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

 

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Another game picked up by a publisher and more updates!

Well 2013 has come and is almost gone, and it was a good one for us Bamboozle Brothers! While we didn’t have any new games actually make it to retail this year, we signed more games and are excited about 2014 as we have upwards of 6 new titles hitting retail. Check them out:

1. Belfort: The Expansion Expansion from Tasty Minstrel Games – this one took a bit of extra time through customs and didn’t make the Christmas shipping cut-off – but it’s something we can look forward to early in the new year! The expansion adds Assistants that you get to choose every round which give each player new abilities (and there are more Assistants than you need, making each game totally different!), as well as Expansion Permits that let you expand your current buildings which unlock specific scoring opportunities that only you can take advantage of!

2. But Wait, There’s More from Toy Vault – Expect to see a Kickstarter for this party game early in the new year – January or February we think. We’ve signed the final contract and so it’s not a secret anymore and I think it’s ok to announce that the game will be set in the Monty Python universe!! How crazy is that? Very exciting to be a part of the Python world!!

3. Tortuga from Queen – Expect a Kickstarter for this one in January! This one used to be called Swashbucklers, but that didn’t translate well to other languages, so it’s been changed to the very piratey island of Tortuga! We’re very excited about this one and have even seen some early art for it. This could be a big hit for us! It’s a simultaneous roll and assign your dice game about finding and stealing treasure from other pirates.

4. Akrotiri from Z-Man Games – we’ve seen almost all the art and the rules, so I’m expecting it to come out in the first half of 2014, but we’re not sure. This is our 2-player strategy game that has tile laying and a pretty nifty mechanic where you have maps that tell you where temples are hidden – even though the map is different every time you play! Very cool.

5. Pop Goes the Weasel by R&R Games – we’re not done the contract phase of this one yet, so it’s not 100% official, but it should be soon. This is our first kid’s game where you roll 2 dice and choose one as movement and the other as how many mullberries you get to take. It’s pretty clever for a kid’s game!

6. This Town Aint Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us by Tasty Minstrel Games – we’re not done the contract phase of this one either but we should be soon! This is a micro game that use 25 tiles full of cowboys, each trying to get more in a town than the others. I’m happy about the gameplay – and possibly even happier with that title!

Once we’re allowed to share, we’ll share more news and pictures of each game! On top of that we have some games being assessed at publishers right now:

1. Rock, Paper, Wizards – We sent this into Filosofia awhile ago and they liked it, but not enough to publish it. We (Sen-Foong Lim, Josh Cappel and me) worked on it for months and finally cracked it in November. We tested the heck out of it and have just re-sent it back to Filosofia. We can’t wait to hear what they think of it!

2. Lions Share – we sent this to Amigo Spiele awhile ago and had a positive email from them before Christmas stating that they already returned all the games that they didn’t like back to the designers – so that means that they still like Lions Share. We’ll see what happens in the new year.

3. Junkyard – Filosofia has had this one for awhile, and they really love it but are having challenges with figuring out how to make it affordable as it uses many unique pieces of wood. They’re working with some manufacturers to try and figure that one out.

4. SimpliCITY – Flux Capacity has expressed interest in this game when we were at Hammercon in November. Since then we’ve tweaked and balanced it even more. Since the publisher lives close to Sen, they’re going to play it later this weekend! Crossing fingers! I really like how this game has evolved!

5. Aladdin: Cave of Wonders – the Game Artisans of Canada are putting together a collection of games, with each one based of a different fairy tale or fable. The idea is that each game in the set could be played on its own, or there would be a story mode with benefits to playing one after the other. This one was just sent to PSI as they volunteered to help us assess the age range of some of the games in the collection.

So 2014 is shaping up to be quite a big year for us! Now we just have to actually start coming up with more game ideas! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games

This is the third in our series of pitching to publishers at this year’s Gathering. You can read about the here:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos

logo_filoUp next I got to sit with JF from Filosofia. I showed him our app game,What’s That.When you’re at a convention and a publisher wants to take your game – as was the case with What’s That with Repos, you never have to give it to them right away. I always tell them that I’d like to show a few more publishers but I will come back at the end of the event to hand it into them.This is good for a couple reasons:

1) It lets you see which publisher is more interested in your game.The more interested they are, the more likely they will want to publish it!

2) It lets you assess which publisher you’d rather work with for your game. Do you want your game to go back with a first time publisher or an established publisher? They both have their benefits – but you now get to make that choice!

3) Once you give it to one publisher, but more than one are interested, well now you know which publisher you can send it to next if that first publisher decides to pass on your game. It’s great having a line-up of publishers wanting to take a closer look at your game!

Unfortunately for What’s That, the app kept crashing – sometimes right when we wanted to see what the answer was! It was frustrating – but it was a new app, made by fellow Game Artisan of Canada member, Stefan Alexander.We didn’t have much time for QA so we just went with what we had. I think the problem was that if I received a text message while we were playing then it crashed. I think they weren’t really interested in it anyway…!

Next up was Pop Goes the Weasel.They thought it was too confusing for kids. We did come up with one good idea that simplifies the game for kids, but still retains the ability to play the game as is for slightly older kids.

By this point I had Josh Cappel (artist extraordinaire of such board games of…oh I don’t know…Belfort!) joined us so we pitched our new game, Rock, Paper, Wizards to JF. Yep – Josh joined forces with the Bamboozle Brothers and the three of us created a brand new game! It involves bluffing and pointing weird finger gestures at other players!

