Well this is lovely news! We heard from Filosofia, the publisher of Akrotiri that they are completely sold out of Akrotiri – but the orders from game stores keep pouring in – so another print run has been ordered! That’s fantastic news! No news on when it should be available, but if you want the game, keep bugging your friendly local game stores!
The Gathering of Friends is always my favourite week of the year (ok, with the exception of the week I got married this year!), and this year was as fun and productive as usual. Here’s a summary of the shenanigans that the Bamboozle Brothers got up to over the last 10 days.
Pitching new games
We pitched fewer games than usual this year, mostly because we’ve been busy working on licensed games. We still managed to meet with a bunch of publishers.
Filosofia: We showed them 9 Thieves and a set of three games set in the Arabian Nights stories, each designed by different designers. They liked 9 Thieves and gave us an idea to improve it, which we did for our next pitch.
Wizkids: Right before the Gathering a contract expired for Rock, Paper, Wizards, a game that another publisher had of ours, which meant that it was back on the market. Zev from Wizkids remembered liking it last year, so after a round of playing the game again Zev wanted the game! He had an idea that seemed like it would break the game, but the underlining issue he was trying to solve was a valid issue. This was a game we co-designed with Josh Cappel (yes, THAT Josh Cappel – the artist for Belfort!) and Josh had a brainstorm that solved the issue even better and made everyone happy! Huzzah!
I also pitched to Zev a game I designed with non-Sen designer, Shad Miller, called Skirmishes. He really liked that one and asked to have a copy to evaluate.
Zev from Wizkids examines Skirmishes!
Stronghold: I showed Stephen Skirmishes because I thought it was something he’d be interested in – and he liked it and said it was very clever, but he already had a battle game coming out this year.
USA-opoly: I wouldn’t have thought to pitch anything to him based on the games that they’ve made. I had the fortune of sitting beside Tony from USA-opoly on a 2 hour bus ride to Toronto to visit Snakes and Lattes and see the Blue Jays game. Seems like they are trying to publish their own games and the timing is perfect! I showed him some games and he seemed intrigued, but none of our current games seemed to match what he was looking for.
Huch & Friends: I always enjoy pitching to Britta and Benjamin as they are very nice, fun and professional. They are also the fastest publishers to respond to an email in my experience so far! We showed them our games and she ended up liking two of the Arabian Nights games, one of them being our Aladdin game. Yay! They have also had our Herdables game for a coulee years and think they might want to publish that one too…so fingers crossed!
North Star: it was more of a lengthy conversation than a pitch as we chatted about where they’re at and where they want to go with their business. It was great to learn where they’re going and what they’re looking for in the near future. Could turn Into something exciting!
Pretzel Games: Well this is a first – we pitched a game to a publisher that we never play tested. Not only that, but we didn’t even have a prototype! Whaaa? We were told by Martin that he was looking for some outdoor games, so Sen and I came up with an idea for an outdoor game, but we didn’t want to put time and resources into making the game if the concept wasn’t even interesting to Martin. After our pitch we brainstormed some more on some production challenges and he ended up liking it and wanted us to proceed to the prototype stage! Sweet.
Matagot: Stefan is pretty new with Matagot so he is still trying to understand what they’re looking for, but he liked Skirmishes and wants me to take a picture of the game fully set up so he can show it to his team.
Indie Card and Board: This was an impromptu pitch when I saw Travis walking around, not looking busy. He had seen me playing/pitching our word game, Chainables in a restaurant with Tony from USA-opoly and had commented that it looked cool. I figured that it wasn’t the kind of game that Indie would publish but thought he’d like to play a game. He did, and enjoyed the game (not to publish it tho!), and then I transitioned that into a pitch for 9 Thieves. He seemed to like it and gave us a couple of great ideas to tweak it. So yay for improvements at least.
Sen and I had 2 games that we were asked to help promote while at the Gathering this year, Junk Art and Godfather: A New Don.
