2016: The year of the Bamboozle Brothers

Wow, 2016 is going to be a huge year for the Bamboozle Brothers! Not only have I moved down from Full Time to Part Time at my ‘day job’ so that I can focus more time on game design, but Sen and I have in excess of 10 new games coming out this year! Holy crap!! That will bring our grand total to over 18 games by Sen and I. We’re very excited about each of these games, and wanted to give you a little morsel of each one, in no particular order:

  1. Orphan Black from IDW Games – this one just came out! It’s our first released game based on a license (but not the last for this year!). A social deduction game based on the cult TV show.
  2. Junk Art from Pretzel Games – so excited for this! It’s the second game in the Pretzel line of games (where the first one was the immediately likeable game, Flick Em Up). This one is a block balancing game that has tons of variety in it!
  3. Godzilla from Toy Vault – another license! This one is a card game for 2 players with each player playing as a kaiju trying to defeat the other one.
  4. Godfather from IDW Games – there’s a Godfather game from IDW coming out very soon that’s not by us – but the next one is! The subtitle is A New Don, and it’s a dice rolling and area majority game. I really like it and it really feels like a new take on both mechanics.
  5. Powers from IDW Games – this one is based on the Brian Michael Bendis comic about a detective agency solving crimes committed by people who have super powers. The game is like a beefed up version of Scotland Yard where one player plays the villain and the rest are the detectives trying to catch him.
  6. Pop Goes the Weasel / Monkey Mania from R&R Games – not sure what the final title will be for this game yet. It’s a family game about chasing monkeys around a tree, trying to get more bananas while avoiding the weasel! Happy to have designed a game that is more of a family game!
  7. Top Secret game by Top Secret publisher – not announced yet – a city building game! We love tile laying games!! This one has very low down time.
  8. Rock, Paper, Wizards by Gamelyn Games (co-designed by Josh Cappel) – a social game about making hand gestures and attacking the other players.
  9. Clunatics by Breaking Games – This is a cool party game that involves giving players super tiny clues that, by themselves mean nothing, but when combined with a few of these mini-clues, will hopefully get people to guess the answer!
  10. Untitled game by Top Secret publisher – not announced yet – but a party game that requires the use of an app. It’s pretty clever, if I do say so myself!
  11. Top Secret game by Top Secret publisher – not announced yet – but it’s a quick reaction zombie game that can be used with an app – or without. I like that the game has an arc/story to it even though it’s a quick reaction game!
  12. Top Secret game by Top Secret publisher – not announced – not even signed yet – just verbally…a quick reaction animal game that’s great for the entire family – but also scales in difficulty if just adults want to play.

To top it all off, we’re working with a couple of comic book creators on some games based on their comics! I’m super excited about these three projects because I’m a fan of each of them!

So it’s going to be an exciting year! Some of these might get bumped into next year, but regardless, get ready for a lot more game-related Facebook posts soon from both of us! 🙂

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends 2014: Part 2

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William Attia (designer of Caylus and Spyrium – and representative for Ystari Games) and Cyrille Daujean from Days of Wonder play my deduction game, Ignotus!

Days of Wonder and Ystari
Our second meeting was an impromptu meeting with Cyrille from Days of Wonder and William Attia (designer of Caylus and Spyrium) from Ystari. I knew William from last year, having played many games with him, and struck up a conversation with him and Cyrille. Even though I knew that none of our current games would really fit with either company, I asked if they were open to looking at some of our new prototypes. The event had just started and they weren’t busy so they decided to look at our new games!
I was right – we didn’t have anything that fit with either company! But that’s ok – they were really interested in a game I designed by myself – foolishly titled Ignotus (Latin for Unknown) – and they just wanted to play it because they liked deduction games. They both enjoyed playing it! Cyrille also gave us a contact at Blue Orange as he thinks our game called Herdables would fit well with them! How nice!
Abacusspiele

A table full of prototypes waiting to be pitched!

A table full of prototypes waiting to be pitched!

Every year I have pitched to Matthias from Abacusspiele and every year he has taken one of our games back with him, though they have yet to publish one of our games. Daryl Andrews, a fellow Game Artisan and myself set up a table full of the prototypes that we wanted to show off to him!

