The Gathering of Friends, Part 2

My last post detailed all the games that Sen and I pitched to the various publishers that were at the Gathering, but this post will be all about the games I played –  in no particular order!

IMG_2132Thunderbirds by Matt Leacock: I really liked this game! I have no familiarity with the TV show, so I’m happy to say that this game is still entertaining without that background of knowledge. We played it without any of the expansions and we barely won. I like how players control characters, and while each character has their own mode of transportation, any character can take any vehicle – and can even take other characters with them. It’s an interesting idea that really makes it feel like we are all a team and we have to work together.

IMG_2133Then a few days later we played it again but with the Purple Hood expansion – and I have to say that I liked it even more. Now the bad guy isn’t controlled by AI – but by one of the players. That player is trying to accomplish his goals while trying to make it difficult for the rest of us. This was really fun and it really felt like there was a narrative to the game we played. There are even two more expansions that we didn’t get to try! Wow! Looking forward to this one.

IMG_2114Red7 by Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik: This was a fun game that I ended up playing a few times over the week. It’s a simple idea where you have to be winning the game when you’re turn is over – or you lose and are out. So you can either play a card in front of you, or change the rule of how you win – or both. It’s fun and light and interesting! From the designer of Glory to Rome and the upcoming Mottanai.

IMG_2138Ulm: I’m not sure who designed this one actually. We played a prototype from Huch & Friends and this is one that will be coming out from them. I really enjoyed this game! It has an interesting action selection method where you slide a token into a 3×3 grid and the colours of the tokens in the row/column that you affected are the actions you can do this round. Really cool!

IMG_2118Castaway Club by Vladimir Sluchy: This is the spiritual successor to Last Will. It uses the same icons as Last Will and has a similar theme. Instead of trying to go broke, you’re trying to lose reputation. The game comes with three modular boards and you can use any two of them – or you can swap in the entire game of Last Will as one of the modules! Cool! I had fun with the game and fans of Last Will should check it out.

IMG_2126Flick ‘Em Up by Gaeton Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis: What a fun concept for a game! It’s a flicking game – but players play in teams – good guys or the bad guys. Players move their wooden figures around by replacing the wooden figure with a disc, flicking it and then replacing the disc with the wooden figure. Or a figure can shoot by placing a smaller disc at the side of a wooden figure and flicking it towards an opponent. What’s really cool is the production quality! Holy crap – it’s amazing! Every game will be photo worthy for sure! Also interesting is the fact that the game comes with 10 scenarios. So replay value is very high! If you like flicking games, then you have to get this one!

IMG_2124Bang The Dice Game by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach: I was never a huge fan of Bang – but the dice game is more accessible and more fun. I enjoyed it!

IMG_2121Tiny Epic Kingdoms by Scott Almes: We didn’t have an interesting game here unfortunately. This is the kind of game that you have to know how to play it in order to really enjoy it. I am 100% in winning this game so far because I think I know how to play it correctly! 🙂

Unannounced Matt Leacock party game – Can’t talk about it but it’s such a great idea! This will definitely get picked up.

IMG_21657 Wonders: The Duel by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala: I am a fan of 7 Wonders and this 2-player only, stand-alone game is a great game! It really has all the feeling and concepts of a 7 Wonders game but offers new strategies with the pyramidal stacking of the cards. The game can end immediately if a player gets their token to the end of the war track or if they get one of each of the 6 science symbols – so that keeps your opponent on their toes and altering their strategies along the way. I’ll be picking this up!

Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil: It’s not announced or even picked up yet so I can’t show pictures but this seemed like the hit of the Gathering. There was always someone playing this game!  It’s a small word/party type game that is great for thinky people!

IMG_2145Birth by Takashi Sakaue: A cool Japanese dice rolling and moving around a circle game that has more to it than you might think. Clever game that I’d play again.

IMG_2149Time Stories by Manuel Rozoy: I know there are a lot of people that are super excited about this game, but it fell a bit flat for us. The concept is interesting but the execution left us lukewarm. When we had to go back through a third time, you could tell that everyone was a bit exhausted and didn’t want to go through the paces of the stories to get to where we had to go. The storyline of the game we had to play was lacklustre and I think I would have been more into it if the story was more intriguing. Maybe this is a game that would appeal to role playing gamers more??

