The Gathering 2013: Pitching to Asmodee and Repos

Logo_AsmodéeI knew Stefan from Asmodee because not only did I meet him at last year’s Gathering but I met him at his office last November when I found myself in Montreal. He gave back three of our prototypes that Asmodee ended up passing on, but was open to seeing more. But before pitching he brought over Cedric from Repos Productions to sit in on the pitch.That’s what I love about the Gathering – and maybe the whole board game industry: everyone’s trying to help everyone.Whether you’re a designer or a publisher, everyone seems to want to help each other out.That’s really cool.

So Stefan acted as my wing man as he wanted me to show Cedric the games that Asmodee just passed on!

ex-neigh1SimpliCITY: We played a few rounds of this simple city building game and Cedric liked it but passed on it because he thought it was too much ‘multiplayer solitaire,’ which simply means that everyone is working on their own thing and once in awhile look up to compete in something together…which is true of SimpliCITY. It’s not a terrible thing, as there are popular games out there that are like that, but it’s not something that Repos wanted. Fair enough. One interesting lesson learned here: since Asmodee had this since November, I hadn’t played the game since then either.That meant that I was a little rusty on some of the rules on how the bonus goal cards score. Nothing looks more amateurish than lack of confidence and knowledge about your own game. I actually had to look in the rules! Yikes. So lesson learned – make sure you know your games inside and out before you pitch them, which sounds obvious – as it is rare to get a game back from a publisher on the same day that you pitch it to another publisher!

ex-chainable1Chainables: We played this for 1 minute when he realized it was just a word game and that wasn’t something he wanted.

EI-EI-O: This quick reaction, barnyard animal game has seen quite a few interested publishers, but Repos wasn’t interested as he thought there were many somewhat similar games like that out there already.

What’s That: This was our new party game that we haven’t shown to any publisher yet. It uses an app to give unique clues to each person. Cedric and Stefan loved it and Cedric asked to take this one back with him.Yay!

Pop Goes The Weasel: They had fun with this family/kids game, but Cedric was unfamiliar with the nursery rhyme jingle so he didn’t understand why we were doing anything. Once we realized this, Stefan explained the rhyme to him and he understood the game a lot more. He ended up passing because the title and theme makes it very North American-only.

Cedric mentioned that he was sorry that he had to pass on the games because they are all good games that work – but just not for Repos.That’s a nice thing to hear. So a pretty good pitch session! Any pitch session where a publisher wants to take one of your games is a good session.

In addition pitching my own games I was also pitching some games from other Game Artisans of Canada. Many of the west coast Artisans gave me their sales sheets and their prototypes to pitch.We Artisans stick together and help each other succeed whenever possible so I pitched their games to Cedric and Stefan. Cedric expressed interest in Iron Horse Bandits so I brought it out and showed them how it worked.They ended up passing on it but would see it again if a few things get tweaked.

Next up – pitching o Filosofia and Z-Man Games!

-Jay Cormier

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The Gathering of Friends – Pitching to Publishers

gof_logo1My first full day at the Gathering started later than I wanted, due to a 6 hour plane delay…boo. But once I got there, it felt very familiar and instantly comfortable! I found Alan Moon and showed him my World of Games map.What’s that, you ask? Well, at the end of each Gathering, there is a prize ceremony. It’s the only time everyone is together and focused. Everyone who won any contest or tournament during the week gets to pick from the prize table.Then everyone else is who didn’t win a tournament – but did bring a prize to contribute to the table – gets to pick from the prize table.

Pretty much everyone participates and you can see the prize table growing throughout the week as more and more people arrive. 95% of all the prizes are games (with 10%-20% being hard to find and out of print games), but some people create something artistic for the prize table.This year there was game- themed jewellery, ties, coasters and my map!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI created a map of the world and populated it with images of board games.The neat idea I had was to use games that had the name of a place in the title of the game – and place a somewhat recognizable image from that game on the map where that place was. I was pretty happy with it! I got it printed onto cloth that was about 6 yards wide as I thought it would be interesting to use it as a table cloth.We got permission from the hotel to hang it directly on the wall so that everyone could see it throughout the entire event. Super cool! Peter Eggert of Eggertspiele ended up winning the map – which is also cool!

