Some of our games went home with two publishers if they didn’t care about exclusivity, so it was smart of us to bring two copies of each game! We are so SMRT! One publisher was doing print and play and Hasbro wanted us to mail him copies afterwards as he didn’t want to carry all of them back with him. So we got rid of all of our prototypes with the exception of Herdables. Boo. And we had just found a way to make the game even better too. The good news is that Huch and Friends likes that game and was interested in publishing it (and gave us the OK to pitch to other publishers at GenCon). So now we will let them know about the recent changes and that might motivate them to publish it!
Well, 10 days of gaming heaven has come and gone! Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is an invite-only gaming event full of gamers, designers and publishers. It’s my favourite 10 days of the year as I get to hang out with friends old and new – and play a bunch of games!
I’ll split this into two posts – one about the games we pitched to publishers and then a second one about the games we played.
Pitching to Publishers
Sen and I are in a bit of a lucky spot since many of our games have been picked up, which means we didn’t have a lot of new game to pitch. This meant that we had more time to work on games that were already signed while we were together. We must have spent at least 3 hours a day working on Godzilla which is due out later this year from Toy Vault.
Our first pitch was to the German publisher, Huch & Friends. Their representative is Britta, who last year took a couple of our games back with her. One was called Herdables and since we didn’t have any other plans for that game, we let her sit on that one all year. Well she brought good news with her as she said that everyone at Huch & Friends likes the game, and they’re now only trying to figure out how to manufacture it. They’re thinking of going with super thick cardboard instead of wooden tokens. Cool by us!
Then we pitched our game called Chrono Chicken. Ok – dumb name…so dumb that we didn’t even tell her the name of the game when we pitched it! It started as a game called Coaster Quest as it used actual drink coasters to play the game. But, as usual, the game changed drastically from its inception and instead of coaster it now used these cool two-dial secret spinners. We played the game – in which players secretly choose a number from one of the tokens on the table – by using their secret dials. She really liked it – and started talking in German with her cohort from Huch & Friends (dang – I forget his name!). They brought out their Huch catalogue and indicated a game that they have coming out later this year called Gum Gum Machine – a steam punk game about gum ball machines. She said that our game might make a good companion to that game – maybe call it Gum Gum Mini! So she agreed to take that game back to assess further.
Then I pitched my first solo design to her. Now, I pitched this game to her last year when it went by the horrendous title, Ingnotus (Latin for unknown). She liked it last year but after assessing it she said that they couldn’t think of a theme for it (I had submitted it as a pure abstract game). So I worked on it this year and I came up with a theme. In doing so the game changed a lot – for the better! It’s now called The Mystery of Mister E (Now that’s a cool title – finally!). We played the game and she liked it a lot more than the previous version. She took that game back as well. Huzzah!
I was able to pitch to Martin from Filosofia / Z-Man, but not our games! Instead I had two games from other Game Artisan designers that I wanted to show him. One was called City Builders: Rome from Andrei Filip – a co-operative Euro game that I only brought the sales sheet for him to see. He was interested and I have connected him with the designer. Then I showed him a quick reaction dice game called Joust from Graeme Jahns. He really thought it was unique and would like to see it again if he could figure out how to get the number of dice moulds down.
We pitched to Zoch again this year, but we didn’t really have anything new! So instead we spent time talking about the kinds of games that Zoch is interested in and he let us know what they’re looking for – which included some IPs! We’re already working on them now!
Hasbro had a new representative and with it he brought a new way of thinking. He’s super interested in meeting with designers as he wants to create a network of designers that he can access when he needs them. He ran down how he wants to work with the Game Artisans of Canada in the future. He was excited to see that we had an organization across Canada as it will allow him to be super efficient. He’s planning on visiting us once or twice a year where only Game Artisans will be able to pitch games to him! Pretty awesome!
