Belfort Expansion Playtesters Needed

Are you interested in playtesting the upcoming expansion to Belfort? Read on…

Looks like there will be a couple of Belfort expansions coming out this year! The first expansion will be a very small expansion – probably 3 new guilds. It will be super affordable and very accessible. The second one will change things up a bit and add a whole new layer – but actually make the game speed up! Crazy right?!

More good news, we’ve been given the green light to send out the prototype files to people interested in helping us playtest the prototype. There are so many permutations of how this new expansion works as it adds even more dynamic content. Add that to the fact that we have interchangeable guilds and we have a lot of testing to do!

If you are interested then you can send me an email ( and I will send out the files in a week or so.

The expectation if you sign up would be that you do indeed get at least one playtest session in, and that you complete a pretty simple form that will give us feedback about how it went. We couldn’t have any public reviews made about the playtest sessions until we’ve finalized all the rules of course. The file will be simple to print out and play with your existing game of Belfort.

So if you’re interested – send us an email! If you’ve yet to get your copy of Belfort and have wondered if it’s a good game or not…here’s another positive review of the game, this time from a site called Ludocracy!

-Jay Cormier


Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

If you’re a Designer and you’re at Essen, it’s for one of two reasons: You’re there to promote a game that’s launching or you’re there to pitch new games to publishers.

Matt Tolman (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) had his game Undermining, published by Z-Man Games, launch at Essen. He had a few obligations throughout the fair, like demoing the game at the Z-Man booth multiple times and filming a video interview for BGG explaining the game. Even though Belfort just launched as well, our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, was not attending the Fair, so my goal at Essen was to pitch new games to publishers and make as many contacts as possible!

Planning for my trip to Essen started a few weeks before going to the actual Fair.  Sen, following our own advice as indicated in Step 17, used the Spiel ’11 GeekList on Boardgamegeek to create a database of all the publishers that might be interested in one or more of our new games.  He found out the contact information for each of them (sometimes much harder than it would seem, especially in foreign languages), prioritized which ones to contact and determined which of our prototypes should be shown to each based on their current product line or their submission guideline.

I then followed Step 18 and proceeded to email each of them explaining who I was and that I’d like to set up a meeting with them at Essen. Since this blog is all about being transparent and letting you see the entire process, here’s an example of an email I sent off to a prospective publisher:

Dear <Publisher>,

I’m going to be attending Essen this year and would like to arrange a time  to show you some of our new prototypes as noted below. Please respond with your preference.

Sen-Foong Lim and I are members of the Game Artisans of Canada and have designed Train of Thought and Belfort which have both been released this year from Tasty Minstrel Games.

We have a few games that we think would fit well with <Publisher>, and a sales sheet for each one is attached:

Bermuda Triangle: A time-travelling, pick-up and deliver, medium weight, strategy game for 2-4 players. Players program their boat’s movement using a unique mechanic in an effort to rescue more trapped explorers than the other players.

: A dice allocation game for 2-5 players. Players play pirates, rolling and assigning their dice to one of the 5 actions. Once all dice are rolled, players resolve the actions in an effort to get more boats or crew or attack each other with cannons in the sea, or with swords on land. We classify this as a medium-weight filler game.

: A party game for 3 or more people. Players must get any other player to guess a common phrase by providing the smallest of clues. On their own, the clues do not offer enough information, but add a couple more clues and it becomes more clear! A new twist on party games that keeps everyone involved at all times.

Lost for Words
: A word creation game that keeps everyone involved at all times with its unique 3×3 tile of letters. As one tile is flipped face up, players race to find the longest word possible in a straight line. Score is determined by subtracting the value of your word with that of the lowest valued word – so players are motivated to find any word to reduce other players’ scores! Fast and fun word finding game that can be played with 2-8 players in under 25 minutes.

We are also looking for international partners that are interested in publishing Train of Thought or Belfort outside of America. I’ll be bringing Train of Thought with me and if I receive my copy of Belfort in time then I’ll be bringing that along as well.

Thanks for your time.

I sent out about 15 emails or so to the publishers that we thought would be a good fit for the prototypes that we had to show. I got responses from most of them and we scheduled our meetings. I’d get a specific contact name, time slot and location (usually the publisher’s booth) and, after juggling a few conflicting, I had a pretty decent schedule with 4 meetings on Thursday, 4 on the Friday and 4 with publishers who said I should just stop by during the Fair at any time.

