Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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Being positive. Not everyone wants to analyse stuff. Sometimes, let's just share some excitement.

Bez Shahriari
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https://twitter.com/WatchItPlayed/status/1374060010196635653

A few tweets led to a fairly eloquent video from Rodney Smith, above.

Over on Facebook, Dave Salisbury (owner of the excellent Manchester-based shop Fanboy 3) pointed out that sometimes this isn't done to tear folk down. Sometimes it's done because of bad social skills.

Honestly, it took me about 20 years of life before I realised that most people didn't really want negative feedback. It's OK to just say, "I like the thing you made."

I used to feel like giving a 'full review' was the obligation if someone showed me a thing they made. Some positivity, some negativity.

I remember the exact moment I realised this was unnecessary - a friend showed me a digital 3D model of a hand. It was brilliant. I worked incredibly hard to find something to criticise.

I thought that I was being a better friend by doing that, when I should have said something more like, "This is amazing. It basically looks flawless to me. You've worked really hard and you should be proud."

And when it comes to other people's stuff (not our own creations), the same still applies.

Some folk really enjoy pondering something in depth. Analysing the positives and negatives. Designers/developers/reviewers often share this trait.

Some folk just want to have fun and share those joys.

Let people be happy.

Let's focus on the joy and positivity if we can.
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Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:53 pm
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AQs: What do I think of digital cons?

Bez Shahriari
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For me (in maybe chronological order (I'm not double-checking dates) and from a perspective of someone demoing unless stated otherwise):

CONPULSION (a small con to replace an Edinburgh con the week of lockdown)
+ assembled really quickly
+ a nice seminar chat
+ playing a game with a stranger over zoom felt vaguely like demoing a game irl.
+ Made a sale.
- lots of sitting around/downtime

PROTOSPIEL ONLINE
Included though it's not really a typical con.

+ some 'breakout rooms' allowed me to feel connected to a couple of folk. It wasn't JUST playtesting.
+ I appreciated the focus on using video so we would see each other. Many playtesting places don't do this.
- generic tech issues. Reminded me that online stuff can glitch due to connections and can be just as tiring as IRL stuff (or actually MORE tiring for me).

CONDEMIC (by Donald Dennis of OBG and others)
+ played with Scott Nicholson and other folk I'd never have seen irl
- organising games was tricky. Scott has to abandon their game and joined mine. And then I abandoned one of the later things I'd planned.

VIRTUAL GRIDCON
+ playing with a few lovely folk I know
- most of the events were focused on TT/TTS and that doesn't really interest me much


UKGE:
I streamed for about 8hrs/day, with a featured topic (or UKGE chat) in morning, then constant demos after a 30 min break.

+ chatting on a seminar in Twitch, there was great chat
+ Having 3 'main screens' contributed to the above.
+ integration with Twitch/discord allowing publishers to make a pretty page
+ the discord did a decent job of bringing folk together. the 'queue' bit allowed folk to have fun in a very easy way.
- I got fewer folk on my own Twitch than I did during 'Bez Day' streaming. I found it difficult to get folk for stuff. I decided at this point that a single weekend for everyone makes little sense.


TRICON (attendee only):
I tried for a couple of hours to make the tech work but I couldn't. It was literally unusable for me.

SHELFAPALOOZA
+ a fun idea with a bunch of streams raiding each other, so there was a continuous 24-hour/day focus
+ the scavenger hunt by nona
+ a nice discord focus
- I felt like there were again too many things going on for the number of attendees. My event ran, but I know a couple that had to be cancelled.

SHUX (viewer only)
+ great content
+ busy chat in the main stream
- didn't really feel super-special.
- the 'secondary' streams seemed overly quiet.

ESSEN (attendee only):
+ some great streams
- no central hub
- way too expensive (imo) for publishers to be worth it to smaller publishers.

BEZ & FRIENDS GAME DAY (obviously I'm biased...)
+ I feel like focusing on exactly one game and one stream at any one time kinda worked.
+ Having 15 folk all playing one partygame (in Discord), most of whom were on video, actually kinda felt like an 'event'.
- could have been better promoted
- some games would have been better to at least teach/demo online, so that folk who can't use TT could at least see Alan's game played.


