Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, part 3

The Fiesta from Filosofia

Saturday was spent at the Fiesta. The Fiesta is an annual, public, gaming event run by Filosofia. The goal is to introduce the games they publish or distribute to as many people as possible. All proceeds from the Fiesta actually go to a charity – so it’s not even a profit generating event for Filosofia. The timing of my trip to Montreal was perfect as it aligned with the Fiesta! I was invited to attend and show the public Akrotiri and Junkyard. That’s cool! The biggest challenge all day was the fact that my French is still stuck in high school, so communicating the rules to everyone throughout the day was a bit of a hindrance. Regardless, it was a fun day!

An over-sized version of Fearsome Floors!

An over-sized version of Carcasonne!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the morning in the family room, showing Junkyard to anyone who stopped by. I even got to play one full game with Martin Tremblay – the other owner of Filosofia and husband of Sophie! He had never played it before so it was great to be able to show him how it worked. He won even though I tried to win! 🙂 The highlight was when I was playing with a 9 year old boy. The mother eventually came by and was ecstatic that he was so engaged by the game since he was autistic and had yet to be interested in any game. He

The Family Game room just before opening. Tons of tables – each one has a different game set up with a volunteer ready to help explain the rules!

had the most ridiculously precarious tower that had 8 more blocks on it than it logically should have been able to hold. It was hilarious. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of that one. We did play with a new scoring rule that we had brainstormed the day before and it did make a difference. I had the tallest tower (which did collapse – but I still maintain the tallest – neat!) – but I lost to the player with the 2nd tallest tower since I had so many negative points.

A game of Akrotiri in progress.

 

I had lunch with Sophie and then spent the afternoon in the gamer room showing Akrotiri. We found a couple of English speaking gamers who were interested in trying the game. It was a fantastic game! One player played only Easy Temples but had a lot of points with their secret goal cards, while the other player played Medium and Hard Temples and did ok with his secret goal cards. We scored up their points and they actually tied – with the tie-breaker being money and one player had $1 more than the other so he won a very tight game! They both seemed very sincere in expressing how much they enjoyed the game.

I found Sophie and she spent some time asking the two of them some questions. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to say nice things since the designer was standing right there – so I let them chat about it with Sophie and left to peruse the rest of the Fiesta. Sophie later told me that they only had great things to say about the game – which was very comforting to hear! She did express concern that the game would have to fit inside the same box as the 2-player Agricola box. I didn’t think it would be an issue since all the tiles were going to be cards instead of cardboard. JF pointed out that with the tiles being cards, it meant that they’d need full bleed. The german manufacturer that they deal with charges too much to do it so that means they’d have to use the Chinese manufacturer that they deal with instead, which didn’t seem to be a big deal.

The Gamer side of the Fiesta. All the new games that are made or distributed by Filosofia.

I also got to spend some time showing the game to Chris Quilliams. Chris is a newly hired artist at Filosofia who will be doing a lot of the in-house art for their games (check out some of his work!). I was told that he’d be doing the art for Akrotiri, so it seemed like a good idea to review the game with him. I was able to tell him about some of the graphic issues the game has had during its development. For example, since the game is all about scanning the board and picking out certain symbols – those symbols need to be easily identifiable, and there can’t be too many other icons on the board that will confuse the eye. Also, a lot of players place a resource cube on top of the terrain icons when they play, which obscures what everyone needs to see. So we brainstormed some ideas on how to graphically fix this without overwhelming the eye with more symbols or icons on the board. It was time well spent – and probably saved a lot of time – or even prevented some potential challenges if we wasn’t aware of them beforehand.

All in all, a good day spent at the Fiesta! The rooms got more and more packed as the day progressed and soon all the tables were constantly filled with gamers and families playing all their games. If you’re in the Montreal area when it’s on next year, stop by for some free gaming of new and upcoming games!!

-Jay Cormier

Train of Thought on the cheap – and another positive review of Belfort!

Tasty Minstrel Games is having a Black Friday sale, which ends Monday at midnight EST, and they’re offering up Train of Thought for 50% off! That’s $9.95 instead of $19.95! Go grab a copy, if you haven’t done so already. My apologies to all the Canadians out there who want to take advantage of this deal because there’s a $30 shipping fee to Canada…boo! But for you Americans out there – gobble that up!

Also, Daryl Andrews has written a positive review of Belfort over at Games for All. Gamesforall.ca is a new online board game retailer for Canadians! Check out their selection as it’s growing every day and it’s way cheaper than buying from an American website (from a shipping perspective, as we all learned in the first paragraph above!).

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 2

On my Montreal trip, my first meeting was with Filosofia. Since I had become friends with JF due to our similar interests outside of the board game world (both of us are big movie nerds!), he invited me to stay with him while I was in Montreal, after my work thing finished up. How nice! I spent Thursday night with him at his place and the next morning we both went into work together. He gave me a tour of their office and warehouse. While it might seem bland for them because they work there all the time, for an outsider it sure was interesting!

