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

 

Gathering of Friends 2014 Review: Part 4

Our fourth post on all the pitches we had with publishers at this year’s Gathering of Friends! You can read the previous posts here:

Gathering of Friends in review Part 1- ZMan/Filosofia

Gathering of Friends in review Part 2 – Days of Wonder, Ystari, Abacusspiele, R&R Games, Zoch

Gathering of Friends in review Part 3 – Huch & Friends, Toy Vault, Mercury Games, Think Fun

iEllo

LOGOIELLOWe met with Stephan from iEllo and we were surprised that he liked the first game that we started pitching to him: Chainables. We actually hadn’t pitched this to many other publishers because we had brought it last year and found that a language game wasn’t a top priority with a lot of the German publishers! But Stephan really liked it and wants us to submit a Print and Play to his partner to try it. Of our other games, Stephan really liked What’s That and Zombie Slam. When we were pitching What’s That, he was nodding and getting the idea of the game – but then when I said the last part of the pitch – that everyone has to work together and figure out the commonality between everything – he lit up and said, “I want it! Let’s play – but I want it!” That felt good! He also liked Herdables and said if we could make it play up to 4 players then we should submit it.

We also played Ignotus with him and he was digging it right up until the end. The game had players getting rid of tokens – but the endgame proved to be a bit of a letdown as one player could have 1 token left and no one could do anything to stop it. He had liked it up until that point and then had to pass on that one. He did want to take Chainables, Zombie Slam and What’s That though – so…win!

Afterwards I was sitting with Sen and Josh Cappel and asked them to help me figure out how to fix Ignotus. As we were playing Josh was not really liking it because he doesn’t like deduction games. His thought is “you either 100% know it or you 100% don’t know it” and so he wasn’t too interested in the game. We persisted and Josh almost flippantly said that the game would be better if we could bluff. Hmmm –that’s interesting. We immediately tried it and it worked awesomely! Now it wasn’t about getting rid of your tokens but by gaining points – which you could only get if you guessed someone’s Goal Card. I met up with Think Fun and Huch & Friends again to let them know about the changes and they were both happy with the new direction for the game! It’s amazing to me that some of our games got interest from publishers – then we changed them while we were at the event and had to re-pitch them! I am way more confident with both Ignotus and Lions Share because of the changes we made though!

Repos

repos_prod_logoOur final meeting was with Cedrick from Repos. We kept seeing him while he was playing a game (like the 7 Wonders expansion, Babel) and we almost never met up. Fortunately we caught him on the last night he was there as he was heading back to his room for the night – lucky!! The only game we showed him was What’s That. We had shown him this game last year but we worked all year to improve the App and eventually it became so late that we decided to re-pitch it to him. We asked him if Repos had any ability to make apps and he whipped out his iPad and showed us the 7 Wonders App that is launching soon. It looked pretty damned amazing. We were convinced that they could do this game!! He left with his continued interest in the game and since the Gathering we have set him up with the App and are anxiously waiting their thoughts on the game once they playtest it in their offices.

So that’s it! A whirlwind of 10 days! Here’s a summary of the games we brought and the interest we got from publishers:

What’s That: Repos, iEllo, Mercury

Lions Share: Huch & Friends, Hans Im Gluck

Zombie Slam: iEllo, Mercury, Huch & Friends, Zoch

Rock Paper Wizards: Z-Man/Filosofia, Stonghold Games

Herdables: Huch & Friends, iEllo, Days of Wonder told us to connect with Blue Orange

Chainables: iEllo

Pig Goes Moo: Zoch

Ignotus: Think Fun, Huch & Friends, Abacusspiele

Towers of Nakh: Boo – no interest for this one. Weird – I thought this one would have appealed. We’re going to see if we can simplify it more, but I think it was a pass for most because of trying to think in 3D space was hard for many. I think there’s a publisher out there for this though!

That’s it for all of our pitches, but I have one more post about what else we did at the Gathering: play games! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

 

 

More picks!  This time I think there’s only 1 of a publisher rep though…Stephan Brissaud from iELLO (pronounced “Yellow”, if you were wondering).  Here he is playing Ignotus.

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Jay and I played this iELLO game, Phantom Society – oddly, a logic/deduction game as well, with William Attia and Martin Ethier.  They played the ghosts and they CRUSHED us.

