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Prepping for Spiel 2015 and How You Can Help

W. Eric Martin
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Now that the Spiel des Jahres winner has been announced for 2015, I can move on to "alle die Spiele des Jahres" — all the games of the year, more specifically, everything that will be dropping on us like a ton of brick-filled boxes in three months at Spiel 2015.

I actually started BGG's Spiel 2015 Preview before Spiel 2014 even opened. One publisher let me know that a game had been moved back a calendar year, and rather than attempt to remember that small detail for twelve months, I opened a GeekList and made it the first entry. So far I'm up to eighty entries without trying too hard, and I've just sent out a Spiel 2015 request email to roughly one hundred publishers that featured wares at Spiel 2014. Their responses will be incorporated into the Spiel 2015 Preview along with whatever other information I ran across in the next four weeks, and it will go live on Monday, August 3, 2015 — the day after the lights go off at Gen Con 2015. One con at a time, boys and girls...

If you're a designer or publisher that plans to sell or demo one or more games at Spiel 2015 and you haven't heard from me, please check out the form letter below and respond to me by email at the address in the BGG News header. Here's the pitch:

•••


I'm assembling a Spiel 2015 Preview on BoardGameGeek that will debut on August 3, 2015, and I want to include your company on this list! To do that, I need to know:

• Your booth number at Spiel 2015 (e.g., 2-M112)
• Games that you will debut at that show
• Other games released in the months prior to Spiel 2015 that will be available there
• Games that you will preview at Spiel 2015 ahead of a future release date (along with the anticipated release dates of those games)
• Prices (and discounted convention prices if any) for the games you will sell

Please respond by Monday, July 27, 2015 if you want your games to be included in the Spiel 2015 Preview when it first goes live. (If you don't have information and images ready by that date, please send that material to me whenever you do have it. I'll be adding titles to the Spiel 2015 Preview through Sept. 30. Flat cover images work best in the BGG database; an image of all of the game components is also useful.)

If your games aren't already listed on BGG, details on how to submit them, designers and publishers to the BGG database are here. If the games aren't listed in the BGG database, I can't link to them in the Spiel 2015 Preview — and if you're not listed in the Preview, then we can't schedule time with you in the BGG booth to broadcast and record demonstrations of your games!

For reference as to how the game listings will look, you can check out BGG's Spiel 2014 Preview.

In addition to creating the Spiel 2015 Preview, I also edit and do most of the writing for BGG News, which includes a section of written and video-recorded game previews. If you're interested in having games featured in BGG News (and on BGG's Twitter feed) prior to Spiel 2015, you can ask me about my publication schedule.

I also publish designer diaries about forthcoming games on BGG News. These diaries are a great way to share a game's origin story, and I typically hear from many designers and publishers with stories to tell prior to Spiel. If you're interested in scheduling the publication of a diary on BGG News, please let me know, and the sooner, the better because I won't have space for everyone!

These diaries should present the personal story of a game or designer, not just the marketing highlights of the title in question. Here's one great example of such a diary, paired with my video overview of the game in question.

•••


Even if you're not a designer or publisher, I'd love for you to help assemble this big mess of information into a coherent form. Thus, I ask that you subscribe to this GeekList — Add These Games to the BGG Database! — and help in one of two ways:

1. If you run across a designer or publisher who states that a game will appear at Spiel 2015 — and that company is new in 2015 or not a Spiel 2014 attendee — drop a note on that GeekList with a link to wherever you saw that information and I'll follow up on it. (If you're not sure whether the publisher is new or the information unknown, drop it on the GeekList anyway. Better that I see something a few times than not see it at all.

2. Some publishers — e.g. KOSMOS, Ravensburger, and AMIGO — reveal lots of Spiel 2015 information all at once, and while I'd love to be able to get everything in the BGG database myself, time doesn't allow it. When I run across such data dumps, I might post an overview of the situation on that GeekList and see whether someone else wants to take charge of inputting that information. If so, you'll receive my gratitude and a GeekGold bounty.

I'm steeling myself for this three month marathon — with Gen Con 2015 taking place in the middle of it, of course! — and hope that I can put together all of the game details that you want to know about.

In closing, I present a picture of a cat in a box:

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Tue Jul 7, 2015 6:00 am
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Introducing BGG's Gen Con 2015 Preview

W. Eric Martin
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The day after the 2015 Origins Game Fair ended, I contacted dozens of publishers scheduled to show their wares at Gen Con 2015, which takes place July 30 to August 2, and asked them to send me whatever information they had about games that they'd be showing off at that convention.

