To the market: Romanfgames at the 2018 Toy Fair

This will be a different sort of blog post than many of the others, very personal in nature, more the diary of a new game designer, intended for friends of the blog.

The show

Although I’ve posted about GenCon many times, this was my first trip to the Toy Fair. There is a big difference between the two. GenCon is a convention, open to the public, for fans to enjoy games. It is also where the gaming industry launches hot new titles and that sort of thing. The Toy Fair is an industry trade show. It isn’t really open to the public, it’s for industry insiders to do business. For now, I’ll just state that I am very fortunate to have had an “in” to this industry event, which lasted from Saturday-Tuesday in New York. My primary reason for being there was to see if there was an established company for which my original game, Cage Match would be a fit. Closer to the date of the event, I also established an in-person interview with Rob Daviau, basically my idol, for this blog. That interview, and getting content for the blog, were my secondary purpose for being there.

The conversations

I am extremely fortunate to have met Chuck, through my friend and former coworker Cory. Chuck is essentially the mayor of Toy Fair, well, either him or Jayz. The two showed me around and introduced me to countless others, including Mary Couzin, famous locally in Chicago and throughout the game industry, who introduced me to Shannon Swindle, another local Kickstarter legend.  Mark and the guys from Tactic, plus Vonn and the folks from Rosalina, all looked after me.  Having that base of support made it much easier to go off and contact people on my own, both during booth time during the days, and during social events at night.  Separate from all of them, the community of new board gamers was generally pretty friendly and highly supportive.

I introduced myself as a game inventor, seeking a partner for my mixed martial arts board game. “Talk to the guy from Unstable Unicorns,” said the guy from Breaking Games. I talked with Ramy Badie, the creator of Unstable Unicorns, a bit on Monday.  He discussed the benefits of Kickstarter.  “Talk to Fabio,” another guy said. “He does sports games for ABC Company [a sports-related company, not really ABC]. He should be in the last aisle.” I looked and looked but couldn’t find Fabio. I did find, and talk with, representatives from Iello USA (we love King of Tokyo), North Star Games (more on them below), Z-Man/Asomodee (too many titles to list here), and many, many more.

The games

I will come back to this later in the post, but I saw a ton of new games and met dozens of new game designers, and nearly all of them got there via Kickstarter.  The games were sort of getting lost in the personal story of this post, so I’ve moved them to their own dedicated post.

However, I did talk to the folks at Stronghold Games about an official, sanctioned Terraforming Mars tournament at GenCon. “I so hope they do a tournament,” said my friend, Televator, one of the best and most competitive gamers among us, a little while back. The folks from Stronghold are on the fence, but open to my proposal of running an official event at GenCon. I think I’ve got a way to incorporate a game for 64 players, without exposing Stronghold to much exposure in terms of product (maybe 5 total games). We’ll see if I’m successful in getting them to allow me to run it, but I do have experience with GenCon events through my experiences running them for Epic Duels.

Cage Match

The back of my game inventor business card.

MMA is a huge sport worldwide, it’s growing, there isn’t a MMA board game out there, and I’ve got a really good one. However, it seems like all the new game inventors are coming through Kickstarter these days. I feel like one of the few (only?) new ones going directly to companies to get something going. In addition to that, many companies just aren’t interested in anything in that category – if they’re interested in anything at all. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday finding that out.

On Monday, however, Chuck introduces me to one sports-related game company that showed interest. It’s a long shot, but they just might do it. If not, there is more than one way to get it done, but I probably won’t go Kickstarter with this one. I have other game ideas better suited to that audience.

That’s the thing. I have a dozen game ideas, 2 of which I struck a spark on with other companies, and I wish I had come to the fair with at least half my dozen ideas worked out. Got any time on your hands? I need help fleshing some of these out, because there are companies interested in two of the ideas, plus I’ll need a third one for Kickstarter. You have to play test to find out what works and what doesn’t, and it takes time, and I only have so much. It’s not my full-time job, much as I’d like it to be. Someday, maybe. If only I could find Fabio from ABC company, maybe I could sell this one.