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We also met the owner of Funagain.com during that pitch.  He was looking to establish a fulfillment service specifically for small publishers that ran Kickstarter campaigns.  Maybe we’ll here more about that in the future!  No pic, though…

After all our pitching was done, we got to play a lot of other games, including the following:

Coconuts from Mayday (monkey-shaped catapults fling coconuts into cups)

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Machi Koro from Pandasaurus (Setminion or Dotters of Catan – whatever you choose to call it, it’s awesome)

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And of course, some Tichu from AbacusSpiel.  Here’s Jay’s best hand of the game – a straight from 2 to the Ace that he got to play after I played the dog in the first play of the hand.

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We played the prototype Prime Time, designed by our friend, Gil Hova (Prolix, Battle Merchants).  Canadian ex-pat Greg Daigle (Hawaii) joined us in as well.
IMG_0852 And those of our fellow Game Artisans of Canada, Martin Ethier, Michael “Call me Max” Xuereb and Al Leduc (FrankenDie).   IMG_0871

 

Can’t hardly wait until next year!

~Sen-Foong Lim

 

 

Working hard in preparation for this year’s Gathering of Friends

gof_logo1We haven’t posted in awhile – mostly because the weeks leading up to Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is full of testing and prototype re-making! If you’re not familiar with the Gathering of Friends, then read this article here as it explains my experience from last year!

So what are we doing to prepare? Well, I’m glad I asked..! We have some new games that we’re working on that have never been pitched before:

Herdables: This is a Bejeweled type game in which you’re trying to get three animals of the same kind in a row. The nice twist to this one is that you must place your 2 animals each turn adjacent to a third animal – each of which is drawn at the end of your turn – which means you can always see how your opponent could play, and alter your move accordingly. A cool 2-player game!

Firefly – With a Cool Subtitle: We were told by Toy Vault last year that they have the license for Firefly games and said they’d look at any Firefly games we pitched them. So we’re not ones to leave a request like that lying around! We came up with a really cool Advanced Incan Gold type of a game – where you have to escape back to Serenity before it’s too late. You don’t control any one character but instead are controlling the story of the characters as they go on missions to collect credits and battle the Alliance! Looking forward to seeing Toy Vault’s reaction to this one!

Zombie Slam: Well some publishers have seen this one…kind of! We had a game called Jam Slam that has been to many publishers – but it was deemed too old for a kid’s game and too young-feeling for an adult game. So what do we do? Slap a zombie theme on it and make it a full on adult game! But in doing so we’ve found many more things to do with the game that align with the theme.

What’s That?: This is a party game that uses an app! We partnered with Stefan Alexander to create the app, and then as a full partner in designing the game. It’s such a cool idea for a game! We showed it to Repos Production last year and they liked it – but we’ve never been happy enough with the app to send it to them…but we are now! I think this one will be exciting!

On top of these three new games we have some others that have seen publishers before but haven’t been picked up yet. Not sure if there will be any new publishers there this year that haven’t seen these – but I might as well bring them!

Chainables – a cool word making game with 2 decks of cards.

Lions Share – an interesting card game about sharing cards that you’ve won.

EI-EI-O – almost got signed last year – but the publisher backed out when they saw another game coming out that had animals and sound effects in it (even though the games are different).

Also I have partnered with another designer for the first time and we’ve got a really cool 3-dimensional tower building game called the Towers of Nakh. I love how it plays and it always draws a crowd because it looks so interesting while you’re playing it.

Finally, I have my first solo project that I hope to have ready. It’s called Ignotus (which is latin for Unknown) and it’s about figuring out a player’s secret goal, which trying to achieve your own.

So we’ll be busy again this year – but I mean that in a good way! I love going to the Gathering and hanging out with other designers, playtesting their games and having them playtest our games – as well as meeting publishers in such a relaxed and casual way. I’ll post more after the event. Wish us luck!!

-Jay Cormier

 

Gathering: Pitching to Hasbro!

Hasbro_logo_newAs we were wrapping up our pitch session with ThinkFun, Tanya asked us if we had pitched to Hasbro yet. Uh….no…! Our understanding of Hasbro was that you can’t just be a Joe Schmoe and walk up to Hasbro and start pitching. We knew that Mike Gray, the main person who looks at pitches from designers, was at the Gathering – and we had actually had a fun run-in with him earlier in the week:

Sen and I were walking down the hall, checking out what people were playing, and we passed by the Snakes and Lattes team. We know them because we had our Belfort launch party there – and because Sen goes there for designer night. We said hi and they said “Hi Sen and Jay!” At that point, another person said, “Oh that’s Sen and Jay?” He asked us to come over to the table and said to Mike Gray, who was sitting beside him – at the same table as the Snakes and Lattes gang and said, “Hey Mike, this is Sen and Jay!”

