Another Video Review of Belfort

In case you’re still on the fence about whether or not to get Belfort, here’s another video review that is full of praise for the game! This one comes from Ryan Metzler from Dice Tower (who already did one positive review of Belfort by Tom Vasel)

What I liked the most was that he was determined to not like the game after reading the rules, and then said, “Man was I wrong! This is definitely a great worker placement game.” We’re glad that people are realizing that the game is more than the sum of its parts. Thanks for playing and reviewing it Ryan!

 

-Jay Cormier

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Toronto’s First “Board Game Designers’ Night” Hosted by Snakes & Lattes

A meeting of the minds is always a great thing; it’s made all the more better when it can be done at a wonderful location such as Snakes & Lattes, the premiere game café in downtown Toronto, ON.

There were a good 17+ people there simply to show their prototypes, playtest and talk about game design. Four members of the Game Artisans of Canada were present for this inaugural event:  Daryl Chow, Stephen Sauer, Josh Cappel, and me!

I personally played:

  • Sky Roy’s Fantasy Monster Beatdown, a quick and intuitive wargame that plays in under an hour.  It’s got a lot of nice elements (ease of play, nice map, artifact concepts), but the very basic version we played just wasn’t meaty enough or granular enough to hold my interest for the intended length of play.  It suffered from a bit too much randomness (perhaps having each player have access to their own personal spell deck, etc.).  I’ve sent Sky feedback via e-mail and we’ve been discussing ways to address things as he sees fit.  NOTE:  There is an advanced version of the game as well – I think that the “more stuff” in the advanced version may be necessary at the basic level to make people want to play it a second time and make the time invested in learning and playing the game worthwhile.
  • Daryl’s yet-to-be-named evolution game, a great game in concept and execution that’s in the beta stage – keep an eye out for this one as it has all the right elements to be a great game!   The evolutionary tech tree idea rocks!  As does preying on your opponents to further your own evolution!  Some really cool mechanics in here that just need to get cleaned up (e.g. eating various bug types by colour – what if you can’t?  how do you evolve? Balancing the water/food ratios.  Movement of herds vs. individual units…etc.)
  • RuneMasters by Jay and me – Daryl and I played through a few rounds just to try to work out some of the kinks.  He thought of a great idea re: morphing the RuneSticks in addition to draining and fading.  I added the element of collecting items won to the side to reduce “analysis paralysis” (a.k.a. “AP”) which really worked to streamline and limit decision making.  Also thinking of increasing granularity in scoring to reduce chance of ties…and of removing diagonal RuneSticks to simplify drawing and chaining from rune to rune.
  • We did a “show and tell” of Josh’s Egg Hunters Guild, a fun and frantic game that might just be set in the world of Belfort – a world that Josh breathed life into through his artwork.  We bashed noggins over Josh’s hastily hand-drawn board with Daryl and Stephen in trying to think of a way to reduce the amount of dice/random factors yet still retain unpredictability.  My contention is that the unpredictability should be an outcome of players’ decisions, not the roll of a die.  We came up with a concept around “Speed Chips” that players expend to try to get away from the Dragon, but to also get the Dragon to catch up with other players…this means your Speed Chips serve a double function.  If the chip values are known (i.e. you have a set amount at set values), this could lead to some neat bluff/double bluff situations as people work towards a state of perfect knowledge.  And, thus, the decisions become more meaningful as opposed to hopeful (i.e. “I hope he doesn’t have anything higher than a 3!”)
  • The last game of the night was Daryl and Al Leduc’s Mafia card game.  It was late when we played and I don’t think we all picked up on all of the rules (though there are very few!).  The only comment made was to try doing the draw and discard at the end as opposed to the beginning of a turn.  It drew things out too much and didn’t force us to use cards we didn’t like.  Plus, I just don’t think we got the strategy.  I’d like to try again as I like simple yet complex card games.

By all accounts, the first Board Game Designers’ Night was a rousing success – S&L is amenable to hosting more in the future, so watch this space for updates.  If you are a Toronto-area designer looking for playtesters and feedback from other designers, this is the place to be!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Jolly Thinkers to Import “Train of Thought” to Asia

While the game itself doesn’t work well in Cantonese for whatever linguistic reasons, the people at Jolly Thinkers had a great time playing Train of Thought in English – so they’re going to import English copies to sell in the Asian Pacific region.  Very cool!  So all my aunts, uncles, and cousins can buy it in their home countries soon!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Response from Pegasus

Essen continues to bear fruit a month later:  Pegasus Spiel has replied that they would like to see Lost for Words, our quick playing word finding game.  They have also said that they would like to see Clunatics – Huch! & Friends currently has first right of refusal but it’s always good to have a back up plan!

As a point of interest, they would also have been interested in Train of Thought, but only if they could obtain worldwide rights to the game.  Nice to know!

