Belfort on ‘Watch it Played!’

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Rodney Smith of Watch It Played! has chosen Belfort as his next game in his series.

The first video is a super thorough rules explanation of the game. If you’ve never played before then simply watch this video right before playing and everyone will be in the know!

Then his series continues as he starts to play the game with his son. What’s really cool about this is that after a couple of moves, he pauses and asks the viewers what he should do next. He allows some time to pass as people provide their thoughts, and the comment that gets the most ‘thumbs up’ votes, is the move that he will do. Pretty cool! So far we’re two episodes in, so feel free to play along with Rodney and his son as they explore the 2 player version of Belfort!

And of course, if you haven’t heard yet, Belfort: The Expansion Expansion is currently available on Kickstarter – eagerly awaiting your support!

Jay and Sen at the Gathering of Friends 2013, part 1

gof_logo1Another Gathering has come and gone and I am fully exhausted yet giddy with excitement.The Gathering (or more officially:Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends 2013) is an invite-only annual event full of amazing people all wanting to hang out and play some games.What makes this a must-attend event for me as a game designer is the fact that most of the big publishers are there and they are all open to looking at games from designers. To find out more about what the Gathering of Friends is all about, and about my experiences there last year, check out this post.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat makes this different than any other convention? Well, since the Gathering is invite-only, the calibre of people that attend is a bit higher than a convention that is open to the public.The publishers know that they are not going to be hearing a pitch about a Monopoly-clone at the Gathering. Also, I noticed at the Gathering that publishers and designers seem to be more on the same level, while at other conventions I’ve felt that there is a “we’re publishers and you’re designers” kind of vibe.All this means that the Gathering is a very relaxed and informal experience where you not only pitch your games to publishers, but then go to dinner with them afterwards.

This year I was able to pitch games to the following publishers:

  • Asmodee
  • Repos
  • Filosofia / Z-Man Games Abacuspiele
  • R & R Games
  • ThinkFun
  • Hasbro
  • Mercury Games

On top of this I interacted with Rio Grande,Toy Vault, Ystari, Hans Im Gluck, Iello, Czech Games and North Star.

The bottom line is that this event was a successful one for a few reasons.

  1. From all our pitches we ended up leaving one of our prototypes with four different publishers! This doesn’t mean that they’ve agreed to publish it, but it does mean that they liked it and would like to play it with the rest of their team and figure out if it is something that they’d like to do. More on this in the next few posts.
  2. We started a relationship with ThinkFun which seems like a really good fit for many games that Sen and I make. I am positive that this relationship will be very beneficial for all of us, even if they don’t pick up any of our games!
  3. We pitched to Hasbro! This was wild and I’ll go into more details in another post – but this is huge!
  4. Relationships with all publishers continue to improve and I feel like I could call some of them friends – not just business acquaintances.
  5. I got to really hang out with other designers – and just play games with them all week! Get ready for some name-dropping:
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Me (left) and William Attia

William Attia, designer of Caylus: he taught us his new game, Spyrium (which is fantastic) and then we ended up playing a few other games together throughout the week like Enigma.

Stephen Glenn, designer of Balloon Cup: had an interesting conversation with him about the differences between Balloon Cup and the new re-do of that game called Pinata

Me and Vlaada!

Me and Vlaada!

Greg Daigle, designer of Hawaii: had a conversation with him and learned that he is officially Canadian so we invited him to become a member of the Game Artisans of Canada.

Vlaada Chvatil, designer of Galaxy Trucker and Dungeon Lords: I played many games with Vlaada – like Coup (when he says he’s the Captain – believe him!) and Hanabi (super interesting game).

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tollman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tolman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Chris Handy, designer of the new Rio Grande game, Cinque Terre. I sat in on some of Chris’s pitches to publishers and he sat in on some of mine. He’s a good wing man!

Other designers at the Gathering that I met: Kevin Wilson, Matt Tolman, Gavan Brown,Tom Lehman,Al Leduc, Roberta Taylor, Rob…uh, and Alan Moon!!!

In the next few posts I’ll review the details of how the pitch sessions went with each publisher (though we did sign a couple NDAs, so we’ll have to be a bit less transparent than normal).

-Jay Cormier

Belfort: The Expansion Expansion – new art revealed!

Here’s another Assistant from our first expansion to Belfort called Belfort: The Expansion Expansion. This one is the Gorgon and she has some mighty fine skills! You can still support the expansion on Kickstarter!

