The Gathering of Friends 2016 – Bamboozle Brother Summary

The Gathering of Friends is always my favourite week of the year (ok, with the exception of the week I got married this year!), and this year was as fun and productive as usual. Here’s a summary of the shenanigans that the Bamboozle Brothers got up to over the last 10 days.

Pitching new games

We pitched fewer games than usual this year, mostly because we’ve been busy working on licensed games. We still managed to meet with a bunch of publishers.

Filosofia: We showed them 9 Thieves and a set of three games set in the Arabian Nights stories, each designed by different designers. They liked 9 Thieves and gave us an idea to improve it, which we did for our next pitch.

Wizkids: Right before the Gathering a contract expired for Rock, Paper, Wizards, a game that another publisher had of ours, which meant that it was back on the market. Zev from Wizkids remembered liking it last year, so after a round of playing the game again Zev wanted the game! He had an idea that seemed like it would break the game, but the underlining issue he was trying to solve was a valid issue. This was a game we co-designed with Josh Cappel (yes, THAT Josh Cappel – the artist for Belfort!) and Josh had a brainstorm that solved the issue even better and made everyone happy! Huzzah!

I also pitched to Zev a game I designed with non-Sen designer, Shad Miller, called Skirmishes. He really liked that one and asked to have a copy to evaluate.

Zev from Wizkids examines Skirmishes

Zev from Wizkids examines Skirmishes!

Stronghold: I showed Stephen Skirmishes because I thought it was something he’d be interested in – and he liked it and said it was very clever, but he already had a battle game coming out this year.

USA-opoly: I wouldn’t have thought to pitch anything to him based on the games that they’ve made. I had the fortune of sitting beside Tony from USA-opoly on a 2 hour bus ride to Toronto to visit Snakes and Lattes and see the Blue Jays game. Seems like they are trying to publish their own games and the timing is perfect! I showed him some games and he seemed intrigued, but none of our current games seemed to match what he was looking for. 

Huch & Friends: I always enjoy pitching to Britta and Benjamin as they are very nice, fun and professional. They are also the fastest publishers to respond to an email in my experience so far! We showed them our games and she ended up liking two of the Arabian Nights games, one of them being our Aladdin game. Yay! They have also had our Herdables game for a coulee years and think they might want to publish that one too…so fingers crossed!

North Star: it was more of a lengthy conversation than a pitch as we chatted about where they’re at and where they want to go with their business. It was great to learn where they’re going and what they’re looking for in the near future. Could turn Into something exciting!

Pretzel Games: Well this is a first – we pitched a game to a publisher that we never play tested. Not only that, but we didn’t even have a prototype! Whaaa? We were told by Martin that he was looking for some outdoor games, so Sen and I came up with an idea for an outdoor game, but we didn’t want to put time and resources into making the game if the concept wasn’t even interesting to Martin. After our pitch we brainstormed some more on some production challenges and he ended up liking it and wanted us to proceed to the prototype stage! Sweet.

Matagot: Stefan is pretty new with Matagot so he is still trying to understand what they’re looking for, but he liked Skirmishes and wants me to take a picture of the game fully set up so he can show it to his team.

Indie Card and Board: This was an impromptu pitch when I saw Travis walking around, not looking busy. He had seen me playing/pitching our word game, Chainables in a restaurant with Tony from USA-opoly and had commented that it looked cool. I figured that it wasn’t the kind of game that Indie would publish but thought he’d like to play a game. He did, and enjoyed the game (not to publish it tho!), and then I transitioned that into a pitch for 9 Thieves. He seemed to like it and gave us a couple of great ideas to tweak it. So yay for improvements at least.

Promoting Games

Sen and I had 2 games that we were asked to help promote while at the Gathering this year, Junk Art and Godfather: A New Don. 

Junk Art is the second game from Pretzel Games, with the first being the hit from last year, Flick ‘Em Up. Junk Art involves 15 wooden pieces in 4 different colours for a total of 60 wooden pieces. There’s a deck of cards with each piece having its own card. There are many ways to play the game, but mostly you’re challenging players with cards to place those pieces onto their own base, trying to get points for placement or for having the tallest structure. 

