Time Flies!

An apology to our regular (and casual!) readers! Jay and I have been very busy, lately. Sadly, not game designing as much as we’d like, but rather just getting caught up with life. Of course, we were also enjoying the last of the summer days with family and friends – so that was fun!

A few things that *did* happen over August / early September were the finalization of our contracts for Swashbucklers (now with Queen) and But Wait There’s More (with Toy Vault). So, be on the look out for a Kickstarter campaign from your favourite Design Duo (i.e. us) in the near future!  Whether the games  remain EXACTLY as designed, we’ll have to wait and see…

During the waning days of August was Ontario’s largest fan convention – FanExpo.  This is serious geekness at its finest!   Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Cosplay, Anime, Comics, Video Games, and – of course, Board/Card Games.  I was able to sit on the a panel with several other Game Artisans (Daryl Andrews, Daryl Chow, and Al Leduc).  A lot of the questions asked were about iPad appification, the current state of the market, and finding game playtest groups. All in all, a good time.

We got to hear one of Canada’s more prominent designers, Eric Lang (he of Chaos in the Old World and Quarriors fame) speak about some pretty cool stuff like psychogrammes of player types – as a therapist, this intrigues me. While I probably subconciously design for certain player types, Eric is trying to take it to a new level!

I purchased a commission of the Modulator from Midnight Men (a game by Yves Tourigny and myself) drawn by Vancouver-native, Jason Copland.  As you can see, he is a VERY talented artist!  Kudos to him for capturing the vibe Yves envisioned really well!


Marquis and Lucas from UniForge were also at FanExpo with their ginormous Jenga that’s always a hit!  It was awesome to see Al Leduc’s game Frankendie in it’s fully produced glory.   Great artwork as seen over there <—-.  I have a copy of that coming to me via Kickstarter as well as Yves Tourigny’s Top This! which was available to play in prototype form at the UniForge table. Can’t wait to play both with the kids – they’ll love the rolling, flicking, goodness!

Oh!  In other recent news, we’ve gotten word back that along with a German-Language edition of Belfort, TMG has also signed up co-publishers in Poland and Japan – can’t wait to see those!  The German edition will have new artwork and be ready for an Essen 2012 release, I believe.  I know that Seth Jaffee (Belfort’s Developer) will be in Essen this year to represent TMG, so I hope to get pics of happy Europeans playing the game there!

[Insert German Cover Art Here When We Find Out What It Looks Like!]

So yeah, busy month!

~ Sen-Foong Lim

Advertisements

Well, Shiver Me Timbers! Another Game Signing on the Horizon!

Avast ye scurvy seadogs – Hoist the mizzen mast and set course for Germany!

Our third game is 99% of the way to being signed with a *major* player in the industry – major as in the publisher of this year’s SdJ winner, “Kingdom Builder”! That’s right, folks! Jay and I have signed “Swashbucklers”, our game about carving out your place in the annals of pirate history on the rolling seas, with Queen Games.

The Queen name is synonymous with high quality and award-winning games. This is a great partnership, as we feel that Queen will give this game the artistic treatment and wide distribution that Swashbucklers deserves, though I am somewhat sad to see the cute anime-style Pirate Girls we’ve been using as placeholders go. It will be extremely interesting to see the difference in the development, marketing, and distribution process between a North American and a German publisher.

So, weigh anchor and set sail with us as we embark upon a new voyage full of adventure!

Yaaaar!

NOTE:  We are not 100% positive the pirate theme will be retained, but we’ll keep you updated here!

~ Sen

Bamboozle Brother Update and More Love for Belfort AND Train of Thought!

It’s been a fun couple of weeks for the Bamboozle Brothers. Let’s review what we can. I do like to be as transparent as possible, but I also don’t want to put the cart before the horse and speak about something before there is a signed contract.

  1. At The Gathering, Filosofia expressed interest in publishing EIEI-O but with a different title. We’re still awaiting final word and a contract on this one.
  2. I showed our game, But Wait There’s More at the Gathering and a publisher has expressed interest in publishing it! We’ve been emailing back and forth contract-type requests with percentage breakdowns for royalties, so this one is looking pretty promising. We’re expecting an actual contract within a week or two.
  3. A publisher emailed us that they would like to publish Swashbucklers, but since the time we gave it to them and now, Swashbucklers has undergone a few tweaks that has made the game even better. The publisher has yet to play the new tweaks and so we’re still waiting for a contract from them as well.
  4. Akrotiri is getting some love from a publisher, and we’re close to getting a contract on this one as well. The caveat to this one is that the publisher wants to publish it as a 2-player only game. Sen and I talked about it and decided that we were ok with this. Since it is a tile laying game that can be prone to analysis paralysis when played by the wrong players, they wanted to put the game in the best possible spotlight, and a 2-player only game was the way to do it. We should hear back from them within a week or two on their final decision.
  5. Belfort second printing is due to hit shores this month along with a small promo package of 3 new guilds (sold separately). After being hard to find for a few months, it will be great to see this back on the shelves.
  6. Sen and I have finished the Belfort Expansion! It is now in the hands of the developer and will soon be heading to the wonderfully talented Josh Cappel to make some more of his lovely art! We’re ridiculously excited for our very first expansion!
  7. We are working with a German publisher to bring Belfort to Germany! Contracts are currently being figured out to have a German language version of the game. That will be very cool to see.
  8. We did get a few rejections recently. Hans Im Gluck decided to pass on Bermuda Triangle – but provided us some great feedback that was specific to the game. This showed us that they played the game and that for the reasons they stated decided it was not a game for them at this time. Sen and I will re-evaluate the game to see if we want to listen to their feedback and change it – or submit it to another publisher who might be more open to the concept.
  9. Clunatics and Lost for Words were ‘kind of’ rejected by Pegasus Spiele. I say ‘kind of’ because they said they didn’t have enough time to localize (translate everything to German) to play the prototype. They said if we did then they’d be happy to test it. We decided to ask for it back from them for the time being and see if we can figure out a way to localize it. Either that – or submit it to another publisher that isn’t concerned about localization.
  10. We got a new written review for Belfort from Shut Up & Sit Down
  11. We got a new video rules review for Train of Thought from the Marbles Store.
  12. We got a great new video review of Train of Thought from Board to Death where they rated it a 9 out of 10!

So it’s been a fun few weeks for Sen and I! We will keep you all posted on what’s what. Once contracts are signed then we can give you the scoop on who’s publishing what. We still have a few more steps to go on our master series as well!

-Jay Cormier

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

The Gathering of Friends: Part 1 – Overview

I just got back from the Gathering of Friends and have a lot of things to share with you! This is the first of many posts reviewing my experience at the Gathering of Friends.

First of all, what the heck is the Gathering of Friends, you ask? Well, Alan Moon – the prolific designer of such hit games like Ticket to Ride and Elfenland – decided 23 years ago to get some friends together to play games over the course of a week. Every year since then it has grown in attendance. For the first few years, only an invite directly from Alan himself could get you to the Gathering. Eventually, he noticed that there was clearly a desire of many others who would love to attend, but Alan still wanted to ensure only the right kind of people attended.

The new policy is that anyone who has been to the Gathering at least 2 years can nominate someone to attend, and then that person needs to be seconded by two other people who have also attended the Gathering for at least 2 years. So it’s a pretty exclusive club. This year, and for the next three years, it takes place at the Sheraton on the US side of Niagara Falls.

Thanks to the Game Artisans of Canada, I found myself with an invite! Whaaa? Me? Yeah! Another member of the Game Artisans of Canada, Mike Kolross has been attending for about 5 years now – thanks to his ability to make components for the game, Descent that Alan greatly enjoyed. Last year, he and Rob Bartel, another member of GAC, made a portable/travel edition of Alan’s Ticket to Ride out of wood (kind of like a fold up cribbage board) and it was a huge hit. Mike then made another one for Christian Hildenbrand from Amigo Games (for his wife actually) and through Christian and Mike I got my invite to the Gathering!

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I heard that Alan doesn’t mind that designers are pitching games to publishers, but that he preferred to make the Gathering more about playing games with friends. So I didn’t follow Step 20 and set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. That said, we did know which publishers were going to be there, thanks to email updates from Alan himself. This allowed Sen and I to prepare by assessing which games of ours would fit best with each publisher (Step 17). We could have done better at this – by making some solid notes about each.

Following Step 21, I packed up one bag full of prototypes. With so many prototypes to carry around, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is the large baggie system. I take all the components of a game and put them into one large baggie. Of course I put some components in smaller baggies and then into the larger baggie to make it easy to set up and play. Then I labeled each baggie with a sticker that had the logo of the game as well as my contact information. I heard a story from Frank DiLorenzo from R&R games where he had a prototype of a pretty good game, but it had no contact information on it whatsoever! Ouch! Sen and I pretty much like to have our contact information in as many places as possible – on the baggie, on the Sales Sheet (Step 14), on each page of the rules in the header, and even on some other component of the game – if it makes sense.

