Podcast Episode 74: Mentoring

  • October 19, 2021 12:03 AM
  • PODCAST

Listen to this episode on Buzzsprout

Mike Belsole and Grace Kendall from the Tabletop Mentorship Program (Tabletopmentorship.org and @tabletopmentor) join Mark McGee (@mmark40) to talk about their mentorship program.

  • -- First Timer Palooza
  • -- Main topic: Tabletop Mentorship Program

Discuss this episode in our guild at podcast.gdofnc.com. Follow us on Twitter at @GDofNC. Visit our website at www.GDofNC.com


My Time at Gen Con 2021

  • October 18, 2021 1:22 PM

This year was my 3rd time attending Gen Con. Leading up to it, amid delays and uncertainties due to covid, I initially thought it might be a better convention to attend as a designer because there would be fewer attendees there so publishers might have more time, and after some of the larger publishers backed out I thought perhaps some of the smaller publishers who took their spots would be more open to meeting and taking pitches from relatively no-name designers like me.

In the 6 weeks prior, I went through the list of publishers scheduled to have a booth and emailed all of the ones I thought would be open to hearing about any of the games I was taking. As I was making my list of publishers to contact, I saw several who basically said "it's been a weird year and we're not in a position to take game submissions right now". Between that, the reduced number of publishers attending, and the mismatch of niches between my games and publishers, I had 1 scheduled pitch and a couple other publishers that I could swing by and briefly connect with if I caught them in a lull at their booth. That doesn't sound like much, and I didn't feel that it was, so I shifted my mindset to try to not focus solely on being there as a designer and primarily enjoy the show as a game enthusiast.

My scheduled pitch was fine, but the publisher was not interested. They suggested a different publisher I should try who was at the show. I didn't have a scheduled meeting with this second publisher but I tried an archaic tactic that ended up working out. I walked up to the booth and found a worker who was not currently busy and asked "Is there someone here this weekend taking game pitches?" and that got me connected with the right person. That actually was the most successful part of the whole show for me. I showed them all 3 games I brought (Galaxy Alpha Team, Poisoners' Soirée, and Tether) and they took a copy of Galaxy Alpha Team, then walked me over to their buddies at a different company to pitch Poisoners' Soirée, and they took a copy of that with them for further evaluation.

Then I spent the rest of the show checking out new games and being a geek, which I don't normally make time for at conventions, but I enjoyed.



A Week in the Life: Preparation and Pitching

A weekly summary of the game design work of a regular guy with a full time job and a family with 3 small kids who designs games in some of his spare time.

  • June 14, 2021 6:33 PM

I want to spend time most weeks talking about my design work both as an encouraging example of how someone challenged for spare time can make progress on game designs, and to offer some incidental insights into how I view the design process that could be interesting or helpful. I intend this to show how I break down my process into digestible nuggets of work that can be done between my job, family, and other responsibilities.

So here's what I worked on this week.


I just participated in Pegasus Designer Days, where I had the opportunity to pitch games to Pegasus Spiele. They schedule you 10 minutes to pitch a game to them, then they move on to the next pitch. They were doing this for 4 days, so they got hundreds of pitches back to back to back. I was fortunate enough to get 2 time slots to pitch 2 games, Poisoners' Soirée and Galaxy Alpha Team. Knowing my strict time limit, I put a lot thought into preparing for how I would present these games.

Galaxy Alpha Team is the harder of my games to pitch in 10 minutes because it's got more interconnected systems, takes up more space, has more rules, and is just bigger in most ways. I don't know if I can do a full rules explanation in 10 minutes, but that's definitely not how I wanted to do this. My approach was to write out all the high points I want to hit, then come up with a way to connect those thoughts together. I remember from playtesting that the cool stuff people think are the highlights of Galaxy Alpha team are:
  1.  Managing when and how your ship takes damage, to strike a good balance between damage output and breadth of options.
  2.  Repairing and upgrading your own ship from the alien ships you destroy, encouraging you to be thoughtful about your targets.
  3.  If you coordinate with your team, you can pull off impressive combos.
So I made notes to highlight those aspects, and only add the extra details necessary to provide context for these parts.