Junk Art is the second game from Pretzel Games, with the first being the hit from last year, Flick ‘Em Up. Junk Art involves 15 wooden pieces in 4 different colours for a total of 60 wooden pieces. There’s a deck of cards with each piece having its own card. There are many ways to play the game, but mostly you’re challenging players with cards to place those pieces onto their own base, trying to get points for placement or for having the tallest structure.
Matt Leacock (designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Island) is amazed by his own creation!
Willaim Attia (designer of Callus and Spyrium) trying Junk Art!
Josh Cappel (designer of Wasabi and artist for Belfort) trying some outlandish moves.
Some great reactions after a piece is added to a structure! They’re playing the Montreal variant which has players inheriting the structure that they were just passing cards to in the previous round. This mode causes the most insane structures!
Travis from Indie Card & Board calling to order his own copy of Junk Art (I can only assume that’s what he was doing). This mode was called Gujarat where each player takes all the pieces of one colour.
Eric Lang staring contemplatively at his winning structure while playing the Monaco variant.
Phil Walker-Harding is trying to compete for tallest structure in the Home Town variant. This is considered to be the main game and has a lot of strategy!
Mike Gray – the man who brought Bausack to America and called it Bandu, plays Junk Art!
The game seemed like a big hit at the Gathering this year with the game being played multiple times per day by different game groups. I heard Tom Vasel and Zee Garcia played it for about an hour one day too! Junk art is being released at GenCon. You can check out a trailer for the game here:
Godfather: A New Don is published by IDW Games and was air shipped to the Gathering. It was a final art prototype, meaning that the quality of the components were not final (and some pieces were hijacked from other games!). I got to get this game played at least 4 times during the con and everyone seemed to really like how streamlined the game is. If you like dice rolling and area majority, then we have a game for you! Add to the mix that players have to offer dice to the Godfather every round, the ability to muscle other players out of your neighbourhood and the fact that you can invest in Vegas and you’ll find it pretty difficult to not talk like mafia and quote the movie while you play it!
Meetings with publishers
We spent some time not pitching – but business stuff!
We spent a couple hours at least with Martin from Pretzel Games discussing and brainstorming the first expansion to Junk Art. The game isn’t out yet but they believe in it so much that they want to have an expansion ready ASAP. It was maybe my favourite part of the whole week as 2 designers and a publisher brainstormed through game play and publishing challenges to figure out how to make our cool ideas come to life. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about it!
We had a lunch meeting with Mercury Games and talked about the two games of ours that they have in the pipeline, Zombie Slam and What’s That. Both require an app to play the game, and they have recently hired an app developer (another Game Artisan of Canada!). So we talked through the timing as well as the future of Mercury.
We wanted to get a lot of play testing of our games with other people done at the Gathering – and we did!
Powers (a game based on the comic, coming out later this year form IDW Games) was played twice. The first game had Matt Leacock as a player but the game broke down and made us realize the importance of the set up. We got some great feedback though and we tweaked it for another playtest later in the week. The second test was better but still messy. We have ideas on how to clean it up and continue simplifying while still ensuring there’s a challenge for players who’ve played it a bunch.
Godzilla (a game coming out from Toy Vault) was played numerous times, and three times by me. All the games were great, but it’s obvious that the Godzilla deck is not well constructed, so we have to change which cards are in the deck. Easy fix!
Skirmishes (by Shad and me) got played by Sen and me before we left for the Gathering and it made me change one big thing in the game that makes the game easier to comprehend the first time playing.
But Wait There’s Even More (a game from Toy Vault). The first print run has sold out, but instead of just reprinting, we’re thinking of printing a new box, full of 100% new content. This way, existing fans can buy it – but newcomers can buy it as well! We tested all the new phrases and got to tweak a few of them as well as a new rule for this edition!
Phil Walker-Harding (designer of Sushi Go and Cacao) pitches some crazy product to the rest of us!
