Bamboozle Brothers Schedule at GenCon

GenConWe are getting ready for our first visit to GenCon and we thought we’d share what are plans are with y’all. If you want to connect with us – know that our time is pretty tight, but we do have some time in the evenings.

Here’s where we’ll be while we’re at GenCon:

Wednesday, July 29

Day: Sen is driving in
Night: Pitch to Level 99 to at 8PM
Late Night: Meeple Syrup Show live from GenCon!

Thursday, July 30

Morning:  Check out booths
Afternoon: Jay arrives from flight, pitch to Dice Hate Me at 5pm
Night: Nerd Nighter Charity, Demo of But Wait There’s More at 10pm (Hall D, Green, table 10-11)

Friday, July 31

Morning: Interview with The Spiel at 10:30am
Afternoon: Pitch to R&R at 12pm, Foxtrot at 1pm, Z-Man at 2pm, Action Phase at 3pm, Hasbro at 4pm, Renegade at 5pm
Night: Demo of But Wait There’s More at 7 and 8pm (Hall D, Green, table 10-11)

Saturday, Aug 1

Morning: Walk around convention
Afternoon: Pitch to Tasty Minstrel Games at 12pm, Ad Magic at 2pm, Give seminar to public about pitching games to publisher – C Plaza: Penn Stn B, Demo of But Wait There’s More at 5pm (Hall D, Green, table 10-11), pitch to Lamp Light Games
Night: Totally free right now!

Sunday, Aug 2

Morning :Demo of But Wait There’s More at 11am (Hall D, Green, table 10-11)
Afternoon: Jay leaves to airport
Night: Sen drives home

So hope to see you there! If you do – come up and say hi…we’re Canadian so we’re pretty friendly! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

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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

We want your board game design stories!

whatsyourstoryWelcome to 2014! We’ve been working at designing board games for over 6 years now, and we’ve been writing about how to get published on this site for over 3 years. The goal of this site was to be very transparent and show people how we came to get our board games published. At the time we only had Belfort and Train of Thought being published but now we have six more games coming out this year! While we still have stories and lessons left to tell as we continue to learn new things about getting published, what we’d love to do now is to hear from other designers.

We’re introducing a new segment on our blog called: What’s Your Story?

We’ve already had one guest blogger, Patrick Lysaght, tell us a couple stories about following some of the steps outlined on this site (Pitching at Origins Part 1 and Part 2), and now we’d like to hear from you! Have you used any of the steps outlined in this blog? Have you found success – or even met up with some challenges? Do you have:

  • a story about how you pitched your game to a publisher, or
  • a story about how you make prototypes, or
  • a story about how you play test your games, or
  • a story about contract negotiation, or
  • a story about how you self-published, or
  • a story about how you used Kickstarter, or
  • any story about the design process?

Contact me and we’ll work together to get your story told: jay <at> bamboozlebrothers.com

-Jay Cormier

Pitching at Origins, part 2

Following up our first guest post by Patrick Lysaght, we have a more in-depth account of how he pitched his game to publishers at Origins. It’s a fascinating story that underlines the importance of preparation and a good attitude! Take it away Patrick…

“GLORY & RICHES” AT ORIGINS

            After writing my first post about the advantages Origins has for designers hoping to pitch their game designs to publishers, Jay asked me to write a more detailed report about my specific experiences with my own design.  Since no game designer in their right mind would turn down an opportunity like that, brace yourself for the short story told long.

INSPIRATION

            To set the scene, I need to give a brief description of “Glory & Riches.”  It is a 2-5 player strategy game of resource management and area control.  The players are medieval fief lords vying for their kingdom’s throne.  To succeed, they need to produce and trade resources, build buildings, train peasants into advanced units, and expand their territory.  The unique aspect of the game is a dueling set of expansion mechanics.  Players can either build their economy and purchase the loyalty of neighboring cities, or train an army for military conquest.  The game typically clocks in at about 2 hours.

I started working on the game just before Thanksgiving 2012 as a fun way to spend some time with my siblings over the holidays.  In February 2013, the game was really coming together, and I started thinking about publishing it.  Jay and Sen have an excellent discussion about self-publishing vs. licensed publishing.  Suffice it to say that my current family, career, and financial situations do not allow me to pursue the self-publication option.  Since I had not yet stumbled across Jay and Sen’s blog, I did what seemed natural at the time.  I opened up my enormous trunk of games, and started looking at the publisher names.  Next, I started looking up publisher websites.  In the process, I stumbled upon the board game designer’s forum (www.bgdf.com).  They had some great advice about how to approach a publisher via e-mail.  Taking the leap of faith, I selected a publisher, and fired off an e-mail.

GETTING SERIOUS

            I picked Rio Grande Games.  I selected them because I whole-heartedly agree with their view of gaming’s role in family and character development.  Also, they flat out make good games.  I don’t think I have played a Rio Grande Game that has disappointed me.  Anyway, I sent their contact e-mail asking for the chance to visit their headquarters to pitch my idea.  In less than 30 minutes, I received a very friendly response from their “Spare Parts Guy” saying that the company headquarters was their owner’s house, and that he would not appreciate me knocking on his door.  He did, however, give me Mr. Tummelson’s personal e-mail.  When I contacted him, he told me he preferred to meet at a convention because they provide the play testers he needs to try out a game.  Also, he told me he would be attending Origins and GENCON.  Since GENCON was out for me due to work commitments (BOO!), this put me on a crash course with Origins.  I immediately requested a meeting at Origins, and he gave me a time that fit his schedule.  Now the clock was actually ticking.

ON THE CLOCK

            Play testing continued through March and into early April.  By now, the game seemed to be working very well, and I thought I was where I needed to be.  This was about the time I stumbled across Jay and Sen’s blog.  My initial response…PANIC!  Boy was I unprepared.  I had only made it to Step 13.  The sudden realization sent me into overdrive.  I prepped sales sheets, researched the convention facilities, and started thinking about other publishers who were attending the convention.  By the time the dust settled in mid May, I had official meetings with Rio Grande and Mayfair, and approved contact points with Z-Man and Asmodee.  Then, just when I started to feel comfortable with the concept of approaching publishers, the game underwent a significant prototype change, and all my products had to be reworked in the last two weeks before the convention.  Despite the stress, the mental gymnastics of working through Jay and Sen’s pre-convention steps gave me a clear, concise way to communicate the game’s core.

MY PITCHES AT ORIGINS

            I walked into the convention with what I considered a realistic goal: convince a publisher to take my game into their development cycle.  As a first time game designer and a first time convention attendee, I thought attempting to get a publication commitment on the spot would probably be out of reach.  My other post talks about some of the things I did at the convention to “get the word out” about my game.  Some of these ideas were spur of the moment, and some were definitely preplanned.  For example, I followed Jay and Sen’s advice all the way down to the roll aboard suitcase and business casual attire.  My focus here, however, is going to be on the pitches themselves.  I will cover them in chronological order.
MayfairGames_logo-mdMy meeting with Mr. Yeager from Mayfair Games was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.  He actually stopped by the table I was demoing my game at before our meeting, but as soon as he realized it was me, he wandered off to get some things rolling on the showroom floor.  I showed up a few minutes early to setup the game board so that he could see the components.  When Mr. Yeager sat down for the meeting, I launched right into my 5 minute drill.  After that, he asked some questions, and I basically ended up walking him through the role of every unit, resource, mechanic, and other component.  After that, I demo’ed a part of a turn.  We ended up spending approximately 45 minutes together.  At that point, he expressed a willingness to take the game into their development cycle, and talked me through the rough timelines and processes.  When I told him about my other meetings, he completely understood, and asked for me to let him know on Saturday if I would be sending the prototype home with him.  At that point, I asked him for some feedback regarding my pitch and prototype.  Mr. Yeager said that my prototype quality was better than average, my delivery solid, and he would be open to hearing about my other designs in the future.  In other words, I had achieved complete and total victory by 2 PM on Wednesday afternoon.
rio_grande_gamesThursday was rough.  I pitched to Mr. Tummelson at Rio Grande and Zev at Z-Man.  Mr. Tummelson stopped me about halfway through my pitch, and said that they would not be interested in my game.  It was a matter of a dice-based military mechanism and player elimination.  These were showstoppers for him.  On the plus side, he spent the next 20 minutes talking to me about the nature of the American game design atmosphere, recommended three other publishers to approach with my particular game, and encouraged me to continue designing games.  Also, he mentioned he appreciated the quality of my prototype and my degree of preparation.

