Gathering: Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele

Continuing the series of my board game pitches to publishers at this year’s Gathering of Friends. Previous posts:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos
  4. Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games

I met up with Stefan from Asmodee later in the week and let him know that I still had more games that I wanted to pitch to him.We quickly found a table, and played a few games. I showed him Lions Share, Clunatics and Top Shelf. Wow,Top Shelf? That was the first game Sen and I fully designed. I brought it with me because I still had fondness for the game and think it still works – and also wanted to hear some feedback on the direction we should go with it.

TS-top of boardTop Shelf is a tile laying, matching game where you’re trying to make four in a row.We played the entire game, which is always a good sign. He liked the design but it wasn’t something that fit with Asmodee. He thought a different theme would help though. So, something to think about.

He had similar reactions for Lions Share and Clunatics. No real feedback to make the game better or different, they just didn’t fit with Asmodee.Well, you can’t argue with that!

Next up was R&R games. Right before I was about to begin, a guy named Doug comes over with his camera and asks if he could record the pitch as he was making a documentary about board games from the designer’s perspective (It’s called Adventures on the Tabletop and will be on Kickstarter soon!). Frank from R&R didn’t mind, so he set up and I began.

Now I have to say that Frank indicated that he didn’t have much time. So since I didn’t have sales sheets (see explanation here), I told him I’d give a 15 second pitch on each game and he could indicate which ones he’d like to know more about or not. I started with Lost for Words and I gave a very quick overview and asked if that was in the keep or discard pile. He wanted to know more immediately so I explained a bit more of the rules.Then he wanted to play a round. So now I’m all out of sorts and have explained half the rules and now have to backtrack to explain exactly how to play and it’s all a bit befuddling. Lesson learned here is to either have sales sheets (uh…yeah) or give the 15-30 second pitch, then if there’s interest, figure out if it’s worthwhile to jump right into a round or give more highlights. For a lighter weight game, it’s probably better to just jump right into a round! And of course this was all caught on video by the documentarian! Great.

Regardless, Frank was thinking it would be too hard to market a word game.Yep – it would be.Why do we keep designing word games? 🙂

ex-neigh1Next up was SimpliCITY and Frank thought it was good but gave us the exact same feedback – too much multiplayer solitaire. Hmmm…I think we’re going to have to rethink that game a little bit.

Update – since the Gathering, Sen and I have been tweaking SimpliCITY to add some more interaction and we’ve come up with some really neat ideas. I’ll be playtesting them tomorrow!

Lions Share also didn’t work for him, but you know what did? Pop Goes the Weasel! This is our kid’s game that uses roll and move – but adds one element of choice to it. He said it filled a hole that they had right now. Yay! Frank ended up taking Pop Goes the Weasel back with him.Three prototypes now with publishers!

Just as Frank left, Matthias from Abacuspiele found me as we had set up an informal meeting to pitch him games and it was happening right now! Doug kept rolling, but this time I slowed down and took control of the pitch session a lot more. The good news is that Doug mentioned that he’d be giving me the footage of the pitches, so I can share them right here on this website! Stay tuned for that.

I started with Lions Share and he expressed interest in it. This was our card game that had players playing in between each other and sharing cards that they won with their opponents. He wanted to take it back with him! Huzzah – four games taken back by publishers! He also showed interest in another Artisan’s game called Garden Plot and wanted to take that one back with him.The other games I pitched to Abacuspiele weren’t as much of a fit, but he did seem to like them…but again, just not for Abacuspiele.While that’s an easy out for a publisher – it’s still nice to hear!

Next up I’ll be regaling you with our pitches to ThinkFun, Hasbro and Mercury Games! Wow – busy week we had!

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games

This is the third in our series of pitching to publishers at this year’s Gathering. You can read about the here:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos

logo_filoUp next I got to sit with JF from Filosofia. I showed him our app game,What’s That.When you’re at a convention and a publisher wants to take your game – as was the case with What’s That with Repos, you never have to give it to them right away. I always tell them that I’d like to show a few more publishers but I will come back at the end of the event to hand it into them.This is good for a couple reasons:

1) It lets you see which publisher is more interested in your game.The more interested they are, the more likely they will want to publish it!

2) It lets you assess which publisher you’d rather work with for your game. Do you want your game to go back with a first time publisher or an established publisher? They both have their benefits – but you now get to make that choice!

3) Once you give it to one publisher, but more than one are interested, well now you know which publisher you can send it to next if that first publisher decides to pass on your game. It’s great having a line-up of publishers wanting to take a closer look at your game!

