Bez ShahriariUnited Kingdom
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
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.
+ 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
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.
+ 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.
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.
Archive for con lessons
28 Dec 2020
- [+] Dice rolls
24 Feb 2020
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.
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.
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.
- [+] Dice rolls
19 Feb 2020
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:
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.
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.
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.
- [+] Dice rolls
04 Dec 2019
GGF sales:Spoiler (click to reveal)Spoiler (click to reveal)Spoiler (click to reveal)
2 Yogi (at £12.50 each)
4 W++ deluxe (at £17.50 each)
10 KC (at £12.50 each)
9 Purrsonality cards (at £2.50 each)
A bit surprised by the low sales of Yogi/W++ but I think that's probably explained by the fact that GGF has a lot of repeat visitors who have already got my previous stuff.
Also a bit surprised by the (higher than expected) sales of the Purrsonality cards. I was actively telling folk that it's available for free from BGG. Some sales to existing KC owners. Some to new purchasers. I guess the lesson is to print some more budget stuff and expansions?
All sales were to the general public.
Stuff I did well/am proud of:
+ Teaching Yogi in 15s.
I was busy teaching a game. Some folk wanted to play Yogi. I managed to help out both groups, mainly by virtue of the fact that I can basically teach Yogi ridiculously quickly, despite what the verbose nature of my blog writing might lead you to believe.
+ Decent sales display, on a table that was also used for demos.
This actually worked well - as I was not actively selling the original Wibbell++ (it's pretty much sold out), I'm able to do a display of my things across the width of a table. Using the 'boxes for height' trick that Matt taught me in August. Having a copy of each game open, with a few cards strategically visible.
Since I started having 'display tables' at UKGE, I've become quite good at arranging them. I will note that at Airecon, I probably won't be able to fit it onto the width and will have to use the length again, since I'll also have Yogi Guru.
+ Giving prizes to more people.
This is something I've been experimenting with since Essen. This was the first time I 'split' the prize and the difference in the atmosphere it created was massive.
Stuff I'd try to do differently:
- Try to have extra helpers. Cover sickness. Let myself talk more to folk.
One helper had to pull out in the morning due to sickness. I did have cover for 90 minutes in the middle (allowing me to run a good 2pm event and then take a 20min break) but there were definitely times when folk came over to see me (sometimes to chat, sometimes just to try games) and couldn't because I was in the middle of demoing to other folk.
- Print out instructions for prototypes/works in progress.
- Print out feedback forms.
2 folk were interested to test out a thing. I taught it. I think that if I'd done a proper 'blind' test, that would have been even more helpful. To be fair, GGF is quiet enough that folk might be willing to read a page of rules. I wouldn't necessarily expect it at UKGE.
Printing out feedback forms just allows me to get more feedback and to then look over it properly afterwards. Specially if I'm short on folk, and/or if I'm trying to do too many things (which I generally am at a con).
- Remember my coins.
I was saved by Iain McAllister, who got me some £1/50p coins. But I shouldn't have forgotten them the previous day.
By 2:10, we had 10 folk all playing Kitty Cataclysm and competing for some prize. That was the maximum capacity (the game goes up to 5 and I had 2 tables).
If I really had to, I probably could have had 3 games going, but that would have been a lot harder to track and adjudicate.
I did the usual thing of folk moving tables every 2 games, so that everyone ended up playing with everyone else. Afterwards, the top 5 folk competed in a final series of games. Rather than have it be simply 'first to win 2 games wins overall', I had people being knocked out in the first couple of games (to ensure it wouldn't end up taking 6 games).
I let folk pick a prize when they were knocked out. And whilst I'm happy I gave the little girl something, I think that I'd rather having the 1st place person pick first. Having someone knocked out and then having to wait until the end to pick a prize doesn't seem brilliant, but maybe that's the best option.
I'm going to continue to ponder this.
Would I go again?
I made a profit of about £20. It also required me to sit in a bus for 2 days pretty much. That was the worst part of it. I do enjoy being in Glasgow for a bit and can stay in my family home. This time, I didn't get to meet with any old friends outside of the con, but I did get to go to a theatre production and hang out with Denholm, which was cool.
The convention itself was lovely. Not super-stressful. A good number of folk popping over.
Based on my sales, I didn't reach that many new people. The way to really make use of the show next year would probably be to have folk playtest things that are in a reasonable state.
And maybe reach out to local places to do some events on the Fri/Sun around it.
I am emotionally biased as this con is run by some old friends of mine and I'd like to see Glasgow's gaming convention continue to grow.
I will certainly consider it. It's just a question of what else might clash...
- [+] Dice rolls
I'm about to head to Glasgow Games Festival tomorrow and I've still not fully unpacked all the boxes from Essen.
Time to unpack and repack!
Time to take stock!
(If not now, then it'll probably just be yet another thing I never do.)