Ed Bryan from Toy Vault also came by and helped us playtest this one. Ed’s another good wingman for me! The game went so well that he brought Zev over to play it. Zev IS Z-Man Games, but Z-Man Games is owned by Filosofia. Zev liked it a lot and wanted to make sure they took this one back with them. Yay! Two games now being requested by publishers!

Update: We have received an email from Filosofia after they played it and they said that while they don’t want to publish it as is – they don’t want to give it back to us. They had some concerns and asked us to see if we could review some options. So we are!

Junkyard-photo2We were then told that they did get the new sample of our game Junkyard from the manufacturer’s in China. Last year at the Gathering I showed them Junkyard and since then we’ve been figuring out a way to make the game. Everyone at Filosofia loves the game, but the cost to produce 52 wooden pieces is high.When I visited Filosofia in November we came up with some ideas on how to reduce costs.The biggest idea was to reduce the size of the pieces by 20-25%.We got a quote from Panda on how many we’d have to make in order to get the per unit price low enough to retail it for $30-35.The pricing and quantity worked out for Filosofia, but they wanted to see a sample of the product before committing.They brought this sample and we got to play the game with Zev because he has never played Junkyard.After a fun game of Junkyard Zev gave his thumbs up to the game. So this meant that everyone is on board! The next step for Junkyard is to ask for another sample with a varnished finish of some sort as the pieces are a bit too rough as they are now. But yay for progress!

We were also given feedback on the three other games that Filosofia had since November. Jam Slam was one of them that showed the most promise so JF wanted Sofie to play it. I learned something about pitching in this pitch session.

Jam-Slam-logoThe game is a simple game of listening to a clue and slapping a card that has that information. For older kids it has an advanced variant where you get bonuses if you collect the most or least of a specific thing. I thought we should play with this since we’re all adults and it would make it more of a challenge – and therefore (in my mind) – more fun.Well that was wrong. Being new to the game, Sofie was confused by the multiple motivations. She boiled it down to show that the game had three motivations and a kid’s game should only have one motivation. So the lesson learned is to always show your game as the base concept first, before throwing in variants or expansions! So she decided to pass on it but gave us some interesting insight into the design.

JF also shared some comments from the playtests of the other two games they had of ours and from this we learned another lesson.The feedback for our card game, Lion’s Share was that there was fun there – but there was too much memory in it.Wait – what? Memory? There’s no memory at all in the game.Why would they say that then? Think about it for a second…..yep – they played the game wrong.And who’s fault is that? Ours.We re-read the rules and found a section that could be misinterpreted. Damn. Sometimes you have only one chance with a publisher and if the reason why your game fails is because they played it incorrectly, then you’re hooped! By playing incorrectly, they didn’t get the experience you wanted them to have so they only thought the game was mediocre.When you found out they played it wrong, there’s little motivation for them to play again because their experience was only mediocre before. So the lesson here – blind playtest your game! Have some other group playtest your game without you there to guide them or help them out.This will help you ensure your rules are being interpreted correctly.

Whew! That was a busy first day! And there are still more pitches ahead – so stay tuned!

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, part 4

Logo_AsmodéeOn Monday I had my meeting set up with Stefan at Asmodee. I met him at their office and after grabbing a bit to eat and chatting about the business, we sat down for some game pitching! I was now 3 games lighter since Filiosofia kept Lions Share, Jam Slam and Clunatics, but that still left me with five more games to pitch. I laid out the games and started explaining the games when Stefan jumped in and recommended we play Chainables first as it seemed easy and would allow us to eat while we played.

Chainables: Three of us played this word game and we played enough rounds for them to understand how it played. They liked it but didn’t offer too many more comments – so I cleaned it up and moved onto the next game.

Simplicity: Stefan and I played Simplicity and even finished the game (it is a pretty quick game!). I showed him the expansion that we had designed with it and he asked to hold onto the game for further evaluation. He said he’d probably play it with the expansion as it seemed like a good idea. Cool!

EIEI-O: Stefan had expressed interest at the Gathering but it was with another publisher at that time. It has since been released by the other publisher – so I was able to pitch this game to Asmodee. EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game where you have to make the sounds and actions of common farmyard animals. Stefan got more people from the office to play the game. I decided to stay out of playing the game and just flipped the cards and rolled the die! The game was a huge hit with tons of laughs by everyone involved! Lots of wrong sound effects for the animals and awkward actions. They definitely were interested in this game and are already planning on sending the game to France for evaluation.

Short Order Showdown: We played a few rounds of this, but I did a poor job explaining some of the rules and it caused some confusion. My bad. There certainly was a language barrier – but I do take responsibility in not explaining the rules as well as I should have. That might have been part of the reason why they ended up passing on this game.

l4w-1Lost for Words: Lost for Words is a word-making game that Sen and I made because we didn’t like how slow Scrabble is to play. It’s a fun game for word fans but it fell rather flat with Asmodee, possible because of the language barrier. I wonder if this game will ever find a publisher!? I hope so because the response from word fans is always fantastic!

After this, one person in the office asked to play Chainables again as he found it very interesting. That was a surprise to me! Not that the game isn’t interesting – but that they would be interested in an English word-making game! We played it with 4 players and brainstormed a bit about the cards since they were too big. One person thought it would be better if they were tiles, and placed on a rack just like Scrabble. That’s cool! That would be very slick methinks! They asked to hold onto Chainables for further evaluation. Huzzah!

Stefan had to get ready to head off to BGG.con the next day so I left with only Lost for Words and Short Order Showdown! That means, after these two meetings (Filosofia on Friday and Asmodee on Monday) we had these games being assessed:

Filosofia

  • Junkyard
  • Clunatics
  • Lions Share
  • Jam Slam

Asmodee

  • EI-EI-O
  • SimpliCITY
  • Chainables

A very successful couple of days pitching games! Who knows, it’s very possible that both Filosofia and Asmodee will pass on all these games, but as usual, Sen and I are optimistic about many of these games! Stay tuned to this blog to see what the future will hold for these games!

