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

 

 

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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

Bamboozle Brother Update and More Love for Belfort AND Train of Thought!

It’s been a fun couple of weeks for the Bamboozle Brothers. Let’s review what we can. I do like to be as transparent as possible, but I also don’t want to put the cart before the horse and speak about something before there is a signed contract.

  1. At The Gathering, Filosofia expressed interest in publishing EIEI-O but with a different title. We’re still awaiting final word and a contract on this one.
  2. I showed our game, But Wait There’s More at the Gathering and a publisher has expressed interest in publishing it! We’ve been emailing back and forth contract-type requests with percentage breakdowns for royalties, so this one is looking pretty promising. We’re expecting an actual contract within a week or two.
  3. A publisher emailed us that they would like to publish Swashbucklers, but since the time we gave it to them and now, Swashbucklers has undergone a few tweaks that has made the game even better. The publisher has yet to play the new tweaks and so we’re still waiting for a contract from them as well.
  4. Akrotiri is getting some love from a publisher, and we’re close to getting a contract on this one as well. The caveat to this one is that the publisher wants to publish it as a 2-player only game. Sen and I talked about it and decided that we were ok with this. Since it is a tile laying game that can be prone to analysis paralysis when played by the wrong players, they wanted to put the game in the best possible spotlight, and a 2-player only game was the way to do it. We should hear back from them within a week or two on their final decision.
  5. Belfort second printing is due to hit shores this month along with a small promo package of 3 new guilds (sold separately). After being hard to find for a few months, it will be great to see this back on the shelves.
  6. Sen and I have finished the Belfort Expansion! It is now in the hands of the developer and will soon be heading to the wonderfully talented Josh Cappel to make some more of his lovely art! We’re ridiculously excited for our very first expansion!
  7. We are working with a German publisher to bring Belfort to Germany! Contracts are currently being figured out to have a German language version of the game. That will be very cool to see.
  8. We did get a few rejections recently. Hans Im Gluck decided to pass on Bermuda Triangle – but provided us some great feedback that was specific to the game. This showed us that they played the game and that for the reasons they stated decided it was not a game for them at this time. Sen and I will re-evaluate the game to see if we want to listen to their feedback and change it – or submit it to another publisher who might be more open to the concept.
  9. Clunatics and Lost for Words were ‘kind of’ rejected by Pegasus Spiele. I say ‘kind of’ because they said they didn’t have enough time to localize (translate everything to German) to play the prototype. They said if we did then they’d be happy to test it. We decided to ask for it back from them for the time being and see if we can figure out a way to localize it. Either that – or submit it to another publisher that isn’t concerned about localization.
  10. We got a new written review for Belfort from Shut Up & Sit Down
  11. We got a new video rules review for Train of Thought from the Marbles Store.
  12. We got a great new video review of Train of Thought from Board to Death where they rated it a 9 out of 10!

So it’s been a fun few weeks for Sen and I! We will keep you all posted on what’s what. Once contracts are signed then we can give you the scoop on who’s publishing what. We still have a few more steps to go on our master series as well!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 4 – Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games

I had a 10 A.M. meeting set up with Filosofia and Z-Man Games so I got there in and set up Akrotiri with time to spare.  As some of our more faithful readers might recall, Z-Man has had Akrotiri for a while now, but with the acquisition of Z-Man by Filosofia, Sen and I felt they might need more time to figure things out.  We had heard that they played it, liked it, and needed more time with it.

We played a 5 player game with Zev, Sophie, JF and Martin – all from Filosofia – plus Rob Bartel (one of our GAC colleagues). This wasn’t a typical pitch because they knew the game as they had all played it; this was more of a confirmation of their desire to publish it or not. There were also a few new concepts and mechanics added to the game since some of them had played it last, so I wanted to highlight those changes for them first-hand.

Overall, the playthrough went well.  We learned that there was too much downtime for a 5 player game so it will be a 2-4 player game if they do pick it up.  We also learned that getting new goal cards was too expensive and added an unnecessary level of thinking to the game.  We brainstormed some ideas on the spot and came up with a great solution – giving players free goal cards after finding their 2nd and 4th temple.