IMG_2151Mysterium by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko: Finally I got to play this game – and I really liked it! One player plays a ghost and has to let each of us know who killed him by giving us dream cards that will remind players of Dixit. In fact I saw people playing the game with Dixit cards! This is a great party game as everyone is involved and engaged (though the ghost player can’t really chat with others). Really fun game!

Beasty Bar by Stefan Klob: A fun game that harkens back to Guillotine where you play animal cards in an attempt to get into a club. It’s fun and a bit chaotic. More plays of this would help me know if familiarity increases skill or not!

IMG_2162Welcome to the Dungeon by Masato Uesugi: This is a great little mini game that has a fun push your luck element to it. We had a lot of loud outbursts throughout the game as players would push their luck and then win! Players simply take a card from the deck and decide to either place it face down in the dungeon or face up outside the dungeon but then remove one of the artifacts or weapons that the character can use to battle these monsters. Eventually players start to pass instead of taking a card – and the last player in must then go through all the cards in the dungeon with the equipment that he or she has left. Very fun – and it comes with four totally different characters with their own equipment.

IMG_2172Porta Nigra by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling: I’m a big K&K fan so I’ll play anything they make. Unfortunately this one was a bit too abstract for me. I prefer their games that have some theme to it. The theme in this game could have been anything really – and so it becomes a mathy game of efficiency. And that is fun and interesting, but it’s a bit cold for my tastes. Other people claimed it their favourite game of the Gathering!

That’s about it. I did play some more prototypes of games that aren’t signed yet by some Game Artisans of Canada as well.

All in all – a super fun week and I’m already counting down the days for next year’s Gathering!

-Jay Cormier

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The Gathering of Friends Review, Part 1

IMG_2176Well, 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

Godzilla-spreadsheets

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!

800px-Huch_&_Friends_logoThen 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!

ZMan_LogoI 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

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!

Hasbro-pitch

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, Hasbro_logo_newthough 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.

toy_vault_logo_07The 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!

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!

mercury-logoFinally 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!

-Jay Cormier

Final thoughts on Gathering of Friends 2014

IMG_0984On top of all the pitching we did, Sen and I also got to have some fun while we were at the Gathering! We got to see our final art prototype of Akrotiri! We got to teach many people to play it and also promoted an unofficial contest where some winners got a copy of another 2-player game from Z-man Games. We had received a lot of good buzz from players who got to play it with some of them saying things like, “I liked it and I’ve never played anything like it!” Wow – that’s possibly the best compliment you could say about a board game, in my opinion.

Tom Rosen (left) and Larry Levy from Opinionated Gamers play Akrotiri!

Tom Rosen (left) and Larry Levy from Opinionated Gamers play Akrotiri!

It was also nice to see many people checking out my Table Cloth Contest this year! This is the second year in a row that I’ve done a Table Cloth Contest and now I think I’ll do it every year. It was hanging in the main room for the entirety of the event! It was then donated to the prize table at the end and it was nice to see that it was one of the first 20 items to be grabbed! Since the Gathering I’ve had 4 or 5 people ask how they can get their own copy of it. Nice! The picture is below and consists of the top 3 games per year (according to BGG) for the last 25 years – but I scrubbed the title out of it and replaced it with the Gathering of Friends logo. So attendees had to guess as many games as possible to win!IMG_0988

Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil (left) and Toy Vault rep, Ed Bryan

Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil (left) and Toy Vault rep, Ed Bryan

We also got to hobnob with tons of other designers. I got to play a game of Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil; Phantoms with William Attia; New Haven with Attia and Stephen Glenn; 504 with Freidmann Freisse (his new prototype which is pretty crazy in its aspirations!); Five Tribes with Bruno Cathala (his new game from Days of Wonder) as well as many games with fellow Game Artisans of Canada!

Friedmann Friesse holding a prototype of Power Grid Deluxe!