This is a testament to the power of sell sheets.  Our contact at Pegasus went back to his editorial group with no prototype, no rule set…just our sell sheets.  Armed only with a single 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper (single sided, to boot!), he was able to convince his company to take a look at our games.  Pretty powerful stuff, when you think about it.

Designer 101 Hint:  If you’re not using sell sheets in your pitch process, you’re missing out on a key component of salesmanship – always leave them something tangible.

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Top 10 in the Hotness on the ‘Geek

It’s nice to get recognized.

Even if we are below My Little Pony Hide & Seek

Belfort breaks into the top 10 on the Hotness, no doubt thanks to the gargantuan review by Ender Wiggins and jtemple as well as the game’s success at BGG.con last weekend.  We’re in fine company with Martin Wallace’s latest game, A Few Acres of Snow, Uwe Rosenberg’s long awaited Ora et Labora, and last year’s breakout hit, 7 Wonders by Antoine Bauza.  So we’re ecstatic, to say the least, to be amongst standouts like these.

Thanks, everyone, for you support and we hope you continue to love playing Belfort as much as we loved designing it!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Ender Wiggins Works His Comprehensive Pictoral Overview Magic on Belfort

Ender is one of the true giants of the ‘Geek – a name that implies veracity and tenacity in the quest for what is a good game.  While Ender and Jtemple (his writing partner) have come under some criticism that they only post positive reviews of games they actually like, it is apparent that there is a whole lot of effort that goes into each and every one of these reviews.  And if they were to post a similarly comprehensive review of a game they *didn’t* like, that would be a lot of time spent on a poor product.

So when we found out that the team was reviewing Belfort, and that they really enjoyed it…well, Jay and I were over the moon!  Ender had prefaced this review with a few solid session reports of his playthroughs with his children – this in itself was great at it showed that the game is more accessible than some, yet still weighty with decisions to be made.

So do yourself a favour and head on over to the ‘geek to sneak a peak at one of the most thorough reviews of a game I’ve ever seen!  For more of Ender’s Comprehensive Pictoral Overviews, check out this geeklist.

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Belfort is a Winner at BGG.con

BGG.con is the convention run by the number one boardgaming site, lovingly called boardgamegeek.com. This is a convention for gamers! I attended last year to promote the launch of Train of Thought and had a blast! Mostly it’s just people playing games together. The convention is strategically scheduled a few weeks after Essen so that they can bring all the new and cool games back for the gamers to devour.

Throughout the event gamers can use their unique pass code to log into a computer and rate any games that they play on a scale of 1 to 5. As the convention progresses, gamers can see which games are getting a lot of buzz or hype as the top 25 games are on a constant rotation as they are projected on a huge screen in the main hall. They then sort the votes into three categories: High, Medium and Low traffic. So if a game only got 5 votes – but they were all 5’s, then it is put at the top of the Low traffic list.

Last year we were humbled to have Train of Thought to be the second highest rated game under the High Traffic list! That was very surprising since it wasn’t a gamers game. This year, attendees were able to get a free copy of Train of Thought if they wanted one!

So coming into this year’s BGG.con, Belfort was riding high on some recent reviews and it got elevated to the Hot Games room – where it was set up to be played constantly throughout the event. So guess which game was rated as the best game of BGG.con 2011?

Yep, Belfort was rated as the #1 game for BGG.con 2011 – under the High Traffic list! Wow. That is so great to see. Thanks to everyone who played it at the con!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 4: The Publishers

While Sen shared with you the overview of which publishers expressed interest in which games – I thought I’d expand on it a bit and give you some more details about what exactly went down!

We pitched to many publishers and while no contracts were signed and no promises made, we have a lot of exciting prospects that we’re looking forward to in the next few months.

Kosmos: They liked Swashbucklers, EIEI-O and Train of Thought. Since I had an extra copy of rules, I gave them the rules to EIEI-O. I had no idea how big Kosmos was as I only knew them as the publisher of some great 2 player games. Apparently board games are only about a third of their business with books and science kits/toys making up the rest. It would certainly be a boon to be published by Kosmos!

Update: They have the rules to EIEI-O and have emailed us to let us know that they are reviewing it. We should know in a couple months whether they are interested or not. They also asked Tasty Minstrel Games for a copy of Train of Thought to review.

Pegasus Spiel: They really liked Swashbucklers and commented that their Roll Through the Ages was successful and they could see the same success for Swashbucklers! They also liked all our party games: Train of Thought, Clunatics and Lost for Words. Pegasus is new to the party game genre with Pictomania being released this year, so they might have to wait to see if it works out for them. If it does they said that Clunatics will be a bit challenging to localize (as that game involves common North American idioms) but it’s nothing that a quick Google search couldn’t help! Pegasus is huge in Europe and would be fantastic if we could get a game in with them.