There were prototypes in boxes, new imports set up and being played, filing boxes that would normally be pretty boring – but they were each labeled with a different board game name..! It was pretty neat. Then we got to check out the warehouse which is where they distribute all there games from. Rows and rows of boxes of games! There was even a section of games that were open that they use to replenish missing pieces for people that have an incomplete box when they open it up.

The morning was spent playing our prototypes that I brought. I played with JF and Martin, who is responsible for deciding which new games they bring in. I started by laying out all the games – which I had packaged individually into fairly tight white boxes that each had a label of the game’s name on the outside.

I laid out all the games and gave a one-sentence pitch for each game and we all decided to start with SimpliCITY first.

 

 

SimpliCITY: We started with one of our new games, SimpliCITY. This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players. Everything played smoothly but in the end they thought that it was a bit too similar to Carcasonne for their tastes – since they are now the publishers of Carcasonne. Maybe if they didn’t publish Carcasonne they would be interested, but alas they decided to pass on this one.

Lions Share: Next up was our new card game (well, it’s been around for quite awhile in our repetoire, but not in its current iteration – which we both think is the best its ever been!). This game has three interesting aspects to it:

1) that you play between players – so you’re only ever playing with players on either side of you, even though you can affect and impact the other players whenever a trick is taken

2) the criteria that dictates which card you can play where – changes throughout the game

3) When you take a ‘trick’ you get to keep 2 cards but you also must share 2 cards with your opponents

Both Martin and JF really liked Lions Share and asked to keep the game for further evaluation. I told them that the game really shines with 4 or 5 players and they were eager to try the game with more players. Exciting!

Jam Slam: I have a lot of fondness for this game as it started out as a game based on a character I created and perform as: Bertolt the Explorer! We’ve since removed that character from the game, but the gameplay still remains fun and hectic! One player takes the turn being the Jam Chef and he shouts out what specific ingredient he’s looking for – based on looking at the next card in the ingredient deck, and the other players race to slap a face-up card on the table that matches with what was requested. JF took it one step further and actually started to try to trick us when he was the Jam Chef – and that added to the hilarity. Both Martin and JF seemed really impressed with Jam Slam and they asked to hold onto this one for further testing. Huzzah!

Short Order Showdown: Next up was another quick reaction game about trying to flip over tiles and try to add them to your plate such that it matched one of the face-up orders. The game played fine, but they preferred Jam Slam to this one and decided to pass on this one. It’s an interesting lesson in determining the order that you present your games to a publisher. I wonder what would the outcome be if I had showed them Short Order Showdown before Jam Slam?

Clunatics: I didn’t think that Filosofia would be interested in Clunatics since it’s not only a party game – which I didn’t think Filosofia published – but also a English-heavy party game. They seemed interested nevertheless, so I forged ahead and showed them the game. I’m glad I did because they really liked it! It’s a party game in which you can only give the smallest of clues to the other players. On their own, these clues are too small to guess, but when you do 2 or 3 of these clues, then it starts to form a possible answer! They really liked the small clue aspect of the game – and how you’re forced to use specific mini-clues. Martin had a great idea: add movie, book and song titles to the cards! Currently all the cards are just idioms or common phrases. Adding titles is interesting – especially if you can’t tell the other players what category it is before you start!! They wanted to hold onto this one to review further! Yay!

Chainables: I had even lower hopes for Chainables with Filosofia because it’s an English-based spelling game! Still, we played it and it went over really well. They both indicated that they liked it and would like to know when it did finally come out – but would have to pass on it because of the aforementioned reasons. JF used to be a teacher and was fascinated by the teaching possibilities of this game – cool!

Akrotiri: While we haven’t made it 100% official, Filosofia will be publishing our game, Akrotiri for a release in the third quarter next year. We had time before lunch so we set up and played a few rounds with the new quest cards that offer an advanced variant for experienced players. JF was content that it was a solid idea – so we packed up and headed out to lunch. Martin, JF and I were joined by Sophie for lunch and we got to talk ‘shop’ throughout lunch, which was very interesting for me. I won’t go into all the details as I’m not sure what was told to me in confidence and what is public knowledge. Basically it was a lot of discussion around the history of Filosofia and its future. Very interesting indeed!

Junkyard: After lunch the four of us decided to play Junkyard. Filosofia had been assessing Junkyard for some time. They even shipped the prototype off to France to be reviewed by a parter of theirs. The result is that absolutely everyone loves the game. The only issue that’s preventing them from signing this game for publication is the cost.

