The Gathering of Friends: Part 6 – Pitching to Hans Im Gluck and more Toy Vault

Rob was doing a good job in bumping into publishers and setting up meetings, and we had another meeting set up for Thursday morning with Tom from Hans Im Gluck. He said he was looking for meatier games and so Rob showed him games like Coffee and Tortuga and all I could show him was Akrotiri. He really seemed to like Akrotiri, but understood that it was with another publisher. But again, it’s good to have a ‘line-up’ of publishers willing to look at our games! We went to lunch together and had another casual time with a publisher!

Later in the day/evening, I wanted to play Swashbucklers with a couple people. Rob and our friend Brent Lloyd agreed to play. This game was recently picked up by a publisher and time between our submission to the publisher and now, the game underwent a few tweaks. I wanted to play the game we sent to the publisher and then play the newly tweaked game with the same people to get their opinion.

We played the first game almost the same as the one we sent to the publisher. It was apparent to Rob and Brent that there were some imbalances to the game. So we played it again with all the new tweaks and they both loved the new version a lot more. This was good and reaffirmed that we now have to show the publisher this new version as it’s a better game. While we were playing, Frank from R&R Games came by and expressed interest in seeing the game. I had to let him know that it was already signed and he said he would look forward to seeing it on the shelf!

Then as we were winding down, Ed from Toy Vault came by and saw the last few rounds. It dawned on Rob and I that we should play more prototypes in very visible areas more often! As we were wrapping up, Ed asked if we were free to try Hog the Remote with some people. Uh – yeah, sure!! I went into the main convention area and found some people to play with us. I had played a game of Alba Longa with Peter Hawes – a fellow game designer, who previously asked if I could help him playtest one of his games the next morning with a publisher. I agreed – and later, when I was looking for people to play Hog the Remote, I saw that he wasn’t busy, so recruited him to play. I found Chris Handy was free as well and he agreed to help out. Rob found Jenna and we now had 6 people!

We played a round of Hog the Remote and it couldn’t have went better! We played it using the “Train of Thought” scoring – where one person is the ‘describer’ and everyone else is guessing and the describer has to get as many titles guessed as possible. Afterwards we talked about possible spin offs that focus on different categories like movies or books or song titles. It would mean that the first game shouldn’t be called Hog the Remote though – so a new title is in the works!

Ed then asked if people could stick around to try But Wait, There’s More and while Peter had to get some sleep, Lucio came by to replace him and Chris, Rob and Jenna stayed. I had told Ed that this game shared some similarities to The Big Idea but that it was different enough to warrant assessing. He agreed. We played a few rounds of But Wait, There’s More and it was possibly the best session I’ve ever had of that game. There was so much laughing – it was awesome! At the end Ed asked the group if this game was only for extroverts and Chris piped up to say that the game offered enough structure that would allow introverts to play. Rob added that most party games do involve mostly extroverted people to some degree, and then Jenna mentioned that she was an introvert and this was the limit of what she was willing to do in a party game. She said that the cards made the pitch funny and she didn’t have to work very hard at it at all to be funny.

Ed asked everyone which game they preferred and it was if they were both being paid by me because they said they liked them equally. Jenna slightly preferred Hog the Remote, but said she would definitely buy But Wait, There’s More to play with her friends. Overall, it was a fantastic gaming session with Ed! I’m excited about the prospects for both these games! He said we should know one way or the other in 3-4 weeks.

The rest of the Gathering for me was more social and I spent time playing some actual games with people! I played Last Will, Catacombs, the unpublished, upcoming game from Queen called Escape the Curse of the Mayan Temple (very fun), Quebec, Africana, as well as some more protoypes like Rob’s Crazy Train and Peter Hawes Railway game with Tom from Hans Im Gluck.

I wanted to get in at least one game of Belfort with the upcoming expansion. I found some complete strangers to play the game (it’s so easy to find people to play games with at the Gathering!). Two had played the game before and one hadn’t, but they were all interested in playing with the expansion. The playtest went smoothly with one player saying that he’d only ever want to play Belfort with the expansion in the future because it brought the complexity up to a level that he enjoyed more. The game ended up in a tie between me and another player, and the tie-breaker is number of resources – and we both had the same amount of resource, so it was a complete tie!!

While I was wrapping up, another person came by and when he found out I designed Belfort he was effusive in his praise for the game! He said he even had a review of the game coming out next week in his online magazine called Gamer’s Alliance! He was pretty excited for the expansion, so I showed him how it worked. He was excited to eventually try it!

On the last day Rob and I were walking around, looking for a game to play and bumped into a complete stranger. We asked him if he was looking for a game and he said he was. We asked him if he had any idea of what he wanted to play as Rob and I were easy to please. He asked if we heard of a game called Belfort..! That was pretty cool! So, since Rob hadn’t played the game yet, we set it up and found a fourth player interested in playing and played a game of Belfort – without the expansion as they were all first-timers. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and Rob even squeaked out a win in a close game!

After the Prize ceremony on Saturday I had a friend who lives near Niagara Falls drop by for a visit and we drove to Buffalo in search for Buffalo wings. It was actually harder than we thought as we didn’t really know where we were going. We found a place and I got to relax with a buddy and eat some wings and drink some beer! A great ending to an amazing week!