JF really seemed to like Akrotiri and proposed we play it again with fewer players to playtest this new rule and consider its effect on downtime.  Zev and Sophie had another meeting to go to, so JF and I quickly set up a 2-player game.  The new idea worked beautifully! The game took less than 45 minutes to complete and it was great to receive new goal cards throughout the game!

We packed up Akrotiri and moved on to EIEI-O. Now, here`s an interesting story about the power of social networking!  Dylan Kirk (designer of Genji and fellow GAC member) is a friend of Joyce Lam –  owner of the Chinese game publisher, Jolly Thinkers (which is also a gaming cafe).  Dylan recommended that she check out Train of Thought as a possible import, as Jolly Thinkers specializes in educational games and he thought the game might have potential for ESL students.  Since both Joyce and I went to Essen last year, we arranged to meet up while we were there.  I showed her Train of Thought, which she enjoyed and took a copy back with her to China. She tested it there and found that it didn`t work as well as planned, unfortunately. No biggie.

Months later, Joyce emailed me and asked if we had a nice-looking prototype that we`d like to get professionally printed as she knew someone who was starting up a boardgame printing company that wanted to have a portfolio of some designs. Sen and I thought about it and decided to submit EIEI-O – our is a quick reaction game of making barnyard sounds and wacky animal actions.  When the final product came off the presses, Joyce sent us a picture of the game in it’s printed glory – it looked great!  So, being proud of our brainchild, Sen and I posted the picture on Facebook – like any other loving parent would!

Here’s where Filosofia comes in.  Sophie is Facebook friends with Sen – he`s working on another game (Midnight Men) with Yves Tourigny that has been signed by Filosofia.  So when she saw the photo, she commented that she would like to see the game sometime – pretty wild!

And now back to the Gathering.

Luckily, I received our nice, shiny copy of EIEI-O exactly one day prior to me leaving for the Gathering – talk about timing!  JF was keen to play so we gathered a few other people to take it for a whirl. It was quick and fun.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it. As we were finishing up, Sophie came back to the table so we played the game again! She brought Matthias from Abacuspiele with her to play.

After just one round of playing, Sophie said that she`d “like to do it”.  Double entendre aside, I still had to ask for clarification, querying if that meant we were moving towards a contract.

She said yes!

WOW!

Not only that, but Matthias liked it as well.  Sophie asked if he`d like to do the German version of the game. They asked for another prototype, but I only had the one!  So she asked me to send her the files as they have access to a print-on demand service that can produce short runs. She said she`ll make a few more copies and send one to Matthias to assess.

WOW!

Second day at the Gathering and we actually got a game signed!  The only issue was that they want a different title for the game. Apparently, EIEI-O doesn’t translate well in German! Sophie made a bet with me that whoever comes up with the title gets a free meal from the other person at the next Gathering!  I jokingly pointed out that she has final say on the title so the contest seemed a bit fixed.  She replied that she was trying to bamboozle me. It was a funny moment as she had only recently learned what “bamboozle” means!

Sophie then asked how the second game of Akrotiri went and JF was very enthusiastic about it. I asked Sophie what the next steps for Akrotiri would be. She said that she’d like to play it as a 2-player game one more time when she gets back to work and she’d let us know in 2 weeks. She asked if we’d be open to making this a 2-player only game. I said we were open to it, but it works perfectly well as a 2- to 4-player game. So, we’ll see what she decides. We’re hoping to keep it 2-4 players.

The Filosofia crew were evaluating a few other designs from an American designer, Chris Handy (who I went to see Cabin in the Woods the night before), and they asked if I could stick around to play his prototypes. Of course I could! Apparently, Z-Man has had one of Chris’s designs for quite a while and were using the Gathering as an opportunity to come to a decision (much like they did with Akrotiri).