ZMan_LogoI met with Z-Man later than afternoon in the Board Room.  He actually sat down and played a whole game with me.  It took just over an hour, and he asked questions throughout.  Like Rio Grande, Zev identified a few reasons he would not be interested in publishing the game.  He did, however, recommend some adjustments that would help streamline gameplay, compliment my pitch, and say that he would be open to future designs.  While these pitches were disappointing, I gleaned some important lessons and feedback from them.  Later that evening, I had a disastrous game demo in the Board Room.  Basically, one person was convinced the game was fatally flawed, and made it their mission to highlight it to me in a series of games.  By midnight, I was exhausted, discouraged, and genuinely concerned that my game was not worthy to be published.  I had just finished picking up the pieces (literally), and was resting my head on the table when it happened.

THE TURNING OF THE TIDE

            As I was sitting there, a man approached me and asked if I was testing out a prototype.  I said yes, involuntarily regurgitated the pitch I had given countless times in the last two days, and was about to tell him I would be happy to demo the game for him tomorrow when he opened the box.  He said he 5 minutes to kill while his son finished up a game, and wanted to look over my design.  What followed was 15 minutes of critical analysis about the size, material, and number of my prototype’s components.  I was at wit’s end, and was about to let him have it when a singular thought occurred to me.  “Why would this man care that my prototype instruction manual is not on normal letter-sized paper?”  Then the realization dawned on me.  I was speaking to a publisher.  We ended up chatting for about 30 minutes (he actually sent his son back to the hotel room), and he asked me to demo the game for his son the next morning.  Let me tell you, if you are going to have a bad day as a game designer, this is a good way to end it!

The following morning was a blur.  I executed an early morning play test to check a rule tweak to fix the issue highlighted Thursday night.  I met with Stefan Brunell from Asmodee.  We chatted for 15 minutes, and he expressed an interest in reviewing the rules for possible game development.  I demo’ed “Glory & Riches” for the small publisher who had approached the night before.  His son thoroughly enjoyed the game, and the owner asked me to meet him for a second play test that evening.  While killing time, I approached the owner of Stronghold games.  This was one of the companies that Rio Grande had recommended.  Also, I had met him on the first day of the convention while hanging around the courtyard during a fire evacuation.  He had given me his card, and asked me to stop by on Friday.  He listened to my pitch, and said that they might be interested in taking the game into development.

CHOICES

            By dinner time on Friday, I was floating on cloud nine.  I actually played a game that was not my own, had some time to grab a celebratory dinner, and found a quiet corner to reflect on my choices.  Mayfair had offered to accept the prototype, but warned their development cycle is long and relatively closed to designer participation.  Asmodee and Stronghold had both offered to review the rules, and consider accepting the prototype at a later date.  I now had only to hear back on the smaller company’s position.  The owner, his son, and two friends played the game late Friday night.  They finished up just before midnight.  He told me he was interested in the game, but that there were some adjustments that needed to be made.  He offered to take the game into development, and promised a final decision before the end of July.

Ultimately, I chose the small publisher for a few key reasons.  First, the development timeline was so much faster that even a rejection would not significantly delay the game.  Also, running through the development cycle with the small company could identify issues that could be fixed before sending it to a larger company later.  Second, the publisher promised a much more inclusive experience during the development cycle.  Third, I had established a real rapport with the small company, and just felt very comfortable with them.

AFTERMATH

OriginsLogoIn the months since Origins, the small publisher has lived up to his promises with one minor exception.  I have been completely integrated into the development process.  He would identify issues in a play test, and I could tweak, test, and recommend changes for his next test.  Due to some tremendous medical issues, however, he was unable to render a final decision until the first week of October.  I completely understood the delay, but I was still getting a little antsy.  Fortunately, he has agreed to publish “Glory & Riches!”  Right now, it is slated for kickstarter in late spring 2014, and release in late 2014, or early 2015.  As the contractual details are pending, I don’t want to release the publisher’s name.  Hopefully, I can post that soon.  In our conversations since the convention, however, the publisher has made a point of commending my prototype and presentation.  In fact, he said it was one of the key discriminators between my game and several other designs he reviewed at Origins.  My profession has a saying, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.”  In this case, Jay and Sen’s 33 Steps helped prepare me to identify, approach, and present my games to publishers in a professional manner.  You can bet I will be using them again in the future!  I hope my experience can pay forward some of the help I received.  Good luck in your design, preparation, and pitching futures!

