This is guest post by Michał Oracz
Some of you have signed copy of one of my games. In most cases it means that you have cow inside your box. I know. It may be not exactly what you expected when you approached me to sign your copy of Stronghold, Robinson or other title.
Time to explain. Time to answer a question: ‘What the hell is wrong with Ignacy.’
It was a damn boring lecture. Seriously. I was really scared. There was a real thread of death in the room. It was possible some students may actually get killed by lecturer. Cause of death? Boredom.
I was scribbling in my notebook and at some point I drew a cow. I added balloon with funny comment about this lecture and passed it to the student sitting next to me. He smiled and passed it to the next guy. He smiled and passed… You know how it works. We all were in school right?
Since then every time we were stuck at boring lecture, I was passing funny drawings with cows. People had fun.
I was a resistance hero. I saved them from death. I saved them from boredom.
At this point I was publishing RPG magazine called Star Pirate. I draw few cow’s drawing and showed in the office. Cows were talking about playing RPG and it was quite funny. Feedback was very positive. So I kept drawing them. After few months cows were a must in each issue. RPG players really liked them. And then madness began…
We announced that we are going to publish Polish edition of Cheapass Games Falling. Our fans asked: ‘What if Polish edition of the game had cows instead of businessman…’
So I was forced to send to Cheapass Games an email that said something like: ‘We do respect your IP and your ideas and we do really like the idea of businessman falling from skyscraper but you know, here in Poland… Could we re-theme the game and make cows falling in our edition? Would it be an issue for you?’
Luckily James Ernest has sense of humor. He agreed. So that is how Polish Falling looked like:
And if you think this is peak of this madness, you are wrong. Oh, yeah…
At this time, year 2006, when Internet was young and was full of new possibilities, we were trying different ways to stay in touch with our fans. One of them was chat. We run chat rooms for our fans twice a month. We were talking about our plans, we were gossiping about our work and we were running auctions. We have loyalty program in Poland, you can earn points called GAMBLE for supporting us and then you can spend them on different products.
At one of this auctions I said: ‘I’ll draw a cow for you. Price: 5 gamble’
And auction began.
Few second later I was rubbing my eyes with wonder. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. People went crazy. I don’t remember how much the winner paid but it was something like 500 gambli (for 50 you could have brand new book for Neuroshima RPG with our signatures). It was madness.
I felt terrible. I meant it as a joke, but people treated it very seriously and one of them was happy to pay all his loyalty points he had to have my cow.
So I sat on my ass and I draw a comic book. Winner of the auction didn’t receive a drawing of a cow. He received 6 pages long comic written and drawn by me.
I hope he was happy.
Never again I offered drawing of my cow for money or points or whatever. I felt really bad that I made him pay for cow.
Since then I draw cows as a signature. And I do try to make every signature unique. Every time I draw a cow, this cow says something. Each time it is something different, and each time I do my best it is more or less funny. Of course it is not possible to draw super funny drawings every time, but I do my best. I do my best that each of you have unique cow with unique dialog.
If we have a geek list here with photos of those cows, I do believe that about 80% of signatures we gather would be unique. Every time you approach me at convention and ask for a signature, I do my best to draw you a cow that is unique, drawn especially for you. I hope you like them.
And time for post scriptum. In 2012 I was in Modena. I met there super cool guys. One of them is Toy from Ludus Iovis Diei gaming club. He was helping me at convention, was king of guide in Modena. He saw me drawing cows for 2 days long and at the end, on Sunday when I was getting to leave, he asked me to sign his copy of one of my games.
He was hoping to have a cow.
He didn’t know, I can also draw a pig.
You should see his face when he looked at the box when I passed it to him…
Post scriptum II. In 2013 I was back in Modena. I met Toy again. And again he was my guide and supported me for 2 days long. He is super cool guy and he has a great sense of humor.
