A Dozen Passengers on the Train of Thought!

Check out this great interview on BoardGameGeek for Train of Thought – 12 people played…12 people had a great time…14 people are happy (the 12 that played + Jay and I!)

Train of Thought box art

For more info, check out Tasty Minstrel Games

For those of you wanting to pick up a copy of the game, Train of Thought can be purchased online from BestBuy (Canada).  Stock up early for all your Christmas gift-giving needs!

BestBuy Logo

Go to BestBuy.ca to purchase Train of Thought online!

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Belfort Promo Wagon Commences!

We’re starting the promotional campaign for Belfort! The artist for the game, Josh Cappel, has made up these small ads that take one of the components of the game and then has a interesting or funny saying attached to it. We’re expecting a new one to be posted every week until the game launches this summer!

If you want to see all the images as they come then you can do one of two things:

1) Register on www.boardgamegeek.com and then subscribe to Belfort (an option on the right hand side of the screen).  Then, every time you log into boardgamegeek.com you will be told if there has been any updates with Belfort!

2) Go to Facebook and add Belfort as a friend! We’ll be sharing the images on Facebook shortly after they launch on boardgamegeek.com.

If you’re interested in helping out, then you can click the green ‘thumbs-up’ icon near the image when you’re on boardgamegeek.com. If enough people ‘thumb’ it then the picture gets promoted to the front page of boardgamegeek.com. This helps with awareness of the game even more! The Euro Game market is a crowded scene, so anything we can do to stand out we’ll try it!

Here’s the link to the first image. I’ve included the first image in this post – but head on over to boardgamegeek.com and give it a thumb (and yes, you do have to register once in order to thumb – but I’ll be asking you to thumb and rate more of our games in the future – so you might as well register now!  Hey – while you’re there, why not write up a quick review of Train of Thought – or at least give it a rating? I’m not asking for you to stuff the ballots – but just for you to rate it whatever you think it’s worth!).

Reviews of Train of Thought coming in!

There are tons of reviews coming in for Train of Thought!  Boardgamegeek.com has a nice smattering of mini-reviews and ratings.  So far there are 29 ratings for an average of 7.66 – which, if you’re familiar with boardgamegeek.com – you know that’s really high. Of course it will go down as more and more people rate it, but it’s still pleasing to see it so high!

We’ve been selected as part of the Spiel’s Holiday Gift Guide as well!  You can hear an audio review of the game around 2:06 into the podcast!

Here are some of the nice words people have been saying about the game (and I don’t know any of these people personally!):

I got to try a full game of Train of Thought immediately afterwards. I’ve already gushed about Tasty Mistrel’s games, and I think this game has the opportunity to become a big hit. In the game, you reveal a card wih a word on it. Then you secretly draw a second word card. You must try to get someone to guess that hidden word. If you do so, you both get a point.

The trick is that you may only say three words as a clue, and the first word must be the word on the revealed card. If no one guesses your word, you must offer another three-word clue, using one of the words the players used as your first word.

I loved this game. It’s simple, quick, has enormous mass-market appeal, and is a ton of fun. – Gil Hova

Got pulled into a demo of this game by the designer (one of them at least) and I knew it was one that i was going to end up getting at the con. In fact, I have a signed copy! (though it took until buying the game to realize that he was the designer) a nice word game, that wont totally hose me if my train of thought is different then others, since there is interaction between those guessing the word, and the clue giving, who much base their clue of the word that those guessing said.

Cannot wait to break this one out. – Tiffany Jones

Well named, challenging and fun medium-size party word game that generates interesting thought paths. A creative design which rewards quick creative thinking. – Bob Rademaker

A party game where you give word clues. A card determines a word you must include in your first clue; from there on, you must include a word that was guessed. Fast moving, very simple, and quite fun.

I considered buying this from Tasty Minstrel there, but wasn’t sure about space; had I known it wasn’t readily available yet, I probably would have grabbed it. – Brian Modreski

 

It’s really exhilarating reading about people’s experience with our game!  Thanks to everyone who has played it and wrote kind words (and even to those who didn’t write kind words…wait a minute – no one has written bad words about it yet! And no, that isn’t a challenge to anyone out there!).

 

-Jay Cormier

 

BGG.con – Train of Thought – update

This just in – you can pre-order Train of Thought from Funagain Games online!  The bad news is that it’s in the US so us Canadians have to pay for shipping.  Click to pre-order Train of Thought!

Also – we just found out that Train of Thought did even better than we thought at BGG.con.  Apparently it ended up being the #2 game at the convention for high traffic games (which is the one that really matters anyway!).  Wow!  Here’s a screencap and a link to check out the list for yourself:

And finally – Train of Thought is currently the 9th hottest game on boardgamegeek.com!  That means it has the 9th highest amount of traffic!  Cool!