Update: I’ve sent an email to them to see if they’re interested in Lost for Words and am awaiting a response.

Huch & Friends: They liked Clunatics and would like a prototype of it. For them, Swashbucklers was too in the middle as Huch prefers games that are either lighter or heavier! They were interested in taking a look at Belfort and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel. They also were interested in Bermuda Triangle and have asked for the rules to be emailed to them. Done and done. A prototype for Clunatics has being sent off to them as well.

Update: They have received Clunatics and told us that mid-November is when they are playtesting all the submitted prototypes. They let us know that we should expect some feedback by end of November!

Quined: Quined had our prototype of Akrotiri before Essen and had played it a couple times already. They said they were still fascinated by it but had a few concerns or questions about it. Sen and I agreed with their comments and so we spent a few weeks before Essen coming up with and playtesting ideas that could improve the game. We believe we came up with a winning solution and I now love the game even more than I did before (and it was already my favourite game of ours!). Not only did it fix the issues they expressed, but it also reduced the playtime down to 60 minutes for a 4 player game! That’s gold! So I had some time with Quined and got to take them through all the changes. We didn’t really get to play it, but they at least got a verbal explanation. I left them the new prototype and will follow up in a couple months.

Update: There has been email communication since Essen, but mostly just a confirmation that they have the prototype and plan on playing it soon. I imagine their plates are quite full with the release of Alba Longa!

Queen: I also was at Essen to pitch a game from fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Matt Musselman. I had played his wine-making game, Bordeaux many times and have always liked it, so I let him know that I’d be happy to pitch it to publishers since he wasn’t going to Essen this year. Normally this would mean I’d be entering Agent status, but since Matt is a friend I told him that if he sets up the meetings, then I’ll attend them and pitch his game without worrying about being an Agent. Matt set up a meeting with Queen and Alea and Queen was my first of the meetings.
I started with the Sales Sheet – as Matt followed our advice and made up a pretty swanky Sales Sheet. After a few moments he wanted to play it so I bust it out and set it up. After one round I recommended we play one more as that would really help showcase the other aspects of the game. Once we finished that round the publisher just kept playing, so we kept playing. We were joined by another rep from the publisher and we kept playing as we explained what was happening. We ended up playing the entire game! This seemed to be very atypical to me as I had never had more than 5-10 minutes for a game! They had some concerns but were interested in checking out the game further. As an FYI – the publisher and I tied at the end, and I couldn’t remember the tie-breaker. Regardless, that’s a great way to end the game since we both had different paths to victory.

I asked if they had time to look at a game or two from me and they said they had another 15 minutes or so. I first showed them Belfort and they expressed interest in checking it out and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel Games to figure out the next steps. We played a couple rounds of Swashbucklers and they seemed to really like it with the publisher stating that it was “great.” It was funny because on the first round I rolled Cannons and attacked one of the publishers and stole his treasure, then later in the round, the other publisher rolled Swords and attacked him and stole a treasure too. I was worried that he would feel ganged up on, but he realized that he failed to defend himself and left himself open to the attacks! They were really quite enthusiastic about it! I still had some more meetings with other publishers so I said I’d be back near the end of the Fair and they said that was cool.

After evaluating all the publishers that wanted Swashbucklers, Sen and I felt that Queen would be the best fit, and it helped that they were the most enthusiastic about it as well.
When I returned to their booth on Saturday, I asked a random Queen staff member if my contact was around and he asked if I had an appointment. I said that I did yesterday and that I was here to drop off a prototype. This random rep asked me, “Is it Swashbucklers?” Imagine my surprise! How the heck did he know about Swashbucklers? He said that the guys I met told him all about it. Wow – that’s a good sign! I met up with my contacts and let them know that many publishers expressed interest in Swashbucklers but that we thought that Queen was the best fit and that we really appreciated the enthusiasm they had. They both seemed genuinely thankful that I chose to bring the game to them. I’m really excited about Queen publishing Swachbucklers! Here’s hoping that their playtest sessions go well in the next few months!

Update: We received an email from Queen stating that Swashbucklers has made it through one round of playtesting! If it makes it through the next round, then they said they will publish it!! Exciting!

Alea: Started with a Bordeaux demo as it was Matt who set up the meeting. Started with the Sales Sheet and then reviewed the gameplay by giving an overview of the mechanics with pieces I pulled out of the baggie. He was interested in checking it out further!
We had some time so I asked if he would be interested in seeing some games from Sen and I, and he said he was. I showed him Train of Thought and played a couple rounds with him. He was intrigued and he took 10 cards or so to show his colleagues. He also liked Lost for Words, Clunatics and EIEI-O and took the Sales Sheets for each with him.
After confirming which publisher Matt would prefer to hand over the prototype of Bordeaux to, he said Alea and so I returned the following day to drop it off (Tip: Always give it directly to the person you had your pitch session with and not with a random rep from the publisher. I waited 15 minutes outside the ‘office/room’ to make contact with this specific person).