A week later, I'm still trying to get caught up with all of the messages I received. At this point BGG's Gen Con 2015 Preview contains 185 listings — with many of those listings representing multiple similar items, such as the Wave 1 ships for Star Wars: Armada — and while I'd prefer to clear my in-box completely before pushing this preview public, it's time to get it out the door and share it with all of you.

Note that if you've already emailed me information about what you'll have at Gen Con 2015, I likely still have that message in my in-box and will add that information to this preview in the days ahead. This week we'll also start reaching out to publishers to schedule game demonstrations in the BGG booth at Gen Con 2015, demonstrations that we livestream during the show for those who must unfortunately participate in Gen Can't (which is cheaper to attend and easier to find a parking space for, while admittedly lacking a certain frission that comes with being surrounded by thousands of other gamers). If you plan to have new games at Gen Con 2015 but haven't sent me details on what you'll have, grab my email address out of the BGG News header and drop me a note.
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Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:01 pm
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Origins 2015 Round-up: News and Pictures from the Convention Floor

W. Eric Martin
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I've posted previews of a few upcoming titles that I saw and played at the 2015 Origins Game FairEpic, Tides of Time, and Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot — and I have more games to preview in the near future, but for now let's round up my news-related tweets from the convention so that I can call it a wrap on 2015 Origins coverage. (I can also update the database with release dates, images, etc. So much gets thrown into the ether, never to be seen again!)













Ian Estrin at Stone Blade Entertainment mentioned that the company will likely produce retail versions of various Ascension promo cards in the future, but instead of releasing individual theme packs, as with Ascension: Rat King, it will release a larger boxed set, perhaps in the realm of fifty-ish cards. This format will be easier for retailers to handle and keep in inventory.













Why release a less-expensive version of the same game? First, if this version of Flick 'em Up! does appear, it probably won't be released for at least a year, which is why I referred to it as a paperback edition. Second, Pretzel Games and parent company F2Z Entertainment aren't sure which potential licensors, if any, are interested in carrying their own version of a $70 MSRP all-wood game. Thus, F2Z is considering a more affordable version of the game, feeling that might be more attractive to some potential partners.

(In June 2015, F2Z brand Filosofia Édition did something similar with Tragedy Looper, polling users as to whether they wanted the original manga cover or a more Western-looking cover. The original version won.)















































































































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Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:00 pm
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Looking Ahead to Gen Con 2015 — Send Me Your Info!

W. Eric Martin
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The 2015 Origins Game Fair is over. I've tweeted lots of pics and notes from the show on BGG's Twitter account, and I'll round up the most newsworthy of them in a separate post.

For now, though, I'm looking ahead to Gen Con 2015, which runs July 30 to August 2, which means the con opens in just over seven weeks, which means it's time for designers and publishers to submit details of what they'll have. I've already been compiling BGG's Gen Con 2015 Preview, but it's far from complete at this point. If you're a designer or publisher who will be selling or demonstrating new or upcoming games at Gen Con 2015, please email me (wericmartin AT gmail.com) the following details:

• Your booth number
• Games that you will debut at Gen Con 2015
• Games released since April 2015 that will be available at Gen Con 2015
• Games that you will preview ahead of a future release date (and their anticipated release dates)

Please include "Gen Con 2015" in the subject line, and note that the convention is titled "Gen Con" with a space. If possible, please return this list to me by the end of Thursday, June 12 so that your games will be included in the Gen Con 2015 Preview when it goes live on Monday, June 15. You're welcome to include prices (and discounted convention prices) in your list.

If your games aren't already listed on BGG, details on how to submit them, designers and publishers to the BGG database are here. After all, if the games aren't listed in the BGG database, I can't link to them in the Gen Con 2015 Preview!

I already have copies of a few titles that will officially debut at Gen Con 2015 — Tides of Time, Flick 'em Up!, Bad Beets, Cthulhu Realms (which I need to enter in the db) — and will be previewing those games in this space in the weeks ahead. You're welcome to contact me about previewing your Gen Con 2015 debut, and I'll see what's possible in the time that remains before tens of thousands of people descend on Indianapolis for the self-described "best four days in gaming".
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Mon Jun 8, 2015 2:26 pm
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Coverage of Origins Game Fair 2015

W. Eric Martin
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If you're reading this post, then the 2015 Origins Game Fair has opened on Thursday, June 4, and I'm on site to investigate newly released and upcoming games for coverage on BGG News.