At which point Mike stood up, stuck out his hand and said with all sincerity, “I want to thank you guys for Belfort. I was the first kid on the block to have it and I love it.” Wow! That was really cool. We talked about the expansion a bit – since it was launching on Kickstarter the following week – and then bid farewell.

So we say to Tanya that normal shlubs aren’t allowed to pitch to Hasbro and she says, “oh right.” But then goes on to say that she’s friends with Mike and that he should see our stuff. Um….OK! She calls out to Mike, who was nearby and after some figuring out, Mike agrees to see our games! He even mentioned, right in front of us that he usually never sees people he doesn’t know – but since we came with recommendations from Tanya – he allowed it! Cool!

The pitch with Hasbro was great, and while I can’t share everything that was said in that meeting as we signed an agreement before we started talking – it was super informative for both of us. He started off by saying that it was like we were aiming at a target. He hoped that today we would at least hit the board somewhere. Then, after hearing what he has to say that we would see him again next year and that we would be closer to the target. Cool analogy!

Mike shared with us the different demographics and markets that Hasbro is currently looking for ideas. It was a very interesting conversation that revealed that sometimes you don’t even need a full on prototype. If it involves a mechanism that moves in some way – that you could show a diagram that explains it. I also found it interesting that at Hasbro they refer to all designers as inventors. To me that means that they see their games closer to being toys than games – but I’m sure it’s just semantics.

l4w-1Then we got to pitch a few of our games. We started with our two word games because we thought that they could possibly be a Scrabble or Boggle spin-off. Lost for Words got his attention and while he thought it was a bit too complicated for the Hasbro audience, he said he knew of someone else who had an app that might want to move into the physical board game space and this might be it. He said he’d put us in contact with him! Nice!

Chainables-LOGOThen we played Chainables – and I was super surprised that we ended up playing an entire game! What?!? This is usually unheard of and has only happened one or two times with me in all my years of pitching board games. I think it’s a testament to the simplicity and fun of the game. Unfortunately it’s hard for Hasbro to bring a game that’s only cards to market. There’s just not enough margin in a card game for Hasbro. Still, it was great to play a full game with Mike!

We showed him Pop Goes the Weasel and it skewed too old for Hasbro as well. He did say something that I don’t think was part of our NDA and that was that Hasbro doesn’t want to publish a party game that just a box full of cards. They want to be able to have a commercial with something in the commercial that people can identify with and see that it’s a unique game with unique pieces. I thought Pop Goes the Weasel would be a better fit than Clunatics (our party game that is a bunch of cards in a box!!).

It was a great pitch session and it looks like we are now on the list to pitch to Hasbro in the future – which is awesome! Up next is our last pitch session with a new and upcoming publisher called Mercury Games.

Previous posts in this series:

  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
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele
  6. Pitching to ThinkFun

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to ThinkFun

Continuing in our series that recounts the experiences we had at this year’s Gathering. Here are the previous posts in this series:

  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
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele

What’s great about the Gathering is that everyone is wearing a name badge. Even better than that, the name badges are colour coded so you can tell if someone is new to the Gathering, a 20 year veteran to the Gathering – or a Publisher! How great is that? At other conventions, the publishers have booths, so it’s pretty easy to know who they are, but their objective at most conventions is to sell games. At the Gathering, their objective is to have some fun playing games – as well as check out some pitches for new games.

This means that you can approach publishers at the Gathering to see if they’re looking at submissions right now. For me, this worked perfectly. I would see a Blue Badge (the colour of publishers) and ask them if they’re looking at prototypes while they’re here at the Gathering. Sometimes they’d be open to seeing pitches right away, while other times they’d schedule me into a time slot on another day. I had a 100% success rate in approaching publishers and getting them to check out my prototypes! I love the Gathering! 🙂

ThinkfunlogoI approached Tanya from ThinkFun in the hall, and having remembered meeting her last year, said hi and asked her if she was looking at prototypes. She brought out her schedule and slotted me in for Friday at 11am. Sweet!

By the time Friday came, Sen was now at the Gathering, so we had maximum Bamboozle Brother effort in effect! This helped with our pitches a lot. I was still the main ‘pitch man’ but Sen helped in organizing and then in the discussions after the pitches. We found that this worked well and we avoided talking over each other this way.

We met up with Tanya and found an open table in the main room to pitch our games. Remember, we didn’t have time (or the files!) to print out any sales sheets, so I had to pitch the old fashioned way – by bringing out each game and showing them one at a time.

carry-onSide note: I had brought this carry-on bag with me to the Gathering that had a long handle and wheels. You know, the kind meant for carrying your laptop and some files? Well, I used this to lug all my prototypes around. I had packed my prototypes into separate baggies or the smallest box I could find. Space is definitely an issue when you’re bringing multiple games to pitch!

I would bring out a game, show her the logo and state the name of the game, then as I was opening it up and removing the necessary pieces (not all the pieces, just enough to show a demo), I would give the elevator pitch. I would explain the concept of the game and why I think it’s unique, or what I like most about the game.

Examples:

SimpliCITY: I really like tile laying games but I hate waiting for each person to play before it’s my turn – mostly because the board changes so much that I will usually just wait and not plan too much until it is my turn. In SimpliCITY, each person is working on their own city, but they are interacting by trying to achieve specific goals before other players.

SOS-ex1

Short Order Showdown: For some reason, I’m really good at quick reaction games. And when we played this one with friends, they liked it but said that they never wanted to play with me again because I always won. So what we did with this game is added a clever catch up mechanic to it that keeps it challenging for all players.

Lions Share: It’s a collecting game, but it has 3 unique features:

  • You play between players, so you’re playing against the player on your left and on your right
  • what you’re allowed to play changes each time a set is collected
  • when you do collect a set, you have to share half the cards with your opponents

And so we pitched game after game to Tanya and she took notes about each one. After we pitched pretty much every game we had to her (we forgot to pitch Top Shelf to her for some reason!), we found that almost 2 hours had passed! Tanya mentioned that most of her pitch sessions last 30 minutes…maaaaybe 60 minutes, so it was a testament to the quality of our games that she kept wanting to hear more pitches!

In the end she liked 4 of our games: Lost for Words, Chainables, EI-EI-O and Pop Goes the Weasel. She asked to have a sales sheet sent to her in the following week. Overall I was ecstatic with our pitch session with Tanya. She shares the same overall objectives as we do – which is that we all should help each other in this small world of game-making because it will only help all of us in the end. I can see a long a fruitful relationship with Tanya as we now have an open door to pitch anything in the future!

Update: We sent her the sales sheets and within a week or so we heard back that while none of the games we showed her were perfect for ThinkFun right now, she’d be open to seeing more from us in the future – which is always good!

Next up…the big one – we pitch to Hasbro!!! You’re not going to want to miss this one.

-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

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, part 4

Logo_AsmodéeOn Monday I had my meeting set up with Stefan at Asmodee. I met him at their office and after grabbing a bit to eat and chatting about the business, we sat down for some game pitching! I was now 3 games lighter since Filiosofia kept Lions Share, Jam Slam and Clunatics, but that still left me with five more games to pitch. I laid out the games and started explaining the games when Stefan jumped in and recommended we play Chainables first as it seemed easy and would allow us to eat while we played.

Chainables: Three of us played this word game and we played enough rounds for them to understand how it played. They liked it but didn’t offer too many more comments – so I cleaned it up and moved onto the next game.

Simplicity: Stefan and I played Simplicity and even finished the game (it is a pretty quick game!). I showed him the expansion that we had designed with it and he asked to hold onto the game for further evaluation. He said he’d probably play it with the expansion as it seemed like a good idea. Cool!

EIEI-O: Stefan had expressed interest at the Gathering but it was with another publisher at that time. It has since been released by the other publisher – so I was able to pitch this game to Asmodee. EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game where you have to make the sounds and actions of common farmyard animals. Stefan got more people from the office to play the game. I decided to stay out of playing the game and just flipped the cards and rolled the die! The game was a huge hit with tons of laughs by everyone involved! Lots of wrong sound effects for the animals and awkward actions. They definitely were interested in this game and are already planning on sending the game to France for evaluation.

