Spotlight on – Coiled Spring Games – an interview with Roger Martin

Hello Roger,
First off, tell us the story of CoiledSpring Games

I really enjoyed playing a game called Triolet (www.triolet.co.uk) but we couldn’t find anyone who sold it in the UK. I flew to Lyon to see the inventor who told me he had no UK distribution. I offered to do it for him. We setup a website, did some mailshots and sold 600 copies that Christmas. We then met other producers and started marketing their games and we grew from there. We are now the exclusive distribution partner for Gigamic, Gamewright, Purrfect, Ceaco and others.  We have other 120 games and 30 jigsaws in our portfolio.
How did you get into game design/publishing?

So far, we’ve concentrated on distributing other peoples’ products. To grow the company further we need to be a publisher and export as well as import. Therefore, we’ll be releasing our first suite of titles over the next 6-12 months. We have a couple of very exciting propositions, one from England’s most successful female inventor and the other a re-imagining of a cult ‘70s game. Can’t say more at the moment though.
Tell us about your product range. What has been your most successful design/published game so far? What kind of feedback have you received?

As I said, we currently only distribute. Our most successful games are Quoridor, Slamwich, Rat-A-Tat Cat and Quarto.  We expect big things of Forbidden Island and Regatta from Gigamic this year.   Rory’s Story Cubes (www.storycubes.com) are my hot tip.
Can you tell us about the process you went through to arrive at the finished product? Tell us about the ups and downs, why you chose your mechanics and themes, etc.
Our range grew by identifying games we liked by particular producers and persuading/cajouling/sweet talking them to let us represent them in the UK.
For our own new titles, we chose these because each had an angle. For example, the UK inventor game has a very strong PR message. The 70’s games has great celebrity artwork.
Where it’s someone else product or our own, for me, the process involves finding a good game. Then finding/working out/creating a ‘story’ for the game. We’re not talking ‘theme’ here, but a message we can give to journalists, retailers and consumers about the product which pricks their interest and makes them want to talk about, play and buy the game.
Any words of advice for others interested in design/publishing their own games?

Playtest to death. Know your target market (hobbyist, families, kiddies), give us a call as we’re always looking for something new.
With the launch of the iPad, do you see the possibility for digital versions of your games?

There’s already an app for Rory’s Story Cubes.  Lots of our games have online editions but I think the markets are separate. Quoridor is a fabulous game but sells particularly well because of the look and feel – the kinaesthetic of it.
What type of games do you like to play? Any particular favourites? Any games or game types that you hate?

Triolet is my all time favourite. We even took it with us when my wife went into labour, just in case it was going to be a long birth. Freddie popped out in under an hour so there was no time.
I like games which you can get stuck into quickly. I always believe the basic construct and mechanic should be understand within 30 seconds and players playing within a minute or two.
Likes and dislikes in regards to mechanics, theme?

Like simplicity of rules and instructions. I don’t like themes that have been pasted onto a game just because ‘it needed a theme’. Usually that means it’s not a good game.
What is your view of the boardgaming scene here in the UK?

It’s certainly growing and gaining confidence. I think the challenge, as I said in the article, is to move it away from backrooms and into people’s every day lives.
Some people have quite understandably questioned why we should encourage more people to play games. Keep it niche they say. Well, I think it’s in all our interests. At the moment, the UK market is a pretty poor relation to most of the rest of the world.  However, the more people who are playing and buying games, the quicker new games will appear here in the UK and the cheaper they will be. We won’t have to wait 6 months and pay £40 for a US imported edition of a German game. It’d be published in 2 weeks by a UK company and available at £20.
Tell us where we can meet you this year. Upcoming public demos, conventions?

I’ll be at Essen of course.  We’ll be at GamesCon Leicester in November.  I also hope to get around more games clubs to run Forbidden Island contests. If anyone’s interested in me pitching up, I’m more than happy to come along.
Thanks very much Roger.
For more information, go to Coiled Springs’ website – http://coiledspring.co.uk/
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