You know the summer is over and fall is coming in the Northern hemisphere, when we head over to Essen for the International Spieletage, or SPIEL for short. 4-days packed with board and role-playing games on the world’s largest consumer fair for board games – what’s not to like?

Come on over and check out the latest add-ons and updates for CC3+, have a chat with me (Ralf) about mapping, and wander the halls for the latest and greatest in boardgaming. What are you waiting for? See us in hall 2 at booth C-117.

Hall 2 plan

06_AboveCloudsThis is a bit of a personal look at this year’s travel to Indianapolis and my experience on the ProFantasy booth at GenCon. Read on if you enjoy this sort of thing.

I enjoy traveling very much, but a transatlantic flight is still a tiring thing. It takes me about 2 hours to get to Frankfurt airport from where I live, so it always means an early morning start for me. There are no direct flights to Indianapolis from Europe, so the first leg of the journey usually takes me to New York, Detroit or Chicago. Then there’s immigration, another security check and the domestic flight to Indy. All of this easily eats up 20 hours or more. As I can’t sleep on the plane, you can imagine the general state I’m in when I arrive in Indy on Tuesday evening. I have to to say though, that recent changes in the way the US handles the immigration/security checks has reduced waiting times immensely. Where I used to stand 30 minutes to 2 hours in line, I can now just walk up to an immigration terminal and get through the whole thing in 10 minutes. Great!

09_BoothArrivalWednesday is set aside for booth setup. I meet up with Doug and Tommy, who’ve driven over from Columbus the day before, and we usually start building the booth around 10am – if the booth material has arrived yet, as it had this year. Having done this for a few years, we are a practiced team and get it done pretty quickly. As we are sharing the booth with Pelgrane Press and they have a lot more to do with all the heavy books to shift, we usually manage to help them out a bit. Often there’s a problem to sort out: Electricity hasn’t been laid, tables are missing, we need more chairs, etc. which means a trip to convention services or asking around at other exhibitors. This year was fairly easy on that, but Mayfair Games were very helpful in storing some palettes we didn’t have space for. Doug is the champion in getting help – he just has a way with people.

20_ArmadaWednesday evening there’s usually a little time available where I can get in a game or two. Tommy usually brings along some good games, and this year we managed to try a session of Star Wars: Armada which neither of us has had a chance to play before. My Imperial fleet managed to decimate his rebel scum – taking on Star Destroyers in close combat is not such a promising tactic after all. Yay!

Gaming takes my mind away from the jet lag exhaustion at this point, helping to get into the 6-hours-delayed day and night rhythm. If I’d retire to the hotel room, I’d just fall asleep and later be awake most of the night. Still I start waking up at 4am and then sleep only in small bursts until it’s get time get up. By the time I’m acclimatized, it usually time to fly back home to Germany.

25_DemoRunningThursday is the big day – the actual convention starts. It’s early hours for us, since the first customers can enter the exhibitor’s hall at 9am (VIGs – very important customers – spend extra on their tickets for this privilege). Since there is usually some last minute setup to do, things to check, and the computer to boot up, I’m in the hall at 8am, the earliest time you can enter as exhibitor.

The real rush begins when the hall opens to the general public and it’s always fun to see the crowd hurrying towards the booth with limited product or special offers. Fortunately they’ve now managed to convince everyone that running though the aisles is NOT a good idea – even if it had to be through threats of removing ticket privileges. More customers start arriving at our booth around that time, and I get into my routine of explaining (“What are you selling here?”) and/or demoing CC3+ (“Can you show me how it works?”) or the add-ons (“How do I create a starship deckplan”)?

22_RedCarpetWe had the the just released Perspectives 3 installed, but unfortunately no discs or boxes yet. That always makes it a bit hard to generate interest, but I was able to demo the isometric map-making to quite a few people and they liked what they saw! It’s great to see familiar faces and get wonderful feedback from old-time customers, but the largest part of the booth work is getting new people interested in CC3+ – and that is very rewarding. We’ve added at least 60 new people to the fold of CC3+ users over the course of the show, and I am sure several of those will show up on the forum with their work or come back to the booth next year to chat about their experience.

Thursday afternoon and Friday tend to be quieter which gives us the chance to take turns to wander the halls and look around. There’s never enough time to play an actual demo game at one of the many tables, but at least you get to check out new releases, special offers and old friends at other booths.

34_EnnieThursday night is usually reserved for the ProFantasy dinner where we enjoy a good meal together with some freelance cartographers. Unfortunately Alyssa Faden couldn’t make it to GenCon this year, but Mike Schley was there. I can’t say much about it yet, but I’m happy to hint, that there’ll be some cool stuff coming up from further Schley/Profantasy cooperation.

Friday is gala night where the ENnie awards are given out in a big ceremony. ProFantasy wasn’t involved, but Pelgrane Press always is and won an amazing number of ENnies this year. Congratulations to our booth compatriots!

43_BatmanSaturday is always the busiest day of the show and we do the bulk of our sales. Fortunately it doesn’t get rowdy, but some customers do seem to go to extremes. Thanks, Batman!

Saturday evening I reserved for gaming with friends and we got a nice playtest session in for an upcoming Tolkien-themed deduction game from Ares Games, where the Nazg├╗l are hunting for the hobbits on their way from Bag End to Rivendell. I got to play Frodo, but the pesky ringwraiths managed to thwart me and recovered the One Ring on the road east of Bree. So much for Middle-earth!

35_DismantlingThings start to slowly wind down on Sunday, with the exhibitor’s hall closing at 4pm. Dismantling the booth and storing everything for shipping went well this year (it can be a pain) and we waved Tommy and Doug goodbye as they headed home. For us long-distance-flyers the trip home is on Monday, giving us time to gather for the big Pelgrane dinner and some drinks in the hotel bar later. Another GenCon well done!

Somehow the trips back to Germany always prove troublesome for me. This year I ran smack into the big Delta Airlines mess up. I missed the connecting flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and had to spent the night and most of the next day in Detroit. At least on the way back it’s not so stressful, as I wisely never place any important appointments on the two days after my return from Indianapolis.

39_IndyAirport
Again it was a wonderful 4-days of gaming (well, mostly work actually, but still) and I’m looking forward to being back in Indianapolis next year!


GenCon16It is this time of year again, the ENnie awards are being voted on and GenCon is drawing close. This year the “Best 4 Days in Gaming” are from August 4th to 7th, and of course ProFantasy will be in attendance. You’ll find us sharing with Pelgrane Press at booth #419, right next to Chaosium and Goodman Games.

We will have Perspectives 3 at the show, so f you haven’t purchased it yet and want to have a demo first, drop by and let us show you!
GenCon Exhibitor Hall

This is my after-action report from this year’s Spiel convention in Essen – the biggest board game event around the world.

19_Mead“Spiel was very nice, though tiring this year. I’m pretty sure they’ll be announcing a new visitor record again, but there were some problems due to so many visitors and some train troubles (due to a fire in a big rail center). Friends reported 45 minutes wait times (and more) for shuttle services from parking to the halls. Each morning the center would announce they’d be opening the doors 15 minutes early due to crowding at the entrances.

We didn’t feel the crowds so much at the Profantasy booth. Our part of the hall was relatively quiet for most of the time, and I wasn’t too thrilled that were we wedged between several mead, wine and beer booths and the big UltraPro (card sleeves and folders) stand. I’d have much preferred a space adjacent to one of the smaller German RPG publishers like Prometheus, Uhrwerk or Mantikore. That’s not to say that those exhbitors weren’t very nice – they actually were very kind and a little mead-tasting is nothing to be sneered at. It’s just that I think we supplement the rpg publishers so well.

03_ExperiencedHelperSetup and all technical prep went without problems. Gordon helped with setup on Wednesday and Carsten arrived on Thursday morning (with a little delay due to the afore-mentioned shuttle service). Despite the crowds, Thursday and Friday were a bit slow, giving us time to have a look around the halls in turns and do some more leisurely demos at the PC. Traffic picked up heavily on Saturday, for one of busiest days (on our booth) in recent years. Sunday morning started extremely slow, but then came a big rush around 2pm with kept going for at least 90 minutes, where all three of us were constantly talking, demoing and selling stuff. That made Sunday a very good day too, bringing 2015 up to par with last year which was also a very good year (where the first three days were all similarly good and then saw a sharp drop off on Sunday).