Matt Leacock (designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Island) is amazed by his own creation!

Matt Leacock (designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Island) is amazed by his own creation!

IMG_4283

Willaim Attia (designer of Callus and Spyrium) trying Junk Art!

IMG_4291

Josh Cappel (designer of Wasabi and artist for Belfort) trying some outlandish moves.

IMG_4309

Some great reactions after a piece is added to a structure! They’re playing the Montreal variant which has players inheriting the structure that they were just passing cards to in the previous round. This mode causes the most insane structures!

IMG_4320

Travis from Indie Card & Board calling to order his own copy of Junk Art (I can only assume that’s what he was doing). This mode was called Gujarat where each player takes all the pieces of one colour.

IMG_4339

Eric Lang staring contemplatively at his winning structure while playing the Monaco variant.

IMG_4347

Phil Walker-Harding is trying to compete for tallest structure in the Home Town variant. This is considered to be the main game and has a lot of strategy!

IMG_4368

Mike Gray – the man who brought Bausack to America and called it Bandu, plays Junk Art!

The game seemed like a big hit at the Gathering this year with the game being played multiple times per day by different game groups. I heard Tom Vasel and Zee Garcia played it for about an hour one day too! Junk art is being released at GenCon. You can check out a trailer for the game here:

Godfather: A New Don is published by IDW Games and was air shipped to the Gathering. It was a final art prototype, meaning that the quality of the components were not final (and some pieces were hijacked from other games!). I got to get this game played at least 4 times during the con and everyone seemed to really like how streamlined the game is. If you like dice rolling and area majority, then we have a game for you! Add to the mix that players have to offer dice to the Godfather every round, the ability to muscle other players out of your neighbourhood and the fact that you can invest in Vegas and you’ll find it pretty difficult to not talk like mafia and quote the movie while you play it!

IMG_4308 IMG_4353 IMG_4356

Meetings with publishers

We spent some time not pitching – but business stuff!

We spent a couple hours at least with Martin from Pretzel Games discussing and brainstorming the first expansion to Junk Art. The game isn’t out yet but they believe in it so much that they want to have an expansion ready ASAP. It was maybe my favourite part of the whole week as 2 designers and a publisher brainstormed through game play and publishing challenges to figure out how to make our cool ideas come to life. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about it!

We had a lunch meeting with Mercury Games and talked about the two games of ours that they have in the pipeline, Zombie Slam and What’s That. Both require an app to play the game, and they have recently hired an app developer (another Game Artisan of Canada!). So we talked through the timing as well as the future of Mercury.

Playtesting 

We wanted to get a lot of play testing of our games with other people done at the Gathering – and we did!

Powers (a game based on the comic, coming out later this year form IDW Games) was played twice. The first game had Matt Leacock as a player but the game broke down and made us realize the importance of the set up. We got some great feedback though and we tweaked it for another playtest later in the week. The second test was better but still messy. We have ideas on how to clean it up and continue simplifying while still ensuring there’s a challenge for players who’ve played it a bunch.

Godzilla (a game coming out from Toy Vault) was played numerous times, and three times by me. All the games were great, but it’s obvious that the Godzilla deck is not well constructed, so we have to change which cards are in the deck. Easy fix!

Skirmishes (by Shad and me) got played by Sen and me before we left for the Gathering and it made me change one big thing in the game that makes the game easier to comprehend the first time playing. 

But Wait There’s Even More (a game from Toy Vault). The first print run has sold out, but instead of just reprinting, we’re thinking of printing a new box, full of 100% new content. This way, existing fans can buy it – but newcomers can buy it as well! We tested all the new phrases and got to tweak a few of them as well as a new rule for this edition!

IMG_4348

Phil Walker-Harding (designer of Sushi Go and Cacao) pitches some crazy product to the rest of us!

I got to playtest other designers’ games as well, like Matt Leacock’s new family co-op game, Mike Kolross’s G-Men, Phil Walker-Harding’s Spy Craft, Mike Gray’s Water God, Josh Cappel’s Dead Run, Al Leduc’s Dogs on the Bed, and probably a few more that I can’t recall.