Short Order Showdown: We played a few rounds of this, but I did a poor job explaining some of the rules and it caused some confusion. My bad. There certainly was a language barrier – but I do take responsibility in not explaining the rules as well as I should have. That might have been part of the reason why they ended up passing on this game.

l4w-1Lost for Words: Lost for Words is a word-making game that Sen and I made because we didn’t like how slow Scrabble is to play. It’s a fun game for word fans but it fell rather flat with Asmodee, possible because of the language barrier. I wonder if this game will ever find a publisher!? I hope so because the response from word fans is always fantastic!

After this, one person in the office asked to play Chainables again as he found it very interesting. That was a surprise to me! Not that the game isn’t interesting – but that they would be interested in an English word-making game! We played it with 4 players and brainstormed a bit about the cards since they were too big. One person thought it would be better if they were tiles, and placed on a rack just like Scrabble. That’s cool! That would be very slick methinks! They asked to hold onto Chainables for further evaluation. Huzzah!

Stefan had to get ready to head off to BGG.con the next day so I left with only Lost for Words and Short Order Showdown! That means, after these two meetings (Filosofia on Friday and Asmodee on Monday) we had these games being assessed:

Filosofia

  • Junkyard
  • Clunatics
  • Lions Share
  • Jam Slam

Asmodee

  • EI-EI-O
  • SimpliCITY
  • Chainables

A very successful couple of days pitching games! Who knows, it’s very possible that both Filosofia and Asmodee will pass on all these games, but as usual, Sen and I are optimistic about many of these games! Stay tuned to this blog to see what the future will hold for these games!

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 2

On my Montreal trip, my first meeting was with Filosofia. Since I had become friends with JF due to our similar interests outside of the board game world (both of us are big movie nerds!), he invited me to stay with him while I was in Montreal, after my work thing finished up. How nice! I spent Thursday night with him at his place and the next morning we both went into work together. He gave me a tour of their office and warehouse. While it might seem bland for them because they work there all the time, for an outsider it sure was interesting!

There were prototypes in boxes, new imports set up and being played, filing boxes that would normally be pretty boring – but they were each labeled with a different board game name..! It was pretty neat. Then we got to check out the warehouse which is where they distribute all there games from. Rows and rows of boxes of games! There was even a section of games that were open that they use to replenish missing pieces for people that have an incomplete box when they open it up.

The morning was spent playing our prototypes that I brought. I played with JF and Martin, who is responsible for deciding which new games they bring in. I started by laying out all the games – which I had packaged individually into fairly tight white boxes that each had a label of the game’s name on the outside.

I laid out all the games and gave a one-sentence pitch for each game and we all decided to start with SimpliCITY first.

 

 

SimpliCITY: We started with one of our new games, SimpliCITY. This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players. Everything played smoothly but in the end they thought that it was a bit too similar to Carcasonne for their tastes – since they are now the publishers of Carcasonne. Maybe if they didn’t publish Carcasonne they would be interested, but alas they decided to pass on this one.

Lions Share: Next up was our new card game (well, it’s been around for quite awhile in our repetoire, but not in its current iteration – which we both think is the best its ever been!). This game has three interesting aspects to it:

1) that you play between players – so you’re only ever playing with players on either side of you, even though you can affect and impact the other players whenever a trick is taken

2) the criteria that dictates which card you can play where – changes throughout the game

3) When you take a ‘trick’ you get to keep 2 cards but you also must share 2 cards with your opponents

Both Martin and JF really liked Lions Share and asked to keep the game for further evaluation. I told them that the game really shines with 4 or 5 players and they were eager to try the game with more players. Exciting!

Jam Slam: I have a lot of fondness for this game as it started out as a game based on a character I created and perform as: Bertolt the Explorer! We’ve since removed that character from the game, but the gameplay still remains fun and hectic! One player takes the turn being the Jam Chef and he shouts out what specific ingredient he’s looking for – based on looking at the next card in the ingredient deck, and the other players race to slap a face-up card on the table that matches with what was requested. JF took it one step further and actually started to try to trick us when he was the Jam Chef – and that added to the hilarity. Both Martin and JF seemed really impressed with Jam Slam and they asked to hold onto this one for further testing. Huzzah!

Short Order Showdown: Next up was another quick reaction game about trying to flip over tiles and try to add them to your plate such that it matched one of the face-up orders. The game played fine, but they preferred Jam Slam to this one and decided to pass on this one. It’s an interesting lesson in determining the order that you present your games to a publisher. I wonder what would the outcome be if I had showed them Short Order Showdown before Jam Slam?

