2011 in Review

Well, to say 2011 was a big year for the Bamboozle Brothers (that’s Sen and I, btw!!) would be quite the understatement!

Published Games

In 2011 we saw the release of our first two games!

Train of Thought

Train of Thought box artTrain of Thought was our first published game (though it was our second one signed to be published). It’s a party game that gets people thinking differently than most other party games. It has been reviewed very well so far. There are discussions with other publishers to see if there’s interest in publishing the game in different languages and different countries. We managed to get it into a National Retailer in Canada…yep – Train of Thought is available on Bestbuy.ca!

Belfort

Belfort box artBelfort was released just a few months ago and has been received extremely well by gamers everywhere, including achieving the number one game of this year’s BGG.con. It has sold out at the publisher level, and they are in discussions with other publishers to see if they want to do other language versions of the game. On the last day of 2011, Belfort was the 392nd best game of all time, according to users on boardgamegeek.com. We’ve seen it pop up on a few top ten lists of the year as well.

It has already been confirmed by the publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, that an expansion will come out next year! Expansion you say? Yep! Sen and I have been working hard on many expansions for Belfort. Tasty Minstrel has given us carte blanche in creating it – so we thought we’d come up with a few and either have them choose – or, if they like them all, then stagger the release of expansions over the next couple years.

Unpublished Games

It was also a big year for our unpublished games! How so? Well, 8 of our unpublished games are currently out at various publishers being reviewed. My trip to Essen (detailed in many posts starting here) was key in getting most of our games out to publishers. We’re feeling some good vibes from at least two publishers about our games and we should start to hear from most of them in January. One of them, Akrotiri, made it to the finals in the Canadian Game Design Competition that was ultimately won by fellow Game Artisan of Canada’s Matt Tollman with his game, Undermining.

Sen and I took one of our almost-published games, But Wait, There’s More and posted it here on our website and gave it away for free to everyone! It has also been posted on boardgamegeek.com – so I guess it’s actually a published game now! If you’ve downloaded and tried it, we’d love to hear your feedback. Expect more free games from Sen and I in the near future!

Game Artisans of Canada

Sen and I belong to the Game Artisans of Canada (GAC), and it’s been an amazing organization and very symbiotic relationship so far. There are chapters of game designers all across Canada that get together to playtest each other’s games and help each other out with general questions and direction. The collective knowledge of the group is astounding, let alone the numerous contacts that each person brings to the table. You can read more about the group, including its annual get-together, appropriately named Cardstock here.

Comic Books!

We also released our first comic, which was set in the world of Belfort and was written by me and my comic-writing partner, Tim Reinert and illustrated by the uber-talented Rob Lundy. We’ve started a path that was very similar to the path Sen and I took on getting a board game published: we have no idea what we’re doing, but we’re taking it one step at a time and enjoying the process a lot!

The entire 10-page Tales of Belfort comic will be complete by Monday or Tuesday of this coming week, then we’re onto other stories set in other, non-board game worlds! Check it out at Condo Of Mystery.com!

 

This Website
It’s always interesting to see if people are reading what you’re writing. One way to tell if you’re connecting with your audience is if your posts start a discussion (go on, comment below!), but the other way is through analyzing the stats. It’s rewarding to me to see that people are visiting the site as often as they are.

What’s the plan for 2012 for this blog? Well, there are still a few more steps left to go to fully complete the journey we started long ago. Plus, since starting this blog, we’ve come up with many more tips and best practices along the way that we’ll have to squeeze into the step process somewhere. Not sure how we’ll do that…maybe just renumber the steps? We’ll see. Plus we’re hoping to get some experiences with different publishers under our belt this year. No problems or challenges with our current publisher – but it will be interesting to see how other publishers operate. We also have plans to put some videos together that better demonstrate some of the steps that we’ve described.

As usual, we’ll be as transparent as we can be – we have to hold back sometimes when publishers request us NOT to post about certain things – which we can understand. Usually it’s just a timing thing and not a forever thing.