I like Matthias and got to play a few ‘real’ games with him at the event throughout the week – including a really late game of Tichu one night – and he was happy to look at what we had to present this year. I showed him what we had and we played through a few rounds of Ignotus and Zombie Slam. He liked both of those and requested rules for each to be sent to him so he could assess them further. Yay – 3 for 3!
R&R Games
We met up with Frank from R&R Games because he had a contract for us to sign for a game that we pitched to him last year called Pop Goes the Weasel. We had been negotiating it previous to the Gathering and so it was the perfect time for all of us to convene and sign multiple copies of the contract. He also let us know that they have been doing focus groups with it already and that they will most likely change the name of the game. Apparently the title makes parents think that the game is purely a kid’s game and not a family game. They’re not sure what the title will be yet – but they’ve also already replaced the mulberries with bananas! We’re pretty cool with these kind of changes since they’re based on a business decision that makes sense. This is another reason why it’s good to partner with publishers who have access to doing things like focus groups!
We didn’t end up pitching any of our new games to Frank this year since he said his plate was now full of family and party games and that they were actually looking for more Euro style games – which we didn’t have this year.
Zoch

Daryl Andrews pitching his games to Andreas from Zoch

Daryl Andrews pitching his games to Andreas from Zoch

This was a nice surprise as we’ve never pitched to Zoch before! Zoch is a pretty big deal in Germany, especially with thei big hit Ghost Blitz. We knew we would have a game or two that Zoch might like! The Zoch representative, Andreas, ended up being a good friend throughout the Gathering. We played many games together – including some fun Zoch games like Polterfass and Leg Los! After pitching our games he expressed a lot of interest in Zombie Slam! He expressed some concern that Zoch wouldn’t do a zombie game though – especially if it had guns in it, but he really liked the mechanic. We chatted and found out that he probably could do it with ‘cute’ werewolves and no guns. That could work!
Andreas mentioned that they were looking for a quick reaction game for next year so Zombie Slam might fit the bill. We also told him about our game Pig Goes Moo (previously called Ei-Ei-O!), which we didn’t bring for some reason (d’oh!). He expressed interest in that one too and asked us to mail it to him asap.

Next up we’ll regale tales of pitching to the likes of Huch & Friends, Toy Vault, Mercury, Hans Im Gluck, Think Fun, iEllo and Repos! Wow!

-Jay Cormier

Sens-TurnAnd again, more pictures to complement Jay’s words!

Ystari’s William Attia (who just celebrated a birthday – Bonne Fete!) and Cyrille Daujean (DoW) burn their brains to try to figure out what’s what in Jay’s solo effort, Ignotus.

IMG_0816We return the favour by getting a convention exclusive playthrough of Five Tribes, the next Days of Wonder product, facing off against the designer himself, Bruno Cathala.

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Jay pitches our card game, Lions Share, to Andreas (Zoch).

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Fair is fair, so we learn how to play Polterfass aka “Rumbling Barrels”, a dicey betting game, from Zoch with Andreas and Jasmine (Hans im Glueck).  One of our faves from the con!

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One of my personal favourites is a great drawing game where you use bits and pieces to create items for people to guess.  The twist?  You lose materials as you play, so you have less and less bits to draw the items with as you progress!  I *slaughtered* everyone at this game.  Andreas gave it to me to take home!  Game recognizes game.

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Later, we get Andreas to try out a game, Topsy Turvey Towers, from a fellow Game Artisan, Daniel Rocchi.

IMG_0884 I also destroyed Andreas (not really) at Machi Koro, so this pic is just to commemorate my victory.  IMG_0886

~ Sen-Foong Lim

 

London Family Game Day, November 2013

FGD

Some of you may wonder if all we do is design games. Well, no. I try to give back to the community and grow the audience by teaching new gamers how to play the so-called “gateway games” and by teaching experienced gamers how to play some of the latest and greatest games. Along with some of my friends, we host the free-for-all London Family Game Days twice a year, conveniently timed after Alan R. Moon’s “Gathering of Friends” and Essen so that we can attend those events and bring back some goodies for the fine people of London to partake in.

Here’s a quick video from our local public news station covering the event:

London Family Game Day Video

Thanks to all of our FLGS sponsors
-GeekStop Games
-Ubercool Stuff
-L.A. Mood Comics & Games

Thanks to all of our publisher sponsors
– R&R Games (Event Sponsor)
– Uniforge (Tournament Sponsor)
– Days of Wonder
– Mayday Games
– Level99 Games
– Minion Games
– Conquistador Games
– Red Raven Games
– Indie Boards & Cards
– Stone Blade Entertainment

Thanks to our community partner, Victoria Public School, for providing the space and the food.

And thanks, especially, to our cadre of tireless volunteer instructors without whom the day would not go at all!

