So I went for my first game convention as an exhibitor - Gamestart 2017. It was a humbling experience, very interesting and with much to learn. It was primarily a video-game convention, with a lot of emphasis on cosplay, but with a brand new tabletop gaming section. A lot of indie developers came to it, but the crowd wasn't great as most people came for the video games.
With help from a couple of friends, I camped there for two days, opening up a couple of sets of the Impregnable Fortress board game for people to try. It was slow on the first morning, it took until after lunch before anybody even sat down to try the game. At that point, it felt like we would never sell a single set.
Eventually, people began to come by to try that game out. And that's when it got really promising. Until now, the game had never been tested with complete strangers - all my playtesters were friends or family. As objective as they tried to be, there was always going to be something at the back of their minds holding them back from being too brutal with the feedback. So, it was very important that I let complete strangers try the game - this would be the acid test. And the ultimate measure of success would be when somebody decided to part with their hard-earned cash to buy a set.
And that's when it got interesting. Many people walked past, either because they were not interested in board games in general, or they had the impression that IF1942 was a heavy "wargame", full of complex rules and requiring some interest in the genre for a player to enjoy. However, for those who sat down to give it a try, they quickly found that the game was "light" and "casual", and easy to get into. It was not aimed at wargamers - it was aimed at the casual gamers. Couples began to enjoy playing it, and people of all ages gave very positive feedback about it.
We knew we had a winner on our hands when people who played the game almost always bought a set before they left, and two of them even came back the second day of the convention, bringing friends. By the end of the second day, we had a queue of people waiting to try the game, even after we opened a third board on an adjacent table that another developer kindly offered to let us use after they packed up early to settle some pressing production matters.
We even witnessed an enthusiastic girl explaining to her friend the game rules while they were both waiting for their turn to play. This was, to me, a sign that the game could appeal to families and non-gamers.
In the end we sold a modest number of sets by the end of the day, but the overwhelmingly positive response from those that gave the game a chance made us feel that if we could get this into the hands of people, we would benefit from strong word of mouth. On both nights, we had people playing until the convention hall closed and we had to reluctantly leave. Looking forward to the buzz that will come from the official launch on 3rd November!
I've learnt over the years that I don't have any real skills except the ability to play games. So I guess it makes sense that eventually I would gravitate towards making my own games.