Ah yes, Göttingen.
When I think of Göttingen, I think of the many bicycles at the train station, the beautiful medieval cobblestone streets, my friends who lived there, and a meticulously crafted ‘hobo on a train’ simulation.
Wait – what?
Each year board game authors and publishers meet in the lovely German town of Göttingen to test board games prototypes. The Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen was initiated by Reinhold and Karin Wittig in 1983, and is the oldest and biggest game author’s fair in Germany.
I recently returned to Göttingen in the quest to find new exciting games to publish. We have been doing this scouting work for many years for our partners at Korea Boardgames, but since founding Sweet Lemon back in 2016 we are naturally also looking for tabletop gold which doesn’t quite fit traditional publishing.™
When scouting new games for a publisher, there are always guidelines and restrictions based on the company’s market and the style of games that bring them success. Generally, if a publisher passes on a game, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like the game. It just isn’t a good fit with their company at the moment.
For example, Korea Boardgames is the biggest distributor for board games in Asia and has published its own games for many years.
While KBG distributes a wide array of different styles of games for families as well as hardcore gamers, when it comes to publishing they’re looking for family games which can be played in under an hour and are fun for children (age 8+) and adults alike. There are many authors presenting games of that segment in Göttingen, so naturally it is an important event for us and we visit every year.
Four years ago, I visited for the first time and back then my colleague Simon wrote an article about the experience scouting for games:
This kind of work will always be taxing. Sometimes it is hard to judge games: Maybe it is fun but… is it -original? -marketable? -fitting your company lineup? Maybe it is not a lot of fun but you can see it could be?
Sometimes it is hard to communicate one’s (negative?) opinion to an enthusiastic author. Maybe you feel that the author is missing some elementary flaw in his game: Should you try to help out?
This still is true and will always be true. There are people who put blood, sweat and tears into a project and as a scout you only have the chance to snatch a glimpse of that before moving to the next table, always looking for the perfect fit for your company. For example, we found a cute dexterity game with launchers and cups several years ago in Göttingen which later became our very successful Coconuts.
Each year we see a lot of promising games that get published some time down the road and this year was no exception. From the quirky designs of Florian Racky to the fun city building games of Filip Miłuński, I played several very cool prototypes and look forward to their proper publication.
Even if it often does not seem like it when testing: I enjoy playing board games 🙂
Last year, around 220 authors presented their games to scouts from 40 different publishing companies. Last weekend, the fair got even bigger and I can imagine it will be even bigger next year – because tabletop games are up and coming.
If you’re an aspiring game author or a publisher in or around Germany, it’s a fair you can not miss. The first day is for authors and publishers, while the second day is also open to the public (although limited to four hours).
What’s the most creative prototype you’ve ever seen? Comment below with your ‘hobo on a train’ simulation!