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Here are some pics from the event:

IMG_0453 IMG_0459 IMG_0454 IMG_0450 IMG_0440 IMG_1407 IMG_1404 IMG_1345 IMG_0468 IMG_1337 IMG_1335Designer Sen

The Gathering of Friends: Part 6 – Pitching to Hans Im Gluck and more Toy Vault

Rob was doing a good job in bumping into publishers and setting up meetings, and we had another meeting set up for Thursday morning with Tom from Hans Im Gluck. He said he was looking for meatier games and so Rob showed him games like Coffee and Tortuga and all I could show him was Akrotiri. He really seemed to like Akrotiri, but understood that it was with another publisher. But again, it’s good to have a ‘line-up’ of publishers willing to look at our games! We went to lunch together and had another casual time with a publisher!

Later in the day/evening, I wanted to play Swashbucklers with a couple people. Rob and our friend Brent Lloyd agreed to play. This game was recently picked up by a publisher and time between our submission to the publisher and now, the game underwent a few tweaks. I wanted to play the game we sent to the publisher and then play the newly tweaked game with the same people to get their opinion.

We played the first game almost the same as the one we sent to the publisher. It was apparent to Rob and Brent that there were some imbalances to the game. So we played it again with all the new tweaks and they both loved the new version a lot more. This was good and reaffirmed that we now have to show the publisher this new version as it’s a better game. While we were playing, Frank from R&R Games came by and expressed interest in seeing the game. I had to let him know that it was already signed and he said he would look forward to seeing it on the shelf!

Then as we were winding down, Ed from Toy Vault came by and saw the last few rounds. It dawned on Rob and I that we should play more prototypes in very visible areas more often! As we were wrapping up, Ed asked if we were free to try Hog the Remote with some people. Uh – yeah, sure!! I went into the main convention area and found some people to play with us. I had played a game of Alba Longa with Peter Hawes – a fellow game designer, who previously asked if I could help him playtest one of his games the next morning with a publisher. I agreed – and later, when I was looking for people to play Hog the Remote, I saw that he wasn’t busy, so recruited him to play. I found Chris Handy was free as well and he agreed to help out. Rob found Jenna and we now had 6 people!

We played a round of Hog the Remote and it couldn’t have went better! We played it using the “Train of Thought” scoring – where one person is the ‘describer’ and everyone else is guessing and the describer has to get as many titles guessed as possible. Afterwards we talked about possible spin offs that focus on different categories like movies or books or song titles. It would mean that the first game shouldn’t be called Hog the Remote though – so a new title is in the works!

Ed then asked if people could stick around to try But Wait, There’s More and while Peter had to get some sleep, Lucio came by to replace him and Chris, Rob and Jenna stayed. I had told Ed that this game shared some similarities to The Big Idea but that it was different enough to warrant assessing. He agreed. We played a few rounds of But Wait, There’s More and it was possibly the best session I’ve ever had of that game. There was so much laughing – it was awesome! At the end Ed asked the group if this game was only for extroverts and Chris piped up to say that the game offered enough structure that would allow introverts to play. Rob added that most party games do involve mostly extroverted people to some degree, and then Jenna mentioned that she was an introvert and this was the limit of what she was willing to do in a party game. She said that the cards made the pitch funny and she didn’t have to work very hard at it at all to be funny.

Ed asked everyone which game they preferred and it was if they were both being paid by me because they said they liked them equally. Jenna slightly preferred Hog the Remote, but said she would definitely buy But Wait, There’s More to play with her friends. Overall, it was a fantastic gaming session with Ed! I’m excited about the prospects for both these games! He said we should know one way or the other in 3-4 weeks.

The rest of the Gathering for me was more social and I spent time playing some actual games with people! I played Last Will, Catacombs, the unpublished, upcoming game from Queen called Escape the Curse of the Mayan Temple (very fun), Quebec, Africana, as well as some more protoypes like Rob’s Crazy Train and Peter Hawes Railway game with Tom from Hans Im Gluck.

I wanted to get in at least one game of Belfort with the upcoming expansion. I found some complete strangers to play the game (it’s so easy to find people to play games with at the Gathering!). Two had played the game before and one hadn’t, but they were all interested in playing with the expansion. The playtest went smoothly with one player saying that he’d only ever want to play Belfort with the expansion in the future because it brought the complexity up to a level that he enjoyed more. The game ended up in a tie between me and another player, and the tie-breaker is number of resources – and we both had the same amount of resource, so it was a complete tie!!

While I was wrapping up, another person came by and when he found out I designed Belfort he was effusive in his praise for the game! He said he even had a review of the game coming out next week in his online magazine called Gamer’s Alliance! He was pretty excited for the expansion, so I showed him how it worked. He was excited to eventually try it!