I got to playtest other designers’ games as well, like Matt Leacock’s new family co-op game, Mike Kolross’s G-Men, Phil Walker-Harding’s Spy Craft, Mike Gray’s Water God, Josh Cappel’s Dead Run, Al Leduc’s Dogs on the Bed, and probably a few more that I can’t recall.
I did find some time to play some games as well while I was there!
Codenames Pictures: This was a no-brainer. Take the hit party game Codenames, but replace the words with images. The images are all kind of weird too – which makes it interesting. This will play better when you have friends that have different native languages.
Karuba: a fun and light game that’s like Take it Easy with a theme. Played this one a couple times.
Team Play: a nice light partner based card game where each player has a goal of the cards they need to collect in order to score points. Players can draw cards as well as pass cards to their partner. Pretty fun and easy.
Colony: Kind of like Machi Koro but has a bit too much downtime between turns. I heard it’s great with 2 players – and it would probably get better with repeat plays.
Ulm: I played this last year as well, and it should be coming out this year from Huch & Friends. I really like it and look forward to playing it again.
Tichu: I partnered up with Stefan Brunelle and we beat Zev and Ignacy’s wife, Merry. Love this game.
Strike: Weird that this is a published game…it’s just a bunch of dice and a plastic mold inside the box that you roll them in. Super random obviously but fun for 4 minutes I guess.
Rollers: this one was a fun game but it just lasted way too long for us. We thought it was over but then we realized that it’s the player to get 5 points first…so the game continued.
Adrenaline: A cool PvP game that emulates a first person shooter in tight quarters – but it does so with no dice rolling. It has a bit AP, but I thought it was very neat!
Wonky: a neat idea for a small balancing game. Not sure how much replayability it would have though.
Broom Service: a neat idea about being cowardly or brave…though it can be punishing.
Broom Service in action!
Sen and I didn’t have as much time as we thought we would, mostly because he had to leave for 4 days in the middle to go back to work. Boo! But we ironed out quite a few things in the car ride there and back at least!
Josh Cappel had an idea for a game while at the Gathering and asked me for help trying to turn it into a game. We made some good progress on it and we’ll continue working on it together.
As mentioned before, 40 of us got on a bus and rode into Toronto to hang out at Snakes and Lattes and then to the baseball game. I’m a huge Blue Jays fan so this was exciting! I was surrounded by Germans and Australians who had never seen a baseball game…ever! So I was able to help them throughout the game with some rules explanations.
The Skydome …uh I mean, Rogers Centre!
Getting ready for the game to start!
The CN Tower…obligatory photo.
All the rooms had fridges and microwaves this year so we did a grocery run when we first got there which was my breakfast and lunch every day. For dinner I had a lot of yummy Indian food as there are many options close to the hotel. We did our annual walk over to the Canadian side to have dinner at a nice wood oven pizza place. We had around 18 of us this year, with numerous designers and publishers. On another night, eight of us drove into Buffalo to eat some great meat at Dinosaur. We were well fed.
We had our largest turnout for our annual soccer game, organized every year by Richard Bethany. This year we each had a sub plus a full team of 6 on each side (half field- hey we’re old!). One of my favourite activities every year.
The final ceremony started with a humourous magic act and then quickly proceeded to the prizes! Everyone that donates something, like a game to the prize table, goes into a draw and gets to take something from the prize table. It’s not just games though…there were numerous hand made options like meeple pillows, hand painted miniatures for popular games, handmade gaming quilt – plus some super hard to find games like Indonesia and Antiquity. I managed to snag Super Motherlode because it’s from Roxley Games…and they’re just awesome (they’re doing a Kickstarter for Santorini that end soon).
That’s it in a rather large nutshell. Even though the atmosphere is casual and relaxed it never feels like there’s enough time to do everything. Maybe it should happen twice a year? 🙂
Well, 10 days of gaming heaven has come and gone! Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is an invite-only gaming event full of gamers, designers and publishers. It’s my favourite 10 days of the year as I get to hang out with friends old and new – and play a bunch of games!