BGG.con: Train of Thought

I got to see (and touch and play) the final published Train of Thought game!  Here’s a picture of a proud Jay with boxes of the finished product and the Tasty Minstrel gang, Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee!

Train of Thought

I spent a lot of the convention stationed at the Tasty Minstrel booth giving demos to anyone and everyone!  The first copy was sold before I could get to the booth (as I had to wait in line to register), but the first copy I was asked to sign was to Brent Llyod, a fellow Canadian!  We did find the person who bought the first copy of our first published board game, and got a picture of him too!  Thanks a lot Adam!!

Here’s what the Tasty Minstrel booth looked like – nothing amazing, except for all the Train of Thought of course! 🙂

At BGG.con players can rate every game they play on a scale of 1-5 (no half points allowed).  Then all the data is calculated on the fly and a projected “Geek Buzz” list of the top 25 games cycles through on a large screen in the main lobby.  This is great to see which games are hot and worth trying out.  The list constantly evolves throughout the 5 days as more people play and like or dislike a game.  Well, colour me surprised when Train of Thought ended up as #1 at the end of the first day!

By the end of day 2, Train of Thought moved down to #13, which made more sense – but was also surprising.  To put this in context – almost all the new games that debuted at Essen earlier this year were here as well as all other games that have ever been released!  So to have a party game higher than some of these big gamery games was truly outstanding!

Day 3 we ended up moving up to #10 and by the end of day 4 we were up to #5.  To my humblest surprise, Train of Thought ended the convention at #3!  Can you believe it?  Train of Thought was the #3 game of BGG.con this year!!!

In addition to all this it was absolutely amazing to me to walk around the convention and see people playing the game.  It’s a bit mind blowing.  It was also flattering to hear people tell me stories about them playing Train of Thought to 3 or 4 in the morning.  One group of people told us to submit the game to the Mensa competition!  They were serious and they said that they think it would win as the Mensa group likes quick games that involve communicating and making you think differently – which exactly describes Train of Thought!  We’re in the process of understanding the requirements to submit it.

The good news doesn’t end there though.  In discussions with Michael Mindes, the owner of Tasty Minstrel Games, he let me know that he had a conversation with the distributors, PSI.  PSI has a great relationship with Barnes and Noble and PSI showed B&N the box for Train of Thought.  B&N loved the box and said they’d like to see the game when they go to the New York Toy Fair in February.  If they like it, then they will stock it in their stores – all across America!  That would be huge!

Does the good news end there?  No it does not.  On the last day of the convention, Michael had a meeting with Queen Games and Queen Games will be publishing and distributing Train of Thought in Germany! Obviously they will redo the entire game in German – but it will be Train of Thought!  Our first game just went International!

So this was a very good convention for me and Tasty Minstrel – and this is just about Train of Thought!  Both Tasty Minstrel and I have more good news coming…  Stay tuned!

Back from BGG.con!

BGG.con is done and I have a lot of updates and stories!  I’ll pace them out over the week with a post every day or so.  BGG.con is an annual convention that takes place in Dallas where over 1000 people come to play board games from all over the world.  They have a library of games that has 100’s and 100’s of games that anyone can sign out for free and play.  The convention is so friendly that you can almost always walk up to complete strangers and ask to join their game, or ask them if they’d like to join in your game.  They even have “Players Needed” flags that you can place on your table if you need more players.

In addition to playing games there are a bunch of other diversions like the Puzzle Hunt, Game Show, Rock Band, Tichu and Texas Hold’em Tournaments, Flea Market, some board game vendors and eating – with a constantly running shuttle that loops around local restaurants.  Thanks to Rio Grande for sponsoring that shuttle!

I spent most of my time at the Tasty Minstrel booth pitching Train of Thought and Belfort to other gamers.  As you’ll see in the upcoming posts – both were very well received.

Overall I had a blast and met a lot of great people and would recommend this convention to any board game fan!  The next few posts will be divided into the following topics:

–        Train of Thought (our first published board game!)

–        Belfort (our second published board game!)

–        Our third (and potentially fourth) published board games!

–        Games I liked and disliked and wanted to play

–        Game Designers and other thoughts

Up next: Train of Thought!

-Jay Cormier

Step 17: Finding Publishers

Wow, it’s taken us 16 steps to get to the moment most of us thought should have come a long time ago!  But it’s only through your motivation, versatility and persistence (MVP) that you will find yourself fully ready to show your game to a publisher.

