player with that player's pieces because it speeds up the setup process. 

It's a full box, but it closes flush!

For the Sleevers

Like the Pamir box, we've added enough space for folks who like to  sleeve their cards. However, they will have to be a little creative. 

On the bottom level, you'll notice that the cards take up about 50% more space.  Ignore the orange tower levels in the bottom, those won't need to be there. However the game's setup pieces will be tucked in with some of the smaller cards and the orange cubes will have to be spread across the smaller trays. Any remaining setup pieces can easily be bagged and saved for the top layer.

You'll notice that the leftmost sleeved cards don't have a finger hole to fish them out easily. This was important because that well is primarily designed for piece storage. Thankfully, there's only about a centimeter of overflow bridge cards. So, I'd suggest stacking them on top of some of the mini euro cards so that they can be easily taken out. You'll also notice that some of the card stacks are just a bit higher than the tray. This is okay because when the top trays are placed on them they will compress down and fit just fine.

And that's it! I'll be sending a few small notes to the factory later this week, but I'm really happy with the tray. In our tests, we found we could set up the game generally in under ten minutes and pack-up didn't take much longer if all of the players were helping. For a game of this size and scope, that is very good and the tray was critical in making those times possible.

Looking Ahead

I imagine this will be our last update for awhile. While we wait for the factory, Drew and I have switched gears to look at new projects, and I've been kicking off the process of localizing John Company in other languages. As soon as we get our MPC copies towards the end of production, we'll be sure to send you another big update with lots of pictures, and give you all and overview of what the fulfillment timeline looks like.

The Pre-Production Copy Arrives!
5 months ago – Tue, Feb 01, 2022 at 08:10:33 PM

Hello everyone! 

Earlier this week I received the pre-production copy (PPC) of John Company in the mail. I think this is my ~12th project that I've seen through the production process, and I can tell you with some confidence that I'm just as giddy to get a pre-production copy now as I was when the first copy of Pamir landed on my doorstop back in 2015. 

As you can see, this is a big game.

With John Company, there is an extra reason to be excited. Normally, when I get a PPC, I try to turn my notes back over to the factory within a week or less. However, this package has arrived right at the start of the Lunar New Year which means the factory in China will be closed for around 3 weeks. This is wonderful timing because it means we can give the game an even deeper final review.

In my preliminary review, I've caught a dozen or so small errors that need fixed or adjusted and I'm hoping to catch more. Thankfully, there's nothing critical and I expect that we'll be able to put the game into production within a few weeks of when the factory's staff returns. Production and shipping will of course take many months, but the biggest hurdles that Drew and I have had to clear will be behind us. We will of course let you know as soon as we have shipping and production timelines worth sharing. 

Over the next few weeks, my main objective is to play and teach the game as many times as possible and design the game's plastic tray system. Like Pamir, this is going to be a tight fit, but I'm working hard to make the insert work for sleeved cards and to have the box close flush. Drew will also be coming up for a visit next week and we'll probably put together a live stream where we talk through the production.  We'll be sure to provide a KS update with information about that when we go live. (I'd guess we'll be doing it next Friday afternoon but we'll see.)


On to the Pictures

Instead of just dumping a lot of pictures on you, I though we should do something special. So, I want to take you through everything more in my capacity as an art director for this game and talk about some of the production/component choices. 

My main impression from going through this game is its sheer size. This is a game on the scale of something like a Twilight Imperium or a Here I Stand. Though the box is not much larger than a typical euro game, it's about 50% deeper than Pamir's box and is filled with pieces. Drew and I will be inserting a pack-up guide and a general introduction on a sheet of paper to help guide players through the experience of opening things up and getting ready to play.


The rulebooks printed beautifully. We filled them with lots of images and more than a few historical notes. While I think it would have been possible to write a terse rulebook in the style of the Law of Root or Law of Oath that might have only been 16 or 20 pages, Drew and I opted to instead let the rules relax in tone so that we could carefully explain as many parts of the game as possible and include lots of reminders and pictures. 

In our introductory sheet, I hope to offer some pointers to new players and encourage them to take their time learning the game in the style of a game master learning a new RPG for the first time. While nothing in John Company is fundamentally hard--indeed, some folks might see it as significantly more straightforward than Pamir or Oath--the world of the game is massive.

I'm quite happy with all of the game's punchboard. The coins in particular turned out really well. These are all 2mm punchboard so they stack very nicely and have a good heft. Their metal version also turned out spectacularly. Careful watchers will also notice that we altered the denominations to shift everything down so we could have 1s and 2s. Because so many of the sums in this game are £1-4 it made sense to put a stepping stone to a £5. For reference, the coin in Pamir is about the same size as the smallest coin here.

