Gathering: Pitching to Mercury and Wrap Up

Here’s the final post in our lengthy series of pitching to publishers at the Gathering in April. It was an unbelievably amazing time and one of my favourite weeks every year! For previous posts in this series check them out here:

  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
  7. Pitching to Hasbro

Our final pitch of the Gathering was to Mercury Games. Last year Mercury Games was a new kid on the block – having no games published yet. Last year they were looking for their launch title and while I didn’t think any of our games that we had to pitch at that time would fit their bill, there was another game from another designer (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) that I thought would be perfect for them.

I had showed them a sales sheet for a game called Quarantine. They liked the concept and then phoned Mark that same day and asked for the rules. The next day they phoned him again and asked for a prototype. A couple weeks pass and they signed Mark’s game to be their first game! In fact, Quarantine should be available now from your local game store!

QuarantineSo fast forward to this year and the Mercury gang sought me out and said that they’d like to look at what we had to pitch. Mark had contacted them earlier and told them he had a couple new designs and so they were eager to check them out as well as anything else we had to pitch.

The pitch session started that night and then continued the next day! We pitched a bunch of our games and the main game of ours that they liked was Clunatics. They were unsure about the party game space but had a really good time with the session that they are interested in talking with us about it more in the future.

I showed them another Game Artisan of Canada game from Graeme Jahns (designer of Alba Longa) called Iron Horse Bandits. I explained the game to them and walked them through the first round, but then had to leave them. It was the second last day of the event and Sen and I had to type out the rules to Lions Share and Pop Goes the Weasel for the two publishers that wanted them – because, as you might remember, I lost all my files when my computers were stolen.

They came back after playing it and had a good time with it but also some concerns. I’ve shared them with Graeme and he’s already made some changes to the game! They also played Mark’s two games: You’re Fired and Garden Plot. They liked Garden Plot a lot but wanted to see some changes to You’re Fired before seeing it again.

I had a really good time with the Mercury gang. We ended up grabbing dinner together, along with Chris Handy and just hung out and chatted – sometimes about the gaming business and sometimes not. That’s one of my favourite things I love about the Gathering – just chilling with publishers and getting to know each other. We also got to play a full game of Keyflower with Mercury and it ended up being my favourite game of the event!

So that about wraps up our amazing Gathering journey this year! There were many more stories that happened during the week that are worth sharing:

Rob Bartel arrived late this year (last year he and I were tag team buddies in pitching GAC games!) and when he got here I offered to show him the prototypes that we were pitching this year. We found an open table and I started to unpack one of my games. As I was explaining one of my games it caught the attention of Peter Eggert from Eggertspiele. I saw him looking in and so I asked him to come over and have a seat. As soon as he sat down I asked him what kind of games Eggertspiele was looking for. He said he was looking for medium weight Euro-style games that take about an hour to play.

daryl-londonderryI didn’t have any game with me that fit into that requirement, but I asked fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Daryl Andrews if his game, Londonderry, fit into his requirements. Daryl saw that we were talking to Peter and had added himself to the end of the table! Good move! Daryl said that his game fit exactly within his requirements and so we all decided to give it a try. I packed up my proto and we set up Londonderry – which I had yet to play!

We played a full game and much to my surprise it did indeed last exactly an hour. Also to my surprise (no offense to Daryl at all), I loved the game! I told Daryl that besides all of Sen and Jay’s designed games, it was my favourite prototype I’ve ever played. Peter was also very impressed with it and started chatting with Daryl about it. Throughout the rest of the event Peter played it another two times (at least) and was ridiculously interested in it! Awesome!

It was also fun to play games with Vlaada Chvatil (Dungeon Lords designer) and William Attia (Caylus designer). I loved playing Coup with Vlaada and Hanabi with William (I hope Hanabi wins SDJ this year!). I also purchased Chris Handy’s new game from Rio Grande, Cinqe Terre and got to play a game with him and Vlaada! Fun efficiency game!

