Let’s talk about bits

rattle_NET (26)Some time ago Rob gave me this topic for a blog post: “Bits, it’s all about the bits in the box. Do you get component-envious and how do you decide how much to spend on in-game components? When do cardboard tokens become wooden pieces?”

It’s a good one. Most gamers really love good pieces and value quality components. Just today I had a discussion with a friend of mine who brought The Gallerist to show me the quality of production. ‘Look how thick these are!’ he said showing me the game’s tokens. Oh, yeah, thick they were!

Thick tokens, custom wooden pieces, miniatures, metal coins. It’s an amazing time for gamers.

I would risk a thesis that the biggest influence Kickstarter had on board game industry was not a flow of new revolutionary ideas, not indie designers and publishers, not promoting our hobby outside our circles, but the huge change in production value standards.

Because of stretch goals, because of competition, because of user demand, games published on Kickstarter raised a bar for production value to an incredible level. Soon after it turned out that gamers are looking for the same quality and production value in a regular games, games published without upfront funding, without stretch goals, without KS support.

Take any game published in 2010 from your shelf and compare its components with those of games published these days. You’ll clearly see the difference.

Try to find custom wooden pieces in games published in 2010. What about those released in 2015?

Try to find miniatures in games from 2010. Compare with these released in 2015.

Look for custom dice in games from 2010. Compare with 2015.

And my favorite – money. Do you remember how we dissed paper money in 2010 and we praised games that had cardboard tokens instead?

In 2015, money in the form of metal coins is not a standard yet, but we are so damn close to this point, huh?

***

With higher production value comes higher production cost and  higher MSRP. Even though our market grows, and trust me, it grows fast and it grows worldwide, game prices stay the same or – as we could see lately – go up. You would expect publishers to offer better MSRPs for their games because they print more and more games and the market is growing but it’s not happening. Quite the opposite. Prices go up.

I watch it happening and I analyze this every single day. I see what other publishers put on the market and I watch out for your – gamers’ – feedback. I look carefully at every piece in The Gallerist, I look at the MSRP and I hear what you say. I see announcements coming from FFG about another 100 USD game and I eagerly listen to what you say. I publish Rattle, Battle having pushed the production value to my dream level and I wait for feedback…

If Rob asks me about components I can say only one thing – our market has changed a lot in the past few years. It’s fascinating to watch this, to be a part of this and to wonder what’s next.

What do you think? Can publishers add even more good stuff to their boxes?

Imagine Lucca

photo-gallery-of-4-stars-hotel-in-lucca-64Imagine old city. Italian, beautiful city with narrow streets, small squares and decorated gates. With small shops on every street and hundreds of small restaurants and cafes on every corner. It’s sunny in the day and it’s bright in the night too, with all those lamps and lighting from windows, cafeterias and moon. Imagine Lucca.

 

pobrany plik

Imagine convention that takes place in a whole city. Not in the exhibitor hall. Not in the convention center. Imagine convention that absorbs the whole city.  With exhibition tents on every square. With geeks on every street. With events, cosplays, fun taking place on every corner.

They say Gen Con has about 50K visitors. They say Essen has about 50K visitors.

Lucca has 180K visitors…

Imagine convention that takes place in a whole city…

 

zdj-cie 1 (1) zdj-cie 2 (2) zdj-cie 3 (2)

zdj-cie 5 (2)

Every little shop celebrates convention. Whatever it sells jewelry or clothes, whatever this is a grocery store or small pizza place, it celebrates convention. Comic books, video games, cosplay. The whole city… You walk those narrow streets and you see comic book store and another comic book store, and store with action figures and store with cosplay accesories and you don’t get it. How’s that? This is some sort of a dream city? With only geek dedicated stores on every street?

They explain you. For the 4 days of convention local stores close and rent the space to geek stores who open only for those 4 days.