I print out the rules for all my games and put them all into one folder as they’d get wrinkled up if I put them into the baggie. If a publisher wanted a prototype, then I’d fish out the rules, fold them in half and stick it in the large baggie with the rest of the game. Prior to this trip we had many other Game Artisans who wanted me (and Rob Bartel, who also attended) to pitch their games to publishers on their behalf, since they were not invited. I didn’t mind doing this for other Game Artisans, but the game had to be something I enjoyed and something I would feel comfortable pitching. So for the weeks leading up to the Gathering I was getting prototypes mailed to me from other chapters in hopes that I’d like their game and could pitch it to publishers. I liked three games of the ones I was sent and agreed to pitch them. This just meant that my backpack full of prototypes now had three more games stuffed in it! In my backpack I was carrying these prototypes:

  1. Junkyard – even though this game has exclusivity with Wiggles 3D until June 1st, we wanted to show some other publishers, in case Wiggles ultimately decided to pass on it
  2. Clunatics – this one is being assessed by Pegasus Spiele, but we wanted to bring it to show other publishers (and we were clear with new publishers that the game was currently being assessed by Pegasus)
  3. Hog the Remote
  4. But Wait, There’s More!
  5. Akrotiri
  6. Eat at Joe’s
  7. EIEI-O!
  8. Swashbucklers – currently being signed by a publisher, but we wanted to test one last thing with the game
  9. Belfort – plus the expansion prototype
  10. An untitled prototype that is Alpha stage, currently called Box Office
  11. Captionary
  12. Bordeaux – prototype from GAC member, Matt Musselman
  13. A Game of Cat and Mouse – prototype from GAC member, Al Leduc
  14. Iron Horse Bandits – prototype from GAC member, Graeme Jahns

Yowza! That’s a lot of prototypes! In the next post I’ll review how the Gathering is laid out and then get into what it was like pitching to publishers at the Gathering, and finally share which of our games garnered interest from them as well.

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 4: The Publishers

While Sen shared with you the overview of which publishers expressed interest in which games – I thought I’d expand on it a bit and give you some more details about what exactly went down!

We pitched to many publishers and while no contracts were signed and no promises made, we have a lot of exciting prospects that we’re looking forward to in the next few months.

Kosmos: They liked Swashbucklers, EIEI-O and Train of Thought. Since I had an extra copy of rules, I gave them the rules to EIEI-O. I had no idea how big Kosmos was as I only knew them as the publisher of some great 2 player games. Apparently board games are only about a third of their business with books and science kits/toys making up the rest. It would certainly be a boon to be published by Kosmos!

Update: They have the rules to EIEI-O and have emailed us to let us know that they are reviewing it. We should know in a couple months whether they are interested or not. They also asked Tasty Minstrel Games for a copy of Train of Thought to review.

Pegasus Spiel: They really liked Swashbucklers and commented that their Roll Through the Ages was successful and they could see the same success for Swashbucklers! They also liked all our party games: Train of Thought, Clunatics and Lost for Words. Pegasus is new to the party game genre with Pictomania being released this year, so they might have to wait to see if it works out for them. If it does they said that Clunatics will be a bit challenging to localize (as that game involves common North American idioms) but it’s nothing that a quick Google search couldn’t help! Pegasus is huge in Europe and would be fantastic if we could get a game in with them.

Update: I’ve sent an email to them to see if they’re interested in Lost for Words and am awaiting a response.

Huch & Friends: They liked Clunatics and would like a prototype of it. For them, Swashbucklers was too in the middle as Huch prefers games that are either lighter or heavier! They were interested in taking a look at Belfort and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel. They also were interested in Bermuda Triangle and have asked for the rules to be emailed to them. Done and done. A prototype for Clunatics has being sent off to them as well.

Update: They have received Clunatics and told us that mid-November is when they are playtesting all the submitted prototypes. They let us know that we should expect some feedback by end of November!

Quined: Quined had our prototype of Akrotiri before Essen and had played it a couple times already. They said they were still fascinated by it but had a few concerns or questions about it. Sen and I agreed with their comments and so we spent a few weeks before Essen coming up with and playtesting ideas that could improve the game. We believe we came up with a winning solution and I now love the game even more than I did before (and it was already my favourite game of ours!). Not only did it fix the issues they expressed, but it also reduced the playtime down to 60 minutes for a 4 player game! That’s gold! So I had some time with Quined and got to take them through all the changes. We didn’t really get to play it, but they at least got a verbal explanation. I left them the new prototype and will follow up in a couple months.