The first game, Heist, was a tactile game in which players reach into a bag to feel for specific shapes, depending on which room they entered. It was a fun idea, despite some challenges.  When broke for lunch at TGIF, Chris, JF and I brainstormed about how to improve the game. We came up with some more ideas on how to speed up the game and make it more of a fun party game. One aspect this process reminded me of how rigid Sen and I were originally in regards to changing the scoring for Clunatics – Chris really wanted the card that determined which room each player wanted to enter to be revealed one at a time. Once we determined that the amount of strategy that process added didn’t really fit well with the type of game Heist was shaping up to be, we decided a simultaneous reveal would be much better.  A few more tweaks were added and we tried this new version of Heist – it was awesome! As we finished one round, we saw Zev walking around and got him to play a second one with us now that we tweaked the rules. The game couldn’t have went any better! It was fun, engaging and tense.

In addition to Heist, we also worked on another game by Chris called Wild Wild West. We fiddled around with the rules on that one too and made some progress in the right direction (in my opinion at least!). I think it was good for JF and Sophie to see how collaborative I was during this whole process. I tried to ensure for my entire time at the Gathering that it wasn’t all about our designs.

Afterwards, I showed them Junkyard and Eat at Joe’s. JF liked Eat at Joe’s and thought that it would be a better fit with a publisher like Gamewright. Then we played Junkyard.  I informed them that Wiggles 3D had exclusivity until June 1st. JF expressed a lot of interest in Junkyard and asked a few times to let him know if Wiggles 3D passes on it. It’s reassuring to have multiple options for our games!

Finally, I asked JF if he’d be interested in seeing a game of ours that is currently in Alpha state. I had brought Box Office (crappy title!) more to play with other designers to get some input on which direction we should take the game.  I had played it earlier with Rob and got some great ideas about where to go next but I decided not to waste this opportunity with JF, because he’s a movie nut like me. I showed him the concepts and some of the mechanics we came up with and JF was impressed. He said he would definitely want to see this game once we get it polished!

Wow – that was unexpected!  To have a publisher want to look at a game that we haven’t even finished yet? Coolsville!

We were hungry so we walked over to Canada to find something to eat. It was nice to get some fresh air, see Niagara Falls, and eat something that wasn’t from TGIF!  At dinner I got to hear the whole story from Chris Handy about how he got into game design.  We realized that our passion for game design very similar. Later on, I invited him to join the Game Artisans of Canada. Even though he is American, he can join as a Friend and still get a benefit from the group.

Then, looking at the clock, I realized that the day was now over and I had spent the entire day with Filosofia – what a great day!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 4: The Publishers

While Sen shared with you the overview of which publishers expressed interest in which games – I thought I’d expand on it a bit and give you some more details about what exactly went down!

We pitched to many publishers and while no contracts were signed and no promises made, we have a lot of exciting prospects that we’re looking forward to in the next few months.

Kosmos: They liked Swashbucklers, EIEI-O and Train of Thought. Since I had an extra copy of rules, I gave them the rules to EIEI-O. I had no idea how big Kosmos was as I only knew them as the publisher of some great 2 player games. Apparently board games are only about a third of their business with books and science kits/toys making up the rest. It would certainly be a boon to be published by Kosmos!

Update: They have the rules to EIEI-O and have emailed us to let us know that they are reviewing it. We should know in a couple months whether they are interested or not. They also asked Tasty Minstrel Games for a copy of Train of Thought to review.

Pegasus Spiel: They really liked Swashbucklers and commented that their Roll Through the Ages was successful and they could see the same success for Swashbucklers! They also liked all our party games: Train of Thought, Clunatics and Lost for Words. Pegasus is new to the party game genre with Pictomania being released this year, so they might have to wait to see if it works out for them. If it does they said that Clunatics will be a bit challenging to localize (as that game involves common North American idioms) but it’s nothing that a quick Google search couldn’t help! Pegasus is huge in Europe and would be fantastic if we could get a game in with them.

Update: I’ve sent an email to them to see if they’re interested in Lost for Words and am awaiting a response.

Huch & Friends: They liked Clunatics and would like a prototype of it. For them, Swashbucklers was too in the middle as Huch prefers games that are either lighter or heavier! They were interested in taking a look at Belfort and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel. They also were interested in Bermuda Triangle and have asked for the rules to be emailed to them. Done and done. A prototype for Clunatics has being sent off to them as well.