It started with a worry that I might not go at all. Shame. Embarrasment. I couldn't find my passport. I wondered if I'd just go to Dover, have a day out, then take the train back. I wondered if Jason would have to be around on their own.
Thanks to the encouragement of Alan and Charlie Paull, I looked in my bag one more time. The same bag I had looked in twice already, before spending an entire night turning over my room.
In the recesses of the bag, I found my passport. I could go to Essen!
Biggest failure/lesson learned:
For some time, I've been running 2pm events. In the past the winner has won everything I've designed that I can get hold of.
At Spiel 2019, the winner (each day) won:
In A Bind
In A Bind Expansions
In A Bind Jr
That's quite the stack, and I think that the disparity between such a giant stack for first place and nothing for 2nd place led to some overly-competitive behaviour, too much emphasis on the winner, and some real disappointment at coming 2nd.
A year ago, it was only 5 things. In the past year, my published output has almost doubled.
I need to 'flatten' the prize structure. For Glasgow Games Festival and Dragonmeet, the winner will get only 1 more thing than the 2nd-place. Hopefully I can shift the focus away from the prizes and towards the event itself.
I taught a Kitty Cataclysm. Played a game against 'hypothetical Alez. Played (and beat) the interviewer. All within 5 minutes.
driving in with Alan and Charlie
Playing games on the way back on the Ferry. Kawaii was specially great fun.
People coming to say hello.
Having someone to take all my unsold games and simplify my life.
A lockable room.
Selling out of Purrsonality cards!
Demoing Yogi Guru to BGG. I had a foot on the table. Then Beth had a foot on the table. Then we pretty much collapsed in laughter.
Learning that Yogi Guru had sold out.
Doing a video with Helle and Line.
Seeing Jorge, who has done a wonderful job with David Brain's forthcoming game.
The duck at the Essen HBF.
New tastes from the local supermarket.
Glimpsing new games on Wednesday.
Showing off stuff. Having people enjoy my stuff. Having people buy my stuff. It's validating. It's why I make stuff. I hope they keep enjoying my stuff for years to come.
Running 2pm events. For the most part, the reason I do these is so that folk can have fun. For the most part, that's what happened. I hope that a few tweaks can help that happen even more consistently.
Meeting the Cardboard Kid.
Emma. Elizabeth. New faces. Old faces. A couple whose names I remembered. One whose name I mixed up. Most I'd just forgotten and didn't even attempt. People.
VIP lounge on the ferry. There are macaroons.
Teaching Wibbell in German. Thanks to Rob who taught me well last year.
Having a group play Wibbell and Categorickell in Hungarian. They bought a deck because both games worked very well.
Sometimes, a smaller table is more useful. Chairs are good. Plan the space.
Sales/numbersSpoiler (click to reveal)Spoiler (click to reveal)I took around 120 KC, 120 Wibbell++ deluxe, 26 KC expansions, and 84 W++ original.
Thanks to an agreement with someone else at the show (to take any stock I had remaining at the end, for them to distribute across EU), I came back with none of them. That was convenient.
I also sold 24 KC to one shop.
Sales to the general public:
KC - 95ish
KC purrsonality cards - 26 (sold out middle of Sunday)
W++ deluxe - 80ish
W++ - 40ish
- air bnb for 2 Tues-Mon
- travel for 2 from UK to Essen and Dusseldorf to Essen each day
- some food
- printing costs of games sold and given away
- 2x3m stand
- alan & charlie were again super-amazing and gave me a lift.
I almost broke even.
So, how was it?
It was good.
It was tiring.
Personally, it was a rush of endorphins. Exhilirating, energising, exciting.
So much to see and yet I barely left the stand.
At times, it was soul-destroying. People walked past and I questioned myself. Was I being pushy? Did my games have any worth? Did I have any worth?
At times, I could barely believe how much folk were enjoying my things.
It's a rollercoaster ride of emotions. As a designer, having people enjoy my things is so wonderful and it can become an addiction. Specially at a larger convention, where I can have several groups playing my games at once, it's such a massive high. And then - during the momentary lulls - I'm an addict, searching for my next hit.
I want to be in the middle of the people. Somehow, I can be a star in my own little island. As long as I don't compare myself too unfavourably, I can find some satisfactin. I can find some achievements. I have made some things to be proud of and I'm proud to share them with others.
Although, it wasn't just me, was it? Tom Coldron made Categorickell. Jason helped me. All the playtesters. David Brain's constant lessons in design.
People make me stronger. People give me value. People.
I'm fucking glad that I found that passport.
- [+] Dice rolls
I went to TTGL just over a week ago.
As usual, I was there as a trader, so that's where my viewpoint comes from.
It looked like it'd be a great show for punters. A decent number of traders/demonstrators. Some decent talks. No crowds. No real queues anywhere.