The entire 10 days was a whirlwind of pitches and gaming. One night at 2am someone asked me if I wanted to play Terrra Mystica. Yes. Yes I did. So 5:30 am rolls around when we finally finished (our sleepiness might have factored into our analysis paralysis!). I felt like I did last year at the Gathering – that this was the most productive 10 days I have spent all year as a game designer. Playtesting our games, getting feedback from other designers or publishers, pitching games and getting publishers interested enough to want to take them back for further assessing – not to mention just the general contact building and friendship making that happens at the Gathering. Amazing.

So now we’re back to tweaking, designing and following up. We should hear back from R&R about Pop Goes the Weasel by the end of June and we need to finalize What’s That for Repos Productions asap! We should also hear back about Lions Share within a month or two from Abacuspiele and we have some tweaks for Rock, Paper, Wizards based on Filosofia’s feedback that we need to continue to test. So the machine continues! I love designing games!

-Jay Cormier

 

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Jay and Sen at the Gathering of Friends 2013, part 1

gof_logo1Another Gathering has come and gone and I am fully exhausted yet giddy with excitement.The Gathering (or more officially:Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends 2013) is an invite-only annual event full of amazing people all wanting to hang out and play some games.What makes this a must-attend event for me as a game designer is the fact that most of the big publishers are there and they are all open to looking at games from designers. To find out more about what the Gathering of Friends is all about, and about my experiences there last year, check out this post.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat makes this different than any other convention? Well, since the Gathering is invite-only, the calibre of people that attend is a bit higher than a convention that is open to the public.The publishers know that they are not going to be hearing a pitch about a Monopoly-clone at the Gathering. Also, I noticed at the Gathering that publishers and designers seem to be more on the same level, while at other conventions I’ve felt that there is a “we’re publishers and you’re designers” kind of vibe.All this means that the Gathering is a very relaxed and informal experience where you not only pitch your games to publishers, but then go to dinner with them afterwards.

This year I was able to pitch games to the following publishers:

  • Asmodee
  • Repos
  • Filosofia / Z-Man Games Abacuspiele
  • R & R Games
  • ThinkFun
  • Hasbro
  • Mercury Games

On top of this I interacted with Rio Grande,Toy Vault, Ystari, Hans Im Gluck, Iello, Czech Games and North Star.

The bottom line is that this event was a successful one for a few reasons.

  1. From all our pitches we ended up leaving one of our prototypes with four different publishers! This doesn’t mean that they’ve agreed to publish it, but it does mean that they liked it and would like to play it with the rest of their team and figure out if it is something that they’d like to do. More on this in the next few posts.
  2. We started a relationship with ThinkFun which seems like a really good fit for many games that Sen and I make. I am positive that this relationship will be very beneficial for all of us, even if they don’t pick up any of our games!
  3. We pitched to Hasbro! This was wild and I’ll go into more details in another post – but this is huge!
  4. Relationships with all publishers continue to improve and I feel like I could call some of them friends – not just business acquaintances.
  5. I got to really hang out with other designers – and just play games with them all week! Get ready for some name-dropping:
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Me (left) and William Attia

William Attia, designer of Caylus: he taught us his new game, Spyrium (which is fantastic) and then we ended up playing a few other games together throughout the week like Enigma.

Stephen Glenn, designer of Balloon Cup: had an interesting conversation with him about the differences between Balloon Cup and the new re-do of that game called Pinata

Me and Vlaada!

Me and Vlaada!

Greg Daigle, designer of Hawaii: had a conversation with him and learned that he is officially Canadian so we invited him to become a member of the Game Artisans of Canada.

Vlaada Chvatil, designer of Galaxy Trucker and Dungeon Lords: I played many games with Vlaada – like Coup (when he says he’s the Captain – believe him!) and Hanabi (super interesting game).

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tollman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tolman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Chris Handy, designer of the new Rio Grande game, Cinque Terre. I sat in on some of Chris’s pitches to publishers and he sat in on some of mine. He’s a good wing man!

Other designers at the Gathering that I met: Kevin Wilson, Matt Tolman, Gavan Brown,Tom Lehman,Al Leduc, Roberta Taylor, Rob…uh, and Alan Moon!!!

In the next few posts I’ll review the details of how the pitch sessions went with each publisher (though we did sign a couple NDAs, so we’ll have to be a bit less transparent than normal).

-Jay Cormier