Breaking into the board game industry: Alley Cat Games share their journey into tabletop

For many, working in the board game industry would be a dream come true and we’re no exception. At Alley Cat Games we feel like we’re living the dream! We love making games and if you’re reading this blog then you might want to get into making games for a living too.

This post is by no means a ‘how-to’ guide for breaking into the board game industry but a reflection on our experiences and journey into working at and for Alley Cat Games. So who are we talking to about this today?

Caezar Al-Jassar - Lead Developer, Co-director

Simon Milburn - Games and Business Manager

Jess Hancock - Sales and Operations Manager

Ross Connell - Communications Manager

(Caezar and Kuly winning a best idea award for Alley Cat Games in 2016)

Can you tell us your introduction to Alley Cat Games?

Caezar Al-Jassar: I started Alley Cat Games “officially” when our first game: Lab Wars launched on Kickstarter as a satirical but hobbyist game for scientists. It was featured in a number of huge science news outlets such as Nature News and Science, which gave Alley Cat Games a much-needed springboard into the board game industry. We initially intended to be a science-themed publisher, but quickly realised that “real-world” themes were more what we wanted to do. The rest is history!

Simon Milburn: I joined Alley Cat Games as the first full-time employee in January 2019 as the Games and Business Development Manager. My role started off very broad as we were such a small team but as more team members have come on board I’ve been able to focus more on developing our games.

(Alley Cat titles - Dice Hospital, Chocolate Factory and Welcome to Dino World)

Jess Hancock: I’m the newbie at Alley Cat Games! I’ve been the Sales and Operations Manager since May of this year. My job is to get our games in stores so you can buy them. This involves working with distributors, monitoring stock levels, and dealing with the logistics of moving games around the globe once they have been manufactured. My role is part-time, so I also work for an RPG publisher EN Publishing and manufacturer LongPack Games.

Ross Connell: I joined Alley Cat Games in August 2019 which makes this my one year anniversary! The main focus of my job is as Community Manager, which as you’d imagine revolves around talking to people from all walks of life, but one thing we all have in common is a love of board games. Another thing I love about working with Alley Cat is that we discuss lots of areas outside my role. Just today we were giving our feedback on the box art of an upcoming SECRET project and as someone who loves seeing how things are made these internal discussions are always exciting to me.

(Some of Ross's game collection - sorted by colour!)

How did you get into board games?

CA: I’ve always loved games in general. My dad bought me an Atari when I was child in Iraq and when we moved to the UK at the age of 4 he bought me a Commodore 64. Every 5 or so years I would get a new console (but usually one that had been outdated for years!!). It wasn’t until I was 11 that I was introduced to Warhammer 40k and then Magic: The Gathering at 13 that my love of board games grew to something from a solo activity playing video games to a bustling fun social activity in board games.

SM: I suppose I ‘seriously’ got into board games within the last ten years or so. My friends and I used to play Risk a lot and we had weekend-long Risk competitions we called ‘Riskivals’. As I explored more versions of Risk (Godstorm, 2210, Star Wars, Legacy etc.) I found that I really enjoyed the variety and some of my friends started picking up other board games such as Battlestar Galactica, Citadels, and Ankh Morpork. The rest is history!

(Hero Quest board game)

JH: I had a copy of Hero Quest as a child, which my brother took on a family holiday when we were in our 20’s. This game helped me rediscover my love of gaming. I watched TableTop with Will Wheaton to learn about modern games, and then joined a regular weekly board game and RPG group. We’d meet up most Saturdays and play games from midday until past midnight. We’d meet for an RPG every Friday evening too!