To start with, I'll be tweeting news, notes and images through BGG's Twitter account on Thursday and Friday, after which I'll compile those posts into one of those tweet round-ups that some people hate with a passion. If you're one of those people, sorry! If you're not one of those people, try to convince those other guys not to get so riled up!
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Thu Jun 4, 2015 3:00 pm
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Tokyo Game Market • May 2015 II: Games Seen, Games Played, Games Photographed

W. Eric Martin
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Nearly a month after Tokyo Game Market in May 2015, I feel like I'm still recovering. So much to think about, so much to recall, so much to play! Not to mention, of course, that one convention (TGM) crashes into the next (Origins Game Fair), which crashes into the next (Gen Con), and everything starts blurring together — which isn't a bad thing, what with all sorts of wild gaming experiences covering your days like a token-studded rainbow of playful excessiveness, but one does sometimes fall behind on conveying such experiences to others. Thus, the lateness of this report.



Signs inside Big Sight for TGM, with gamers queueing on the ground long before it opens


•••


Let's start with a video walkthrough of Tokyo Game Market before the event opened. Thanks to convention owner Arclight and the press badge given to me, I entered the show at 8:30 a.m. and had time to walk the area prior to the floor being flooded with eager buyers.

Well, first things first, I stopped by the Pen and Dice to drop off 1,800 dice to designer Roy Nambu for use in his Yin-yang Dice. My suitcase was empty on the way to Tokyo and someone who knew I was headed to Tokyo asked a favor for Roy due to the high cost of shipping to Japan, so I ordered and loaded twenty pounds of dice in my suitcase. As a result, the first sale at TGM was likely me getting reimbursed for these dice!




After that, I stashed my suitcase at the Taiwan Boardgame Design stand (thanks again, Smoox!), then started filming. Many of the tables were still empty in the morning as set-up for these stands takes far less time than it does in Indy or Essen. In many cases people show up, tape a sign on the table, stack the games on the table, then wait.

The end of the video shows gamers flooding through the doors after the 10:00 opening. Anyone who's waited at Gen Con or Spiel knows what that sensation is like!




•••


I went to Tokyo Game Market for two reasons:

1. I love almost all of the games that I've played from Japan, and even when the games themselves aren't the best, I enjoy the experience of learning and playing them because they feel different from the games that I normally play. Part of that difference comes from the graphic design of the games — the wider variety of settings and artistic styles used in these games — and part of it comes from the designs themselves, with me sometimes not having a clue as to how something will play out after reading the rules. Only the experience of actually playing the thing, and usually playing multiple times, lets me discover what it is. I enjoy the exploration process that new games invite, the process of meeting a game halfway so to speak — something that I've written about previously — so I wanted to see firsthand what was available at TGM and pick up titles that I might otherwise never see.

2. I was pitching designers and publishers on the idea of selling their games through the BGG Store. If you're a fan of Japanese games the way that I am, you know that it can be tough to navigate designer and retailer sites to find particular titles, that adding postage for multiple shipments of games can add up quickly, and that titles at conventions like Spiel sell out quickly, often to never be seen again. We can't solve all of those issues by selling Japanese games through the BGG Store, but we can possibly ease those problems by acting as a quasi-distributor, bringing together a variety of games in one location and allowing potential fans to find them more easily.

This approach has a number of potential roadblocks, with the biggest one being that it runs contrary to the normal practice of these designers. They produce a small print run, sell out, then maybe print more down the road. Because the print runs are small, their margins aren't conducive to wholesale discounts and they don't have much "extra" stock for wholesaling anyway. The language barrier is also an issue since I don't speak Japanese and most of them don't speak English. Ken Shoda was a huge help at TGM, expanding upon the Japanese/English flyer I had created and (with a lot of back-and-forth with me) answering many questions from publishers as to how this set-up might work.

We've made some progress in this outreach to Japanese designers and publishers and will start selling a few titles from Oink Games in the Geek Store in June 2015. Ideally other titles will come in the months ahead, but we'll see. Any Japanese designers or publishers interested in participating in this program can contact me at the email address in the BGG News header.

•••


Game Market lasts only seven hours, and between the time I spent picking up games (more on that later), pitching publishers on the Geek Store, and posing for photos with BGG fans (I'm still embarrassed by such requests but pleased BGG does have a presence in Japan), I managed to take photos of a small sampling of the games being demoed and sold:


Baaattle Sheep artist Clara Chang and designer Smoox Chen






Castle Crush! and DaDaocheng designer Tsai Huei-Chiang



Cat Box — TBD had best have 1,000 copies of that player mat at Spiel 2015!