Rob Daviau

Sorry to disappoint those who were hoping to read the complete interview in this post, but this post will only discuss him in the context of the fair overall. He is basically my idol as a game designer, having co-designed Star Wars Epic Duels, as well as Heroscape, Pandemic Legacy (huge fan of this one), DownForce and other games I’ve played. He also wrote a chapter of the Kobold Guide to Game Design, a chapter that influenced the development of Cage Match (and a book that has had a big impact overall). I also enjoy following Rob on Twitter (@robdaviau). Finally, he has a reputation as a good person, and used to work with a close friend of mine (the one I stayed with in NYC, actually), and he lived up to that reputation by donating about 10 minutes of his time to the followers of Star Wars Epic Duels, a small game that he never expected to be talking about 15 years after it came out to someone my age (he guessed mid-30s, I’ve always looked young for my age, hehe). This guy is the guest of honor at an upcoming game convention!

He does pretty much look like that and no, I’m not going to Dice Tower Con.

He appeared to be coming from one meeting, with another immediately after, so there was no small talk, but I did tell him why we were talking before I started recording. Then, I recorded a full 10-minute interview. I might have been a bit hasty in saying I’d have the full interview out this week. I want to take the time to listen, stop, type, rewind, listen again, stop, repeat so that I get it all correct. It’s not a great recording so it will take me some time to go through (also, not good enough to post unfortunately). I may post it in chunks, e.g. each question and his answer, so that I can get some content out sooner.

Romanfgames

I don’t typically write or reveal much of anything about myself, except that I’m an avid gamer who loves Star Wars Epic Duels and many other titles. Roman isn’t even my real name, which confused Mr. Daviau a bit. But, I will write a note about myself for a change, because my life is changing. Six months ago, I was living and thinking a certain way. After six months of near-daily meditation, the things I do and think about on a daily basis have changed, specifically how I now see the world vs. how I used to see it. It appears to be manifesting in changes in the physical world I live in, as the group of people that I talk to, professionally, has also completely changed in the past 6 months. Did followers of this blog think I would be bringing you a live interview with the creator of Epic Duels?

These sorts of changes in the physical world are naturally following the changes in the non-physical one, at least that’s what I believe. Check out the Original Games section. I have 5 titles up. Two are really, really developed. I have a dozen other ideas, two of which will fit with actual game companies.  Romanfgames, LLC is now registered in the State of Illinois.  Meanwhile, totally separately, Ian and I were astonished to see this blog get over 6000 views in January, by a hundred or so users, with dozens of comments, and thank you! We’re just setting up analytics on the Epic Duels Wiki now, but it probably got several times the traffic that this site does, and I am also the administrator of that one (a note of thanks to umondy and fmm for co-administrating, perhaps you see now that I’m taking on an increasing load). It was because of the surge in interest in Epic Duels that I requested the interview with Rob Daviau, and he agreed, without having any connection or introduction.  He may not be entirely sure why he did, with such a busy schedule, especially in person, but perhaps there are larger forces at work. Chuck also mentioned meditation, and while at the fair, he received multiple, legitimate job offers, ones he is weighing right now.

The Toy Fair was a learning experience, one like drinking water through a fire hose. Sports board games, like mine, are tough. Board games are tough. The toy and game industry is tough. These people work very hard, and most don’t make very much money. “I sell joy” is what one gentleman told me. That’s what it’s about.

My last day of the fair, I came in early, before the day had really started. The fair had the air of coming to an end, which each of us having lived his own intense experience or adventure. The smell of packing boxes was in the air (not really, but you get my meaning). I reconnected with many people throughout the day that I had met earlier in the weekend, one woman game inventor even gave me a warm squeeze of the arm, and I had the sense that I’d be seeing them all of these people again and again, over many years. But that early morning, as I walked the floor to take pictures for the blog, I noticed a football board game being played by 2 men, one of whom, Nick, I had met a few days earlier.

Nick and I shook hands. The other man, smiling with a robust beard, introduced himself, “I’m Fabio from ABC Company.”

I’ve heard I needed to find you, because you do sports-related board games.

“That is my reputation! Do you have a sports-related board game?”

Now, perhaps there are two companies interested.

And with that, I increasingly find myself becoming a full time member of the board game world, either as an inventor, or a blogger, or a marketer (my current profession, though not in this industry) or an entrepreneur, or some combination of all of those. Monetizing it requires still more changes in the physical world around me. That story has yet to be told. The Toy Fair of 2018 just might have been a significant, life-changing event in determining what that story will be.

Thanks for following me and for reading.

3 comments

  1. Chuck says:

    It was a pleasure attending this years Toy Fair with you. I believe we accomplished what we wanted and perhaps left with more opportunities and ideas then we could have imagined. I look forward to attending future shows with you.

    Cage Match is a great game and time and effort will get it where it needs. It is a nice step and beginning to building your library of games.

    Thank you Roman I enjoyed it!

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