Our goal, as it has been since we began: show and explain all the steps we took to get our games published, in an effort to make it easier for others to get their board games published. How altruistic! Well, in doing so, we’re hopefully raising awareness for our games as well! 🙂

Click here to see the complete report.

2012?

So what else is coming in 2012? We hope a few more games from the Bamboozle Brothers! While the publishers are assessing the games of ours that they have right now, Sen and I are still working on new games (it’s really a never ending cycle, isn’t it – no complaints here though!). We have Lion’s Share, RuneMasters, Scene of the Crime and more that haven’t made it through Beta stage yet.
I am really looking forward to April as I have been invited to the very exclusive Gathering of Friends! This is a week long event held by famed game designer, Alan Moon in which his friends (most of them are other famous game designers) and some publishers show up and play games all week! Wow! That’s going to be amazing!
Sen is planning a trip to Essen this year to celebrate completing 4 decades of living. I might go as well, but the Gathering will take a fair bit of change out of my spending this year.
The aforementioned expansion to Belfort will be released. Expect the first expansion to be one of the smaller kind of expansions – not a full boxed version. Just something to mix it up a bit!
I have to say that five years ago, I would never have thought I’d be where I am right now. It’s been a fantastic ride, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us! Thanks for joining us on this trip!
-Jay Cormier

Toronto’s First “Board Game Designers’ Night” Hosted by Snakes & Lattes

A meeting of the minds is always a great thing; it’s made all the more better when it can be done at a wonderful location such as Snakes & Lattes, the premiere game café in downtown Toronto, ON.

There were a good 17+ people there simply to show their prototypes, playtest and talk about game design. Four members of the Game Artisans of Canada were present for this inaugural event:  Daryl Chow, Stephen Sauer, Josh Cappel, and me!

I personally played:

  • Sky Roy’s Fantasy Monster Beatdown, a quick and intuitive wargame that plays in under an hour.  It’s got a lot of nice elements (ease of play, nice map, artifact concepts), but the very basic version we played just wasn’t meaty enough or granular enough to hold my interest for the intended length of play.  It suffered from a bit too much randomness (perhaps having each player have access to their own personal spell deck, etc.).  I’ve sent Sky feedback via e-mail and we’ve been discussing ways to address things as he sees fit.  NOTE:  There is an advanced version of the game as well – I think that the “more stuff” in the advanced version may be necessary at the basic level to make people want to play it a second time and make the time invested in learning and playing the game worthwhile.
  • Daryl’s yet-to-be-named evolution game, a great game in concept and execution that’s in the beta stage – keep an eye out for this one as it has all the right elements to be a great game!   The evolutionary tech tree idea rocks!  As does preying on your opponents to further your own evolution!  Some really cool mechanics in here that just need to get cleaned up (e.g. eating various bug types by colour – what if you can’t?  how do you evolve? Balancing the water/food ratios.  Movement of herds vs. individual units…etc.)
  • RuneMasters by Jay and me – Daryl and I played through a few rounds just to try to work out some of the kinks.  He thought of a great idea re: morphing the RuneSticks in addition to draining and fading.  I added the element of collecting items won to the side to reduce “analysis paralysis” (a.k.a. “AP”) which really worked to streamline and limit decision making.  Also thinking of increasing granularity in scoring to reduce chance of ties…and of removing diagonal RuneSticks to simplify drawing and chaining from rune to rune.
  • We did a “show and tell” of Josh’s Egg Hunters Guild, a fun and frantic game that might just be set in the world of Belfort – a world that Josh breathed life into through his artwork.  We bashed noggins over Josh’s hastily hand-drawn board with Daryl and Stephen in trying to think of a way to reduce the amount of dice/random factors yet still retain unpredictability.  My contention is that the unpredictability should be an outcome of players’ decisions, not the roll of a die.  We came up with a concept around “Speed Chips” that players expend to try to get away from the Dragon, but to also get the Dragon to catch up with other players…this means your Speed Chips serve a double function.  If the chip values are known (i.e. you have a set amount at set values), this could lead to some neat bluff/double bluff situations as people work towards a state of perfect knowledge.  And, thus, the decisions become more meaningful as opposed to hopeful (i.e. “I hope he doesn’t have anything higher than a 3!”)
  • The last game of the night was Daryl and Al Leduc’s Mafia card game.  It was late when we played and I don’t think we all picked up on all of the rules (though there are very few!).  The only comment made was to try doing the draw and discard at the end as opposed to the beginning of a turn.  It drew things out too much and didn’t force us to use cards we didn’t like.  Plus, I just don’t think we got the strategy.  I’d like to try again as I like simple yet complex card games.

