Essen Spiel 2013 – Looking through the designer’s lens…

Well I’m home from Spiel and recovering with a headache from lack of enough sleep and being on the go since Thursday morning as well as a sore throat from doing non–stop demos of my new game, Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice.

This year, Spiel was certainly a new and different experience for me and I thought that I’d do a post reflecting on how  I saw it all through a fledgling game designer lens.

The Fear!

First and foremost, there was the gut-wrenching, sleep limiting fear of the great unknown… Good grief! Will anyone actually play and like my game? After a year from idea and concept, through play testing finding a publisher (the awesome guys at Backspindle games), development, tweaking, previewing at UK Games Expo, promoting the heck out of the game brand, through to 1st print run, it’s been a heck of a ride and then it hits you that now your game, your baby, has to leave the safety of the nest and go out and stand or not, on its own merits. I felt utterly naked and vulnerable as I was completely exposed and had to leave it to the game playing attendees who had an absolute ton of new releases and other games that were fighting for their attention to give their verdict.

Would anyone like Luchador? A sickening feeling swept over me.

We set up the game…


I summoned up what strength and courage I could and waited…


The doors were opened on Thursday morning and in poured the gamers. Running off in all directions to get to the gaming tables as soon as possible. And yes… Keen gamers came straight to the Backspindle Games stand wanting to play Luchador and in no time at all we all began playing.


How would they react?

Love it? (hoping…) Hate it? (I don’t want to know…)

The first thing that I noticed was that most of the gamers had some level of understanding of professional wrestling and as I explained the rules and gameplay, smiles and laughter came through almost immediately. Phew! Ok, that’s a good start…

Then comments from those who were wrestling fans; a surprising amount of players were fans bearing in mind many were from Germany (where WWE isn’t readily available so I understand), with nodding, knowing smiles, building excitement to get playing, shouts of YES! when referring to Table slams and Chair slams as well as finishing moves, all gave me a sense that this could be a good day.

Then the real test… How would the Luchador experience go down?

Well seeing reactions like this all day long and all day Friday and Saturday, and in virtually every demo that we all ran was far beyond anything I could have dreamed of…


I genuinely felt that there was a Luchador love fest going as the laughter, the shouting, the smack talk amongst the players and then the cheers and boos as matches were won and lost was simply amazing. And then looking up and seeing loads of onlookers, attracted by all the noise and others waiting to get a game in…


Humility is probably the word that best describes my feelings. I felt so humbled and blessed to seemingly have designed a game that brings people happiness and outright joy. That’s why we do this design thing isn’t it? Of course, if Luchador does well and I can earn something out of it that would be cool and if I can keep coming out with fun games, awesome, but to create a game that makes people happy, well, I am more than satisfied.


Gratitude is another word. David and Leo from Backspindle Games have been amazing to work with. Thoroughly supportive and challenging in the best ways. They brought Luchador to life and I truly appreciate what they have done. Working with them at Essen was tiring, hilarious, energetic and loads of fun.

The icing on the cake for me came in meeting all sorts of people in the industry, whether it was my gaming media colleagues for interviews for The Spiel, Boardgamegeek, The Little Metal Dog Show, GMS Magazine and a number of media journos from other countries including an Italian reviewer who films 60-second reviews on Youtube (hilarious; I can’t wait to see that one…), as well as fellow designers was great fun. And when BIG name designers like “rock star” Friedemann Friese (yes, shameless name dropping is allowed…) came along to buy copies it was like…

On Friday evening I got to go to a party hosted by Fantasy Flight Games and Esdevium Games and talking to industry people who had heard of Luchador and were all full of congrats was simply awesome in itself.

Note the cake…


To have your game even be noticed by peers and industry folk is quite an amazing feeling I will tell you.

The reality in all of this is that not everyone will like Luchador and I have to accept this. It’s a dice game after all so luck is a major factor but the feedback is that the theme really brings the crazy Luchador world to life and the social interactive fun factor is huge and that is exactly the point so I’m cool with that.

So what’s next after Essen?

Well we will see what tomorrow brings but it so far sounds like there is considerable interest from distributors to bring Luchador out globally. Also, there seems to be considerable interest in doing multiple language versions. But talk is cheap and hopefully Backspindle Games will get some solid deals in place. Fingers crossed!