-Patrick Lysaght

Gathering: Pitching to Hasbro!

Hasbro_logo_newAs we were wrapping up our pitch session with ThinkFun, Tanya asked us if we had pitched to Hasbro yet. Uh….no…! Our understanding of Hasbro was that you can’t just be a Joe Schmoe and walk up to Hasbro and start pitching. We knew that Mike Gray, the main person who looks at pitches from designers, was at the Gathering – and we had actually had a fun run-in with him earlier in the week:

Sen and I were walking down the hall, checking out what people were playing, and we passed by the Snakes and Lattes team. We know them because we had our Belfort launch party there – and because Sen goes there for designer night. We said hi and they said “Hi Sen and Jay!” At that point, another person said, “Oh that’s Sen and Jay?” He asked us to come over to the table and said to Mike Gray, who was sitting beside him – at the same table as the Snakes and Lattes gang and said, “Hey Mike, this is Sen and Jay!”

At which point Mike stood up, stuck out his hand and said with all sincerity, “I want to thank you guys for Belfort. I was the first kid on the block to have it and I love it.” Wow! That was really cool. We talked about the expansion a bit – since it was launching on Kickstarter the following week – and then bid farewell.

So we say to Tanya that normal shlubs aren’t allowed to pitch to Hasbro and she says, “oh right.” But then goes on to say that she’s friends with Mike and that he should see our stuff. Um….OK! She calls out to Mike, who was nearby and after some figuring out, Mike agrees to see our games! He even mentioned, right in front of us that he usually never sees people he doesn’t know – but since we came with recommendations from Tanya – he allowed it! Cool!

The pitch with Hasbro was great, and while I can’t share everything that was said in that meeting as we signed an agreement before we started talking – it was super informative for both of us. He started off by saying that it was like we were aiming at a target. He hoped that today we would at least hit the board somewhere. Then, after hearing what he has to say that we would see him again next year and that we would be closer to the target. Cool analogy!

Mike shared with us the different demographics and markets that Hasbro is currently looking for ideas. It was a very interesting conversation that revealed that sometimes you don’t even need a full on prototype. If it involves a mechanism that moves in some way – that you could show a diagram that explains it. I also found it interesting that at Hasbro they refer to all designers as inventors. To me that means that they see their games closer to being toys than games – but I’m sure it’s just semantics.

l4w-1Then we got to pitch a few of our games. We started with our two word games because we thought that they could possibly be a Scrabble or Boggle spin-off. Lost for Words got his attention and while he thought it was a bit too complicated for the Hasbro audience, he said he knew of someone else who had an app that might want to move into the physical board game space and this might be it. He said he’d put us in contact with him! Nice!

Chainables-LOGOThen we played Chainables – and I was super surprised that we ended up playing an entire game! What?!? This is usually unheard of and has only happened one or two times with me in all my years of pitching board games. I think it’s a testament to the simplicity and fun of the game. Unfortunately it’s hard for Hasbro to bring a game that’s only cards to market. There’s just not enough margin in a card game for Hasbro. Still, it was great to play a full game with Mike!

We showed him Pop Goes the Weasel and it skewed too old for Hasbro as well. He did say something that I don’t think was part of our NDA and that was that Hasbro doesn’t want to publish a party game that just a box full of cards. They want to be able to have a commercial with something in the commercial that people can identify with and see that it’s a unique game with unique pieces. I thought Pop Goes the Weasel would be a better fit than Clunatics (our party game that is a bunch of cards in a box!!).

It was a great pitch session and it looks like we are now on the list to pitch to Hasbro in the future – which is awesome! Up next is our last pitch session with a new and upcoming publisher called Mercury Games.

Previous posts in this series:

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

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to ThinkFun

Continuing in our series that recounts the experiences we had at this year’s Gathering. Here are the previous posts in this series:

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

What’s great about the Gathering is that everyone is wearing a name badge. Even better than that, the name badges are colour coded so you can tell if someone is new to the Gathering, a 20 year veteran to the Gathering – or a Publisher! How great is that? At other conventions, the publishers have booths, so it’s pretty easy to know who they are, but their objective at most conventions is to sell games. At the Gathering, their objective is to have some fun playing games – as well as check out some pitches for new games.