Played games

I did find some time to play some games as well while I was there! 

Codenames Pictures: This was a no-brainer. Take the hit party game Codenames, but replace the words with images. The images are all kind of weird too – which makes it interesting. This will play better when you have friends that have different native languages.

IMG_4289

Karuba: a fun and light game that’s like Take it Easy with a theme. Played this one a couple times.IMG_4303

Team Play: a nice light partner based card game where each player has a goal of the cards they need to collect in order to score points. Players can draw cards as well as pass cards to their partner. Pretty fun and easy.

Colony: Kind of like Machi Koro but has a bit too much downtime between turns. I heard it’s great with 2 players – and it would probably get better with repeat plays.

IMG_4296

Ulm: I played this last year as well, and it should be coming out this year from Huch & Friends. I really like it and look forward to playing it again.

Ulm!

Tichu: I partnered up with Stefan Brunelle and we beat Zev and Ignacy’s wife, Merry. Love this game. 

Strike: Weird that this is a published game…it’s just a bunch of dice and a plastic mold inside the box that you roll them in. Super random obviously but fun for 4 minutes I guess.

Rollers: this one was a fun game but it just lasted way too long for us. We thought it was over but then we realized that it’s the player to get 5 points first…so the game continued. 

Adrenaline: A cool PvP game that emulates a first person shooter in tight quarters – but it does so with no dice rolling. It has a bit AP, but I thought it was very neat!

IMG_4317

Wonky: a neat idea for a small balancing game. Not sure how much replayability it would have though.

Broom Service: a neat idea about being cowardly or brave…though it can be punishing.

IMG_4324

Broom Service in action!

Designed

Sen and I didn’t have as much time as we thought we would, mostly because he had to leave for 4 days in the middle to go back to work. Boo! But we ironed out quite a few things in the car ride there and back at least!

Josh Cappel had an idea for a game while at the Gathering and asked me for help trying to turn it into a game. We made some good progress on it and we’ll continue working on it together.

Other shenanigans

As mentioned before, 40 of us got on a bus and rode into Toronto to hang out at Snakes and Lattes and then to the baseball game. I’m a huge Blue Jays fan so this was exciting! I was surrounded by Germans and Australians who had never seen a baseball game…ever! So I was able to help them throughout the game with some rules explanations.

The Skydome ...uh I mean, Rogers Centre!

The Skydome …uh I mean, Rogers Centre!

IMG_4333

Getting ready for the game to start!

IMG_4329

The CN Tower…obligatory photo.

All the rooms had fridges and microwaves this year so we did a grocery run when we first got there which was my breakfast and lunch every day. For dinner I had a lot of yummy Indian food as there are many options close to the hotel. We did our annual walk over to the Canadian side to have dinner at a nice wood oven pizza place. We had around 18 of us this year, with numerous designers and publishers. On another night, eight of us drove into Buffalo to eat some great meat at Dinosaur. We were well fed.

We had our largest turnout for our annual soccer game, organized every year by Richard Bethany. This year we each had a sub plus a full team of 6 on each side (half field- hey we’re old!). One of my favourite activities every year.

soccer-gathering

The final ceremony started with a humourous magic act and then quickly proceeded to the prizes! Everyone that donates something, like a game to the prize table, goes into a draw and gets to take something from the prize table. It’s not just games though…there were numerous hand made options like meeple pillows, hand painted miniatures for popular games, handmade gaming quilt – plus some super hard to find games like Indonesia and Antiquity. I managed to snag Super Motherlode because it’s from Roxley Games…and they’re just awesome (they’re doing a Kickstarter for Santorini that end soon). 

That’s it in a rather large nutshell. Even though the atmosphere is casual and relaxed it never feels like there’s enough time to do everything. Maybe it should happen twice a year?:-)

Jay Cormier

Sent from my iPad

The Gathering Approacheth

Gaming heaven starts later this week at a hotel in Niagara Falls, Buffalo. The Gathering is in its 26th year I believe and is full of 400 of the nicest gamers you’ll ever meet. The event is an invite-only kind of affair, and I feel damned lucky to be on the invite list!