Anyway – enough about the prizes and the map – let’s get into talking about the pitches to publishers! This year was very different than last year for a couple reasons:

1) My house was broken into a couple months ago, and I lost all my computers and back-up hard drives with all my files. I had another back-up but it was over a year old so I didn’t have very current files. Since I spent the greater part of the last two months packing the rest of my stuff, moving and re-acquiring things through insurance, I didn’t have enough time to properly make sales sheets! What?! I know, it’s insane. I feel like we really pioneered the sales sheets for game designers (I have no idea if we did, but it was our own original idea to do sales sheets before we ever saw anyone else doing it). It definitely felt awkward pitching without sales sheets this year. For sure we’re going back to sales sheets after this!

2) I felt like the Gathering was so much more informal of an event that a designer can easily walk up to any publisher (who are easily identifiable due to their blue name badges!) and ask them if they’re looking at designs while they’re here. 100% of them said they were. So I didn’t set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. I wouldn’t recommend this if this was your first year attending the Gathering though. I knew almost all the publishers I was pitching to, so that made it a lot easier for me.

So no sales sheets and no set-up interviews.Yikes. Fortunately, everything went awesome-rific! On day 1 I pitched to Filosofia/Z-Man, Asmodee and Repos. I’ll review the details in the next post!

-Jay Cormier

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. From all our pitches we ended up leaving one of our prototypes with four different publishers! This doesn’t mean that they’ve agreed to publish it, but it does mean that they liked it and would like to play it with the rest of their team and figure out if it is something that they’d like to do. More on this in the next few posts.
  2. We started a relationship with ThinkFun which seems like a really good fit for many games that Sen and I make. I am positive that this relationship will be very beneficial for all of us, even if they don’t pick up any of our games!
  3. We pitched to Hasbro! This was wild and I’ll go into more details in another post – but this is huge!
  4. Relationships with all publishers continue to improve and I feel like I could call some of them friends – not just business acquaintances.
  5. I got to really hang out with other designers – and just play games with them all week! Get ready for some name-dropping:
IMG_0562

Me (left) and William Attia

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

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

Me and Vlaada!

Me and Vlaada!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay Cormier

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

The Gathering of Friends: Part 2 – The Lay of the Land

When I got to the Gathering I got my name badge and a goodie bag full of freebies! The goodie bag had some card games (including a special Tichu deck with new pictures of people who have attended the Gathering in the past), some expansions to other games (like the expansion to fellow GAC member, Roberta Taylor’s Octopus’ Garden) and even the full box version of Two by Two from Valley Games (and designed by fellow GAC member, Rob Bartel!).

The name badge system was awesome as they were colour coded to help you identify people a lot easier. With this information it was easy to identify the publishers as you walked around.

  • Red Badge: First year attendee (so I had a red badge!). Generally speaking, red badge attendees are always welcomed by others and made to feel at home pretty quickly. People were constantly shaking my hand and welcoming me to the Gathering. It was very nice!
  • Grey Badge: Anyone who has been to the Gathering for the last 9 years
  • Black Badge: Anyone who has been to the Gathering for 10 years or more
  • Blue Badge: Publishers

    After I got my badge, I surveyed the layout.

Basically there was a large convention room with tons of tables set up for open gaming. Off to one side were the prize tables! Everyone was encouraged to bring something for the prize table. If you contributed to the prize table, then you could participate in the prize draw at the end of the Gathering. Near the Prize tables was a table full of brochures for local restaurants and more freebies. I found an expansion to Valdora and another for Mondo there! Around the edges of the room were tables where people stored the games they brought.

Oh look, Pierre Poissant-Marquis (right), half of the design team of the game Quebec is playing Belfort!

Generally speaking, anyone could grab any game and start playing at any time, as long as they returned it when they were done with it. Outside of the convention room were a few open areas with more tables ready for open gaming. These tables were used for the poker tournament that happened on one night. Finally, down the hall there were a couple of rooms with a few more tables. During the day we found these to be a bit quieter and therefore made it a favourite spot for us to pitch to publishers. In the late evening one of these rooms were used for a large Werewolf tournament! There were always water stations all over the place to ensure you stayed hydrated throughout the event, so that was nice! On a whole, the hotel and its staff, while a bit gungy (the hotel, not the staff), were prepared and made us feel welcome.

