Adventures in Essen, Part 1: The Fair

I’m back from Essen and full of excitement and stories to tell! I’ll be regaling tales of my Essen adventure in the next few blog posts starting with this one which is an overview of what Essen is all about and what it’s like to be there. There will be a lack of photos to corroborate any of my stories as I lost my camera while I was there – boo!

First of all, wow. I knew Essen was big but it’s really big! It takes up Halls 4 through 12 at the convention centre and is densely packed with booths full of game publishers, game retailers, comic retailers and artists as well as a variety of retailers selling related merchandise. Each Hall has its own purpose:

  • Hall 4: Independent game publishers and used game sellers
  • Hall 6: RPGs, LARPing, costumes, war-gaming
  • Hall 7: kind of a room full of leftovers
  • Hall 8: Comic retailers and artists
  • Hall 5 and 9-12: The board game Halls with Hall 12 probably being the ‘main’ hall with the biggest publishers

Thursday morning at 10 o’clock, the halls started filling up quick. People were running to try and get to the booth that had a game they wanted – probably running because of limited copies or special Essen-only exclusives: like Martin Wallace’s limited edition of A Few Acres of Snow.

Some publishers shared a booth with 1 or 2 other publishers to reduce the cost while others would have their own booth – or their own ‘block’ like Hasbro or Haba. If you aren’t in the business then you’d probably recognize about 5% of the publishers at the Fair. Most of them are more focused in Europe, where gaming is a bigger business than in North America. Almost every booth would have tables set up with a demo of each of their games ready to play. Most publishers have a small army of people to help explain the games to the attendees. Sometimes you’ll only get to play a round or two before they usher you away so they can explain it all over again to another set of eager gamers. Other times you can stake a claim at a table and play an entire game as long as it doesn’t get too busy.

Most publishers will have piles and piles of their games that are for sale but it’s important for Anglophones to ensure the game you’re picking up is English, or at least has English rules if the game play is language independent. Prices are usually pretty hot since they are being sold directly from the publisher, with most games selling for 20-35 Euros (unless it’s the new, fancy version of Puerto Rico which was selling for 65 Euros). Be sure to ask if there’s an Essen exclusive expansion for the game and you will be surprised from time to time! When I bought Kingdom Builder from Queen Games I got an expansion for it as well as one for Alhambra – another game I own!

Many of the games at Essen are games that launch there. This is the first time anyone has been able to play these brand new games. Some of these games may never be published in North America while others might take 3-12 months until it hits Stateside. Essen is an important part of a business plan for a publisher. Sure it costs them money to get themselves and their games to Essen, and it costs them per square foot for their booth, but the sales of their games along with all the marketing, hype and discussions about the games makes it a no-brainer.

Two of the most visited booths are the BGG (boardgamegeek) booth and the Fairplay (a German board game magazine that is an authority on the subject) booth. They both have a system for ranking games based on users voting on which games are hot/good/interesting. BGG projects a continually running loop of the ever-changing top 25 games. Fairplay is more analogue and they just have copies of the games that are voted as hot on a shelf and numbered 1-10. The BGG ranking works really well at BGG.con as each person who attends gets one unique entry code, but at Essen they can’t police that as much and so people can get multiple codes throughout the event and vote something up or down as they please. Still, both are interesting and have helped guide me to games I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. Both of these rankings have weight not just at the Fair itself but after the Fair as it’s reported back to the masses on websites and in magazines. These rankings often are key indicators of which games they should be on the look-out for in the near future.

Thursday and Friday were pretty busy with people but they were nothing compared to how insanely packed it got on Saturday. On Saturday you could barely move down the too-narrow aisles as people jostled you this way and that. That was not my favourite part of Essen and I had to leave before the day ended. Fortunately a few of the members of GAC were staying at a hotel somewhat nearby called Bredeney that offered a free room for people to play games in at any time. It was great to relax and check out the goods we just got, and was where we found ourselves every night. The room was quite large and could hold over 20 gaming sessions of 4-6 players each and was packed every night.