Clunatics: I didn’t think that Filosofia would be interested in Clunatics since it’s not only a party game – which I didn’t think Filosofia published – but also a English-heavy party game. They seemed interested nevertheless, so I forged ahead and showed them the game. I’m glad I did because they really liked it! It’s a party game in which you can only give the smallest of clues to the other players. On their own, these clues are too small to guess, but when you do 2 or 3 of these clues, then it starts to form a possible answer! They really liked the small clue aspect of the game – and how you’re forced to use specific mini-clues. Martin had a great idea: add movie, book and song titles to the cards! Currently all the cards are just idioms or common phrases. Adding titles is interesting – especially if you can’t tell the other players what category it is before you start!! They wanted to hold onto this one to review further! Yay!

Chainables: I had even lower hopes for Chainables with Filosofia because it’s an English-based spelling game! Still, we played it and it went over really well. They both indicated that they liked it and would like to know when it did finally come out – but would have to pass on it because of the aforementioned reasons. JF used to be a teacher and was fascinated by the teaching possibilities of this game – cool!

Akrotiri: While we haven’t made it 100% official, Filosofia will be publishing our game, Akrotiri for a release in the third quarter next year. We had time before lunch so we set up and played a few rounds with the new quest cards that offer an advanced variant for experienced players. JF was content that it was a solid idea – so we packed up and headed out to lunch. Martin, JF and I were joined by Sophie for lunch and we got to talk ‘shop’ throughout lunch, which was very interesting for me. I won’t go into all the details as I’m not sure what was told to me in confidence and what is public knowledge. Basically it was a lot of discussion around the history of Filosofia and its future. Very interesting indeed!

Junkyard: After lunch the four of us decided to play Junkyard. Filosofia had been assessing Junkyard for some time. They even shipped the prototype off to France to be reviewed by a parter of theirs. The result is that absolutely everyone loves the game. The only issue that’s preventing them from signing this game for publication is the cost.

Junkyard is made up of 12 unique pieces in 4 colours and is currently made out of wood. Expensive to make! We played a couple rounds and they even invited their graphic designer, Philippe to play, in case they did decide to proceed with the game, he might be involved in creating the final shapes or moulds. The games were great and we spent more of our time brainstorming the main challenge. Should it be wood, plastic or some other material. Not only that but we brainstormed other ways to reduce the costs. Maybe we could reduce the size of the pieces by 20%. If the game was made out of plastic – then that’s a big savings.

Another point was that Martin had played the game many times and noticed that with 4 players, they were running out of pieces near the end. While the game could just end when the pieces ran out – it was much more fun to end the game when someone’s tower toppled over. So he requested 3 new pieces from Sen and I. We complied and sent him 3 new pieces. But now this brought the piece count up to 15 in each colour – or 60 total pieces – which is even more expensive! We could reduce that to 14 or maybe even 13 pieces, but then I had an interesting idea to keep the pieces at 12. What if we changed the motivation to build taller – and therefore more precarious? Currently the tallest tower gets a 5 point bonus at the end of the game – but what if we made it 6…or 10? What if we game some points to the player with the 2nd tallest tower? With these attractive points, players might play taller in an effort to get the tallest tower – and therefore the towers would be more wobbly and fall more frequently! Lots of good ideas were thrown around, but the next step is to get some quotes from manufacturers.

We had sent Junkyard on our own to Panda for a quote and I shared with them their numbers – but it was only based on a 2000 unit order. So our next step is to ask them how many units we’d have to make in order to get the retail price between $30-$35. We all set a deadline as the end of February to get as much information as we need.

By this time the day had already come to an end! Man time flies when you’re having fun! Before leaving we set a deadline of the end of February for all the prototypes. That seemed like enough time for them to make a decision. Back at JF’s house later that night, JF and I fiddled around with a game that is in Alpha (See this post) stage currently called Box Office (terrible title – but it’s temporary!). I had shown this game to JF in April at the Gathering. Since he liked movies as much as I did, I thought he’d like the concept. Since April we had tweaked it a bit, but it was still Alpha…though it’s getting closer to Beta! We had some fun with it – but more fun was had with brainstorming the next steps – which I’m very excited about! All in all, a very exciting day of pitching and playing our games with Filosofia! The next day was spent attending something called the Fiesta! More on that in the next post.