I found Rob and saw that he had a spot along the tables around the edges of the room, so I added my prototypes to his pile. Once we were set up then we were free to either start our own game, or join another group that’s about to start playing a game. It was always easy to find people to play a game of anything! Some of the times it would be a prototype and other times it would be a ‘regular’ game. There were a lot of designers there who, like Rob and I, were looking to get some feedback on their designs, as well as pitch to publishers. Friedemann Friese had a table dedicated to his games for the entire event. I wanted to check them out but never seemed to line up when the table was free. While the hotel offered a mini café in the latter half of the week, most of the meals were either at TGIF, which was in the same hotel, or a restaurant in the casino across the street. Sometimes people with cars would drive others to another local establishment nearby (Duff’s Buffalo wings!) or a few times we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant.

Even though I stayed up late on some days (3am) and woke up early on other days (8am), there were always people playing games somewhere in the convention area! Sleep is for chumps!

There were quite a few tournaments throughout the week ranging from 7 Wonders and Tichu to Loopin’ Louie and poker. The winners of each tournament got first choice of the prize table on Saturday night! Before the prize ceremony there was a flea market. Those that could travel with their assortment of games offered them up for sale to the rest of us. Since most people had to fly, it was a tough decision on what they could buy and what they could pack! I managed to pick up a copy of El Cabellero – a Wolfgang Kramer game that is out of print and one that I’ve been looking to get for a long time now!

[Sen:  Really?  That’s the single game of my collection that I’ve ever sold, IIRC.  Well, you know what they say about one man’s treasure…]

The prize ceremony was really the only time we were all together as one group. The hotel removed all the gaming tables and set up chairs theatre-style to fit all 400 of us in the room. Alan took the microphone and reviewed some things about the next year (I’m already pre-registered!), and then showed off the high-end prizes that people brought for the prize table. Some of the highlights included:

  • a crokinole board made by fellow GAC member, Mike Kolross, (plus graphic design by another GAC member, Mark Klassen) in the shape of a record with the label being Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride,
  • handmade table covering with a Tichu mat on one side and a Can’t Stop and Liar’s Dice on the other – complete with all the dice and cups
  • a copy of the impossible-to-find game, Hotel
  • Big Boss from Wolfgang Kramer – another hard to find game
  • The Cookies of Catan – a fully playable and edible game of Settlers of Catan!
  • Line for Life for an upcoming game called D-Day Dice (designed by another fellow GAC member, Emmanuel Aquin). The Line for Life meant that the person would receive every expansion they ever make for this game for free!

I was called somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I managed to get the exact game I was hoping to pick up – Castles of Burgundy.  It was a game I had wanted to pick up in Essen last year, but they sold out too quick!

Up next I’ll get into the specifics of what it’s like to pitch to publishers at the Gathering!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 1 – Overview

I just got back from the Gathering of Friends and have a lot of things to share with you! This is the first of many posts reviewing my experience at the Gathering of Friends.

First of all, what the heck is the Gathering of Friends, you ask? Well, Alan Moon – the prolific designer of such hit games like Ticket to Ride and Elfenland – decided 23 years ago to get some friends together to play games over the course of a week. Every year since then it has grown in attendance. For the first few years, only an invite directly from Alan himself could get you to the Gathering. Eventually, he noticed that there was clearly a desire of many others who would love to attend, but Alan still wanted to ensure only the right kind of people attended.

The new policy is that anyone who has been to the Gathering at least 2 years can nominate someone to attend, and then that person needs to be seconded by two other people who have also attended the Gathering for at least 2 years. So it’s a pretty exclusive club. This year, and for the next three years, it takes place at the Sheraton on the US side of Niagara Falls.

Thanks to the Game Artisans of Canada, I found myself with an invite! Whaaa? Me? Yeah! Another member of the Game Artisans of Canada, Mike Kolross has been attending for about 5 years now – thanks to his ability to make components for the game, Descent that Alan greatly enjoyed. Last year, he and Rob Bartel, another member of GAC, made a portable/travel edition of Alan’s Ticket to Ride out of wood (kind of like a fold up cribbage board) and it was a huge hit. Mike then made another one for Christian Hildenbrand from Amigo Games (for his wife actually) and through Christian and Mike I got my invite to the Gathering!