Gorgon Background Story

What do you get when you mix stone-cold business accumen with deadly beauty? Why, the Gorgons from the dark caves in the swamps surrounding Belfort, that’s what! One might see a Gorgon or two in Belfort during the warmer months, seeking to make some gold to last through the winter.

While some may say they use scare tactics, the Gorgons themselves prefer to use the word “charm” to describe their ability to ensure that the most lucrative tracts of land remain available for their Master Architect’s use. Anyone else hoping to build in a district occupied by a Gorgon best be prepared to pay for the privilege or risk becoming part of the ever-growing rock garden in that area.

Rules

As the Gorgon’s Master Architect, you can place her in a District of your choice. To build in that district now costs other players an ever-increasing amount of Gold as the year passes. However, if you choose to build in that District, you will be paid to do so!

All Gold transfers are between the players and the supply. Note that a payment is good for the whole round in which it was made – you do not gain Gold twice if you build two Properties in the District the Gorgon is in, for example.

ProTip

Choose the Gorgon as your Assistant if you have a memory like a Dwarf – long and full of grudges! Once vacant lots become scarcer, a shrewd Master Architect (like yourself, perhaps) should take account of who wants to build what and where.

Strategically placing your Gorgon in districts where other Master Architects want to build can paralyze their plans if they haven’t factored in the fee they will need to pay the supply now.

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-Jay Cormier

 

5 Reasons Why Michael Mindes loves Kickstarter

kickstarter-badge-fundedMichael Mindes, owner of Tasty Minstrel Games, has published an interesting blog post about why he loves Kickstarter – aside from the obvious money reasons. It’s a great read for anyone contemplating using Kickstarter as a way to get their product out in the world – especially board games! Check it out here.

 

-Jay Cormier

Belfort: The Expansion Expansion – How it came to be

Bex-coverBelfort was released to the world in the late months of 2011. Since then the game has done extremely well, selling out of two print runs, getting picked up for a German and a Polish version and now it’s getting a full expansion with funding through Kickstarter. The expansion started to get developed in August of 2011 – months before the base game had even hit the shelves! This is not to say that we were cocky and expecting that the game would be a huge hit, but we were excited about it and liked playing in the Belfort sandbox!

The publisher, Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) let us know about an idea he had about wanting buildings to be upgradeable such that players could get more gold, or more Gnome placements. At the same time, Sen and I had been toying with an idea about using roles and that these roles would be tied to turn order. We had quickly brainstormed some ideas of the powers for these roles and they were very basic yet beneficial. We thought it was interesting to tie these powers to the turn order, as that would make people want to use the King’s Camp more often.

Then we got Michael’s peanut butter mixed into our chocolate. We combined the two ideas and the powers soon became Assistants. Since the players are the Master Architects, it didn’t make sense to give them powers directly. Also, by making them Assistants we could introduce a lot of new races into the game – which meant new Josh Cappel artwork eventually!! We also added a new resource called Reputation. Players started with 2 Reputation and could earn more by going to the cathedral. The cathedral was a new tile that laid on top of the board, but right in the centre – in the middle of the Keep. The Cathedral had 1 worker plank on it and if you went there you got 2 more Reputation. Players had to use Reputation to activate their assistants’ powers or gain an expansion permit to upgrade a building.

We liked the idea of upgrading a building, but we weren’t too keen on upgrading it just to get discounts on resources. We had a brilliant idea that brought in individual scoring paths for each player – and that was to tie a specific scoring option whenever someone expands their building. We tried it and it was really interesting! By telling a player that they will get more points if the buildings they build have more wood in them – well, that makes players want to build buildings with even more wood. This cause people to play the game differently than they did before – which was very interesting, and I think a good direction for an expansion.

We playtested this a few times and tweaked the powers here and there and it seemed to be going well, but then had an idea from one of our playtesters: why not get rid of the Reputation altogether. This was interesting but frustrating. It was a new currency that made everything work, so we were perplexed at how to make everything work without that currency. Eventually we decided, why not just let people use the power for free every turn? Was that too powerful? Then for acquiring an Expansion Permit, players would have to NOT use their Assistant power in order to get it. Aha! That really worked! Now players were really motivated to use the Assistants’ powers, but they were also really motivated to expand their buildings.