Now, how do you find a publisher that might be interested in your game?  Well the first step is to do some research on publishers (“What? More work?  Just tell me who will publish my game please?”).  Nope, research first!  What we’re trying to do is find out which publishers might be interested in your game.  First we need to look at the games that a publisher already has published.

Basically there are five types of games that publishers will make:

  • Strategy/Euro games
  • Family games
  • Party games
  • Collectible games
  • Role-playing games

There are subsets of each of these of course, but this is a good place to start.  So which category does your game fit into?  Now find a list of all the current publishers that make those kinds of games.  You can use boardgamegeek.com, but I’d recommend actually going to your local board game store and heading directly to the section that pertains to your category.

As you’re listing them, make a note if there are any that share too many similarities to your own game.  These publishers would probably be less willing to publish your game if it will cannibalize sales of their own game.  One game that Buffalo Games liked of ours was Jungle Jam as it fit within the kind of games that they like to make, but they were already in production on a game that shared a similar mechanic – so they opted to pass on that one.  Fair enough.

Now you should have a great place to start. These are not the only publishers that might publish your games, but it’s a great place to start.  One thing you won’t know until you start connecting with publishers, is what they are looking for currently.  Sen and I had a deal with Tasty Minstrel games to make Belfort, but when their developer, Seth came to visit me to work on the game, I showed him another game of ours called Train of Thought.  At the time Seth was firm on his belief that Tasty Minstrel will not publish party games.  That was fine – but he kept asking to play that game while he was visiting.  He ended up taking my prototype and three weeks later we got word from Tasty Minstrel that they wanted to publish Train of Thought as well!

So you never know if and when a publisher is looking to branch out of what they do normally.  The best way to start gathering this information is to reply to your rejection emails (oh and you will get them!), by asking what they are currently looking for from game designers.  You won’t get a response from everyone on this, but you will get some.

Next up will be posts on how you should approach a publisher – via email and in person.

-Jay Cormier

Research is key when it comes to looking for appropriate publishers. Not only can solid research save you potential embarrasement (“We already publish a game exactly like that…it’s called Monopoly…you may have heard of it?”) but it can save you money. It once cost us something like $80 US to have a prototype shipped – so we wanted to be sure that it was going to a company that would seriously consider the game. It can also save you time. In this world of instant messaging, snail mail can seem deathly slow. And time spent in transit and time spent at the game company is time that the game could be played by another company. So make sure that the company is one that fits your game.

How do you do this?

There’s this series of tubes…

Check out Z-man games for a good example of submission guidelines. Z-man have published a ton of great games lately and are sure to do more – maybe even yours! But look at their guide and be sure your game fits their bill. You could have the greatest abstract game in the world…but alas, Z-man will not publish it because they do not deal in that genre. Nor do they deal with trivia, sport-simulations, word, or party games. Remember – knowledge is power. And it saves you time, money, and effort that could be better directed towards other publishers.

Most publishers have a submission page on their website. You’ll note that a lot of them state emphatically that they are not accepting unsolicited submissions. What does that mean? Well, it means that if you send them a prototype, you can be 100% guaranteed that it’ll be returned to you unopened. So don’t waste your time or money. Does that mean that the door is always closed to you? No! But it does mean that a little more work is required.

Get out of your Hobbit hole, Bilbo

If you’re not already a member of one, join a local gaming club. Learn about which publishers are strong in what direction by playing their games. Some have great production values. Some have really good rules. Some are consistent. And other gamers can help you increase the breadth and depth of your gaming knowledge with their experiences so you don’t have to play every game for yourself. You can also learn which brands other gamers respect and which brands they don’t. And if you beg and provide chips, you may also coerce your club members to playtest for you!

Participaction

Participate on forums, like bgdf.com – a forum specifically catering to boardgame designers. Not only will you get to know the best source for meeples on the web, but you may be able to learn more about which publishers might be interested in your design. Jay and I are active members of the Game Artisans of Canada, a group of designers, many published, who banded together over the interweb to help each other get quality games out to the real world. So far, it’s been a great reciprocal experience with that team of people. We playtest each others games and help with the promotional aspects as well, including helping people think of which publishers make sense for specific games. Become an active member of your gaming community, be it local or on-line.

Enter contests, like Hippodice’s annual event (sorry, entry deadline was 1 week ago!). Some of these contests can lead directly to publication as the prize for the winning entry. It’s well worth it as an unpublished designer to put a strong design in for consideration. Even if you don’t win the whole shebang, the feedback you get from the judges is usually very high calibre. There are tons of design contests around. Search the web and you’ll find local, state-or-provincal, national, or international level contests. Note that these contests often have criteria regarding your submissions (like it can’t be currently under consideration by a publisher) so be sure to double-check that your game meets their standards.