At some point I was signing a box for Italian geek. I draw a cow. Geek was in shock. Toy saw that. And spotted a good opportunity. He approaches us, pulled box I signed in 2012 and said to Italian geek: ‘At least he didn’t draw you a pig…’
I received a package. Sent from Brasil, it traveled some about 10 000 kilometers before it reached Poland. Quite a journey, huh? It was sent by a gamer who likes my games, who spent a couple of good evenings playing 51st State, Robinson or other my titles and decided that he will do me a surprise and send me a gift. Pure act of kindness.
Every time I experience such acts of kindness I am left speechless. The time postman gave me package from Brasil. The time I received horseshoe for luck when I was in Lviv. The time I received cookies when I reached Indiana, day before Gen Con… I received t-shirts with cows, with Through the Ages card (me as a leader), I received beautiful traditional serviette…
And every single day, literally every single day I receive an email or geekmail from a gamer who just played one of my games, had fun and decided to tell me that and say thanks for a good time spent. Every single day I experience acts of kindness. Pure selfless kindness.
You gamer are hell of a people. I am happy I can work for you.
Here is a link to the short interview I give in Geneva, both in French and English version. I already miss Switzerland. What a great time it was!
This is guest post by Merry.
I bet you all have albums with photos. OK, at least folders with photos. Albums are no longer popular when we all use Instagram or Picassa, right? But you get my point. Photos. We have them, right?
We have depending on our life situation – photos of kids (first tooth, first step, first soup…) or photos of cats (first time in the box, first time next to the box, first time behind the box…) or photos of dogs (first tooth, first bitten item because of the first tooth…).
Yeah, that kind of stuff.
Our family has photos of games. I mean we have photos of kids, dogs, cats and even Ignacy. We do have some! But most of our photos is about games in our life. First drafts of prototype, first printed copy of the game, first game session, first bite… No, sorry, no bites. Games don’t bite. They don’t devour anything.
Anything, except time.
And always I was very happy about that loss of time!
We also have friends who have crazy photos in their albums too. Meet Arti i Zachi and their wedding photo…
Board games provide social experience. We play to meet people. To have fun, to tell jokes, to laugh. Sometimes we also play to win. But let’s face it. If the reason I am in this hobby is winning, I should quit. I don’t win that much. But I do have much fun, I do tell jokes, and I do laugh all the time.
Yesterday’s #boardgamehour was dedicated to banter. As Walt explained to me (since I didn’t know that English word before) banter is: “Table talk. Conversations with jokes.”
Man, playing games for me is all about banter. I am not playing games. I am bantering games!
One of the games that let’s you banter a lot is Michiel Hendricks ‘Legacy: testament of duke de Crecy‘ published by my Portal Games. At the beginning it looks like boring and dry euro about marriges in XVIII century. Not fun at all. But if you start play, you will discover that author designed cards in an extremely smart way and with a help of publisher (that would be me!) who added cute artwork we have one of the most funny euro games out there!
In the game you choose Friends cards and put them into play as a husbands and wives of your children (and grand children and so on). You choose who deserves to join your family. In a second you are grabbed with a theme. And your fellow players begin to banter…
You’ve just put into play David, the shoe maker. Your family looses Prestige and all players will make laugh of your daughter who had to marry such a dude. Is she pregnant already? they ask. Are you happy with your son-n-law? How’s his family? Do they fancy art? Yeah…
You put into play Constant, the king’s relative… Your family earns a lot of money and Prestige, but… Yeah, bantering again. This man is infertile! You gave up grandchildren just to earn Constant money?! Do you love your daughter? You made her marry such a pig?!
We can go on. Just imagine the moment when you put into play Friedrich, the blackmailer. You can see what’s going to happen, right? You can hear all those nasty jokes about your poor daughter thrown into arms of Prussian beast! But on the other hand, if your son will marry Margareth, hot Prussian physician, that’s other story. You gain Prestige, you have hot lady in your family and now you can look at fellow players with pride in your eyes…
The trick Michiel introduced in Legacy is so damn simple. No fluff on the cards. Just name, name of the card which at the same time acts as a fluff. Look at those cards:
Sarah, the revolutionary. And that’s it. We see here hot Merida-look-like girl who looses 1 VPoint if you have another US character in the game, because she is a revolutionist! What a lady! I want her!