Friedmann Friesse holding a prototype of Power Grid Deluxe!

Bruno Cathala's new Days of Wonder game, Five Tribes

Bruno Cathala’s new Days of Wonder game, Five Tribes

As for other games I got to play:

Palaces of Carara: finally got to play this! I liked it though I got annihilated!

Splendor: A very dry game – but it’s interesting and pretty quick

Abluxxen with other game designers Gavan Brown and Chris Handy

Abluxxen with other game designers Gavan Brown and Chris Handy

Abluxxen: A fun card game from Kramer!

Time’s Up: I love Time’s Up – but I always play the Title Recall edition because the basic game uses people instead…yikes – not as much my cup of tea mostly due to my ignorance with current events … err… and historical events! J Still – I had a ton of fun!

Tichu: Always fun. I made such a stupid move early on and we couldn’t recover! Though I did have an epic hand where Sen started and passed me the dog. I then played a 2 through A straight – then followed that up with another Ace! Crazy!

Camel Up: Hmmm – not my kind of game. Too random and luck based. I can see the appeal for families though.

Helios: I really liked this one. I had a tough time with Glass Road mostly because there are just so many options and as a first time play through it’s a tough game to figure out. But Helios has a finite number of things you can do – so you can really plan your strategy. I had a good time with this one!

Zombeasts: a cute card game from Huch & Friends

The new board for Power Grid Deluxe!

The new board for Power Grid Deluxe!

As for unreleased games, I got to play Polterfass (played a few times because it’s really good!) and Leg Los (good idea for a party game!) from Zoch, Pints of Blood from Huch & Friends (a zombie game that seems like it should be themed after Shaun of the Dead!), 504 from Freidmann Friesse, Five Tribes from Bruno Cathala (great game – my fave of the Gathering), Prime Time from Gil Hova (loved all the wacky titles!) as well as a bunch from the Game Artisans (Hansel and Gretel from Max, G-Men from Mike, In Silico from Martin)

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Sen and Jay getting interviewed by the CBC

Sen and Jay getting interviewed by the CBC

While we were there Sen and I also got interviewed by the CBC! Not sure when that will air though.

So that wraps up another amazing 10 days in Niagara Falls! Now we have quite a bit of work to do – which is awesome!!

-Jay Cormier

Gathering of Friends 2014 review: Part 3

Our third post reviewing all the pitches we made during the Gathering of Friends this year. It was super exciting and we got to spend some quality time with each publisher. If you missed the first two you can read them 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

Huch & Friends

800px-Huch_&_Friends_logoWow – another surprise! We hadn’t met with Huch & Friends before either. Neither Huch & Friends nor Zoch have been to the Gathering before (or at least not in the last 3 years that I attended!). We pitched to Britta from Huch & Friends and found that a lot of our games fit with what they were looking for! In the end she wanted to take back Zombie Slam, Ignotus, Lion’s Share and Herdables. Wow – cool! With Ignotus she mentioned that she’s partnered with another company that specializes in crime based deductive games – how perfect! She also mentioned that our Herdables could fit in her 2-player abstract line.

Toy Vault

toy_vault_logo_07We spent a bunch of time with Ed from Toy Vault. In about a month we’re going to be launching the Kickstarter for our game Monty Python’s But Wait, There’s More so we gathered some gamers and went to a quiet room and filmed the Kickstarter video! We just had people play the game so we would have a lot of footage of examples and people laughing. Mission accomplished!

We pitched our Firefly game to Ed and he had some thoughts on the direction he’d like it to go, so we have a bit of work to do – but we’re excited about the direction this game is going!

Ed also wanted to partner with us in designing a Living Card Game based on the Godzilla IP. That’s pretty awesome! So the three of us will be working to work on a game based on the initial ideas that Ed had for the game. Looking forward to getting to work on this one!