06_BoothOverall we had a few more individual sales than last year, but less overall product sold. Prices were a little higher due to the weak Euro, which might have contributed to people buying smaller bundles.

I had the large 13th Age map in Mike Schley’s style on the table and that was a big draw. People love his style and were (as usual) very impressed of how quickly you can put together a good-looking map with his symbols. Feedback of existing users on CC3+ was also very good, with equal praise going to the new artwork and the improved performance.

The focus at Spiel continues to be on new customers. There’s about an equal number of people who’ve never heard of Campaign Cartographer and those who’ve seen it before and are interested. Existing customers are a few less, and they usually have bought everything they want via the web store already. Some turn up with questions or problems, or to check what’s upcoming, others
just to say hello. Only a subsection of these buys stuff at the booth.

Dear HelpersWe had good fun together, especially with Gordon’s daughter at the booth. Gordon and Nicole (his wife) always take great care of me. Together with Carten and Annue we went out for the Profantasy dinner on Saturday to our usual haunt and took Cat with us. We are all looking forward to next year.

The only bad thing I took home with me is a nasty cold which is coming out now. My voice is still gone and I’m sneezing quite a bit.”

A larger gallery of pictures from Spiel can be found on G+.

P.S.: That cold lasted the week after the show, but is (mostly) gone now!

Some quick impressions from this year’s GenCon:

GenCon01

Pelgrane and Profantasy’s booth space before setup

Continue reading »

DragonmeetThis weekend is Dragonmeet, London’s friendliest gaming convention, and as usual Profantasy will be there with me (Ralf) manning the booth. Look for Pelgrane Press and us close to the entrance to the dealer’s hall (booth 29). Check out the map of the hall.

Dragonmeet is in a new venue this year, the ILEC Convention Centre & Ibis Hotel on 47 Lillie Road, London. It’s easy to reach via the West Brompton tube station.

I’m looking forward to my annual visit to London, ProFantasy HQ and Dragonmeet. Hope to see you there!

Spiel Hall EntranceThe “Internationale Spieletage 2014” in Essen (short version: Spiel’14), the second big convention of the year (after GenCon) is over and we had another great and busy show. Many new CC3 users were added to the fold, and I talked to a lot of users, answering specific questions, helping with technical problems and demoing new stuff (yes, including CC3+). Here’s the report I prepared for Simon and Mark on my return.

I arrived at Spiel on Wednesday as usual, and picked up Gordon on the way to help me set up. Unfortunately the tables I had ordered from the Messe where not there - apparently some other exhibitor nicked them for their own booth - so we had to leave part for Thursday morning when the replacement furniture was there. Not a big problem, we were quickly done before the show opened.

Setup completeI wasn't too thrilled with our booth placement, as we were in the middle of mostly LARP booths, and the big booth across the aisle blocked part of the view unto our place. I'll try to talk to Merz Verlag next year to get us more among the pen & paper rpgs again. Those are pretty scattered around the hall though, with lots of space taken up by food & drink places. The same hall layout as last year was in use, with some moving around.

But my concerns seemed unfounded, as both Thursday and Friday proved pretty busy, both being busier than the respective days in 2013 by a good margin. Saturday was weird. We had a few very early customers and then nothing at all until well into the afternoon, when it suddenly picked up again. Overall it came out to slightly less than last year. Sunday was the quietest day, as is often the case, but we also did quite a bit better than last year. We had a big train drivers' strike on the weekend, which led to a shortage of parking space around the halls on Saturday. This probably had an effect on attendance, but I can't really say how much. Saturday did seem somewhat less crowded than previous years.

CC3+ sample mapThe vast majority of customers were new to CC3. More than 80% of sales included a CC3, and only very few of those were people upgrading from CC2 Pro. The Mike Schley/13th Age sample map I had on the table drew quite a lot of positive remarks and we told a lot of people about the upcoming CC3+.