Update: They have received Clunatics and told us that mid-November is when they are playtesting all the submitted prototypes. They let us know that we should expect some feedback by end of November!

Quined: Quined had our prototype of Akrotiri before Essen and had played it a couple times already. They said they were still fascinated by it but had a few concerns or questions about it. Sen and I agreed with their comments and so we spent a few weeks before Essen coming up with and playtesting ideas that could improve the game. We believe we came up with a winning solution and I now love the game even more than I did before (and it was already my favourite game of ours!). Not only did it fix the issues they expressed, but it also reduced the playtime down to 60 minutes for a 4 player game! That’s gold! So I had some time with Quined and got to take them through all the changes. We didn’t really get to play it, but they at least got a verbal explanation. I left them the new prototype and will follow up in a couple months.

Update: There has been email communication since Essen, but mostly just a confirmation that they have the prototype and plan on playing it soon. I imagine their plates are quite full with the release of Alba Longa!

Queen: I also was at Essen to pitch a game from fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Matt Musselman. I had played his wine-making game, Bordeaux many times and have always liked it, so I let him know that I’d be happy to pitch it to publishers since he wasn’t going to Essen this year. Normally this would mean I’d be entering Agent status, but since Matt is a friend I told him that if he sets up the meetings, then I’ll attend them and pitch his game without worrying about being an Agent. Matt set up a meeting with Queen and Alea and Queen was my first of the meetings.
I started with the Sales Sheet – as Matt followed our advice and made up a pretty swanky Sales Sheet. After a few moments he wanted to play it so I bust it out and set it up. After one round I recommended we play one more as that would really help showcase the other aspects of the game. Once we finished that round the publisher just kept playing, so we kept playing. We were joined by another rep from the publisher and we kept playing as we explained what was happening. We ended up playing the entire game! This seemed to be very atypical to me as I had never had more than 5-10 minutes for a game! They had some concerns but were interested in checking out the game further. As an FYI – the publisher and I tied at the end, and I couldn’t remember the tie-breaker. Regardless, that’s a great way to end the game since we both had different paths to victory.

I asked if they had time to look at a game or two from me and they said they had another 15 minutes or so. I first showed them Belfort and they expressed interest in checking it out and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel Games to figure out the next steps. We played a couple rounds of Swashbucklers and they seemed to really like it with the publisher stating that it was “great.” It was funny because on the first round I rolled Cannons and attacked one of the publishers and stole his treasure, then later in the round, the other publisher rolled Swords and attacked him and stole a treasure too. I was worried that he would feel ganged up on, but he realized that he failed to defend himself and left himself open to the attacks! They were really quite enthusiastic about it! I still had some more meetings with other publishers so I said I’d be back near the end of the Fair and they said that was cool.

After evaluating all the publishers that wanted Swashbucklers, Sen and I felt that Queen would be the best fit, and it helped that they were the most enthusiastic about it as well.
When I returned to their booth on Saturday, I asked a random Queen staff member if my contact was around and he asked if I had an appointment. I said that I did yesterday and that I was here to drop off a prototype. This random rep asked me, “Is it Swashbucklers?” Imagine my surprise! How the heck did he know about Swashbucklers? He said that the guys I met told him all about it. Wow – that’s a good sign! I met up with my contacts and let them know that many publishers expressed interest in Swashbucklers but that we thought that Queen was the best fit and that we really appreciated the enthusiasm they had. They both seemed genuinely thankful that I chose to bring the game to them. I’m really excited about Queen publishing Swachbucklers! Here’s hoping that their playtest sessions go well in the next few months!

Update: We received an email from Queen stating that Swashbucklers has made it through one round of playtesting! If it makes it through the next round, then they said they will publish it!! Exciting!

