Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Monday, February 3, 2014

UnPub 4 Part III: Sunday publishers

Publishers' Panel
Sunday of UnPub 4 opened with a pancake breakfast sponsored by Eagle and Gryphon Games and a panel discussion featuring eight publishers in a question-and-answer format.  UnPub convention director Darrell Louder moderated the panel.  Panelists included

Much of the discussion was consistent with what I'd learned with regard to many aspects of game design and
Dan Yarrington and Patrick Nickell
publishing.  One interesting discussion came up with regard to why, in the age of Kickstarter, designers need publishers at all.  The consensus of the panel was that they don't - if they're willing to lose money and learn lessons the hard way that publishers have already learned.  Dan Yarrington put the "losing money" part in perspective.  He said in his experience that he typically sees first-time Kickstarters lose 10% of funded level, i.e. a first-timer's $30,000 Kickstarter will on average lose $3000.  Obviously every case is unique, but I would imagine most people don't start a Kickstarter with the intent to lose money.  For my part, I have no interest in the work required to publish a game on my own, and I'm perfectly happy to design a game and then hand it to a professional to turn my design into a reality for people to enjoy.

One other point that the panelists made: Despite the fact that they are competitors, in practice, they know each other, each knows what the other is looking for, and they are willing to help each other out.  In particular, if they see a game design that doesn't fit their company, they'll refer it to another publisher who they think will like it.  And I have first-hand experience with that kind of open business relationship.  It makes me glad to have a small part in this community of kindred spirits.

All in all, the publishers panel was a great experience.

Josh Tempkin (r.) demonstrates
"Lesser Evil" to Jeff (l.) and Eric
Lesser Evil
I'm a big fan of designer Josh Tempkin, and I got to play the game I missed at Congress of Gamers, "Lesser Evil."  In this dice game, the goal is to end up stuck with as few points as possible.  The game is a bit difficult to describe, but there are decisions that the players make every turn to try to get rid of discs and cubes that carry points (which are bad), while committing dice to a central score that will get ranked against other players' dice to determine how many bad discs and cubes each player will get stuck with in the subsequent round.  It's a terrific game of agonizing decisions that either needs a better theme or needs to admit that it's an abstract.  Either way, the mechanics are sound, and I'd love to play it again.

East India Company
Patrick, Kory, and Annie immersed
in "East India Company"
I got in one more three-player playtest of "EIC" with Patrick Thunstrom, Kory, and Annie.  The amazing thing about this game is that it was completed in an hour and a half, one of the quickest "EIC" games I've had.  And Patrick said afterward, "It didn't feel that long."  It was also a very close game, with Kory and Annie tied at 37 points and Patrick right behind at 34.  Annie won on the newly simplified tie-breaker - the person closest to the start player's right.  I'm gaining confidence that my recent changes have made the Start Player marker more valuable as well as removed a lot of unnecessary tie-breakers.

Ben Rosset (l.) on the finer points of "Brew Crafters
Lite" with Stephanie Straw (r.) and myself
Photo by Chris Kirkman
Brew Crafters Lite
I hooked up with Ben Rosset, Chris Kirkman, and Stephanie Straw for Ben's latest variation on beer making, "Brew Crafters Lite."  His goal was to create a leaner, faster version of his successfully Kickstarted Brew Crafters.  He definitely succeeded in capturing the same flavor in a tighter decision space and quicker game.  He had in mind creating an analogy to BC as Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is to Agricola, but I think he hit closer to the "Family Style" rules of the original Agricola, in the sense that "BCL" is essentially a trimmed down version of the original full BC.  It's a fun game to play, but it may be too close to BC to be published as a separate game.

Highlight of the convention
I came to UnPub 4 with the goal of getting "East India Company" one step closer to production.  I spoke with two publishers over the course of the weekend, and on Sunday one of them asked for a prototype to evaluate, which I was thrilled about.  So at the end of the day, I gave him a copy of "EIC," and he'll be testing it out over the next few months.  We'll see what comes of it, but I'm very excited to have taken the next step toward getting "EIC" in print.

Darrell Louder got a lot of support from publishers who donated a trove of games, which he raffled off every hour throughout the convention.  I ended up winning two games, Castle Dice (contributed by Luke Peterschmidt of Fun to 11 Games) and Paradise Fallen (contributed by Patrick Nickell of Crash Games).  I also bought two games from the on-site vendor, Games Keep - Lost Cities and Trajan, both of which were very high on my wish list.

Bits and pieces
I neglected to mention in my previous post that Patrick Thunstrom and I got to chat for a while with Party Game Cast members Bruce and Mike during a break between games.  The Party Gamecast takes a unique look at games from the perspective of parties and other get-together occasions, and I get a real kick out of it.

Oh, and it looks like I owe somebody a session of "East India Company":
Two years in a row and I did not get to try @PaulOwenGames East India Trading Co. or Garrett Herdter's Rolling for Amusement! :(

Finally, my UnPub accounts cover only a small fraction of all the fun and innovation of the weekend event.  Below are links to a few other posts for a broader perspective and some better coverage of so many things that I missed:

Scott King, official photographer
Dr. Wictz
Daniel Solis
Crash Games
Eric Handler
Nathaniel Levan
Keith Ferguson Part 1 - Part 2
Dice Hate Me
Dover Post:  Seen on Scene 
Dover Post:  Photo Gallery

UnPub 4 was a real blast, and I'm already looking forward to UnPub 5 in 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment