Publishing is a risky business

I’m always looking for ways to keep you all entertained in these troubling times and while packing up the board games the other night (GFC Monopoly – all the properties are worthless and you keep paying money to the banker to stop them collapsing) I was struck by something I was told the other day: Publishing is a risky business.

And so it is! It is so very much like the classic board game Riskโ„ข (please don’t sue me, Hasbro). The world’s territory carved up by a small number of great powers that are simultaneously at the peak of their power and on the verge of collapse.

So off to my purpose built board game designing studio I went! Only to remember that I don’t know how to design board games. No worries! I’ll just adopt the rules to Riskโ„ข (please don’t sue me, Hasbro) and just change a few things…

My first attempt at a Risk-style map was not good. Then I had an epiphany. After a brief phone call with the doctor I learnt that an epiphany is a “sudden realization” and not a medical emergency. The trick to a good Risk-style map is to abandon any sense of accuracy (both geopolitical and physical). The classic board is a very mangled version of 19th century borders and country names and so my board could be a very, very mangled view of genres.

I ditched Horror as a continent and stuffed it into ‘Suspense’. I gave up my plan to have genre-appropriate shapes for the continents as well (aside from a tiny aspect of one country). I still wanted Romance to be the biggest continent and I retained a vague hint of the classic layout.

So how to play. This should work with minor modification to whatever your house rules are for Risk-style games. You are the CEO of a multinational publisher. Your aim is to conquer every genre. To do that you need armies, sorry correction, AUTHORS. You need at least one author to control a sub-genre (aka country). Control all the sub-genres of a genre (aka continent) and you get bonus authors at the start of your go.

Each round you engage in an aggressive marketing campaign, using your authors like canon-fodder to take-over subgenres controlled by other publishers. The conflict is decided by dice in the normal manner for Riskโ„ข (please don’t sue me, Hasbro).

Of course, you will also need cards to play this game.

The cards are used at the start of the game to allocate territories to the players. During the game you win a card if you have won a sub-genre in you aggressive marketing campaign. Each card has a symbol that increases the trade in value of the card:

  • Three aeroplanes: fancy authors who you send off on book tours by plane = 8 new authors when you trade the cards in.
  • Three buses: the authors who you send off on book tours by bus = 6 new authors when you trade the cards in.
  • Three bicycles: the authors who have to ride a bike on their book tour = 4 new authors when you trade the cards in.
  • One of each = 10 new authors for some reason.

Yes, this is a joke ๐Ÿ˜„ but I think it should be actually playable (assuming you have printer that can print to A3) and you have the rules, dice and armies from an actual game. PDF versions should be downloadable here:

31 thoughts on “Publishing is a risky business

  1. I think “historical fantasy” is a notable omission. It ought to sit right next to urban fantasy. Maybe a little alternate history section near there as well.

    And where is hard sf?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I took historical fantasy out because it was too hard to try and make it adjacent to Historical romance.

      Hard SF? I just plain forgot ๐Ÿ™‚ However,…if you have an application that can edit PDFs, the board is fully customisable!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Mike Glyer: Everybody forgets Hard SF except the four people who write it.

        And depending on who’s listing the authors of Hard SF, those four people are different authors. ๐Ÿ™„

        Liked by 4 people

  2. “Speculative”? That’s kind of an odd sub-genre of science fiction, isn’t it? Hard SF could go there. And you need to find some spot to wedge in Alternate History as well. Possibly split off from Time Travel.

    Also, Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy need to be a lot closer than they are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thought leaving out Alt History was intentional and being left for the expansion pack, aka printing out another map so you can play two games simultaneously with different starting draws on each to create two separate but similar games.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Considering the arcane distribution of publication rights, 19th Century political geography might have been the more accurate representation.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I assume that “Mainstream” and/or “Literary” joined together and drifted off the map entirely, long ago. Like Valinor.

    Hard SF, of course, was overrun and partitioned between Space Opera and Dystopia – it tried to make an alliance with Speculative, but Speculative kept asking questions like “but what, exactly, is the meaning of military support in this cultural context?”, so it wasn’t much practical help. Cyberpunk fought valiantly against the conquering hordes of Dystopia, but eventually the never-ending rain wore it down.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Slipstream was an island between Speculative and Literary, from which genre writers could look west and glimpse, from far away, the golden towers of literary respectability. It vanished along with Literary, but legend has it that it can still be seen, sometimes, at the uttermost limits of the sunset, with the ghost of Iain M. Banks pointing the way.

        Liked by 5 people

      1. That’s because literary fiction isn’t an actual genre. It’s a designation. Anything can be literary fiction, especially if it’s being released in hardcover by the right publisher and they got the New Yorker to review it.

        I do think you could have worked in Westerns somewhere though, not just in Romancelandia.


      2. I could have had a Historical continent and put them in their I guess. I wanted to keep the number of continents the same as the classic Risk board and keep Fantasy and SF separate (not because they are separate but so they could have a war against each other).

        I think if I had to do a genre physical map rather than a game board, a shopping mall floor plan might be a better choice. With a third dimension you can have more variety of connections and more sub-types (eg a multi floor department store versus a food court)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. “keep Fantasy and SF separate (not because they are separate but so they could have a war against each other).”

        We have always been at war with East Fantasia!

        You could also do it like a Clue game board with secret passages between the genre rooms. Or a genre fantasy league card game. That is really nice about your concept — it can be endlessly customized, like D&D.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh an idea! Clue (aka Cluedo to the denizens of the old empire) but it is “Who Murdered Science Fiction”
        Was it John Scalzi with the Redshirts in the SFWA Presidency? Was it Ann Leckie with the Pronouns in the Hugo Awards?

        Liked by 4 people

      5. That is the question, isn’t it. Who do they collectively think is the absolute worst who killed everything? Not the individual picks, as we can guess some of those, but the general consensus of their various factions.


  5. I like the idea of a Risk board, but the “genres” are confusing. What is the difference between occult and horror and dark fantasy? WTF is an inspirational romance? What is an international mystery? Was military SF disbanded or something? Do you understand that there has not been a Gothic romance sub-category since the 1970’s? ๐Ÿ™‚

    But I do like the authors as armies. What sort of dice are we supposed to be using?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think of dark fantasy as simply fantasy dystopia.

      We’re missing grimdark, but since that’s mostly about adding mud (lots of mudd) to dark fantasy, it should probably be a river running through dark fantasy.


    2. Inspirational romance is the term some stores and publishers use for religious romance, e.g. Amish romance with no sex or swearing and the like.

      And I do like that the gothic romance is still around on the map, even if it has vanished from the bookstore shelves. Military SF should definitely be there.Ditto for action thrillers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They still have Gothic romances but they just don’t call them that or have whole imprints for them. So I guess it’s a very old country, possibly with a dark count’s castle and werewolves on the moors. Amateur sleuth and cozy are the same thing, so I guess there was a secession.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There are some amateur sleuths solving very non-cozy cases nowadays.

        But I agree the border between horror and dark fantasy is so porous as to be not separate at all. More like US states than countries.

        Inspirational romance has no sex, no swearing, and screeches to a halt to praise Jesus often. ZZZzzz. (Violence is still OK, of course)

        Gothic romance is now only a city-state with said castle, moors, and a store that sells nothing but drippy white nightgowns and candelabras, run by a muttering old hag.

        The only problem I see with this is we’d all have to play it online. Nobody I know is sequestered with enough people for a game of Risk.

        Liked by 2 people

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