Gathering of Friends 2014 review: Part 3

Our third post reviewing all the pitches we made during the Gathering of Friends this year. It was super exciting and we got to spend some quality time with each publisher. If you missed the first two you can read them 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

Huch & Friends

800px-Huch_&_Friends_logoWow – another surprise! We hadn’t met with Huch & Friends before either. Neither Huch & Friends nor Zoch have been to the Gathering before (or at least not in the last 3 years that I attended!). We pitched to Britta from Huch & Friends and found that a lot of our games fit with what they were looking for! In the end she wanted to take back Zombie Slam, Ignotus, Lion’s Share and Herdables. Wow – cool! With Ignotus she mentioned that she’s partnered with another company that specializes in crime based deductive games – how perfect! She also mentioned that our Herdables could fit in her 2-player abstract line.

Toy Vault

toy_vault_logo_07We spent a bunch of time with Ed from Toy Vault. In about a month we’re going to be launching the Kickstarter for our game Monty Python’s But Wait, There’s More so we gathered some gamers and went to a quiet room and filmed the Kickstarter video! We just had people play the game so we would have a lot of footage of examples and people laughing. Mission accomplished!

We pitched our Firefly game to Ed and he had some thoughts on the direction he’d like it to go, so we have a bit of work to do – but we’re excited about the direction this game is going!

Ed also wanted to partner with us in designing a Living Card Game based on the Godzilla IP. That’s pretty awesome! So the three of us will be working to work on a game based on the initial ideas that Ed had for the game. Looking forward to getting to work on this one!

Mercury

mercury-logoEvery year we meet with Mercury and we really love hanging out with these guys! The first year I went to the Gathering was also their first year and they were looking for their first game to launch their new company. I pitched them the game Quarantine to them as another member of the Game Artisans of Canada, Mark Klassen had given me his sales sheet to show around. This year we pitched them all our games – thinking that none of them really fit with their brand. I almost shot myself in the foot by pre-empting the pitch by saying something like, “I don’t think you’ll like these games.” Idiot! Eventually they had to tell me that we shouldn’t base our thoughts on what they might publish on games that they have already published. OK – lesson learned! In the end they really liked Zombie Slam and our App-based game, What’s That? Nice!

Hans Im Gluck

GLUCK-LOGOWe finally got to meet with Hans Im Gluck after continually bumping into each other when one of us was busy! We pitched all our games in the same 30 second overview style that we’ve now become pretty slick at – and they expressed interest in Lions Share. We played the game with them and they liked it enough to want to take a copy back with them – huzzah!

The interesting part for me about this game was that while we were playing it – I realized that it wasn’t as interesting as I had thought it was originally! So after this pitch, Sen and I brainstormed a bit and we came up with one new rule that we thought would drastically improve it. Next up: Think Fun!

Think Fun

ThinkfunlogoWe had a great time pitching to Tanya from Think Fun last year and we specifically tried to make some games that would fit with her line up. We showed her all our games and she played a few rounds of most of them. When we played Lions Share, we played with our new rule that we had just added – and it made the game so much better! Not only that, but Tanya also added a couple of suggestions around the Wild cards that really simplified things a bit further (in a good way!). She ended up passing on Lions Share but she did like Ignotus. She said it would have an outside shot because they’re pretty much locked up for 2015 already, but it’s such a small game that she could possibly make it work. She said that it was great that I suggested that the game could easily be themed to anything else, since the current artwork I made was just symbols, colours and numbers. That’s a good thing to bring up when appropriate!

So after this we had to seek out Hans Im Gluck and Huch & Friends again and let them know about the changes. They both agreed that the new changes did indeed make the game better! Nice!

Next up – pitching to iEllo and Repos!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-Turn

 

MOAR PICS!

This time, we’re   with Britta from Huch and friends!  Here we are playing the game formerly known as Jam Slam, Zombie Slam, with Britta and our wingman, Mike Kollross (Godzilla Stomp!), a fellow Game Artisan.

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We then played Huch & Friends’ Pints of Blood, a co-op zombie fighting game set in a pub with some nifty shifty tiles.  Mike always dresses appropriately for the games he plays, as you can see.

IMG_0863And then we played ZomBeasts, a cute but evil little card game!  Britta beat us handily.

IMG_0862Here Jay is, pitching our Firefly game to Ed (ToyVault).  This one needs some polishing up, but once we get that done it’ll definitely be shiny!

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Moving from one IP to the next, Ed discusses the finer points of rubber suits and the JDF as we plan on making a Godzilla Living Card Game, co-designed with Ed.IMG_0841

Daryl pitches a game that he co-designed with me and Josh Cappel (Wasabi!) to Ed, a game we hope to set in the Monty Python universe and call And Now For Something Completely Different.  Ed liked it and wants to see it with a reduced card set and some more wacky game play.

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Unfortunately, my phone was used to run the apps for the majority of the meeting with Mercury, so I didn’t get any pics of that pitch session.  But I managed to get some pics of Georg Wild and Jasmine (Hans im Glueck) trying out Ignotus.

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Here, Georg explains how Jay can also grow such awesome facial hair over a game of Lions Share

IMG_0878Last, but not least, Tanya (ThinkFun) and Jay play a co-design he did with Shad – The Towers of Nakh

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~ Sen-Foong Lim

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

Pitching at Origins

This is the first guest post for our blog and I hope it’s not our last. If you have an interesting story about pitching games to publishers, we’d like to hear about it! For now, let me introduce you to Patrick Lysaght:

PITCHING AT ORIGINS

            In this blog, Jay and Sen talk about how to prepare yourself to pitch your design to publishers.  My name is Pat Lysaght, and I can tell you conclusively that their method works.  Why?  I am a first time game designer.  I followed their steps this year at Origins, and my game (“Glory & Riches”) is slated to be released either end of 2014 or early 2015.  When I wrote Jay and Sen to say thank you, Jay asked me to share my experience at Origins.  In this blog, therefore, I am going to talk about the some of the advantages of pitching your game at Origins.

SMALL CONVENTION, BIG PAYOFF

OriginsLogoJay and Sen’s blog talks about carefully choosing your convention, and then arranging your meetings with publishers.  This is why Origins is an ideal convention to pitch your designs.  The official attendance numbers from GAMA for this year’s Origins (2013) say that 11,573 people attended the convention.  Obviously, this is well below the approximately 160k reported from GENCON.  A quick look down the list of attending publishers, however, shows that Origins still brings in a metric ton of both big and small name publishers.  From the designer’s standpoint, here is how the math affects your ability to pitch to a publisher:

 

(Length of Convention – Publisher’s Key Events)

—————————————————–   =  Time Publisher Will Give Your Pitch

Number of People Attending

 

Since publishers attend conventions to sell games, most of their time will be spent interacting with potential customers or holding events to highlight their new products.  Typically the last group publishers want to spend their convention time with is designers. So even if you can actually get a publisher’s attention in a venue like GENCON, you won’t get more than 5 minutes max.  Origins is a different story.

I walked into Origins with 3 scheduled meetings.  I ended up pitching to 6 publishers ranging on the scale from very small to very large.  Three of those publishers spent at least 45 minutes with me.  The other three spent at least 15 minutes.  This means that even the publishers who gave me a near automatic thumbs down spent 15 minutes of their convention giving me feedback or advice on which publishers I should pitch my game to.  Don’t expect that kind of access anywhere but Origins.

THE BOARD ROOM

Origins’ second key advantage for designers pitching their game is the Board Room.  Origins devotes an entire room to free play.  Since it is always teeming with people (especially after about 7 PM), this is an awesome place to demo or play test your game with willing participants.  This does two things for you.  First, it provides a designer’s dream environment for game streamlining.  I accomplished three months of play testing in four days, and actually resolved a hidden weakness in my game at the convention.  Second, the publishers surf the board room crowd at night.  If they see people enjoying your game, they are much more likely to be interested in your pitch.  Actually, this is how I met the publisher who eventually agreed to publish my game.  Other conventions have areas designated for free play, but Origins makes this the heart and soul of their convention.

THE EARLY BIRD

Another advantage of Origin’s smaller size is the “sleepiness” of the first few days.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday offered a designer’s paradise.  The crowds are small but steady.  The events are few.  The gamers are looking for something new to play, and the publishers are patiently waiting for Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.  In short, this is a designer’s paradise.  I arrived at the convention early Wednesday morning, and was able to grab a table right in the middle of the main hallway.  I set up my game, and started talking to people right away.  The net results:

  1. I demo’ed 10 games before noon,
  2. Tom Vasel from the Dice Tower snapped some pictures of people playing my game,
  3. I was almost out of sales sheets by 10 AM (had to run to the FedEx store in the convention center), and
  4. I met several publishers as they were setting up their displays. Here’s a picture from early Wednesday morning:origins

Obviously, I heartily endorse Origins as a great venue to pitch games.  Especially if you are new to the design pitching process.  Follow the steps, and good luck in your pitching!

-Patrick Lysaght

Thanks Patrick. Really cool to read that it’s a great show for pitching games! Stay tuned for another post from Patrick as he describes the process of actually pitching games to these publishers in an upcoming blog post!

-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

The Gathering of Friends – Pitching to Publishers

gof_logo1My first full day at the Gathering started later than I wanted, due to a 6 hour plane delay…boo. But once I got there, it felt very familiar and instantly comfortable! I found Alan Moon and showed him my World of Games map.What’s that, you ask? Well, at the end of each Gathering, there is a prize ceremony. It’s the only time everyone is together and focused. Everyone who won any contest or tournament during the week gets to pick from the prize table.Then everyone else is who didn’t win a tournament – but did bring a prize to contribute to the table – gets to pick from the prize table.

Pretty much everyone participates and you can see the prize table growing throughout the week as more and more people arrive. 95% of all the prizes are games (with 10%-20% being hard to find and out of print games), but some people create something artistic for the prize table.This year there was game- themed jewellery, ties, coasters and my map!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI created a map of the world and populated it with images of board games.The neat idea I had was to use games that had the name of a place in the title of the game – and place a somewhat recognizable image from that game on the map where that place was. I was pretty happy with it! I got it printed onto cloth that was about 6 yards wide as I thought it would be interesting to use it as a table cloth.We got permission from the hotel to hang it directly on the wall so that everyone could see it throughout the entire event. Super cool! Peter Eggert of Eggertspiele ended up winning the map – which is also cool!

Anyway – enough about the prizes and the map – let’s get into talking about the pitches to publishers! This year was very different than last year for a couple reasons:

1) My house was broken into a couple months ago, and I lost all my computers and back-up hard drives with all my files. I had another back-up but it was over a year old so I didn’t have very current files. Since I spent the greater part of the last two months packing the rest of my stuff, moving and re-acquiring things through insurance, I didn’t have enough time to properly make sales sheets! What?! I know, it’s insane. I feel like we really pioneered the sales sheets for game designers (I have no idea if we did, but it was our own original idea to do sales sheets before we ever saw anyone else doing it). It definitely felt awkward pitching without sales sheets this year. For sure we’re going back to sales sheets after this!

2) I felt like the Gathering was so much more informal of an event that a designer can easily walk up to any publisher (who are easily identifiable due to their blue name badges!) and ask them if they’re looking at designs while they’re here. 100% of them said they were. So I didn’t set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. I wouldn’t recommend this if this was your first year attending the Gathering though. I knew almost all the publishers I was pitching to, so that made it a lot easier for me.

So no sales sheets and no set-up interviews.Yikes. Fortunately, everything went awesome-rific! On day 1 I pitched to Filosofia/Z-Man, Asmodee and Repos. I’ll review the details in the next post!

-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