MY OVERALL THOUGHTS:
+ being able to have folk typing when others are speaking actually means that Q&A works really smoothly in general
+ if folk are on video, it can really help make it feel like folk are together
+ obviously, it's great to be part of US-based stuff
- I actually want fewer things going on. It actually helps there be 'convening' and meeting of folk over an extended time. I want to 'accidentally' run into the same folk over the course of the event.
- With a con, the popular bit has a max occupancy. You will go try other things and smaller things will be 'stumbled upon'. There is nothing like that sort of 'browsing' here. That's bad from both a pub and an attendee perspective. Any publisher who has an ad at the start of their Twitch, I'm probably not gonna wait 20-30s just to glimpse something I might not want. I think there needs to be a really good 'menu' to show what's going on.
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Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:35 pm
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Dear diary. I'm live-streaming a lot.

Bez Shahriari
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So, recently, I've found any writing a bit more difficult than usual.

Whether it's a blog post, a KS update, or rules for a new ELL game that I really want to share.

I've been doing a lot more live-streaming to compensate. Since Airecon, I've live-streamed games on Tuesday/Thursday evenings (8:10pm UK-time) that folk can either just watch, or join in with.

Stuff like Say Anything, Giftabell, Q for U, or How Much Money. Social party games.

Tuesdays are now about trying/testing new games, whilst Thursdays are about the games we already love.

Since the start of the month, I've bee doing a 'Bezzy Breakfast Boardgame Blether' at 10am UK-time each day. Before, this was around the time I would get up. Now, I am getting up earlier. It's a tiny bit of joy, connecting to folk and having a couple of folk who pop along regularly.

I'm starting to have guests - tomorrow, I'll be chatting to Alan Paull of Surprised Stare Games. Probably about designing, Essen, and other things.

Over the weekend, I'll be chatting to Richard Denning of UKGE/Medusa Games. Probably mainly about the 'Virtually Expo' event.

Anyway, I guess I'm writing this post mainly to let you know I'm still alive. Not great. Not terrible.

To let you know I'm still making stuff and inviting you to watch my livestreams.

And if you want to pose any questions for Alan Paull/Richard Denning then please do so.
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Mon May 18, 2020 1:13 pm
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Quick thoughts on some games that work well via video chat

Bez Shahriari
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In the past 200 hrs, I've run 4 online gaming sessions (via FB live) and attended 2 others (playtest UK, and Monday night, both hosted by Ellie).

Some quick thoughts.

Just One works well. I wasn't ever the guesser, as I had to show the cards whilst the guesser closed their eyes, but I had fun giving clues. I guess I could have possibly 'remembered' where the camera is. Honestly, this is one of the best games for the format imo.

15 words (from The Big Taboo) works well if one person just 'hosts' and PMs people lists of words.

Yogi* works OK, but the purple wildcard idea didn't work as well as I expected. I'd try it with just the basic Yogi deck next time.

RNWs all work OK if folk have printers.

If you don't have the ELL deck, get the PNP version for £1.*
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bybez/categorickell-a-t...

Then I'd suggest:

Phrasell* (works about as well as normal, requires player creativity)
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dm7BYyOzl8NQOXgMeLGRism98KJ...

Faybell* (works almost as well as usual, requires creativity)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=15C4TMflu0bgcr0ruywkzkdLyFH...


Muckell* (RNW edition):
was adapted for the situation in the last week.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/13nTvUkQ4qSM1EpWGZSoBknwSLPZ...

I'll be working on more rando-write games in the next few weeks that don't need printing.


(*Notice of bias.)
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 11:39 am
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Random thoughts before launching a KS

Bez Shahriari
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At the time of writing, I'm planning to launch a KS for CATEGORICKELL tomorrow. I'm aware that the graphic design could be a lot better.

I'll spend the morning drawing some more pictures to put up, but that'll be it.

I'm aware that doing all the art ahead of time and treating the KS page with the same respect I give the actual game would help me find more backers. But that feels pointless.

Look, I'm basically one person. I spent about £5 on marketing this game. I don't really have the time or finances to make the best KS page - I want folk to trust me that I'm going to make this game super-awesome.

And yet, expecting others to just 'trust' me is a really bit thing to ask. And I'm aware that marketing is - ultimately - more important than the quality of the actual game.

That just sits really awkwardly with me.