So you walk those narrow streets. Geeks all around. Comic book store on the right, action figures store on the left. Dream city it is…

 

zdj-cie 2 (3) zdj-cie 4 (3) zdj-cie 3 (3)You are fan of Dragon Age? They built actual village for you. Have fun. You are in a Lucca. Dream city…

 

zdj-cie 1 (2) zdj-cie 1 zdj-cie 2So you are comic books fan. Or Warhammer fan. Or Munchkin fan? It’s not gallery that waits for you. It’s actual performance area, where your favorite artists paint in front of you, create masterpiece paintings right there, right for you. Imagine Lucca, can you?

 

zdj-cie 3 (1) zdj-cie 4 zdj-cie 5 (4)Awards ceremony? Of course, it takes place in a fancy theater. Guest panels? Of course in press room. And so on and so on…

Last weekend I’ve been in Lucca. Biggest con I have ever been. Con that takes place in a city. Literally. Imagine that. Imagine Lucca…

 

Designers, Essen and charity!

zdjęcieWhen I was a kid video games were much harder than these days. In most cases you needed to use cheat codes and other tricks to handle bosses and hard core levels. In magazines dedicated to video games there were sections like “Tips & Tricks” where you were able to learn how to get unlimited ammo or find all hidden doors. Remember those days? I bet so!

Few days before Essen I came up with crazy idea – I will gather “Tips and Tricks” for board games. Ultimate Guide to win! Oh, yeah!

And then I will give it for charity.

***

I had a small notepad, I had a pen and I had this dead simple idea – approach as many as possible game designers at Essen and ask them to contribute to this little book. I know many designers by person so it looked like easy and fun task. The fair began.

On Wednesday I had no time to get any entries to my Ultimate Guide. I was too busy and in a fact there were not that many designers in the halls yet.

On Thursday I had… On Thursday I had no time to get any entries to my notepad. I was way too busy to even have a hot dog or cup of tea. That was crazy busy Essen day. In the evening I came back to my room and looked at my notepad. It was empty. No entries. I was sad. I was worried that my crazy idea has no chance to succeed. Essen was overwhelming this year.

On Friday I had…

OK, Friday looked just like Thursday. It was crazy. But, I didn’t give up. I managed to get entry from Kristian Ostby (designer of Escape) who visited our booth. I managed to get entry from Brad jr. Tolton (designer of Pixel Tactics) who visited our booth. And then breakthrough happened. My friend from CGE, Peter Cernak came to our booth with Matt Leacock (designer of…  c’mon, do I need to say it?!).

I asked Matt to contribute to my book and to write a tip how to win Pandemic. I explained him that I gather entries about winning games and I am creating Ultimate Strategy Guide and then, after Essen I will give it for charity. Matt, of course agreed.

“What a cool idea!” said Peter.

“I wish I had more time to go around halls and gather more entries.” I said.

“I’ll help!” replied Peter.

He took notebook. Few minutes later he was back with entries from all Czech designers that were at their booth.

And that was just beginning. Peter began to walk around the halls and talk about my project. He was asking designers to visit Portal Games booth and put entry into the book. Antoine Bauza came. Then designers began to tell each other about project. And then Merry helped. In a few hours my notebook had entries from Martin Wallace, Friedmann Friese, Bruno Cathala and many many other great designers.

I have tips and knowledge how to win Ghost Stories and Forbidden Island, and Chaos in the Old World, and Cold Express and Timeline and even Story Cubes! 😀

All together 23 entries from 23 designers about winning in 23 great games.

Here is a quick look at this piece of craziness…

***

I am happy to tell you that you can have my Ultimate Strategy Guide for Boardgamers. This is all unique item, this is great designers contributing for a good cause.

Here is the auction!

How cool our hobby is, huh?

That was most busy and exhausting and amazing at the same time Essen so far. I need to catch up with sleep, with rest, with everything, but hey, it’s Wednesday – I owe you a post, right! Here is some cool photos from Essen. Those of you who follow me on Twitter already saw them, for rest of us – here it is, Essen how I saw it.

zdj-cie 1 (1)Three big personalities of our hobby, from the left: Eric W. Martin, who covers for us all board games news, Tom Vasel, who covers for us reviews of nearly every game that is published in the world, and Brad Jr. Tolton, designer of publisher of great games (like Pixel Tactics or BattleCon). As we clearly see, Eric is just announcing that he heard about 600 new games that will be published and which need to be reviewed…

zdj-cie 1 (2)They say that in Essen you can buy everything for your board games. Well, I couldn’t find sleeves for this Settlers card…zdj-cie 2 (1)Best trolley ever!