The Free Annual with every order certainly provided the impetus for some people to buy at the show. As you can see from the numbers, Annual Vol 6 was a very popular choice - because of the Herwin Wielink isometric dungeon style. The big example map of that on the wall drew a lot of interest and it was nice to be able to tell people "buy CC3 and choose this as your free Annual" and you're set to draw this.

Demo computerThe Starter Bundle remains very popular, with some people swapping in a Character Artist or Cosmographer for either City or Dungeon Designer. Some people went for the 4 for 3 bundle from there, basically getting another product for a few more Euros.

I demoed quite a bit, mostly CC3, DD3, CD3, CC3+, Cosmographer, Character Artist, FT3 and Perspectives, in about this order of demand. Comments from existing users were mostly favourable, with only a very few "it is too difficult" concerns.

Gordon and Carsten were a great help as always. I even had a third helper on Saturday (Michael), but since it was a bit quieter than usual, that wasn't really necessary at all. Take down on Sunday evening was done in lightning speed. As the exhibitor parking was right below the halls, we just carried the stuff to the car. I was out of the halls and away 20 minutes after closing time.

 

GenConThe bags are packed and we are ready to head out across the pond to Indianapolis. What for? GenCon of course, the best four days in gaming!

As always ProFantasy will be sharing the booth with Pelgrane Press. Like last year we are right at the front of the hall: Booth 101 across from Paizo and Pathfinder. Come find us there, to get the latest products and news. See you in Indy!

RPC Germany 2014After a one year hiatus, ProFantasy will be at RPC Germany again next weekend (May 10th and 11th). Meet us in Cologne, Messe Deuz, hall 5.2 on aisle B, booth 036.

RPC2012 CostumesThe RPC is a role-playing convention spanning various media, from computer games, via tabletop rpgs to live-action role-playing, and includes a renaissance fair (medieval market). One of its most striking aspects is the number of people in stunning costumes walking the halls.

We’ll have Symbol Set 4 – The Dungeons of Schley at the booth (fresh from the printers), as well as our other recent releases: Character Artist 3 and The Cartographer’s Annual Vol 7.

ProFantasy PosterSo, “Spiel”, you ask, how is it, the biggest games fair in the world? It’s big: more than 150,000 visitors, 828 exhibitors from 39 countries (numbers from 2013), 4 days of gaming madness. You’ll also notice that I’m not using “convention” to describe Spiel, since it differs from events like GenCon or Dragonmeet, in that playing games itself is not the primary focus. Sure, a lot of gaming does happen, but the main activity is presenting, selling and buying games.

The BoothI’ve been working the ProFantasy booth at Spiel since 2000, first helping out, and then from 2002, running it. Its four days from Thursday to Sunday alway go by in a whizz and whir of activity. ProFantasy usually has a booth in the “Role-playing and Import Games” hall, which in recent years also holds a lot of LARP supplies and miniature games. Boardgaming is a much more mainstream activity in Germany than in other countries, and accordingly many visitors to Spiel are families and “casual” gamers.

Explaining CC3Role-playing is much smaller segment of that hobby, and our hall attracts only part of the great Spiel crowd. You notice that in the differences between the weekdays and the weekend. On Thursday on Friday, the hall is much quieter and we have time for detailed chats with individual customers, but on the weekend the aisles are sometimes thronged with people just glancing at the booths and pushing through. The other halls are often dominated by the large publisher’s enormous exhibits where they present the newest releases. But there are also a lot of retailer booths and smaller publishers tucked away between the large booths and in the corners.

The ThrongIf you want to visit Spiel and have a good chance to play some nice boardgames, come early. The seating for demo games is limited and it can be hard to find an open spot for the more popular games. Coming on Thursday or Friday also helps, as the halls are less busy. On the other hand if you come to buy games the Sunday is the best for you can sometimes find a good deal as the merchants are eager to get rid of their stock. But beware, the most sought after releases tend to sell out quickly on the earlier days.

[Photography by Gordon Gurray]


Oh, and one thing is very different from conventions in the US like GenCon. We have beer booths in the hall!
Beer at Spiel

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