And so on, and so on.
Each card has funny title. Each card makes you comment. Each single card makes people banter. Say jokes and laugh. This is conscious choice that Michiel did. He removed fluff from cards. He changed names of the cards into funny fluff itself. And he succeed. We added funny pictures and here it comes – amazing social experience. Pure fun. Jokes and laugh.
I do like to read reviews of Legacy, because each reviewer points out this aspect of the game – jokes and bantering, all the time.
Little Metal Dog wrote: As the game progresses and this immense tableau starts to spread out before you, passers by are drawn in almost magnetically, wondering what on earth is going on and why you appear to be building some sort of pyramid while you rant about needing more money to give your great-grandchild the mansion they so desperately require. All the while your opponents are mocking your decision to marry off the youngest heir to the Gardener’s daughter but you did it anyway because love must prevail and it’s the only card you had at your disposal that worked…
Space Biff wrote: Like when you marry your highborn grandson to Arianne the Courtesan because it doesn’t require an action (scandal!) and you really need her plush dowry so you can afford a banquet for your daughter. Then Arianne gives birth and dies thanks to a complication. Thank goodness! What a stroke of luck! Now you can marry your grandson to Isabella the Castilian Princess, a much worthier pairing, and one that will bring a whole set of new friends into the fold.
Drive Through…just listen to Joel Eddy in his “Your Horrifying Comical Testament” video at 18:04 min:
So we are in Indiana, at Gen Con. We are one day before convention actually starts, so we have few hours to walk around, visit city, do some ‘non convention’ stuff. Since me and Merry are wife and husband for couple of years so… so we do decide that we will visit the city separately. She goes her way, I go my way. We’ve been together long enough. I try to find game shops, she tries to find… I have no damn idea. And I don’t even care.
Few hours pass. We finally meet at the dinner. She is happy like a kid and she starts with a huge news:
‘I bought a desk!’ she announces.
‘What?!’ I can’t believe I hear what I hear.
‘A desk. Old, wooden desk. It is beautiful. It is from XIX century! American desk. You will love it.’
‘Are you nuts?! You bought in Indiana a desk?!’ There are very bad words that are going to be said in a moment. I am furious. A desk? Is she fucking crazy?!
‘It was a bargain! It was beautiful. They said they will help us with shipping.’ she is excited like a kid.
‘You want them to ship your fucking desk across ocean?! Merry, are you crazy?!’
I will explode or I will strangle her. There is no other way.
Oh, no, wait, in a fact, there is third way… I wake up.
Since couple of days I have nightmares. There are three standard motives involved each night: travels, Gen Con, Merry. I need help. Please.
On Monday we had another great discussion at Twitter.
#boardgamehour was dedicated to brick vs on-line stores. As my Merry runs a brick and mortar game store I was very eager to see what the answers will be. So partly from what people said on Twitter, partly from my wife’s experience here is my short guide to how-to run a good brick and mortar game store!
1. ‘I think the most important thing is to have unbelievably, over the top, awesome customer service. Know your product.’
Look. If customer is on-line, he just clicks a link and in a minute he has access to photos of the game, videos with unboxing of the game, with links to reviews, links to video reviews, ranks on BGG… He has everything. Do you want to compete with this?
Sir, you compete with the internet. You better be fucking qualified.
My Merry plays every new release that there is. When she orders new games for game store, she always order 1 more box and she opens it. She brings it home. We play it. If we have no time, she at least watches video reviews on YouTube and try to gather as much data as possible. But playing is always best. Then this open box is ready for customers at store. They can open the box, see components, decide whatever it is something good for them or not.
If you run game store, games are no longer your hobby. Games are your job. And it’s your job to be qualified. It is your job to know new releases. It is your job to provide awesome customer service, show the product, let customer touch it, tell him how it plays.
