Dice Hate Me reviews Belfort

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Episode 17 - the one about girls, featuring Belfort

On the 17th Episode of The State of Games podcast, the folks at Dice Hate Me take a look at our latest release, Belfort.  The good stuff (i.e. the stuff about Belfort!) starts at the 49 minute mark and features some very positive comments from the reviewers.  Listen in!

The first 3/4 of the podcast is also very interesting to listen to from the perspective of a game designer as it has to do with what girls like in board/card games.   Definitely food for thought!

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BGG.con: Our 3rd Published Game?

On the first night of the convention (actually before the convention even started) I met up with Michael Mindes from Tasty Minstrel and he asked about the new games I brought with me.  I showed him our new game, But Wait There’s More.  This game involves players pitching a product to the other players, and then players vote on which product is the best.  I showed Michael the Sales Sheet we had for it and since we were seated at a table, I brought out the game and showed him an example round.

After playing one round of the game, Michael and I were laughing already and he said that he wanted to publish the game.  Yep, you read that right – Tasty Minstrel Games is going back to the Sen and Jay well one more time and publishing their third game!  So it was day zero of the convention and I had already 1 game sold to a publisher!

We played But Wait There’s More throughout the rest of the convention and the game just continued to grow in excitement and hilarity!  We even played But Wait There’s More with complete strangers that came up to the booth and the laughter brought more people over to see what was happening.

After playing the game, one player pulled out his wallet and asked how much it was and when we explained it wasn’t even published yet he was upset and wanted to buy it right now!  Music to a publisher’s ears!

Michael and I started chatting about art direction and both agreed that it would look great if all the wacky benefit cards looked like stickers stuck on a box.  The good news about the game is that it’s very simple in terms of art needs and production – a big factor in deciding if a publisher will publish a game of course!

So in terms of getting a new game published, BGG.con was a success!  Could the convention get even better though?  More on that tomorrow…

-Jay Cormier

BGG.con – Belfort

A lot of press and buzz coming into the convention for Tasty Minstrel Games was for their upcoming game, Eminent Domain by Seth Jaffee.  Because of this, Eminent Domain had one of the two tables at the Tasty Minstrel booth for almost the entire convention.  The other table was reserved for Train of Thought demos.  This didn’t leave much room or time to promote Belfort, but I managed to squeeze it in enough to get it noticed by a lot of people.

For those not in the know, Belfort is our second game being published – and it will be published by Tasty Minstrel Games.  We’re hoping that it will be out by April or May but we’re just waiting on getting the final art.  (Josh, if you’re reading this – hurry up! 🙂 )  Since we didn’t get the final art for all aspects of Belfort before the convention, Sen and I thought in advance and printed out all the art we had. So we had a mix of nice looking pieces and bland prototype pieces.  At least it was all functional!

I managed to play Belfort about 4 times with different groups of people.  Everyone had a great time with the game and seemed fully engaged throughout the entire game.  For 2 of the games I managed to take over a hot table location that had a lot of traffic and we generated a lot of walk-by interest.  This allowed me to explain the entire concept of the game to a lot of people while the players continued playing the game.  Everyone who stopped, loved the art that was available and expressed interest in the final game.

Belfort Board Game playtest

After playing, people were asking about release dates and pre-ordering directions – which is great!  I started one game at the hot table (which is a raised table with no chairs – so players had to stand the entire time) and told them we’d just play until the first scoring so they could see how it played.  When we finished the first scoring I was about to reset the pieces and they all wanted to keep playing!  Of course I let them and they finished the entire 1.5-2 hour game standing at this table.  That’s a good testament to the quality of the game for me!

Here’s a comment from Tim who played the game at the convention and then posted this on bgg.com:

 

Jay,

I really appreciate you taking the time to play Belfort with me on Friday night. It’s shaping up to be a great game, and with a few minor tweaks it could end up being (probably already is) my favorite worker placement game. It seems to have a good balance of mechanics I like (not sure how specific I can get on here at this point), and is simple enough to teach to others who may not have played a worker placement type game, yet could be deep enough to satisfy most gamers.

Only bad part about playing so soon before the game is released is I will end up having to wait 4-6 months before I can play again. Now I have two games from Tasty Minstrel to try to wait patiently for. You guys had a great presence at BGG con.

Tim

Also, Sen and I had been talking about a 2 player variant for the game and Michael Mindes from Tasty Minstrel Games was very interested in being able to say the game played 2-5.  It’s usually pretty challenging to play an Area Majority game with only 2 players, but Sen and I are soooo smart that we found a way that works really well! J  I showed the mechanics of the 2 player game to Seth and he seemed to like it, though we didn’t get a chance to play it. We’ll see where this ends up soon I’m sure.

The next step in Belfort’s life is getting all the art finished and then it’s off to the printers!  All told, we raised the awareness of the game (and to my surprise, a few people had already heard of the game!) and started getting people excited about Belfort!  Huzzah!

-Jay Cormier

BGG.con: Train of Thought

I got to see (and touch and play) the final published Train of Thought game!  Here’s a picture of a proud Jay with boxes of the finished product and the Tasty Minstrel gang, Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee!

Train of Thought

I spent a lot of the convention stationed at the Tasty Minstrel booth giving demos to anyone and everyone!  The first copy was sold before I could get to the booth (as I had to wait in line to register), but the first copy I was asked to sign was to Brent Llyod, a fellow Canadian!  We did find the person who bought the first copy of our first published board game, and got a picture of him too!  Thanks a lot Adam!!

Here’s what the Tasty Minstrel booth looked like – nothing amazing, except for all the Train of Thought of course! 🙂

At BGG.con players can rate every game they play on a scale of 1-5 (no half points allowed).  Then all the data is calculated on the fly and a projected “Geek Buzz” list of the top 25 games cycles through on a large screen in the main lobby.  This is great to see which games are hot and worth trying out.  The list constantly evolves throughout the 5 days as more people play and like or dislike a game.  Well, colour me surprised when Train of Thought ended up as #1 at the end of the first day!

By the end of day 2, Train of Thought moved down to #13, which made more sense – but was also surprising.  To put this in context – almost all the new games that debuted at Essen earlier this year were here as well as all other games that have ever been released!  So to have a party game higher than some of these big gamery games was truly outstanding!

Day 3 we ended up moving up to #10 and by the end of day 4 we were up to #5.  To my humblest surprise, Train of Thought ended the convention at #3!  Can you believe it?  Train of Thought was the #3 game of BGG.con this year!!!

In addition to all this it was absolutely amazing to me to walk around the convention and see people playing the game.  It’s a bit mind blowing.  It was also flattering to hear people tell me stories about them playing Train of Thought to 3 or 4 in the morning.  One group of people told us to submit the game to the Mensa competition!  They were serious and they said that they think it would win as the Mensa group likes quick games that involve communicating and making you think differently – which exactly describes Train of Thought!  We’re in the process of understanding the requirements to submit it.

The good news doesn’t end there though.  In discussions with Michael Mindes, the owner of Tasty Minstrel Games, he let me know that he had a conversation with the distributors, PSI.  PSI has a great relationship with Barnes and Noble and PSI showed B&N the box for Train of Thought.  B&N loved the box and said they’d like to see the game when they go to the New York Toy Fair in February.  If they like it, then they will stock it in their stores – all across America!  That would be huge!

Does the good news end there?  No it does not.  On the last day of the convention, Michael had a meeting with Queen Games and Queen Games will be publishing and distributing Train of Thought in Germany! Obviously they will redo the entire game in German – but it will be Train of Thought!  Our first game just went International!

So this was a very good convention for me and Tasty Minstrel – and this is just about Train of Thought!  Both Tasty Minstrel and I have more good news coming…  Stay tuned!

Back from BGG.con!

BGG.con is done and I have a lot of updates and stories!  I’ll pace them out over the week with a post every day or so.  BGG.con is an annual convention that takes place in Dallas where over 1000 people come to play board games from all over the world.  They have a library of games that has 100’s and 100’s of games that anyone can sign out for free and play.  The convention is so friendly that you can almost always walk up to complete strangers and ask to join their game, or ask them if they’d like to join in your game.  They even have “Players Needed” flags that you can place on your table if you need more players.

In addition to playing games there are a bunch of other diversions like the Puzzle Hunt, Game Show, Rock Band, Tichu and Texas Hold’em Tournaments, Flea Market, some board game vendors and eating – with a constantly running shuttle that loops around local restaurants.  Thanks to Rio Grande for sponsoring that shuttle!

I spent most of my time at the Tasty Minstrel booth pitching Train of Thought and Belfort to other gamers.  As you’ll see in the upcoming posts – both were very well received.

Overall I had a blast and met a lot of great people and would recommend this convention to any board game fan!  The next few posts will be divided into the following topics:

–        Train of Thought (our first published board game!)