This means that you can approach publishers at the Gathering to see if they’re looking at submissions right now. For me, this worked perfectly. I would see a Blue Badge (the colour of publishers) and ask them if they’re looking at prototypes while they’re here at the Gathering. Sometimes they’d be open to seeing pitches right away, while other times they’d schedule me into a time slot on another day. I had a 100% success rate in approaching publishers and getting them to check out my prototypes! I love the Gathering! 🙂

ThinkfunlogoI approached Tanya from ThinkFun in the hall, and having remembered meeting her last year, said hi and asked her if she was looking at prototypes. She brought out her schedule and slotted me in for Friday at 11am. Sweet!

By the time Friday came, Sen was now at the Gathering, so we had maximum Bamboozle Brother effort in effect! This helped with our pitches a lot. I was still the main ‘pitch man’ but Sen helped in organizing and then in the discussions after the pitches. We found that this worked well and we avoided talking over each other this way.

We met up with Tanya and found an open table in the main room to pitch our games. Remember, we didn’t have time (or the files!) to print out any sales sheets, so I had to pitch the old fashioned way – by bringing out each game and showing them one at a time.

carry-onSide note: I had brought this carry-on bag with me to the Gathering that had a long handle and wheels. You know, the kind meant for carrying your laptop and some files? Well, I used this to lug all my prototypes around. I had packed my prototypes into separate baggies or the smallest box I could find. Space is definitely an issue when you’re bringing multiple games to pitch!

I would bring out a game, show her the logo and state the name of the game, then as I was opening it up and removing the necessary pieces (not all the pieces, just enough to show a demo), I would give the elevator pitch. I would explain the concept of the game and why I think it’s unique, or what I like most about the game.

Examples:

SimpliCITY: I really like tile laying games but I hate waiting for each person to play before it’s my turn – mostly because the board changes so much that I will usually just wait and not plan too much until it is my turn. In SimpliCITY, each person is working on their own city, but they are interacting by trying to achieve specific goals before other players.

SOS-ex1

Short Order Showdown: For some reason, I’m really good at quick reaction games. And when we played this one with friends, they liked it but said that they never wanted to play with me again because I always won. So what we did with this game is added a clever catch up mechanic to it that keeps it challenging for all players.

Lions Share: It’s a collecting game, but it has 3 unique features:

  • You play between players, so you’re playing against the player on your left and on your right
  • what you’re allowed to play changes each time a set is collected
  • when you do collect a set, you have to share half the cards with your opponents

And so we pitched game after game to Tanya and she took notes about each one. After we pitched pretty much every game we had to her (we forgot to pitch Top Shelf to her for some reason!), we found that almost 2 hours had passed! Tanya mentioned that most of her pitch sessions last 30 minutes…maaaaybe 60 minutes, so it was a testament to the quality of our games that she kept wanting to hear more pitches!

In the end she liked 4 of our games: Lost for Words, Chainables, EI-EI-O and Pop Goes the Weasel. She asked to have a sales sheet sent to her in the following week. Overall I was ecstatic with our pitch session with Tanya. She shares the same overall objectives as we do – which is that we all should help each other in this small world of game-making because it will only help all of us in the end. I can see a long a fruitful relationship with Tanya as we now have an open door to pitch anything in the future!

Update: We sent her the sales sheets and within a week or so we heard back that while none of the games we showed her were perfect for ThinkFun right now, she’d be open to seeing more from us in the future – which is always good!

Next up…the big one – we pitch to Hasbro!!! You’re not going to want to miss this one.

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jay Cormier

Pitching to Filosofia and Asmodee, Part 1

If there was ever proof that building relationships is as important as great game design in the board game industry, then this is it. I had the fortune of attending Alan Moon’s Gathering last April, where I got to meet a lot of publishers in a more relaxed and intimate setting (check out this series of posts about it). I pitched a lot of games to a lot of publishers and made a lot of contacts. Fast forward 6 months and I find myself having to go to Montreal for my real job.

“Hmmm…who do I know in Montreal?” I thought. Of course – Filosofia and Asmodee! I had made friends with JF at Filosofia as well as Stefan at Asmodee while at the Gathering, so I emailed them both letting them know about by upcoming visit. They both agreed to meet up while I was there! Since I knew them fairly well, I didn’t have to follow our own Step 20 – which I normally would if I didn’t have an established relationship with them.

Preparation

Now that we knew I would be meeting with them, Sen and I had some work to do. I had just spent a week with Sen while I was in his neck of the woods for another work thing (remember – I live in Vancouver, Sen lives in London, ON – so it’s not that often that we get to be in the same room!), so we had a couple new games that we wanted to show.