Unfortunately for What’s That, the app kept crashing – sometimes right when we wanted to see what the answer was! It was frustrating – but it was a new app, made by fellow Game Artisan of Canada member, Stefan Alexander.We didn’t have much time for QA so we just went with what we had. I think the problem was that if I received a text message while we were playing then it crashed. I think they weren’t really interested in it anyway…!

Next up was Pop Goes the Weasel.They thought it was too confusing for kids. We did come up with one good idea that simplifies the game for kids, but still retains the ability to play the game as is for slightly older kids.

By this point I had Josh Cappel (artist extraordinaire of such board games of…oh I don’t know…Belfort!) joined us so we pitched our new game, Rock, Paper, Wizards to JF. Yep – Josh joined forces with the Bamboozle Brothers and the three of us created a brand new game! It involves bluffing and pointing weird finger gestures at other players!

Ed Bryan from Toy Vault also came by and helped us playtest this one. Ed’s another good wingman for me! The game went so well that he brought Zev over to play it. Zev IS Z-Man Games, but Z-Man Games is owned by Filosofia. Zev liked it a lot and wanted to make sure they took this one back with them. Yay! Two games now being requested by publishers!

Update: We have received an email from Filosofia after they played it and they said that while they don’t want to publish it as is – they don’t want to give it back to us. They had some concerns and asked us to see if we could review some options. So we are!

Junkyard-photo2We were then told that they did get the new sample of our game Junkyard from the manufacturer’s in China. Last year at the Gathering I showed them Junkyard and since then we’ve been figuring out a way to make the game. Everyone at Filosofia loves the game, but the cost to produce 52 wooden pieces is high.When I visited Filosofia in November we came up with some ideas on how to reduce costs.The biggest idea was to reduce the size of the pieces by 20-25%.We got a quote from Panda on how many we’d have to make in order to get the per unit price low enough to retail it for $30-35.The pricing and quantity worked out for Filosofia, but they wanted to see a sample of the product before committing.They brought this sample and we got to play the game with Zev because he has never played Junkyard.After a fun game of Junkyard Zev gave his thumbs up to the game. So this meant that everyone is on board! The next step for Junkyard is to ask for another sample with a varnished finish of some sort as the pieces are a bit too rough as they are now. But yay for progress!

We were also given feedback on the three other games that Filosofia had since November. Jam Slam was one of them that showed the most promise so JF wanted Sofie to play it. I learned something about pitching in this pitch session.

Jam-Slam-logoThe game is a simple game of listening to a clue and slapping a card that has that information. For older kids it has an advanced variant where you get bonuses if you collect the most or least of a specific thing. I thought we should play with this since we’re all adults and it would make it more of a challenge – and therefore (in my mind) – more fun.Well that was wrong. Being new to the game, Sofie was confused by the multiple motivations. She boiled it down to show that the game had three motivations and a kid’s game should only have one motivation. So the lesson learned is to always show your game as the base concept first, before throwing in variants or expansions! So she decided to pass on it but gave us some interesting insight into the design.

JF also shared some comments from the playtests of the other two games they had of ours and from this we learned another lesson.The feedback for our card game, Lion’s Share was that there was fun there – but there was too much memory in it.Wait – what? Memory? There’s no memory at all in the game.Why would they say that then? Think about it for a second…..yep – they played the game wrong.And who’s fault is that? Ours.We re-read the rules and found a section that could be misinterpreted. Damn. Sometimes you have only one chance with a publisher and if the reason why your game fails is because they played it incorrectly, then you’re hooped! By playing incorrectly, they didn’t get the experience you wanted them to have so they only thought the game was mediocre.When you found out they played it wrong, there’s little motivation for them to play again because their experience was only mediocre before. So the lesson here – blind playtest your game! Have some other group playtest your game without you there to guide them or help them out.This will help you ensure your rules are being interpreted correctly.

Whew! That was a busy first day! And there are still more pitches ahead – so stay tuned!

-Jay Cormier

Last 12 Hours to support Belfort: The Expansion Expansion!!

Wow – this is it! The last few hours of the Kickstarter campaign for Belfort: The Expansion Expansion! If you haven’t pulled the trigger yet – well, now’s the time! We’ve already hit our target – but if we get to $35,000 then everyone will get a comic set in the world of Belfort and written by myself and my writing partner, Tim Reinert. You can actually read the comic online, but the only way to get your free physical copy is through this Kickstarter campaign.

Screen Shot 2012-07-11 at 10.18.26 PMI’m really hoping we make it as I love the story we came up with and I love the art! We found an artist by the name of Rob Lundy and we paid him out of our own pocket for the art. We got permission from Tasty Minstrel Games to do it and they were cool with it. And they liked the comic as well! So much so that they actually hired Rob to do the art for their Ridiculously successful Dungeon Roll game!