We modeled the coins on historical coinage with many liberties taken to make them compliment each other. The metal coins also vary in thickness from about the thickness of a Pamir coin to twice as thick for the larger coins. All of the designs are flush with the coins rim so they stack pretty cleanly. I note this because the Pamir coins were designed to "pile" but we wanted to make it easy for players to keep all of the stacks of cash pretty neat and tidy.

Speaking of punchboard, the Ganjifa-style event tiles came out very well. This was probably the single component I was most worried about. Amita Pai's paintings were wonderful, but they were also quite different from any of the other visual elements of the game. This meant that we were taking a risk that they might clash with the design. To help this we had our primary illustrator (Janek) do icon versions and "reductions" that he could put directly on his map to link them to the rest of the game's look. 

I'll add that they feel wonderful to shuffle! We were going to make these cards but decided to upgrade them to 1mm punchboard which is nice and rigid.

(Note: in some of these images you'll notice that the punchboard has some worn edges. This is because PPC copies aren't actually punched with a industrial die. Instead, they are cut using a laser which gives them slightly more frayed edges)

The Prime Minister dial also came out pretty well. However, we'll probably be shortening his arm an inch to make it easier to see what he's pointing at.

I really like how the general art direction of the game panned out. One always goes into a project of this scope with a general strategy, but things don't always gel. In this case, I wanted badly to find a way to blend novelist and cartoonish storytelling modes with more serious and institutional design from the period. This was an espeically hard thing to do in this case because I also wanted to primarily use period art which is prone to clash with other period art (which makes sense since they weren't drawn/painting/printed with this game in mind!). 

There were a few things that let us get away with it. First, we used a single bank of textures and tried to use as few historical artists as possible. We were also careful with colors and layout and tried to stop things from being too busy.

We also tried to make sure the various hard components fit in with the general aesthetic. For instance, the back of the prestige cards (pictured above) have a marbling texture that can also be found on the game's dice. 

Things get tricky when we start combining art of different part of the game. For instance, there are several elements at work on the player boards. Here's a player board that's been flipped to its Firm side. 

Of course the big test is the area of play generally and the board itself. John Company takes up a fair bit of tablespace. I'd say just a bit more than Oath. There's a lot to take in and it 's important that a player sitting at the table doesn't get lost in the action.

Looking at a state of play (even an engineered one like this) is always overwhelming. But, for a player at a table, this shouldn't be too hard. 

As you might remember, several months ago I handed the board design  to Janek Lipiński who served as one of our illustrators and probably my closed adviser when it came to the game's  general artistic direction and how it used color. In a shot like the picture above, you can really see his expertise at work. By muting the colors on the board and being a little more strategic with the use of color, the game visually sorts itself into a few different layers which make it a lot easier to parse in practice. I'm espeically fond of our color choices for the player pieces and how those pastels sit on top of the muted browns, grays, and reds of the board. 

India also turned out great. It's a real center-piece of the play area and I like how the piece design reflects the material wealth and power of the subcontinent. The metal flags (used to denote empires) turned out great and I just love how the whole thing feels. HOWEVER, we are having to an adjustment to the materials as the resin towner levels just weren't stacking as cleanly as possible and were a little too heavy. So, we'll be moving to a plastic piece with a wash (in the same color) which will solve both problems. The elephant will stay resin. 


Okay, that's it! Over the next couple weeks we'll probably have 1 or 2 more rapid updates for you all and then things will probably get quiet as production gears up and we begin finalizing our fulfillment timeline.


Best,

Cole

Mini-Update! Backerkit Charging Cards on January 25
5 months ago – Mon, Jan 24, 2022 at 11:36:48 PM

Hello!

I wanted to share a reminder that tomorrow, starting at 8:00AM EST, we will process payments for all outstanding Backerkit balances for this project. You can check your email for your John Company: Second Edition Backerkit confirmation survey or go here to recover your survey link to know exactly what/if you’ll be charged. Most of the payments that will be processed are needed to cover shipping fees. Some backers are already paid in full. After we process payments, all backers will be able to edit their address until early April or so, and we’ll send out another update when we are closer to that date. Split Shipment folks will be asked to confirm their shipping addresses again.

Lastly, we’re hoping to receive a full pre-production copy of John Company in the coming week! We will certainly be sharing a big update with pictures once it is in hand, but we’re patiently waiting until then. We’re very excited to review the full physical sample and soon we’ll be starting up way to mass-production.

As always, let us know if you have any questions in the comments below or by emailing us directly at support@wehrlegig.com

Thanks!

Drew