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, part 3

The Fiesta from Filosofia

Saturday was spent at the Fiesta. The Fiesta is an annual, public, gaming event run by Filosofia. The goal is to introduce the games they publish or distribute to as many people as possible. All proceeds from the Fiesta actually go to a charity – so it’s not even a profit generating event for Filosofia. The timing of my trip to Montreal was perfect as it aligned with the Fiesta! I was invited to attend and show the public Akrotiri and Junkyard. That’s cool! The biggest challenge all day was the fact that my French is still stuck in high school, so communicating the rules to everyone throughout the day was a bit of a hindrance. Regardless, it was a fun day!

An over-sized version of Fearsome Floors!

An over-sized version of Carcasonne!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the morning in the family room, showing Junkyard to anyone who stopped by. I even got to play one full game with Martin Tremblay – the other owner of Filosofia and husband of Sophie! He had never played it before so it was great to be able to show him how it worked. He won even though I tried to win! 🙂 The highlight was when I was playing with a 9 year old boy. The mother eventually came by and was ecstatic that he was so engaged by the game since he was autistic and had yet to be interested in any game. He

The Family Game room just before opening. Tons of tables – each one has a different game set up with a volunteer ready to help explain the rules!

had the most ridiculously precarious tower that had 8 more blocks on it than it logically should have been able to hold. It was hilarious. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of that one. We did play with a new scoring rule that we had brainstormed the day before and it did make a difference. I had the tallest tower (which did collapse – but I still maintain the tallest – neat!) – but I lost to the player with the 2nd tallest tower since I had so many negative points.

A game of Akrotiri in progress.

 

I had lunch with Sophie and then spent the afternoon in the gamer room showing Akrotiri. We found a couple of English speaking gamers who were interested in trying the game. It was a fantastic game! One player played only Easy Temples but had a lot of points with their secret goal cards, while the other player played Medium and Hard Temples and did ok with his secret goal cards. We scored up their points and they actually tied – with the tie-breaker being money and one player had $1 more than the other so he won a very tight game! They both seemed very sincere in expressing how much they enjoyed the game.

I found Sophie and she spent some time asking the two of them some questions. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to say nice things since the designer was standing right there – so I let them chat about it with Sophie and left to peruse the rest of the Fiesta. Sophie later told me that they only had great things to say about the game – which was very comforting to hear! She did express concern that the game would have to fit inside the same box as the 2-player Agricola box. I didn’t think it would be an issue since all the tiles were going to be cards instead of cardboard. JF pointed out that with the tiles being cards, it meant that they’d need full bleed. The german manufacturer that they deal with charges too much to do it so that means they’d have to use the Chinese manufacturer that they deal with instead, which didn’t seem to be a big deal.

The Gamer side of the Fiesta. All the new games that are made or distributed by Filosofia.

I also got to spend some time showing the game to Chris Quilliams. Chris is a newly hired artist at Filosofia who will be doing a lot of the in-house art for their games (check out some of his work!). I was told that he’d be doing the art for Akrotiri, so it seemed like a good idea to review the game with him. I was able to tell him about some of the graphic issues the game has had during its development. For example, since the game is all about scanning the board and picking out certain symbols – those symbols need to be easily identifiable, and there can’t be too many other icons on the board that will confuse the eye. Also, a lot of players place a resource cube on top of the terrain icons when they play, which obscures what everyone needs to see. So we brainstormed some ideas on how to graphically fix this without overwhelming the eye with more symbols or icons on the board. It was time well spent – and probably saved a lot of time – or even prevented some potential challenges if we wasn’t aware of them beforehand.

All in all, a good day spent at the Fiesta! The rooms got more and more packed as the day progressed and soon all the tables were constantly filled with gamers and families playing all their games. If you’re in the Montreal area when it’s on next year, stop by for some free gaming of new and upcoming games!!

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 2

On my Montreal trip, my first meeting was with Filosofia. Since I had become friends with JF due to our similar interests outside of the board game world (both of us are big movie nerds!), he invited me to stay with him while I was in Montreal, after my work thing finished up. How nice! I spent Thursday night with him at his place and the next morning we both went into work together. He gave me a tour of their office and warehouse. While it might seem bland for them because they work there all the time, for an outsider it sure was interesting!

There were prototypes in boxes, new imports set up and being played, filing boxes that would normally be pretty boring – but they were each labeled with a different board game name..! It was pretty neat. Then we got to check out the warehouse which is where they distribute all there games from. Rows and rows of boxes of games! There was even a section of games that were open that they use to replenish missing pieces for people that have an incomplete box when they open it up.

The morning was spent playing our prototypes that I brought. I played with JF and Martin, who is responsible for deciding which new games they bring in. I started by laying out all the games – which I had packaged individually into fairly tight white boxes that each had a label of the game’s name on the outside.

I laid out all the games and gave a one-sentence pitch for each game and we all decided to start with SimpliCITY first.

 

 

SimpliCITY: We started with one of our new games, SimpliCITY. This is a very simple tile laying game that has players building their own cities while trying to satisfy one of three face-up goal cards before the other players. Everything played smoothly but in the end they thought that it was a bit too similar to Carcasonne for their tastes – since they are now the publishers of Carcasonne. Maybe if they didn’t publish Carcasonne they would be interested, but alas they decided to pass on this one.

Lions Share: Next up was our new card game (well, it’s been around for quite awhile in our repetoire, but not in its current iteration – which we both think is the best its ever been!). This game has three interesting aspects to it:

1) that you play between players – so you’re only ever playing with players on either side of you, even though you can affect and impact the other players whenever a trick is taken

2) the criteria that dictates which card you can play where – changes throughout the game

3) When you take a ‘trick’ you get to keep 2 cards but you also must share 2 cards with your opponents

Both Martin and JF really liked Lions Share and asked to keep the game for further evaluation. I told them that the game really shines with 4 or 5 players and they were eager to try the game with more players. Exciting!

Jam Slam: I have a lot of fondness for this game as it started out as a game based on a character I created and perform as: Bertolt the Explorer! We’ve since removed that character from the game, but the gameplay still remains fun and hectic! One player takes the turn being the Jam Chef and he shouts out what specific ingredient he’s looking for – based on looking at the next card in the ingredient deck, and the other players race to slap a face-up card on the table that matches with what was requested. JF took it one step further and actually started to try to trick us when he was the Jam Chef – and that added to the hilarity. Both Martin and JF seemed really impressed with Jam Slam and they asked to hold onto this one for further testing. Huzzah!

Short Order Showdown: Next up was another quick reaction game about trying to flip over tiles and try to add them to your plate such that it matched one of the face-up orders. The game played fine, but they preferred Jam Slam to this one and decided to pass on this one. It’s an interesting lesson in determining the order that you present your games to a publisher. I wonder what would the outcome be if I had showed them Short Order Showdown before Jam Slam?

Clunatics: I didn’t think that Filosofia would be interested in Clunatics since it’s not only a party game – which I didn’t think Filosofia published – but also a English-heavy party game. They seemed interested nevertheless, so I forged ahead and showed them the game. I’m glad I did because they really liked it! It’s a party game in which you can only give the smallest of clues to the other players. On their own, these clues are too small to guess, but when you do 2 or 3 of these clues, then it starts to form a possible answer! They really liked the small clue aspect of the game – and how you’re forced to use specific mini-clues. Martin had a great idea: add movie, book and song titles to the cards! Currently all the cards are just idioms or common phrases. Adding titles is interesting – especially if you can’t tell the other players what category it is before you start!! They wanted to hold onto this one to review further! Yay!

Chainables: I had even lower hopes for Chainables with Filosofia because it’s an English-based spelling game! Still, we played it and it went over really well. They both indicated that they liked it and would like to know when it did finally come out – but would have to pass on it because of the aforementioned reasons. JF used to be a teacher and was fascinated by the teaching possibilities of this game – cool!

Akrotiri: While we haven’t made it 100% official, Filosofia will be publishing our game, Akrotiri for a release in the third quarter next year. We had time before lunch so we set up and played a few rounds with the new quest cards that offer an advanced variant for experienced players. JF was content that it was a solid idea – so we packed up and headed out to lunch. Martin, JF and I were joined by Sophie for lunch and we got to talk ‘shop’ throughout lunch, which was very interesting for me. I won’t go into all the details as I’m not sure what was told to me in confidence and what is public knowledge. Basically it was a lot of discussion around the history of Filosofia and its future. Very interesting indeed!

Junkyard: After lunch the four of us decided to play Junkyard. Filosofia had been assessing Junkyard for some time. They even shipped the prototype off to France to be reviewed by a parter of theirs. The result is that absolutely everyone loves the game. The only issue that’s preventing them from signing this game for publication is the cost.

Junkyard is made up of 12 unique pieces in 4 colours and is currently made out of wood. Expensive to make! We played a couple rounds and they even invited their graphic designer, Philippe to play, in case they did decide to proceed with the game, he might be involved in creating the final shapes or moulds. The games were great and we spent more of our time brainstorming the main challenge. Should it be wood, plastic or some other material. Not only that but we brainstormed other ways to reduce the costs. Maybe we could reduce the size of the pieces by 20%. If the game was made out of plastic – then that’s a big savings.

Another point was that Martin had played the game many times and noticed that with 4 players, they were running out of pieces near the end. While the game could just end when the pieces ran out – it was much more fun to end the game when someone’s tower toppled over. So he requested 3 new pieces from Sen and I. We complied and sent him 3 new pieces. But now this brought the piece count up to 15 in each colour – or 60 total pieces – which is even more expensive! We could reduce that to 14 or maybe even 13 pieces, but then I had an interesting idea to keep the pieces at 12. What if we changed the motivation to build taller – and therefore more precarious? Currently the tallest tower gets a 5 point bonus at the end of the game – but what if we made it 6…or 10? What if we game some points to the player with the 2nd tallest tower? With these attractive points, players might play taller in an effort to get the tallest tower – and therefore the towers would be more wobbly and fall more frequently! Lots of good ideas were thrown around, but the next step is to get some quotes from manufacturers.

We had sent Junkyard on our own to Panda for a quote and I shared with them their numbers – but it was only based on a 2000 unit order. So our next step is to ask them how many units we’d have to make in order to get the retail price between $30-$35. We all set a deadline as the end of February to get as much information as we need.

By this time the day had already come to an end! Man time flies when you’re having fun! Before leaving we set a deadline of the end of February for all the prototypes. That seemed like enough time for them to make a decision. Back at JF’s house later that night, JF and I fiddled around with a game that is in Alpha (See this post) stage currently called Box Office (terrible title – but it’s temporary!). I had shown this game to JF in April at the Gathering. Since he liked movies as much as I did, I thought he’d like the concept. Since April we had tweaked it a bit, but it was still Alpha…though it’s getting closer to Beta! We had some fun with it – but more fun was had with brainstorming the next steps – which I’m very excited about! All in all, a very exciting day of pitching and playing our games with Filosofia! The next day was spent attending something called the Fiesta! More on that in the next post.

