Daily Illuminator

April 15, 2020: Munchkin Musings: April 2020

Socially Distant: +5 to MonsterIt's been quite a month, huh?

The Good

Work on Munchkin continues: I've been busy on a couple of small expansions (technically in playtesting, although right now that's not happening) and a new core set for next year. We've got more ideas of our own and we're talking to some of our licensing partners about new games from them as well. On top of all of the things I talked about last month, we have now announced Munchkins & Mazes, which is at print and on track for a late summer release. (But see below.) I've got Designer's Notes for Mazes that will appear over at munchkin.game before the end of the month, if you want to know a lot more about what went into making this set.

Most important, though, is that (as of this posting) everyone at SJ Games is healthy. We're fortunate to be in a business where 98% of our work can be done remotely, and the team has transitioned to telecommuting with relatively little hassle. We've even been able to put up some free downloads, such as the Munchkin Alphabet Coloring Book, to help people pass the time. We know we're very lucky to be doing what we're doing, and we certainly want to thank all of you who continue to make it possible. (Steve had more to say on this last month, and Phil gave an update earlier this week.) We've got a bunch of free PDF games on our site and more yet to come, so keep your eyes on the Daily Illuminator and all of our social-media outlets.

The Bad

Physical distancing and self-isolation, for many people, mean not getting to have our regular games with our friends. I am definitely one of those: I live on my own and haven't been able to get together with my friends for almost a month. I did write some draft rules for online Munchkin and solo Munchkin, so there are some ways to have a similar experience, but of course nothing compares to sitting down at a table with pizza and beverages for a night of monster-kiddin', back-stabbin' fun.

At times like this, it's easy to turn inward and focus on your own frustrations. So check in with your friends and loved ones. There will be plenty of time for craven betrayal later; this is a time to come together (virtually) and support each other. We can't be together physically but we can certainly remind those we care about that they're in our thoughts. And if the way you do that is setting up a game on Discord or Zoom or whatever, so much the better! You may be physically isolated, but don't let that isolate you completely. Remember: Physical distance – social solidarity.

If you're using Chrome, check out the Netflix Party extension . . . it's not as good as having your friends over to watch a movie, but at least you're sharing the experience and the snide commentary in real time.

The Ugly

This is going to be a very hard time for our industry. In many places, game stores are closed or drastically curtailed in what they can do. Even some of our distributors, who sell our games to those stores, have closed for the duration. Austin's stay-at-home order means that Warehouse 23 can't ship any physical games, although our digital releases are still active. Much as we might like to think otherwise, we are not an "essential business."

What this is going to mean for our summer and fall schedule is an open question. We may not be able to ship our releases when they get to our warehouse in Atlanta, either because they're also shut down or because they don't have anyone to ship them to. Most other publishers are in the same situation or even worse off; as Steve said, we have some cushion for the short term, and our digital side can bring in some money to tide us over. The chances are good that we're going to have to delay some releases by a couple of weeks . . . or more.

It's very likely that a lot of game and comic stores have closed for good, along with many other small businesses that have shut their doors "temporarily." Quite a lot of conventions have delayed until later this year (Origins will be held in October) or simply canceled entirely (BGG Spring, Adepticon, many others). We're all just waiting to hear what happens to Gen Con. Many of you are out of work right now as well. (On a brighter note, we're holding FnordCon this weekend as a virtual convention, and it's open to everyone!) 

Be kind to each other. If you're fortunate enough to be working and to have favorite local stores that are still open, please support them. If you get groceries, meals, or medicines delivered, tip generously. Don't hoard toilet paper; it doesn't have a combat bonus and you can't sell it for levels. Don't touch your face more than necessary. And wash your hands for "a reasonable time" (defined as at least 20.6 seconds).

We'll get through this, together, and that first game with your friends after the hiatus is going to be so much fun. We'll see y'all next month with, hopefully, better news.

-- Andrew Hackard

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