I’ll split this into two posts – one about the games we pitched to publishers and then a second one about the games we played.
Pitching to Publishers
Jay working on Godzilla spreadsheets…fun!
Sen and I are in a bit of a lucky spot since many of our games have been picked up, which means we didn’t have a lot of new game to pitch. This meant that we had more time to work on games that were already signed while we were together. We must have spent at least 3 hours a day working on Godzilla which is due out later this year from Toy Vault.
Our first pitch was to the German publisher, Huch & Friends. Their representative is Britta, who last year took a couple of our games back with her. One was called Herdables and since we didn’t have any other plans for that game, we let her sit on that one all year. Well she brought good news with her as she said that everyone at Huch & Friends likes the game, and they’re now only trying to figure out how to manufacture it. They’re thinking of going with super thick cardboard instead of wooden tokens. Cool by us!
Then we pitched our game called Chrono Chicken. Ok – dumb name…so dumb that we didn’t even tell her the name of the game when we pitched it! It started as a game called Coaster Quest as it used actual drink coasters to play the game. But, as usual, the game changed drastically from its inception and instead of coaster it now used these cool two-dial secret spinners. We played the game – in which players secretly choose a number from one of the tokens on the table – by using their secret dials. She really liked it – and started talking in German with her cohort from Huch & Friends (dang – I forget his name!). They brought out their Huch catalogue and indicated a game that they have coming out later this year called Gum Gum Machine – a steam punk game about gum ball machines. She said that our game might make a good companion to that game – maybe call it Gum Gum Mini! So she agreed to take that game back to assess further.
Then I pitched my first solo design to her. Now, I pitched this game to her last year when it went by the horrendous title, Ingnotus (Latin for unknown). She liked it last year but after assessing it she said that they couldn’t think of a theme for it (I had submitted it as a pure abstract game). So I worked on it this year and I came up with a theme. In doing so the game changed a lot – for the better! It’s now called The Mystery of Mister E (Now that’s a cool title – finally!). We played the game and she liked it a lot more than the previous version. She took that game back as well. Huzzah!
I was able to pitch to Martin from Filosofia / Z-Man, but not our games! Instead I had two games from other Game Artisan designers that I wanted to show him. One was called City Builders: Rome from Andrei Filip – a co-operative Euro game that I only brought the sales sheet for him to see. He was interested and I have connected him with the designer. Then I showed him a quick reaction dice game called Joust from Graeme Jahns. He really thought it was unique and would like to see it again if he could figure out how to get the number of dice moulds down.
Sen is brainstorming with Andreas from Zoch
We pitched to Zoch again this year, but we didn’t really have anything new! So instead we spent time talking about the kinds of games that Zoch is interested in and he let us know what they’re looking for – which included some IPs! We’re already working on them now!
Playing Lions Share with Hasbro and Josh Cappel!
Hasbro had a new representative and with it he brought a new way of thinking. He’s super interested in meeting with designers as he wants to create a network of designers that he can access when he needs them. He ran down how he wants to work with the Game Artisans of Canada in the future. He was excited to see that we had an organization across Canada as it will allow him to be super efficient. He’s planning on visiting us once or twice a year where only Game Artisans will be able to pitch games to him! Pretty awesome!
We did end up pitching our game, Lions Share to him and he liked it, though we actually came across a game-breaking situation that had never happened before. Dang. Oh well – we know how to easily fix that in the future. Still – good to get in front if him and show him what we have.
We had been working with Ed from Toy Vault all week – either on Godzilla (our upcoming card battle game) or a Naughty version of But Wait There’s More (we learned how to make this work!) – but we finally had some time to pitch our revamped Firefly game to Ed as well. We showed it to him last year and he had some specific feedback so we addressed each of those requests and showed him the new version.
The new version played out much better, but Ed had concerns that the new actions didn’t make it feel like Firefly. Before characters could only move into empty spaces, but now they can swap with other characters – which implies that they’re hiding behind each other and throwing each other into harm’s way. Not very Firefly!