2. ‘We often get praise 4 being clean, which I find hilarious, but it seems to be 1 thing to set us apart.’
I work in this industry since 1999. I do remember all those old-school game stores, hidden in the dark allays, basements, with kids trading MtG cards, teenagers buying singles for horrible prices, students playing RPG sessions in the back…
Hey, it’s 2014.
We had board games revolution if you notice. Your game store shouldn’t be located in the dark alley anymore. It should be bright. It should have clean flooring. It should be friendly for casual people who accidentally step in. They should be able to buy Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan and willing to come back…
They should not be afraid to meet nerdy teenager who offers them singles for Magic. Clean and bright. As if you went to an apple store.
3. ‘I think you work on building community/loyal gamers and the profit comes naturally.‘
Many gamers who were invited in the discussion where mentioning that. This is so much important. Building community. Promoting the hobby in the city.
Merry tries to organize game nights. With me she also organizes Pionek con, local board games convention that is held 4 times a year in the city. First edition few years ago had 20 attendants. Last one, two months ago had 600+ attendants. Step by step this event was growing and growing and people in our city were more and more aware of board games hobby. This is how you build local community. This is how you find loyal customers.
Merry also records podcast every week. We talk for an hour about new games, we review games, we present our Top5 in different categories. This is how we try to help her customers find themselves in this great hobby. This is how she builds loyal customer base. Every week recording for them new episode of podcast and teaching them about games.
This is a hard work. Game nights, events in the city, podcast, it all cost energy and time. But this is how you do. No hard work, no effects.
4. ‘I have bought games because of an event allowing me to play in their space..’
It’s not always easy. You need space, right? More space, more to pay for rent. Merry has a small room in the back. You can not run there a tournament.
With no doubt Merry’s game store would earn more profit if she has more gaming space. If you could visit her with your friends and have a game or two. If you could organize a small tournament.
If you can afford it, don’t think twice. Let people play, let them discover new games, let them have fun at your game store. They will be more likely to spend few bucks at your game store, than on-line. Even if your prices are not that good, as in online game stores.
And talking about money we move to…
5. ‘so its usually like 10% off MSRP, plus another 5% or so because I’m a good customer – he doesn’t have a formal loyalty program, tho’
Basically on-line stores have better prices. Whatever we talk about software industry or clothes or books or games. You always can find on-line place with lower price. It’s hard to compete.
Loyalty programs will help you.
Contest with prices will help you.
Every month lottery will help you.
Unique goodies, promos, signed copies of games will help you.
You can’t compete with price.
So mate, you better do your best to win at all other bases.
Thank you for reading. I do appreciate your feedback. I promise, Merry will read your comments very carefully… 😉
Yesterday it was first time in my life when I decided to not watch Polish football team playing match. Whole life, more than 30 years of my life I watched every single match of Polish football team. I watched with hope that one day they will play good football. Like an old dog I was sitting in front of TV for all those years and I couldn’t understand it… Why they don’t try harder. Why they don’t fight. Why they act like they are there for punishment.
I find this attitude as a lack of respect for their supporters, for their work, for themselves. That is why yesterday, for the first time in my life I turned off TV when Polish national team played match. I had enough.
I am not this wag guy or jester guy who makes jokes about football players. I don’t tell jokes in the office after we loose match. I am quite the opposite. I am really and truly sad when our team plays miserably. I don’t find it funny. I don’t want to hear jokes about it. For all those years I really trusted in Polish team and was sad when I had to hear those stupid jokes…
Dear Polish national team. For the first time I decided to not be with you. I did it because of your lack of respect for the work you do. I never wanted you to win against England, Germany or Spain. I only wanted you to fight for the victory. To care about match. To do your best and leave heart, sweat and tears on the pitch. I only wanted you to respect your loyal supporters.
I can forgive lack of skills. I can’t forgive lack of heart.
Too many times you failed your loyal supporter. I am sorry. I quit.