zdj-cie 2 (2)Zee was stealing my thunder and signing box of Imperial Settlers. C’mon man, design a game by yourself! 😉

zdj-cie 3 (2)We all knew that Essen will be like a heaven for Ryan Metzler. It indeed was. 🙂


zdj-cie 5Don’t worry, I can fit one more game here! Everything is under control!

zdj-cie 4Runar had one suitcase. I had one car…

zdj-cie 3My Essen haul in all its glory!

The worst that can happen to you, dear gamer!

Let’s face it. Sometimes we all get a little bit too excited with new releases. It’s not our fault, obviously. This is totally fault of publishers and their marketing teams. They attack us by surprise (I am talking about you FFG and your Imperial Assault), they attack us by having great license (Alien Legendary? How can anybody resist that?!), they attack us by super combo of great components, great author and great brand reputation (Days of Wonder pay attention, I am talking about your Five Tribes now). They even use crazy approach like having blog about games written by a dude who can’t speak English (Portal Games your strategy is super unique!). Back to topic!

So we get excited. We buy the game. It looks gorgeous. We set it up, we begin to play and…

And it is great. It is damn good. Exactly as we dreamed of. Exactly as those cunning marketers told us. It’s hard to believe but it is really that good.

We feel excitement, we feel freaking joy. We feel like in heaven.

Round after round we feel growing tension and – I know this is crazy but before even we finish the first game, we dream about rematch, about playing it again and then again. Man, what a feeling!

We finish the game, we win, we look at our beloved wife to share this pure joy that we feel now and to ask her how she liked it.

‘I didn’t like it. It’s boring. Sell it. I won’t play it again.’ she says…

***

It’s like getting hit with a shovel. Huge one shovel. Right in your face.

I had it with Dungeon Twister.

I had it with Railways of the World.

I had it with Doomtown: Reloaded.

I had it so many times. And I bet you had it too.

You wife or your husband hit you with shovel right in your face.

Any dreadful stories to share? 🙂

 

 

This is hell. And I quit.

It’s hot time. I mean it. It’s hot like in hell. Our office is quite a place, with mine cabinet, with our main office, with sales department office, with small warehouse, kitchen, with huge warehouse downstairs… And when I say it is hot time, I am basically saying that not all of these rooms have air conditioning. So you can imagine.

But of course, it’s not just about the temperature. It is a hot time in terms of production too. We’ve just published Ruins expansion for 51st State so there is lots of shipping to retailers and distributors. And lots of questions about The Ne Era (out of print) and Winter (out of print). Releasing Ruins was like awakening the beast. Now everybody is reminded about 51st State line.

We also released Mississippi expansion and we released it both as a 3.0 version and 2.0 version. All players who supported us for years won’t feel abandoned – we still support 2.0 version. So yes, now we have to explain to every damn retailer what’s going on and why there are two Mississippi products in our offer. We produced Polish, English and French edition. Quite a ride. There is lots of fun also because Mississippi is spelled MiSSiSSiPPi in English and MiSSiSiPi in Polish. So this is crazy when I produce marketing stuff for English and Polish markets and I have to remember about this small detail. I won’t lie. There was some misspelling these days.

Did I mention Origins this weekend? I am not there. Pitty. But I will be at Gen Con. And Gen Con is getting close. Oh yeah!

Gen Con operation. This is so much fun. It is going to be the adventure of the year. At this point I am no longer praying for wooden pieces for Imperial Settlers because they are ready. Now I am beginning to pray for safe shipping to US and for mercy at US customs. Customs may mess with our Gen Con release in so many ways. Just keep games for week or two and I am done.

But this is August issue. Now we are in June. In June we need to send files for Polish Resistance to print and answer all questions about reprint of Avalon. And reprint of Winter. And reprint of Convoy. And reprint of Robinson. And this one is huge. In March we announced that Polish new print will be available in late June. So since 8th of June we answer 10 phone calls per day about it. It seems that all retailers find 8th of June as a late June. And because we’ve just presented at our website that new print of Robinson has custom wood pieces and 7 scenarios and stickers for players pawns, and thick cardboard player characters sheets and basically looks fuckin’ gorgeous now we answer 20 phone calls per day from retailers. And you know, 11th of June is still not late June in my opinion.

