The Gathering of Friends Review, Part 1

IMG_2176Well, 10 days of gaming heaven has come and gone! Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is an invite-only gaming event full of gamers, designers and publishers. It’s my favourite 10 days of the year as I get to hang out with friends old and new – and play a bunch of games!

I’ll split this into two posts – one about the games we pitched to publishers and then a second one about the games we played.

Pitching to Publishers

Godzilla-spreadsheets

Jay working on Godzilla spreadsheets…fun!

Sen and I are in a bit of a lucky spot since many of our games have been picked up, which means we didn’t have a lot of new game to pitch. This meant that we had more time to work on games that were already signed while we were together. We must have spent at least 3 hours a day working on Godzilla which is due out later this year from Toy Vault.

Our first pitch was to the German publisher, Huch & Friends. Their representative is Britta, who last year took a couple of our games back with her. One was called Herdables and since we didn’t have any other plans for that game, we let her sit on that one all year. Well she brought good news with her as she said that everyone at Huch & Friends likes the game, and they’re now only trying to figure out how to manufacture it. They’re thinking of going with super thick cardboard instead of wooden tokens. Cool by us!

800px-Huch_&_Friends_logoThen we pitched our game called Chrono Chicken. Ok – dumb name…so dumb that we didn’t even tell her the name of the game when we pitched it! It started as a game called Coaster Quest as it used actual drink coasters to play the game. But, as usual, the game changed drastically from its inception and instead of coaster it now used these cool two-dial secret spinners. We played the game – in which players secretly choose a number from one of the tokens on the table – by using their secret dials. She really liked it – and started talking in German with her cohort from Huch & Friends (dang – I forget his name!). They brought out their Huch catalogue and indicated a game that they have coming out later this year called Gum Gum Machine – a steam punk game about gum ball machines. She said that our game might make a good companion to that game – maybe call it Gum Gum Mini! So she agreed to take that game back to assess further.

Then I pitched my first solo design to her. Now, I pitched this game to her last year when it went by the horrendous title, Ingnotus (Latin for unknown). She liked it last year but after assessing it she said that they couldn’t think of a theme for it (I had submitted it as a pure abstract game). So I worked on it this year and I came up with a theme. In doing so the game changed a lot – for the better! It’s now called The Mystery of Mister E (Now that’s a cool title – finally!). We played the game and she liked it a lot more than the previous version. She took that game back as well. Huzzah!

ZMan_LogoI was able to pitch to Martin from Filosofia / Z-Man, but not our games! Instead I had two games from other Game Artisan designers that I wanted to show him. One was called City Builders: Rome from Andrei Filip – a co-operative Euro game that I only brought the sales sheet for him to see. He was interested and I have connected him with the designer. Then I showed him a quick reaction dice game called Joust from Graeme Jahns. He really thought it was unique and would like to see it again if he could figure out how to get the number of dice moulds down.

Sen is brainstorming with Andreas from Zoch

Sen is brainstorming with Andreas from Zoch

We pitched to Zoch again this year, but we didn’t really have anything new! So instead we spent time talking about the kinds of games that Zoch is interested in and he let us know what they’re looking for – which included some IPs! We’re already working on them now!

Hasbro-pitch

Playing Lions Share with Hasbro and Josh Cappel!

Hasbro had a new representative and with it he brought a new way of thinking. He’s super interested in meeting with designers as he wants to create a network of designers that he can access when he needs them. He ran down how he wants to work with the Game Artisans of Canada in the future. He was excited to see that we had an organization across Canada as it will allow him to be super efficient. He’s planning on visiting us once or twice a year where only Game Artisans will be able to pitch games to him! Pretty awesome!

We did end up pitching our game, Lions Share to him and he liked it, Hasbro_logo_newthough we actually came across a game-breaking situation that had never happened before. Dang. Oh well – we know how to easily fix that in the future. Still – good to get in front if him and show him what we have.