I am in a privilege position where - as long as I live somewhat frugally - my royalties for Yogi will pay for my living expenses in 2020. And I'll have a tiny bit to spare. So I can afford to set the KS goal a bit lower. Hopefully this will allow it to fund.

But maybe not.

We'll see what happens.
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Mon Mar 2, 2020 11:21 pm
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Call people out on their shit

Bez Shahriari
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Sometimes we talk about booardgamers being good people. After all, you need to sit across the table from someone. If you were really a jerk, you'd know about it.

But note that social proximity (and the risk of being quickly punished, without the shield of anonymity) isn't unique to boardgaming.

Sports are similar. Partner dancing is even more intimate.

Sometimes someone is a jerk (or worse) and no-one wants to say anything. In RPG communities, this is often called the 'missing step problem'.

Ultimately, it's up to the good folk to call others out on their shit.

Otherwise, toxic behaviour can become accepted and even more prevalent.
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Sat Feb 29, 2020 11:10 pm
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About Cannes FiJ (not the games)

Bez Shahriari
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There were some great games at Cannes. Of course there were. Festival International de Jeux was happening.

But before I go on about the games, I'd like to talk about some of my personal highlights/notes.
===============
Quick personal overview:
===============


Thursday - wandering around the hall. Only 'professionals' are allowed in. It's a chance to see games before it all gets busy on Fri/Sat/Sunday. I also did a little bit of business meetings. And a snack-swapping meeting with Rodney Smith.

I watched the prize-giving ceremony and it was a lot of fun this year! Partially because I could now understand 20% of what was said (as opposed to 4% last year) and also because it was a LOT shorter. There was still time for some brilliant videos, a bit of celebration, and a few jokes. But it was kept relatively short and we were done after an hour.

Friday - I had 2 business meetings to pitch games and both companies expressed interest in my [untitled speed-matching game]. Company B was also interested in Seize the Power and Flip & Spell. We will see what comes of that.

Friday (and Saturday and Sunday) I also ran a tournament for Yogi. Using Nate's idea of having one identical deck per player. It really speeds up the game, and also eliminates the luck. On Sat/Sun, I made this only happen for the last 2 rounds rather than the entire tournament. It was too much work to re-organise 10 decks into order.

There is a prototype-playing event each night (from 10pm until 3am-ish) but I chose to not go at all this year, because I'm still not physically 100%. And I'd rather have my energy for mornings and meetings.

I ended up hanging out with some Gigamic folk and playing games, since the company put me (and all the waged demonstrators/employees) in the same hotel.

Saturday - Swordfighting. Playing games. Running a Yogi tournament. Bought one game. Chatting with Gigamic folk before bed.

Sunday - Swordfighting. Playing games. Running a Yogi tournament. Bought a 4 more games (2 because they were ridiculously cheap - €2.75 for both!). Was given 2 presents.

===============
People:
===============


It was lovely to be remembered by Tom Vua, author of Jungle Speed, which facilitated so many memories and was the centre-point of my 29th birthday party celebrations, some years ago. We had a few chats about games, snacks, and conventions.

I also saw Christine of Toutilix and there were a couple of other folk who remembered me from last year (probably because I wear a lot of red).

The Gigamic people were all pleasant to me, but so were the demonstrators at nearly every other stand. I was very interested to learn that demonstrators at Iello and Gigamic were working together to make a BG Cafe. A lovely Josephine from Act in Games gave me a free copy of '10 dice' to play at home talk about later. I guess the point is that people here, like in the UK BG industry, do seem to have a lovely habit of working together in harmony.

Of course, any friendships here are muddied by the desire for business relationships. But it is certainly an amicable environment.

Like most places, happily.

===============
Local differences:
===============


It's worth noting that FiJ, like nearly all French gaming events, is a 'festival' rather than a convention. The public is allowed to enter for free. If you were local, you could even pop in later in the day (after 12:30pm) and not have to queue. If you wanted to get in near the opening time of 10am, you either had to wait in a very long queue (with airport-style security) or pay a fee for an early access ticket.

There was a room for folk to leave big bags and pushchairs, which weren't really allowed inside. As with last year, there was an equal number of both. I met a mum struggling to learn Dragonimo, having never really played boardgames before. Not wanting to come in for very long, but bringing their child for a couple of hrs.