However, whilst empty tables and wide-open corridors are great for punters, they're less good for the traders.
sales:Spoiler (click to reveal)Spoiler (click to reveal)
W++ deluxe 6
finances:Spoiler (click to reveal)Spoiler (click to reveal)
net profit -174.3
Meeting with Roger from Coiled Spring and having an illuminating chat.
Meeting with 2 folk who submitted games for my game system. Talking through their work in-person was great, even though I'd done this over e-mail, in person is just nicer.
My 2pm events. Having to work to grab folk is never fun, but 7/12 folk was a great turnout, and we had some folk come over specifically both days. Someone got SUPER-competitive on Sunday. No-one got upset, so it was mainly exciting to see someone take KC seriously.
A couple folk saying hello and telling me they'd really enjoyed my games. That was awesome.
Meeting Andrew ('the bearded lady') and having a good chat (and time to demo).
Tiz/John/Becky was lovely helpers to have around. Great energy.
Having time to play a game on Sunday. I mean, it was rubbish that there were so few folk, but I'm glad to be able to play a game.
Seeing folk I like/respect, such as John Yianni, Andrew Harman etc.
Why do I go to conventions?
Broadly speaking, to publicise my games, make money, and/or have fun.
Not all these things need to be true. But at least one of them has to be true.
Basically marketing. Selling games is marketing. People who buy a game are, hopefully, going to play it. Hopefully they will enjoy it. Hopefully they got a good idea of what the game is like and it's a god fit for them. If their friends like it enough, then maybe they will want their own copies. The game will spread.
At UKGE and Essen, I have always sold hundreds of games and I don't mind making a loss.
There's also the aspect of meeting reviewers, interviewers, etc. Of course, UKGE and Essen are the best for this out of the cons I trade at.
At TTGL, I met one reviewer that I couldn't remember meeting before. That's not great. Maybe part of it is that I'm now better connected but I only 're-met' 2-3 other media folk, so it's also true that there are fewer folk here than even at some smaller conventions.
I did my 2pm events and I got 7/12 folk on Saturday/Sunday respectively. These were definitely the highlights.
I don't normally make money. When I do, it's a bonus. But I do want to minimise my losses. Actually making a profit seems to happen more often when my outlay is low. Dragonmeet 2018 had cheap tables, no accommodation/travel costs (since it's local), and I sold enough games to finish with an extra £20 or so.
My loss at TTGL was substantial enough and exposure little enough that I doubt it could be sensibly considered a marketing expenditure.
The hassle is relatively low. I don't have to travel much more than 30 minutes. On Saturday, I can cycle in.
I like going to conventions, but hanging around and waiting for folk to turn up is never fun.
Unless there is a change in how this event is marketed, I don't think I'd return as a trader.
I'll probably go for fun. I could meet folk, even play some games I didn't create. I absolutely recommend going as a punter. There are lots of things to do and things to see. The games library was great thanks to the Ludoquist.
I think it's worth noting that I had more sales at Tabletop Scotland than at TTGL. They are both 2 years old and the former was run entirely by hobbyists. It felt like it had reasonable attendance - enough to keep me busy but with the wide open corridors to make navigation easy and the con accessible.
At TTGL, the exhibitors seemed to outnumber the attendees for the first 2 hrs of Sunday. The rest of the day was busier but it was always a bit quiet.
Frankly, so much more could have been done - reaching out to podcasts, encouraging chat instead of stifling it (by waiting weeks to accept posts on the FB group), and even allowing for some more RPGs to be pre-booked (which may have helped some folk feel more confident that their trip wouldn't be wasted).
I would be excited to have another London-based convention. I was excited to see what would happen with a bigger company backing it. Yes, they were trying to make a profit but presumably that profit would be generated by putting on a good show.
After 2 years, I can only conclude that they are slightly let down by their lack of marketing and outreach.
- [+] Dice rolls
How was UKGE 2019 for me?
In 1 word, disappointing.
Profit isn't my primary motivator but I was expecting to make more income than at UKGE 2018. I had 60% more space. Almost double the number of folk at the stand at any one time. 4 things on sale (Yogi, W++ deluxe, W++ 1st edition, Kitty Cataclysm) rather than just 1 (W++ 1st edition).
And yet, my gross income was a fair bit less.
I actually really enjoyed the experience. I'd love to go again. Being at conventions is one of my favourite things. I just wish that I was closer to breaking even.
I'll expound more on everything in a future blog post, but here are my notes.
Commentating on the finale of the Kitty Cataclysm tournament with Phy.
A few folk at the stand suggested we record it next year. I love MCing and after 7 folk were eliminated from the 2pm event, the final was a tense affair, made more dramatic by our blow-by-blow commentary.
Compliments from folk who didn't know me regarding Kitty Cataclysm.
I think we've already established that I need validation.
The BG design 101 talk went OK I think. Good turnout.
I think I taught people things. A couple of folk (given what they wrote on social media) felt inspired to start their journey, and that's love thing to enable.