All in all, it was an exhausting weekend that was also a complete blast! Tons of new friends made, tons of contacts made in the business, and lots of games played. Can’t wait until next year!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 6: The Games

The most exciting thing about Essen is of course, all the new games! I got many of the new hot games and have had time with each of them already! Here’s a rundown of the games I grabbed:

Tournay: This is the next game from the makers of last year’s hit game Troyes. I love Troyes and so I actually pre-ordered Tournay to ensure I’d get a copy. It’s a bit more abstract than Troyes, and the rules are as confusing as Troyes, but once you become familiar with the iconography, it’s a fun game about using your workers (or ‘renting’ someone else’s a la Troyes) to make an efficient engine. It’s almost multiplayer solitaire though there are some ways to be a nuisance to your opponents, though it is limited. I’ve played 3-4 times and would still play it again.

A Few Acres of Snow: Not sure why I got this one. I’m 50/50 on Martin Wallace games, plus this is a war themed deck building game that’s only for 2 players. I guess I was motivated to buy it because I had the chance to get one of the 102 limited edition copies that were at the Fair. It’s a very lengthy game and has some interesting ideas added to the deck building genre (like putting some cards in your hand into a reserve pile to use later), but I’m not a history or war buff, so I’m not dying to play this one again.

Kingdom Builder: I was looking forward to this game from the designer of Dominion as it looked right up my alley. This is a simplified version of Through the Desert – and I mean that in a good way. It’s not as much of a brain burner as TtD is and the playtime is very short. The multiple boards that it comes with, along with the multiple victory conditions means you can play many times with each game having a slightly different feel. It is a bit chaotic – but it’s a great gateway game for non-gamers and families and one I’ll be playing many more times.

Eaten by Zombies: This new deck-building game was all the crazy on Kickstarter and now it’s out. It seems interesting in that players might turn into zombies themselves and turn against the other players. I’ve played it twice, but the terrible rule book made me not understand how to play some aspects of the game and it just wasn’t flowing for me. I’d play it again if I took the time to download the new and improved rules on BGG.

 

Tok Tok Woodman: This game is a lot of fun for the kids…and adults alike! You use a plastic axe to tap wooden bark off of a precariously balanced tree trunk. It’s fun and Jenga-esque.

 

 

Power Grid: First Sparks: This has a lot of similar mechanics to Power Grid but is its own stand-alone game. I’ve played it three times and due to very poorly written rules have just now figured out how to set the game up correctly. The third time was the most interesting, but I somehow couldn’t catch up after screwing up in an early round. Will continue to play it until I get it, though I’m not feeling a lot of love for it yet.

 

Last Will: I really don’t know much about this game but kept seeing it pop up in the top 25 list and I loved the art! After 3 plays I have to say that this is one kooky fun game. It has some worker placement and then some multiplayer solitaire as you’re building up your own engine. In this game you’re trying to get rid of your money the fastest – which adds some interesting aspects to the game.

 

Welcome to Walnut Grove: Was pitched as an Agricola kind of game when you don’t have time for a full Agricola game. Worker placement with some tile placement – sounds good to me! After 3 plays I do like it even though there are a few randomy things to it (initial turn order screwed me out of any possible move in the first round, plus the coins are valued 0 to 2 and are always drawn randomly). I will definitely play this again as it’s quick and is an interesting puzzle.

Puerto Rico: Special Edition: I’ve never been a huge fan of this game, but only because I played with people who were really good at it, but they weren’t really good at helping noobs – so I didn’t have a good time with it. But it’s always seemed like a game I should like so I’m going to give it another shot – now with a super amazing looking edition. I’ve played it once and am finally getting to understand the game! I will be playing this quite a few more times.

 

King’s Vineyard: For buying Tok Tok and Eaten by Zombies, I was able to buy this game for 10 Euros and ever since Bordeaux I’ve been keeping my eyes out for wine themed games and decided to grab this one too. One of the few Essen games that I haven’t played yet.

 

 

 

Carcasonne/Dominion expansion: 1 new set of Dominion cards called Carcasonne (the English variant is called Walled Village), which is a nice tribute to the hit game.  Plus I got another Dominion expansion called the Governor, which looks fun. Also got a new two tiled, 1 meeple expansion to Carcasonne, but it was in German so I’ll have to wait for English rules before playing.

7 Wonders Catan expansion: A new Wonder/starting board with an homage to Settlers of Catan. Neat. Haven’t tried yet. I did get it signed by Klaus Tueber though!!

 

Friday: A 1 player game from Freisse. It was getting some pretty good buzz and was pretty cheap. Haven’t tried this one yet.

 

 

 

Dungeon Fighter and Cryptids TV: Got these for Sen as it’s his birthday coming up! Not too sure about either, but Dungeon Fighter was constantly in the top 25 throughout the Fair. We’ll see what he thinks of each one!

Well, that wraps up all the stories I have from my Essen Adventures. It was full of fun and excitement and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Here’s hoping everything works out so I can go again next year!

-Jay Cormier