Friday, August 30, 2013

T - minus 3 hours... headed to Strategicon!

I don't know how or why this happens, but as usual I'm awake mere hours before I have to get up and leave for a convention. This time I'm driving (or riding) to L.A. for Strategicon - mostly because I never got around to buying plane tickets, and now they're ridiculously expensive.

But after the 22 hour drive to Indiana, this 8 hour trip to L.A. should be no big deal :)

I have been so overwhelmingly busy leading up to this convention that I have done no preparation for it whatsoever. No plane tickets, no pre-registration, no scheduling of games... I was pretty close to deciding to just not go. But I'll be there, and I spent all day today preparing some prototypes to take with me.

I'll be bringing 8 prototypes - 9 if you include new Heroes for Dungeon Roll:

Captains of Industry, and City Hall, by Michael Keller
Two great economic games, both coming soon from TMG. Watch for a Kickstarter for these two in about a week!

Scoville, by Ed Marriott
A 2014 release from TMG about breeding peppers :) Cross primary colored peppers to get secondary colored peppers, and cross those to get even better peppers. Fulfill orders and complete recipes to score. So far just about everyone I've played this with has loved it. Watch for a Kickstarter project for Scoville this November (to coincide with BGG.con).

Battlecruiser, by Philip DuBerry
A quick card game, reminiscent of Libertalia, but much simpler and quicker (and therefore I like it better).

Rockin' Roll (in house TMG production)
A follow up to the very successful Dungeon Roll. If things go well we should have a Kickstarter project for this around the end of the year, and hope to deliver in time to debut the game at Gen Con.

Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages, by Seth Jaffee
The Bluff Auction game. This one is not a TMG game, but it has gotten some foreign publisher interest. However, the publisher has become very busy, so it hasn't moved forward in a while.

Now Boarding, by Timothy Fowers and Seth Jaffee
A cooperative optimization puzzle, which may or may not have some time pressure. I'm having trouble identifying whether players will tolerate a real time game clock.

Eminent Domain: Exotica (and Escalation), by Seth Jaffee
Exotica is just about done, and I'll have my Escalation prototype with me as well. I'll also have the color proofs for Escalation (and Belfort: the Expansion Expansion) to wave around.

Dungeon Roll: Legends Booster and Holiday Heroes
We're working on the next Hero booster pack for Dungeon Roll - Legends. These heroes are more powerful than the original heroes, so they don't level up. These are first drafts, so they're not done yet, but they will likely have flavor and story text on the back, as well as some personal achievements a player can try to accomplish with them.

We've also got a holiday promo planned, with some holiday themed heroes such as Klaus, Saint of the North (Santa Clause!). I have these heroes (also first draft) in case anybody wants to give them a try.

So if you're at Strategicon this weekend, come by and say "hi!" I'll be in the boardgaming ballroom pretty much the whole time. Hopefully I can score a table and just set up all these games to teach to whoever wants to try them.

I'm also hoping to play some games that I didn't have a hand in. I played 1/2 a game of Spyrium at Gen Con (the only published title I even looked at all weekend) and I wouldn't mind playing a full game of that. I haven't played much Hanabi in a while. I picked up The Scoundrels of Skullport expansion to Lords of Waterdeep, but haven't tried it yet. I'm sure there's some other stuff I've been missing out on recently as well.

Ok, maybe there's time for a REM cycle or two before I have to leave. See you in L.A.!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Holy GenCon, Batman!

A little thing called Gen Con happened last week, and I thought maybe people would like to hear about my experience - nay, my adventure in Indiana this year.

I've been to Gen Con twice, the last two years. In 2011 we had a booth, and it was our first time at a big con as a vendor. It was pretty wild, and we didn't know what to expect. We did decently well, and I remember looking across our table and seeing all the titles we had, and thinking that while not all games are for everybody, each of the TMG titles, for its category or genre, is really top of the line. I was proud of that.

In 2012, TMG products were for sale in the Game Salute booth, which gave me a lot more time to experience the con. I played a lot more games, and I met a lot more people. On the down side, with the TMG products sort of buried in the Game Salute booth, I don't think it was a great financial success.

This year we went back to having our own booth. In fact, this year Michael went BIG. We had a 20'x20' space, with 6 or 8 demo stations set up to show our new dice game Dungeon Roll. We had a table (or 2) full of other games (Belfort, Kings of Air and Steam, Ground Floor, Skyline, Martian Dice, Rialto, Village, Village Inn, Il Vecchio, Magnam Sal, and Alba Longa) which ended up selling out, but we focused the demos on Dungeon Roll, as it's much easier and quicker to demo. It turns out that having people commit to sitting down for a full demo of a eurogame is a hard sell, and it's terribly inefficient. Games like Dungeon Roll are much better to demo (at a standing table) as it's quick, easy to demo, and almost every time leads to a sale.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

On Friday August 9th I flew to Utah, where Michael has moved. He picked me up at the airport and I got to see his new house (which is gorgeous!). Saturday we went disc golfing, and then packed some things into Mike's truck - only to find that the volume of stuff to pack exceeded the volume of space in the truck! Somehow we fit almost everything in, and we only had to leave behind 1 box of folding chairs, and instead of a 6' table we brought a square card table. As it turned out, we could have left behind more chairs and that table, we didn't end up using them.