We had been working with Ed from Toy Vault all week – either on Godzilla (our upcoming card battle game) or a Naughty version of But Wait There’s More (we learned how to make this work!) – but we finally had some time to pitch our revamped Firefly game to Ed as well. We showed it to him last year and he had some specific feedback so we addressed each of those requests and showed him the new version.

toy_vault_logo_07The new version played out much better, but Ed had concerns that the new actions didn’t make it feel like Firefly. Before characters could only move into empty spaces, but now they can swap with other characters – which implies that they’re hiding behind each other and throwing each other into harm’s way. Not very Firefly!

Then as we were packing up, we cam up with a totally new way to play that might allow it to fit with a more wacky license. The game played a lot faster and seemed to work fairly well actually. It was wild – quite the drastic change in gameplay and we managed to make it work. We’re now back to the drawing board with this one to see what theme works best with the mechanics.

Sen lining up a shot in Flick 'Em Up!

Sen lining up a shot in Flick ‘Em Up!

There was a new game at the Gathering called Flick ‘Em Up, which is the first game in Z-man’s Pretzel line up. It’s called Pretzel because you can have a pretzel in one hand and still play! It’s a flicking game with cowboys and bad guys and it looks amazing! It comes with 10 scenarios which helps give the game a lot of flavour! We were happy to be asked to contribute a couple of scenarios to this game! Not just because the game is pretty darned cool – but because the second game in the Pretzel line up is one of ours – called Junkyard! That should be coming out next year!

mercury-logoFinally we pitched Zombie Slam to Mercury. We had tweaked it since last year as we had feedback that it was super hard to stay human throughout the game. The new ideas worked a lot better and we had a human survivor win the game! They really seemed to like this game! Mercury is currently working on their first app-assisted game and then their second app-assisted game is actual designed by Sen, Stefan Alexander and me. So this would be their third app-assisted game. We all came up with even more ideas on how the app could work with this game and it got us all pretty excited about it!

I ended the session by pitching a game I designed with Shad Miller called Q-Bot. I knew it wasn’t really the kind of game they publish as it was an abstract game with wooden cubes. They liked it better than last year’s version but that’s about it.

Coincidentally, while we were at the Gathering we also had some phone meetings with Ad Magic who is considering publishing 1-5 of our games in the near future! More to come on that as it’s finalized!

So all in all – an atypically quiet week for us on pitching games. I think it might be like that going forward because now we’re being asked to make specific games by publishers – and that takes time away from new designs. One day we’ll be able to quit our day jobs and focus on game design full time. That’s the goal at least!

Next up I’ll review the games that I played at the Gathering – from new and existing games to upcoming unreleased games from prolific designers!

-Jay Cormier

Gathering of Friends 2014 Review: Part 4

Our fourth post on all the pitches we had with publishers at this year’s Gathering of Friends! You can read the previous posts here:

Gathering of Friends in review Part 1- ZMan/Filosofia

Gathering of Friends in review Part 2 – Days of Wonder, Ystari, Abacusspiele, R&R Games, Zoch

Gathering of Friends in review Part 3 – Huch & Friends, Toy Vault, Mercury Games, Think Fun

iEllo

LOGOIELLOWe met with Stephan from iEllo and we were surprised that he liked the first game that we started pitching to him: Chainables. We actually hadn’t pitched this to many other publishers because we had brought it last year and found that a language game wasn’t a top priority with a lot of the German publishers! But Stephan really liked it and wants us to submit a Print and Play to his partner to try it. Of our other games, Stephan really liked What’s That and Zombie Slam. When we were pitching What’s That, he was nodding and getting the idea of the game – but then when I said the last part of the pitch – that everyone has to work together and figure out the commonality between everything – he lit up and said, “I want it! Let’s play – but I want it!” That felt good! He also liked Herdables and said if we could make it play up to 4 players then we should submit it.

We also played Ignotus with him and he was digging it right up until the end. The game had players getting rid of tokens – but the endgame proved to be a bit of a letdown as one player could have 1 token left and no one could do anything to stop it. He had liked it up until that point and then had to pass on that one. He did want to take Chainables, Zombie Slam and What’s That though – so…win!

