Board Games on the rise at Fan Expo in Toronto

I just got back from Fan Expo in Canada, where I was invited as a guest to speak on some panels. Fan Expo is mostly about celebrities and geek culture, but they’ve been growing their board game presence in the last few years. This was also a great opportunity for me to showcase the first game that I’ll be publishing as Off the Page Games, which is Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game.”

img_20190825_104505Thursday afternoon I arrived and was able to walk around the north building marketplace for an hour or so. It’s pretty big, but 1/4 of the size of the south building marketplace. It’s unfortunate that the con is split over two buildings as it’s quite the trek from one to the other, especially since the main board game room was in the north building, but all the panels were in the south building!

img_20190823_155724Thursday at 8pm I was on my first panel which was about contracts in the board game industry. Really cool panel for me as I’ve now been on both sides of the contracts!
Friday I was able to demo Mind MGMT all day in the board game room. I had my banner up and prototype laid out and I was able to demo it to a lot of people. Some just wanted the quick pitch, some just played the training mission and others played the full game. The overwhelming response was awesome! It’s so great to get this game out in front of non-designers and non-playtesters to see their reaction. I also had postcards made up to hand out to everyone that stopped by. If people hang onto those postcards, then they can use them in some sort of secret way to unlock in-game bonuses once the game is released.

mvimg_20190822_1939482At 6pm I had a panel about how collaborating with other roles can make your game better. We didn’t have a moderator so I ended up moderating the panel! It was fun and great to hear other panelists insights on their process.

Saturday I was able to demo Mind MGMT a few more times until my panel about Playtesting at 2pm. Another fun panel with cool panelists. We reviewed questions you can ask to get the best feedback, where to find play testers and how to receive feedback. All pretty valuable lessons.

I was able to walk around the south building marketplace for a couple hours and spent a lot of time in Artist Alley, checking out all the cool creators. At 5 I was on a super fun panel all by myself, moderated by Sen, all about failing faster. We went through the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal and the rationale of why it was included.

fb_img_1566736407752At 6 I was on a panel all about the process of how In the Hall of the Mountain King came to be. The panel had Kwanchai Moriya, the illustrator, Josh Cappel, the art director, Helaina Cappel, the publisher, and me, 1/2 of the design team! It was great to review all the interactions and learnings we had as this game came to fruition. I even got to see the production sample of the game, and it looks so amazing!

img_20190824_110443After that, 20+ of us board gamey people all went to dinner in down town Toronto. It was great to chit chat with other industry professionals! After dinner I was able to pitch In the Hall of the Mountain King: The Card Game to Helaina and Josh, and it was pretty wild. Why? Wellllll…. Graeme and I have never tested this version! Normally this is a no-no, but I was upfront with them and let them know that this is pretty much an alpha game. Still, I thought it would be good to show it to them, just to see if they like the direction it was going. Good news – they did! No ones sure of anything yet, but once we test it a whole lot more, we’ll see what they want to do with it. They are interested in growing that brand, and so are we!

Sunday was the final day, and it was eventful! I was on two panels: rulebooks, and games in education (which was the most attended panel by far). Both were amazing panel with such varied expertise from all the panelists. It was really an honour to be included in them. With one hour until I had to leave, I met with Jon Gilmour (you know, designer of Dead of Winter and Dinosaur Island, to name a few). This was a very special meeting for me because it was the first meeting I had where a designer was pitching me a game! Oh right, I’m a publisher now! Jon and his buddy Ian has a game they designed that’s based on a great comic, and has that comic creator’s blessing, so it’s a perfect fit for me (since my company, Off the Page Games will focus on publishing games based off of creator owned comic books). The pitch was great and the game looked amazing and I can’t wait to play it. He let me take the prototype home with me. This is new territory for me, but it’s awesome. I’d be so excited to publish a game by Jon and Ian.

So that was my Fan Expo experience. It was the second con that I’ve been invited to as a guest, but the first where they flew me out and paid for my hotel. Here’s hoping I get invited back next year and that they keep growing their board game presence.

-Jay Cormier