Alea: Started with a Bordeaux demo as it was Matt who set up the meeting. Started with the Sales Sheet and then reviewed the gameplay by giving an overview of the mechanics with pieces I pulled out of the baggie. He was interested in checking it out further!
We had some time so I asked if he would be interested in seeing some games from Sen and I, and he said he was. I showed him Train of Thought and played a couple rounds with him. He was intrigued and he took 10 cards or so to show his colleagues. He also liked Lost for Words, Clunatics and EIEI-O and took the Sales Sheets for each with him.
After confirming which publisher Matt would prefer to hand over the prototype of Bordeaux to, he said Alea and so I returned the following day to drop it off (Tip: Always give it directly to the person you had your pitch session with and not with a random rep from the publisher. I waited 15 minutes outside the ‘office/room’ to make contact with this specific person).

Update: Got a message from Alea that said they will be testing Bordeaux further, but they weren’t interested in our other games at this time.

Jolly Thinkers: This is a new publisher in China with an interesting back story. They started as a board game café and then grew and grew. They became so popular that 4 other board game cafés opened nearby. These competitors actually used Jolly Thinkers as a distributor for the games they wanted. Now Jolly Thinkers wants to get into publishing games! Gavan Brown and I met with them as I pitched Train of Thought and Gavan pitched Jab. They were really nice people and seemed to really dig both games. We played a round of Train of Thought and then we let them play a round of Jab. After playing Jab they asked us to play it so they could watch how it’s supposed to go. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played in a long time. Regardless, we played and I actually beat Gavan at his own game! Wee! It was fun and I think it really showcased the game well as I was focused on combos and Gavan was focused more on haymakers. They took a copy of each with them.

Update: No real update. Waiting for email response.

Hans Im Gluck: One of the publishers that I didn’t have a specific time slot scheduled for was with Hans Im Gluck. They said in their email that they were pretty booked up but I should stop by and see if they can squeeze me in. I did stop by and we found a time to meet up. This entire pitch session was done just with Sales Sheets as the publisher preferred it that way. He liked Bordeaux, Bermuda Triangle and Swashbucklers. We would love to partner with Hans Im Gluck and so I handed over Bermuda Triangle right away and gave them sales sheets for the other two.

Update: No real update on this one yet.

Needless to say, we had an amazing Fair with regards to our publisher meetings. Each publisher we met expressed some interest in at least one of our games and that’s a good feeling. We still have a long road ahead for each of these games, but at the very least, putting a face to the name, and having a name to follow up with is a huge, huge benefit! Stay tuned to this blog for updates as we get them about any of our upcoming games.

Coming up next: Part 5 of the Adventures in Essen series in which I review all the best practices for a designer at Essen. If you’re a designer and planning to go next year – then bookmark the page so you can come back to it next year!

-Jay Cormier

Essen 2011 Roundup

Sorry I didn’t do up-to-the-minute updates as Jay sent me frantic encrypted e-mails letting me know what was going on at Spiel ’11.  I was pretty sick over the last few days, so it was all I could do to decode them, read them, cheer weakly, eat the paper I transcribed the message on to, and then go back to bed!

We had several prototypes to show and are also looking for European partners for co-publication of Belfort and Train of Thought.  Here’s a recap of what happened at Essen for the Bamboozle Brothers:

Jay met with:

Kosmos, who liked Swashbucklers, were interested in co-publishing ToT and took the rules for EIEIO
Pegasus, who expressed strong interest in Swashbucklers and were also interested in Clunatics, ToT, and Lost For Words (depending on how their initial venture into party games goes with Pictomania).
Huch & Friends, who want to check out Clunatics, would like the rules for Bermuda Triangle, and copies of Belfort and ToT to evaluate as European releases.
Quined, who are evaluating Akrotiri – Jay gave them the updates they requested in terms of “spicing it up” so now they are going to playtest with the new additions we’ve made
PSI, who told Jay that Belfort has been sold in Europe (English copies, of course – but it’s a start!)
Queen, who Jay met with on behalf of our friend and fellow Game Artisan, Matt Musselman, to pitch Matt’s Bordeaux to them. They enjoyed Bordeaux and then Jay had time to show them our games – they loved Belfort and requested a copy for evaluation. Jay also showed them Swashbucklers and they were very excited by it. They requested a prototype of it as soon as possible. Jay gave them the prototype immediately after the convention.
Alea liked Bordeaux as well, and this company is Matt’s first choice. There wasn’t a ton of time, so Jay was only able to show our party games to Alea. Now, you might be thinking, “Alea doesn’t do party games!” and you’d be right. But what they can do is link us up with other publishers that do! They liked ToT, Clunatics and Lost For Words and took several sell sheets for these and EIEIO as well, saying that they’d show them to their colleagues. Nothing like getting a plug from one of the most respected publishers in the biz…
Hans im Gluck, who liked Swashbucklers and Bermuda Triangle. As Swashbucklers was slated for Queen, Bermuda Triangle went home with HiG – spread the love! HiG also really liked Bordeaux – go, Matt, go! Also of note: HiG was very positive about our sell sheets, so that’s a sign that it’s something we should all have on our “to do” lists. It’s one of the last things Jay and I do, but one that we spend a lot of time on, despite it seeming so simple.
Jolly Thinkers, who are a Chinese publisher – they were interested in Train of Thought prior to Essen so we took this opportunity to meet face to face and hand over a copy for evaluation.
Jay also had a meeting with Gamewright, who currently have Jam Slam, but I’m not sure what transpired in the meeting. Jay’s probably so burnt out on games that he’s sleeping right now. 😀

Design Tip: Constraints are Good

About 3 years ago I mentioned to Sen that I thought it would be a cool idea if we came up with a super small game that we could include in a letter to publishers as a ‘free’ gift when submitting other games.  For some reason I thought this would be really neat and make us stand out.  I set to work on a tile placement game about trying to have more of your houses in a neighbourhood than your opponent.  I managed to get the game down to 25 tiles.  I made a small little matchbox-like package for it and viola – we had a really cool pocket game! (I’m glossing over the fact that it took more than a few stabs at the game until we got it to its final state).

Hot Property Game Design

Hot Property: our first game using our self-imposed 25 tile limit

Once that was done, I was feeling pretty motivated about how we got a Euro-style game to fit within 25 tiles.  It got me thinking and I remember for one 5 hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver, I brainstormed all the different genres of games and then tried to see if I could come up with a way to make it using only 25 tiles.  At the end of that flight I had ideas for 11 games!

The benefit of reducing an entire game into 25 tiles, is that you’re forced to eliminate anything extraneous which ensures the cleanest and simplest of rules. Some of these games that we made were pretty minor and didn’t have much fun to them, but others had a gem of an idea in it that were not only fun but enabled us to turn them into bigger full-fledged games.

Belfort, our game that is coming out early next year, started as a game that had only 25 tiles.  Hard to believe when you see the final game that it started out as only 25 tiles! Some tiles were used to track how many resources each player had (by rotating the tile so that a specific number was facing up), and the other tiles were buildings that players could build.  The first time I played it with Sen, I was excited to show him how we were able to get a resource management game to fit within 25 tiles!

As soon as Sen finished playing it he said that he really liked it, but that it begged to be a bigger game!  We spent the rest of the weekend turning it into the first prototype of the game that was to eventually be known as Belfort (it was called Castletown back then!).

Other smaller, 25-tile games we have made that we eventually turned into larger games have been Akrotiri – a pick up and deliver game, and Lost for Words – a word search/creation game.  Both of these games are almost ready to be shown to publishers right now.  There’s even a couple more games (EIEIO – a quick reflex party game and This Town Aint Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – and area majority game) that we’re thinking of converting to bigger games as well.

This was just our way of motivating our creativity, but you could use other constraints as well.  Try making a game using only dice and face cards from a deck of cards; or a game using only a checkerboard and 10 custom cards; or a game using coloured cubes and a piece of paper…you get the idea.  Try to make the most basic game using only a couple basic items and you might find yourself with either some new ideas or a really interesting concept for a bigger game.