Mercury

mercury-logoEvery year we meet with Mercury and we really love hanging out with these guys! The first year I went to the Gathering was also their first year and they were looking for their first game to launch their new company. I pitched them the game Quarantine to them as another member of the Game Artisans of Canada, Mark Klassen had given me his sales sheet to show around. This year we pitched them all our games – thinking that none of them really fit with their brand. I almost shot myself in the foot by pre-empting the pitch by saying something like, “I don’t think you’ll like these games.” Idiot! Eventually they had to tell me that we shouldn’t base our thoughts on what they might publish on games that they have already published. OK – lesson learned! In the end they really liked Zombie Slam and our App-based game, What’s That? Nice!

Hans Im Gluck

GLUCK-LOGOWe finally got to meet with Hans Im Gluck after continually bumping into each other when one of us was busy! We pitched all our games in the same 30 second overview style that we’ve now become pretty slick at – and they expressed interest in Lions Share. We played the game with them and they liked it enough to want to take a copy back with them – huzzah!

The interesting part for me about this game was that while we were playing it – I realized that it wasn’t as interesting as I had thought it was originally! So after this pitch, Sen and I brainstormed a bit and we came up with one new rule that we thought would drastically improve it. Next up: Think Fun!

Think Fun

ThinkfunlogoWe had a great time pitching to Tanya from Think Fun last year and we specifically tried to make some games that would fit with her line up. We showed her all our games and she played a few rounds of most of them. When we played Lions Share, we played with our new rule that we had just added – and it made the game so much better! Not only that, but Tanya also added a couple of suggestions around the Wild cards that really simplified things a bit further (in a good way!). She ended up passing on Lions Share but she did like Ignotus. She said it would have an outside shot because they’re pretty much locked up for 2015 already, but it’s such a small game that she could possibly make it work. She said that it was great that I suggested that the game could easily be themed to anything else, since the current artwork I made was just symbols, colours and numbers. That’s a good thing to bring up when appropriate!

So after this we had to seek out Hans Im Gluck and Huch & Friends again and let them know about the changes. They both agreed that the new changes did indeed make the game better! Nice!

Next up – pitching to iEllo and Repos!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

 

MOAR PICS!

This time, we’re   with Britta from Huch and friends!  Here we are playing the game formerly known as Jam Slam, Zombie Slam, with Britta and our wingman, Mike Kollross (Godzilla Stomp!), a fellow Game Artisan.

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We then played Huch & Friends’ Pints of Blood, a co-op zombie fighting game set in a pub with some nifty shifty tiles.  Mike always dresses appropriately for the games he plays, as you can see.

IMG_0863And then we played ZomBeasts, a cute but evil little card game!  Britta beat us handily.

IMG_0862Here Jay is, pitching our Firefly game to Ed (ToyVault).  This one needs some polishing up, but once we get that done it’ll definitely be shiny!

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Moving from one IP to the next, Ed discusses the finer points of rubber suits and the JDF as we plan on making a Godzilla Living Card Game, co-designed with Ed.IMG_0841

Daryl pitches a game that he co-designed with me and Josh Cappel (Wasabi!) to Ed, a game we hope to set in the Monty Python universe and call And Now For Something Completely Different.  Ed liked it and wants to see it with a reduced card set and some more wacky game play.

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Unfortunately, my phone was used to run the apps for the majority of the meeting with Mercury, so I didn’t get any pics of that pitch session.  But I managed to get some pics of Georg Wild and Jasmine (Hans im Glueck) trying out Ignotus.

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Here, Georg explains how Jay can also grow such awesome facial hair over a game of Lions Share

IMG_0878Last, but not least, Tanya (ThinkFun) and Jay play a co-design he did with Shad – The Towers of Nakh

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~ Sen-Foong Lim

The Gathering of Friends 2014: Part 2

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William Attia (designer of Caylus and Spyrium – and representative for Ystari Games) and Cyrille Daujean from Days of Wonder play my deduction game, Ignotus!