Update: Got a message from Alea that said they will be testing Bordeaux further, but they weren’t interested in our other games at this time.

Jolly Thinkers: This is a new publisher in China with an interesting back story. They started as a board game café and then grew and grew. They became so popular that 4 other board game cafés opened nearby. These competitors actually used Jolly Thinkers as a distributor for the games they wanted. Now Jolly Thinkers wants to get into publishing games! Gavan Brown and I met with them as I pitched Train of Thought and Gavan pitched Jab. They were really nice people and seemed to really dig both games. We played a round of Train of Thought and then we let them play a round of Jab. After playing Jab they asked us to play it so they could watch how it’s supposed to go. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played in a long time. Regardless, we played and I actually beat Gavan at his own game! Wee! It was fun and I think it really showcased the game well as I was focused on combos and Gavan was focused more on haymakers. They took a copy of each with them.

Update: No real update. Waiting for email response.

Hans Im Gluck: One of the publishers that I didn’t have a specific time slot scheduled for was with Hans Im Gluck. They said in their email that they were pretty booked up but I should stop by and see if they can squeeze me in. I did stop by and we found a time to meet up. This entire pitch session was done just with Sales Sheets as the publisher preferred it that way. He liked Bordeaux, Bermuda Triangle and Swashbucklers. We would love to partner with Hans Im Gluck and so I handed over Bermuda Triangle right away and gave them sales sheets for the other two.

Update: No real update on this one yet.

Needless to say, we had an amazing Fair with regards to our publisher meetings. Each publisher we met expressed some interest in at least one of our games and that’s a good feeling. We still have a long road ahead for each of these games, but at the very least, putting a face to the name, and having a name to follow up with is a huge, huge benefit! Stay tuned to this blog for updates as we get them about any of our upcoming games.

Coming up next: Part 5 of the Adventures in Essen series in which I review all the best practices for a designer at Essen. If you’re a designer and planning to go next year – then bookmark the page so you can come back to it next year!

-Jay Cormier

Tales of Belfort – the new comic book!

Board games aren’t my only passion. I am also enamoured with comic books.

So much so, that I partnered up with fellow comic book aficionado, Tim Reinert (whose blog about comics and movies is amazing, btw), and we started to write our own comic books!

Belfort ComicWe have written about half a dozen short stories so far and the first one that we wanted to pursue also had another motivation for me: it’s set in the world of Belfort! Initially, Tim and I were a bit concerned because we didn’t want to make it seem like a cheap tie-in, like so many ‘anything based on anything else’ can often be.

Once we stumbled upon the conceit, we were excited to tell this story. If you’ve played the game and wondered why it takes an Elf AND a Dwarf to get metal from the mine, well, here’s your answer!  We wrote a buddy/cop story, where neither character is a cop! Once we got the thumbs up from our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, we wrote what we think is a pretty solid adventure story!

Our biggest challenge was finding an artist. But like any line of work, it’s often not ‘what you know’ but ‘who you know’.  I have a cousin in the animation field who hooked us up with Rob Lundy, an illustrator from Ottawa – we were ridiculously impressed with his work. Once we got through this first comic, we realized that we all liked working with each other so the three of us started a website called the Condo of Mystery.

We plan on releasing a new page every week on the site.  The first 10 weeks will be the Tales of Belfort comic. Following that, we’ll get into some other stories that vary in genres from Noir to Western to Superhero.

Check out the site and view the Tales of Belfort comic by choosing it from the header and selecting Page 1. Please subscribe to it so you can be informed of when new pages are posted! This is an exciting venture for the three of us – Tim, Rob, and myself – even moreso for me since the premiere adventure is set in the world of Belfort!

-Jay Cormier

HUCH! & Friends Evaluating “Clunatics”

HUCH! & Friends (GER) have our latest party game design safely in their hands to evaluate.  We’re very hopeful that this game about maximizing minimal clues finds a home with them!

(Just remember:  “Hope is not a strategy.”)

We even made them German versions of some of the idiom cards because we wanted the playtesting to go as smoothly as possible.  Is “Raining Cats and Dogs” a common phrase in German?  I’m not sure…but I know that anything about sausages probably is!

“Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.

That’s right, folks.  Once again, the Bamboozle Brothers go the extra mile to ensure that their prototype gets played in the best of circumstances.  While we wish we spoke/wrote German, we do what we can to make game play the best possible experience even with the language barriers that may present themselves.  We don’t let a little thing like language stop us!

Man, now I’m hungry.

~ Sen-Foong Lim