Then as we were packing up, we cam up with a totally new way to play that might allow it to fit with a more wacky license. The game played a lot faster and seemed to work fairly well actually. It was wild – quite the drastic change in gameplay and we managed to make it work. We’re now back to the drawing board with this one to see what theme works best with the mechanics.
Sen lining up a shot in Flick ‘Em Up!
There was a new game at the Gathering called Flick ‘Em Up, which is the first game in Z-man’s Pretzel line up. It’s called Pretzel because you can have a pretzel in one hand and still play! It’s a flicking game with cowboys and bad guys and it looks amazing! It comes with 10 scenarios which helps give the game a lot of flavour! We were happy to be asked to contribute a couple of scenarios to this game! Not just because the game is pretty darned cool – but because the second game in the Pretzel line up is one of ours – called Junkyard! That should be coming out next year!
Finally we pitched Zombie Slam to Mercury. We had tweaked it since last year as we had feedback that it was super hard to stay human throughout the game. The new ideas worked a lot better and we had a human survivor win the game! They really seemed to like this game! Mercury is currently working on their first app-assisted game and then their second app-assisted game is actual designed by Sen, Stefan Alexander and me. So this would be their third app-assisted game. We all came up with even more ideas on how the app could work with this game and it got us all pretty excited about it!
I ended the session by pitching a game I designed with Shad Miller called Q-Bot. I knew it wasn’t really the kind of game they publish as it was an abstract game with wooden cubes. They liked it better than last year’s version but that’s about it.
Coincidentally, while we were at the Gathering we also had some phone meetings with Ad Magic who is considering publishing 1-5 of our games in the near future! More to come on that as it’s finalized!
So all in all – an atypically quiet week for us on pitching games. I think it might be like that going forward because now we’re being asked to make specific games by publishers – and that takes time away from new designs. One day we’ll be able to quit our day jobs and focus on game design full time. That’s the goal at least!
Next up I’ll review the games that I played at the Gathering – from new and existing games to upcoming unreleased games from prolific designers!
Here’s a great overview video of Akrotiri by Boardgamegeek.com with JF (Jeff) Gagne from Filosofia/Z-Man Games. He gives a great high level overview of the game in about 6 minutes. Can’t wait for you all to try this game!!! (Also – as we all know here, Sen has done 50% of everything we’ve done together!! JF wasn’t sure in the video!)
Our first game to be released at Essen Spiel is Akrotiri and we have our first video overview of the game thanks to boardgamegeek’s livestream! Click on this link and then jump to the 7:14:00 mark right near the end to watch this 5 minute overview of the game! Thanks to JF from Filosofia for presenting it so nicely!
Sen and I just got back from 10 days of gaming goodness and we have a lot of amazing news and stories to tell! What’s the Gathering you ask? Well it’s an invite-only event organized by Alan Moon (designer of numerous games including the very popular Ticket to Ride) and it’s attended by tons of other game designers and many publishers as well. The atmosphere was super relaxed and very friendly. Everyone has a name badge and based on the colour of the badge you know if the person is from a publisher or not. Fortunately this was my third time at the Gathering (read about my previous Gathering experiences for 2012 and 2013) so I already knew most of the publishers already.
Sen and I got to meet with pretty much every publisher and show them our new games. I’ll review how each pitch session went in this post and a few more posts to follow!
Z-Man / Filosofia
Our first meeting was with JF and Zev from Filosofia and Z-Man Games. They had our game Rock, Paper, Wizards (co-designed by Josh Cappel too!) and had given us some feedback via email about some changes they wanted. This is an interesting story actually. Sen, Josh and myself had gotten Rock, Paper, Wizards to a place where we thought it was the best that it could be. So when we received the feedback via email about the changes they wanted, we all got pretty defensive. Not to the publisher – just between ourselves. We couldn’t understand why they wanted the changes they requested. But we decided to go into the meeting open minded – and even play the game with their new ideas – so they could see how it wouldn’t work!