We did end up pitching our game, Lions Share to him and he liked it, though we actually came across a game-breaking situation that had never happened before. Dang. Oh well – we know how to easily fix that in the future. Still – good to get in front if him and show him what we have.
We had been working with Ed from Toy Vault all week – either on Godzilla (our upcoming card battle game) or a Naughty version of But Wait There’s More (we learned how to make this work!) – but we finally had some time to pitch our revamped Firefly game to Ed as well. We showed it to him last year and he had some specific feedback so we addressed each of those requests and showed him the new version.
The new version played out much better, but Ed had concerns that the new actions didn’t make it feel like Firefly. Before characters could only move into empty spaces, but now they can swap with other characters – which implies that they’re hiding behind each other and throwing each other into harm’s way. Not very Firefly!
Then as we were packing up, we cam up with a totally new way to play that might allow it to fit with a more wacky license. The game played a lot faster and seemed to work fairly well actually. It was wild – quite the drastic change in gameplay and we managed to make it work. We’re now back to the drawing board with this one to see what theme works best with the mechanics.
There was a new game at the Gathering called Flick ‘Em Up, which is the first game in Z-man’s Pretzel line up. It’s called Pretzel because you can have a pretzel in one hand and still play! It’s a flicking game with cowboys and bad guys and it looks amazing! It comes with 10 scenarios which helps give the game a lot of flavour! We were happy to be asked to contribute a couple of scenarios to this game! Not just because the game is pretty darned cool – but because the second game in the Pretzel line up is one of ours – called Junkyard! That should be coming out next year!
Finally we pitched Zombie Slam to Mercury. We had tweaked it since last year as we had feedback that it was super hard to stay human throughout the game. The new ideas worked a lot better and we had a human survivor win the game! They really seemed to like this game! Mercury is currently working on their first app-assisted game and then their second app-assisted game is actual designed by Sen, Stefan Alexander and me. So this would be their third app-assisted game. We all came up with even more ideas on how the app could work with this game and it got us all pretty excited about it!
I ended the session by pitching a game I designed with Shad Miller called Q-Bot. I knew it wasn’t really the kind of game they publish as it was an abstract game with wooden cubes. They liked it better than last year’s version but that’s about it.
Coincidentally, while we were at the Gathering we also had some phone meetings with Ad Magic who is considering publishing 1-5 of our games in the near future! More to come on that as it’s finalized!
So all in all – an atypically quiet week for us on pitching games. I think it might be like that going forward because now we’re being asked to make specific games by publishers – and that takes time away from new designs. One day we’ll be able to quit our day jobs and focus on game design full time. That’s the goal at least!
Next up I’ll review the games that I played at the Gathering – from new and existing games to upcoming unreleased games from prolific designers!
We’ve had a bunch of people question specific things about how to find a temple in our new game, Akrotiri from Z-Man Games. We’ve answered them all as they came up but it made us think that we should make a quick video with some actual examples! Here they are:
Here’s an interesting look at the development of a game – all through the changes made to the player aid! We’ll take you through the changes we made throughout the development of Akrotiri. There were more iterations of the game than just these because sometimes the player aid wouldn’t change but something else would.
You can read the full story in our Akrotiri Designer Diary Part 1!
OK, let’s get to it!
Our first player aid came about 5 iterations in since we didn’t need them before this point. In this version players could have multiple ships! This stayed in the game for awhile, until we realized that you can move so fast in this game that multiple ships weren’t really needed. We had huts which were a way of claiming islands – but they didn’t have to be located like temples are now – you simply sailed to an island and built a hut!
The market was more of a stock market concept where players could affect the price of each good. It took us awhile to figure out the current market as we were toying with other market mechanics.
Pirates! We had pirates! You could move a pirate ship for an action and it did various things throughout the development…I think they could block you from even moving into a certain area – or they would steal resources from your ship! This version of the game was all about shipping resources – that’s it – so pirates were a way of creating some tension.