-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

Step 24: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Showcasing your game to the publisher

This is one of the most exhilarating experiences a game designer will have – showing off your baby to a publisher.

Often the publisher will take you to an empty table so you can show your game to them privately.  When speaking with publishers I always try to be two things: professional and charming.  Professional comes from staying on topic, respecting their time and knowing the business (plus obvious things like attire and hygiene!). If you show them a game that has a million pieces and would cost a fortune to publish, then you had better have some reasons why you think this game would be worth it to a publisher.  One thing a publisher is thinking about as you’re taking pieces out your box to show them is how much it would cost to make the game.  I’m not saying that only games with minimal pieces will get published, but make sure you know who you’re pitching to and the potential costs for your game.

Charming comes from being honest, pleasant but not a sycophant!  Anyone can see right through praises showered over them right before a sales pitch – even if they are true.

Depending on the game, sometimes I’ll actually play the game with them, but most of the times I just walk them through the game.  For easy-to-learn-and-play games, like party games or dexterity games, I’ll explain the game just enough to start playing an actual round.  This worked well for us for games like Junkyard and But Wait There’s More.  In fact, for But Wait There’s More, I played a half of a round with Michael Mindes from Tasty Minstrel Games before he exclaimed that it was a game that he wanted to publish.

If it’s a more complicated game then I’ll set up enough of the game and walk them through the bigger actions that a player will do in the game.  There’s an important balance you have to find when showing off your game to a publisher: How much detail to give.

What is everyone’s least favourite part of playing a new board game?  That’s easy – learning the rules.  It’s often tedious and mind numbingly boring.  So be aware of how much detail you need to give a publisher so that they understand the concept and some key strategies on how to play.

When I showed Zev from Z-Man games our Akrotiri game, I showed him how laying the tiles worked, how resources are placed, how boats move around, how the market works and finally how the maps work to find the hidden temples.  In effect I gave him a 5 minute elevator pitch – with props!  I’m pretty comfortable pitching my games off the cuff because of my improv background and my sales training in my other life, but if you’re new to sales, then you’re going to want to practice your 5 minute pitch with your prototype beforehand.  Fortunately for me, this was enough for Zev to express enough interest in it to take it back with him after the convention.

Next up we’ll take a look at what you should do when actually playing a full game with a publisher.

-Jay Cormier

So here’s where all that background knowledge can pay off in spades. It’s important to show a prospective publisher that not only do you know the game design end of things, but the business end of things as well. This includes things like what games are hot right now, what games this publisher has put out, what separates your game from the others out there.

You can also benefit from being humble. Don’t be self-deprecating, but don’t be overly proud either.

Why does this seem to be more about you and your interpersonal skills than the game itself?

Remember, some publishers are looking not only at the design, but at the designer. Why? Because most games require a bit more development and input from the designers. The publisher wants to know that they can work with you as a designer – especially if you are unpublished. Someone with a few games under their belt has a lot more credibility when it comes to this, but still needs to mind their Ps and Qs when it comes to demo time.

You want to impress a publisher – and not a lot puts people off more than having to deal with someone who is so set on the idea that they are right that there’s no other way about it. In the 5 minutes you’ve got with the person who may publish your game, every second counts – so make them count towards the positive!

Sell your design first, but not at the expense of making an ass out of yourself!

Sen-Foong Lim

Status update on all our games

Taking a little time out to give you all a status update on all of our games that are in active development.

Board games go through a few phases when they are being developed.  The most common phases you’ll hear people talking about are: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Published.  There are more if you want to sub-categorize them, but these are the main categories.

Alpha usually means that the game is mostly an idea or a concept.  There’s still a prototype, but the core rule-set is constantly changing.

Beta games have been playtested numerous times and are generally working but are being endlessly tweaked.  A game will spend most of its time in this phase.

Gamma games are generally done and are ready to be shown to a publisher.  Some small tweaks could occur – or a publisher could develop the game even further with more tweaks – but the game is working very well after a ton of playtesting.

Here are the games that Sen and I have at each of these phases along with a brief write up on each.  If you’re a publisher and are interested in learning more about any of these – just let us know.

Published

Train of Thought – a party/word game in which one player tries to get other players to say a hidden word using connected three-word phrases.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in January 2011.

Belfort – a resource management strategy game that has players competing to build the most buildings in each district of a new castle as well as employ the most elves, dwarves and gnomes.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q2-Q3 2011.

But Wait, There’s More! – a laugh-out-loud party game that has players pitching the most ridiculous products to each other in an effort to have their product chosen more than anyone else.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q4 2011.

Gamma

Akrotiri – a tile laying strategy game that has 2-5 players sailing their boats around the Mediterranean in an effort to make money by shipping resources so they can fund their expeditions to find hidden temples.  A unique system allows for players to have a specific map to a hidden temple – but will also be 100% different every time it’s played.  Currently being reviewed by Z-Man games.

Jam Slam – a quick reaction game in which 3-6 players listen to one player call out a specific ingredient and then try to be the first to slap a card with what was requested before the others.  A hilarious game that has ear-eye-hand coordination! Was a semi-finalist in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition.  Currently being sent to Gamewright for review.

