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 –


8 thoughts on “Essen Spiel 2013 – Looking through the designer’s lens…”

    1. If in the UK, it will be available soon. If in the US, Game Salute will be bringing copies back from Essen. Distribution deals will hopefully be worked out and hopefully another print run as well. So shouldn’t be too long.


      1. So here’s a question, if a retailer was in Essen; do you provide a discount for purchasing games compared to everyone else or is it buy at what price there is available?


  1. That’s a great perspective! I definitely heard about some of the excitement of Luchador throughout the con. I will be diving into my first booth experience at a smaller convention (Con of the North in Minneapolis, MN) in January. I figured starting small makes sense before tacking something like GenCon or Essen. I have been helping out more experienced designers at their booths (Indie Boards & Cards, Minion Games, etc.) to watch and learn how it’s done and I recommend that to anyone else thinking about buying booth space in the near future.


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