Days of Wonder and Ystari
Our second meeting was an impromptu meeting with Cyrille from Days of Wonder and William Attia (designer of Caylus and Spyrium) from Ystari. I knew William from last year, having played many games with him, and struck up a conversation with him and Cyrille. Even though I knew that none of our current games would really fit with either company, I asked if they were open to looking at some of our new prototypes. The event had just started and they weren’t busy so they decided to look at our new games!
I was right – we didn’t have anything that fit with either company! But that’s ok – they were really interested in a game I designed by myself – foolishly titled Ignotus (Latin for Unknown) – and they just wanted to play it because they liked deduction games. They both enjoyed playing it! Cyrille also gave us a contact at Blue Orange as he thinks our game called Herdables would fit well with them! How nice!
Abacusspiele

A table full of prototypes waiting to be pitched!

A table full of prototypes waiting to be pitched!

Every year I have pitched to Matthias from Abacusspiele and every year he has taken one of our games back with him, though they have yet to publish one of our games. Daryl Andrews, a fellow Game Artisan and myself set up a table full of the prototypes that we wanted to show off to him!

I like Matthias and got to play a few ‘real’ games with him at the event throughout the week – including a really late game of Tichu one night – and he was happy to look at what we had to present this year. I showed him what we had and we played through a few rounds of Ignotus and Zombie Slam. He liked both of those and requested rules for each to be sent to him so he could assess them further. Yay – 3 for 3!
R&R Games
We met up with Frank from R&R Games because he had a contract for us to sign for a game that we pitched to him last year called Pop Goes the Weasel. We had been negotiating it previous to the Gathering and so it was the perfect time for all of us to convene and sign multiple copies of the contract. He also let us know that they have been doing focus groups with it already and that they will most likely change the name of the game. Apparently the title makes parents think that the game is purely a kid’s game and not a family game. They’re not sure what the title will be yet – but they’ve also already replaced the mulberries with bananas! We’re pretty cool with these kind of changes since they’re based on a business decision that makes sense. This is another reason why it’s good to partner with publishers who have access to doing things like focus groups!
We didn’t end up pitching any of our new games to Frank this year since he said his plate was now full of family and party games and that they were actually looking for more Euro style games – which we didn’t have this year.
Zoch

Daryl Andrews pitching his games to Andreas from Zoch

Daryl Andrews pitching his games to Andreas from Zoch

This was a nice surprise as we’ve never pitched to Zoch before! Zoch is a pretty big deal in Germany, especially with thei big hit Ghost Blitz. We knew we would have a game or two that Zoch might like! The Zoch representative, Andreas, ended up being a good friend throughout the Gathering. We played many games together – including some fun Zoch games like Polterfass and Leg Los! After pitching our games he expressed a lot of interest in Zombie Slam! He expressed some concern that Zoch wouldn’t do a zombie game though – especially if it had guns in it, but he really liked the mechanic. We chatted and found out that he probably could do it with ‘cute’ werewolves and no guns. That could work!
Andreas mentioned that they were looking for a quick reaction game for next year so Zombie Slam might fit the bill. We also told him about our game Pig Goes Moo (previously called Ei-Ei-O!), which we didn’t bring for some reason (d’oh!). He expressed interest in that one too and asked us to mail it to him asap.

Next up we’ll regale tales of pitching to the likes of Huch & Friends, Toy Vault, Mercury, Hans Im Gluck, Think Fun, iEllo and Repos! Wow!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-TurnAnd again, more pictures to complement Jay’s words!

Ystari’s William Attia (who just celebrated a birthday – Bonne Fete!) and Cyrille Daujean (DoW) burn their brains to try to figure out what’s what in Jay’s solo effort, Ignotus.

IMG_0816We return the favour by getting a convention exclusive playthrough of Five Tribes, the next Days of Wonder product, facing off against the designer himself, Bruno Cathala.

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Jay pitches our card game, Lions Share, to Andreas (Zoch).

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Fair is fair, so we learn how to play Polterfass aka “Rumbling Barrels”, a dicey betting game, from Zoch with Andreas and Jasmine (Hans im Glueck).  One of our faves from the con!

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One of my personal favourites is a great drawing game where you use bits and pieces to create items for people to guess.  The twist?  You lose materials as you play, so you have less and less bits to draw the items with as you progress!  I *slaughtered* everyone at this game.  Andreas gave it to me to take home!  Game recognizes game.

