BGG.con Bound!

I’ve been busy preparing for BGG.con that I haven’t had any time to update the blog!  BGG.con, for those not in the know is the Boardgamegeek’s annual convention of board gamery!  Boardgamegeek, for those not in the know is the main website for all things board games.

For the last 5 days, my game design partner, Sen was in town!  We worked straight through and saw nary a sunbeam – and that’s not just because I live in Vancouver.  We tweaked a few of our games in preparation for our first playtest night on Thursday night.  We had a couple of the Game Artisans of Canada come over to help us playtest our games.

We played RuneMasters, which Z-Man Games has expressed interest in seeing (how did they express interest in this you ask?  I’ll go into details about how to contact publishers in an upcoming post!).  It’s still in Alpha – possibly late-Alpha phase of game development, which means that we don’t necessarily know all the rules yet but we have some mechanics down and a prototype made (actually the 5th version printed already!).  They helped us come up with a new system for how to do the battles that makes it more interesting to play.

We played Akrotiri and it was fun, but not very involving.  We were trying a new idea for how to find Atlantis – and while everyone liked it, the game lacked some tension.  Some brainstorming led us to some minor tweaks on how to fix it.

We also played a couple rounds of But Wait There’s More – our new party game that we’re really excited about – and we came up with the best way to do the scoring – which was the only thing we were struggling with.

Then Sen and I worked all day Friday and Saturday, tweaking these games in preparation for our next playtest night on Saturday night.  We had 2 of our favourite playtesters come over and we played these games all over again.

First up was Lost for Words – our word making game that word game fans really love.  We were just struggling with the scoring (which in this game is what motivates your entire turn) – and we came up with some great ideas.  Since then we’ve tweaked it and tried it again and it works perfectly!

Akrotiri – what can I say buy Wow!  This was the best this game has ever been.  It was the perfect balance of tension and interaction.  Players were stealing resources from each other, taking islands before others and paying each other for their map cards.  We are extremely excited about this game.

RuneMasters worked a lot better but one of our playtesters came up with a great idea – which means another printing of the prototype – but it was worth it!  We played it again the next day and it was great.  Simpler but still interesting and unique.  It’s still in Beta stage but it’s at least ready to show publishers as long as they know it’s in that stage.

But Wait There’s More – this is the funniest game we’ve ever made.  I love this game.  I can’t wait to show some publishers.

So overall – a great 5 days with Sen!  I’m heading out tomorrow to Dallas for the convention – and to hold in my hands my first board game ever published – Train of Thought!  I’ll try to update the blog with some thoughts throughout the con so keep checking back.  Wish me luck! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

Jam Slam rules Requested by Publisher

Just got word that Gamewright is requesting to see the rules to our Jam Slam game.

This is how it happened.  About 4 years ago, Sen and I invented a game called Jungle Jam (which I’ve written about a couple times already in this blog).  It’s been to see a few publishers already, and has undergone some improvements over the years.  Currently it is in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition and is a semi-finalist.  This is when we found out that the name “Jungle Jam” had been taken by another game and was entangled in some sort of legal dispute with a game called Jungle Speed.  Not to be confused with that game, we changed the title of our game to Jam Slam.  We’re expecting to find out any day now if it made it to the finals!

Concurrently to this, I’ve been invited to participate in a group called the Game Artisans of Canada – a group of game designers whose goal is to work together to provide the world better games and help each other out whenever possible.  Rob, one of the members heard that Gamewright was looking for quality submissions of games that were easy to learn and played in less than 30 minutes.  That described our Jam Slam to a tee!

Rob sent them a quick pitch to them about our game and they just expressed interest to see the rules for the game.  If they like the rules for the game then they’ll ask for a prototype in a few weeks.  One step at a time!

Special call out to Rob from Game Artisans of Canada for the heads up and the connection!

-Jay Cormier

There’s a few really cool things about this “day in our lives” as game designers. It shows:

a) That no matter how old a game is, a good design is timeless. Keeping old designs on the back burner, but ready for showing is critical. We usually only keep the latest physical version of a prototype for space reasons (and to limit our confusion!), but always have the older versions as files on the computer if something we did before is beneficial. If you know your game intimately, you should be able to parlay an older design into something good when an opportunity arises. Jay’s use of “Night of the Dragon” concepts for another game is a good example of a game that was sitting doing nothing on the back burner (we actually have a forum called “The Back Burner” where we stick all of our games that are on hiatus) being used for the good of all mankind by being transformed into a game that is forthcoming for the Piece Pack called “Cream of the Crop”.

b) Versatility is an asset, because you never know when a publisher will say “Well, we like what you’ve just shown us, but we’re really interested in a card game…” If all you make is hardcore gamer games, you might miss out on some things. Of course, don’t make kids games if you don’t like making them, but versatility pays off – that’s all I’m saying.

c) Making games that are not tied to a theme, but can be rethemed easily is a good idea if possible. The name change was minor and it doesn’t change a thing at all about the game, but if it had to be done, “Jungle Jam” (now “Jam Slam!”) could be rethemed to almost anything because of it’s simple mechanics. It has a really good base for being used with a licensed character. Imagine Dora or Diego telling you “I need 3 red grapes!”

d) The Chinese (in the case of Jay and me, I’m talking about me) have the same word for crisis and opportunity – Crisi-tunity. Seriously though, it is said that luck is equal parts opportunity and preparedness. In this case, opportunity presented itself through a colleague telling us about Gamewright and we were able to take advantage because we were prepared – we have sell sheets ready, our prototypes usually ready to ship, and our rules done up for blind playing. In this case, because we have the two prototypes of “Jam Slam” out already for the competition as Jay mentioned, we’ll have to make another copy. But usually, we’re on top of that now that we’ve had a few publishers ask us for multiple copies of a game at once, etc.

e) Collaboration extends past Jay and myself. Now that we’re really delving deeper into the game design/production industry, we’re finding gold at every turn! Through our relationship with Tasty Minstrel Games, we worked with Gavan Brown, the graphic designer for “Train of Thought”. That wonderful working relationship turned into Jay being invited to work with the Game Artisans of Canada. They’ve already been immensely helpful in playing our prototypes and giving awesome, no-holds barred feedback for improving our games. And then, as icing on the cake, they’ve been super great with things like this! Opening up doors for us on several levels – they’ve already helped up get consideration from Amigo Spiel (a well-known German publisher) and now GameWright. How awesome is that? I can only hope that Jay and I can reciprocate in kind!

-Sen-Foong Lim