Junkyard – Players place oddly shaped wooden blocks on their own tower of junk in an effort to score more points without knocking anything over.  A unique system that uses cards to help players strategize while keeping some randomness makes this balancing game different than any other on the market.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

Lost for Words – 2-6 players try to find the longest word in a straight line by adding a tile with letters in a 3×3 grid to a growing board of other tiles.  The player to shout out the longest word in the time limit places the tile and scores points.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  This game has 2-4 players placing tiles and trying to get more of their cowboys in an enclosed town than opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Hot Property – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  Hot Property involves 2 competing real estate agents placing tiles and creating neighbourhoods in an effort to have more of their coloured houses in as many neighbourhoods as possible.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

EI-EI-O – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game that has 2-6 players acting and sounding like animals quicker than their opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Top Shelf – 2-4 players place various candy products on a shelf in a convenience store in an effort to grab the attention of potential shoppers.  Get 4 of the same type or colour in a row to score – but make sure some of those are from your brand!  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Beta

RuneMasters – a non-collectible card combat game that uses a never before seen mechanic of placing rune-sticks in specific configurations to ‘cast’ creatures into combat.  Still in early beta but has been through about 8 iterations so far.  It has come a long way already as we’ve simplified it a lot while retaining everything that makes it unique.

Clunatics – a party game that has one person trying to get the others to say a specific phrase out loud – but they only can give the smallest of clues.  There are 15 different ways a person can give a clue and they only get to use 5 of them on their turn.  Lots of hilarity with this one – and it’s almost in Gamma.

Lion’s Share – a card game for 2-5 (maybe 6?) players in which they play animal cards on one of the two tables at a restaurant.  Players have to follow colour, number or animal type.  One animal is deemed to be the Alpha animal and if it’s played on a table – that player collects all the cards into their score pile – but before they do, they must share 1 card with an opponent.  This one is almost Gamma.

Scene of the Crime – One of the players is guilty of the crime and the other players try to determine who did it by placing small tiles that contain different evidence types on the board.  The evidence is played in sets on the board – and looks like Scrabble except instead of letters, there are various evidence tiles on the board.  If a player can find evidence of an opponent in an area on the board that matches a clue – then it leads players to believe they are guilty.  This one used to be Gamma, but we brought it back to Beta to figure out some issues.

Hog the Remote – a party game that has one player using a set of picture cards to get other players to guess the name of a TV show.  It’s kind of like charades but using pictures instead of acting.  This one was coming along great and then we saw that ??? came out with a game that shared some similarities.  This one has been shelved indefinitely for now.

Collectibles – a card game in which players trade rare collectibles in an effort to score the most points with the best collection at the end.  This one seemed to play well, and has been in Gamma, but we’re both kind of dis-enchanted with this one right now.  We like the mechanics and might use them in another game down the road.

Up in the Air – a 4 player partner card game that has players juggling various objects in an effort to keep everything … up in the air the longest.  This was in Gamma and after some feedback we changed the game until it turned into an entirely different game called Junkyard.  We still like the mechanics of this one and might revisit it.

Alpha

Bermuda Triangle – a re-themed version of our Gamma game Night of the Dragon.  While Night of the Dragon was a fun game for families, it never got picked up by a publisher.  Recently we were motivated to re-theme it to the Bermuda Triangle and it’s really working – though it’s making it almost an entirely different game that uses the same core mechanic.  I’m looking forward to making this one work as it involves time travel!

Dice Fu – a game that uses dice in a new way as players assign dice to combos on their various fighters in an effort to defeat their opponents.  Needs a lot of work – but it’s very interesting so far.

Box Office – A game about scheduling when your movies should be released in an effort to make the most money.  I really like the concept but we need to work a lot on the mechanics to make it more fun and less simulation.

Time Management – Players play managers of a store and they try to attract more customers than opponents by hiring the right staff, training them and delegating tasks.  This one was way too simulation – so we thought we might turn it into a game for the office crowd to be used to teach various skills.

City Planning – this one’s so much an Alpha game that we haven’t bothered coming up with a better name for it at all!  This started as a party game and then it seemed like it would fit better as a strategy game.

-Jay Cormier

We have a few other games have been sitting on the back burner after we tinkered with them in Alpha / Beta. For interest’s sake, here’s a look at some of our shelved ones and the reason for stopping the specific project:

Xtaxatax (pronounced “Stacks Attacks”) – was a 2-player game where there were stacks of discs that had stickers on either side of the disc, depicting unit type/strength/etc. The cool idea was that the stacks could be flipped over in the midst of battle to really change up the game and that as you stacked units on top/on bottom, the complexion of that battalion changed. We stopped this one mainly because we couldn’t figure out how to make a good proto for the discs such that they’d stay linked. I was thinking magnets, but didn’t know how to do it. Also, Jay’s not the biggest fan of games that involve ranged combat or too much in the way of math or memory. I am a fan of ranged combat, math and memory games, so just writing this makes me want to pull out the prototype to see if there’s something salvagable in this game.

WerkQwerks – A party game concept we came up with that never really came to fruition. It revolves around one player being the project manager and the rest of their team having to perform some mundane tasks, but with some limitations (i.e. their quirks). I think we put this on the shelf due to lack of interest – not that it’s a bad idea, but that we were focused on making a more “gamer game”. Again, just writing this makes me think – FUN! Of course, I also thought The Dig would pan out…

Sexxxy Game – HA! This couples game was a social, real-time, kind of game where players would have trigger words and responses based on double entendres and sexual innuendos. Reason for shelfing – we could never find girls to playtest with us. And I’m married! Honestly, though, it was the prototyping that was difficult as the game was supposed to be played in the real world while on a date, not around a table. Still a cool concept. It’s a bit too niche, though. A game for couples? Would that sell?