This is where we implemented the temples! They started off pretty easy – like “East of 2 Mountains”. Apparently we allowed people to buy a lot of map cards as well! Makes sense that we reduced that to a maximum of 3 in the final game! The market was still a stock market style system.
1) We tried different capacities for shipping. You could upgrade your boat so that it could hold more resources. It’s not a bad idea but meant more components since they’d physically have to actually hold that many resources!
2) You could place a flag on an island! Weird. You got points for flags on contiguous islands – but you couldn’t place a flag on islands with your opponent’s flag. This did add an element of interaction as you’d be racing to get to specific areas before opponents so you wouldn’t be blocked off. Then you were motivated to place your tiles in your area more to make more islands…so by the end it actually did the opposite of interaction since each player was in their own sector of the map.
Things we added that stuck: Gaining more actions based on the number of temples you’ve found. While the number of actions changed through each iteration – the concept stuck! It really motivated people to build temples fast! But once you got one or two – it was tricky timing when you should find a harder temple – and that decision still remains in the game.
Another thing that stuck: Different levels of difficulty for temples. The point values changed a bit, but the fact that we had three levels of difficulty stayed until the final game.
In this iteration we gave bonus points for temples that were built further away from the main island of Santorini (Thera in the final game). The idea is interesting and it made it into the final game but only as goal cards.
Wow – looks like we had a lot of temples in this version! Interesting that the actions go up and then back down. That was our idea of a negative feedback loop (catch-up mechanic) as you had to time it right when you wanted to build those last few temples. Ultimately we found it anti-climactic and had it only increasing in actions.
Another stab at doing the market. This time each player would have a token for each resource and would place it on their own player aid. I can’t remember how players would impact their own market – but since it was individual, it just didn’t work.
You can see some things starting to take fruition – like how to excavate temples. That’s exactly how it is in the final game – except that now you can excavate on any tile, not just the one you placed.
The Worshippers were the same things as the flags in the previous versions. A way to get other points.
This one added back the bonus for finding temples further away from Santorini as well as the flags/worshipper bonus. The star at the end of the Actions track meant the game was over.
The game has now changed from Santorini to Akrotiri! We saw that there was already a game on BGG called Santorini so we changed it to Akrotiri – which is an archaeological dig site on the island of Santorini.
New things in this iteration:
1) Added the pre-turn actions to the player aid: add a tile and place 2 resources.
2) Temples can be found on any island – as long as your boat is there…just like the final game
3) Atlantis! What?! Yeah we added this whole other element of Atlantis. Many people believe that the volcano that erupted that created the island of Santorini also sunk Atlantis! So we thought we’d use that in our game. Basically in this first version of having Atlantis in the game you just used one of your map cards – but you paid 12 gold and it only gave you 3 points – but it ended the game. Atlantis will stick around for a few more iterations…!
1) Pick a role? Yeah we had these different role cards that gave bonuses and made certain things easier. You would choose a new one each turn.
2) The actions are very close to the final version of the game. There’s no oracle yet (that was one of the roles!) and maps cost 2 gold each instead of being able to buy more for one action at a higher price.
3) Game ended when Atlantis was found or one player found 7 temples and 5 gold gave players a point at the end.
This is the version that was first pitched to Z-Man at BGG.con in November 2010. This one had Atlantis still but now you had to find rumours in order to locate Atlantis! Whenever any player every found a temple, they would take a random rumour token and place it face down on top of the temple. Then any other player could go to their island and pay the owner of that temple some gold and get the rumour token. That player would place the rumour token face up on one of the ordinates on their player aid around Atlantis. The rumour token would have terrain icons on them and once you got a rumour token on all 4 ordinates (N,E,W,S) then you had a map to where Atlantis was located! Whew – crazy! Also the Oracle makes an appearance! It even took more actions to use the Oracle the further you were along – which seemed fair!
We also implemented the concept that your actions per turn only increased.