-Jay Cormier

I am, by nature, an extremely divergent thinker. This is really just a polite term for “tangential”, or, as my wife would say, “focus-challenged”. Personally, I prefer “free-thinker”. I’m the kind of guy who has what could be only be termed as “chronic creative diarrhea”, constantly coming up with idea after idea after idea. I spend a lot of time coming up with all the cool things that could possibly work together in the game, invariably ending up with a mashed-up monstrosity, and then I have to spend even MORE time cleaning up the mess I’ve made of what had started out as an interesting game.

Enter self-imposed constraints. By placing limits on ourselves, Jay and I can steer clear of thematic traps more easily (i.e. adding something for the sake of making the game fit a specific theme better), minimize cost of fabrication, and reduce the time from it takes to get a game from a “brain fart” to the prototype stage.

This last point is the most important to me, as I am admittedly the kind of designer who would spend eternity tweaking things in my mind before ever committing anything to a physical format if you let me. But by saying “Hey! We’ve reached the 25 cards limit – time to print and cut!”, we can get to the most crucial part of the game design process faster playtesting. While I am good at recognizing strengths and flaws in game systems in my head, I can’t account for everything once the number of variables gets unwieldy and I can’t account for how different personalities will interact with the game. The physical components themselves can also change how a game is played. And to realize that, the game has to be made a reality.

These small games are simple by nature so they the rules are quick to teach and easy to pick up. The set up time is minimal and the games themselves take only minutes to play at the most, so many rounds of play can be racked up in a short timespan. Thus, we can accumulate valuable data on actual playtesting by other playtesters. Jay and I are then in a better position to analyze the game as opposed to doing all of the guess work in our heads. This allows us to prioritize which ideas need to be expanded up immediately, which worked but can sit and wait, and which are never to be heard of again (except, for some reason, on this blog…).

Of course, this design ethic doesn’t work for every game and not every game we make starts off this way. Some games aren’t going to fit within 25 cards straight from conception. “Train of Thought” and “But Wait, There’s More”, both word-based party games, were designed without the 25-card limitation because, really, how fun would a word game be with only 25 different words available to use?

We’re currently designing a trick-taking game called “Lions Share”. We’ve limited ourselves to 55/110 or 60/120 cards in this case. Those limits are actual real-world constraints we’re using to ensure that publishers will look at the game without production reservations. The maximum number of cards that can be made on a single sheet of stock of standard dimensions is 55 by Imperial measurements or 60 by the Metric system. Going over those limits will actually affect the bottom line for the publishers, so having 60 cards in a game can be more appealing to many of them than needing 68 cards, even if the 68-card version is a better game. Using non-standard card sizes is costly as well as a custom die needs to be created. So, whenever possible, stick to 55 or 60 cards in a deck (or multiples thereof).

We’re also trying to solely use cards for “Lions Share”. This constraint was put on in response to the fact that a lot of publishers are requesting card games. As a game design team that is not looking to self-publish, we’ve got to cater to more than just the game players – we need to ensure that the publishers like what they see from a fiscal standpoint as well as the gameplay. So we want to design games that they want to publish. The cheaper a game is to produce, the more likely a publisher is to take a good long look at it.
If, for some reason, we desperately need chits or dice or some other component it’s not a deal breaker as these are self-imposed limits. But we’d like to try to remain true to our limitations as we see a need for a game of this variety in our portfolio.

Working with these constraints for some time now has shown me that there is still complexity in simplicity. Simple games are much more elegant than the bloated systems we sometimes see in some overblown games on the market. The old adage is true, sometimes – less can be more.

It’s an odd fact to try to wrap your mind around but constraints can actually be liberating. Whether it’s trying to keep a theme intact or trying to only use a specific type or number of components, limits allow you to declutter your mind and work only within a space that you’ve defined, free from having to think about anything outside your scope. It seems counter-intuitive to think that limiting creativity is a good thing, but I challenge you to give it a try. Limits can actually force you to be more creative in order to solve problems in very different ways. Having no constraints on your design process can leave you in a position of analysis paralysis where everything seems possible but you are unable to take the game from concept to a playable format. So, if you choose to place constraints upon your game design process, the world may no longer be your oyster. But I’ll bet that you find you come up with some real pearls.

-Sen-Foong Lim