FlickWars – Jay and I both get a kick (or maybe that’s a flick) out of skillful dexterity games. We wanted to make a crazy flicking game where you’d use carroms to break down castle walls, etc. We started to prototype, but it just got difficult as neither he nor I are woodworkers. We’d have to borrow tools, ask a lot of people to help, etc. In the end, we shelved it because of the difficulty in making the physical game and now that we’ve got our dexterity fill through Junkyard, I don’t think this will see the light of day anytime soon. Besides, companies likehttp://www.uncleskunkletoys.com do a much better job at this type of game than we could ever really hope for! Seriously – take a look at that site. Those games look AWESOME!

Castle of Dr. Knizia – Another game that we actually playtested with real human beings other than ourselves or significant others (poor dears). It involved exploring a castle and going through doorways, always worried about what was on the other side – did you sneak through like a mouse, or burst through, sword drawn and ready for combat? The niftiest mechanic was how the monsters got placed in the castle. I even made these card holder things out of balsa wood to indicate which monster was represented by which chip on the board. It was one of our earliest attempts at a “gamer game” so it was clunky at best – so it got abandoned in favour of other games that we could build from the ground up, instead of having to try to strip things away and see if it still worked out. We were focused mostly on Scene of the Crime in an effort to get that in front of a publisher, so adieu, Dr. Knizia. Maybe some of your cool mechanics will be used in other games.

Contract Game – Based on the theory of lowballing to get awarded contract and then trying to fulfill it under budget, this was set in a fantasy realm where there were Giants used as cranes, Mermaids used as plumbers, etc. I still love this concept and it may be revived for an expansion to Belfort or a game set in the same world.

MMA Card Game – As a martial artist and BJJ competitor, I love mixed martial arts (MMA). As a game designer, I love card games. So I figured, I could combine the two together! It never really came of anything, because Jay wasn’t interested much, so it kind of just sat there. We generally focus our energy on games that we’re both keen on. I am currently talking to my training partner and video game designer, Tim Fields, about doing an online Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game that’s turn-based, so concepts from here could get used in that game.

Pants on Fire – A case of a title coming before a game. Honestly, that’s happened a fair bit with us! We get enthralled by a title that is evokative. And quicker than you can say “Train of Thought!”, a new game is born. Not so with Pants on Fire, however. We just never figured this one out – we wanted to make a trick taking game, but this didn’t flow. And now that there is another game with the same title, this one will probably never be completed.

Heroes – This one has kind of gone through a few conceptual changes between spies and superheroes and organized crime and zombies and other things. We have a really, really interesting concept of how to do a map-based game with no real movement. We have a “patrol zone” concept that we really like. Jay was leery of doing a superhero-based game without having access to existing licensed characters and we were investing more time into Belfort at the time. There are definitely concepts and mechanics from this game that will get another look.

And last, and definitely least…

The Dig – Ah, our albatross. This one just didn’t work. Too mathematical/procedural. It just didn’t play like it did in our heads. We wanted a game that rewarded co-operation and sharing and pooling of resources, that still had a single winner in the end. Let’s just say that this isn’t that game. This isn’t even a game – it is an exercise in frustration. We still like the theme of digging for treasures, but this will take a lot of work to get a game out of it.

Wow.

Just reviewing them makes me think very fondly of a few of them in particular and makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just make some of the ones that Jay and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on to get them to Beta Stage and then involve Jay to do the refinement.

Essentially, that’s what happened with Akrotiri – though it was not through disinterest. Jay had the idea and it intrigued him so much that he started to work on it solo in BC and had a quick proto done in a day or two. In his making of the proto, it not only allowed me to play it and become more interested in it, it progressed the game faster and faster until it reached a solid Gamma format in very little time.

There are many times where one of us fail to be super-interested in a game until the prototype is made – and that is often the most difficult part of the process. To invest all that time, effort, and sometimes money into making a prototype that you’re not hyped about can be tough, especially when there’s all sorts of other cool ideas floating around in your head. But if one person on the team believes strongly that there’s a good game in there somewhere, maybe that person should go solo and make the proto. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if one makes it, the other will play! And if the other plays, he may actually like it enough for both of us to invest more time and effort into developing it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years of designing games, it’s this: when in doubt, make a proto. You will find out if there’s a game to be had quicker than you will bandying ideas about in your head or online. Making the prototype is DEFINITELY the key phase in taking a game from concept to reality.

Concepts are good because they’re fluid – nothing’s written in stone. But a prototype is more hands on, more engaging, more understandable. There are visual and tactile components that, like a rug, tie everything together. People can’t play a game that only exists in your head, even if it’s the best game ever!

So, if you’ve got an idea for a game, just get to work and make a proto. What have you got to lose?

Step 14: Create Sales Sheets

Once you’ve decided that you want to send your game to a publisher then the next step would be to create what we call a Sales Sheet.  A Sales Sheet is a one-page document that gives a quick overview of your game to a potential publisher. To some this might seem superfluous, but to us, we credit a lot of our success to having these Sales Sheets ready.

Showing a clean looking Sales Sheet to a publisher immediately tells them that you are professional and you know what you’re doing.  When I attend board game conventions and approach a publisher’s booth to ask them if they are accepting submissions, I often get an ‘eyes-rolling’ kind of vibe as they begrudgingly say “ok sure.”  Then when I pull out my Sales Sheets, I can actually see a visible change in attitude as they immediately realize that they’re dealing with someone who’s serious about game design and not someone who has designed the next Monopoly clone.