By all accounts, the first Board Game Designers’ Night was a rousing success – S&L is amenable to hosting more in the future, so watch this space for updates.  If you are a Toronto-area designer looking for playtesters and feedback from other designers, this is the place to be!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Status update on all our games

Taking a little time out to give you all a status update on all of our games that are in active development.

Board games go through a few phases when they are being developed.  The most common phases you’ll hear people talking about are: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Published.  There are more if you want to sub-categorize them, but these are the main categories.

Alpha usually means that the game is mostly an idea or a concept.  There’s still a prototype, but the core rule-set is constantly changing.

Beta games have been playtested numerous times and are generally working but are being endlessly tweaked.  A game will spend most of its time in this phase.

Gamma games are generally done and are ready to be shown to a publisher.  Some small tweaks could occur – or a publisher could develop the game even further with more tweaks – but the game is working very well after a ton of playtesting.

Here are the games that Sen and I have at each of these phases along with a brief write up on each.  If you’re a publisher and are interested in learning more about any of these – just let us know.

Published

Train of Thought – a party/word game in which one player tries to get other players to say a hidden word using connected three-word phrases.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in January 2011.

Belfort – a resource management strategy game that has players competing to build the most buildings in each district of a new castle as well as employ the most elves, dwarves and gnomes.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q2-Q3 2011.

But Wait, There’s More! – a laugh-out-loud party game that has players pitching the most ridiculous products to each other in an effort to have their product chosen more than anyone else.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q4 2011.

Gamma

Akrotiri – a tile laying strategy game that has 2-5 players sailing their boats around the Mediterranean in an effort to make money by shipping resources so they can fund their expeditions to find hidden temples.  A unique system allows for players to have a specific map to a hidden temple – but will also be 100% different every time it’s played.  Currently being reviewed by Z-Man games.

Jam Slam – a quick reaction game in which 3-6 players listen to one player call out a specific ingredient and then try to be the first to slap a card with what was requested before the others.  A hilarious game that has ear-eye-hand coordination! Was a semi-finalist in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition.  Currently being sent to Gamewright for review.

Junkyard – Players place oddly shaped wooden blocks on their own tower of junk in an effort to score more points without knocking anything over.  A unique system that uses cards to help players strategize while keeping some randomness makes this balancing game different than any other on the market.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

Lost for Words – 2-6 players try to find the longest word in a straight line by adding a tile with letters in a 3×3 grid to a growing board of other tiles.  The player to shout out the longest word in the time limit places the tile and scores points.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  This game has 2-4 players placing tiles and trying to get more of their cowboys in an enclosed town than opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Hot Property – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  Hot Property involves 2 competing real estate agents placing tiles and creating neighbourhoods in an effort to have more of their coloured houses in as many neighbourhoods as possible.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

EI-EI-O – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game that has 2-6 players acting and sounding like animals quicker than their opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Top Shelf – 2-4 players place various candy products on a shelf in a convenience store in an effort to grab the attention of potential shoppers.  Get 4 of the same type or colour in a row to score – but make sure some of those are from your brand!  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Beta

RuneMasters – a non-collectible card combat game that uses a never before seen mechanic of placing rune-sticks in specific configurations to ‘cast’ creatures into combat.  Still in early beta but has been through about 8 iterations so far.  It has come a long way already as we’ve simplified it a lot while retaining everything that makes it unique.