Dorasure, which had two new expansions released in 2015



Origin of Failing Water, an odd trick-taking game in a 2014 edition from Game Field



Kigi being demonstrated on a looped video at the Game Field stand



Bolt Action, which isn't Japanese but which was being played



Wow!Werewolf, one of many Werewolf games at the show



I don't know — sorry!



A majority game, I believe, with players taking turns drawing a bead & placing it in a tube;
I observed, but didn't ask for rule details as we were waiting for a table to clear



Fairy Tale and a Japanese-only expansion pack


I'll interrupt for a minute to note that Fairy Tale will always have a soft spot in my heart, not because of the gameplay (which is quite good) but because of how I encountered it. I was a freelance writer in the early 2000s and had sold GAMES Magazine on an article about Spiel, mostly so that I would have an excuse to travel to Essen on a tax-deductible basis in order to discover this show firsthand.

At Spiel 2004, I encountered the Lamont brothers in their first sales effort (for Leapfrog), tried Louis XIV in prototype form, bought far too many used games, and (of course) discovered Yuhodo's Fairy Tale, which was taught to me and three French gamers by a German who would ask clarifying questions of the designer in Japanese while waiting for one of the three French gamers to explain the game to his friends in French. Encountering that language bouillabaisse was enlightening and one of my favorite gaming memories of all time, with people doing what they needed to do in order for everyone to play together at the same table and have fun.



Yuhodo's Valkyrie Strike, a Japanese-only deck-builder



Poster showing off the cards in Valkyrie Strike and making me further regret not knowing Japanese



Guys playing a traditional card game who cheered and posed when they saw the BGG jersey



Blowin' in the Wind — that's all I know about this one



Designer Chen Po-Chiao demonstrating Wok on Fire!, with players flipping ingredient cards w/ their spatula


I wish that I had taken way more pictures than I did, but I got busy with other things, alas. I wish for a lot of things.


•••


Aside from everything else mentioned above, I managed to play a few games, too. Unglaublich! I already covered Mangrove in my first TGM report, but I also played the Saien title Neos, a hand management game in which you try to create lines and match colors across your played cards in order to score points.




We also ran through a round of Zittia, an older Saien release not in the BGG database yet that I described previously as looking like "a pile of trash". In the game, you either take an item from the pile and place it somewhere on the "bidding bag" (thereby passing the turn to the next player) or you challenge the person before you to handle everything that they've passed to you.




In more detail, when you place an item on the bag, you're indicating specifically how this item must be handled: the gray foam cylinder must be placed between the index and middle fingers, the plastic lips must be placed on your thumb, the hamburger must be balanced on the back of your hand, the plastic pig must be balanced on that hamburger, and so on. The trick is that not only must you put all of this stuff on, in, through and around your hand, but you must pick up a thick wooden dowel while doing so and stand that dowel on end.

Once you think that the task can't be done, you don't add another item to the pile, but challenge the previous player. Everyone else then bets on whether the player can complete the challenge or not, then players score based on the outcome.



Hiroaki Nakanishi from Saien on the verge of failure


One interesting aspect to this design is that it grew out of the ¥500 challenge presented to Japanese designers in (I believe) 2012. Saien was wondering what it could produce for ¥500 (approx. US$5), and it hit upon using detritus from previous game productions and whatever they could find that would fit within the price limit. As Mark Rosewater is fond of saying, "Restrictions breed creativity."

We also played the Saien game Hau La, which Japon Brand brought to Spiel in 2010. In this game, each player has a bunch of foam pieces of different lengths with holes in them, and you take turns adding one piece to the central structure each round, then placing your personal marker on that piece, trying to be higher up in the structure than others so that you can take the one bonus piece each round and add that.




While the piece you place can't touch other pieces in order for the move to be valid, nothing stops you from twisting the structure around and distorting what others have done on previous turns. Thought you were on top? Yoink! Now your piece is scraping on the underside of other ones, a lowly remora that can barely see my porpoise leaping high in the air.


Blue edges out orange for the win


One non-Saien game we played was Board Liner, the name of which I know only because I remembered to include part of the rulesheet in the image that I took. Sometimes I'm clever. In this two- and three-player game, each player gets multiple sets of tokens and you take turns placing them on the board, trying to block others from placing so that they'll be forced to introduce one of their other sets of tokens or the neutral set placed on the side at the start of the game. If you can't place a piece on your turn, you're out; whoever places last in the game wins.

One key placement rule: You can never occupy the fourth space in a 2x2 square. It was a clever and simple abstract strategy game that reminded me of others, although I'm blanking on exactly which games right now. One of the hazards of becoming older...