Update: There has been email communication since Essen, but mostly just a confirmation that they have the prototype and plan on playing it soon. I imagine their plates are quite full with the release of Alba Longa!

Queen: I also was at Essen to pitch a game from fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Matt Musselman. I had played his wine-making game, Bordeaux many times and have always liked it, so I let him know that I’d be happy to pitch it to publishers since he wasn’t going to Essen this year. Normally this would mean I’d be entering Agent status, but since Matt is a friend I told him that if he sets up the meetings, then I’ll attend them and pitch his game without worrying about being an Agent. Matt set up a meeting with Queen and Alea and Queen was my first of the meetings.
I started with the Sales Sheet – as Matt followed our advice and made up a pretty swanky Sales Sheet. After a few moments he wanted to play it so I bust it out and set it up. After one round I recommended we play one more as that would really help showcase the other aspects of the game. Once we finished that round the publisher just kept playing, so we kept playing. We were joined by another rep from the publisher and we kept playing as we explained what was happening. We ended up playing the entire game! This seemed to be very atypical to me as I had never had more than 5-10 minutes for a game! They had some concerns but were interested in checking out the game further. As an FYI – the publisher and I tied at the end, and I couldn’t remember the tie-breaker. Regardless, that’s a great way to end the game since we both had different paths to victory.

I asked if they had time to look at a game or two from me and they said they had another 15 minutes or so. I first showed them Belfort and they expressed interest in checking it out and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel Games to figure out the next steps. We played a couple rounds of Swashbucklers and they seemed to really like it with the publisher stating that it was “great.” It was funny because on the first round I rolled Cannons and attacked one of the publishers and stole his treasure, then later in the round, the other publisher rolled Swords and attacked him and stole a treasure too. I was worried that he would feel ganged up on, but he realized that he failed to defend himself and left himself open to the attacks! They were really quite enthusiastic about it! I still had some more meetings with other publishers so I said I’d be back near the end of the Fair and they said that was cool.

After evaluating all the publishers that wanted Swashbucklers, Sen and I felt that Queen would be the best fit, and it helped that they were the most enthusiastic about it as well.
When I returned to their booth on Saturday, I asked a random Queen staff member if my contact was around and he asked if I had an appointment. I said that I did yesterday and that I was here to drop off a prototype. This random rep asked me, “Is it Swashbucklers?” Imagine my surprise! How the heck did he know about Swashbucklers? He said that the guys I met told him all about it. Wow – that’s a good sign! I met up with my contacts and let them know that many publishers expressed interest in Swashbucklers but that we thought that Queen was the best fit and that we really appreciated the enthusiasm they had. They both seemed genuinely thankful that I chose to bring the game to them. I’m really excited about Queen publishing Swachbucklers! Here’s hoping that their playtest sessions go well in the next few months!

Update: We received an email from Queen stating that Swashbucklers has made it through one round of playtesting! If it makes it through the next round, then they said they will publish it!! Exciting!

Alea: Started with a Bordeaux demo as it was Matt who set up the meeting. Started with the Sales Sheet and then reviewed the gameplay by giving an overview of the mechanics with pieces I pulled out of the baggie. He was interested in checking it out further!
We had some time so I asked if he would be interested in seeing some games from Sen and I, and he said he was. I showed him Train of Thought and played a couple rounds with him. He was intrigued and he took 10 cards or so to show his colleagues. He also liked Lost for Words, Clunatics and EIEI-O and took the Sales Sheets for each with him.
After confirming which publisher Matt would prefer to hand over the prototype of Bordeaux to, he said Alea and so I returned the following day to drop it off (Tip: Always give it directly to the person you had your pitch session with and not with a random rep from the publisher. I waited 15 minutes outside the ‘office/room’ to make contact with this specific person).

Update: Got a message from Alea that said they will be testing Bordeaux further, but they weren’t interested in our other games at this time.

