The Gathering of Friends: Part 3 – Pitching to Publishers

As I mentioned in a previous post, while pitching to publishers is by no means prohibited or even frowned upon at the Gathering, I knew that it’s not what Alan wants the event to be about, so I tried hard to keep things light and casual as much as possible.

I didn’t set up any appointments in advance at all – with the exception of a meeting with Canadian publishers, Filosofia. They already had our game, Akrotiri and had expressed interest to us regarding EIEI-O, so I emailed them to set up a time when we could play it together. We said we’d meet up sometime on Sunday. We found each other as planned and then set an actual time to playtest the games on Monday morning.

Otherwise, Rob Bartel and I would walk around and, every once in a while, we would bump into people with blue badges (meaning that they were with a publishing company). We’d engage in some small talk with them and they generally would be very warm and welcoming to us – possibly because we had red badges (i.e. be nice to the newbies!). Then we’d ask if they were looking at submissions while they were here. Most of them were actively seeking new designs.  Sometimes, we’d immediately find a nearby table and start pitching while, other times, we’d set up a meeting that worked best for their schedules.

Sunday: Iello and Asmodee

Rob and I decided to play a game of Hungry Cities – a game from fellow GAC member, Roberta Taylor. As we were setting up, Stephan from Iello Games walked by our table and so we invited him to play. He agreed and ended up playing the full game with us! We chatted about the game afterwards and  agreed to hook up later in the week so he could review other games from us.

I`m not sure how we bumped into Stefan from Asmodee, but we did and he was open to seeing some pitches. Rob and I grabbed our sales sheets (Step 14) and found a table. Rob did a great job of putting all his sales sheeting in a 3-holed binder, and then sorted them from light to heavy. This was an excellent idea as it allowed us to jump to whichever section was more interesting to each publisher. The 3-holed binder was perfect for pitching as well. I had used a folder, but that caused some of the pages to get crinkled or bent in the corners. The binder was used just for pitching. If the publisher liked a game, then Rob gave them a fresh sales sheet (without any holes) from the stacks he brought in a separate box.

We would start the pitch session by asking the publisher what they were specifically looking for, tailoring our pitches based on this information. If they were looking for light, family games then we wouldn`t pitch them any of our heavier Euro games, and vice-versa.

Rob and I have different styles of pitching – it was interesting to be present to witness how another person pitched. Rob has a more thorough approach of giving the publisher a full overview of the game, while my style gives more of a high level snapshot of the key points in the game (Step 16). Both approaches were effective depending on the game being pitched and the publisher we were pitching to.

Asmodee expressed interest in a number of our designs. We played EIEI-O and he liked it. We played Eat at Joes and he  ended up taking the prototype of Eat at Joe’s with him! In total, we spent around 3 hours with Stefan! We kept showing him more sales sheets and, if he expressed interest, then he would want to see the prototype and play a round or two. He expressed interest in Akrotiri and I let him know that it was currently with Filosofia. At that he said that was fine because if they pick it up then he would most likely do the foreign version of the game! Sweet!

He then wanted to see a game from GAC member, Graeme Jahns called Iron Horse Bandits. I had brought this one as I really liked the mechanics involved. The playtest went well, but we discovered a few aspects that need a bit more tweaking. It was interesting to hear him say that the theme would have to change a bit. Currently in the game, players are bandits and they are shooting at lawmen and stealing loot. He didn’t think that theme would be appropriate for the family audiences that Asmodee would like to target. He wasn’t concerned with it though as that was an easy change. With some tweaks to the game, he’d like to see it again.

I had been asked if I wanted to see Cabin in the Woods.  Even though I had already seen it, I wanted to see it again. So, later that night, 5 of us drove out to see the movie. I ended up sitting next to Chris Handy and JF.  We hit it off as we all had similar tastes in movies! Chris was a fellow designer who would end up playing an important role in the days ahead.  JF, unbeknownst to me at the time, actually works for Filosofia and ended up being present at the meeting I had set up the next morning!  How much of a coincidence is that?

The next few posts will review the following days of The Gathering and the various other publishers I met.

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 2 – The Lay of the Land

When I got to the Gathering I got my name badge and a goodie bag full of freebies! The goodie bag had some card games (including a special Tichu deck with new pictures of people who have attended the Gathering in the past), some expansions to other games (like the expansion to fellow GAC member, Roberta Taylor’s Octopus’ Garden) and even the full box version of Two by Two from Valley Games (and designed by fellow GAC member, Rob Bartel!).