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 1

If there was ever proof that building relationships is as important as great game design in the board game industry, then this is it. I had the fortune of attending Alan Moon’s Gathering last April, where I got to meet a lot of publishers in a more relaxed and intimate setting (check out this series of posts about it). I pitched a lot of games to a lot of publishers and made a lot of contacts. Fast forward 6 months and I find myself having to go to Montreal for my real job.

“Hmmm…who do I know in Montreal?” I thought. Of course – Filosofia and Asmodee! I had made friends with JF at Filosofia as well as Stefan at Asmodee while at the Gathering, so I emailed them both letting them know about by upcoming visit. They both agreed to meet up while I was there! Since I knew them fairly well, I didn’t have to follow our own Step 20 – which I normally would if I didn’t have an established relationship with them.

Preparation

Now that we knew I would be meeting with them, Sen and I had some work to do. I had just spent a week with Sen while I was in his neck of the woods for another work thing (remember – I live in Vancouver, Sen lives in London, ON – so it’s not that often that we get to be in the same room!), so we had a couple new games that we wanted to show.

This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players.

This is a word making game in which you have cards with starts of words and cards with ends of words – and you’re trying to match them up.

But, in pure Sen and Jay form we still had all the rules to write up. This is our least favourite part of game design!

Sen took a crack at the first draft, then I would tweak it and add all the graphic examples to make them easier to understand (as we described in Step 15, try to always include as many graphic examples as possible). We were working feverishly during the last two weeks before I had to leave to Montreal. On top of this I also had to re-print some of our prototypes based on some feedback we had in our latest playtests. Nothing that changes the gameplay, but things like making tiles smaller or improving the graphic design aspect.

We got everything done, but we didn’t have enough time to make any sales sheets for any of our new games. I accepted that this would be fine – only because I already had a relationship with both Filosofia and Asmodee, and because I had a meeting setup with just me and them…during a time when they’re not busy and rushing to another meeting with another designer (like at Essen, for example) – so I knew we’d have a bit more time. In the end, it worked out fine, but we’re still devoted to making sales sheets when we meet with publishers that we don’t have a good rapport with yet.

I packed everything up in accordance to Step 21 – everything had its own box that was labeled with the name of the game and our contact info. I opted for small boxes instead of baggies this time as all of our games fit nicely into these small white boxes. I usually hate boxes because they take up so much space, but check out the Solutions store (or the Container Store) as they have some great boxes that suits our purpose perfectly!

I was on my way and ready for some pitching! I had no idea if the games we had would fit with these publishers – but was ecstatic with how it all turned out. Stay tuned for the next post in which I detail how the Filosofia pitch went down!

-Jay Cormier

New Ideas, They Are A Bubblin’!

Jay was in London at my place for the last week and we got a lot of work done.  We were aiming to finish a bunch of games, and we met most of our goals while exceeding some – so time well spent!  We were able to playtest quite robustly with my gaming group, my wife and sons, and our fellow GAC member Daryl Andrews.

Let’s recap:

  1. We tested out some new minor additions (in game goals vs. end game goals) for Akrotiri – a game that has been signed to Filosofia as our first 2p game!  It’s fast, fun, and now has some different challenges and motivations during each turn.  Can’t wait to see this in fully-published format!
  2. We changed the wolves in EIEIO to be on the die instead of card-based.  While this means it’ll come up more often (potentially 1 out of every 6 rolls – do the math!), it is theoretically cleaner than the conundrum that occurred when the cards came out in series.  We haven’t playtested this one yet – there was just so much other stuff to do!  EIEIO was slated for Filosofia as well, but they opted not to sign it, so we’re looking for another home for it.
  3. We changed from 8-sided dice to 6-sided dice for marking words in Lost for Words.  The 8-siders were just too finicky and hard to know what the actual face up number was.  We also worked out some rules stickiness in which there were too many darn ties.  The value of the in game goal cards may also be nerfed from 2 points to 1 so that finding a longer word isn’t as difficult.  I’m really looking forward to playing it again!  Word games are a hard sell, but I’m hopeful this one may break the mold – it’s faster than most and uses some innovative techniques to encourage play.  If it never makes it to a boardgame format, it might make a great app!
  4. Speaking of apps, I had a dream of an app I wanted to make – it was a  word game.  I told Jay about it and, by the next day, he had made a prototype of a card version of my dream game!  That game is now Chainables (working title) – a game in which you are trying to combine 2 syllables into full words.
  5. We worked a bit on Pass the Hat, our game about busking.  Some new changes to be made to all the cards, using a vertical vs. horizontal splaying mechanism.  The scoring seems to work, but we need to make a few more adjustments to make it flow better.  It’s our most “Gamery” game, currently, so we’d like to work on finishing it more.
  6. We played But Wait, There’s More with the Shepherd/Nicell family.  It was great!  We got to try out a few expansion ideas – some which worked amazingly well and some that need tweaking.  It’s such a hilarious game on it’s own, we want to make sure that the level of fun increases with each card drawn/expansion added.  Look for that one on Kickstarter soon!
  7. Jam Slam was tested with no changes just to see if there was anything we did want to change.  We’ve always had scoring chits AND a scoring track included when we send this prototype to a publisher but our playtesters – hands down (no pun intended) – liked the track much better than the chits.  So track it is!  The people have spoken!
  8. We played a lot (I mean a LOT) of one of our new games Simplicity.  It’s really simple (hence the name) and about making a city (hence the name, again).  It’s a tile-laying game in which you pick a tile up and place it down.  That’s all.  There are in game goal cards to achieve and mid/end-game goal cards to cash in on over the course of the game.  It’s so simple, it boggles the mind.  We thought of the game a year ago, almost to the day, and couldn’t put it together.  This time, we said “Let’s just make some cards or tiles and play around with them” and a great game was born!  Is it perfect yet?  Hardly!  We’ve got some ideas to add some variation here and there, but the core game is sold.   A big plus is that my wife LOVES IT, so I will be able to test the heck out of any changes we do make!
  9. One of our personal “holy grails” of gaming would be to make a game about movies, as Jay LOVES movies with a passion.  He’s at VIFF, TIFF, etc. as much as possible.  He had a radio show reviewing movies back in University.  He collects and saves all his ticket stubs and documents who he saw each movie with… okay, we’re getting into OCD territory.  Anyway, we’ve been working away at Box Office, in one shape or another, for years actually.  Now that we’re more seasoned designers, the latest version is actually coming along nicely.  Jay had a brainstorm re: this sliding scale thing…should be really good!  We didn’t playtest this with anyone as it’s really only in Alpha stage and we never want to subject playtesters to games that aren’t at least in their Beta phase.  Unless that game happens to be named The Dig.
  10. On a sad note, we found that Pictionary: The Card Game (a 2009 Dale Yu design) was very very similar to our Hog the Remote (a 2006 Bamboozle Brother design).  We had a bunch of interest in HtR, so it was disappointing to find the similarities.  Carrie had bought Pictionary: The Card Game for her work.  Luckily, I saw it and read the rules.  No one wants to go up against Hasbro.  Not even the fabulous Bamboozle Brothers!
  11. Lions Share was played a lot – we’re changing how play is done so it’s more 7 Wonders-style in that there are areas to play between each player and you only interact with the players to either side of you during the card playing phase.  The sharing of the trick is still super interesting as that’s what allows you to interact with players you can’t normally deal with.  A new scoring mechanism we devised makes team and vs. play much more interesting.  We need to add more cards to accommodate more than 4 players (hopefully up to 6). We’re thinking of adding a Chameleon type animal that can act as any animal and another animal as a suit…not sure which one yet – they’d just be a general animal.
  12. We got to try out Clunatics as well, which was well-received.  We’re just cleaning up the rules a wee bit to reduce scoring issues and keep cards in front of you to a minimum.  I made a mini-dry erase board and stuck a small dry erase marker complete with eraser in the box.  We’re hoping to shop this one around soon to NorthStar games perhaps.  They publish a little game called Wits and Wagers.  You might have heard of it!

Whew!  I *think* that’s it – there may be more that we did!  Thanks to Carrie, Ethan, Eli, Elly, Daryl, Jeff, Vince, Brian, Steven, Jeff, and the whole Shepherd/Nicell family (except you, Sean!) for gaming it up with us over the week and helping us take our games to the next level.  Your feedback was invaluable!

Oh yeah, I’ve started to take stop motion videos of our playtesting session using my iPad, a Makayama Movie Mount, and the iStopMotion app.  Gerry Paquette, another GACer, showed us how he did this at “Cardstockawa” (our annual Ontario grand game design moot) over the summer and I’ve wanted to do this ever since.

Let’s see if this works…

IT WORKS!  Huzzah!
~ Sen-Foong Lim