Clunatics – a party game that has one person trying to get the others to say a specific phrase out loud – but they only can give the smallest of clues.  There are 15 different ways a person can give a clue and they only get to use 5 of them on their turn.  Lots of hilarity with this one – and it’s almost in Gamma.

Lion’s Share – a card game for 2-5 (maybe 6?) players in which they play animal cards on one of the two tables at a restaurant.  Players have to follow colour, number or animal type.  One animal is deemed to be the Alpha animal and if it’s played on a table – that player collects all the cards into their score pile – but before they do, they must share 1 card with an opponent.  This one is almost Gamma.

Scene of the Crime – One of the players is guilty of the crime and the other players try to determine who did it by placing small tiles that contain different evidence types on the board.  The evidence is played in sets on the board – and looks like Scrabble except instead of letters, there are various evidence tiles on the board.  If a player can find evidence of an opponent in an area on the board that matches a clue – then it leads players to believe they are guilty.  This one used to be Gamma, but we brought it back to Beta to figure out some issues.

Hog the Remote – a party game that has one player using a set of picture cards to get other players to guess the name of a TV show.  It’s kind of like charades but using pictures instead of acting.  This one was coming along great and then we saw that ??? came out with a game that shared some similarities.  This one has been shelved indefinitely for now.

Collectibles – a card game in which players trade rare collectibles in an effort to score the most points with the best collection at the end.  This one seemed to play well, and has been in Gamma, but we’re both kind of dis-enchanted with this one right now.  We like the mechanics and might use them in another game down the road.

Up in the Air – a 4 player partner card game that has players juggling various objects in an effort to keep everything … up in the air the longest.  This was in Gamma and after some feedback we changed the game until it turned into an entirely different game called Junkyard.  We still like the mechanics of this one and might revisit it.

Alpha

Bermuda Triangle – a re-themed version of our Gamma game Night of the Dragon.  While Night of the Dragon was a fun game for families, it never got picked up by a publisher.  Recently we were motivated to re-theme it to the Bermuda Triangle and it’s really working – though it’s making it almost an entirely different game that uses the same core mechanic.  I’m looking forward to making this one work as it involves time travel!

Dice Fu – a game that uses dice in a new way as players assign dice to combos on their various fighters in an effort to defeat their opponents.  Needs a lot of work – but it’s very interesting so far.

Box Office – A game about scheduling when your movies should be released in an effort to make the most money.  I really like the concept but we need to work a lot on the mechanics to make it more fun and less simulation.

Time Management – Players play managers of a store and they try to attract more customers than opponents by hiring the right staff, training them and delegating tasks.  This one was way too simulation – so we thought we might turn it into a game for the office crowd to be used to teach various skills.

City Planning – this one’s so much an Alpha game that we haven’t bothered coming up with a better name for it at all!  This started as a party game and then it seemed like it would fit better as a strategy game.

-Jay Cormier

We have a few other games have been sitting on the back burner after we tinkered with them in Alpha / Beta. For interest’s sake, here’s a look at some of our shelved ones and the reason for stopping the specific project:

Xtaxatax (pronounced “Stacks Attacks”) – was a 2-player game where there were stacks of discs that had stickers on either side of the disc, depicting unit type/strength/etc. The cool idea was that the stacks could be flipped over in the midst of battle to really change up the game and that as you stacked units on top/on bottom, the complexion of that battalion changed. We stopped this one mainly because we couldn’t figure out how to make a good proto for the discs such that they’d stay linked. I was thinking magnets, but didn’t know how to do it. Also, Jay’s not the biggest fan of games that involve ranged combat or too much in the way of math or memory. I am a fan of ranged combat, math and memory games, so just writing this makes me want to pull out the prototype to see if there’s something salvagable in this game.