A Sales Sheet needs to include the following things:

  1. Title of game – preferably with a mock up logo
  2. Suggested age range
  3. Number of players
  4. Length of time to play the game
  5. Quick overview of the game
  6. Category that the game fits into
  7. List of contents
  8. Images of the game
  9. Sample of one turn or round of play
  10. Some reasons on why this game will sell
  11. Your contact info!

Here’s an example of one of our Sales Sheets for our game Jungle Jam (which has since been retitled to Jam Slam, but we haven’t updated our Sales Sheet yet!).

board game sales sheet

Our newer Sales Sheets have a lot less text, but this one had all the major points on it that I wanted to cover.  See bottom of post for an example.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1. The logo might seem challenging to you if you don’t have artistic skills, but you really don’t need a lot of skills to create a logo.  Google ‘how to make a logo’ and you’ll find a bunch of resources to help you.  The main key is that your logo should have the same energy that you want your game to have.  If your game is a quick reaction game then your logo needs to be playful and punchy; but if your game is a serious game about trading antiques then an old fashioned feel is obviously better.

2-4. The next three can be combined into a graphic similar to what we see on published board games.  If there are ways to remove or reduce text on this page, then do it!

5. The quick overview gives the publisher an understanding of what the game is all about and should not take longer than 15 seconds to read.  So keep it short and concise.  It will take a lot of copy editing to come up with the most colourful yet efficient ways to get your message across!  Get your English Major friends to help you with this one.  Here’s an example of an overview for our game, Junkyard:

“The Junkyard is the frantic and fun-filled stacking game where junk piles rise high but tensions rise even higher. Each player builds their own junk pile out of oddly shaped blocks that their opponent’s have challenged them to use.  Should you place that piece to make your junk pile more stable or make it taller? While a stable structure will keep you in the game longer, it’s the tallest junk pile that wins!”

6. The publisher should already know what kind of game it is, but most games have subsets of categories that it could belong to.  Our upcoming game, Belfort is a Resource Management game, but it also has Worker Placement, Area Majority and Building as subset categories.  It’s beneficial for a publisher to know which categories your game fits into as they could be looking for an Area Majority game.  Conversely they could be full up on Area Majority games and will want to pass on your game – but it’s better to know that sooner rather than later anyway.

7. A publisher is always looking at the bottom line so a list of contents will help them understand if it’s a game they can make with a profit or not. Hopefully your game is as lean and clean as possible so you don’t scare off any publishers with a ginormous list of contents.

8. If you can include actual photographs of your game instead of just computer based samples, then it will go a long way to show the publisher that there is a full prototype ready to go.  Just like when we look at a game we might want to buy from a game store, the image on the Sales Sheet would be better if it shows the game in progress.

9. It’s even better if you can use this image to show an example of one round of play.  This part can be challenging because think about what everyone’s least favourite part of playing board games is…it’s reading the rules.  So don’t just put a rules summary in your sales sheet.  The publisher doesn’t need to understand why Player A did what they did – the publisher just needs to know how some of the mechanics work together.  Here are a couple examples.

10. The last part is your chance to let the publisher know why your game is worth publishing.  It’s important to keep to facts here instead of telling them how much fun your playtesters have with your game.  Some examples of what you should talk about here:

  • If your theme is interesting or hot in the market then list that
  • if your game has a new mechanic that’s never been seen before
  • If your game has variants or expansion possibilities
  • If your game could be licensed to popular characters
  • If you are open to re-theming your game entirely (instead of wizards collecting dragon eggs, it’s a bunch of Igors collecting body parts!)
  • If it’s a kid’s game then list any educational impact
  • If you can find any sales stats that support why your game will do well, then that’s perfect!

[EDIT BY SEN FEB 4, 2015 – in discussing this with James Mathe of Minion Games, he finds this offputting; I’ve also heard that from one other publisher.  They find it presumptuous that designers would tell publishers what would sell.  While I still think it’s good for you to *think* about the above points and perhaps be able to discuss them, it may be best to leave them off lest you offend the publisher you’re trying to sell your game to.  This also clears up a poop-load of space from your sell sheet.  Don’t be in a huge rush to fill it up, though – remember that white space increases readability and walls of text are an instant turn off!  Feedback works!  See?]

11. Obviously don’t forget to put your contact info on it!

Once complete you are now ready to approach publishers.  We’ve found that whether we’re approaching a publisher in person or via email, we’ve used our sales sheets almost every time.  In an upcoming post we’ll talk about the importance of conventions and how these Sales Sheets are invaluable to us as designers.

Here’s an example of a newer Sales Sheet that is more show and less tell.  It works well for this kind of family game and this was what was used to show to Mattel and Hasbro.

Promo sheet board game design

-Jay Cormier

Not much more to say except treat your sales sheets like your “business cards with a bang”. You want something to leave people with that says more than just your name/contact info/website. You want to leave them with the impression that you are professional, that you’ve got a prototype ready to play at the drop of a hat, and that you’ve put a lot of thought into the product you’re pitching. Short of giving the publisher a working prototype, you want them to be able to get the gist of your game – the general rules, the look and feel, the target demographic – with as little effort on their part. The less amount of time they have to spend scouring the internet, calling you, chasing you down the better for you.

The sell sheet is your foot in the door when your foot isn’t even nearby. Publishers will take the countless sell sheets they’ve picked up from a convention and sift through them, hoping to chance upon the next SdJ. Make sure your game is poised to be picked up by making a sell sheet that helps them remember everything pertinent about your game without overloading them. Give them confidence in your product by creating a well-presented, succinctly worded sell sheet.

The time spent making the sell sheet and handing it out will pay dividends if it’s done right.

-Sen-Foong Lim