tl;dr: There's good news and there's less good (though still not bad news). We are still on track for delivery, but our buffer time is almost all exhausted.
Because our Project Manager has decades of experience shepherding projects from concept to development, he had the foresight to build a significant buffer into our production schedule. That extra time has now almost been entirely exhausted. But not for nothing.
In our last report, we were at the templating stage. That's taking card art, putting it within the background, adding the card text and the icons, etc. That process is complete for ~90% of cards, and the only reason the remaining 10% are not done is because they're being improved on an individual basis.
All the cards are printable right now, but because we knew we had some lead time to spare, we've been spending a lot of effort on what are very small changes. These modifications are sometimes game play/balance related, sometimes aesthetic, but generally minor. On occasion we've decided to change the wording on a particular phrase that appears across several cards, and then we have to ensure the changes are identical.
These are not the sort of changes you'd hold the project up for, and so this part of the process has been more or less a luxury. One that will be coming to an end soon.
Since we wanted to make these card changes, we ultimately did not have any sample decks printed earlier in the month. Instead, we had some sample playmats printed. These are going to be used in our VAT-free shipping test. We have already identified, contacted, and arranged with three backers in the EU to serve as guinea pigs to ensure our fulfillment procedures will be VAT-free.
While on the subject of the playmats, I've attached here a sample image of the Beowulf playmat. Rather than simply displaying the ship art, we've taken the opportunity to add an "Icon Key" to it.
We know all four ship playmats will have this legend, which should help facilitate the use of icons in play.
However, whether or not we use the template and icons on the non-ship mats hasn't been 100% decided yet. Once players have become experienced, the need for the icon key is diminished. Others may simply prefer the traditional playmat style, which tends towards a straightforward presentation of the art.
If you have an opinion, feel free to chime in!
We're down to the last few tweaks to be done for the cards, playmats and related items. The rulebook is in an advanced state as well, though formatting it for print layout is still at a more basic stage. With the cards and playmats finishing, our graphic artist will be able to turn his attention to that process very soon.
So, in conclusion, we are on track still. Our schedule had some slack, and most of that has been exhausted due to elective (but still useful) changes. That process has almost entirely completed, and should wrap up very soon.