Danielle Reynolds - @TokenGaymer
Attending PAX Unplugged 2019
The year 2019 has been a big year for me and gaming conventions. I have made more friends, created more games and really worked to be apart of the gaming community. This was my second year attending PAX Unplugged. Thankfully I have been able to stay with my friend Ryan in Philly to save money. PAX Unplugged is probably my most difficult Convention to attend. I normally can only go Saturday and Sunday because I’m out of vacation time by the end of the year and I need to fly in. Since I live in the Chicago area I have been lucky enough to be able to drive to GenCon, Origins and Protospiels. This has saved me a lot of money in the past.
This PAX Unplugged I was able to set up 6 pitch meetings and talked to 2 additional groups thanks to publishers referring me to other publishers. My schedule was hectic which made catching up with friends and playing games hard. Thankfully it seems like the hard work is going to pay off. I have written the results of all of my meetings excluding the company’s names bellow. It was interesting to see how different companies perceived the same game in different ways. I have a good feeling about many of these meetings!
Games Pitched/Result: Let’s Sort It Out (requested print & play) and Star Gazers (requested rulebook)
Let’s Sort It Out – He loved the theme of recycling and immediately imagined a campaign focused on sustainability. He also decided the game would look great with a Point Salad style illustration. This publisher had no critiques and loved the uniqueness of the drafting mechanic.
Star Gazers – Appreciated the table presence but wanted to make sure the rules made the game more of a game and less of an activity. Depending on the rules he may request a copy to playtest.
The Notes on the Pitch: From the pitch I have a strong feeling that if Let’s Sort It Out does well in playtesting it will get signed as their newest set collection game!
Games Pitched/Result: Let’s Sort It Out (requested print & play) and Inn Keeper (requested print & play)
Let’s Sort It Out – Found the theme cute, the rules simple and components to be what they are looking for as a small company running Kickstarter Campaigns.
Inn Keeper – Seemed interested but had no feedback beyond enjoying the theme and components.
The Notes on the Pitch: One of the two publishers needed to leave halfway through the meeting to make a phone call after being almost an hour late to our meeting. Once they heard larger companies were interested in the same games, they seemed intimidated and began to back out a little from the conversation. Since one of the publishers left halfway through the pitch, I don’t think Inn Keeper will leave as big an impression since she didn’t get to play it. Their excitement came from me being a female designer and that my games were card based so it could be produced cheaply. I do not think they will be signing either game. They did however request the sell sheet for Nut Stash since they had seen it on Kickstarter earlier this year and thought it looked fun.
Games Pitched/Result: Let’s Sort It Out (interested if made more difficult) and Inn Keeper (requested print & play)
Let’s Sort It Out – Liked the theme and the drafting mechanic but needed something extra in the set collection for it to fit his game line. He said with the difficulty cranked up another notch he’d be interested in looking at it again.
Inn Keeper – Told me off the back that he hated trick-taking games but by the end of the pitch he admitted that he was mad how much he liked it because his release schedule isn’t open for another 2 years. So, he told me to send him a print and play. Then check in 6 months to see if he has availability to sign it. He told me to keep pitching the game but if it’s not taken it would fit well into their new line of travel themed games. I appreciated the honesty and that Inn Keeper has a backup plan.
The Notes on the Pitch: This pitch was straight forward. He knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to share his feelings on the game. We were both happy that even though Inn Keeper is a trick-taking game he was still willing to look at it. If no one takes it in the next 6 or so months I would love to sign Inn Keeper over to this company!
Games Pitched/Result: Star Gazers (took rulebook and will playtest in next month) and Inn Keeper (requested a demo copy)
Star Gazers – The unique idea and components of Star Gazers is what got me the pitch meeting. While I spoke with the two publishers many people asked to play the game that they thought was up for a demo. This was great because it helped bring across the point that the game is eye catching. Since the company is based in the mid-west, we decided to plan a game night in the future to give Star Gazers a try.