Poisoners' Soirée, on the other hand, really is simple enough that I can talk about the setting, explain every rule, then have extra time to talk about what players have identified as the highlights for them. In fact, this was the first of my two pitches and I did just that and still had a couple of minutes left over to start preparing for Galaxy Alpha Team.

The thing that stood out to me the most about my pitches as I was doing them and later as I was revisiting them in my mind, was how stark of a contrast there is in complexity between the games. I call Poisoners' Soirée a "family weight" game, and refer to Galaxy Alpha Team as a "core gamer weight", which I certainly believe is true (I've never made a heavy game), but especially when I pitched them back to back, it was striking how different the market is for these games. I have played Poisoners' Soirée with both my non-gamer parents and my children, and would not hesitate to play it in a setting with co-workers and really any random person who seems interested. Galaxy Alpha Team is a game I am extremely proud of that I believe executes on my intent for it very cleanly, but I expect it would fall flat in many more situations than Poisoners' Soirée, just because it's a "core gamer weight" game that plays better with people who are accustomed to games with more complexity. None of this is a value judgement of course, but a categorical reminder that a mid-weight or even a medium-light game is complex enough that tons of people would immediately have very little interest in playing.

They say your game is always more complicated than you think. My experience this week reminded me of that.


A Week in the Life: Soda and the Future

A weekly summary of the game design work of a regular guy with a full time job and a family with 3 small kids who designs games in some of his spare time.

  • May 30, 2021 1:23 AM

I want to spend time most weeks talking about my design work both as an encouraging example of how someone challenged for spare time can make progress on game designs, and to offer some incidental insights into how I view the design process that could be interesting or helpful. I intend this to show how I break down my process into digestible nuggets of work that can be done between my job, family, and other responsibilities.

So here's what I worked on this week.


Last weekend Josh Mills and I had the opportunity to demo our upcoming game Top Pop at a local event. Matt Wolfe is a fantastic people connector and introduced us to Eric Martin, who hosts frequent game events in our area (and is a BGG News Editor). It's fun to get the game in front of new players. We had pre-release demo copies from the manufacturer, and this was the first time I've played with near-final components. We asked for thoughts from the players and over the past week I've been spending time working through the feedback about the player aids, rulebook, scorepad, and various graphical things. The core game system has been solid for a long time now, but even so it's fascinating how much other stuff needs to be taken into account to make sure the full experience is smooth and easy to understand and play. There is a substantial difference between a good game with sub-par player aids and the same game but with really useful player aids.

Months ago, I made a plan to attend 3 conventions this year. It was the same 3 conventions I intended to attend last year before they all got cancelled. I was going to Gen Con, Origins, and Pax Unplugged. After I made my plan this year, Gen Con moved to the same timeframe as Origins so I decided to skip Origins in favor of Gen Con. Then several large publishers backed out of Gen Con and that's put me back on the fence. I'm mostly interested in conventions for the opportunity to connect with publishers, designers, and other industry people that I haven't seen in a while. With the absence of some large companies, I'm trying to get a pulse on whether smaller publishers will copy them and back out, or if they will take advantage of the opportunity to actually get a booth at Gen Con now that there are fewer big names taking up so much space. I haven't decided whether I'm still planning to attend or not.

One of my alternatives to attending conventions to connect with publishers was to enter my designs into more contests. I had an epiphany and realized that conventions and contests are not mutually exclusive (seems like a no-brainer in retrospect), so now I plan to enter contests regardless of conventions. I've found a couple that I feel like I've got a good submission for. Bad Comet has a co-operative game contest and The Game Design Workshop has a contest that I think Poisoners' Soirée would be good for. As part of these contests I need to have a fully functional rulebook, so I've made another pass at my Galaxy Alpha Team rules to get them closer to contest ready. My next steps are to get images for the rulebook and make a pitch video. I'll continue tackling that this week.


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