Meet People

Get out there. If you want to be a game designer, you have to spend time in the field. Designing games and playing them with your friends is one thing, but the business end of it is the next big step. This is what really separates the wanna-bes from the people who’s names eventually will grace the game box. And I’m not talking about going as far as Essen or Nuremburg. Just in the Continental United States alone, there are some great opportunities to get your name AND game out there – designer conventions such as ProtoSpiel in Ann Arbor, MI, going to industry trade fairs like GAMA in Las Vegas, NV, or player-oriented conventions like Origins in Columbus, OH or the much-ballyhooed (and exclusive, invite only) “Gathering of Friends” hosted by prolific designer Alan R. Moon (also held in Columbus, OH – a veritable hotbed of gaming, it would seem!).

Basically, you need to up your game and rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the industry if you want to get ahead. Much like the music biz, there are probably countless people across the world who can sing better than Lady Gaga. But she gets the accolades because she’s out there working it. Now, I’m not suggesting you wear a dress made of meat at a convention to get your game noticed, but a little bit of face time goes a long way. For this reason (amongst many others), I’m glad that Jay is my partner in crime. He is the face and voice of our team. He has experience in sales, acting and improv. I tend to be more on the Asperger’s side when it comes to social graces. Jay can sell more than our game design. He sells *US* as a team that is worth working with.

But more of that in the next post…

-Sen-Foong Lim

Tasty Minstrel Gives Status Update

tasty minstrel

Just read a nice status update from Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel on the timelines for both our games.  Great news: people who pre-order can get Train of Thought by Christmas!  Others have to wait until the new year before seeing it in stores.  Other great news: Belfort is about a week away from having all its art done!  Very cool and exciting.  Read more on Michael’s Blog.

Design Tip: Constraints are Good

About 3 years ago I mentioned to Sen that I thought it would be a cool idea if we came up with a super small game that we could include in a letter to publishers as a ‘free’ gift when submitting other games.  For some reason I thought this would be really neat and make us stand out.  I set to work on a tile placement game about trying to have more of your houses in a neighbourhood than your opponent.  I managed to get the game down to 25 tiles.  I made a small little matchbox-like package for it and viola – we had a really cool pocket game! (I’m glossing over the fact that it took more than a few stabs at the game until we got it to its final state).

Hot Property Game Design

Hot Property: our first game using our self-imposed 25 tile limit

Once that was done, I was feeling pretty motivated about how we got a Euro-style game to fit within 25 tiles.  It got me thinking and I remember for one 5 hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver, I brainstormed all the different genres of games and then tried to see if I could come up with a way to make it using only 25 tiles.  At the end of that flight I had ideas for 11 games!

The benefit of reducing an entire game into 25 tiles, is that you’re forced to eliminate anything extraneous which ensures the cleanest and simplest of rules. Some of these games that we made were pretty minor and didn’t have much fun to them, but others had a gem of an idea in it that were not only fun but enabled us to turn them into bigger full-fledged games.

Belfort, our game that is coming out early next year, started as a game that had only 25 tiles.  Hard to believe when you see the final game that it started out as only 25 tiles! Some tiles were used to track how many resources each player had (by rotating the tile so that a specific number was facing up), and the other tiles were buildings that players could build.  The first time I played it with Sen, I was excited to show him how we were able to get a resource management game to fit within 25 tiles!

As soon as Sen finished playing it he said that he really liked it, but that it begged to be a bigger game!  We spent the rest of the weekend turning it into the first prototype of the game that was to eventually be known as Belfort (it was called Castletown back then!).

Other smaller, 25-tile games we have made that we eventually turned into larger games have been Akrotiri – a pick up and deliver game, and Lost for Words – a word search/creation game.  Both of these games are almost ready to be shown to publishers right now.  There’s even a couple more games (EIEIO – a quick reflex party game and This Town Aint Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – and area majority game) that we’re thinking of converting to bigger games as well.

This was just our way of motivating our creativity, but you could use other constraints as well.  Try making a game using only dice and face cards from a deck of cards; or a game using only a checkerboard and 10 custom cards; or a game using coloured cubes and a piece of paper…you get the idea.  Try to make the most basic game using only a couple basic items and you might find yourself with either some new ideas or a really interesting concept for a bigger game.

-Jay Cormier

I am, by nature, an extremely divergent thinker. This is really just a polite term for “tangential”, or, as my wife would say, “focus-challenged”. Personally, I prefer “free-thinker”. I’m the kind of guy who has what could be only be termed as “chronic creative diarrhea”, constantly coming up with idea after idea after idea. I spend a lot of time coming up with all the cool things that could possibly work together in the game, invariably ending up with a mashed-up monstrosity, and then I have to spend even MORE time cleaning up the mess I’ve made of what had started out as an interesting game.

