Gathering: Pitching to Mercury and Wrap Up

Here’s the final post in our lengthy series of pitching to publishers at the Gathering in April. It was an unbelievably amazing time and one of my favourite weeks every year! For previous posts in this series check them out here:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos
  4. Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele
  6. Pitching to ThinkFun
  7. Pitching to Hasbro

Our final pitch of the Gathering was to Mercury Games. Last year Mercury Games was a new kid on the block – having no games published yet. Last year they were looking for their launch title and while I didn’t think any of our games that we had to pitch at that time would fit their bill, there was another game from another designer (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) that I thought would be perfect for them.

I had showed them a sales sheet for a game called Quarantine. They liked the concept and then phoned Mark that same day and asked for the rules. The next day they phoned him again and asked for a prototype. A couple weeks pass and they signed Mark’s game to be their first game! In fact, Quarantine should be available now from your local game store!

QuarantineSo fast forward to this year and the Mercury gang sought me out and said that they’d like to look at what we had to pitch. Mark had contacted them earlier and told them he had a couple new designs and so they were eager to check them out as well as anything else we had to pitch.

The pitch session started that night and then continued the next day! We pitched a bunch of our games and the main game of ours that they liked was Clunatics. They were unsure about the party game space but had a really good time with the session that they are interested in talking with us about it more in the future.

I showed them another Game Artisan of Canada game from Graeme Jahns (designer of Alba Longa) called Iron Horse Bandits. I explained the game to them and walked them through the first round, but then had to leave them. It was the second last day of the event and Sen and I had to type out the rules to Lions Share and Pop Goes the Weasel for the two publishers that wanted them – because, as you might remember, I lost all my files when my computers were stolen.

They came back after playing it and had a good time with it but also some concerns. I’ve shared them with Graeme and he’s already made some changes to the game! They also played Mark’s two games: You’re Fired and Garden Plot. They liked Garden Plot a lot but wanted to see some changes to You’re Fired before seeing it again.

I had a really good time with the Mercury gang. We ended up grabbing dinner together, along with Chris Handy and just hung out and chatted – sometimes about the gaming business and sometimes not. That’s one of my favourite things I love about the Gathering – just chilling with publishers and getting to know each other. We also got to play a full game of Keyflower with Mercury and it ended up being my favourite game of the event!

So that about wraps up our amazing Gathering journey this year! There were many more stories that happened during the week that are worth sharing:

Rob Bartel arrived late this year (last year he and I were tag team buddies in pitching GAC games!) and when he got here I offered to show him the prototypes that we were pitching this year. We found an open table and I started to unpack one of my games. As I was explaining one of my games it caught the attention of Peter Eggert from Eggertspiele. I saw him looking in and so I asked him to come over and have a seat. As soon as he sat down I asked him what kind of games Eggertspiele was looking for. He said he was looking for medium weight Euro-style games that take about an hour to play.

daryl-londonderryI didn’t have any game with me that fit into that requirement, but I asked fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Daryl Andrews if his game, Londonderry, fit into his requirements. Daryl saw that we were talking to Peter and had added himself to the end of the table! Good move! Daryl said that his game fit exactly within his requirements and so we all decided to give it a try. I packed up my proto and we set up Londonderry – which I had yet to play!

We played a full game and much to my surprise it did indeed last exactly an hour. Also to my surprise (no offense to Daryl at all), I loved the game! I told Daryl that besides all of Sen and Jay’s designed games, it was my favourite prototype I’ve ever played. Peter was also very impressed with it and started chatting with Daryl about it. Throughout the rest of the event Peter played it another two times (at least) and was ridiculously interested in it! Awesome!

It was also fun to play games with Vlaada Chvatil (Dungeon Lords designer) and William Attia (Caylus designer). I loved playing Coup with Vlaada and Hanabi with William (I hope Hanabi wins SDJ this year!). I also purchased Chris Handy’s new game from Rio Grande, Cinqe Terre and got to play a game with him and Vlaada! Fun efficiency game!

The entire 10 days was a whirlwind of pitches and gaming. One night at 2am someone asked me if I wanted to play Terrra Mystica. Yes. Yes I did. So 5:30 am rolls around when we finally finished (our sleepiness might have factored into our analysis paralysis!). I felt like I did last year at the Gathering – that this was the most productive 10 days I have spent all year as a game designer. Playtesting our games, getting feedback from other designers or publishers, pitching games and getting publishers interested enough to want to take them back for further assessing – not to mention just the general contact building and friendship making that happens at the Gathering. Amazing.

So now we’re back to tweaking, designing and following up. We should hear back from R&R about Pop Goes the Weasel by the end of June and we need to finalize What’s That for Repos Productions asap! We should also hear back about Lions Share within a month or two from Abacuspiele and we have some tweaks for Rock, Paper, Wizards based on Filosofia’s feedback that we need to continue to test. So the machine continues! I love designing games!

-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 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