Jolly Thinkers: This is a new publisher in China with an interesting back story. They started as a board game café and then grew and grew. They became so popular that 4 other board game cafés opened nearby. These competitors actually used Jolly Thinkers as a distributor for the games they wanted. Now Jolly Thinkers wants to get into publishing games! Gavan Brown and I met with them as I pitched Train of Thought and Gavan pitched Jab. They were really nice people and seemed to really dig both games. We played a round of Train of Thought and then we let them play a round of Jab. After playing Jab they asked us to play it so they could watch how it’s supposed to go. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played in a long time. Regardless, we played and I actually beat Gavan at his own game! Wee! It was fun and I think it really showcased the game well as I was focused on combos and Gavan was focused more on haymakers. They took a copy of each with them.

Update: No real update. Waiting for email response.

Hans Im Gluck: One of the publishers that I didn’t have a specific time slot scheduled for was with Hans Im Gluck. They said in their email that they were pretty booked up but I should stop by and see if they can squeeze me in. I did stop by and we found a time to meet up. This entire pitch session was done just with Sales Sheets as the publisher preferred it that way. He liked Bordeaux, Bermuda Triangle and Swashbucklers. We would love to partner with Hans Im Gluck and so I handed over Bermuda Triangle right away and gave them sales sheets for the other two.

Update: No real update on this one yet.

Needless to say, we had an amazing Fair with regards to our publisher meetings. Each publisher we met expressed some interest in at least one of our games and that’s a good feeling. We still have a long road ahead for each of these games, but at the very least, putting a face to the name, and having a name to follow up with is a huge, huge benefit! Stay tuned to this blog for updates as we get them about any of our upcoming games.

Coming up next: Part 5 of the Adventures in Essen series in which I review all the best practices for a designer at Essen. If you’re a designer and planning to go next year – then bookmark the page so you can come back to it next year!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 3: Pitching to a Publisher

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

Adventures in Essen, Part 1: The Fair

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

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

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

Sales Sheet for our game, Akrotiri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up Next: A review of the publishers I pitched

– Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

If you’re a Designer and you’re at Essen, it’s for one of two reasons: You’re there to promote a game that’s launching or you’re there to pitch new games to publishers.

Matt Tolman (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) had his game Undermining, published by Z-Man Games, launch at Essen. He had a few obligations throughout the fair, like demoing the game at the Z-Man booth multiple times and filming a video interview for BGG explaining the game. Even though Belfort just launched as well, our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, was not attending the Fair, so my goal at Essen was to pitch new games to publishers and make as many contacts as possible!

Planning for my trip to Essen started a few weeks before going to the actual Fair.  Sen, following our own advice as indicated in Step 17, used the Spiel ’11 GeekList on Boardgamegeek to create a database of all the publishers that might be interested in one or more of our new games.  He found out the contact information for each of them (sometimes much harder than it would seem, especially in foreign languages), prioritized which ones to contact and determined which of our prototypes should be shown to each based on their current product line or their submission guideline.

I then followed Step 18 and proceeded to email each of them explaining who I was and that I’d like to set up a meeting with them at Essen. Since this blog is all about being transparent and letting you see the entire process, here’s an example of an email I sent off to a prospective publisher:

Dear <Publisher>,

I’m going to be attending Essen this year and would like to arrange a time  to show you some of our new prototypes as noted below. Please respond with your preference.

Sen-Foong Lim and I are members of the Game Artisans of Canada and have designed Train of Thought and Belfort which have both been released this year from Tasty Minstrel Games.

We have a few games that we think would fit well with <Publisher>, and a sales sheet for each one is attached:

Bermuda Triangle: A time-travelling, pick-up and deliver, medium weight, strategy game for 2-4 players. Players program their boat’s movement using a unique mechanic in an effort to rescue more trapped explorers than the other players.


Swashbucklers
: A dice allocation game for 2-5 players. Players play pirates, rolling and assigning their dice to one of the 5 actions. Once all dice are rolled, players resolve the actions in an effort to get more boats or crew or attack each other with cannons in the sea, or with swords on land. We classify this as a medium-weight filler game.


Clunatics
: A party game for 3 or more people. Players must get any other player to guess a common phrase by providing the smallest of clues. On their own, the clues do not offer enough information, but add a couple more clues and it becomes more clear! A new twist on party games that keeps everyone involved at all times.


Lost for Words
: A word creation game that keeps everyone involved at all times with its unique 3×3 tile of letters. As one tile is flipped face up, players race to find the longest word possible in a straight line. Score is determined by subtracting the value of your word with that of the lowest valued word – so players are motivated to find any word to reduce other players’ scores! Fast and fun word finding game that can be played with 2-8 players in under 25 minutes.

We are also looking for international partners that are interested in publishing Train of Thought or Belfort outside of America. I’ll be bringing Train of Thought with me and if I receive my copy of Belfort in time then I’ll be bringing that along as well.