Afterwards I was sitting with Sen and Josh Cappel and asked them to help me figure out how to fix Ignotus. As we were playing Josh was not really liking it because he doesn’t like deduction games. His thought is “you either 100% know it or you 100% don’t know it” and so he wasn’t too interested in the game. We persisted and Josh almost flippantly said that the game would be better if we could bluff. Hmmm –that’s interesting. We immediately tried it and it worked awesomely! Now it wasn’t about getting rid of your tokens but by gaining points – which you could only get if you guessed someone’s Goal Card. I met up with Think Fun and Huch & Friends again to let them know about the changes and they were both happy with the new direction for the game! It’s amazing to me that some of our games got interest from publishers – then we changed them while we were at the event and had to re-pitch them! I am way more confident with both Ignotus and Lions Share because of the changes we made though!

Repos

repos_prod_logoOur final meeting was with Cedrick from Repos. We kept seeing him while he was playing a game (like the 7 Wonders expansion, Babel) and we almost never met up. Fortunately we caught him on the last night he was there as he was heading back to his room for the night – lucky!! The only game we showed him was What’s That. We had shown him this game last year but we worked all year to improve the App and eventually it became so late that we decided to re-pitch it to him. We asked him if Repos had any ability to make apps and he whipped out his iPad and showed us the 7 Wonders App that is launching soon. It looked pretty damned amazing. We were convinced that they could do this game!! He left with his continued interest in the game and since the Gathering we have set him up with the App and are anxiously waiting their thoughts on the game once they playtest it in their offices.

So that’s it! A whirlwind of 10 days! Here’s a summary of the games we brought and the interest we got from publishers:

What’s That: Repos, iEllo, Mercury

Lions Share: Huch & Friends, Hans Im Gluck

Zombie Slam: iEllo, Mercury, Huch & Friends, Zoch

Rock Paper Wizards: Z-Man/Filosofia, Stonghold Games

Herdables: Huch & Friends, iEllo, Days of Wonder told us to connect with Blue Orange

Chainables: iEllo

Pig Goes Moo: Zoch

Ignotus: Think Fun, Huch & Friends, Abacusspiele

Towers of Nakh: Boo – no interest for this one. Weird – I thought this one would have appealed. We’re going to see if we can simplify it more, but I think it was a pass for most because of trying to think in 3D space was hard for many. I think there’s a publisher out there for this though!

That’s it for all of our pitches, but I have one more post about what else we did at the Gathering: play games! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

 

 

More picks!  This time I think there’s only 1 of a publisher rep though…Stephan Brissaud from iELLO (pronounced “Yellow”, if you were wondering).  Here he is playing Ignotus.

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Jay and I played this iELLO game, Phantom Society – oddly, a logic/deduction game as well, with William Attia and Martin Ethier.  They played the ghosts and they CRUSHED us.

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We also met the owner of Funagain.com during that pitch.  He was looking to establish a fulfillment service specifically for small publishers that ran Kickstarter campaigns.  Maybe we’ll here more about that in the future!  No pic, though…

After all our pitching was done, we got to play a lot of other games, including the following:

Coconuts from Mayday (monkey-shaped catapults fling coconuts into cups)

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Machi Koro from Pandasaurus (Setminion or Dotters of Catan – whatever you choose to call it, it’s awesome)

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And of course, some Tichu from AbacusSpiel.  Here’s Jay’s best hand of the game – a straight from 2 to the Ace that he got to play after I played the dog in the first play of the hand.

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We played the prototype Prime Time, designed by our friend, Gil Hova (Prolix, Battle Merchants).  Canadian ex-pat Greg Daigle (Hawaii) joined us in as well.
IMG_0852 And those of our fellow Game Artisans of Canada, Martin Ethier, Michael “Call me Max” Xuereb and Al Leduc (FrankenDie).   IMG_0871

 

Can’t hardly wait until next year!

~Sen-Foong Lim

 

 

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

Pop Goes the Weasel…getting published!