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I heard that Alan doesn’t mind that designers are pitching games to publishers, but that he preferred to make the Gathering more about playing games with friends. So I didn’t follow Step 20 and set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. That said, we did know which publishers were going to be there, thanks to email updates from Alan himself. This allowed Sen and I to prepare by assessing which games of ours would fit best with each publisher (Step 17). We could have done better at this – by making some solid notes about each.

Following Step 21, I packed up one bag full of prototypes. With so many prototypes to carry around, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is the large baggie system. I take all the components of a game and put them into one large baggie. Of course I put some components in smaller baggies and then into the larger baggie to make it easy to set up and play. Then I labeled each baggie with a sticker that had the logo of the game as well as my contact information. I heard a story from Frank DiLorenzo from R&R games where he had a prototype of a pretty good game, but it had no contact information on it whatsoever! Ouch! Sen and I pretty much like to have our contact information in as many places as possible – on the baggie, on the Sales Sheet (Step 14), on each page of the rules in the header, and even on some other component of the game – if it makes sense.

I print out the rules for all my games and put them all into one folder as they’d get wrinkled up if I put them into the baggie. If a publisher wanted a prototype, then I’d fish out the rules, fold them in half and stick it in the large baggie with the rest of the game. Prior to this trip we had many other Game Artisans who wanted me (and Rob Bartel, who also attended) to pitch their games to publishers on their behalf, since they were not invited. I didn’t mind doing this for other Game Artisans, but the game had to be something I enjoyed and something I would feel comfortable pitching. So for the weeks leading up to the Gathering I was getting prototypes mailed to me from other chapters in hopes that I’d like their game and could pitch it to publishers. I liked three games of the ones I was sent and agreed to pitch them. This just meant that my backpack full of prototypes now had three more games stuffed in it! In my backpack I was carrying these prototypes:

  1. Junkyard – even though this game has exclusivity with Wiggles 3D until June 1st, we wanted to show some other publishers, in case Wiggles ultimately decided to pass on it
  2. Clunatics – this one is being assessed by Pegasus Spiele, but we wanted to bring it to show other publishers (and we were clear with new publishers that the game was currently being assessed by Pegasus)
  3. Hog the Remote
  4. But Wait, There’s More!
  5. Akrotiri
  6. Eat at Joe’s
  7. EIEI-O!
  8. Swashbucklers – currently being signed by a publisher, but we wanted to test one last thing with the game
  9. Belfort – plus the expansion prototype
  10. An untitled prototype that is Alpha stage, currently called Box Office
  11. Captionary
  12. Bordeaux – prototype from GAC member, Matt Musselman
  13. A Game of Cat and Mouse – prototype from GAC member, Al Leduc
  14. Iron Horse Bandits – prototype from GAC member, Graeme Jahns

Yowza! That’s a lot of prototypes! In the next post I’ll review how the Gathering is laid out and then get into what it was like pitching to publishers at the Gathering, and finally share which of our games garnered interest from them as well.

-Jay Cormier

2011 in Review

Well, to say 2011 was a big year for the Bamboozle Brothers (that’s Sen and I, btw!!) would be quite the understatement!

Published Games

In 2011 we saw the release of our first two games!

Train of Thought

Train of Thought box artTrain of Thought was our first published game (though it was our second one signed to be published). It’s a party game that gets people thinking differently than most other party games. It has been reviewed very well so far. There are discussions with other publishers to see if there’s interest in publishing the game in different languages and different countries. We managed to get it into a National Retailer in Canada…yep – Train of Thought is available on Bestbuy.ca!

Belfort

Belfort box artBelfort was released just a few months ago and has been received extremely well by gamers everywhere, including achieving the number one game of this year’s BGG.con. It has sold out at the publisher level, and they are in discussions with other publishers to see if they want to do other language versions of the game. On the last day of 2011, Belfort was the 392nd best game of all time, according to users on boardgamegeek.com. We’ve seen it pop up on a few top ten lists of the year as well.