•••


Okay, I had intended to wrap up everything in this second report, but I kept adding picture after picture and realizing that I should split my day after TGM into a separate post. Look for part three to come in less time than the distance between parts one and two. I swear! To close for now, here's a pic of what I brought home from the May 2015 Tokyo Game Market:


I now have a few (more) things to play...
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Mon Jun 1, 2015 10:25 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2015 Preview — Now Live

W. Eric Martin
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The Origins Game Fair 2015 Preview is now live on BoardGameGeek, just over two weeks before the convention itself opens on June 3, 2015. Close timing!

The preview currently lists just over one hundred items, with other items being hidden in the publisher listings for one reason or another. You'll note that many of the game listings are for prototypes that will be crowdfunded at some point, and that's not surprising given that Origins is far cheaper than Gen Con for the aspiring publisher-to-be, so if you want to put something new in front of gamers, you're risking less by showing up in Columbus, Ohio ahead of the rush of gamers to Gen Con in Indy.

If you plan to attend the convention to sell or demonstrate a new game that's not listed in this preview, please contact me via email through the address in the BGG News header. I'll be at the show for a couple of days to take pics, check out new and upcoming games, record a video or two, and otherwise make a nuisance of myself.
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Mon May 18, 2015 9:38 pm
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Tokyo Game Market • May 2015 I: No Rest for the Restless

W. Eric Martin
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Whenever I visit a large city, especially one outside the United States, I want to walk it. I want to absorb all that I can about the landscape around me, not launching myself from one tourist site to the next but seeing all that lies in between, too, spotting every little difference from what I think of as familiar and natural to rediscover (yet again) that the familiar is familiar only because that's what you've chosen to surround yourself with, sometimes without ever knowing anything else.

This yen gets me in trouble on occasion, such as when my wife and her then best friend were ready to throw me in the Seine after hours on the streets of Paris, with me convincing them to keep walking by making claims that in practice turned out to be not true: "You can see the Arc de Triomphe right there! Just a bit farther..."

Even though I was in Tokyo for fewer than three days to visit Game Market, I indulged this desire as much as I could, walking an hour to a dinner gathering on the Monday evening I arrived, then again early the next morning on the way to Big Sight, the location where Game Market is held, although I grabbed the subway halfway there as I was encumbered with 1,800 dice as a favor to a Japanese designer and wanted to ensure that I could pick up my ticket early in order to record some of the show before it became covered by swarms of gamers.


Big Sight


The strange thing was that the more I saw of Tokyo, the more it reminded me of Utrecht in the Netherlands, where I lived for six months in the mid-1990s: the brick sidewalks, the tiny cars, the bicycle paths, the trim gardens sandwiched between canalish rivers and industrial-looking apartment buildings, the efficient use of every space imaginable due to space being at a premium, the countryside outside the city being divided into rectangular fields by irrigation ditches and narrow paths for farming vehicles. The land where Big Sight is located was land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, much as the Dutch have carefully managed the creation of one-quarter of their country from the North Sea. I even saw a windmill on the train to Narita Airport, so I'm not sure what other proof I need.

The most delightful thing about walking Tokyo is the layering of decades and centuries in nearly everything around you, like a canvas that's been worked on by generations of artists, with all of their work being visible to some degree. You take it in and marvel at the history that accretes like sand, embedding itself in everything, then (mostly) washing away the next morning and leaving you only with memories.



Gaming Buffet

I tend to approach game conventions the way that I do cities, trying to survey as much as I can to absorb the big picture, to see all that exists so that I can report on it for you, gentle reader, and answer your questions about this or that, but also so that I can try to grasp the breadth of creation. In the work that I do on BGG News, I endeavor to offer as wide a sampling as possible of the games being created, hamstrung though I am by personal weaknesses (e.g., next to no knowledge of wargames) and the harsh whip of Mistress Time.

That effort is sorely tested at game conventions. With every year that passes, and despite me knowing better, I'm still surprised by the number of games that come into creation and disappointed that I can't spend more time familiarizing myself with them. Each year at Spiel, I spend five days surveying the stalls, talking with designers, trying out prototypes of future game releases — and still come away with the feeling of having missed dozens of potential treasures.

The May 2015 Game Market turned out to be worse in this regard, with 365 exhibitors displaying hundreds of games, many in quantities of a few dozen, and everything happening in the space of seven hours. Everywhere you looked, something new and intriguing awaited, with the additional complication for some attendees — such as yours truly — that I could not read the text on most boxes, cards and rulebooks, leaving me to stare at the games as if they were Rongorongo tablets and I could possibly puzzle out their meaning if only I worked at it long enough.