As indicated in Step 21, I packed my prototypes in individual Ziploc baggies and ensured they were clearly labeled with the game name and our contact information. I carried them in a backpack along with a folder full of 10 sales sheets for each game, as per Step 14, and an extra copy of rules for each game.  The amount of preparation we put into our pitches definitely helps make us look even more professional in the eyes of the publishers.  Many of them commented on how much they appreciated things like the Sales Sheets or how clearly everything was labeled.

I made sure to arrive before each meeting with time to spare because some publishers have multiple booths – if you go to the wrong one a few minutes before your meeting only to find that the meeting is supposed to be in another Hall, you might be out of breath for your meeting from all the running! I went up to the counter and asked a staff member if my contact was available as I had an appointment scheduled. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and was soon escorted to a small room at the back of the booth – private and away from all of the hustle and bustle.

The publishers (or at least my contacts at the publisher – usually editors) were very nice and considerate – all of them! They all offered me something to drink and made sure I was comfortable. This was really nice as it made me feel more like an equal partner rather than someone who is begging them to publish my games. After a few pleasantries we got down to business.

Up Next: How I pitched games to publishers!

-Jay Cormier

Step 29: The Big Wait (for Board Game Publishers to Respond!)

This is one of the most frustrating steps of game design: waiting for a publisher to playtest your game. Getting a publisher to agree to take a look at your game is a big step, and now you have to wait…and wait…and wait, until you hear back from them.

So what can a designer do to lessen the wait period?

The number one thing you can do is to set the expectations at the beginning. As designers we get very excited when a publisher shows interest in our game and we often let some things slide. When you’re handing over your prototype over to a publisher, ask them how long they’d like to have it to review. A 2-3 month window should be ample time for a publisher to playtest your game. A great way to bring this up is to ask them how long they’d like to have exclusivity rights to the prototype. This means that you won’t show your game to any other publisher for this period. Some publishers will let you know immediately that they don’t care if you show it to other publishers – which is great for you as you can start showing other publishers right away. Make sure you let the new publisher that your game is already being reviewed by another publisher. It’s very important to be transparent here as your reputation is on the line. If a publisher spends a couple weeks playtesting your game, only to find out that another publisher wants to make it, then they’re not going to like you too much and they won’t want to see any more of your games in the future.

Unfortunately sometimes we aren’t this adamant in our initial discussion with a publisher and now they have the game and you’re left wondering when they’re going to play it. Eventually you’re going to get to a point when you’re going to have to contact them again, but watch out – there’s a fine line between following up and becoming a nuisance!

A very-friendly email that has no feeling like it’s being demanding is a good start:

Hi , I’m just following up on , the game that I designed and sent to you . We met at and after showing you a sample round, you expressed some interest in playtesting it with your game group. Have you had a chance to give the game a try yet? I’m confident that would be a great fit for because .

Sometimes you’ll get a response and sometimes you won’t. When you do, they usually will say that they haven’t had time and will give you an idea about when they’re getting together with their playtest group again. If they don’t respond, well – that can be frustrating. My recommendation is to wait another couple weeks and send another email. It’s very possible that they meant to respond but it slipped off their to-do list. For this second email, it might be a good time to start setting an end date if one wasn’t agreed upon up front.

Hi , I’m following up again to see if you have had a chance to playtest yet. I am confident that my game would be a perfect fit for your company, but if you’re not interested, please let me know so I can continue to shop it around.

If you still don’t get a response then the third email would usually have a specific end date mentioned. Then at the time specified, let the publisher know you would like the prototype shipped back to you. Don’t make it sound mean – just keep it all business-like.

But the one thing you should be doing while you’re waiting to hear back from a publisher: create more games! If you’re serious about board game design, then you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket! Start working on your next design. The ultimate goal is to have a game in many different stages, so you’re always working on something at each stage.

-Jay Cormier

Step 20: Getting your Game in Front of a Publisher: Preparing for a Convention

After deciding which convention you’d like to go to, then it’s time to prepare.  The first step is to book tickets, flight and hotel.  While this might seem obvious, if you wait too long then the convention might sell out or the nearest hotels might not have rooms.  You don’t want to have to take a cab or bus to get to the convention every day.  Believe me – even heading up to your room that’s in the same building as the convention is a lot of work!