In addition to playing numerous games for 10 days (yes, the event lasts for 10 days!!!), I get to hang out with other designers while we playtest each others’ games. This is a fantastic opportunity to get some fresh eyes on games that have only been played in our playtest groups.

Finally, and possibly the most exciting aspect about the Gathering is that there will be publishers there! This has been the best event to pitch games at because everyone is way more relaxed. It’s great to actually chat and get to know the publisher…hey – they’re people too you know!:-)

This year Sen and I are not pitching as many games. This past year we’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few publishers ask us to make specific games for them, so that’s been keeping us busy. That said, here’s my plan for the week:

junkartShowcase upcoming game of ours called Junk Art from Pretzel Games. The publisher will be there and we’ll have some copies of the game to show off and see if we can generate some interest in it!

Showcase upcoming game of ours called The Godfather: A New Don from IDW Games. The publisher will not be there, but they are providing us with a final art prototype to showcase for those interested in giving it a whirl!

Playtest:

  • Powers: A game based on the comic, coming from IDW that we think is pretty solid – but would be great to have some new people try it.
  • Godzilla: A 2 player card battling game coming from Toy Vault. This game has made huge improvements over the last year and we’re now ready for more people to try it out.
  • Mystery of Mister E: A deduction game that is being assessed by a publisher right now. We want to get some ideas on a better graphic layout to make the game easier to grok!
  • But Wait There’s Even More: We are planning on releasing a stand-alone sequel to But Wait There’s More with 100% brand new content. We’d like to play a few rounds throughout the week to ensure our new assortment of phrases work as good as the first version.

Sen and I will also spend some time together working on some new designs – which is always exciting! Now that I don’t travel back to Ontario that frequently for my job, Sen and I have a lot less time together throughout the year, so this week is especially important. Hopefully we’ll figure out a direction for Belfort: The Dice Game as well as some Top Secret projects that we’re super stoked about.

Finally – we’ll be pitching these games:

  • Law of the Jungle: Some publishers saw this game last year when it was called Lion’s Share – but the game has changed so drastically that we want to show it again.
  • Chainables: It’s been hard for this clever word making game to find a publisher…but maybe some day!
  • Arabian Nights: This is a cool concept where we’ve partnered with 2 other designers and we each made a game set in the Arabian Nights world. The concept is that you can play any of these 3 games on its own – or you can play them in succession, and depending on the order you play them in, objects from the previous game will show up in the subsequent games! The three games are Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba.
  • 9 Thieves: A 2-5 player betting and deduction game about moving thieves around a ballroom to steal loot, while avoiding the gaze of the guards. Bet on which thief will steal the most money!
  • Skirmishes: A game I designed with another designer named Shad Miller. In it you play a war chief who must give orders to 3 different battles all happening at the same time. It’s a tight game of playing efficiently and it has a lot of room for growth.
  • Burning Rubber: A game Sen designed with another designer where you impact the odds of specific cars in a race – where the race is an actual race of ‘beads’ running down a track. Very visual!

I’ll post updates as I can throughout the week! Unless I’m too buy having fun.

-Jay Cormier

 

Gamers are liking Orphan Black: The Card Game!

orphanblackcoverReviews are continually rolling in for our new game, Orphan Black: The Card Game. This one is from a reviewer on the boardgamegeek website. He loved the game and gave it a solid 8/10. Here are a few things he mentioned:

 

This is a fun game that’s really quite unlike anything that I’ve played before

Orphan Black the Card Game is a very unique and innovative card game

The game itself is really quite unusual but fun with several mechanics used in it.

I really enjoy the deduction and hidden roles aspect of the game.

Thanks for the review Jonathan Nelson!

-Jay Cormier

Godfather: A New Don Press Release

Here we go people! Our new game, Godfather: A New Don has a press release! With it we’re unveiling the box art – which is pretty spiffy. Even spiffier is the board art, done by map artist extraordinaire, Ron Guyatt! Check that out below the press release.