The majority of releases at Game Market are card games of some type, partly because they're small and therefore can be displayed more easily at the minuscule stalls available for exhibitors and partly because they're easy to produce compared to a game with wooden pawns or punch-out cardboard tokens. Name cards — and the exchanging of them — are a cultural touchstone in Japan, and name card producers can just as easily be game card producers. Publisher Tagami Games, for example, released 原始人の晩餐 (Banquet for Early Humans), a game in an AMIGO Spiele-sized card box jam-packed with 160 half-sized cards.

While we all have some degree of familiarity with cards, designers keep finding new things to put on them or new activities to do with them, new ways to hold them or place them or stack them or throw them. One example of this: Six weeks prior to Game Market, designer Shimpei Sato challenged designers to create a card game that consisted of only two types of cards. You could have different artwork on the cards if desired, but if the artwork had a functional meaning, then you were violating the spirit of the challenge. A number of designers released new creations that fit these guidelines, such as Susumu Kawasaki's bluffingish deduction game 15 ○ 9 ×, just as years ago designers took on the ¥500 challenge — a price ceiling that required designers to think small, with Seiji Kanai's Love Letter being one such result (as detailed here), and with the chance publication of that game by AEG and the subsequent shift within the international industry in terms of what's viable making Love Letter the most important release this decade in my eyes.

(Curiously enough, Sato did not himself release a two-card design, instead selling a new start player die at his stand along with copies of Komodo's Jushimatsu and Nanahoshi. How do you use it? Roll the die and see to whom the triangle points. If you're stuck on deciding which game to play, roll it to determine a genre.)



Afternoon Delight

Certainly not all of the new releases from Game Market will be welcomed by everyone. Here's another werewolf spinoff, for example, or another bluffing game that recalls so many of its predecessors, or another game featuring cute manga girls who want to be pop stars. We all have topics and types of games that we can't stand or that we've just seen enough of for our tastes — yet here are still more of them for those fans who can't get enough, who want to see what creative take this particular designer might have on something familiar. What layers have you added to the past this time?


You look around the room at the hundreds of creations, and it's almost unfathomable that this many people have worked this hard to bring evidence of their artistic creativity to the world, to share something of themselves in small quantities that will be seen by 0% of the world population unless you carry out that percentage to eight decimal places — but you just need to start fathoming it because here they are, creating for the sake of creating with most of these publications being produced and sold at terrible margins — sometimes even at a loss — on a per copy basis. In the end, these aren't businesspeople, but artists eager to make a mark with their creations.


Ken Shoda plucks a branch from Mangrove


The designers at Saien, two of the four of whom were at TGM, made the biggest impression on me as I was, and still am, unable to stop thinking about their creations. Trying to express to them the feeling I get from looking at and playing their games, even with the help of gamer and interpreter Ken Shoda, was difficult because I didn't have a good explanation for it myself — but then I hit upon the term "sexy games" and it rang true. When I see their works for the first time, I can't fathom what to do with what they're presenting, yet I can't stop staring because they look so intriguing. The art of their games isn't only in the mechanisms used, but in the graphic design and choice of components — Katteni Shiguyare looks like a pile of children's blocks, Mangrove an office decoration, Hau La a bunch of mutated zipties, Hiyoko Drip a box of Jujubes, Zittia a pile of trash — leaving me dumbstruck by their Duchampian audacity and simultaneously eager to discover whatever the thing actually is.


Another aspect common among Game Market releases is the, shall we say, increased personality in the look of their games, which is likely due to the publisher also being the designer in most cases. You're making the game the exact way that you want it to look, regardless of the costs, so Ouyuuan's Hitohira includes a beautiful printed bag from which you draw the components (which appear to be plastic necklace beads), Power 9 Games' Sheep & Thief has lots of tiny white puffballs for sheep, Kawasaki's ギシンアンキノトウ (Towers of Conspiracy) has odd plastic bits that you plug into the base of a wooden box. The oddness of the components becomes part of the game's charm, something not always accepted in more mainstream publications, as with the potentially roll-y shell bits in Ravensburger's Orongo.


Handmade pottery bits in ダッタカモ文明の謎 (The Mystery of Dattakamo Civilization) from メイカーズポスト


I'll certainly confess to being seduced by the foreignness of the games, by their nature as the "other", with the games featuring a style unfamiliar and exciting to me that Japanese might view as old hat — yet I still believe that these games express stronger personality and a wider range of expression in their artwork and graphic design than can be found in releases from German, American and French publishers, gorgeous as I find all of the French releases to be.