So without further ado, here are some links:

Check out the comic

Check out the Kickstarter campaign.

Thanks to everyone that supported this campaign! Can’t wait for you all to try the expansion!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering 2013: Pitching to Asmodee and Repos

Logo_AsmodĂ©eI knew Stefan from Asmodee because not only did I meet him at last year’s Gathering but I met him at his office last November when I found myself in Montreal. He gave back three of our prototypes that Asmodee ended up passing on, but was open to seeing more. But before pitching he brought over Cedric from Repos Productions to sit in on the pitch.That’s what I love about the Gathering – and maybe the whole board game industry: everyone’s trying to help everyone.Whether you’re a designer or a publisher, everyone seems to want to help each other out.That’s really cool.

So Stefan acted as my wing man as he wanted me to show Cedric the games that Asmodee just passed on!

ex-neigh1SimpliCITY: We played a few rounds of this simple city building game and Cedric liked it but passed on it because he thought it was too much ‘multiplayer solitaire,’ which simply means that everyone is working on their own thing and once in awhile look up to compete in something together…which is true of SimpliCITY. It’s not a terrible thing, as there are popular games out there that are like that, but it’s not something that Repos wanted. Fair enough. One interesting lesson learned here: since Asmodee had this since November, I hadn’t played the game since then either.That meant that I was a little rusty on some of the rules on how the bonus goal cards score. Nothing looks more amateurish than lack of confidence and knowledge about your own game. I actually had to look in the rules! Yikes. So lesson learned – make sure you know your games inside and out before you pitch them, which sounds obvious – as it is rare to get a game back from a publisher on the same day that you pitch it to another publisher!

ex-chainable1Chainables: We played this for 1 minute when he realized it was just a word game and that wasn’t something he wanted.

EI-EI-O: This quick reaction, barnyard animal game has seen quite a few interested publishers, but Repos wasn’t interested as he thought there were many somewhat similar games like that out there already.

What’s That: This was our new party game that we haven’t shown to any publisher yet. It uses an app to give unique clues to each person. Cedric and Stefan loved it and Cedric asked to take this one back with him.Yay!

Pop Goes The Weasel: They had fun with this family/kids game, but Cedric was unfamiliar with the nursery rhyme jingle so he didn’t understand why we were doing anything. Once we realized this, Stefan explained the rhyme to him and he understood the game a lot more. He ended up passing because the title and theme makes it very North American-only.

Cedric mentioned that he was sorry that he had to pass on the games because they are all good games that work – but just not for Repos.That’s a nice thing to hear. So a pretty good pitch session! Any pitch session where a publisher wants to take one of your games is a good session.

In addition pitching my own games I was also pitching some games from other Game Artisans of Canada. Many of the west coast Artisans gave me their sales sheets and their prototypes to pitch.We Artisans stick together and help each other succeed whenever possible so I pitched their games to Cedric and Stefan. Cedric expressed interest in Iron Horse Bandits so I brought it out and showed them how it worked.They ended up passing on it but would see it again if a few things get tweaked.

Next up – pitching o Filosofia and Z-Man Games!

-Jay Cormier

Akrotiri is 100% official!

If that title doesn’t make sense to you, then let me explain…

Sen and I designed a game called Santorini. It’s a tile laying exploration game that has a pretty clever new mechanic that’s used to find hidden temples. Once we got it to a point where we wanted to show publishers, another game designer pointed out that there was already a game out there called Santorini – by a fellow Game Artisan of Canada no less (we were just new to that wonderful group of game designers at the time).

So we were a bit bummed because that was a cool title. We did some more research and found that the name of an archaeological dig site on Santorini is Akrotiri. We liked it and that became our new title for the game.

The game made it to the finals of the Canadian Game Design of the Year and the first publisher I showed it to was Zev from Z-Man games. I was at BGG.con (a convention in Dallas that’s run by http://www.boardgamegeek.com) and I only had time for a 5 minute pitch. He liked it enough to want to investigate it further.

Then the waiting came. We kept prodding with emails asking about their thoughts and kept waiting to hear from them. Then a few months pass and Filosofia acquires Z-Man Games! So now there’s a whole whack of time that passes as they figure out their new structure and who’s doing what. We do get word from Zev that the people at Filosofia like the game though – so that’s good!