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Later, we get Andreas to try out a game, Topsy Turvey Towers, from a fellow Game Artisan, Daniel Rocchi.

IMG_0884 I also destroyed Andreas (not really) at Machi Koro, so this pic is just to commemorate my victory.  IMG_0886

~ Sen-Foong Lim

 

Gathering 2014 in Review: Part 1

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

RPW-imageOur 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!

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!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

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!)

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Jay’s first look at the back of the Akrotiri box, forthcoming from Z-man.

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Jay teaches Akrotiri to our friends Ed Bryan (ToyVault) and Daryl Andrews (Londonderry)

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And then he teaches it to fellow Game Artisans, Michael Xeureb and Gavan Brown (Jab).

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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.

IMG_0827~ Sen-Foong Lim

 

First review of our upcoming game Akrotiri!

Akrotirifin3finAnd 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!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 5 – Pitching to Toy Vault, Abacusspiele, Amigo and Mercury

The pitching continues! The Gathering had been very successful already, in terms of making new friends, getting connections, and generally just getting to know people from the publishing companies! Tuesday we had a meeting with Ed from Toy Vault. I had noticed on the Gathering forum a post from Ed stating that he was open to looking at designs. I emailed him and he replied with a time slot on Tuesday morning!

Rob and I tag teamed again showing multiple designs to Ed. Of our designs he seemed to like Hog the Remote, But Wait, There’s More and Captionary. He also liked a design from GAC member, Al Leduc called A Game of Cat and Mouse. We played it and had a good time with it, but he didn’t see it fitting with Toy Vault at this time. It was uncanny how Ed could know which place I was going to in the game every round!

He decided to take the prototype of Hog the Remote and But Wait, There’s More and said we should find some people one night and play each of them. Cool! He was curious about Captionary and wanted to see that game played out before committing to taking that one. More on this in my next post!!

By this time it was lunch and we all decided to go out and get some Indian food. We bumped into Stefan from Asmodee and we all went out for lunch. It was a great lunch full of behind the scene stuff in the board game world. I told Stefan that Filosofia picked up EIEI-O. He was fine with that as it might mean he will distribute the game anyway. I’m not sure what kind of deal they have with Filosofia, but I do know that their offices are right next to each other! It was a great lunch (well the food was only OK and the restaurant we chose was pretty yucky – but the company was great!).

When I got back I managed to get some time with Matthias from Abacusspiele. I pitched Eat at Joes, Clunatics and others, but he was most interested in Eat at Joes. He took a sales sheet and that was that. Quick one!

Amigo and Mercury Games Wednesday morning Rob had set up a meeting with Christian Hildenbrand from Amigo. If you recall, Christian was how I got invited the Gathering in the first place – so I already really liked him!

We found out that Amigo is really focused on card games at the moment. He was also interested in looking at party games (which was good as we didn’t have any card games!). We spent a couple hours pitching him various games and he really liked Eat at Joes and even wanted to take the prototype back with him. He also liked the idea for Hog the Remote, Clunatics and Captionary. He took a sales sheet for each of those. I told him that Pegasus Spiele is currently assessing Clunatics and he said he knew them, so he would call them when he got back to Germany to find out their thoughts on the game! It’s a pretty small industry!

We were getting hungry so the three of us went to TGIF for lunch and had some great conversations about games and non-game things. It was just great to get to know him as a person instead of as a publisher. That’s the big advantage the Gathering has over any other convention. It’s a longer convention and it’s pretty exclusive so everyone is more casual and relaxed.

Rob bumped into Kevin who used to work at Valley Games and was the person who Rob actually signed contracts with for his game Two by Two. Kevin has a new partner they are creating a new game company called Mercury games. They were looking for a game to be their launch game. Rob showed them his game Coffee and we played a game of that. Later on we played Iron Horse Bandits with them as well. At this point I was running out of games to show people! None of our games seemed to fit with what they were looking at as a launch game.

Next up – one more day of pitching to publishers and then a summary of my experiences!