Recording the knock-out video with Chits & Giggles
Russ/David had a great idea for a video that is a joy to record. 8 objects that I was to talk about and then select an ultimate winner for. I'm looking forward to seeing the video and also to taking part again at UKGE 2020.
Changes between Satuday and Sunday
On Saturday, I told my team how sales were super-disappointing. I was given ideas by several folk and we made some drastic layout changes. I think it helped.
How all my volunteers really put in effort to help, specially Saturday night.
My volunteers are awesome. They put in so much energy. They take time to learn the games, help me with the organisation, and a lot of them went farther than I could reasonably expect.
Having media folk come over during the press preview, as well as most of Friday (having made appointments).
I contacted a load of folk ahead of time and (except for the time I'd left 'free' to do my Friday talk), I was fully booked from 10am until 4:30pm Friday. I had folk coming over at the press preview on Thursday, and also recorded stuff on Saturday/Sunday. It was fun in general. I like talking about my stuff, even though I feel I should improve my public speaking still. I like 'performing' on video. Teaching/demoing is basically a performance. I felt really happy that so many folk felt my stuff was worth covering. I've seen a few videos/write-ups already and I'm looking forward to some proper reviews in the coming months. :-)
Folk liked my games. Folk were laughing/having fun.
Ultimately, this is why I make games. If folk cannot enjoy my games, then I have failed as a designer.
Fewer games sold than in 2018.
My gross income was lower. This is a point I'll explore in depth later on.
I think this happens at every convention. Sometimes you get 5 minutes when you just feel empty. Sometimes it's longer. To be fair, I did have a big stand to fill, but there were definitely some moments in the last 90 minutes of each day when we had no-one around. Thanks to me having so many helpers, there was always at least one game played - if the stand was empty at 5:30, I'd ask them to play a game with each other. And that then encourages other folk to stop and look.
I think this is just an inevitable reality of every convention and I never enjoy these moments.
THINGS I DID WELL:
Nice colours, and good texture for the cards, whether playing Yogi or Grabbell.
Contacting media/making appointments with them.
I was told by a couple that I was possibly the only person who had actually taken the time to write a personalised message.
Meals for volunteers.
I'd booked a Thursday lunch and a Sunday dinner for 13 people. This was a lovely way for folk to chat, get to know each other, and also feel rewarded.
Mainly so I could give volunteers a lot of games beyond the 7 I made myself.
In a rare feat of organisaton, booked this around October.
At first, I thought that 2 4-bed rooms Wed-Monday would be plenty. Maybe we'd be slightly empty on Wednesday but that'd be OK. Then, I thought maybe it was too much - a lot of folk were happy to help me but didn't need their own accommodation as they were already staying somewhere. In the end, all the beds were slept in each night, except for Sunday night when 2 were empty.
Next year, I'll probably book 2 rooms again.
THINGS I WILL CHANGE FOR 2020
no full Cat Gallery
I might have a couple of panels and start with a row or two of cats, but this might be the last time I ever put up the full cat gallery.
It was fun whilst it lasted. Essen 2017 to UKGE 2019. It quickly grew and became too time-consuming to put up. At Tabletop Scotland, it took 2 of us around 6 hours. At Airecon 2019, it took 3 of us 5 hrs. At UKGE 2019, it took around 6 people 3-4 hours to put up.
That's a lot of time it used up, that I could have used to further train my helpers and ensure all their demos were as brilliant as possible. It's difficult to transport, expensive to buy walling for, and takes too much space.
I might talk about this a bit more at a later point, but - unless a convention wants to 'adopt' the cat gallery, this might be the end of it.
Use Wednesday and most of Thursday for some concerted training.
Without the cat gallery, we would actually have some time on Thursday. Also, I think it's notable that there were actually 5 folk who got to Birmingham on Wednesday earlier than myself. If I'd managed to get over earlier, we could have done a bit more demoing to each other, so that everyone would be even more confident at the start.
Make videos of me teaching everything.
I had given everyone my games, along with text documents giving teaching advice for each game. But some people learn better by watching, or listening. Having an example is good.
Keep a 'shop front' by the front.
This was one of the main changes I made between Saturday and Sunday. Rather than having the demo tables up front, I moved the stock table to the front, and had a 'shop-keeper' or 2 stay there, giving quick 30s pitches at most.
This worked FAR better for us.
Re-think how I use people. Try to play to everyone's strengths. Ask Jason to help organise.
Everyone has their own passions, skills, and abilities. Jason is brilliant at filling out timing spreadsheets and is happy to do that.
Rethink my prices.
In an attempt to keep retailers happy, I made a point of not selling below RRP.
W++ deluxe - £17.50
Kitty Cataclysm - £12.50
Yogi - £12.50
W++ 1st edition - £12
I feel like £10 is a really appealing price and that extra £2 may have been a turn-off to many folk. At a con, if you pay £12, then that's a bit awkward. I don't have a card machine. This is something I need to ponder.