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.

This is a word making game in which you have cards with starts of words and cards with ends of words – and you’re trying to match them up.

But, in pure Sen and Jay form we still had all the rules to write up. This is our least favourite part of game design!

Sen took a crack at the first draft, then I would tweak it and add all the graphic examples to make them easier to understand (as we described in Step 15, try to always include as many graphic examples as possible). We were working feverishly during the last two weeks before I had to leave to Montreal. On top of this I also had to re-print some of our prototypes based on some feedback we had in our latest playtests. Nothing that changes the gameplay, but things like making tiles smaller or improving the graphic design aspect.

We got everything done, but we didn’t have enough time to make any sales sheets for any of our new games. I accepted that this would be fine – only because I already had a relationship with both Filosofia and Asmodee, and because I had a meeting setup with just me and them…during a time when they’re not busy and rushing to another meeting with another designer (like at Essen, for example) – so I knew we’d have a bit more time. In the end, it worked out fine, but we’re still devoted to making sales sheets when we meet with publishers that we don’t have a good rapport with yet.

I packed everything up in accordance to Step 21 – everything had its own box that was labeled with the name of the game and our contact info. I opted for small boxes instead of baggies this time as all of our games fit nicely into these small white boxes. I usually hate boxes because they take up so much space, but check out the Solutions store (or the Container Store) as they have some great boxes that suits our purpose perfectly!

I was on my way and ready for some pitching! I had no idea if the games we had would fit with these publishers – but was ecstatic with how it all turned out. Stay tuned for the next post in which I detail how the Filosofia pitch went down!

-Jay Cormier

WizKids and Pitches

As you may know, Jay and I are on a select list of designers for the New Jersey-based WizKids game company (most famous for their HeroClix line of miniatures). Their most recent success has been with the revamping of the MageKnight license with Vlaada Chvátil at the helm.

So when the opportunity arose to be on WizKids’ shortlist of go-to designers on a work-for-hire relationship, we jumped at the chance. Some of the Intellectual Properties that WizKids have access to are very cool! Marvel, DC, MageKnight, The Hunger Games, Quarriors, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Pathfinder Battles, Pirates of the Spanish Main, etc. – those would be so cool to work on!

Anyway, we just sent our second pitch to WizKids today. We’re both really confident in this one as we worked really hard to get all the elements of the IP (that we know of – information on it is very limited at this time – so it’s a new one, not one of the above!) in the game. We figured out a simple and elegant way of doing fog of war, the enemy learning from past battles, etc. and are hopeful that those tie ins will win us the contract.

We’ve been learning a ton doing these work-for-hire pitches. We’re very pleased with our ability to perform under deadline pressure, with some very tight constraints (both design-wise and budget wise), and with little to no information to work with regarding the IP itself.  We’re tightening up our internal design processes and becoming much better communicators, between ourselves and our prospective publishers.

Sure, we’re used to working far apart, but this time we  were even more apart than usual – Jay was in Florida for work at the time this request for a pitch came through!  So we’ve been using DropBox and Skype to plan and create the documents for the pitch; both of us having CorelDraw on our respective laptops has helped immensely to meet the deadlines; and we’ve really had to become skilled at explaining ourselves to each other in writing and over the phone, so that we get on the same page.  It’s been quite an interesting process.  And then, the day before the pitch was due, Jay was hopping on a plane from Florida to Buffalo to get to the invite-only gaming convention, the Gathering of Friends.  So, the fact that we were able to complete what I think is a very exhaustive and complete pitch with some actualized game cards and board designs is a testament not only to how cool the internet and technology is, but how much Jay and I have grown as designers, as collaborators, and as partners in crime.

Aw, shucks!

Let’s just hope that our success with our first pitch to the company (which hasn’t been greenlighed yet) doesn’t affect us being considered for the second one as WizKids does not want to stretch designers thin. They would prefer that you pass on projects so you do one well vs. trying to do them all poorly. And I respect them for that.

But this second IP we’ve pitched for is really really cool!