Well, we were pretty wrong! Once they were able to communicate the reasons behind their ideas in person, we realized what they were trying to do. So we tried it with almost all of their suggestions…and guess what? It really worked! The game – which we thought was as good as it could get – was improved with these new ideas. The game played so well! We brainstormed how a few of the cards would be changed because of the new ideas and we said we would work on it while at the Gathering and show it to them again later on.
After this, Zev left for another meeting and we pitched our new game, Zombie Slam to JF. He enjoyed it but didn’t think it was a Z-Man kind of game. Makes sense.
We spent more time with JF and Zev eating dinner and even continuing our tradition of seeing a horror movie at a local theatre together (this year’s movie: Oculus!).
Sen signing a contract!
We also got to sit down with Sophie from Filosofia because she had a contract for us! We had pitched our wood block balancing game, Junkyard to her awhile ago and she’s been trying to figure out how to produce the game. We had emailed her prior to the Gathering asking for the prototype back so we could pitch it to other publishers – even though we would be happy if Filosofia would publish it. She countered by offering us a contract! Well ok then!
Nearer to the end of the Gathering, we made an appointment with Zev to try Rock, Paper, Wizards again. When we met up, he was finishing up a game with some other people and he asked us to come over and play Rock Paper Wizards with everyone at his table. Who was at his table? Well – Nikki from Queen Games, Aldie and Lincoln from Boardgamegeek and Steven from Stronghold Games. Wowza! No pressure! Well, we played the game and everything worked perfectly. Everyone was laughing and having a great time with it. So much so that Steven from Stronghold said out loud after finishing the game that if Zev didn’t want to publish the game that he would publish it! How cool is that? We have high hopes for this one!
Next up we’ll review our pitches to Days of Wonder, Ystari, Abacusspiele and R&R Games!
I’ll just add some more pictures to this post. You know. Because pictures. These ones are Z-man related and, as such, are relevant to this post!
Jay signs his royalties over to me (he just doesn’t know it!)
Jay’s first look at the back of the Akrotiri box, forthcoming from Z-man.
Jay teaches Akrotiri to our friends Ed Bryan (ToyVault) and Daryl Andrews (Londonderry)
And then he teaches it to fellow Game Artisans, Michael Xeureb and Gavan Brown (Jab).
In other Z-man news, the Battle of Kemble’s Cascade is also coming out from them soon. Our good friends, Sean Jacquemain, Adam Marostica, and I played the pre-release copy of this homage to 80s arcade games at the Gathering.
And it’s a good one! Adam from The Daily Worker Placement has given an overview and his thoughts on this 2-player Z-Man game from Sen and I. Adam got a chance to play the final art prototype at the Gathering of Friends. A final art prototype is when the publisher takes all the finished art and makes their own version of the game. They even print the box art image and tape it to another box to make it look complete. The only thing that’s usually not final are the components. In this game the temples are wooden houses (but they’ll look more like temples in the final version) and the boats were made out of erasers!! Good idea for a prototype actually! Other than that – the art is 100% final and it’s now being sent off to the printers.
Thanks for the review Adam – can’t wait for you – and others – to get your hands on the final version later this year!
And here’s an interesting development: While we were at the Gathering of Friends – Akrotiri was being played by a bunch of people. One pair had a weird situation where the secret goal card one player picked up after excavating their 5th temple was already accomplished and was worth 13 points! Wow – that’s quite the swing of points so late in the game – though it’s very rare for it to be so dramatic like that. But still, we came up with a solution for those that want even less luck in their game. The main game will still remain as is, but for more advanced players they can flip 4 more Goal Cards face up near the board and any time a player has to take a Goal Card then they must take from one of the face-up Goal Cards. This means players can plan for specific goals and try to excavate easier temples in order to get the goal card they want faster! We added this to the main rule book – so it’s official now!