OK, so now we were ready. But with 10 Assistants we couldn’t be certain of how each Assistant worked with each of the guilds. Would any of them be broken if a certain combination came out? To figure this out we advertised here on this site that we were looking for playtesters for the expansion. We had over 70 groups email us wanting to participate. We sent them a pdf of the basic art file (nothing by Josh Cappel yet – just clip art!) and waited for their feedback.

We did the playtesting in three phases. After each phase we gathered all the feedback from all the playtesters, assessed their comments and tweaked the powers of the Assistants. The most valuable feedback that came in (well, it was all really valuable – but this one stood out) was to allow players to choose their Assistant every round instead of having it locked into their turn order. We found that when the Assistant was locked into turn order – it didn’t motivate more King’s Camp action. Instead, players just hunkered down and devised a strategy for their one Assistant and stuck with it the entire game. By allowing players to choose – they could choose the same one every turn, but most players would change it out, and this offered even more strategy and created even more desire to go last (because Assistants were chosen in reverse turn order!).

halflingAfter three phases, we were happy with all the feedback we got and locked the rules down. There was a conversation in the middle where TMG was wondering if we could do some smaller expansions instead of a big one. Could we divide this expansion into two? Fortunately we never had to because we were really happy with the direction we were going, the feedback we were getting, and how integrated the two ideas now were. In the third phase we decided to cut the rounds down from 7 to 6. This was mostly due to the fact that the Assistants were so powerful that players were building almost all of the buildings on the board by the final round. So thematically we said that the king has given the Architects one less month to make his city even more beautiful, but to help them out he’s allowing them to use his Assistants. The very last rule we added was to start players all at 6 points, thus making taxes happen even in the first month (unless you have the Halfling Assistant!).

In the last couple months we’ve seen the art start to come together, and now the Kickstarter campaign is in full effect! If you’d like to back Belfort: The Expansion Expansion, then please do so by clicking here!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

Originally, The Expansion Expansion was called “Belfort: Reputations and Renovations” because of the now-missing Reputation points that were driving this new segment of the game.  Originally, you would lose reputation by having to rely on your Assistant’s aid.  Imagine – a Master Architect’s mere Assistant helping out?  Shameful!  Minus 1 Reputation to you!  But if you accomplished the feat of renovating an existing building to be better looking and such, your Reputation for being an able craftsman would be bumped up accordingly.

It made so much sense!  We had Guilds linked to Reputation points and other ways to use them planned – using them to affect majority scoring, trading for resources, and turn order were all in the works at one point or another.  In the end, however, we are happy with having them out of the game (for now!) as they created another thing to track physically.  The Reputationless method we’re using now is much leaner and faster – having to remember to have ANOTHER currency/resource made attaining an Expansion Permit and then build it very difficult and slow, in terms of average number of rounds it took to complete it.  What we came up with after eliminating Reputation is essentially the same thing, abstracted down:  We use the Assistant to either do their ability or obtain the work permits required to start an Expansion.  This either/or dilemma, in effect, mimics the idea of gaining or losing Reputation enough to justify the removal of that resource.

I’m super-satisfied with how the final product is turning out!  Josh Cappel’s artwork never ceases to both delight and amuse me.  His work on the rules is somehow whimsical and precise at the same time and his characterization of the denizens of Belfort make me howl in delight.  I personally can’t wait to get the Halfling, Giant, etc. into play!  And, as much as I like/resemble the Halfling, I’m really hoping that nobody picks the Imp(s)!

And here’s a first look (world premiere, I believe!) at the talented Pixies, who bring a splash of even more colour into our beloved world of Belfort!

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Interestingly enough, Jay and I got our copies of the German and Polish versions of Belfort while at Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends last week.  We’re unsure if either Pegasus or Lacerta will pick up the expansion for our European friends, but we hope so!

Thanks to everyone who has supported our Kickstarter campaign so far and we’re looking forward to getting this product out into your hot little hands.  It’s been a long time in development, so it’s high time that things got released to the wild!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

A Veritable Flurry of Activity!

The Bamboozle Brothers beehive is buzzing with activity!  The reasons are 3-fold!

1. Gathering of Friends 2013 (April 13-21)

Jay and I heading down to Alan R. Moon‘s Gathering of Friends for a great deal of gaming, friendship, and fun!  A whole whack of our Game Artisans of Canada colleagues were invited as well, so expect a lot of news from the GAC media outlet!