Most retailers disagree with me on that point. Keep calling and calling.

Which is fun, because our sales dept guys, Mirek and Greg just shipped 500 copies of Boardgames That Tell Stories and are not in a mood to answer phone calls about Robinson every damn two minutes. But the best is coming. We just published Polish edition of Trait cards promo for Robinson and we will offer Beach expansion promo for Robinson next week. And today we put in offer whole line of new t-shirts for Neuroshima (8 different designs!). Yes, there is always something new to send to gamers! Our sales guys know no word ‘vacation’

So, yes, it is hot and yes, we are busy, but this is just a glimpse of things that run here. We have new scenario for Robinson (it was supposed to be published today, but I decided to give it one more final round of testing), it will be published as a free PDF next Wednesday and believe me – you WILL love it. I am so proud of it. This was few months of work. Believe me. In the meantime we work on Polish Pixel Tactics and we work on Polish Imperial Settlers and additionally I just finished my old design of kids game (Land of Shadow) and we are at the stage of writing down final rules set. This is Sparta!

Did I mention video trailer for Imperial Settlers?

Did I mention that this week there is Pionek con – biggest board game con in South Poland and our company is very strong involved?

Did I mention Portalcon, con dedicated to Portal Games with keynotes and presentations of our new releases and lots of events for our dedicated fans? It will take place exactly in a month, on 12th of July.

Did I mention that in 2 weeks I go to Spain for a week to run workshops about designing games and such stuff?

And that Michal Oracz is nearly done with Theseus expansion?

There is so much going on. This is crazy. I could work 24/7 and still I would need to catch up.

But there is one more thing.

Tomorrow in Brasil World Cup begins.

So tomorrow I am taking 30 days off.

I have no idea what will happen without me at office. But I believe things will sort out. Somehow. Wish my team luck. Boss quits.

Hey, gamers! You can act better!

For 6 years I was organizing boardgames con called Pionek (Pawn). It was a great fun and a great lesson about gamers community. One of the events I held was a voting for the best game of the con. It had super simple rules – when you were leaving home, you were allowed to take a voting paper, write titles of 3 games you liked the most at con and leave the paper in a special voting box. From among all those who left papers with votes we randomly choose 3 people who win a free game. As you can imagine, voting was popular. Who doesn’t want a free game, right?

After the con I was the guy who open the box and count the votes. It was a hell of a lesson.

Let me show you some numbers before we move on – these are from three different edition of Pionek con:

One year 84 gamers voted for 65 different games.

Other year 104 gamers voted for 65 different games.

Other year 77 gamers voted for 81 different games.

You see that? There is no one ultimate best game. There is no one game that everybody likes. In a fact, the situation is exactly opposite. Every gamer has a different taste. Every gamer likes something different. Every damn gamer votes for different game. I run this voting for nearly 20 editions of Pionek con and it is always the same. The whole wide range of games that particular gamers find best. One loves Terra Mystica, the other loves Love letter. One loves Neuroshima Hex, the other loves Jenga. Look at those numbers. This is crazy.

Why I am telling you that? Why I am showing those numbers?

I try to show you that the game you love is not the best. And what is more important, the game you hate is not crap.

We gamers too often tend to go for a crusade. We often say that this or that game sucks and we give it 1 at BGG and we crash it in reviews, we go to the forums and we attack the game and gamers who like it. We can’t stand the fact that someone actually likes and plays the game we hate so much. So we fight. We make internet busy with our comments. We try to convince other players that they should immediately stop playing this shit.

Here is a deal.

I personally hate Terra Mystica. Worst game ever.  I don’t like Power Grid. I don’t like Trajan. I don’t like Summoner Wars…

So what?

Do I troll fans of those games on forums?

Do I publish negative reviews of those games?

Do I bully them on Twitter?

No. I simply don’t play them. That’s all.