So, fingers (and toes) crossed!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Adventures in Essen, Part 3: Pitching to a Publisher

Going to Essen as a game designer can be very beneficial if you plan properly and have a modicum of sales or personal skills. In this post I’ll walk you through how I pitched to all the publishers I met with while in Essen. To catch up to where we are in the series, here are the previous posts:

Adventures in Essen, Part 1: The Fair

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

Because we’ve been published already, I started each conversation by bringing out a copy of Train of Thought and Belfort. I did this for a couple reasons.

  1. To let the publisher know that I’m a published designer of two great looking games and,
  2. To let them know that we’re looking for international partners. If the publisher was a European publisher and showed some interest in either one, then I’d quickly review the game and then gauge their interest levels. The more interest they show then the more details I provide, going so far as to open the box and give them an example of game play.

Sales Sheet for our game, Akrotiri

Once we were finished talking about International rights (which Sen and I do not have, but I was there to gauge interest and connect them with our publisher for negotiating), I’d bring out my folder full of Sales Sheets. Prior to the meeting I’d review the emails with the publisher to see if they expressed interest in specific games of ours or not, and if they did then I’d only show them the Sales Sheets for those games. If I didn’t have any guidance from previous emails as to which games they prefer to see, then I’d start with the games that I felt fit that publisher the most.

I’d bring out the Sales Sheet and face it towards them and give them the 30-second elevator pitch, just like in Step 16. Based on how interested they were, I’d continue by explaining how the game plays while pointing to each picture on the Sales Sheet. I’d ask them if they’d like to see a sample round played out and if so, I’d grab the baggie with the prototype and quickly set up enough components to play a round. Depending on the game I would explain a certain percentage of the rules since not all rules would be needed to play a round or two. Basically I’d follow what we detailed in Step 25. Whenever it made sense I’d point out key strategy aspects but I always let the publisher make up their own mind as to how to play.

A small room where I just finished pitching Swashbucklers to a publisher (the publisher left for a moment so I snapped this image with my iPad!)

During a pitch session the time for humility is at the end of the session if the publisher has feedback, but at the beginning and during your pitch, throw humility out. I mean, don’t be an egotistical ass, but this is the time that you really have to highlight what’s unique and special about your game. As we play I’d point out how unique a movement mechanic was or how clever or novel a specific aspect of the game was. I’d say things like, “What I like most about this game is that everyone is playing at all times” or “The hook to this game is that you’re giving many tiny clues which, by themselves mean little, but when put together they make more sense.” You have to remember that this publisher is possibly spending their entire time at Essen seeing new designs every 30 minutes from different designers. How are you going to stand out and be remembered?

After playing a round or two I am usually pretty forward and like to ask their opinion about the game from what little they know of it. This is key if you have many games you’d like to present. Each of the meetings I had were specific slots of time – usually 30 minutes (though one was an hour), so I wouldn’t want to ‘waste’ my entire time on pitching just the one game. When the publisher gives you feedback, remember to follow what we reviewed in Step 26. Now IS the time for humility. Don’t be defensive and just accept whatever they say. There’s no argument that you can provide that would convince the publisher that their opinion should be different.

Whatever their opinion is, start packing up the prototype if it’s out, while the publisher is contemplating or sharing their thoughts. Keep eye contact with the publisher and don’t appear rushed, but I knew I had a few more games I had to get out and I was just trying to be as efficient as possible. None of the publishers seemed to mind this at all.

At the end of the session I’d always review the key take-aways. I’d summarize which games they were interested in and then, as detailed in Step 27, I’d ask them if it was ok to come back with the prototype at the end of the Fair, and all the publishers were cool with that. I’d shake their hand and thank them for their time and ensure I got a business card and be on my way.

It’s key during these pitches to really try and be yourself. You can’t be super salesman-y the entire time as that comes across as cheesy and forced. Show them that you’re a good person and that you’d be fun and professional to work with if they chose your game to be published. I never found it necessary to comment or flatter them with praise about any of their existing games as I felt like that would come across as pandering and fake. I think they appreciated that I was good humoured but also got right down to business.

I need to underline the importance of Sales Sheets again. I’ve talked about them in previous posts for sure, but I actually asked a few publishers their thoughts about Sales Sheets and every one of them said it was a great idea. One specifically liked that it helped him remember which game was which since they had pictures, while another preferred them during the pitch sessions as it was quicker to explain games instead of hauling out tons of bits and pieces. In the future I think we’ll be tweaking our Sales Sheets a bit to make them even a better aid when explaining how the game is played.

Up Next: A review of the publishers I pitched

– Jay Cormier