IDW GAMES RELEASING BIG BOX GODFATHER BOARD GAME THIS SUMMER!
THERE’S A NEW DON IN TOWN, AND IT COULD BE YOU

San Diego, CA (March 16th, 2016) Control the streets of New York and bring power to your family in this summer’s The Godfather: A New Don. Designed by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim (Orphan Black, Belfort), The Godfather: A New Don is a game for 3-6 players that sees each player taking control of one of the major mafia families, each trying to assert their power in the streets of 1950’s New York in hopes of taking the reigns as the new kingpin of the criminal world. The game is playable in approximately 45 minutes.

“I’m excited that we created an area control game that uses dice in a unique way! It’s accessible for inexperienced gamers but deep enough to please the serious gamers!” said Jay Cormier.

“We’ve come up with a special blend of strategy and negotiation mixed with just the right amount of luck to capture the feeling of the crime families vying for control of New York. I really enjoyed tying the facets of the film into the game’s mechanisms,” added Sen-Foong Lim.

The Godfather: A New Don is an area control board game with unique dice mechanics. Each round players will roll their individual pools of dice and decide what area of the city they’ll want to focus on trying to capture. Meanwhile, the current Don will be able to make players an offer they can’t refuse and steal dice from their limited supply. Staying on top proves difficult as every stolen die moves other players up the ladder toward taking over as Don, so the tension rises with each shake of the dice. With multiple ways to use each dice you roll, players will never find themselves at the mercy of the die, instead they’ll use what they roll to make their opponents beg for mercy.

To learn more about the game and to sign up to be notified for updates about this and other titles visit http://idwgames.com “like” facebook.com/idwgames and follow @idwgames.

Godfather Board Final (3-4)-2.jpg

-Jay Cormier

Infinite Board Game Review

Here’s more of an overview of a new game/book called The Infinite Board Game. It’s a re-release of the Piecepack system, which is a specific set of components that can be used to play…well…an infinite amount of board games. I created a game with a friend of mine, Don Kirkby and we submitted it for inclusion in the book – and it was chosen! Our game is called Cream of the Crop and the rules for it can be found under the FREE GAMES tab here on this site!

In the meantime – here’s Tom Vasel’s overview of the whole thing. While it’s not his cup of tea, he does think that it will tickle many people’s fancy!

-Jay Cormier

Another Great Review of Orphan Black: The Card Game

Joel Eddy from Drive Thru Reviews has posted a video review of our new game, Orphan Black: The Card Game – and he loved it! This game has had a very slow launch, but with Tom Vasel giving it the Dice Tower Approved stamp and now Drive Thru giving it a positive review – here’s hoping the game gets onto more gamers’ tables!

A few of the things that stood out for me in the review:

“We have had a ball with this game!”

“It’s got an interesting way of approaching social deduction. It feels like a Werewolf or Resistance style of game but with a little bit more to it.”

“If you like the show, I think you’ll really get a kick out of this. I would get this if you’re a big fan of the show.”

“I would recommend this across the board, regardless if you’ve seen the show.”

-Jay Cormier

Orphan Black: The Card Game is Dice Tower Approved!

orphanblackcoverWell this is certainly some good news! Tom Vasel from the Dice Tower has just posted his overview of the rules as well as his thoughts on our new game, Orphan Black: The Card Game…and (spoiler)…he liked it!!! It’s Dice Tower approved!

Some things I liked specifically were:

“The game offers a unique experience that you won’t find in any other game.”

“I’m sure if you enjoy Orphan Black you’re going to enjoy it, but even if you don’t it’s an entertaining game.”

Thanks Tom for the kind words!

-Jay Cormier

Orphan Black game finally arrives!

orphanblackcover

Sen and I were asked awhile ago if we could make a social deduction game based on the Orphan Black license by IDW Games. We were honoured to be asked to do so as we were both fans of the show.

The first few versions of the game just didn’t work. For the longest time we just kind of thought that a social deduction game that involves clones should be about the players trying to figure out which clone is which. This allowed players to play the part of one of the clones, which we also thought was important.

After about 9 or 10 alpha prototypes (alpha meaning starting almost from scratch and changing the game enough that it’s entirely a different game), we realized that it wasn’t working. We also realized that the show isn’t about clones trying to figure out who’s who…at all! Once in awhile one clone will get dressed up as another clone – but that’s about it!