WerkQwerks – A party game concept we came up with that never really came to fruition. It revolves around one player being the project manager and the rest of their team having to perform some mundane tasks, but with some limitations (i.e. their quirks). I think we put this on the shelf due to lack of interest – not that it’s a bad idea, but that we were focused on making a more “gamer game”. Again, just writing this makes me think – FUN! Of course, I also thought The Dig would pan out…

Sexxxy Game – HA! This couples game was a social, real-time, kind of game where players would have trigger words and responses based on double entendres and sexual innuendos. Reason for shelfing – we could never find girls to playtest with us. And I’m married! Honestly, though, it was the prototyping that was difficult as the game was supposed to be played in the real world while on a date, not around a table. Still a cool concept. It’s a bit too niche, though. A game for couples? Would that sell?

FlickWars – Jay and I both get a kick (or maybe that’s a flick) out of skillful dexterity games. We wanted to make a crazy flicking game where you’d use carroms to break down castle walls, etc. We started to prototype, but it just got difficult as neither he nor I are woodworkers. We’d have to borrow tools, ask a lot of people to help, etc. In the end, we shelved it because of the difficulty in making the physical game and now that we’ve got our dexterity fill through Junkyard, I don’t think this will see the light of day anytime soon. Besides, companies likehttp://www.uncleskunkletoys.com do a much better job at this type of game than we could ever really hope for! Seriously – take a look at that site. Those games look AWESOME!

Castle of Dr. Knizia – Another game that we actually playtested with real human beings other than ourselves or significant others (poor dears). It involved exploring a castle and going through doorways, always worried about what was on the other side – did you sneak through like a mouse, or burst through, sword drawn and ready for combat? The niftiest mechanic was how the monsters got placed in the castle. I even made these card holder things out of balsa wood to indicate which monster was represented by which chip on the board. It was one of our earliest attempts at a “gamer game” so it was clunky at best – so it got abandoned in favour of other games that we could build from the ground up, instead of having to try to strip things away and see if it still worked out. We were focused mostly on Scene of the Crime in an effort to get that in front of a publisher, so adieu, Dr. Knizia. Maybe some of your cool mechanics will be used in other games.

Contract Game – Based on the theory of lowballing to get awarded contract and then trying to fulfill it under budget, this was set in a fantasy realm where there were Giants used as cranes, Mermaids used as plumbers, etc. I still love this concept and it may be revived for an expansion to Belfort or a game set in the same world.

MMA Card Game – As a martial artist and BJJ competitor, I love mixed martial arts (MMA). As a game designer, I love card games. So I figured, I could combine the two together! It never really came of anything, because Jay wasn’t interested much, so it kind of just sat there. We generally focus our energy on games that we’re both keen on. I am currently talking to my training partner and video game designer, Tim Fields, about doing an online Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game that’s turn-based, so concepts from here could get used in that game.

Pants on Fire – A case of a title coming before a game. Honestly, that’s happened a fair bit with us! We get enthralled by a title that is evokative. And quicker than you can say “Train of Thought!”, a new game is born. Not so with Pants on Fire, however. We just never figured this one out – we wanted to make a trick taking game, but this didn’t flow. And now that there is another game with the same title, this one will probably never be completed.

Heroes – This one has kind of gone through a few conceptual changes between spies and superheroes and organized crime and zombies and other things. We have a really, really interesting concept of how to do a map-based game with no real movement. We have a “patrol zone” concept that we really like. Jay was leery of doing a superhero-based game without having access to existing licensed characters and we were investing more time into Belfort at the time. There are definitely concepts and mechanics from this game that will get another look.

And last, and definitely least…

The Dig – Ah, our albatross. This one just didn’t work. Too mathematical/procedural. It just didn’t play like it did in our heads. We wanted a game that rewarded co-operation and sharing and pooling of resources, that still had a single winner in the end. Let’s just say that this isn’t that game. This isn’t even a game – it is an exercise in frustration. We still like the theme of digging for treasures, but this will take a lot of work to get a game out of it.

Wow.

Just reviewing them makes me think very fondly of a few of them in particular and makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just make some of the ones that Jay and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on to get them to Beta Stage and then involve Jay to do the refinement.