Free entry. Pushchair storage. This is accessibility in action.

The food was, by contrast, a bit limited. And most folk weren't allowed to bring in food (only a bottle of water). UKGE and Airecon are certainly the leaders when I compare Spiel, FiJ, and all the UK cons.

However, since it's in the centre of a city, you are able to visit a nearly Monoprix if you want cheap snacks for lunch. Literally 5 minutes' walk from the venue you will find cheap supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and of course bakeries where you can buy almond croissants that are far better than anything I ever found outside France.

It's worth talking about the location. It's very sunny here. That is a reasonable reason to visit if yu live in a sad, gloomy place like, say, London.

The Festival Hall itself is an interesting shape/setup. It was confusing for me last year, as it's not square. One half of the lower hall has odd numbers on one side and even on the other - reminiscent of many streets. I still don't understand the upstairs system, but that part is a lot easier to walk around anyway.

Upstairs, you will find games that are suitable for children. Some of them are also interesting for adults - you'll find abstract strategy along with the partygames and super-simple things. There are also educational toys and puzzles. One area was dedicated to showing off the As D'Or (the top 12 games of the year as decided by a committee).

Downstairs is everything else. Apart from the As D'Or, there is virtually no crossover. LARP-style sword battles to participate in! RPGs! Adult party games (both as in rude ones, and as in stuff that an 8y.o. would struggle with). Strategic games. RPGs.

It was notable how few eurogames and strategic games I saw compared to UKGE or Spiel. It's a bit of a different flavour here. What BGG-users would call 'mid-weight' was basically the upper limit.

Talking about the As D'Or (but not the games yet), I'd like to talk about how FiJ really works hard to make the awards feel important. 3 awards (children, general, expert) and 4 nominees for each. A big ceremony with specially-recorded video footage. A lot of posters - not just for the area upstairs, but also 2 areas downstairs.

Overall, it was really great to see so many new games. Many will not ever come out in English. The market is definitely not yet globally homogenised.

If I can give an overall impression to the convention, it would simply be this: it was great. I had fun. You definitely need to know French - it's more of a 'local' convention, unlike Spiel. But if you're interested in making an effort to try boardgames with a slightly different flavour, head over.

I'd love to come back for FiJ 2021.
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Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:52 am
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Cannes. 'No pictures'. How bizzare.

Bez Shahriari
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I'm at Cannes Festival International de Jeux.

Most people at Cannes are lovely. But there's this one person who had an issue with me taking photos of his game because it's a few months away from publication and said that unless they got to add text to my photos, they didn't want me sharing any photos.

Luckily, a lovely bilingual was on-hand to translate for me, as the discussion was quite involved and I had trouble understanding things in French. In the end, I said I wouldn't share the photos, but the whole thing is bizarre.

In an industry-only event like Nuremberg, I totally understand this. You're showing to a small audience. If you've got a 'closed door system' like Hasbro, Lego, or Mattel do at a toy fair, I understand even more. You're choosing who gets to see your thing. That makes sense.

Here, at Cannes, ANYONE is allowed to come in and see it. It's literally free entry into the convention (the only costs being getting to Cannes, and then waiting in the queue). Hundreds of adults and kids were seeing the stuff I took pictures of. So the fact that they would be so worried about photos just seems bizarre.

A couple of exhibitors I talked to about this agreed that it was very strange.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on an un-named game.

- If your entire pitch to me when I ask about the game is to point out excitedly how the different folk are from different countries, then something is wrong with your game. Ethnic diversity is great, but it's not a selling point. It's just something that should exist. A game needs something else to actually be good.

- Having the brand of a popular consumer food product on your game really throws you out of the game. If you're trying to to do any 'worldbuilding', then this is a lousy idea.

- Adding rules and randomisation to a popular folk game generally makes that game worse, not better. I feel like this is a frequent trend in supposedly 'simple' games - lots of symbols and things to learn that get in the way of a simpler core system.

- It's great if your characters are from different countries, but having a plethora of muscley blokes isn't a great thing.

Anyway, this is all far more thought than this unnamed game probably deserves. I'm just completely baffled.
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Sat Feb 22, 2020 11:11 pm
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Spielwarrenmesse (Nuremberg Toy Fair): What I did well/will change.