–        Belfort (our second published board game!)

–        Our third (and potentially fourth) published board games!

–        Games I liked and disliked and wanted to play

–        Game Designers and other thoughts

Up next: Train of Thought!

-Jay Cormier

Step 17: Finding Publishers

Wow, it’s taken us 16 steps to get to the moment most of us thought should have come a long time ago!  But it’s only through your motivation, versatility and persistence (MVP) that you will find yourself fully ready to show your game to a publisher.

Now, how do you find a publisher that might be interested in your game?  Well the first step is to do some research on publishers (“What? More work?  Just tell me who will publish my game please?”).  Nope, research first!  What we’re trying to do is find out which publishers might be interested in your game.  First we need to look at the games that a publisher already has published.

Basically there are five types of games that publishers will make:

  • Strategy/Euro games
  • Family games
  • Party games
  • Collectible games
  • Role-playing games

There are subsets of each of these of course, but this is a good place to start.  So which category does your game fit into?  Now find a list of all the current publishers that make those kinds of games.  You can use boardgamegeek.com, but I’d recommend actually going to your local board game store and heading directly to the section that pertains to your category.

As you’re listing them, make a note if there are any that share too many similarities to your own game.  These publishers would probably be less willing to publish your game if it will cannibalize sales of their own game.  One game that Buffalo Games liked of ours was Jungle Jam as it fit within the kind of games that they like to make, but they were already in production on a game that shared a similar mechanic – so they opted to pass on that one.  Fair enough.

Now you should have a great place to start. These are not the only publishers that might publish your games, but it’s a great place to start.  One thing you won’t know until you start connecting with publishers, is what they are looking for currently.  Sen and I had a deal with Tasty Minstrel games to make Belfort, but when their developer, Seth came to visit me to work on the game, I showed him another game of ours called Train of Thought.  At the time Seth was firm on his belief that Tasty Minstrel will not publish party games.  That was fine – but he kept asking to play that game while he was visiting.  He ended up taking my prototype and three weeks later we got word from Tasty Minstrel that they wanted to publish Train of Thought as well!

So you never know if and when a publisher is looking to branch out of what they do normally.  The best way to start gathering this information is to reply to your rejection emails (oh and you will get them!), by asking what they are currently looking for from game designers.  You won’t get a response from everyone on this, but you will get some.

Next up will be posts on how you should approach a publisher – via email and in person.

-Jay Cormier

Research is key when it comes to looking for appropriate publishers. Not only can solid research save you potential embarrasement (“We already publish a game exactly like that…it’s called Monopoly…you may have heard of it?”) but it can save you money. It once cost us something like $80 US to have a prototype shipped – so we wanted to be sure that it was going to a company that would seriously consider the game. It can also save you time. In this world of instant messaging, snail mail can seem deathly slow. And time spent in transit and time spent at the game company is time that the game could be played by another company. So make sure that the company is one that fits your game.

How do you do this?

There’s this series of tubes…

Check out Z-man games for a good example of submission guidelines. Z-man have published a ton of great games lately and are sure to do more – maybe even yours! But look at their guide and be sure your game fits their bill. You could have the greatest abstract game in the world…but alas, Z-man will not publish it because they do not deal in that genre. Nor do they deal with trivia, sport-simulations, word, or party games. Remember – knowledge is power. And it saves you time, money, and effort that could be better directed towards other publishers.

Most publishers have a submission page on their website. You’ll note that a lot of them state emphatically that they are not accepting unsolicited submissions. What does that mean? Well, it means that if you send them a prototype, you can be 100% guaranteed that it’ll be returned to you unopened. So don’t waste your time or money. Does that mean that the door is always closed to you? No! But it does mean that a little more work is required.

Get out of your Hobbit hole, Bilbo

If you’re not already a member of one, join a local gaming club. Learn about which publishers are strong in what direction by playing their games. Some have great production values. Some have really good rules. Some are consistent. And other gamers can help you increase the breadth and depth of your gaming knowledge with their experiences so you don’t have to play every game for yourself. You can also learn which brands other gamers respect and which brands they don’t. And if you beg and provide chips, you may also coerce your club members to playtest for you!

Participaction

Participate on forums, like bgdf.com – a forum specifically catering to boardgame designers. Not only will you get to know the best source for meeples on the web, but you may be able to learn more about which publishers might be interested in your design. Jay and I are active members of the Game Artisans of Canada, a group of designers, many published, who banded together over the interweb to help each other get quality games out to the real world. So far, it’s been a great reciprocal experience with that team of people. We playtest each others games and help with the promotional aspects as well, including helping people think of which publishers make sense for specific games. Become an active member of your gaming community, be it local or on-line.

