18 October 2016
We dropped back by Trefl and discussed manufacture in Poland. Extremely helpful and kind (and they put a Jaffa Cake on the table in front of me to eat), they did have a focus on reducing costs by recommending using cardboard components for as much as possible. Steve and I discussed this afterward, agreeing that with the current market it was better to have a great game with lovely components that cost a little more, than a great game with only cardboard tokens. One of the deciding factors for our choice of manufacturer will be how capable they are of scaling up basic components to more luxurious versions (at no extra cost to our Kickstarter backers), should (when!) we reach the stretch goals.
We made a final, big sweep of the halls, searching for good last-day bargains from sellers who wanted to transport as little of their product back with them as possible and, while there was a lot of that, none of it caught our eye for purchase. My phone tells me that from Wednesday through Sunday we walked an exhausting 47,187 steps (13k of them on Friday), which works out as 36km. That's a lot of km for a sedentary gamer like me, and likely goes some way to the apparent METATARSALGIA (good death-metal band name) I'm feeling in my foot right now.
I ended up getting a full-price copy (€19! I'll be surprised if I got value for money here) of Chocobo's Crystal Hunt from the Square-Enix booth - couldn't leave without getting something there because I'm a terrible fanboy... I and/or my daughters will let you know how this seemingly extremely simple card game plays.
Steve got his leather fix at the Mysterium LARP clothing/accessories site, finding a pair of beautifully crafted leather shoulder guards for €15... Except they had rolled into the wrong basket and we're actually €90. We walked on.
Early for our meeting with Panda, we stopped and listened to a few unpublished designers (like us!) tell us about their games. There were some great themes around, but mechanics were sorely lacking - either being extremely basic, or direct re-skins of already existing games. In a way, that was a confidence boost for both of us.
The meeting with Panda was good. We talked components and manufacturing times in further depth. I relayed the importance of itemised quotes with variety for higher quality components so that stretch goals involving them could be accurately judged. We were given a handy toolkit to take away with physical examples of a large array of card, meeple and accessory. It'll be very useful to have that all in one place, rather than having to root around our games collection to find which games are produced on what gsm paper/card, etc.
After that, it was time to meet up with Max and friends for a beer. We gave them a quick run-down of Elementa and Baggage Train and they let us know what parts of it they especial liked the sound of. Always good to hear feedback!
We swung by WinGo briefly and then The Dice Tower booth. Everyone looked exhausted after four days of the event! (except us, who had a day off).
We also came to the stall of Japanese: The Game which, after a full explanation, looked like it might help me to learn the language. I'm bad at languages - whether it's German or Python - they just don't stick in my mind unless I'm using them every day. Teaching a language, both words and structure, through the medium of a card game certainly appeals to me, and is something my whole family can use. The basic deck of cards was on-sale for €20, which isn't cheap, but the cards are rammed with info and yet clear enough to fathom at a glance, so I judged the price tag representative of the value. Expansion decks that correlate to different topics such as Food and Anime were available, but sadly the core deck had sold out already. I'm hoping to get a copy mail-ordered if the shipping's not prohibitive and I'll let you know how the game part of it plays when I do! The designers are American, so I did ask them if they planned to do an 'American: The Game' to help other English-speakers with their language. Ho ho.
One of the most important lessons I've learned over this trip is how big and varied this industry is. By my own standards, there are thousands of bad games, hundreds of good ones and only a few that truly innovate, which is one of the driving reasons for me doing this. It's likely that the theme of any game you dream up has already been done already, but if the way you design the experience of that theme is more fun than the rest, you have a chance to shine. More than that, the people are fantastic. The industry's growing strongly and each game has its enthusiasts who are happy to take the time to chat, not just about their game, but also their journey with that game, which is often the more interesting part of the discussion.
A brief reorganisation of our own baggage to encompass the day's purchased, and then tram, train, monorail to the airport. A final German beer and the discovery that O2 have a UK mobile repeater in the Dusseldorf departure lounge (hi texts!) and then it was on to the plane. This one was a little bigger (the plane we had for the journey there had propellers...) and the flight was smooth. An evening arrival meant a lovely view of West Midlands streets bathed in sodium-orange. Train back to the city centre from the airport and I said my farewells to Steve. Coffee and a wait for the last Sunday train to Kidderminster and a taxi to get me back into the loving arms of my exhausted wife (having solo'd three kids for five days) for 11:40.
And my bed. Oh gods my bed.
Thanks for takingthe time to follow my journey over this last week! Elementa's Kickstarter is set to launch imminently, so keep an eye on our Facebook page and/or Twitter for the info.