Junkyard is made up of 12 unique pieces in 4 colours and is currently made out of wood. Expensive to make! We played a couple rounds and they even invited their graphic designer, Philippe to play, in case they did decide to proceed with the game, he might be involved in creating the final shapes or moulds. The games were great and we spent more of our time brainstorming the main challenge. Should it be wood, plastic or some other material. Not only that but we brainstormed other ways to reduce the costs. Maybe we could reduce the size of the pieces by 20%. If the game was made out of plastic – then that’s a big savings.

Another point was that Martin had played the game many times and noticed that with 4 players, they were running out of pieces near the end. While the game could just end when the pieces ran out – it was much more fun to end the game when someone’s tower toppled over. So he requested 3 new pieces from Sen and I. We complied and sent him 3 new pieces. But now this brought the piece count up to 15 in each colour – or 60 total pieces – which is even more expensive! We could reduce that to 14 or maybe even 13 pieces, but then I had an interesting idea to keep the pieces at 12. What if we changed the motivation to build taller – and therefore more precarious? Currently the tallest tower gets a 5 point bonus at the end of the game – but what if we made it 6…or 10? What if we game some points to the player with the 2nd tallest tower? With these attractive points, players might play taller in an effort to get the tallest tower – and therefore the towers would be more wobbly and fall more frequently! Lots of good ideas were thrown around, but the next step is to get some quotes from manufacturers.

We had sent Junkyard on our own to Panda for a quote and I shared with them their numbers – but it was only based on a 2000 unit order. So our next step is to ask them how many units we’d have to make in order to get the retail price between $30-$35. We all set a deadline as the end of February to get as much information as we need.

By this time the day had already come to an end! Man time flies when you’re having fun! Before leaving we set a deadline of the end of February for all the prototypes. That seemed like enough time for them to make a decision. Back at JF’s house later that night, JF and I fiddled around with a game that is in Alpha (See this post) stage currently called Box Office (terrible title – but it’s temporary!). I had shown this game to JF in April at the Gathering. Since he liked movies as much as I did, I thought he’d like the concept. Since April we had tweaked it a bit, but it was still Alpha…though it’s getting closer to Beta! We had some fun with it – but more fun was had with brainstorming the next steps – which I’m very excited about! All in all, a very exciting day of pitching and playing our games with Filosofia! The next day was spent attending something called the Fiesta! More on that in the next post.

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 1

If there was ever proof that building relationships is as important as great game design in the board game industry, then this is it. I had the fortune of attending Alan Moon’s Gathering last April, where I got to meet a lot of publishers in a more relaxed and intimate setting (check out this series of posts about it). I pitched a lot of games to a lot of publishers and made a lot of contacts. Fast forward 6 months and I find myself having to go to Montreal for my real job.

“Hmmm…who do I know in Montreal?” I thought. Of course – Filosofia and Asmodee! I had made friends with JF at Filosofia as well as Stefan at Asmodee while at the Gathering, so I emailed them both letting them know about by upcoming visit. They both agreed to meet up while I was there! Since I knew them fairly well, I didn’t have to follow our own Step 20 – which I normally would if I didn’t have an established relationship with them.

Preparation

Now that we knew I would be meeting with them, Sen and I had some work to do. I had just spent a week with Sen while I was in his neck of the woods for another work thing (remember – I live in Vancouver, Sen lives in London, ON – so it’s not that often that we get to be in the same room!), so we had a couple new games that we wanted to show.

This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players.

This is a word making game in which you have cards with starts of words and cards with ends of words – and you’re trying to match them up.

But, in pure Sen and Jay form we still had all the rules to write up. This is our least favourite part of game design!

Sen took a crack at the first draft, then I would tweak it and add all the graphic examples to make them easier to understand (as we described in Step 15, try to always include as many graphic examples as possible). We were working feverishly during the last two weeks before I had to leave to Montreal. On top of this I also had to re-print some of our prototypes based on some feedback we had in our latest playtests. Nothing that changes the gameplay, but things like making tiles smaller or improving the graphic design aspect.

We got everything done, but we didn’t have enough time to make any sales sheets for any of our new games. I accepted that this would be fine – only because I already had a relationship with both Filosofia and Asmodee, and because I had a meeting setup with just me and them…during a time when they’re not busy and rushing to another meeting with another designer (like at Essen, for example) – so I knew we’d have a bit more time. In the end, it worked out fine, but we’re still devoted to making sales sheets when we meet with publishers that we don’t have a good rapport with yet.

I packed everything up in accordance to Step 21 – everything had its own box that was labeled with the name of the game and our contact info. I opted for small boxes instead of baggies this time as all of our games fit nicely into these small white boxes. I usually hate boxes because they take up so much space, but check out the Solutions store (or the Container Store) as they have some great boxes that suits our purpose perfectly!

I was on my way and ready for some pitching! I had no idea if the games we had would fit with these publishers – but was ecstatic with how it all turned out. Stay tuned for the next post in which I detail how the Filosofia pitch went down!

-Jay Cormier