Enter self-imposed constraints. By placing limits on ourselves, Jay and I can steer clear of thematic traps more easily (i.e. adding something for the sake of making the game fit a specific theme better), minimize cost of fabrication, and reduce the time from it takes to get a game from a “brain fart” to the prototype stage.

This last point is the most important to me, as I am admittedly the kind of designer who would spend eternity tweaking things in my mind before ever committing anything to a physical format if you let me. But by saying “Hey! We’ve reached the 25 cards limit – time to print and cut!”, we can get to the most crucial part of the game design process faster playtesting. While I am good at recognizing strengths and flaws in game systems in my head, I can’t account for everything once the number of variables gets unwieldy and I can’t account for how different personalities will interact with the game. The physical components themselves can also change how a game is played. And to realize that, the game has to be made a reality.

These small games are simple by nature so they the rules are quick to teach and easy to pick up. The set up time is minimal and the games themselves take only minutes to play at the most, so many rounds of play can be racked up in a short timespan. Thus, we can accumulate valuable data on actual playtesting by other playtesters. Jay and I are then in a better position to analyze the game as opposed to doing all of the guess work in our heads. This allows us to prioritize which ideas need to be expanded up immediately, which worked but can sit and wait, and which are never to be heard of again (except, for some reason, on this blog…).

Of course, this design ethic doesn’t work for every game and not every game we make starts off this way. Some games aren’t going to fit within 25 cards straight from conception. “Train of Thought” and “But Wait, There’s More”, both word-based party games, were designed without the 25-card limitation because, really, how fun would a word game be with only 25 different words available to use?

We’re currently designing a trick-taking game called “Lions Share”. We’ve limited ourselves to 55/110 or 60/120 cards in this case. Those limits are actual real-world constraints we’re using to ensure that publishers will look at the game without production reservations. The maximum number of cards that can be made on a single sheet of stock of standard dimensions is 55 by Imperial measurements or 60 by the Metric system. Going over those limits will actually affect the bottom line for the publishers, so having 60 cards in a game can be more appealing to many of them than needing 68 cards, even if the 68-card version is a better game. Using non-standard card sizes is costly as well as a custom die needs to be created. So, whenever possible, stick to 55 or 60 cards in a deck (or multiples thereof).

We’re also trying to solely use cards for “Lions Share”. This constraint was put on in response to the fact that a lot of publishers are requesting card games. As a game design team that is not looking to self-publish, we’ve got to cater to more than just the game players – we need to ensure that the publishers like what they see from a fiscal standpoint as well as the gameplay. So we want to design games that they want to publish. The cheaper a game is to produce, the more likely a publisher is to take a good long look at it.
If, for some reason, we desperately need chits or dice or some other component it’s not a deal breaker as these are self-imposed limits. But we’d like to try to remain true to our limitations as we see a need for a game of this variety in our portfolio.

Working with these constraints for some time now has shown me that there is still complexity in simplicity. Simple games are much more elegant than the bloated systems we sometimes see in some overblown games on the market. The old adage is true, sometimes – less can be more.

It’s an odd fact to try to wrap your mind around but constraints can actually be liberating. Whether it’s trying to keep a theme intact or trying to only use a specific type or number of components, limits allow you to declutter your mind and work only within a space that you’ve defined, free from having to think about anything outside your scope. It seems counter-intuitive to think that limiting creativity is a good thing, but I challenge you to give it a try. Limits can actually force you to be more creative in order to solve problems in very different ways. Having no constraints on your design process can leave you in a position of analysis paralysis where everything seems possible but you are unable to take the game from concept to a playable format. So, if you choose to place constraints upon your game design process, the world may no longer be your oyster. But I’ll bet that you find you come up with some real pearls.

-Sen-Foong Lim

Train of Thought played on BoardgameGeek!

This week Tasty Minstrel (the company publishing our first game, Train of Thought) had a novel idea: play Train of Thought via a forum on the popular board game website: www.boardgamegeek.com.

It seemed to go over really well.  The developer of the game, Seth, would post a start word and his 3 word clue, then anyone visiting the forum would post a one word guess to his clue.  After some time passed, Seth would check the responses and then use one of the guesses in his new 3 word clue.  He would continue doing this until the destination word was guess and that player would get a point.

Then he continued to play until 6 words were guessed.  It generated a bit of traffic and buzz for the game and he plans on repeating it.  What a cool idea!

Check it out here!