So we changed gears and figured out that the game had to be about control of the clones. In the show there are 3 factions that want control (or freedom) of the clones: The Black (they just want freedom), Neolutionist (they want to control clones) and Proletheans (they want to kill clones) – over-simplifying, but it worked as a foundation for our design.

So now we have players playing as one of these factions, and trying to coerce the clones to come to their faction – but trying to do it without others knowing which faction you were in! Now THIS is feeling more like an Orphan Black episode!!

We got through the alpha phase and made our way through the beta phase, tweaking and balancing various abilities and rules. We were even able to add in many of the non-clone characters into the game as well. So fans of the show will be able to play with Fee, Delphine, Paul and more.

So now the game is out! We’re seeing stores post online that it’s in stock all over the place – and that’s exciting! We’re looking forward to our first game based on an license to be played by fans of the license! Please let us know your thoughts – or let us know where you’ve seen the game for sale!!

I’ve seen it in my local game store here in Vancouver – at Magic Stronghold. I saw The Uncommons in NYC post that they just got it in stock. It should be popping up everywhere!

To tide you over, you can listen to the CloneCast podcast where they play the game with some stars from the show! Pretty cool – too bad it’s only audio!!

-Jay Cormier

 

 

Stop Playtesting!

If you’re a game designer, then you know playtesting is important. We talk about the importance of platesters in Step 11. Today I want to tell everyone how important it is to STOP playtesting!

Ok, Ok – it’s a bit click-baity, but here’s what I mean: when you’re playtesting it’s important to know when to stop and move to feedback.

powers-testI’ve seen (and been a part of) too many playtests where the game is broken but there is an unspoken need to play until the end. I believe this is because we’re all gamers and we all still want to win the game! It’s important to remember when playtesting, that while your actions should lead you towards a winning strategy, whether you win or lose should not matter at all.

I assume we’ve all been there before – we’re making our way through a playtest and find that there’s an obvious strategy, or that one player has an insurmountable lead, or that one choice is never used and therefore a whole aspect of the game isn’t explored. In these situations the designer should recognize that they will not get any more valuable feedback if the game were to continue. Stop the game right there and move to feedback.

If you have enough information on what you need to do next with your game, then there’s no need to keep playing. I’ve found myself asking this out loud to some designers when I feel like I’ve explored as much of the game as I can – “Do you have enough information from this test?” Gently implying that I am done and ready to move onto providing feedback.

And you shouldn’t stop playtests only for games that are broken! If the entire group has playtested the game before and you’re testing one new idea or concept – you can play long enough to see if that idea or concept works. Sometimes you only need to play 1/4 or 1/2 of the game to determine if the new idea works or not.

That said, there are times where you need to playtest the game end condition of course – so those games do need to be played until the end. Players might need to experience the end game scoring to see how their decisions impacted their score before they’re able to give feedback. Even if you start the game with the intention of testing the end game condition, and the game breaks down midway – then you should stop playtesting and move to feedback. You can even let people know that this is the last round before scoring – so they can see how they were doing so far.

The bottom line is that when you have playtesters ready to test your game, then cherish that time and use it as wisely as you can! It’s much better to get 2-3 tests in one sitting rather than one long test. If your game is broken and it can be tweaked with a rule amendment or by taking a pen to some of your components, then do that and set it up and play it again! That will be a much better use of your time – and of your playtesters’ time.

What do you think? Is it important to playtest to the end? How long do you spend playtesting one game before moving to feedback?

-Jay Cormier

But Wait There’s More…reviews!

butwaitboxTwo new reviews have popped up for our new party game, But Wait There’s More! We’re loving seeing these reviews and seeing that people are enjoying the game and getting a lot of laughs out of it!

The first is a written review by The Daily Worker Placement blog. Some key highlights:

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that gamers are going to like this game.”

“I don’t get a lot of party games to the table, but BWTM will be filling that role for a while.”

The second is a video review from the Board Game Family with a unique format. Some key highlights:

“I think it’s a really fun game”

“I would rate it a 4.75”

Thanks for the reviews everyone!!

-Jay Cormier