Thanks for your time.

I sent out about 15 emails or so to the publishers that we thought would be a good fit for the prototypes that we had to show. I got responses from most of them and we scheduled our meetings. I’d get a specific contact name, time slot and location (usually the publisher’s booth) and, after juggling a few conflicting, I had a pretty decent schedule with 4 meetings on Thursday, 4 on the Friday and 4 with publishers who said I should just stop by during the Fair at any time.

As indicated in Step 21, I packed my prototypes in individual Ziploc baggies and ensured they were clearly labeled with the game name and our contact information. I carried them in a backpack along with a folder full of 10 sales sheets for each game, as per Step 14, and an extra copy of rules for each game.  The amount of preparation we put into our pitches definitely helps make us look even more professional in the eyes of the publishers.  Many of them commented on how much they appreciated things like the Sales Sheets or how clearly everything was labeled.

I made sure to arrive before each meeting with time to spare because some publishers have multiple booths – if you go to the wrong one a few minutes before your meeting only to find that the meeting is supposed to be in another Hall, you might be out of breath for your meeting from all the running! I went up to the counter and asked a staff member if my contact was available as I had an appointment scheduled. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and was soon escorted to a small room at the back of the booth – private and away from all of the hustle and bustle.

The publishers (or at least my contacts at the publisher – usually editors) were very nice and considerate – all of them! They all offered me something to drink and made sure I was comfortable. This was really nice as it made me feel more like an equal partner rather than someone who is begging them to publish my games. After a few pleasantries we got down to business.

Up Next: How I pitched games to publishers!

-Jay Cormier

Essen 2011 Roundup

Sorry I didn’t do up-to-the-minute updates as Jay sent me frantic encrypted e-mails letting me know what was going on at Spiel ’11.  I was pretty sick over the last few days, so it was all I could do to decode them, read them, cheer weakly, eat the paper I transcribed the message on to, and then go back to bed!

We had several prototypes to show and are also looking for European partners for co-publication of Belfort and Train of Thought.  Here’s a recap of what happened at Essen for the Bamboozle Brothers:

Jay met with:

Kosmos, who liked Swashbucklers, were interested in co-publishing ToT and took the rules for EIEIO
Pegasus, who expressed strong interest in Swashbucklers and were also interested in Clunatics, ToT, and Lost For Words (depending on how their initial venture into party games goes with Pictomania).
Huch & Friends, who want to check out Clunatics, would like the rules for Bermuda Triangle, and copies of Belfort and ToT to evaluate as European releases.
Quined, who are evaluating Akrotiri – Jay gave them the updates they requested in terms of “spicing it up” so now they are going to playtest with the new additions we’ve made
PSI, who told Jay that Belfort has been sold in Europe (English copies, of course – but it’s a start!)
Queen, who Jay met with on behalf of our friend and fellow Game Artisan, Matt Musselman, to pitch Matt’s Bordeaux to them. They enjoyed Bordeaux and then Jay had time to show them our games – they loved Belfort and requested a copy for evaluation. Jay also showed them Swashbucklers and they were very excited by it. They requested a prototype of it as soon as possible. Jay gave them the prototype immediately after the convention.
Alea liked Bordeaux as well, and this company is Matt’s first choice. There wasn’t a ton of time, so Jay was only able to show our party games to Alea. Now, you might be thinking, “Alea doesn’t do party games!” and you’d be right. But what they can do is link us up with other publishers that do! They liked ToT, Clunatics and Lost For Words and took several sell sheets for these and EIEIO as well, saying that they’d show them to their colleagues. Nothing like getting a plug from one of the most respected publishers in the biz…
Hans im Gluck, who liked Swashbucklers and Bermuda Triangle. As Swashbucklers was slated for Queen, Bermuda Triangle went home with HiG – spread the love! HiG also really liked Bordeaux – go, Matt, go! Also of note: HiG was very positive about our sell sheets, so that’s a sign that it’s something we should all have on our “to do” lists. It’s one of the last things Jay and I do, but one that we spend a lot of time on, despite it seeming so simple.
Jolly Thinkers, who are a Chinese publisher – they were interested in Train of Thought prior to Essen so we took this opportunity to meet face to face and hand over a copy for evaluation.
Jay also had a meeting with Gamewright, who currently have Jam Slam, but I’m not sure what transpired in the meeting. Jay’s probably so burnt out on games that he’s sleeping right now. 😀