Once the tickets are booked then it’s time to research which publishers will be attending.  You probably have already done this (as that was Step 17!) and was probably one of the reasons why you chose the convention you did.  If you have more than one prototype that you’re bringing with you, then it’s a good idea to come up with a battle plan.  Which publishers should you show your games to first?

Don’t waste time pitching your games to publishers that don’t publish the kind of games you’ve made (unless you have heard that they’re looking to expand into different markets).  For example – you wouldn’t pitch a party game to a company that only makes RPG (role playing games).

Next step is to email each of the publishers.  The goal of this email is to set up a specific time during the convention for which you’d like to pitch your products to them.  This email should consist of the following:

1)     First sentence: State your goal in the first sentence.  Don’t start an email by praising the publisher or talking about how awesome you are.  Instead, start off with something like:

I am a game designer who will also be attending the _____ convention and I am inquiring about setting up a meeting at the convention so that I can showcase a few designs that would be perfect for your company.

2)     Next you should explain why your game would be perfect for their company.  This is where your research comes in handy.  If they said on their website what they are looking for, then mention how your game(s) fulfill those needs.  Don’t get into specifics about your games, but be a bit more general.  Something like:

I understand that you are looking for games that are quick to learn and have a lot of social interaction and I have a couple games that meet those requirements that I’d like to show you.

3)     The next paragraph should be about your game(s).  This is where your 30 second elevator pitch comes in handy.  Write out a 1-2 sentence description of your game – and keep in mind the requirements of each publisher.  You might have to tailor this part to each publisher since each publisher is looking for different things.  If your game has something that a publisher is looking for – just make sure it’s highlighted here.

4)     Finish up the email by reinforcing the purpose – setting up a meeting at convention.  Ask for a specific date and time that would work best for you.  If you have other arrangements or meetings (or seminars that you don’t want to miss) then you should list times that you are not available – because no one wants to be part of a huge back-and-forth email chain.

You should send this email out around 2-3 weeks before a convention.  If you don’t hear back in one week, then follow up with either a phone call or another email.  Obviously everyone is always busy, so remember to keep the tone of your email friendly!

If these steps are followed then you should be in a great position once the convention starts!  Next up: What to do at a Convention!

-Jay Cormier

As Jay is usually the one that is going to the convention as our “point man”, I do a lot of the intel in advance of the convention to try to plan out Jay’s trip and ensure that he is in the right place at the right time more often than not.

Here are just a few things that you may wish to take a look at pre-conference:

1) Go through any of the seminars / speeches that are given to earmark the ones we feel are worth-our-while, Not only are some of the subject vital if you wish to make a game that publishers will want to publish more than others (e.g. specific consideration on components, electronics in boardgaming, translation issues, etc.), but some are given by the “superstars” of the biz – i.e. people you want to know that you know about them and what they believe in – if you get my meaning. Going up to Max Osterhaus of Out of the Box (of Apples to Apples fame) cold may be difficult. But if you have just listened to him talk about “Manufacturing Costs in the US”, you may be able to speak on a common subject – you’ve got an in.

2) Virtually “scout out” the venue if possible. A lot of conventions will provide floor plan online detailing which booths are where. This can help you make the most efficient use of your time and space. You can plan a route that takes you quickly from publisher to publisher. You can stack your prototypes in the order of your appointments so that you are ready quickly.

3) Check the schedule of events to know when and where to present your games in a favourable light. For example, if you have a dexterity game, there is a special time for that genre of games to be played at BGG.con. You will generate more interest in players that love that kind of game in that specific room and most of the publisher reps for that kind of game will be there if they are available.

4) Make a list of priorities before you book your ticket. What are you goals for the conference? What games do you want to get in front of a publisher? Which publisher, specifically? Make a list and check it twice because, as they say “Christmas only comes once a year” and unless you own your own Learjet, you may only get to one convention a year. So make your one trip count!

Remember: Luck is nothing more than hard work coinciding with opportunity.

Jay and I work hard (as can be attested to by my wife and my accountant) on creating games. But without getting them in front of a publisher, all that hard work will amount to nothing. Pre-planning the convention can make all the difference because you will have an efficient plan to execute.

-Sen-Foong Lim