Thursday, November 21, 2013

Random Lessons in Prototype Shipping

If you don't read the rest of the post and are getting ready to mail out a prototype for blind playtesting remember these two lessons:


1. Include your contact information in many different places with your prototype.
2. Americans, ship your prototype using a U.S. Post Priority Mail Flat Rate box.
Of course, to find out why, you need to keep reading.
Last October my board game Post Position left the safety of my home to travel and visit others for a series of blind play tests.  To keep prototype costs low, I was circulating a single prototype between different playtesting groups.  For this to work it needed to be easy for the host play tester to receive the package and to forwarded it on to the next destination.
My solution was to package the game in a flat rate size medium #2 United States Postal System Priority Mail box.  In the box I included pre-print labels with paid postage for each destination.  That way the host play tester only had to tape the next label onto a new free U.S. Priority Mail flat rate box and drop it off at the local Post Office. 
With all the pre-printed labels and an instruction sheet packed together I was on top of the world.  I didn't even have to worry if the postage was off due to a random weight change.  I thought to myself I was prepared for anything that could go wrong.
That was until I received a frantic message from the first play tester.  Post Position apparently wanted to make a side trip to Georgia.  The game hypnotized the host into thinking it was a t-shirt and not a board game.  So under a hypnotic trance the host placed a pre-paid shipping label onto the Post Position box to a t-shirt company in Georgia.
At this point we convened a crisis committee.  The host quickly contacted the t-shirt company and arrange to get the prototype mailed back to him.  Weeks past and still no game had returned from Georgia. 
I was prepared to write the prototype off as permanently missing in action when a human resources manager at Alpha company sent me a message saying they had Post Position.  Something had gone wrong with mailing Post Position back to the host and the U.S. Postal Service returned it back to the t-shirt company.
That is how I discovered the best things I did putting together the prototype for blind play testing was to include a lot of documents with my e-mail on it.  The t-shirt company found my e-mail and reached out to me.  
After thanking them profusely for contacting me and promising to say lots of nice things about them (you should all buy one of the t-shirt brands from I learned the other benefit of mailing the prototype using flat rate U.S. Priority Mail boxes with pre-paid labels.  I was able to e-mail a pdf copy of the pre-paid USPS shipping label to the t-shirt company.  Since the rate was a flat rate from any destination I had no worry about the package having the wrong postage.  And, if the Post Office had trouble delivering the box to its next destination, I would get the prototype game back since the return address was to me.
Now I eagerly await to see what sort of hypnotizes it performs next.  If only I could train it to hypnotize publishers to pick the game up instantly.


  1. Great advice. I've only mailed one copy and it didn't have to go far. I didn't consider what happens if it makes a detour and the origin changes. Sounds like including the extra contact info really helped recover from the problem.

  2. this is pretty awesome. I've only mailed one prototype and I don't necessarily expect it back, but the playtest chain sounds like a fun idea. I tend to work faster than the postal system, so I'd have changed the game twice by the time it was playtested once. :)