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Steam Works at Essen

I went to Essen!

My game SteamWorks was released at the start of October, and so I went to Essen Spiel, the world's biggest board game convention, which ran from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th October. I spent 4 days doing basically nothing except play demo games of SteamWorks all day long, and the reaction was extremely gratifying. More than half the time, at least one of the players immediately wanted to buy a copy of the game. And when people left the demo game without buying it, in many cases they'd come back later or the next day to buy a copy later. Most of the time when a demo game finished and the players stood up, within 1-2 minutes there were another group of 2-4 people wanting to play!


The Steam Works booth set up before the convention starts, and me teaching people the game

It was so busy that I didn't have much time to go around the fair myself to try out other games, but that's okay. Since I travelled on the train I didn't want to be carrying a huge amount of games back, and I did a few quick purchases on the Thursday morning.

The publisher I've been working with, Tasty Minstrel Games, didn't have their own stall at the con, so I was responsible myself for arranging everything like stall booking, hiring tables and chairs, making the banner poster for the wall behind me, and so on. It was the first time I've ever done something like this, and given that, I think it went pretty well!

For the Friday and Saturday of the con, I did take the opportunity to dress up in my steampunk outfit, closely modelled on Professor Lucius Fitzgerald from the game:



I went out there as part of a big group of British board game designers, who mostly all had booths right next to each other. This led to a great feeling of camaraderie. It turned out that just across the aisle from me were the Ragnar Brothers, who always attend conventions in top hats, so we took the opportunity to have a waistcoats-and-top-hats photo:


So what are my conclusions after four days of playing Steam Works all day? Well, I still love the game, which is a good sign :) I've learned quite a bit about how to demo it, what kinds of gestures and turns of phrase are most likely to help people understand. I've learned that it's going to normally be best to tell people we're only going to play about two-thirds of a game, stopping one or two rounds into Age II. This has a few advantages: it's enough of the game that players get a feel for how things work, and get to see some larger devices on the table, but I get to go through more demo games in a day; and it can also leave players feeling like they want to see the game through to its end, which makes them more likely to buy a copy :)

I started the convention with 72 copies of the game stacked all around me at my booth (you can see them in the first photo). I'd sold 60 of those by the end of the four days, which meant I was able to pay my hotel bill of several hundred Euros in cash, which felt quite amusing. Excitingly, I got my first royalty cheque a couple of weeks afterwards. It's a curious feeling that this thing that I started just as a hobby has started to make money for me!