This version had something called Offerings and for the life of me, I can’t recall what that was about! It seems like it was something about rumour tokens. Yeah – you would get more money for each successive rumour that someone bought off of you. This meant players tried to find rumours from players that hadn’t ‘sold’ many yet. We also tweaked how many actions you could get per turn.The end game gave 1 point for each 10 gold – which is how it is in the final game.
OK bye bye Atlantis. Maybe we’ll see you in an expansion one day! We had received feedback from a different publisher that the Atlantis part felt tacked on – which it really was – so we removed it. We added the ability to buy more map cards for one action at a higher price. This is pretty close to the final player aid. We even added the free actions on this one.
The one change that was made after this was to make it a two player game and to add more goal cards to some of the action spaces.
So that’s it! A tour of how a game came to be, as seen through the perspective of the player aid!
It’s a privilege to be reviewed by the oh-so-opinionated reviewers known as Opinionated Gamers! Due to an oversight we actually got two reviews by them – and both reviewers liked the game – huzzah! You can read the whole thing here and the second review here, but here are a few quotes from both reviews that I liked:
“The map building is fun, and there is a lot of thought that needs to be given when placing tiles”
“it does give different viable scoring options”
“Overall, Akrotiri is an enjoyable and challenging 2P game”
“it’s a nice meaty game that I’ve enjoyed playing”
“I find Akrotiri to be a nice relatively meaty two player game”
“I played it once and was favorably impressed”
“It packs a lot of game in a small box”
Thanks for the reviews guys!
Rahdo has established himself as an important voice in the board gaming community. I think it’s because of his passion that comes through in his videos. It’s obvious that he loves board games! Also he produces a lot of content! If you’re thinking about picking up a game, definitely check to see if Rahdo has played it!
His most recent video is about Akrotiri! He does a 30 minute set up and play through of the first couple of rounds. He makes a couple of goofs, but you’ll see annotations popup that will correct them.
Then there’s a video for the rest of the gameplay so you can see the whole game unfold.
Finally, Rahdo gives his final thoughts. Some of my favourite quotes from Rahdo are:
“Jen and I enjoy that a lot”
“This game really works well”
“There’s a surprising amount to think about”
“It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s exciting!”
“The mosaic of this board as it expands is just a delight”
Thanks for the videos Rahdo!!!
Here’s a really polished review of our new game Akrotiri from a site called As A Gamer. The photos alone make it worth checking out as they all look so professional! Please share with us your tips on taking good board game photos!!
Things that stood out to me in the review:
“The game has two basic elements: pick-up and deliver and tile placement. They both seem easy to explain and to understand. And they are. However, this game is a brain burner.”
“The game looks colourful and cheerful and the boats and the temples give this game a bit extra.”
“There’s more in this box than you might think from reading the back or reading the description on BGG.”
“This game really shines. A tactical, thinky, two-player game in a relatively small box that packs a nice punch.”
Thanks for the review!
Here’s hoping more reviews will pop up online soon! For now you can read this review from BGG user, Blue Alien.
This is a bit of an older post, but with Akrotiri now hitting store shelves, we thought we’d run it again. It’s a wonderful review of Akrotiri by the Daily Worker Placement website. Here are some excerpts:
“there’s nothing out there quite like it”
“I can’t stop thinking about it”
“I can’t wait for it to be released later this year, as I’ll be picking up a copy straight away”
“keep the game fresh for a long time to come”
You can read the entire review here. Thanks Adam and The Daily Worker Placement!
That’s right – our hit 2-player game that the entire world* has been waiting for is now available to purchase from Coolstuffinc.com! Soon it will be popping up on all online board game stores – and soon it will be in actual stores around the world!! Pretty exciting – and good timing too, what with Christmas coming up and presents needing to be bought for your game-loving loved ones…!!
Get your copy here and be the first person in your hood to have a copy of the coveted 2-player game from Z-Man Games …. AKROTIRI!!!
*might be a smaller subset of the entire population of the world.