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Subject: Convention Demos rss

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Dustin Crouch

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DOUBLE POST - this is in general gaming too, but trying to get some feedback. Thanks.

Going to GMX this weekend in Nashville to demo our game that we have been working on for well over a year... It's in good shape and we love to play it, but getting new people interested seems like a daunting task.

I am kind of new to this side of the equation and had a question for the seasoned gamers out there.

When you a see a new game being pitched or sit down to a demo of a game what kind of things do you want to see and hear? What do you look for to further the conversation/interest to where you would want to back it on kickstarter?

Thanks for any Feedback!
 
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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I've seen lots of ways people have pushed their game, but the neatest I found was the makers of Hope City (just successfully funded) had their game able to be checked out for the night as long as you provided feedback the next day. THey wanted cold plays using just their rules, and that made a lot of sense. I didn't take them up on the offer (I'd already had my night's scheduled), but I remembered them and that led to me making several passes on their kickstarter.

Outside of that tact, I find theme is important to get me interested, speed of play, is someone available to teach it. Also, just basic salesmanship - are you open and friendly, willing to chat and answer questions, do you approach them as opposed to expecting them to come to you. Not pushy, but do you show interest, smile, etc. All of those are helpful.

wf
 
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Gil Hova
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First off, know the rules. Easy when it's your game, not so easy if you're having someone teach the game on your behalf. In fact, much more difficult than it appears.

Second: depending the kind of show it is and the kind of game you have, you may want to truncate your demo to 20-30 minutes. This depends on a couple of factors.

If this is a slow, leisurely-paced show, then you can run full demos of your game, up to about 90 minutes or so, I'd say. BGG.CON falls into this bucket for me. On the other hand, if this is a dense, fast-paced show like Gen Con, you'll want to keep your demo down to 20-30 minutes. You want to keep flow to your booth moving, and your players probably have 15 other booths they want to check out.

If you have a longer game, it's more likely you'll want to truncate it. You may still want to truncate a shorter game, especially if it's a shorter party game with strong atomic play.

Third, get players involved and making decisions ASAP. Avoid a 20-30 minute rules explanation. You want to explain, at most 5 minutes of rules (even that is excessive, I aim for 2 minutes or so) before players make their first decision.

This may mean "staging" the game into a tutorial, the same way video games only unveil more advanced gameplay after you've learned the basics. You can explain just enough for players to make their first decision, have everyone make that decision, and then explain just enough for them to make their second decision, and so on.

This is tricky territory, because players still have to have some context as to why they're making their decisions. But the good news is you're not running a tournament, and most players are okay with making suboptimal decisions in the name of learning the game quickly.

(CAVEAT: Some players are NOT okay with this approach. These tend to be competitive alpha gamers. It's one of the reasons I run full demos at BGG.CON.)

Fourth, don't be afraid to stack your decks. Figure out what game arrangement will make for the smoothest demo. If you have cards that present edge cases early on, bury them and make sure they don't come up during the demo. Again, you're not running a tournament here, you're just trying to teach the game as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Fifth, if your game has a small footprint, consider a small standing table instead of a large sit-down table. A small card game on a large table looks like a bunch of cards arranged on a tablecloth. A smaller table focuses the eye and makes the game more clear. A standing table also means that most of your guests will not have to decide to sit down in order to learn the game, reducing a barrier in their conceding to demo the game.

One note about standing tables: most are too high for guests in wheelchairs. You may want to have an alternative demo space in case someone in a wheelchair is curious about your game.

Finally, and most important: each demo should have an actionable goal. These should be one of the following: buy my game, take this card with the Kickstarter URL/QR code, sign up for my mailing list. You should absolutely try to make it as easy as possible for people to do either of the last two. Make sure (as politely as possible) your guests have the opportunity to take one of these actions before they leave your booth/table.

On the other hand, if they're not interested, don't push them. No one likes pushy booth staff.

Best of luck!
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Josh Zscheile
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IngredientX wrote:
Second: depending the kind of show it is and the kind of game you have, you may want to truncate your demo to 20-30 minutes. This depends on a couple of factors.

If this is a slow, leisurely-paced show, then you can run full demos of your game, up to about 90 minutes or so, I'd say. BGG.CON falls into this bucket for me. On the other hand, if this is a dense, fast-paced show like Gen Con, you'll want to keep your demo down to 20-30 minutes. You want to keep flow to your booth moving, and your players probably have 15 other booths they want to check out.

If you have a longer game, it's more likely you'll want to truncate it. You may still want to truncate a shorter game, especially if it's a shorter party game with strong atomic play.

Third, get players involved and making decisions ASAP. Avoid a 20-30 minute rules explanation. You want to explain, at most 5 minutes of rules (even that is excessive, I aim for 2 minutes or so) before players make their first decision.

This may mean "staging" the game into a tutorial, the same way video games only unveil more advanced gameplay after you've learned the basics. You can explain just enough for players to make their first decision, have everyone make that decision, and then explain just enough for them to make their second decision, and so on.

This is tricky territory, because players still have to have some context as to why they're making their decisions. But the good news is you're not running a tournament, and most players are okay with making suboptimal decisions in the name of learning the game quickly.

(CAVEAT: Some players are NOT okay with this approach. These tend to be competitive alpha gamers. It's one of the reasons I run full demos at BGG.CON.)


In general a very, very good post (deserving some GG if you ask me, OP). Just here to tell you I'd rather have 45min to 1h play time, but this of course depends on the type of game. With heavier games, it just seems a waste of time to play only 20-30min (e.g. you will not see your decisions have any meaningful effect, and that is a turn-off for me).

Also for point 3, I seem to be the kind of gamer that dislikes this staging or setup approach. I have several years of Essen on my belt and never have I had a good impression from staged explanations (because it infuriates me to take a - under normal circumstances - suboptimal path, I guess).
I also had a round of Meeple Wars this year with a staged setup that worked well in explaining the different buildings (each player had different ones), but I disliked it as I'd rather have decided that on my own, even with my lack of experience of the game. That said, I still liked the game and would have bought it, had it filled my current niche.

Oh, and I want to repeat this: Do not be too pushy. Politely offer mailing list entry and whatever other stuff you got, but once is enough. If you try to argue people into it, this will leave a bad impression on most of them.
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Gil Hova
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Dagar wrote:
In general a very, very good post (deserving some GG if you ask me, OP). Just here to tell you I'd rather have 45min to 1h play time, but this of course depends on the type of game. With heavier games, it just seems a waste of time to play only 20-30min (e.g. you will not see your decisions have any meaningful effect, and that is a turn-off for me).

Also for point 3, I seem to be the kind of gamer that dislikes this staging or setup approach. I have several years of Essen on my belt and never have I had a good impression from staged explanations (because it infuriates me to take a - under normal circumstances - suboptimal path, I guess).
I also had a round of Meeple Wars this year with a staged setup that worked well in explaining the different buildings (each player had different ones), but I disliked it as I'd rather have decided that on my own, even with my lack of experience of the game. That said, I still liked the game and would have bought it, had it filled my current niche.

Oh, and I want to repeat this: Do not be too pushy. Politely offer mailing list entry and whatever other stuff you got, but once is enough. If you try to argue people into it, this will leave a bad impression on most of them.


Thanks! No doubt, my advice is really conditional, and depends a lot on the kind of game you have, and gamer you're marketing to. I make games that range between party games and strategic middleweights, so it's not really a problem for me to show an abbreviated version of the game. But if I were making a very heavy game that rewarded study and mastery, I may go with a different approach. Really depends on who you're working to demo to!
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Dustin Crouch

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Thanks for the amazing feedback. Much appreciated!
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