What’s also interesting is that all of our game design ‘heroes’ were all there. Some of them had actual sessions where you could get autographs, but others you could see walking around and buying games at the Fair. It was impossible to miss Freidmann Freisse as he has green hair and I saw him multiple times. Martin Wallace was seen explaining A Few Acres of Snow and many others were seen giving autographs. One morning I was there early for a meeting, and I found myself at the booth that was selling the 7 Wonders Essen exclusive expansion that featured a call out to the Settlers of Catan. Two minutes later I’m walking down the aisle with just this piece of cardboard in my hands when I see a line of 6-7 people getting autographs from Klaus Tueber – designer of the most popular Eurogame of all time: Settlers of Catan. Well, I couldn’t pass this up – and so I waited 3 minutes in line and got my 7 Wonders expansion signed by Tueber! Neat!

All in all, the event was pretty much what I was expecting: a big convention full of publishers and gamers who are all passionate about the hobby of gaming. I’m already making plans to attend next year!

Up next I’ll go into details about what it’s like for a designer to attend Essen!


Belfort has Landed in Canada!

Belfort has arrived and is in stock at Canadian Distributor of fine games, Lion Rampant Imports.  Located in Hamilton, ON (home of HammerCon), Lion Rampant supplies FLGS across the country.  If you’re a retailer looking to stock up on Belfort or Train of Thought (just in time for the holidays, I might add…), please contact them at:

Telephone: (800) 992-7679 or (905) 572-6446
Fax: (905) 572-9559

Tell ’em the Bamboozle Brothers sent ya!

The Bamboozle Brothers Invade HammerCon III

In it’s third year (as denote by the “III” in the name), HammerCon III is *the* major gaming event in Hamilton, ON – the very city where a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Jay met a strapping young lad destined for greatness named Sen.  These two young go getters forged a friendship that has stood the test of time and now the designing duo is set to return to the city of their birth to play some prototypes and showcase their publications, Belfort and Train of Thought.

HammerCon III has something new this year – an official prototype portion of the convention.  Run by Francois Valentyne (Chaos, TtR: Legendary Asia), Protospiel North is an offshoot of the annual Protospiel event (now in it’s 10th year) that takes place in Michigan – just a hop skip and a jump from SW Ontario.  Designers can meet and play each others prototypes on Friday night; others will get to see the newest of the new during public gaming on the Saturday.

We’ll be welcoming our fellow brothers from the Game Artisans of Canada to HammerCon as well.  Ken Maher, Al Leduc, Daryl Chow, and Yves Tourigny will be showing their wares as will our artist/designer friend Josh Cappel.

Belfort and Train of Thought will be played during open gaming sessions.  Belfort will be one of the games in the Great Canadian Boardgame Blitz segment of the convention as well!  Jay and I are proud to have Belfort be a part of that tournament!

HammerCon III
November 4-5, 2011
Plaza Hotel, Hamilton Ontario

Train of Thought in McMaster Times

Jay and I get a mention in my alumni publication, McMaster Times, regarding Train of Thought, in their Fall 2011 edition.

While it’s nice to get credit, my wife got extra credit where credit *wasn’t due*.  Oh well.  She was the inspiration for the game (on my part, anyway) but co-designer is a bit of a stretch.  Sorry, honey!

Also, big props to Errol and Leroy – two friends of ours from McMaster.  Leroy is a founding partner at Lixar IT, an Ottawa-based firm that does kick-ass web development and all sorts of stuff that I haven’t the faintest clue about.   Leroy maintains a lot of the communication technology that Jay and I use to work across the great divide that is Albert, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  Errol is a geek.  And proud of it.  He’s also uber-talented at pretty much anything he puts his geekmind to.  Check out his latest fascination – his band, Debs & Errol!  Hire them if you need some geekcore music to get your geek on to!  SRSLY.

Official Canadian Belfort Launch at Snakes & Lattes in Toronto with the Designers and Artist

Snakes & Lattes is the first boardgame cafe in Toronto with over 1500 games and specialty treats!  It also happens to be where Jay and I will be demonstrating Belfort for the first time officially in Canada.

Please join us as we teach and play the game with fellow gamers!  As an added bonus, the game’s artist, Josh Cappel (Wasabi), will be there to showcase Belfort as well!  It is a rare and momentous occasion when Josh, Jay and I are in the same province, let alone the same building so be sure to catch us if you’d like your copies of any of our games signed for your personal collection!  If you’re in the Toronto-area, come on out and play Belfort with the designers and artist!

