I've recently returned from Essen and, while it's a little off topic for the blog, I thought I'd share some thoughts about attending Spiel both as a gamer and as a budding designer.
In my own inimitable style, my expectations of Essen were based more on my hopes than on experience or research: Despite knowing many people who've been before and BGG being athrum with discussions about Spiel I went with the false expectation that it would be a good place to get people to play my designs and maybe even get in touch with some publishers. I took along a copy of Siegecraft and several copies of Boldly Going (a pure-dice dice game which doesn't fit the printandroll formula - so I'm looking for a publisher) and lots of www.printandrollgames.com business cards.
As soon as I arrived at the hall on Thursday it was very clear that this was not the forum for getting designs out there. It was an amazing and exciting experience: To be surrounded by thousands of other gamers, to get the first play of exciting new games and to rummage through the stalls looking for bargains was amazing fun but it is very much a TRADE fair. It's about the finished product.
I was staying at the Ibis and did a great deal of gaming in the evenings too but almost entirely with people I already knew from London on Board (there were nearly thirty of us there) and we were all far too excited about playing our purchases from the fair for anyone to be interested in my prototypes (me included).
I met several more established designers (some I already knew and some - including briefly, at the airport, Reiner Knizia (swoon) - who I didn't) who had all had a weekend of meetings with publishers around the conference. They're not out on the stands waiting for any oik to come along with the-next-big-thing, you really need to have your foot in the door already and have meetings planned.
So, I did make a couple of useful contacts - as it seems that it really helps to have one or two published designers to recommend you to companies - but I had already begun this process by attending playtesting groups around London.
More importantly though, I had an absolute blast. I demoed several games I had my eye on (notably Qin and Kosmonauts) and some pleasant surprises (notably Love Letter the Japon Brand version, Lady Alice and Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small) picked up some bargains and spent the whole weekend hanging out with gamers - my favourite type of people.
I will definitely be going back to Spiel in the future. It would be cool if it were as an exhibitor, with a published product but otherwise it will be just as a punter - there's really no half-way house.
For the future though I have started looking at the UK Games-Expo - where it seems that, as a small-time publisher, you can get a stand for a very reasonable price.
How was your Essen experience? Have you ever struck-it-lucky there, as an unpublished designer?
This is a project that I've been considering for quite some time now - so it's exciting to be finally embarking on it. I've been designing games for about two years now. I particularly enjoy dice allocation games such as Alien Frontiers, Troyes, Lords of Vegas and Castles of Burgundy and have been working on a range of dice based games of my own. I have looked at conventional publishing and self-publishing but found that the cost of repeatedly shipping dice would make the games rather more expensive than I would wish. So, I hit on the idea of a print and play website - providing the rules, boards, cards and everything that you would need to play the games, except the dice. As a gamer (first tabletop then euro-games) I already had a large selection of dice and have found a great many affordable sources for the few that I was short of - I hope that this will be the same for plenty of other gamers. I currently have two games coming towards the end of beta-testing and two more at the early prototype stage. I hope to be posting new games over the coming months and years. Each one will be available for a few pounds (GBP) and will use common and readily available dice and counters. I hope to have the site fully up and running within the next couple of months with the first two games available to buy. As soon as the site's up and running, I'll post a link on this blog. Adam Taylor June 2012
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