Make sure I pack earlier and sleep fully on the week running up to it.
Honestly, I was tired on Wednesday. I hadn't slept enough the previous few nights as I was trying to do so much emailing folk, creating new art assets, organising shifts, making myself presentable, and preparing for my 2 talks. And possibly other things.
Wednesday night was the closest I got to a full night's sleep and this probably contributed to my stress, and also meant I was probably not as lovely a person as I could have been.
If I had to summarise my UKGE2019 in a 2nd word, it would be 'instructive'.
- [+] Dice rolls
02 Jan 2019
Ordered approximately in order of how much I personally enjoyed being there.
Incredibly biased as my enjoyment is mainly a factor of my own personal experiences, how well I managed my own time, and how far I had to travel (from North London). This might not indicate how much fun you will/won't have at any of these cons.
Bear in mind that ALL the cons mentioned below are fantastic (although I'm biased).
BGDevCon 3, Enfield, London
This is the convention that I set up with Andy Yiangou. We also had the help of Matthew Dunstan and a bunch of speakers. I did a small KS, decided that there were enough folk to justify it, and then arranged a day full of short talks, discussions and a 'speed designing' event.
There's a great community of designers in the UK and whilst there are now enough playtests going on in London, there aren't many opportunities for folk to come and NOT playtest. For most of the day, games aren't even allowed, except for the ones that folk ended up co-designing on the day. And even those weren't playtested. The 'speed design' sessions were more about meeting with folk and deciding whether you'd like to continue/start a codesign with them or not.
My favourite parts were the group circle discussions, with a few heartfelt rants.
The short talks taught us about different approaches to design, accessibility for dyslexia, how to stay positive, how to pitch, etc.
I hope we can have another BGDevCon in 2019 on 17th August (the day before the monthly Sunday playtest).
UK Games Expo was my first convention, back in 2011. Since then, it's grown exponentially and I think 2019 will perhaps be the first year with no growth in space (given the uncertainty that Brexit provides).
I volunteered every year, until 2016 when I bought a stand to sell In A Bind. In 2017, having licensed IAB to Gigamic, I had one last hurrah as a volunteer. It was fun. I got to be an ambassador. I recommend everyone volunteer if able.
Walking around, I realised that my relationship had changed with the con, with the games, with the attendees and with the traders. The UKGE will continue to change, as will I, as will our relationship.
In 2018, I had a 10m^2 space, 3 demo tables, 1 stock table that occasionally got used for a demo, and 1 table specifically for folk to draw cats. More importantly, I had 7 amazing volunteers. Thanks to my volunteers, I was able to focus on the high-level operations. Everyone working for me learned the games well and learned how to demo them exactly as I'd hoped. Despite the stand being constantly busy, the wealth of people made it incredibly relaxed. As well as having a volunteer at each table, there was someone wandering around explaining the rules of the cat wall, or teaching the principles of a game that had already started.
Thanks to my volunteers, I was almost as busy as I could be, and never felt any stress. The entire convention was a rush of energy and adrenaline.
In 2019, I'm planning to have a larger space. It might be the last ever appearance of the full Cat Gallery. If you're interested in demoing my stuff half of each day (in return for accommodation, games, snacks and good times) please get in touch.
Bastion, Conwy, North Wales
In 2018, Yvonne very kindly invited me to attend this small Welsh con. A Youth Hostel - normally closed in January - is opened specially for this convention. You can either stay in one of the dorm rooms or - if you live locally - just come over to play games.
For me, this was the first time I'd ever attended a con 'just' as an attendee. Not as a trader. Not as a volunteer. Not as a speaker/organiser. Just going and having no responsibilities.
I will also say that this con has a lovely atmosphere. There is a communal kitchen for everyone to cook in. After getting yourself out of your room in the morning, you can go downstairs and immediately be in the company of other friendly folk who want to play games. It's fantastic. If you don't want to take off your pyjamas yet, no-one will judge you. It's totally feasible to make yourself breakfast (in a teapot) and then eat it whilst playing a new game with new friends.
The small attendance (50-100) helps foster this atmosphere. By the end of the 3 days, you might know everyone's face. People bring their own games to share. There is a sense of respect and companionship.
I am looking forward to attending again in just a few weeks!
I only went to the spring one, as I couldn't financially justify the 2nd one in the year (not to mention my delayed projects needed finishing).
This con was the birth of the 2pm event and for that alone, it gets a high spot on the list. From Uncon onwards, I have had (and plan to have) a 2pm event every day at every ticketed con I attend as a trader.
On Sunday, Giant In A Bind was played for - probably - the last ever time at a con. There was a big crowd enjoying the game and prizes (a copy of everything I've ever had mass-produced) were given away.
The con itself was very bright, using a school as a location and with a roof that let in plenty of natural light.
As a trader, it was a bit quieter than I'd have liked, but I did get to teach someone Handbuildell (a unique thing for a con) and even had time to play a game just for the fun of it.
Also, it's quite close to the seaside, which meant that I could go on a lovely seaside walk the day before.
I have strong memories of Airecon - I attended in 2016 after my first Essen and though they were wildly different in scale, I enjoyed both. Probably Airecon a little bit more, but I'm biased given the Giant In A Bind.
In 2018, the convention moved location again. An abundance of open-gaming space, a trade area, demo area, and LOTS of events.
I personally helped out with the giant Wits & Wagers tournament and gave a talk, as well as continuing my 2pm tournaments.
Not only did I have the chance to demo and sell, I also got to play a few games after trading finished - something I don't always get to do.
I'll be returning in 2019 and am helping Mark to arrange an hour of the most ridiculous games we can conceive. Mark is lovely.
A boardgames festival. Not a convention - where folk buy tickets to attend - but simply a collection of traders and demo folk in a freely accessible area.
Not quite a 'market', folk had more expectations of being able to actually play games. And I do enjoy showing off my stuff.
There was so much more representation of older folk & women. It's the only place I've been where the attendees mirrored the demographics outside. Almost entirely white, but that's just how most of the UK is outside of London.
I think that this is one of the few events where I actually turned a profit. A profit small enough that I spent it on a nice meal before leaving the city, but still an achievement worth celebrating.
My 2pm event was difficult to get folk for. In future, I won't run 2pm events at non-ticketed cons, as most folk pass through rather than staying the day, so getting folk to come over at a particular time is hard.
Generally, my games worked well for the casual audience. Specially Quintupell and Yogi. I also got to meet Becky/Kelly from Boardgames in Bed.
I'd love to go again if the organisers have space for me but I know that their space is limited.
This was a lovely 'last con of the year' for me. I had a big team of 7 volunteers, which meant that we were able to facilitate a LOT of fun.
For most of the day, I had 2 tables occupied by folk playing my stuff. For short while, I could see 3 tables full of about 20 folk playing my things. I got to do a talk (about intended emotional reactions to games) and some folk said it was good. Stelio helped me develop a brand new Wibbell++ game, which I would be happy to make a future core game. At the end of the day, I had an extended converation with a fellow designer that felt incredibly meaningful to me.
Since the con was only 1 day, I had 2 back-to-back events. First, an event for + and +‽. Then a Wibbell++ 'triathlon' (that actually features a 'surprise' 4th game at the end for the finalists). In theory, this made sense. But the finalists in the 2nd event had just learned 6 games within the space of an hour. And 5 of them were frantic realtime things that didn't allow for any time to relax and decompress. Either event would have gone really well. Both together were just 'good' - it was just slightly too tricky for the 2 players to internalise the rules for the 6th game.
I think that - in future - I'm going to avoid teaching so many games to folk, specially under the pressure of a prize event. I might do 2 events next year, but not if one of them features 4 wildly divergent games. Kitty Cataclysm and + as 2 separate events would be OK.
Other than that, I feel like everything went amazingly well. I plan to come back in 2019.
Spieltage, Essen, Germany
I made an unfortunately large loss in 2018, despite selling slightly more copies of Wibbell++ than I did in 2017. I blame the price of the hotel (as opposed to the Air BNB) and the furniture (which is handled badly by the con compared to literally every UK convention I've been at).
In 2019, of course I'll go again. But being on my own was far too exhausting.
Next year I'll hopefully have a few full-time volunteers and just consider it a big marketing expense. I will spend more - to accommodate volunteers and get more stuff over somehow - but hopefully earn more as well - since I'll have 2-4 new things to sell.
Highlights in 2018 involved learning to teach (and play) Wibbell in German and getting on the BGG livestream.
And finally eating a twirly potato.
Tabletop Gaming Live, London
A new convention run by the magazine folk.
I got to sit on a couple of panels (one about diversity and one about comedy in games). I had some great volunteers. That was fun to do.
Denholm volunteered for me and I subsequently hired them a day a week to help me finish my projects. Great result. I'm not totally counting that as part of the experience though. Yes, I'm aware of my own inconsistencies...
Very big corridors. Properly accessible for wheelchair users.
The prettiest halls I've ever played a game in.
From a business perspective, I'd have liked more attendees. Despite not paying for accommodation and cycling/walking over when able, I still made a small loss. But it was worth it for the number sold in terms of marketing.
I need to sort my finances but planning to go again in 2019.
NOTABLE RUNNERS UP
London Anime & Gaming Convention (Summer), London
More cosplay than any other con I attend. A very different demographic. You could see the difference in the cats that people drew.
I only put up a small fraction of the Cat Gallery but it almost ran itself and seemed like a real attraction.