Well, all has been quiet on the Bamboozle front for awhile. Let’s catch up:

August

  • Sen and I got together for 6 days of game designing in August. We came up with three brand new games and tweaked others:
  • New game: Aladdin – a trick taking game in which the player with the lamp can make game-changing wishes!
  • New game: Unnamed Abstract game – it’s a nice and simple game of placing a random gem onto a board and when you make a row of 3, you take the other 2 gems and leave the one you placed.
  • New game: Unnamed Tower Defence game – this is the one I’m most excited about as we found a way to abstract out the fiddly-ness of stats that a computer does automatically. Can’t wait to get more time in with this one.
  • Tweaked: SimpliCITY – finally took the feedback we’ve been getting from publishers and made it way less multiplayer solitaire!

September

  • Worked with Toy Vault to finalize the rules and list of words and phrases for But Wait There’s More. We had a very productive 2-hour Skype call with them and we’re now all on the same page. Once things get signed in ink expect a huge and very exciting announcement with this one!

October

  • Found out that our game Akrotiri will be coming out from Z-Man in April, but it will be launching in late February at the Festival des Juex in Cannes. We got to see some art and we’ll be sharing it as soon as we’re allowed. Rest assured that we are very happy with how it’s looking. Very unique style that should help it stand out from the crowd. Sen and I are seeing if a vacation in France around the end of February is possible!
  • Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 12.14.13 AMWe got word from a publisher that they are interested in publishing our kid’s game, Pop Goes the Weasel!! This isn’t 100% official yet, but he said to expect a contract when he returns from Essen. We’ll announce which publisher once it’s 100%! It’s cool because it will be our first kid’s game to be published!
  • Sen attended a Game Artisans of Canada gathering called Cardstockawa. He got to playtest many games including some of ours: Aladdin, Abstract game, Rock Paper Wizards. 

November

  • Coming up in November we are going to attend Hammercon and Protospiel North. This is a fun weekend in Hamilton, ON where designers from all over can get together to playtest each other’s games. Good things always happen when designers get together!!
  • Sometime in November – December at the latest – our first expansion is coming out for Belfort! It’s very exciting and has got us thinking about the world of Belfort. We poked the publisher a bit and told him we’re toying around with making a quick dice game set in the world of Belfort. He said he’d be excited to see what we come up with!

Other than that, we’re going to continue to hone our existing designs through numerous play tests while we wait to hear back from Amigo about our game, Lions Share and Repos Productions for our game, What’s That? So a bit quiet on the blog, but busy as ever behind the scenes!

-Jay

Gathering: Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele

Continuing the series of my board game pitches to publishers at this year’s Gathering of Friends. Previous posts:

  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

I met up with Stefan from Asmodee later in the week and let him know that I still had more games that I wanted to pitch to him.We quickly found a table, and played a few games. I showed him Lions Share, Clunatics and Top Shelf. Wow,Top Shelf? That was the first game Sen and I fully designed. I brought it with me because I still had fondness for the game and think it still works – and also wanted to hear some feedback on the direction we should go with it.

TS-top of boardTop Shelf is a tile laying, matching game where you’re trying to make four in a row.We played the entire game, which is always a good sign. He liked the design but it wasn’t something that fit with Asmodee. He thought a different theme would help though. So, something to think about.

He had similar reactions for Lions Share and Clunatics. No real feedback to make the game better or different, they just didn’t fit with Asmodee.Well, you can’t argue with that!

Next up was R&R games. Right before I was about to begin, a guy named Doug comes over with his camera and asks if he could record the pitch as he was making a documentary about board games from the designer’s perspective (It’s called Adventures on the Tabletop and will be on Kickstarter soon!). Frank from R&R didn’t mind, so he set up and I began.

Now I have to say that Frank indicated that he didn’t have much time. So since I didn’t have sales sheets (see explanation here), I told him I’d give a 15 second pitch on each game and he could indicate which ones he’d like to know more about or not. I started with Lost for Words and I gave a very quick overview and asked if that was in the keep or discard pile. He wanted to know more immediately so I explained a bit more of the rules.Then he wanted to play a round. So now I’m all out of sorts and have explained half the rules and now have to backtrack to explain exactly how to play and it’s all a bit befuddling. Lesson learned here is to either have sales sheets (uh…yeah) or give the 15-30 second pitch, then if there’s interest, figure out if it’s worthwhile to jump right into a round or give more highlights. For a lighter weight game, it’s probably better to just jump right into a round! And of course this was all caught on video by the documentarian! Great.