Enter contests, like Hippodice’s annual event (sorry, entry deadline was 1 week ago!). Some of these contests can lead directly to publication as the prize for the winning entry. It’s well worth it as an unpublished designer to put a strong design in for consideration. Even if you don’t win the whole shebang, the feedback you get from the judges is usually very high calibre. There are tons of design contests around. Search the web and you’ll find local, state-or-provincal, national, or international level contests. Note that these contests often have criteria regarding your submissions (like it can’t be currently under consideration by a publisher) so be sure to double-check that your game meets their standards.

Meet People

Get out there. If you want to be a game designer, you have to spend time in the field. Designing games and playing them with your friends is one thing, but the business end of it is the next big step. This is what really separates the wanna-bes from the people who’s names eventually will grace the game box. And I’m not talking about going as far as Essen or Nuremburg. Just in the Continental United States alone, there are some great opportunities to get your name AND game out there – designer conventions such as ProtoSpiel in Ann Arbor, MI, going to industry trade fairs like GAMA in Las Vegas, NV, or player-oriented conventions like Origins in Columbus, OH or the much-ballyhooed (and exclusive, invite only) “Gathering of Friends” hosted by prolific designer Alan R. Moon (also held in Columbus, OH – a veritable hotbed of gaming, it would seem!).

Basically, you need to up your game and rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the industry if you want to get ahead. Much like the music biz, there are probably countless people across the world who can sing better than Lady Gaga. But she gets the accolades because she’s out there working it. Now, I’m not suggesting you wear a dress made of meat at a convention to get your game noticed, but a little bit of face time goes a long way. For this reason (amongst many others), I’m glad that Jay is my partner in crime. He is the face and voice of our team. He has experience in sales, acting and improv. I tend to be more on the Asperger’s side when it comes to social graces. Jay can sell more than our game design. He sells *US* as a team that is worth working with.

But more of that in the next post…

-Sen-Foong Lim

Final Box Art for Belfort!

This just in – here’s Josh Cappel’s final art for the box for Belfort.  I probably sound like a broken record but this is just amazing!

 

When you are trying to get a game published you go through some anxious phases.  Phase 1 is when you submit a game and you’re anxious to hear back from the publisher.  Phase 2 is when a publisher wants to publish your game and then you’re anxious to see if they want to change the game a ton or not (“Love the game – but can we make it about ponies making rainbows?”).  Phase 3 is when you’re waiting to see the first art for the game.  If the art sucks then for the rest of this game’s existence you’d bring it out and say, “yeah, don’t look at the art – the game is awesome though.”

Fortunately we’ve made it successfully through each of these phases!  I think the next phase is waiting to see the actual physical product and see if the components are top quality.  Then the next phase is sales!

But for now – we are extremely happy with where we’re at!

Belfort box art

-Jay Cormier

Belfort Box Art: Second Sketch!

Here’s the next stage of the Belfort box art from Josh Cappel.  Loving it!  Great attention to detail in the background.  You can even see the wizard lowering the top of the tower down.  Tasty Minstrel requested one change from this image…simply to reverse the hammer in the Elf’s hand!  Next step is the painting.  After this we only have a few more pieces of art left: the Calendar board, the Collection board, the player order indicators, the player aids and the rulebook.  Getting close!

 

belfort box board game art

Tasty Minstrel Gives Status Update

tasty minstrel

Just read a nice status update from Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel on the timelines for both our games.  Great news: people who pre-order can get Train of Thought by Christmas!  Others have to wait until the new year before seeing it in stores.  Other great news: Belfort is about a week away from having all its art done!  Very cool and exciting.  Read more on Michael’s Blog.

Train of Thought played on BoardgameGeek!

This week Tasty Minstrel (the company publishing our first game, Train of Thought) had a novel idea: play Train of Thought via a forum on the popular board game website: www.boardgamegeek.com.

It seemed to go over really well.  The developer of the game, Seth, would post a start word and his 3 word clue, then anyone visiting the forum would post a one word guess to his clue.  After some time passed, Seth would check the responses and then use one of the guesses in his new 3 word clue.  He would continue doing this until the destination word was guess and that player would get a point.

Then he continued to play until 6 words were guessed.  It generated a bit of traffic and buzz for the game and he plans on repeating it.  What a cool idea!

Check it out here!