As a baptism of fire at the mighty Essen Spiel for this fledgling designer, I think that I did ok. I survived at least…

If you are a game designer, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences…


Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that by the end of Thursday we were number 23 in the BGG Geekbuzz listing and at number 30 at the end of Friday! I know that this is kind of meaningless as so few people actually vote in the scheme of things but considering the illustrious company that we are competing against (almost all Euro-style games) and how many new releases are at Essen, its again, very very humbling so we are very grateful that people enjoyed the game enough to take the time to vote for Luchador.


note – Our final position in the BGG Geekbuzz was –


News from Columbia Games – Bobby Lee update (3.0 rules draft v3)


News from Columbia Games – Bobby Lee update (3.0 rules draft v3)


Click here to download the beta rules for Bobby Lee.  Comments welcome.
Bobby Lee 3rd Ed. will be released in December.
The game is coming along nicely.
We’re having fun with our playtests.

We remind everyone that Columbia Games guarantees your satisfaction with every game we sell.  Try it with confidence.

Order now on

Old World New World – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE


Old World New World – Victory Point Games PRESS RELEASE

Weeks on board the ship have taken their toll on me; I haven’t been this light since I was a boy and I can barely stand up even now that we’re on solid land again. Despite that, the view from this beach is amazing; I never imagined anyplace could as wonderful or wild as this new world. Our journey inland begins tomorrow and all of my men are showing their nerves tonight; my hope is good rest will grant us the strength to make our claim and return home someday soon…

In Old World New World, from designer Aaron Smith, you take command of explorers trying to find their destiny in a recently discovered land. The map is revealed as you play against up to three opponents, with each of you trying to shape the land to best benefit your own side. With player controlled events such as Barbarians, Tornadoes, and Bribery, no plan goes unhindered and anyone could find themselves mapping their own destiny!
Perfect for both new and experienced gamers, Old World New World has a great mix of simple mechanics and a variety of options that will keep you on your toes no matter how many times you play it!

Click here
 for all the details and to order Old World New World.
– Victory Point Games

News – Columbia Games Press release – Important Bobby Lee Development Update


News – Columbia Games Press release – Important Bobby Lee Development Update

As we continue to revise and playtest Bobby Lee, our main goal has been to reduce playtime for this game.  Versions 1.0 and 2.0 were good, but an entire game 1861-65 could take 10-12 hours to finish.  That was barely acceptable twenty years ago when Bobby Lee was first published.  Not true today.  So, we are working towards cutting that time in half.

How will we manage that?  Essentially we are compacting time with quarterly turns instead of monthly turns, and we are reducing the number of units in play with a revised Order of Battle.  These changes are producing a game that plays much faster, yet is still a great game experience.

If you have comments you care to make on these changes, or on the original game, please do so.  There is time to influence the 3.0 rules, provided you want easier, streamlined play.  More chrome is unlikely to make the cut.  Stay tuned…


For those who are not familiar with Bobby Lee, some detailed reviews are available online on

News – Press release from Columbia Games – BOBBY LEE 3rd Ed. is now on Kickstarter!



News – Press release from Columbia Games – BOBBY LEE 3rd Ed. is now on Kickstarter!

Our first Kickstarter, Napoléon 4th edition launched successfully and so we’re going to use Kickstarter again to launch a 3rd edition of Bobby Lee. Many gamers consider Bobby Lee (first published in 1993) the finest operational game ever done for the American Civil War.

Bobby Lee 3.0 will get a similar upgrade to Napoléon. There will be a new deluxe mapboard and foil labels.  The new map is 30% larger with ample room for the blocks. The blocks will remain the same 20mm size that we use to avoid cluttering-up the map.

Go to the Kickstarter page now!










News – Victory Point Games Press Release – Trieste is now available!



News – Victory Point Games Press Release – Trieste is now available!

Trieste, from designer Matthew Ma, is a boxed card game where three players take on the roles of Thief, Merchant, or City Watch respectively. Each role has its own unique deck and victory conditions. Turns are played out simultaneously, with each player selecting an action without knowing those chosen by opponents.
The City Watch player levies taxes on the Merchant, and patrols the streets for the Thief, looking to fill the city’s jail with ne’er-do-wells. Players in the role of the Merchant are out to cut deals and line their coffers, in a quest for untold riches. As the Thief, that player is attempting to pilfer coins from the Merchant, while earning infamy and the respect of the secretiveFoxtail Gang.
The coastal city of Trieste is a flurry of trade and activity, but where there’s power, there’s always those who will compete to grab as much of it as they can. Conflict erupts in the streets, shops, and back alleys. Only one can truly rule Trieste. Will it be you?
Click here for all the details and to order Trieste.