-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

The Gathering of Friends: Part 3 – Pitching to Publishers

As I mentioned in a previous post, while pitching to publishers is by no means prohibited or even frowned upon at the Gathering, I knew that it’s not what Alan wants the event to be about, so I tried hard to keep things light and casual as much as possible.

I didn’t set up any appointments in advance at all – with the exception of a meeting with Canadian publishers, Filosofia. They already had our game, Akrotiri and had expressed interest to us regarding EIEI-O, so I emailed them to set up a time when we could play it together. We said we’d meet up sometime on Sunday. We found each other as planned and then set an actual time to playtest the games on Monday morning.

Otherwise, Rob Bartel and I would walk around and, every once in a while, we would bump into people with blue badges (meaning that they were with a publishing company). We’d engage in some small talk with them and they generally would be very warm and welcoming to us – possibly because we had red badges (i.e. be nice to the newbies!). Then we’d ask if they were looking at submissions while they were here. Most of them were actively seeking new designs.  Sometimes, we’d immediately find a nearby table and start pitching while, other times, we’d set up a meeting that worked best for their schedules.

Sunday: Iello and Asmodee

Rob and I decided to play a game of Hungry Cities – a game from fellow GAC member, Roberta Taylor. As we were setting up, Stephan from Iello Games walked by our table and so we invited him to play. He agreed and ended up playing the full game with us! We chatted about the game afterwards and  agreed to hook up later in the week so he could review other games from us.

I`m not sure how we bumped into Stefan from Asmodee, but we did and he was open to seeing some pitches. Rob and I grabbed our sales sheets (Step 14) and found a table. Rob did a great job of putting all his sales sheeting in a 3-holed binder, and then sorted them from light to heavy. This was an excellent idea as it allowed us to jump to whichever section was more interesting to each publisher. The 3-holed binder was perfect for pitching as well. I had used a folder, but that caused some of the pages to get crinkled or bent in the corners. The binder was used just for pitching. If the publisher liked a game, then Rob gave them a fresh sales sheet (without any holes) from the stacks he brought in a separate box.

We would start the pitch session by asking the publisher what they were specifically looking for, tailoring our pitches based on this information. If they were looking for light, family games then we wouldn`t pitch them any of our heavier Euro games, and vice-versa.

Rob and I have different styles of pitching – it was interesting to be present to witness how another person pitched. Rob has a more thorough approach of giving the publisher a full overview of the game, while my style gives more of a high level snapshot of the key points in the game (Step 16). Both approaches were effective depending on the game being pitched and the publisher we were pitching to.

Asmodee expressed interest in a number of our designs. We played EIEI-O and he liked it. We played Eat at Joes and he  ended up taking the prototype of Eat at Joe’s with him! In total, we spent around 3 hours with Stefan! We kept showing him more sales sheets and, if he expressed interest, then he would want to see the prototype and play a round or two. He expressed interest in Akrotiri and I let him know that it was currently with Filosofia. At that he said that was fine because if they pick it up then he would most likely do the foreign version of the game! Sweet!

He then wanted to see a game from GAC member, Graeme Jahns called Iron Horse Bandits. I had brought this one as I really liked the mechanics involved. The playtest went well, but we discovered a few aspects that need a bit more tweaking. It was interesting to hear him say that the theme would have to change a bit. Currently in the game, players are bandits and they are shooting at lawmen and stealing loot. He didn’t think that theme would be appropriate for the family audiences that Asmodee would like to target. He wasn’t concerned with it though as that was an easy change. With some tweaks to the game, he’d like to see it again.

I had been asked if I wanted to see Cabin in the Woods.  Even though I had already seen it, I wanted to see it again. So, later that night, 5 of us drove out to see the movie. I ended up sitting next to Chris Handy and JF.  We hit it off as we all had similar tastes in movies! Chris was a fellow designer who would end up playing an important role in the days ahead.  JF, unbeknownst to me at the time, actually works for Filosofia and ended up being present at the meeting I had set up the next morning!  How much of a coincidence is that?

The next few posts will review the following days of The Gathering and the various other publishers I met.

-Jay Cormier