Bez Shahriari
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For over a week after the event, I wasn't doing much work. Just the bare minimum. Horrible sickness with headaches, coughing, and occasional dizziness. It's now been over 2 weeks. My health isn't 100% yet. But I'm about to go to FIJ tomorrow. So it's time to reflect.


===============


What did I do well?

I saw everything.


Yes, nearly all the games, as we would define them, are in Hall 10. There were a few other gaming stands I found outside there - Djeco, HABA, and a bunch of lesser-known folk. Even outside of these gaming stands, there was so much to see.

Reasons this is worth doing:
FUN
I got to ride a mechanical horse, have a balloon filled with my own things, lie on a lovely soft couch made of stuffed toys, and play with a musical marble-run.

INSPIRATION
As the toy and game markets become more and more intertwined, there is an increasing potential to draw inspiration, whether direct or indirect. There are so many new technologies all around us, as well as all the wonderful colours and patterns. This is a great way to feel energised. I guess maybe having fun really leads to inspiration, if we do it in a mindful way? That's probably too big a separate discussion.

CONTACTS
Whilst wandering the other halls, I saw other companies I'd like to work with someday, and also just met some super-cool people.

I approached places that I had a game for and asked if I could have an appointment.

I didn't always get one. But asking took some courage, and one of those meetings may well pay off.

I took games with me.

I took a prototype, which I marginally improved before my first meeting. I also took W++ deluxe and Kitty Cataclysm, to sort out potential international deals.

I bought a machine.

If you come to my stand at UKGE, you will see this machine in action. It's not a reasonable financial investment. But I was reminded that it's important to have a bit of a 'whimsy budget'. If I'm self-publishing and running a business I hope to sometimes have fun with it!

I plan to do all of that stuff again in 2021, except for buying the machine. Unless I find something even more amazing of course.

What would I like to do differently?

Contact folk faster.


I only started getting in touch with folk 2 weeks after the show. Part of this was an extreme sickness. I do feel like this is an issue though.

Contact folk ahead of the show.

There are some companies I'd love to work with one day, and I haven't had a chance to pitch. I feel like it's mainly a case of being proactive and making those meetings.

Have more prototypes.

This year (2020), I'd like to spend more time working on stuff with a view to ultimately getting other folk to publish them. It's just a question of attitude. I want to continue making new ELL decks, supporting Kitty Cataclysm (unless it gets licensed), and occasionally self-publishing another small thing. But it's become clear to me that the part I enjoy (and want to keep doing) does not involve logistics or marketing.

Yes, I'd like to keep showing off stuff and selling stuff at conventions, but I can do that regardless of who publishes my stuff.

===============
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Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:44 pm
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Spielwarrenmesse (Nuremberg Toy Fair): Day 3.

Bez Shahriari
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Today was all about meetings and a bit more exploration!

On Friday, I'd managed to schedule 3 meetings for today. And today, emboldened by my brilliant 9am meeting, I went to arrange yet another! I ended up pitching games to 5 companies. 2 turned into fully-fledged games with everyone at the stand, 2 were slightly more sedate, and 1 was an impromptu meeting.

I have a lot of emails to send out next week!

Not only do I want to follow up with my meetings, but I also gathered a few emails outside of hall 10.

Thinking I was just exploring for fun, I started with Hall 1. Dolls, bags, and a mechanical pony that I got to ride around on!

HALL 2 had babies stuff with spoons, blankets, shampoo and - concerningly - one display of nail polish for toddlers.

Hall 3 was brilliant - wooden toys, HABA, Djeco, marble runs, musical instruments, marble runs that were actually musical instruments, and big adult toys that were comparable in size (and cost) to a pool table. I had a play with a lot of this stuff.

Hall 3A had a charming German selling tiny things in matchboxes, which I enjoyed fingering. A kids' Sudoku puzzle, which I enjoyed playing with. Then, I was riding some big exercise equipment, checking out the competition winners, recoiling from a boardgame with a horrible theme, and then enjoying an impromptu encounter with company D.

I still have 2.5 halls left to explore - 4, 4A, and 5! I do think that there's a lesson to explore the other halls and have fun if possible.

I feel like this has been a brilliant day - arguably a turning point for my career, as long as I follow up with those emails!
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Sat Feb 1, 2020 9:16 pm
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