I don’t like the game I don’t play it. I don’t bully people who like the game. I don’t visit their forums and tell them they are stupid. Please, act the same.

My message is: You don’t like some games so you don’t play them. That’s it.

Please, consider this mind blowing strategy.

Shorters session report ever!

This week in his Ivory Tower segment of Board games Breakfast Scott Nicolson was telling us about reflection after the game. Gaming experience is something we do love, but to make it even better we perhaps should try to talk about the game after the game, discuss our strategies, point of view, discover why opponents played that or that way. After game reflection.

There are two main after game types of reflection about Robinson. The game is super narrative and thematic and playing it was a true adventure. I observed that players like to retell the most thematic moments of the game they’ve just finished. And the second one type of reflection. The game is super deadly. Players tend to discuss if they had any chance to survive and if there was a turning point, a bad decision that head them towards the final end.

And at some point Tim Norris wrote that:

Train of thoughts head me towards session reports which are some sort of after game reflection and… you know, in Robinson if you want to write session report it’s simple – either this will be epic novel, either it will be concise as the inscription on the tombstone.

So I asked my Twitter followers about shortest Robinson session report they can imagine. 144 characters seemed like a perfect format for this task.

The answers? Made me laugh. That was a flow of super fun reflections about Robinson! Look at them:

 

And my personal winner of this series of reports:

The last one made me LOL.

I show you this fun example of reflection about the game, but being serious for a moment I have to say, I 100% agree with Scott. I do love gaming experience, I do love play games, but without reflection, without these debates, after game bantering, without all that’s after the game, it wouldn’t be the same.

So gamers!

Let’s play.
Let’s discuss.
Let’s live our hobby!

Like a woman in shoe store…

Few days ago my friend Ryu asked me if I want my Caverna back. Surprise on my face. ‘You forgot I have it, did you?‘ He was right. I forgot. I bought it and lent him few months ago without even playing it.

Few minutes later I posted on my Twitter.

Just a comment about me having too many games that wait to play. I didn’t realize I’ll raise an avalanche.  

and many more…

We are crazy.

*

So, back to my Caverna. I bought at the beginning of the year. Everybody was talking about how good it is and I wanted to try it. Polish edition was announced but I didn’t want to wait, I want to join community of gamers and talk about Caverna, share passion, discuss what I like about the game. So I decided to not wait for Polish edition, I decided to have it now!

It was four months ago. I haven’t played it yet. Polish edition will be published in a few weeks. Brilliant.

I counted games that wait. 72 boxes. Quite a number. What’s there?

Mexica. I played Tikal and I loved it. So I bought Mexica, second game in the series. It was hard to buy but I found it when I was in Essen. My first time in Essen. 2005… I think I should wait few months more and play it next year. 10 years after I bought it. Brilliant it is.

Field Commander: Alexander. I got it to see how it is to play board games solo. I find board games as a social experience and I couldn’t imagine that playing solo may be fun. Yeah… It was about two years before I designed Robinson Crusoe and its solo variant and spent so many hours playing solo. Yeah, I know solo games can be fun too. Still haven’t played Alexander though.

Battue I bought because of Bruno Faidutti’s review in 2008. I think publisher was from Korea or something close to this region, game looked both interesting and unique. Recommendation from Bruno helped me to make a decision and purchase it. Who knows, perhaps I am the only one gamer in Poland who has it! It strokes my inner geek! Pitty, it all ended only having the game. Not played it yet.

Goblins Inc. is a funny one. I really mean it. You know, I don’t purchased it. I borrowed it to play it two years ago! Didn’t happen. How stupid I am to borrow games although I have 70+ my own titles not yet played?!

The list go on. MicroMutants, 1st&Goal, El Capitan, Fallen Lands, Bushido, Magestorm

I am crazy. And as my Twitter feed proves, I am not the only one…

 

 

 

 

 

Cow gate

I_think_it_is_time_to_cover_this_madness_on_my_blog__right__boardgames__cowsSome 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:

Spadamy.44128.1266x0 spadamy2.25101.600x0 spadamy4.20623.1266x0

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.

You can see it here

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…’