Eric W Martin from Boardgamegeek.com went to Nuremberg last week and took a bunch of videos of upcoming games – and lo and behold, he filmed an overview of our new game ,Akrotiri coming from Z-Man games later this year! This is exciting as it’s one of – if not my favourite games that Sen and I have designed. JF from Filosofia/Z-Man explains how the mechanics work in the game and it gives you a quick overview of some of the interesting decisions you’ll have in the game. Check it out!
Up next I got to sit with JF from Filosofia. I showed him our app game,What’s That.When you’re at a convention and a publisher wants to take your game – as was the case with What’s That with Repos, you never have to give it to them right away. I always tell them that I’d like to show a few more publishers but I will come back at the end of the event to hand it into them.This is good for a couple reasons:
1) It lets you see which publisher is more interested in your game.The more interested they are, the more likely they will want to publish it!
2) It lets you assess which publisher you’d rather work with for your game. Do you want your game to go back with a first time publisher or an established publisher? They both have their benefits – but you now get to make that choice!
3) Once you give it to one publisher, but more than one are interested, well now you know which publisher you can send it to next if that first publisher decides to pass on your game. It’s great having a line-up of publishers wanting to take a closer look at your game!
Unfortunately for What’s That, the app kept crashing – sometimes right when we wanted to see what the answer was! It was frustrating – but it was a new app, made by fellow Game Artisan of Canada member, Stefan Alexander.We didn’t have much time for QA so we just went with what we had. I think the problem was that if I received a text message while we were playing then it crashed. I think they weren’t really interested in it anyway…!
Next up was Pop Goes the Weasel.They thought it was too confusing for kids. We did come up with one good idea that simplifies the game for kids, but still retains the ability to play the game as is for slightly older kids.
By this point I had Josh Cappel (artist extraordinaire of such board games of…oh I don’t know…Belfort!) joined us so we pitched our new game, Rock, Paper, Wizards to JF. Yep – Josh joined forces with the Bamboozle Brothers and the three of us created a brand new game! It involves bluffing and pointing weird finger gestures at other players!
Ed Bryan from Toy Vault also came by and helped us playtest this one. Ed’s another good wingman for me! The game went so well that he brought Zev over to play it. Zev IS Z-Man Games, but Z-Man Games is owned by Filosofia. Zev liked it a lot and wanted to make sure they took this one back with them. Yay! Two games now being requested by publishers!
Update: We have received an email from Filosofia after they played it and they said that while they don’t want to publish it as is – they don’t want to give it back to us. They had some concerns and asked us to see if we could review some options. So we are!
We were then told that they did get the new sample of our game Junkyard from the manufacturer’s in China. Last year at the Gathering I showed them Junkyard and since then we’ve been figuring out a way to make the game. Everyone at Filosofia loves the game, but the cost to produce 52 wooden pieces is high.When I visited Filosofia in November we came up with some ideas on how to reduce costs.The biggest idea was to reduce the size of the pieces by 20-25%.We got a quote from Panda on how many we’d have to make in order to get the per unit price low enough to retail it for $30-35.The pricing and quantity worked out for Filosofia, but they wanted to see a sample of the product before committing.They brought this sample and we got to play the game with Zev because he has never played Junkyard.After a fun game of Junkyard Zev gave his thumbs up to the game. So this meant that everyone is on board! The next step for Junkyard is to ask for another sample with a varnished finish of some sort as the pieces are a bit too rough as they are now. But yay for progress!
We were also given feedback on the three other games that Filosofia had since November. Jam Slam was one of them that showed the most promise so JF wanted Sofie to play it. I learned something about pitching in this pitch session.
The game is a simple game of listening to a clue and slapping a card that has that information. For older kids it has an advanced variant where you get bonuses if you collect the most or least of a specific thing. I thought we should play with this since we’re all adults and it would make it more of a challenge – and therefore (in my mind) – more fun.Well that was wrong. Being new to the game, Sofie was confused by the multiple motivations. She boiled it down to show that the game had three motivations and a kid’s game should only have one motivation. So the lesson learned is to always show your game as the base concept first, before throwing in variants or expansions! So she decided to pass on it but gave us some interesting insight into the design.
JF also shared some comments from the playtests of the other two games they had of ours and from this we learned another lesson.The feedback for our card game, Lion’s Share was that there was fun there – but there was too much memory in it.Wait – what? Memory? There’s no memory at all in the game.Why would they say that then? Think about it for a second…..yep – they played the game wrong.And who’s fault is that? Ours.We re-read the rules and found a section that could be misinterpreted. Damn. Sometimes you have only one chance with a publisher and if the reason why your game fails is because they played it incorrectly, then you’re hooped! By playing incorrectly, they didn’t get the experience you wanted them to have so they only thought the game was mediocre.When you found out they played it wrong, there’s little motivation for them to play again because their experience was only mediocre before. So the lesson here – blind playtest your game! Have some other group playtest your game without you there to guide them or help them out.This will help you ensure your rules are being interpreted correctly.
Whew! That was a busy first day! And there are still more pitches ahead – so stay tuned!
If that title doesn’t make sense to you, then let me explain…
Sen and I designed a game called Santorini. It’s a tile laying exploration game that has a pretty clever new mechanic that’s used to find hidden temples. Once we got it to a point where we wanted to show publishers, another game designer pointed out that there was already a game out there called Santorini – by a fellow Game Artisan of Canada no less (we were just new to that wonderful group of game designers at the time).
So we were a bit bummed because that was a cool title. We did some more research and found that the name of an archaeological dig site on Santorini is Akrotiri. We liked it and that became our new title for the game.
The game made it to the finals of the Canadian Game Design of the Year and the first publisher I showed it to was Zev from Z-Man games. I was at BGG.con (a convention in Dallas that’s run by http://www.boardgamegeek.com) and I only had time for a 5 minute pitch. He liked it enough to want to investigate it further.
Then the waiting came. We kept prodding with emails asking about their thoughts and kept waiting to hear from them. Then a few months pass and Filosofia acquires Z-Man Games! So now there’s a whole whack of time that passes as they figure out their new structure and who’s doing what. We do get word from Zev that the people at Filosofia like the game though – so that’s good!
In the middle of all this, Quined expresses interest in checking it out. We get permission from Z-Man to show it to them (very important! Never show your game to more than one publisher at a time without their knowledge!). They play it and like it, but they don’t like the ending. We explore some other options and we scrap the entire ending we had and find something that feels a lot more organic and obvious. In the end, Quined passes because it’s not heavy enough for them. But we’re happy because we have a new version that plays even better than the old one! We share this with Z-Man Games.
More time passes and I attend the Gathering of Friends last year for the first time. I had connected with Sophie from Filosofia before attending and we agreed that it would be a good place to play it together and come to some sort of agreement. We played a 5 player game of Akrotiri (tip: unless your game plays best with 5 players, always choose to play with fewer!!). Like most tile-laying games, a lot can change before it’s your turn, so Sophia thought that she had to wait until it was her turn to pay attention. Not good.
But she thought the game would be a good 2 player game…! They took the game back with them and tried it a few more times as a 2 player only game – and they liked it! They wanted to do it! Huzzah! They wrote up a contract and sent it to us – and we signed it and sent it back….but it still was never 100% official until this week. Why? Because we got back the signed contract – with their signatures on it too!
So now Akrotiri is happening! It will be a 2 player game, in the same box as the Agricola 2 player game. We’re not sure exactly when it’s coming out, but the artist (the amazing Chris Quilliams!! Check out his stuff!) has already been in contact with us to ask us questions about our thoughts on things like time period and whatnot. Super cool!
So three cheers! We’re super pumped to partner with Z-Man Games on this! We’ll share more news about potential release date as soon as we know more.