I've been going to LAGC for several years - originally I went as a volunteer and ran LOTS of demo games for the Indie Game Alliance. This year, I went 'just' to promote myself. It wasn't super-busy. I had help only to cover me when I was doing a talk, and I didn't feel like I needed much more. Folk had fun. I had meaningful conversations.
There's a disco each night.
I've confirmed my attendance for the LAGC Summer con.
City of Games
Originally, I bought a ticket for myself but I was then invited along as a trader.
One notable thing is that the room seemed to be the PERFECT size. There were times when the room only had one table free. It was never quiet. Great atmosphere.
Still need to work out whether I'm going to this or the LAGC winter con as unfortunately they clash. I need to decide soon.
Tabletop Scotland, Perth
Did my 'BGDesign 101' talk for the last time. Had Nicola as a lovely volunteer. Spent literally 6 hrs affixing cat pictures to the wall, despite the help I was given.
Great to see a big convention starting in Scotland.
Slightly out-of-the-way via public transport, but a lovely place. Got to explore the city a bit the day before.
I plan to go again, but have been told there is no space for the Cat Gallery. Frankly, I'm relieved.
Glasgow Games Festival, Glasgow
Organised by my friend Nick Pitman. 2 rooms full of folk playing games and a few traders/demo tables.
Since I have a place to stay in Glasgow, which obviously helps keep costs down, I think it'd just about make financial sense for me to go again in 2019.
There was a lovely level of attendees - busy enough that I was teaching/running games almost all the time I was there. Quiet enough that with just 1 fantastic volunteer I could happily take 40 minutes to wander around, get interviewed, go to the local Poundland, and buy some snacks.
It's not somewhere I expect to sell loads of games. But it's a place I was able to test out some games. Next year, I'll mainly hope that I get to test 'The Conversation' and any Wibbell++ games that are ready enough. (Specially the winner of the 2019 Wibbell++ design competition.)
- [+] Dice rolls
Why go to a convention?
I thought I'd written about this before, but maybe I haven't. So I'll try to make a list.
Validation/seeing folk enjoy themselves
Most boardgame designers are ultimately entertainers. We want to facilitate experiences.
To see people enjoying your game is fantastic. To have people pay money for a copy is proof that - yes, they probably did enjoy it as much as they seemed to.
The first time I went to Rules of Play's ITTD day in Cardiff, I had a few folk asking me to sign their cards. That was fantastic.
Having folk come over for my 2pm events when there is a whole bunch of other games that they could play.
Kids enjoying a game and wanting to stay for a while and then come back.
There's a whole massive subset of opportunities here and some are unrelated to .
Having folk come over to your event. Watching people enjoy your game.
Meeting folk. Selfies. Bright costumes. Being with lots of people.
Even if you're just at a stand all day, there's a lot of energy around and fun things to see.
And maybe if you take a quick break (or maybe just before/after the trading hours) you can actually play a game, watch a seminar, check out all the other stands, drink some mead...
Sometimes meeting folk is fun. Sometimes meeting folk is business. The line is incredibly fuzzy and vague.
Printer reps tend to have sweets at their stand for folk they like. Because business meetings don't have to be unpleasant.
Sometimes, meeting someone you admire isn't so much 'fun' as it is a chance to learn, or to bask in their presence.
Sometimes, you get a chance to chat about your projects. Maybe you help each other and brainstorm some ideas.
Maybe it's a case of meeting with a shop, or a distributor.
Honestly, I never realised that this happened until I went to Essen. Then I did it at the majority of cons I went to. Now, I'm just aware it's something that happens.
The opportunity to swap something - that I bought at production cost (or - in the case of Yogi - a heavy discount) for something else means that I've gotten a whole bunch of games to try that I might not have been able to afford. A few of them have brought me so much joy and pleasure.
Last Saturday at Glasgow Games Festival, one dad came over and said that they'd seen me at Tabletop Scotland. They hadn't gotten a chance to play my things then, so wanted to try them now.
Visibility leads to familiarity, which somehow validates a person, or their games, in someone's mind.
That dad had no idea how good my games might be. It's possibly that they were trying literally everything at GGF, but I got the impression that seeing me before made them more curious to try my stuff.
If folk keep seeing you they will eventually want to investigate. And I guess only then does the quality of your games matter at all.
This is probably the first reason that folk think of.
Selling games helps offset the cost of the travel. Some folk are lucky enough to be able to make a profit at conventions. Some larger companies don't even try. For some companies, it might be primarily about having a presence and marketing.
Selling games is also a fine source of marketing.
If someone buys one of my games, they are likely to then play it. If they enjoy it, they'll probably play it again. If they keep playing it, then eventually some of their friends will want their own copies.
I sold 15 copies of Wibbell++ this week to someone in Germany, and they explicitly told me it was because they'd been having so much fun with it since Spiel.
Tim Fowers has talked about how multiplayer boardgames are inherently 'viral'. They are little experience generators. Each time you generate a new experience, the memory goes into another person and the experiences are shared with more and more folk.