We will be pitching some games to publishers, but mostly we’re there to network.  A HUGE shout out to another fellow Artisan, Stefan Alexander, who helped Jay and I work on our first app-ified game, “What’s That?” – we hope to show it off at the conference as well!  Our oft-time partner in crime, Josh Cappel will be there as well, so we hope to further refine our joint projects – “Belfort:  The Expansion Expansion” and “Rock, Paper, Wizards”.  A full week ahead, indeed!

2.  Belfort:  The Expansion Expansion

Speaking of the Belfort expansion, the TMG team has been working around the clock to prepare for the launch of our KickStarter campaign!  That’s right, this is the very first time the Bamboozle Brothers will be using crowdfunding to help produce a game.  Let’s hope that everything goes well and we’ll have the expansion in your hot little hands by October 2013!

Here’s some artwork from Josh to whet your appetite!  These are the Avatars that team members have been using on Facebook, BGG, Twitter, etc. to get everyone primed for the KS launch.

https://mindesmedia.basecamphq.com/projects/9545639/file/153511191/BEX_avatar_goon.jpg

The Goon, of course, is Josh’s avatar.  A cookie to whoever guesses what mine is 😀
Be sure to “Like” Belfort on Facebook to get even more updates on the expansion and the campaign!

3.  Akrotiri

Akrotiri is starting to ramp into production as well, with our artist, Chris Quilliams (another Canadian, originally from Winnipeg).  He’s done some amazing work in the past, so we’re stoked to see what he can bring to this 2-player game about (yeah, yeah) exploration in the Mediterranean…

Here’s some of his past work:

This is Babel (by Uwe Rosenberg and Hagen Dorgathen) that has been aquired as part of Z-man’s 2-player line.  We can only assume that Akrotiri will be part of said line and, as such, we are in fine company!

We’re not totally sure as to when Filosofia/Z-man is going to release Akrotiri, but we’ll keep you up-to-date with information as it comes in.  We’ll be meeting with Sophie and Zev at the GoF, so we hope to hear more about Akrotiri as the conference unfolds.

Whew!  Busy times for the Bamboozlers!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Kickstarter loves games

kickstarter_logo_0We’re all getting more and more familiar with Kickstarter (online crowd-sourcing), but did you know how important Kickstarter was to the world of gaming?

In 2012, 23% of all dollars pledged were to games! This consists of board and video games, but it’s still amazing! $50 million were pledged to games last year, while only $42 million was pledged to films, making gaming and filming the number 1 and 2 categories on Kickstarter.

Perspective

In 2009, when Kickstarter was still a baby, only $48,190 was pledged to gaming. It grew to $519, 885 in 2010 and to $3,615,841 in 2011 – but over $50 million in 2012 is an insane jump! That’s a 1391% increase from the year before – OR it’s a 104,441% increase over 4 years! Wow!!

What about Board Gaming?

Over $15 million of that is for board gaming. While that’s a smaller piece of the pie compared to video games, board games are being funded successfully 47% of the time, while video games are only being funded successfully 23% of the time.

Why?

A big benefit of Kickstarter is that the more people that pledge a campaign – then the more people they tell (to help hit Stretch Goals) and the more people become aware of the whole crowd-sourcing industry. Some successfully funded campaigns start to build and spread like wildfire. Dungeon Roll, Ogre, Machine of Death all come to mind. By offering Kickstarter exclusives, or more game/goodies for the same price, it becomes more and more lucrative for new backers to pledge and support a game.

In some future posts we’ll take a look at the difference between a game that barely gets funded to one that is enormously successful!

-Jay Cormier

(information gathered from Kickstarter)

Did you help playtest the Belfort expansion?

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I’ve got some good news and some bad news…

The good news is that the Belfort expansion will be announced within a week or so! Yay! The publisher has decided to use Kickstarter to gauge the level of interest in the expansion. Expect to hear from us again when it launches!!

The bad news is that 2 months ago my home was robbed and they stole all my electronics. On the computer that was stolen was the contact information of all the people that playtested the expansion many, many months ago.

This really sucks because we want to credit them in the rule book – AND we’d like to get a blurb/review from any of them to help support the Kickstarter campaign.

Sooooo…if you were one of the playtesters, can you contact us? We’d like to give credit to you in our rule book and also see if you can provide some feedback that we can use in our campaign. Email me directly: explorer @ bertolt . ca (remove spaces before copying and pasting).

Thanks y’all – and talk to you all again soon with some news and art from Josh Cappel.