Treasure Hunt

Game Market has grown tremendously from its birth in 2000, both in numbers of attendees, exhibitors and game releases and in its influence on the worldwide market for games. At the May 2015 Game Market, 8,500 people bought an entrance ticket in the form of a game catalog, up from about 7,200 in November 2014 and a far cry from the 400 who showed up for the first Game Market in 2000. The number of exhibitors has grown from approx. 30 in 2000 to 365 in 2015. Game Market started as a once-a-year event, gained a second date in 2010, then a third date in 2012 in Osaka at a show roughly half the size of the one in Tokyo. Ownership of Game Market passed from founder Zyun Kusaba — organizer of the longest-continuing gaming
group in Japan, according to Ken Shoda, with his group having met for more than 1,600 Saturdays(!) — to Japanese publisher Arclight Games in 2010.


Gamers queue in the hall outside the convention at 8:30 a.m.


The slot machine jackpot of Love Letter for Alderac Entertainment, followed a year later by Machi Koro mania, has encouraged non-Japanese publishers such as Tasty Minstrel Games and (Machi Koro licensor) Pandasaurus Games to attend the show in search of titles to publish, with TMG, for example, planning to release Taiwanese publisher Homosapiens Lab's Design Town as Flip City in 2015. (No, Taiwan is not in Japan, but Taiwan Boardgame Design has had a strong presence at Game Market in recent years, and airfare from Taiwan is peanuts compared to flying from the U.S.!)


From left: Chen Chih-Fan, TMG's Michael Mindes, Chen Chien-Tsun, a.k.a. Smoox (link)


French publishers Cocktail Games and Moonster Games were also on hand at TGM as has been the case at many past shows, and Moritz Brunnhofer from German publisher Hans im Glück showed up at TGM for the first time. Japon Brand translator Simon Lindström guided Brunnhofer around for part of the show and wrote about the experience on his blog:

Quote:
I have reasonably fun with King of Frontier, but playing it with Moritz of Hans Im Glück, he pointed out what he found was flaws with the game, and I was quite amazed at his developper ability. I told myself that sure, he should be – he's a pro – but I guess I don't auto-assume that everyone is so skilled at their job. He did like the game though, enough to say that taking a look and developping some parts in it might make it a hit...

After playing KogeKogeDo's The Little Witches and the Mysterious House,] Again, he pointed out the parts he liked, what he didn't like and how to improve them. If I were a game designer, I'd treasure the possibilities of letting him test my games.

From what I've read and from my own experience, thorough development is not something you'll find in huge quantity in most games released at Tokyo Game Market. In most cases the designers are the publishers, and they just have something cool that they want to share, and for most people that differentness is enough.


The line for Stone Garden crossed the width of the convention center


After all, game fans are treasure seekers as much as the publishers are, and they're eager to find and experience that something special. At 10:00 a.m., fans pour through the doors like water from a burst dam in order to queue in front of the New Games Order stand for one of the hundred copies of 枯山水 (Stone Garden) available at the show. This title has received unparalleled publicity in the Japanese mainstream media (for a non-mainstream game), with a celebrity endorsement pushing interest to a fevered pitch. New Games Order is apparently able to create and sell only 100-150 copies per month due to the handmade nature of the rock-like components, something that also pushes the price tag to a relatively astronomical ¥8,200 (approx. US$68), yet with only one hundred copies on hand, gamers paid the price because the only other choice was not to get it at all.


Perhaps not so giant-looking in my hands...


With permission of HABA, Japanese game retailer Sugorokuya had created a giant-sized version of its Rhino Hero that retailed for ¥9,800, and with fewer than twenty copies on hand (out of an entire print run of one hundred) they disappeared into fans' hands in minutes. I initially tweeted that this item retailed for $150, but I think it's closer to $100 — not that it matters since Sugorokuya is sold out for now with more copies due in June 2015 and the owner uncertain as to whether his license allows him to sell the game outside of Japan. Thankfully someone more thoughtful than me did take a picture of this game being played:



Takamagahara's 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations, which was named best new release of the Nov. 2014 Game Market, was in similar short supply. Within fifteen minutes all copies was gone, leaving chumps like me who didn't reserve one out to dry. Along the same lines, only twenty copies of ダイス 木 (Daisuki) had been assembled for the show, so distributor/seller ASOBI.dept had a lottery of sorts, with people queueing, then drawing from a bag to see whether they could purchase a copy. A loser on the draw, I was told that more copies will be available at the November 2015 Game Market. How many copies? We'll just have to wait to find out. (Brandon Bollom did manage to snag a copy of ダイス 木, and he details the game in this BGG blog post.)