The name badge system was awesome as they were colour coded to help you identify people a lot easier. With this information it was easy to identify the publishers as you walked around.

  • Red Badge: First year attendee (so I had a red badge!). Generally speaking, red badge attendees are always welcomed by others and made to feel at home pretty quickly. People were constantly shaking my hand and welcoming me to the Gathering. It was very nice!
  • Grey Badge: Anyone who has been to the Gathering for the last 9 years
  • Black Badge: Anyone who has been to the Gathering for 10 years or more
  • Blue Badge: Publishers

    After I got my badge, I surveyed the layout.

Basically there was a large convention room with tons of tables set up for open gaming. Off to one side were the prize tables! Everyone was encouraged to bring something for the prize table. If you contributed to the prize table, then you could participate in the prize draw at the end of the Gathering. Near the Prize tables was a table full of brochures for local restaurants and more freebies. I found an expansion to Valdora and another for Mondo there! Around the edges of the room were tables where people stored the games they brought.

Oh look, Pierre Poissant-Marquis (right), half of the design team of the game Quebec is playing Belfort!

Generally speaking, anyone could grab any game and start playing at any time, as long as they returned it when they were done with it. Outside of the convention room were a few open areas with more tables ready for open gaming. These tables were used for the poker tournament that happened on one night. Finally, down the hall there were a couple of rooms with a few more tables. During the day we found these to be a bit quieter and therefore made it a favourite spot for us to pitch to publishers. In the late evening one of these rooms were used for a large Werewolf tournament! There were always water stations all over the place to ensure you stayed hydrated throughout the event, so that was nice! On a whole, the hotel and its staff, while a bit gungy (the hotel, not the staff), were prepared and made us feel welcome.

I found Rob and saw that he had a spot along the tables around the edges of the room, so I added my prototypes to his pile. Once we were set up then we were free to either start our own game, or join another group that’s about to start playing a game. It was always easy to find people to play a game of anything! Some of the times it would be a prototype and other times it would be a ‘regular’ game. There were a lot of designers there who, like Rob and I, were looking to get some feedback on their designs, as well as pitch to publishers. Friedemann Friese had a table dedicated to his games for the entire event. I wanted to check them out but never seemed to line up when the table was free. While the hotel offered a mini café in the latter half of the week, most of the meals were either at TGIF, which was in the same hotel, or a restaurant in the casino across the street. Sometimes people with cars would drive others to another local establishment nearby (Duff’s Buffalo wings!) or a few times we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant.

Even though I stayed up late on some days (3am) and woke up early on other days (8am), there were always people playing games somewhere in the convention area! Sleep is for chumps!

There were quite a few tournaments throughout the week ranging from 7 Wonders and Tichu to Loopin’ Louie and poker. The winners of each tournament got first choice of the prize table on Saturday night! Before the prize ceremony there was a flea market. Those that could travel with their assortment of games offered them up for sale to the rest of us. Since most people had to fly, it was a tough decision on what they could buy and what they could pack! I managed to pick up a copy of El Cabellero – a Wolfgang Kramer game that is out of print and one that I’ve been looking to get for a long time now!

[Sen:  Really?  That’s the single game of my collection that I’ve ever sold, IIRC.  Well, you know what they say about one man’s treasure…]

The prize ceremony was really the only time we were all together as one group. The hotel removed all the gaming tables and set up chairs theatre-style to fit all 400 of us in the room. Alan took the microphone and reviewed some things about the next year (I’m already pre-registered!), and then showed off the high-end prizes that people brought for the prize table. Some of the highlights included:

  • a crokinole board made by fellow GAC member, Mike Kolross, (plus graphic design by another GAC member, Mark Klassen) in the shape of a record with the label being Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride,
  • handmade table covering with a Tichu mat on one side and a Can’t Stop and Liar’s Dice on the other – complete with all the dice and cups
  • a copy of the impossible-to-find game, Hotel
  • Big Boss from Wolfgang Kramer – another hard to find game
  • The Cookies of Catan – a fully playable and edible game of Settlers of Catan!
  • Line for Life for an upcoming game called D-Day Dice (designed by another fellow GAC member, Emmanuel Aquin). The Line for Life meant that the person would receive every expansion they ever make for this game for free!

I was called somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I managed to get the exact game I was hoping to pick up – Castles of Burgundy.  It was a game I had wanted to pick up in Essen last year, but they sold out too quick!

Up next I’ll get into the specifics of what it’s like to pitch to publishers at the Gathering!

-Jay Cormier