Sunday we headed out on our +/-22 hour drive. This would be the longest road trip I've ever been on, and it was just me and Michael in the car. I wasn't sure how well this would go... We drove about 14 hours on Sunday, and it went surprisingly well! We didn't get board, we didn't get on each other's nerves, and we made great progress! We also saw an awful lot of corn on the side of the road :)

Monday we finished out our trip with about 9 more hours of driving, and by the end of that I think we were both ready to be done driving. Luckily we got to our hotel around then :)

Tuesday we had some work to do. It costs a fortune to use the unionized company to bring your pruduct in for you, so our product had been shipped to a warehouse, and we had booked a Uhaul with which to get it to the convention center. We picked up the Uhaul and brought it to the warehouse without any problems, but it was a challenge to get 5 pallets of product into the truck. It wouldn't fit! So we put 3 pallets in, and then we un-palletized the other 2 and placed the boxes into the truck by hand. We got a loading dock without hassle, but of course the Uhaul isn't the same height as the trucks they build the docks for, so rather than using a pallet jack or anything, we had to break open our pallets and take the boxes out of the truck by hand and bring it to our booth space.I took a photo of our booth after Tuesday's efforts...

Wednesday we had some help, as our demo team - a handful of college students organized by Chris Schreiber, as well as some other friends of TMG arrived and helped finish putting together the TMG booth. Here's what it looked like after Wednesday's efforts. Here's our booth, ready for the onslaught!

One thing I was kind of excited about was the idea of having a giant Dunegon Roll box in our booth. Here's a pic of the oversized treasure chest prototype I made as proof of concept:

I got artwork sized properly from the artist (Rob Lundy), and dropped it off at an Office Depot Wednesday morning. I was able to pick it up later that night and assemble it. Here's the final treasure chest, full of treasure (Dungeon Roll boosters) as it appeared in our booth. I think it came out great!

I was really impressed with our booth setup, and we got a few compliments over the course of the con as well. Tuesday and Wednesday were tough, and we didn't eat or rest until dinnertime... but fortunately I managed to eat better over the rest of the week.

Thursday morning the floodgates opened, and we were non-stop demoing all day long. our booth was very popular, and we were helping as many customers and fans as we could. Really, that pace didn't let up all weekend. We sold a lot of games, and had several podcasters come by and talk to me and Chris Darden, designer of Dungeon Roll.

Saturday I had an appointment with BGGtv, and recorded 3 sessions, showing off Dungeon Roll, Village Inn, and some upcoming TMG stuff that's not out yet. I haven't seen the video yet, so I'm interested to see how I did!

After hours I spent a lot of time with some friends: Andy Van Zandt and Oliver Kutnik who I spent most of Protospiel with last month, and Ken Gruhl and Quinten, who I've met at previous Prototspiel events. I also attended a Designer - Publisher Speed Dating event where designers set up their games on tables, and publishers would sit for a 5 minute pitch. Then a bell would ring and the publishers would move to the next table. It was an interesting event, but really long. I was there for about 4 hours, during which time I heard about 40 pitches. Of those, maybe 5 or 6 were interesting to me, and even those weren't all TMG material. I don't want to say it was a waste of time, because I think it was actually a really good event, especially for the designers... but I'm not sure it's as valuable to a publisher/scout. James Matthe put the event together, and he was talking about improvements for the next time, which included a shorter timeframe.

Congrats to James for putting together that event, as well as a Designer/Publisher meet and greet!

I didn't get to play any published games, except 1/2 a game of Spyrium demo at Asmodee's booth. But I did see a number of games from Ken and Quinten that were fun little fast games, as well as some of Andy's stuff (which I'd seen before). I also showed those guys a few things I'm working on and got some good comments on those.

I didn't manage to meet Bruno Cathala, but I did have a couple chats with Antoine Bauza, who I met last September at Strategicon in L.A. He's a great guy, and right now he's very popular as a designer, after 7 Wonders won the KSdJ in 2012 and Hanabi won the SdJ in 2013! Speaking of Hanabi, I only briefly saw Nyomi and Sean, who I met playing a 12 hour Hanabi marathon last Gen Con. they met that day, and got married a couple of months ago! I wanted to introduce them to Antoine, but we couldn't find him at the time.

Finally, the convention wound down on Sunday, and of course there were things I didn't get a chance to do. Michael, Chris and I retired to our hotel to relax, and the next morning we would pack up and head out on our 2-day drive back to Utah. One good thing about these 2-day trips is that they provide good "forced meeting" time, where Michael and I were able to go over quite a few things for TMG, from scheduling, to strategy, to game design. Again, the trip back was much easier than I expected, and we were able to get all the way home without getting on each other's nerves or at each other's throats!

Tuesday night at Michael's house I signed a bunch of posters for Dungeon Roll kickstarters - those posters look awesome! Wednesday I headed out to the airport and flew home, and I've spent the entire rest of the week catching up on emails and things that I hadn't been able to do while we were at Gen Con.

So that's basically how my last 2 weeks have gone... what have you been up to? :)