Many Game Market publishers take reservations for their titles, but with print runs already being small — 200 copies being one average that I heard for doujin releases, "doujin" meaning something akin to amateur — the number of copies available for reservation is naturally even smaller. Manifest Destiny, for example, took sixty-ish reservations for its biggest release, My Fair Princess, and fewer than forty reservations for its smaller titles. (Unexpectedly Manifest Destiny also had a small English language supply of The Ravens of Thri Sahashri on hand, fewer than twenty copies, and I hadn't seen those announced anywhere beforehand. Yet another aspect of the treasure hunt!) While Manifest Destiny sold a total of 170 copies of My Fair Princess, the print run was in the neighborhood of five hundred copies, and my understanding is that this game will be available for Spiel 2015.

In many ways, this Game Market seems like a springboard for Spiel 2015, at least for some of the "larger", better known publishers at the show. OKAZU Brand was buried behind a stack of Minerva before the doors opened, and everything I've heard indicates that this game will also show in Essen. BakaFire Party had two new games — the real-time puzzle game Reidemiester in which you try to arrange different strings in assigned patterns and the card game Fram Rlyeh, with both titles having English rules and the latter one being a redevelopment of a title from someone other than BakaFire! Good heavens, perhaps this is the future of Game Market, although most likely not.

•••


Okay, I thought that I'd be able to wrap up the entire Tokyo experience in a single report, but I'll write up more about Game Market, as well as trips to Tokyo game stores, in a second post so that I can continue my so-far-failed efforts to rebalance the sleep meter.


What I saw outside Big Sight
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Mon May 11, 2015 5:23 am
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Live-ish Coverage of Tokyo Game Market, May 2015

W. Eric Martin
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I'm headed to Tokyo Game Market in a couple of hours, and while I wish I could say that I'm well-prepared for the show, I have no idea what to expect beyond a whirlwind of hundreds of games being tossed around in the seven hours of the show. I've catalogued a few dozen such games on this TGM May 2015 Preview, but that's a few dozen out of apparently hundreds, and I see that new titles are still being added to the Game Market site. Ideally I won't end up like this tree:



I'm filming for some length of time before the show opens, and thanks to Smoox at TBD I'll be tweeting pics of the games on display through the BGG Twitter account, rounding up some of those images later in this space. So much to see, so little time...
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Convention Preview for Tokyo Game Market • May 2015

W. Eric Martin
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Game Market takes place in Tokyo on May 5, 2015 — two weeks from the date of this post — and BoardGameGeek will have a presence at the show in the form of me running around to grab whatever games I can, struggling to say more in Japanese than numbers and old karate terms that I vaguely recall, talking to designers and publishers when possible (see "struggling..."), taking pictures and video of the booths and people (when allowed) to share the experience with you, fighting off jet lag, and otherwise immersing myself in this fevered one-day event.

For those not familiar with Game Market, I invite you to read this convention report from Simon Lundström about his experience at Tokyo Game Market in November 2014. In short, Game Market takes place three times annually (twice in Tokyo and once in Osaka), and it's a game fair where many designers present their own creations in small quantities that you may or may not ever see again once the fair ends. As Lundström writes, "Some people who check out Japon Brand's booth at Spiel have complained about the games not being available after the fair. Well, Game Market is Japon Brand's booth — only about a hundred times as big."

I've been rereading posts like this one in preparation for my trip, in addition to creating a Tokyo Game Market • May 2015 Preview to track games that I've reserved, games from designers and publishers who might already have a presence outside of Japan, and games that look interesting for one reason or another. My standards for listing games are somewhat ambiguous for this first TGM Preview as I don't know enough to know all that I don't know. (If, by chance, you'll be at TGM with a game to sell, please let me know. Once we get the game in the BGG database, I can then add it to the TGM Preview.)

My enthusiasm over games from Japan might have been a tad apparent to some who read BGG News, especially given all of the preview videos that I do in the run up to Spiel, and I'm incredibly excited to attend Tokyo Game Market and see all that there is to see, especially because I'm not sure when I'll be able to do this again in the future. I look forward to sharing the experience and possibly giving you a head's up as to which games you can expect to see at Spiel or possibly elsewhere!
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Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:02 pm
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