Essentially, that’s what happened with Akrotiri – though it was not through disinterest. Jay had the idea and it intrigued him so much that he started to work on it solo in BC and had a quick proto done in a day or two. In his making of the proto, it not only allowed me to play it and become more interested in it, it progressed the game faster and faster until it reached a solid Gamma format in very little time.

There are many times where one of us fail to be super-interested in a game until the prototype is made – and that is often the most difficult part of the process. To invest all that time, effort, and sometimes money into making a prototype that you’re not hyped about can be tough, especially when there’s all sorts of other cool ideas floating around in your head. But if one person on the team believes strongly that there’s a good game in there somewhere, maybe that person should go solo and make the proto. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if one makes it, the other will play! And if the other plays, he may actually like it enough for both of us to invest more time and effort into developing it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years of designing games, it’s this: when in doubt, make a proto. You will find out if there’s a game to be had quicker than you will bandying ideas about in your head or online. Making the prototype is DEFINITELY the key phase in taking a game from concept to reality.

Concepts are good because they’re fluid – nothing’s written in stone. But a prototype is more hands on, more engaging, more understandable. There are visual and tactile components that, like a rug, tie everything together. People can’t play a game that only exists in your head, even if it’s the best game ever!

So, if you’ve got an idea for a game, just get to work and make a proto. What have you got to lose?

BGG.con Bound!

I’ve been busy preparing for BGG.con that I haven’t had any time to update the blog!  BGG.con, for those not in the know is the Boardgamegeek’s annual convention of board gamery!  Boardgamegeek, for those not in the know is the main website for all things board games.

For the last 5 days, my game design partner, Sen was in town!  We worked straight through and saw nary a sunbeam – and that’s not just because I live in Vancouver.  We tweaked a few of our games in preparation for our first playtest night on Thursday night.  We had a couple of the Game Artisans of Canada come over to help us playtest our games.

We played RuneMasters, which Z-Man Games has expressed interest in seeing (how did they express interest in this you ask?  I’ll go into details about how to contact publishers in an upcoming post!).  It’s still in Alpha – possibly late-Alpha phase of game development, which means that we don’t necessarily know all the rules yet but we have some mechanics down and a prototype made (actually the 5th version printed already!).  They helped us come up with a new system for how to do the battles that makes it more interesting to play.

We played Akrotiri and it was fun, but not very involving.  We were trying a new idea for how to find Atlantis – and while everyone liked it, the game lacked some tension.  Some brainstorming led us to some minor tweaks on how to fix it.

We also played a couple rounds of But Wait There’s More – our new party game that we’re really excited about – and we came up with the best way to do the scoring – which was the only thing we were struggling with.

Then Sen and I worked all day Friday and Saturday, tweaking these games in preparation for our next playtest night on Saturday night.  We had 2 of our favourite playtesters come over and we played these games all over again.

First up was Lost for Words – our word making game that word game fans really love.  We were just struggling with the scoring (which in this game is what motivates your entire turn) – and we came up with some great ideas.  Since then we’ve tweaked it and tried it again and it works perfectly!

Akrotiri – what can I say buy Wow!  This was the best this game has ever been.  It was the perfect balance of tension and interaction.  Players were stealing resources from each other, taking islands before others and paying each other for their map cards.  We are extremely excited about this game.

RuneMasters worked a lot better but one of our playtesters came up with a great idea – which means another printing of the prototype – but it was worth it!  We played it again the next day and it was great.  Simpler but still interesting and unique.  It’s still in Beta stage but it’s at least ready to show publishers as long as they know it’s in that stage.

But Wait There’s More – this is the funniest game we’ve ever made.  I love this game.  I can’t wait to show some publishers.

So overall – a great 5 days with Sen!  I’m heading out tomorrow to Dallas for the convention – and to hold in my hands my first board game ever published – Train of Thought!  I’ll try to update the blog with some thoughts throughout the con so keep checking back.  Wish me luck! 🙂

-Jay Cormier