It has already been confirmed by the publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, that an expansion will come out next year! Expansion you say? Yep! Sen and I have been working hard on many expansions for Belfort. Tasty Minstrel has given us carte blanche in creating it – so we thought we’d come up with a few and either have them choose – or, if they like them all, then stagger the release of expansions over the next couple years.

Unpublished Games

It was also a big year for our unpublished games! How so? Well, 8 of our unpublished games are currently out at various publishers being reviewed. My trip to Essen (detailed in many posts starting here) was key in getting most of our games out to publishers. We’re feeling some good vibes from at least two publishers about our games and we should start to hear from most of them in January. One of them, Akrotiri, made it to the finals in the Canadian Game Design Competition that was ultimately won by fellow Game Artisan of Canada’s Matt Tollman with his game, Undermining.

Sen and I took one of our almost-published games, But Wait, There’s More and posted it here on our website and gave it away for free to everyone! It has also been posted on boardgamegeek.com – so I guess it’s actually a published game now! If you’ve downloaded and tried it, we’d love to hear your feedback. Expect more free games from Sen and I in the near future!

Game Artisans of Canada

Sen and I belong to the Game Artisans of Canada (GAC), and it’s been an amazing organization and very symbiotic relationship so far. There are chapters of game designers all across Canada that get together to playtest each other’s games and help each other out with general questions and direction. The collective knowledge of the group is astounding, let alone the numerous contacts that each person brings to the table. You can read more about the group, including its annual get-together, appropriately named Cardstock here.

Comic Books!

We also released our first comic, which was set in the world of Belfort and was written by me and my comic-writing partner, Tim Reinert and illustrated by the uber-talented Rob Lundy. We’ve started a path that was very similar to the path Sen and I took on getting a board game published: we have no idea what we’re doing, but we’re taking it one step at a time and enjoying the process a lot!

The entire 10-page Tales of Belfort comic will be complete by Monday or Tuesday of this coming week, then we’re onto other stories set in other, non-board game worlds! Check it out at Condo Of Mystery.com!

 

This Website
It’s always interesting to see if people are reading what you’re writing. One way to tell if you’re connecting with your audience is if your posts start a discussion (go on, comment below!), but the other way is through analyzing the stats. It’s rewarding to me to see that people are visiting the site as often as they are.

What’s the plan for 2012 for this blog? Well, there are still a few more steps left to go to fully complete the journey we started long ago. Plus, since starting this blog, we’ve come up with many more tips and best practices along the way that we’ll have to squeeze into the step process somewhere. Not sure how we’ll do that…maybe just renumber the steps? We’ll see. Plus we’re hoping to get some experiences with different publishers under our belt this year. No problems or challenges with our current publisher – but it will be interesting to see how other publishers operate. We also have plans to put some videos together that better demonstrate some of the steps that we’ve described.

As usual, we’ll be as transparent as we can be – we have to hold back sometimes when publishers request us NOT to post about certain things – which we can understand. Usually it’s just a timing thing and not a forever thing.

Our goal, as it has been since we began: show and explain all the steps we took to get our games published, in an effort to make it easier for others to get their board games published. How altruistic! Well, in doing so, we’re hopefully raising awareness for our games as well! 🙂

Click here to see the complete report.

2012?

So what else is coming in 2012? We hope a few more games from the Bamboozle Brothers! While the publishers are assessing the games of ours that they have right now, Sen and I are still working on new games (it’s really a never ending cycle, isn’t it – no complaints here though!). We have Lion’s Share, RuneMasters, Scene of the Crime and more that haven’t made it through Beta stage yet.
I am really looking forward to April as I have been invited to the very exclusive Gathering of Friends! This is a week long event held by famed game designer, Alan Moon in which his friends (most of them are other famous game designers) and some publishers show up and play games all week! Wow! That’s going to be amazing!
Sen is planning a trip to Essen this year to celebrate completing 4 decades of living. I might go as well, but the Gathering will take a fair bit of change out of my spending this year.
The aforementioned expansion to Belfort will be released. Expect the first expansion to be one of the smaller kind of expansions – not a full boxed version. Just something to mix it up a bit!
I have to say that five years ago, I would never have thought I’d be where I am right now. It’s been a fantastic ride, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us! Thanks for joining us on this trip!
-Jay Cormier