The festivities start at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 28, 2011

600 Bloor St. W.
Toronto, Ontario

There is ample parking nearby as well as close proximity to the TTC (Bathurst Station).

(Please note that there is a small cover charge for gaming at Snakes & Lattes)

Here’s a link to the Facebook E-vite for more info.

A Banner Day for Belfort

BoardGameGeek is all abuzz with talk of Belfort post-Essen.

Belfort is back in the hotness (below Quarriors and above Village):

There’s a picture of Belfort in the Image Hotness (first column, second row):

Best of all, Belfort hit #1 on the Essen GeekBuzzList (Medium Traffic).  This one is easier to find.  It’s at the freaking top!  Wow!  For a game that wasn’t even officially over there, we managed to generate a lot of positive word!  European publication deal?  Hopefully!

A banner day, indeed!

Essen 2011 Roundup

Sorry I didn’t do up-to-the-minute updates as Jay sent me frantic encrypted e-mails letting me know what was going on at Spiel ’11.  I was pretty sick over the last few days, so it was all I could do to decode them, read them, cheer weakly, eat the paper I transcribed the message on to, and then go back to bed!

We had several prototypes to show and are also looking for European partners for co-publication of Belfort and Train of Thought.  Here’s a recap of what happened at Essen for the Bamboozle Brothers:

Jay met with:

Kosmos, who liked Swashbucklers, were interested in co-publishing ToT and took the rules for EIEIO
Pegasus, who expressed strong interest in Swashbucklers and were also interested in Clunatics, ToT, and Lost For Words (depending on how their initial venture into party games goes with Pictomania).
Huch & Friends, who want to check out Clunatics, would like the rules for Bermuda Triangle, and copies of Belfort and ToT to evaluate as European releases.
Quined, who are evaluating Akrotiri – Jay gave them the updates they requested in terms of “spicing it up” so now they are going to playtest with the new additions we’ve made
PSI, who told Jay that Belfort has been sold in Europe (English copies, of course – but it’s a start!)
Queen, who Jay met with on behalf of our friend and fellow Game Artisan, Matt Musselman, to pitch Matt’s Bordeaux to them. They enjoyed Bordeaux and then Jay had time to show them our games – they loved Belfort and requested a copy for evaluation. Jay also showed them Swashbucklers and they were very excited by it. They requested a prototype of it as soon as possible. Jay gave them the prototype immediately after the convention.
Alea liked Bordeaux as well, and this company is Matt’s first choice. There wasn’t a ton of time, so Jay was only able to show our party games to Alea. Now, you might be thinking, “Alea doesn’t do party games!” and you’d be right. But what they can do is link us up with other publishers that do! They liked ToT, Clunatics and Lost For Words and took several sell sheets for these and EIEIO as well, saying that they’d show them to their colleagues. Nothing like getting a plug from one of the most respected publishers in the biz…
Hans im Gluck, who liked Swashbucklers and Bermuda Triangle. As Swashbucklers was slated for Queen, Bermuda Triangle went home with HiG – spread the love! HiG also really liked Bordeaux – go, Matt, go! Also of note: HiG was very positive about our sell sheets, so that’s a sign that it’s something we should all have on our “to do” lists. It’s one of the last things Jay and I do, but one that we spend a lot of time on, despite it seeming so simple.
Jolly Thinkers, who are a Chinese publisher – they were interested in Train of Thought prior to Essen so we took this opportunity to meet face to face and hand over a copy for evaluation.
Jay also had a meeting with Gamewright, who currently have Jam Slam, but I’m not sure what transpired in the meeting. Jay’s probably so burnt out on games that he’s sleeping right now. 😀

Dice Hate Me reviews Belfort

The State of Games Podcast Logo

Episode 17 - the one about girls, featuring Belfort

On the 17th Episode of The State of Games podcast, the folks at Dice Hate Me take a look at our latest release, Belfort.  The good stuff (i.e. the stuff about Belfort!) starts at the 49 minute mark and features some very positive comments from the reviewers.  Listen in!

The first 3/4 of the podcast is also very interesting to listen to from the perspective of a game designer as it has to do with what girls like in board/card games.   Definitely food for thought!