Final thoughts on Gathering of Friends 2014

IMG_0984On top of all the pitching we did, Sen and I also got to have some fun while we were at the Gathering! We got to see our final art prototype of Akrotiri! We got to teach many people to play it and also promoted an unofficial contest where some winners got a copy of another 2-player game from Z-man Games. We had received a lot of good buzz from players who got to play it with some of them saying things like, “I liked it and I’ve never played anything like it!” Wow – that’s possibly the best compliment you could say about a board game, in my opinion.

Tom Rosen (left) and Larry Levy from Opinionated Gamers play Akrotiri!

Tom Rosen (left) and Larry Levy from Opinionated Gamers play Akrotiri!

It was also nice to see many people checking out my Table Cloth Contest this year! This is the second year in a row that I’ve done a Table Cloth Contest and now I think I’ll do it every year. It was hanging in the main room for the entirety of the event! It was then donated to the prize table at the end and it was nice to see that it was one of the first 20 items to be grabbed! Since the Gathering I’ve had 4 or 5 people ask how they can get their own copy of it. Nice! The picture is below and consists of the top 3 games per year (according to BGG) for the last 25 years – but I scrubbed the title out of it and replaced it with the Gathering of Friends logo. So attendees had to guess as many games as possible to win!IMG_0988

Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil (left) and Toy Vault rep, Ed Bryan

Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil (left) and Toy Vault rep, Ed Bryan

We also got to hobnob with tons of other designers. I got to play a game of Glass Road with Vlaada Chvatil; Phantoms with William Attia; New Haven with Attia and Stephen Glenn; 504 with Freidmann Freisse (his new prototype which is pretty crazy in its aspirations!); Five Tribes with Bruno Cathala (his new game from Days of Wonder) as well as many games with fellow Game Artisans of Canada!

Friedmann Friesse holding a prototype of Power Grid Deluxe!

Friedmann Friesse holding a prototype of Power Grid Deluxe!

Bruno Cathala's new Days of Wonder game, Five Tribes

Bruno Cathala’s new Days of Wonder game, Five Tribes

As for other games I got to play:

Palaces of Carara: finally got to play this! I liked it though I got annihilated!

Splendor: A very dry game – but it’s interesting and pretty quick

Abluxxen with other game designers Gavan Brown and Chris Handy

Abluxxen with other game designers Gavan Brown and Chris Handy

Abluxxen: A fun card game from Kramer!

Time’s Up: I love Time’s Up – but I always play the Title Recall edition because the basic game uses people instead…yikes – not as much my cup of tea mostly due to my ignorance with current events … err… and historical events! J Still – I had a ton of fun!

Tichu: Always fun. I made such a stupid move early on and we couldn’t recover! Though I did have an epic hand where Sen started and passed me the dog. I then played a 2 through A straight – then followed that up with another Ace! Crazy!

Camel Up: Hmmm – not my kind of game. Too random and luck based. I can see the appeal for families though.

Helios: I really liked this one. I had a tough time with Glass Road mostly because there are just so many options and as a first time play through it’s a tough game to figure out. But Helios has a finite number of things you can do – so you can really plan your strategy. I had a good time with this one!

Zombeasts: a cute card game from Huch & Friends

The new board for Power Grid Deluxe!

The new board for Power Grid Deluxe!

As for unreleased games, I got to play Polterfass (played a few times because it’s really good!) and Leg Los (good idea for a party game!) from Zoch, Pints of Blood from Huch & Friends (a zombie game that seems like it should be themed after Shaun of the Dead!), 504 from Freidmann Friesse, Five Tribes from Bruno Cathala (great game – my fave of the Gathering), Prime Time from Gil Hova (loved all the wacky titles!) as well as a bunch from the Game Artisans (Hansel and Gretel from Max, G-Men from Mike, In Silico from Martin)

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Sen and Jay getting interviewed by the CBC

Sen and Jay getting interviewed by the CBC

While we were there Sen and I also got interviewed by the CBC! Not sure when that will air though.

So that wraps up another amazing 10 days in Niagara Falls! Now we have quite a bit of work to do – which is awesome!!

-Jay Cormier

Jay and Sen at the Gathering of Friends 2013, part 1

gof_logo1Another Gathering has come and gone and I am fully exhausted yet giddy with excitement.The Gathering (or more officially:Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends 2013) is an invite-only annual event full of amazing people all wanting to hang out and play some games.What makes this a must-attend event for me as a game designer is the fact that most of the big publishers are there and they are all open to looking at games from designers. To find out more about what the Gathering of Friends is all about, and about my experiences there last year, check out this post.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat makes this different than any other convention? Well, since the Gathering is invite-only, the calibre of people that attend is a bit higher than a convention that is open to the public.The publishers know that they are not going to be hearing a pitch about a Monopoly-clone at the Gathering. Also, I noticed at the Gathering that publishers and designers seem to be more on the same level, while at other conventions I’ve felt that there is a “we’re publishers and you’re designers” kind of vibe.All this means that the Gathering is a very relaxed and informal experience where you not only pitch your games to publishers, but then go to dinner with them afterwards.

This year I was able to pitch games to the following publishers:

  • Asmodee
  • Repos
  • Filosofia / Z-Man Games Abacuspiele
  • R & R Games
  • ThinkFun
  • Hasbro
  • Mercury Games

On top of this I interacted with Rio Grande,Toy Vault, Ystari, Hans Im Gluck, Iello, Czech Games and North Star.

The bottom line is that this event was a successful one for a few reasons.

  1. From all our pitches we ended up leaving one of our prototypes with four different publishers! This doesn’t mean that they’ve agreed to publish it, but it does mean that they liked it and would like to play it with the rest of their team and figure out if it is something that they’d like to do. More on this in the next few posts.
  2. We started a relationship with ThinkFun which seems like a really good fit for many games that Sen and I make. I am positive that this relationship will be very beneficial for all of us, even if they don’t pick up any of our games!
  3. We pitched to Hasbro! This was wild and I’ll go into more details in another post – but this is huge!
  4. Relationships with all publishers continue to improve and I feel like I could call some of them friends – not just business acquaintances.
  5. I got to really hang out with other designers – and just play games with them all week! Get ready for some name-dropping:
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Me (left) and William Attia

William Attia, designer of Caylus: he taught us his new game, Spyrium (which is fantastic) and then we ended up playing a few other games together throughout the week like Enigma.

Stephen Glenn, designer of Balloon Cup: had an interesting conversation with him about the differences between Balloon Cup and the new re-do of that game called Pinata

Me and Vlaada!

Me and Vlaada!

Greg Daigle, designer of Hawaii: had a conversation with him and learned that he is officially Canadian so we invited him to become a member of the Game Artisans of Canada.

Vlaada Chvatil, designer of Galaxy Trucker and Dungeon Lords: I played many games with Vlaada – like Coup (when he says he’s the Captain – believe him!) and Hanabi (super interesting game).

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tollman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Me (left), Chris Handy, Matt Tolman, Vlaada Chvatil, Daryl Andrews

Chris Handy, designer of the new Rio Grande game, Cinque Terre. I sat in on some of Chris’s pitches to publishers and he sat in on some of mine. He’s a good wing man!

Other designers at the Gathering that I met: Kevin Wilson, Matt Tolman, Gavan Brown,Tom Lehman,Al Leduc, Roberta Taylor, Rob…uh, and Alan Moon!!!

In the next few posts I’ll review the details of how the pitch sessions went with each publisher (though we did sign a couple NDAs, so we’ll have to be a bit less transparent than normal).

-Jay Cormier