On the last day Rob and I were walking around, looking for a game to play and bumped into a complete stranger. We asked him if he was looking for a game and he said he was. We asked him if he had any idea of what he wanted to play as Rob and I were easy to please. He asked if we heard of a game called Belfort..! That was pretty cool! So, since Rob hadn’t played the game yet, we set it up and found a fourth player interested in playing and played a game of Belfort – without the expansion as they were all first-timers. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and Rob even squeaked out a win in a close game!

After the Prize ceremony on Saturday I had a friend who lives near Niagara Falls drop by for a visit and we drove to Buffalo in search for Buffalo wings. It was actually harder than we thought as we didn’t really know where we were going. We found a place and I got to relax with a buddy and eat some wings and drink some beer! A great ending to an amazing week!

All in all, it was an exhausting weekend that was also a complete blast! Tons of new friends made, tons of contacts made in the business, and lots of games played. Can’t wait until next year!

-Jay Cormier

Step 26: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Taking Feedback from a publisher

You’ve just played some or all of your game with a publisher, and now comes the moment where the publisher expresses how much he loves your game and wants to give you a ton of money to publish it.  Er…no…

If you’re lucky, you’ll at least get feedback from the publisher at the end of the game (and of course, sometimes throughout the game too).  Now here comes an absolutely critical point – LISTEN!  It doesn’t matter that you already thought of the idea that he just suggested – publishers want to know if you are going to be easy to work with on the further development of the game.  This isn’t to say that you have to roll over and accept all their feedback 100%.  Listen to their entire feedback and then formulate your response appropriately.

When playing Belfort for the first time with Tasty Minstrel Games, they gave a couple of suggestions at the end.  One was about determining player order.  They had a different idea for how players could change player order throughout the game.  I thought it was an interesting idea and then actually wrote a note down while in front of them.  This helped to show that I took their feedback seriously. I was fortunate enough that they wanted to play again the following night and I said it would be easy to incorporate their idea in that playtest.  We did, and the game played better.  I think the ease of working with me made their decision to publish Belfort a bit easier that night.

If a publisher is not forthcoming on their feedback, then start them off by asking them the things that they liked the most about the game, then what they liked the least.  Even if they never publish the game, this feedback is like gold to you as you now have feedback from a publisher on how to make your game better (at least in their eyes).  While you don’t have to change the game based on every piece of feedback you get from a publisher, it’s still wise to listen and keep track of what feedback you’ve received in case you start to see a pattern developing.

Remember that they are giving feedback to change the game into something that they would want to publish.  Maybe this publisher makes a lot of games for younger kids so they keep trying to simplify the concepts and strategies.  Of course, if you did your research beforehand you’d know what a publisher wanted and would show them appropriate games.  That said, sometimes it’s getting near the end of the convention and you haven’t had a bite on a couple of your games, so you start branching out to some not-so-perfect fits!

Sometimes the feedback you get will be that they’re not interested.  If possible, without sounding too much like a doofus, try to find a reason why not.  Humility will be very important here.  Try not to be defensive!  Most likely you’ll get a response that they’re not publishing games with pirates, or card games, or games with high production costs, or games with language on it, or games for that demographic.  Whatever their response – it’s great information for the future.  One day you might invent a game that does fit with this publisher’s needs.

When showing Up in the Air to R&R Games they said that they thought the game was going to be a lot goofier based on the theme of juggling.  When they saw it was more of a serious card game, they lost interest.  Fair enough.  When showing Hog the Remote to Out of the Box Games, Max said that he wasn’t looking to get into any more pop culture games based on the sales of a recent game not performing well. No problem.

Bottom line – listen, listen, listen.  It’s so easy to become defensive about your baby that you’ve been working on for years.  Instead, keep your emotions in check and listen.  You might be surprised how it turns out.

Next up we talk about the last phase of a convention – leaving your game with a publisher.

-Jay Cormier

As much as designers want a game to be played, they tend to design games that they themselves would want to play – sometimes subconsciously. More often than not, the end result is a game that, while good, may not have the mass appeal necessary to take the game to market. Taking feedback is a critical skill as it is the best ways to transform a game from something you like into something more people will like.

Unfortunately, the designers are usually too close to the project after working on it for so long to be completely objective Being detached about their “baby” becomes difficult and accepting criticism is very difficult, but is, in my opinion, the real definition of being professional. It’s not whether you can design a game, or sell 100,000 copies – it’s whether or not you can receive feedback gracefully and implement suggestions in a constructive and positive manner.