Inn Keeper – We ended up playing almost a full game of Inn Keeper. While playing, both publishers got excited and one began to say how he sees a product he can sell. His reaction to my game is probably the best reaction I’ve seen in a pitch. He immediately asked who was interested in the game and if anyone gives me an offer to tell him. They then asked about what I like about the game. What issues I’ve seen in playtesting and why I made certain design decisions. They seemed to like my answers because they had a full sheet of notes by the end of my pitch. Internally I was freaking out and so excited. He asked what parts of the game I want to keep and what I would do with the art if I were to produce it. Then he gave his take on what he was imagining. His idea honestly sounded really cool. They asked why I wanted to pitch to them and have them make Inn Keeper. I had never been asked this question, but I had a response immediately. They have fun games that are accessible, beautiful artwork, growing company and work hard to keep the designer in mind on every game decision. If I were to sign with them, I would get an opinion on how my game would turn out. The next step was for them to play the game with their team and get their opinions. They would pitch my answers and the vision they came up with to the rest of their team. Then they will let me know hopefully by the end of the year, as long as the holidays don’t get in the way, whether they will be signing Inn Keeper.
The Notes on the Pitch: This meeting went amazing! The energy was high, the conversation was honest and open on both sides. I can honestly say I have never walked out of a pitch that happy before. I want them to have Inn Keeper and make it an amazing game. If that doesn’t happen, I at least know what they are looking for in the future. This company has moved to the top of publishers I want to design for. I have already started working on an abstract strategy game to pitch to them.
Games Pitched/Result: Let’s Sort It Out (took a demo copy) and Inn Keeper (not interested)
Let’s Sort It Out – Was a fan of the theme and drafting mechanic like the other companies I showed it to. She was concerned it might be too advanced for the 8+ year old audience she was looking to make a game for. She did decide to take a copy though to see if she was wrong about the age that could understand the game.
Inn Keeper – Decided trick-taking wasn’t for the company and what they are currently looking for.
The Notes on the Pitch: In 30 minutes we went over both games and ended up also playing Nut Stash because her company was looking for a game younger kids and adults might like. She ended up liking this game the most and requested a print and play. It is always nice to see Nut Stash get some love even when it’s unplanned. I try to keep all my sell sheets on me incase I hear they want something I’m not currently pitching.
Games Pitched/Result: Let’s Sort It Out (took a demo copy) and Inn Keeper (not interested)
Let’s Sort It Out – They thought it was a unique idea and would do well with a few other publishers. He worried that the game’s theme wouldn’t be something their company would publish but took a demo copy in case he was wrong.
Inn Keeper – The game didn’t fit what they were looking for but thought it might fit Deep Water Games as a spin off of their game Welcome to... I took a sell sheet to the company once the pitch meeting was over.
The Notes on the Pitch: I don’t think any of my games will get published from this pitch, but I did get some great feedback and leads. He also asked to see me again with any future ideas. I have seen this publisher at almost every convention. I really enjoy catching up with him in a pitch or just in passing.
Overall, I had a great experience meeting with publishers. I got some good feedback and every publisher took one of my games to further evaluate. I did learn to try and not schedule meetings back to back because most of my meetings started late and ran longer than expected. I also had one issue double booking a meeting thanks to the publisher’s calendar app. I’m not a fan of these apps because half the time it’s in your current timezone and not the one the meeting is in. I have already done my follow up e-mails so now I will be playing the waiting game. I have a good feeling that Inn Keeper or Let’s Sort It Out might get picked up from this convention. Fingers crossed that in 2020 I will be signing my first game!
Attending the Fair
In between pitch meetings I was able to catch up with friends and meet some people from my various Facebook Groups. I got a chance to check out a few games I was interested in. I have currently added BOSK by Floodgate Games, Deep Blue by Days of Wonder, Rune Stones from Queen Games and Summit from Inside Out Games to my Christmas list. I didn’t pick these games up because they were too large of boxes to fit in my luggage and they went over my set budget. Since getting engaged I have been trying to crack down on my spending. I did buy some smaller games to add to my collection though.
Sprawlopolis from Button Shy
Matryoshka from Letiman Games
Besides playing published games I got some playtesting in on a few of my games through pitching and Facebook friends wanting to check out the games I’ve been posting about this past year. Star Gazers caught many eyes due to its unique table presence. I look forward to further developing it in the future. At this time most of the games I pitched at PAX Unplugged need little to no more work on them. I will be playtesting them less frequently as I move on to newer designs.
Saturday night I also got a chance to go to the Girl’s Game Shelf Charity Mixer where we raised over $500 for a local charity profiting the homeless community in Philly. It was nice to meet some people I’d interacted with on social media. The event seemed small but made a big impact. I was happy to have been invited and look forward to future events.
I still think PAX Unplugged is my favorite convention. It is more spacious, has most of the larger companies and I’ve had great success in getting pitch meetings. If you are a designer, this is a great first convention to tackle. It is way less stressful then a larger convention like GenCon. I look forward to seeing where I am next year in my designing when this convention rolls around.