Regardless, Frank was thinking it would be too hard to market a word game.Yep – it would be.Why do we keep designing word games? 🙂

ex-neigh1Next up was SimpliCITY and Frank thought it was good but gave us the exact same feedback – too much multiplayer solitaire. Hmmm…I think we’re going to have to rethink that game a little bit.

Update – since the Gathering, Sen and I have been tweaking SimpliCITY to add some more interaction and we’ve come up with some really neat ideas. I’ll be playtesting them tomorrow!

Lions Share also didn’t work for him, but you know what did? Pop Goes the Weasel! This is our kid’s game that uses roll and move – but adds one element of choice to it. He said it filled a hole that they had right now. Yay! Frank ended up taking Pop Goes the Weasel back with him.Three prototypes now with publishers!

Just as Frank left, Matthias from Abacuspiele found me as we had set up an informal meeting to pitch him games and it was happening right now! Doug kept rolling, but this time I slowed down and took control of the pitch session a lot more. The good news is that Doug mentioned that he’d be giving me the footage of the pitches, so I can share them right here on this website! Stay tuned for that.

I started with Lions Share and he expressed interest in it. This was our card game that had players playing in between each other and sharing cards that they won with their opponents. He wanted to take it back with him! Huzzah – four games taken back by publishers! He also showed interest in another Artisan’s game called Garden Plot and wanted to take that one back with him.The other games I pitched to Abacuspiele weren’t as much of a fit, but he did seem to like them…but again, just not for Abacuspiele.While that’s an easy out for a publisher – it’s still nice to hear!

Next up I’ll be regaling you with our pitches to ThinkFun, Hasbro and Mercury Games! Wow – busy week we had!

-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 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

New Ideas, They Are A Bubblin’!

Jay was in London at my place for the last week and we got a lot of work done.  We were aiming to finish a bunch of games, and we met most of our goals while exceeding some – so time well spent!  We were able to playtest quite robustly with my gaming group, my wife and sons, and our fellow GAC member Daryl Andrews.

Let’s recap:

  1. We tested out some new minor additions (in game goals vs. end game goals) for Akrotiri – a game that has been signed to Filosofia as our first 2p game!  It’s fast, fun, and now has some different challenges and motivations during each turn.  Can’t wait to see this in fully-published format!
  2. We changed the wolves in EIEIO to be on the die instead of card-based.  While this means it’ll come up more often (potentially 1 out of every 6 rolls – do the math!), it is theoretically cleaner than the conundrum that occurred when the cards came out in series.  We haven’t playtested this one yet – there was just so much other stuff to do!  EIEIO was slated for Filosofia as well, but they opted not to sign it, so we’re looking for another home for it.
  3. We changed from 8-sided dice to 6-sided dice for marking words in Lost for Words.  The 8-siders were just too finicky and hard to know what the actual face up number was.  We also worked out some rules stickiness in which there were too many darn ties.  The value of the in game goal cards may also be nerfed from 2 points to 1 so that finding a longer word isn’t as difficult.  I’m really looking forward to playing it again!  Word games are a hard sell, but I’m hopeful this one may break the mold – it’s faster than most and uses some innovative techniques to encourage play.  If it never makes it to a boardgame format, it might make a great app!
  4. Speaking of apps, I had a dream of an app I wanted to make – it was a  word game.  I told Jay about it and, by the next day, he had made a prototype of a card version of my dream game!  That game is now Chainables (working title) – a game in which you are trying to combine 2 syllables into full words.
  5. We worked a bit on Pass the Hat, our game about busking.  Some new changes to be made to all the cards, using a vertical vs. horizontal splaying mechanism.  The scoring seems to work, but we need to make a few more adjustments to make it flow better.  It’s our most “Gamery” game, currently, so we’d like to work on finishing it more.
  6. We played But Wait, There’s More with the Shepherd/Nicell family.  It was great!  We got to try out a few expansion ideas – some which worked amazingly well and some that need tweaking.  It’s such a hilarious game on it’s own, we want to make sure that the level of fun increases with each card drawn/expansion added.  Look for that one on Kickstarter soon!
  7. Jam Slam was tested with no changes just to see if there was anything we did want to change.  We’ve always had scoring chits AND a scoring track included when we send this prototype to a publisher but our playtesters – hands down (no pun intended) – liked the track much better than the chits.  So track it is!  The people have spoken!
  8. We played a lot (I mean a LOT) of one of our new games Simplicity.  It’s really simple (hence the name) and about making a city (hence the name, again).  It’s a tile-laying game in which you pick a tile up and place it down.  That’s all.  There are in game goal cards to achieve and mid/end-game goal cards to cash in on over the course of the game.  It’s so simple, it boggles the mind.  We thought of the game a year ago, almost to the day, and couldn’t put it together.  This time, we said “Let’s just make some cards or tiles and play around with them” and a great game was born!  Is it perfect yet?  Hardly!  We’ve got some ideas to add some variation here and there, but the core game is sold.   A big plus is that my wife LOVES IT, so I will be able to test the heck out of any changes we do make!
  9. One of our personal “holy grails” of gaming would be to make a game about movies, as Jay LOVES movies with a passion.  He’s at VIFF, TIFF, etc. as much as possible.  He had a radio show reviewing movies back in University.  He collects and saves all his ticket stubs and documents who he saw each movie with… okay, we’re getting into OCD territory.  Anyway, we’ve been working away at Box Office, in one shape or another, for years actually.  Now that we’re more seasoned designers, the latest version is actually coming along nicely.  Jay had a brainstorm re: this sliding scale thing…should be really good!  We didn’t playtest this with anyone as it’s really only in Alpha stage and we never want to subject playtesters to games that aren’t at least in their Beta phase.  Unless that game happens to be named The Dig.
  10. On a sad note, we found that Pictionary: The Card Game (a 2009 Dale Yu design) was very very similar to our Hog the Remote (a 2006 Bamboozle Brother design).  We had a bunch of interest in HtR, so it was disappointing to find the similarities.  Carrie had bought Pictionary: The Card Game for her work.  Luckily, I saw it and read the rules.  No one wants to go up against Hasbro.  Not even the fabulous Bamboozle Brothers!
  11. Lions Share was played a lot – we’re changing how play is done so it’s more 7 Wonders-style in that there are areas to play between each player and you only interact with the players to either side of you during the card playing phase.  The sharing of the trick is still super interesting as that’s what allows you to interact with players you can’t normally deal with.  A new scoring mechanism we devised makes team and vs. play much more interesting.  We need to add more cards to accommodate more than 4 players (hopefully up to 6). We’re thinking of adding a Chameleon type animal that can act as any animal and another animal as a suit…not sure which one yet – they’d just be a general animal.
  12. We got to try out Clunatics as well, which was well-received.  We’re just cleaning up the rules a wee bit to reduce scoring issues and keep cards in front of you to a minimum.  I made a mini-dry erase board and stuck a small dry erase marker complete with eraser in the box.  We’re hoping to shop this one around soon to NorthStar games perhaps.  They publish a little game called Wits and Wagers.  You might have heard of it!

Whew!  I *think* that’s it – there may be more that we did!  Thanks to Carrie, Ethan, Eli, Elly, Daryl, Jeff, Vince, Brian, Steven, Jeff, and the whole Shepherd/Nicell family (except you, Sean!) for gaming it up with us over the week and helping us take our games to the next level.  Your feedback was invaluable!

Oh yeah, I’ve started to take stop motion videos of our playtesting session using my iPad, a Makayama Movie Mount, and the iStopMotion app.  Gerry Paquette, another GACer, showed us how he did this at “Cardstockawa” (our annual Ontario grand game design moot) over the summer and I’ve wanted to do this ever since.

Let’s see if this works…

IT WORKS!  Huzzah!
~ Sen-Foong Lim

2011 in Review

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

Published Games

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

Train of Thought

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

Belfort

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

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

Unpublished Games

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

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

Game Artisans of Canada

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

Comic Books!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Click here to see the complete report.

2012?

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

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?