So – how do you take feedback in a professional manner? As a therapist, I have studied how to give and receive feedback in depth. Here are some pointers, specific to meeting with a publisher:

Be Attentive

There’s a line in a movie or TV show that’s always stuck with me that goes something like “To be interesting, you’ve gotta be interested.” See the difference? I think it had something to do with picking up the ladies in the movie, but what this means in terms for feedback is that you need to show the person giving you the constructive criticism that you are actively involved in the feedback process.

When feedback is being given to you live, it is not a passive process and it is not one-sided. Your role as the receiver is to first ask for feedback. And from there, your job is to appear interested in order for the person giving feedback to feel like they are being valued, that they are being listened to. Non-verbal cues such as leaning forward attentively, making good eye contact, and writing down what they’re saying are sometimes more powerful than the verbal cues. Make the person giving the feedback feel like they are the only person in the room and that you are hanging on their every word. Add this to verbal cues like saying “That’s great, please go on!”, “Excellent feedback – let me jot that down!” and you’ve got a recipe for helping people open up to you.

Remember though, being a good listener means that they’re doing most of the talking – it’s very difficult to use your ears when your mouth is constantly in motion!

“Please, Sir, may I have some more?”

Will every piece of feedback be useful? Will every piece of feedback even be constructive? No – some of it is not helpful at all and some of it will just be offhand comments with little to no bearing. But there is an art to drawing out the kind of feedback you need from your audience. Once you have a publisher engaged in an active feedback session, you want to get every last bit you can from them.

Again, there are both verbal and non-verbal cues you can give to elicit more feedback. Simple things like nodding and saying “go on” can help make a person feel like you are willing to continue listening. Asking a person to clarify or expand upon their initial feedback is a great way to keep them talking and to get to what they really mean – more often than not, their initial statement is just scratching the surface of what they want to say. So following up their comment with something like, “That’s interesting – tell me more about how you see that working” can help them help you.

The longer you can keep them interested in talking to you, the more memorable you and your game will be to them and the more they will likely feel that they had a hand in helping the game come to fruition. They may even talk themselves into liking the game enough to take the prototype for further consideration.

So, much like a hostage negotiator – keep ‘em talking!

One question I find very useful is called a “scaling question” – you ask the person to rank some aspect of the game (or the overall game, even) on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poor and 10 being great. Then you ask them how you could make the game even just half a point better (so a 6.5 instead of a 6, for example). This type of solution focused questioning leads to some amazing insights and really helps to involve the publisher in helping you find solutions to their issues with your game.

Be Open and Accepting

The #1 way to kill a feedback session before it has really started is to be defensive. You want to project a sense of collaboration rather than confrontation. So you need to be objective. You need to separate yourself from the project at this moment and recognize your purpose in asking questions. It’s to gain the knowledge you need to get your game published, first and foremost.

Taking feedback sometimes means taking the bad along with the good. You may not particularly agree with what the publisher is telling you. Sometimes, you may have already heard that. But by shutting them down by saying, “Yeah, we’ve heard that before…” or “No, I disagree with what you’re saying” you are effectively closing the door on your own future.

And rolling your eyes when a publisher says something like “Hey, have you considered adding a spinner?” is always a bad idea.

Be open and willing to accept any and all feedback. This doesn’t mean you have to act on all of it. In fact, a high percentage of it you might have already heard or its the kind of feedback you can disregard as it doesn’t fit your artistic vision. Your goal isn’t to get in an argument with the CEO of Company X over whether your game has any merit or not. Your goal isn’t to defend the current incarnation of your game. Your goal is to find out what the next incarnation of your game would have to look like for Company X to consider publishing it.

You may not realize it at first, but the publishers are giving away a gold mine of information when they give you feedback. They are, in effect, telling you what changes would need to be made in order for your game to become more publishable. So, be open and accepting of the feedback you’re given. Some of it may just help you out in the long run.

So that’s just a few hints about feedback.

One of the fringe benefits of working as a team is that Jay and I are constantly giving each other feedback, and while most of it is positive, sometimes we’re telling each other that we really don’t like where a project is headed or that we’re really not interested in a specific game at this time. That’s sometimes difficult, as we usually champion projects separately and in a duo, there’s no such thing as consensus!

Giving and receiving feedback is a difficult thing – it is a skill that takes time to master. But if you can, you will be further ahead for it. As I wrote above, it is the mark of a true professional to be able to take difficult constructive criticism and act on it accordingly. Remember – yes, you are selling your game but you are also selling yourself as someone who can work with a publisher in a rational manner. And being able to give and receive feedback and make positive changes to your game because of it is the best way to show a publisher that you’re in this game to win it.

-Sen-Foong Lim