If a game is good, and you keep it in print for multiple years, the sales should generally increase.
Sales are important - not just because you get a bit of money for each copy sold, but also because you are then likely to sell more copies (and allow yourself to keep making games) for each copy sold.
Even though I might be selling stuff, sometimes I'll show a thing I'm working on. I might do it just to drum up interest for the inevitable KS. Or maybe I'm checking to see how a particular rule works.
At GGF I tested out a few new categories for Categorickell. At Spiel, I tried the Red-black-white-gray deck for + for the first time. (Before then, there was a 3rd colour of shape that you might have to count.)
It's not the time to try something you don't think will work at all, but these sorts of tests - with folk who are your audience - can be more valuable than just playing with designers constantly. It's a sort of 'trial by fire'.
You can even consider the demoing of your published games as 'playtesting' of sorts. I made tweaks to the rules of Faybell and Wibbell after Wibbell++ had been in print for half a year. 200+ demos of a game at a con might reveal things that you never noticed before. Or maybe even the 1st demo after it was printed you realise that a card could have been worded in a slightly better way. It's annoying if it happens too quickly, but just make a note and you can change it for the next printing.
I guess this is quite validating, but it's a separate thing.
Maybe you're doing events, or letting folk draw cats, or whatever... facilitating fun is just an extension of why I make games in the first place.
Reconnecting with folk.
Teaching folk new ways to play with the toys they already have. (This may me more applicable to me than you.)
Seeing the local city.
I feel like marketing should be a separate section, but am not sure what else it'd cover beyond visibility (presence, swag), sales and events.
If you can think of anything I maybe missed, please write in the comments.
- [+] Dice rolls
This is a small on-day fair in Glasgow. I don't know the numbers, but imagine it's hundreds of people. Maybe 200-500?
It was set up by a personal friend around 3.5 years ago and I've been there every year.
Glasgow is the city where I was born so it's also a chance to see a couple of folk.
This year, for me:
I ran out of Yogi, so I was focusing exclusively on Wibbell++ (with a few plays of + also). Whilst slightly annoying that I didn't have any Yogi, it was an interesting experience and nice to know that I could entertain folk without it.
Going to Glasgow also allowed me to travel via Sheffield, where I met Tom Coldron, did some great testing, connected with Treehouse BG Cafe and chatted to Patriot (a shop) about ideas for events.
Finances/sales:Spoiler (click to reveal)
+120: 12 copies of Wibbell++ sold
+36: 6 copies sold to shops
0: 3 copies given away
stock prices for sales/giveaways (subsidised for some things):
-40: 20 Wibbell++
-6: 6 IAB Jr
-8: 2 IAB, 2 IAB expansions
0: Yogi demo packs
inter-city travel (I'm going to not count the £70 mistake I made of missing my bus in Sheffield thanks to not counting it properly, but am going to count the cost of going via Sheffield):
-6.8 (4 underground tickets: to venue/back and when arriving/leaving)
-6 ish (underground tickets on leaving/returning)
Total financial result:
Shout-out to helpers:
Patrick was fantastic. They learned all 3 games I prioritised (Wibbell, Grabbell, Alphabetickell) the day before and taught them to me fairly well in the morning. They were a pleasant, calm energy. In the few moments of setup, it was nice to be able to chat to them. They created a couple of new W++ games (including a solo variant for Wibbell itself) and thanks to Patrick, I was able to take 40 muinutes to leave, get some stuff from the local Poundland, and then go to the loo and return.
Owen Duffy interview
Unlucky Frog podcast shout-out
Having a constant stream of people at the stand - it wasn't ever mega-busy, but (apart from my 40 min break) I was near-constantly teaching and facilitating games from 10:30ish until around 6pm (and I taught a few games between then and 9pm).
Being able to wander around and see everything and say hi to most of the folk with stands. I was able to do that before 10am and during my break and at the end - it was quiet enough that it felt like a small gathering.
Chatting to Iain (who demos for Asmodee) and just making a human connection.
Josh being quite understanding about Kitty Cataclysm being late.
The 2 boys (Ewan and Aaron?) who really enjoyed + and +‽ and came back to play more games.
Though it was a struggle to get folk at the start time, I kept at it and got folk after a few minutes. 4 folk had a great time at the 2pm event for + and +‽. Then, 6 folk had a good time with the Wibbell++ triathlon.
Things to improve on:
Get the 'how to teach this game' documents I made for UKGE 2018 and make them public. Ideally, in 1 google folder (or maybe in a directory on my website) so that anyone volunteering can access it very easily.
Make a banner, advertising the 2pm events.
Think about how to better find & reward helpers.
Would I go again?
If I could find someone to help me out again, absolutely.
If you can't take a break, even a quiet con can be exhausting.
It was just generally fantastic to see folk and demo things in a leisurely way.
- [+] Dice rolls