Old prototype of Akrotiri

In the middle of all this, Quined expresses interest in checking it out. We get permission from Z-Man to show it to them (very important! Never show your game to more than one publisher at a time without their knowledge!). They play it and like it, but they don’t like the ending. We explore some other options and we scrap the entire ending we had and find something that feels a lot more organic and obvious. In the end, Quined passes because it’s not heavy enough for them. But we’re happy because we have a new version that plays even better than the old one! We share this with Z-Man Games.

More time passes and I attend the Gathering of Friends last year for the first time. I had connected with Sophie from Filosofia before attending and we agreed that it would be a good place to play it together and come to some sort of agreement. We played a 5 player game of Akrotiri (tip: unless your game plays best with 5 players, always choose to play with fewer!!). Like most tile-laying games, a lot can change before it’s your turn, so Sophia thought that she had to wait until it was her turn to pay attention. Not good.

But she thought the game would be a good 2 player game…! They took the game back with them and tried it a few more times as a 2 player only game – and they liked it! They wanted to do it! Huzzah! They wrote up a contract and sent it to us – and we signed it and sent it back….but it still was never 100% official until this week. Why? Because we got back the signed contract – with their signatures on it too!

So now Akrotiri is happening! It will be a 2 player game, in the same box as the Agricola 2 player game. We’re not sure exactly when it’s coming out, but the artist (the amazing Chris Quilliams!! Check out his stuff!) has already been in contact with us to ask us questions about our thoughts on things like time period and whatnot. Super cool!

So three cheers! We’re super pumped to partner with Z-Man Games on this! We’ll share more news about potential release date as soon as we know more.

-Jay Cormier

New Free Game added!

CreamCrop-logoWe added Cream of the Crop to our Free Game tab above! This game was designed by Jay Cormier and Don Kirkby and won a contest by Toy Vault to come up with the best designs using the Piece Pack. Piece Pack, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a specific set of components that have hundreds of games designed using its components. Game design enthusiasts can create their own games using these pieces – and a quick Google search will unearth tons of great games!

You used to be able to buy Piece Pack – but now you can simply make your own pieces. All the info is on the Free Games tab above! Enjoy.

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends – Pitching to Publishers

gof_logo1My first full day at the Gathering started later than I wanted, due to a 6 hour plane delay…boo. But once I got there, it felt very familiar and instantly comfortable! I found Alan Moon and showed him my World of Games map.What’s that, you ask? Well, at the end of each Gathering, there is a prize ceremony. It’s the only time everyone is together and focused. Everyone who won any contest or tournament during the week gets to pick from the prize table.Then everyone else is who didn’t win a tournament – but did bring a prize to contribute to the table – gets to pick from the prize table.

Pretty much everyone participates and you can see the prize table growing throughout the week as more and more people arrive. 95% of all the prizes are games (with 10%-20% being hard to find and out of print games), but some people create something artistic for the prize table.This year there was game- themed jewellery, ties, coasters and my map!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI created a map of the world and populated it with images of board games.The neat idea I had was to use games that had the name of a place in the title of the game – and place a somewhat recognizable image from that game on the map where that place was. I was pretty happy with it! I got it printed onto cloth that was about 6 yards wide as I thought it would be interesting to use it as a table cloth.We got permission from the hotel to hang it directly on the wall so that everyone could see it throughout the entire event. Super cool! Peter Eggert of Eggertspiele ended up winning the map – which is also cool!

Anyway – enough about the prizes and the map – let’s get into talking about the pitches to publishers! This year was very different than last year for a couple reasons:

1) My house was broken into a couple months ago, and I lost all my computers and back-up hard drives with all my files. I had another back-up but it was over a year old so I didn’t have very current files. Since I spent the greater part of the last two months packing the rest of my stuff, moving and re-acquiring things through insurance, I didn’t have enough time to properly make sales sheets! What?! I know, it’s insane. I feel like we really pioneered the sales sheets for game designers (I have no idea if we did, but it was our own original idea to do sales sheets before we ever saw anyone else doing it). It definitely felt awkward pitching without sales sheets this year. For sure we’re going back to sales sheets after this!

2) I felt like the Gathering was so much more informal of an event that a designer can easily walk up to any publisher (who are easily identifiable due to their blue name badges!) and ask them if they’re looking at designs while they’re here. 100% of them said they were. So I didn’t set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. I wouldn’t recommend this if this was your first year attending the Gathering though. I knew almost all the publishers I was pitching to, so that made it a lot easier for me.

So no sales sheets and no set-up interviews.Yikes. Fortunately, everything went awesome-rific! On day 1 I pitched to Filosofia/Z-Man, Asmodee and Repos. I’ll review the details in the next post!

-Jay Cormier