How we prepared for our board game convention. Lessons and things to prepare for.
On May 30, we attended Terminal City Tabletop Convention in Vancouver to promote our game, Chicken Heist. As this is our first convention, we went in with certain expectations and made certain preparations. Keep reading to find out what we learned, what works and what didn’t work over our the 2 day convention. Hopefully you and others will find this helpful when attending your first board game conventions!
Convention Type and Game Status
Terminal City Convention, had an area called proto-alley. This section was dedicated to creators with games that were unpublished and/or still in the prototype stage to test out their game. Chicken Heist fell into this category as we are still in beta stage, using alpha art and even have action cards that have incomplete designs. Attending the convention, we notice most games there were printed and looks like the complete product. We were one of the few games there that looked incomplete or to say the least, obviously in prototype stage.
Preparation — 1–2 weeks before Convention
Two weeks before the convention, we did a lot of research on how we should get ready for a convention. Sadly, there weren’t a lot of helpful resources, the most helpful information came from forums like Facebook and Reddit.
There I posted in the sub-reddit for tabletopgamedesign asking “How do you promote your game at a board game convention?”. Redditors were very helpful in giving feedback. Surprisingly, one Redditor was also attending the same convention. Pat, from Destroy These Cards reached out and we met up for coffee. He was super cool and offered to promote our game within his game. We drew pictures of our Chickens and made a rule where people had to find us Chicken Heist people for a high five or hug (Check out Destroy These Cards to see how their game works). In return we sent people over to his table (recommended his game verbally) after they’re done with our game and vice versa.
Creators like Pat proved to be a very valuable in conventions, by collaborating both our groups benefited in reaching a wider range of audiences. We encourage others to follow suite. We also tried to reach out to around 5 other proto-alley groups that were attending Terminal City for maybe a collaborative write up or interview. Sadly we weren’t successful with our attempt as everyone was busy.
Things we prepared for:
Made Info Sheets x 80– The info sheets had our game design, launch date, open beta date, and a short how to play of the game. There are two main goals for the info sheet. First, people walking by, waiting to play or even those that are simply idling can pick one up and read more about Chicken Heist. Second, we can hand them out when we’re not at our table and pull traffic from the other parts of the convention.
Survey (play through experience) — When players are done with our game, they can go to www.chickenheist.com/survey to fill up a quick survey about their experience (redirects to google forms). The goal is to collect emails and get a quick some feedback on the game.
How to play website (with rulebook) — While talking to people, we can send them over to www.chickenheist.com/play to read our rulebook if they’re interested. The flyer also directs people to this website.
Leaderboard x 1- We used a cork board to display the high score of the top 10 players who played our game. This will encourage competition and players to stay for another game.
Raffle Draw for $25 Amazon Gift Card — This was the main incentive for people giving us their emails. People will put their name and email into a mason jar for a chance to win the Amazon gift card.
3 copies of Chicken Heist ready. — We only get one table at the proto-alley, but we can never be overly prepared.
Chicken Heist T-shirts x 9– What better way to show off our design than to wear it at a convention. We have our good friend JC from Easy Embroidery print it from Hong Kong. 4 day shipping to Canada at 16 bucks per piece.
Volunteers x 4 — We got four of our friends to help us out. This will free up our time and allow us to connect with other game creators and players there.
We spent about 6 hours teaching the volunteers the latest version of the game and how to explain the rules efficiently. There were also additional information they had to know, like resolving edge cases and company information.
Terminal City Convention — Day 1
At 9:30am, we were setting up the table and made a quick plan on who’s doing what. At all times, we had 2 people at the table while others were out networking, pulling people to our table, or playing board games. Later that morning, we made use of our second copy of Chicken Heist as one of the members were able to bring the game to another table to play.
Although we did explore other parts of the convention, we stayed mainly at the proto-alley to network with other creators. We met other creators such as Cookie Chaos, Wordos, Wizard Thieves, Uninvited, and MetaOlympia. They were all very friendly and brought different ideas on how we can market our game better. A good idea we might implement for our next convention is pins!
Our table was busy all day and finding down time was hard. Between 1–2 we sat down at our table for lunch since everyone needed a break. At about 4–5 things slowed down a bit probably due to the large price drops in the games at buy and sell section but it quickly got busy again shortly after.
At 7pm, everyone was exhausted from explaining the rules for the millionth time. We took a break to play Wingspan and called it a night at 9. The convention ends at midnight but we didn’t have the energy to stay that late.
Terminal City Convention — Day 2
During the first day we noticed 2 things people were asking before sitting down at our table. People wanted to know how long it takes and the number of players (they’re usually in a group). This might be a barrier for people to sit down at our table, so we added a small upgrade to our table by having the play time and number of players. It definitely look a lot more professional to have things color printed and even laminated, notes for next time!
Nearing the end of the day our neighbors left a bit early. We expanded our table and hosted two games at once.
What we learned
Volunteers — Our friends made the convention extra fun for us just by being there. They also freed up a lot of our time to go explore and network. There was no way we could have been at the table and have nearly as much reach as we did if it was only the 3 of us there.
Survey did not help (www.chickenheist.com/survey) — People did not want to pull out their smart phones to type in the url. We ended up not asking people to do it within the first few hours on day 1.
Leaderboard brings people back — Surprisingly, the idea we kinda threw in for fun turned out most effective. People came back to check up on their high score and whether if its still on the board. Some played another additional rounds just to get their names on the board. We also tagged the people on twitter and instagram for those who added their handle.
How to play (www.chickenheist.com/play) — We had 15 visits on those two days combined. Same issue as the survey, people didn’t really want to pull out their phone. As such we quickly gave up on verbally promoting it. We assume most traffic came from the info sheet.
Print business cards — People asked us for our business cards. We didn’t have any to hand out. We will be sure to have some ready for next time!
Info Sheets filled our tables — Info sheets did not feel useful. Although some people did pick it up, we’re not sure if it helped at all. But then again, since we didn’t have business cards they served as a poor man’s business card.
Pins for next time — We met with the creators of Cookie Chaos, Bill and Twaila. They handed out cookie pins for free and people were wearing them around. All the Fourtato people had their cookie pins on their shirts. People would ask about these pins and we would point them to their table.
Raffle Draw — The raffle draw proved to be a good investment. However, I think we can build on top of this to reach a more people. Instead of just having the raffle draw be at the convention, perhaps next time we can move to social media. By doing so, we can reach a wider set of audience as well as people at the convention.
While the amount of resources in time, labor, energy and preparation needed to make a half decent booth is enormous, we believe that it is one of if not the best way to reach a large audience. The people that go to board game conventions are naturally board game players, as such the convention in a sense concentrates most of our target audience into one place. This saves us a lot of time in finding and reaching out to these people. The convention also provided a venue with which to try the game, no amount of us telling you how fun the game is can compare to experiencing it for yourself. It also allowed us to get lots of testing done too. By having so many games played, the greater sample size really emphasized the pros, cons, flaws and strength of our game. The feedback and information gathered will most likely play a huge role in how we design the next iteration of our game. Last but not least, we all had tons of fun, it didn’t feel like a job to do our job and we all felt great for having done it.
Article published on www.fourtato.com.