In Grazing Lands, players simultaneously play animal cards in different colors, face-down. Depending on the nature of the grazing land (as per the grazing land card of that turn) there is more or less space for a certain color of animals, so when all players’ cards are revealed, some of the animals have to return to the hands of their owners, until the limit is not exceeded anymore. Owners of the remaining animals score points.
In last year’s contest, we found that it was really nice fast-paced card game, that allowed for bluffing, calculation and frequently hilarious outcomes, when the cards were revealed. So we decided to publish it.
As for the gameplay itself, we were already quite happy with it, so not many changes were made to the rules of the game. However, as a part of our long-term strategy, we wanted to try and fit it into one of our existing product lines. One of our more successful
games in Korea is our Boom – Bomb Game:
With our move to this theme, we introduced quite a lot of problems for ourselves. At first we thought, that going over the limit in Grazing Lands would be an event that kind of resembles an explosion. That would make for a good first step to convert the theme. But looking closer, that doesn’t really work. Not all of the Bombs are removed and some remain to be scored. So… a partial explosion ? It looked like we might have to go back to the original theme or find a completely different one… Expanding on our “Boom” theme might be ill-advised anyway, considering that bombs are not something that we would want children to become well acquainted with (even if they are cute…).
We found a variant, that would fit the game way better and also help us with our bad conscience: Our little cute bombs are actually not fond of exploding, at all! Because of that, they want to run away from their armory and go to a peaceful place (might we call it a “bomb shelter”?). During their escape, they have to take care. If too many of them try to run at the same time, the guards of the armory will notice.
We replace the lush grazing lands of the original prototype with evil armory guards and instead of cute animals, we have cute and completely peaceful bombs. This is a little weird, but it also means that our game suddenly has a really nice message, that we are happy to send to our younger customers: Instead of Grazing Lands, they will play Boom – Runaway Bombs. And instead of blowing things up, maybe they will understand that war is not fun, even for the bombs themselves!
We are working on completing our design right now and hopefully we will be ready in time to bring this game to Essen. Below let us show two examples of what our Bombs look like right now (Unfinished – Work in Progress):
Last time we talked about how we first got to see the game and the things that factored into our decision to try to produce it. After making our minds up, we quickly negotiated contract terms and then immediately started to work on the game. So this week we´d like to discuss the development phase and the final steps to publication.
Step Three: Development
Development for Coconuts began around August 2012. We had many things to consider about the game:
– We needed to define the setting of the game more clearly.
Even going for a generic monkey theme, someone has to define what the monkeys will look like: Are they looking cute and friendly or weird and funny? Are they playing on an island or in a forest ? These kinds of details sound trivial to decide but they are a huge factor when it comes to the success of a game in the mass market, so we didn´t dare to take this lightly.
– We wanted to look for ways to improve the gameplay itself
The game in its original state was a lot of fun but we wanted to at least try to make the gameplay a little more varied.
– As mentioned in part I of this article, we had to make a transition from the original material to something that could be mass-produced, without losing too much of the original charm.
Monkey King Rising:
We spent around three months working on the gameplay and theme of the game.We were thinking about a big variety of monkey/ape-style settings and finally found the “Monkey King”. The Monkey King (or Sun Wukong, Son Ogong, Son Goku) is a famous character from Chinese mythology, that is very well known and beloved in all of Asia. He is a powerful demon spirit that gets imprisoned by Buddha for his arrogance and finally gets freed to accompany a buddhist monk on an important voyage to the west.
In the beginning we were not sure whether we could make this theme work well (because the Monkey King never actually had any business throwing coconuts) but it is such a familiar and well known story in our market that we could not resist trying to paste it on.
At the same time we were trying to improve on the mechanics of the game, constantly playing around with the author´s prototype and testing all kinds of little changes. We introduced a different type of basket, that would grant an additional shot when you hit it, in order to give players something to “fight” for. At the same time we were looking for ways to make the shooting more interesting. The catapults of the original prototype were almost perfectly controllable, so we wanted to give players the possibility to show off their skill with special shots.
At this point, we realized that our greedily chosen popular theme was actually a perfect fit: The Monkey King is able to work powerful magic, that allows him to influence people´s mind, duplicate any kind of object and move quickly over big distances. This lends itself perfectly to be mirrored in the game by special cards that force other players to do the special shots or give the active player additional powers.
That kind of matching story and mechanics is not really usual for a mass-market children´s game and we are quite proud of the result.
Monkey Material :
It quickly became clear that we would have to move away from the original launcher structure completely, so instead of relying on a “bending” catapult, we decided to go for a classic spring-based one. This change had a huge impact on the feeling of the game…
We found that our first spring based launchers were just as precise as the original ones, so we were quite happy with continuing to develop those.
However, there was one problem that we underestimated: It proved to be extremely hard to find a fitting replacement for the coconuts themselves. We continued to change the material until extremely late in the development process, which made the testing process a lot harder than it needed to be.
Step Four: Implementation & Production
Finally, it should be stressed, that the most important part actually comes after the creative work is already done. Printable artwork needs to be created as well as models and actual molds. A manual needs to be written, tested and proofread. Packaging and promotional material must be designed as well.
So when we finished our work on the game and left everything in the hands of the factory, we were extremely happy, but anxious at the same time.
Step Five: Review
It is too early to know whether Coconuts will be a lasting success from a financial perspective. It has certainly been a great learning experience for us. The process was not perfect and we had to make some compromises to be able to realize the game, but overall we are quite proud of our little monkey game.We´d like to finish the article with a short video of the game in action, played by some of the many of the people who helped to create it:
Publishing games is still a very exciting thing for us! Since one of our favorite projects is finally available in Korea now, we thought we might share a little bit about it and the different steps that it had to go through before finally being published. Coconuts is a dexterity game and not a “eurogame”, but it might nevertheless be interesting to read about the whole process that preceded the publication.
Step One: Acquisition
The usual process in the boardgame business is to wait for the games to get to you, via submissions. Then you choose the best one, develop it a bit to remove the rough edges. And voilá you have your “Spiel des Jahres”.
For us, it is a little bit harder. While we are accepting submissions, we are not exactly the most famous board game company in the world (,… yet!). Much less in the beginning of 2012, when we acquired Coconuts. There were some nice submissions, but overall we wanted to see more. So instead of conveniently sitting in our office, we were scouting for suitable games at the Board Game Author´s Meeting in Goettingen, Germany, and there we found this:
The game is about launching little coconuts with your monkey catapults. When you hit a cup, you may take it to your player board. Whoever manages to build a full pyramid of 6 cups first, wins.
What we liked about the game was that it featured quite interactive and dynamic gameplay (mostly by players constantly stealing cups from each other) in addition to the appealing, but not very original “catapult-factor”.
So we took it to our offices in Korea, played and discussed it with others in the companies and thought about the possibility of making this game.
By the way, this game was presented to us by an Agency: White Castle Games from Austria. We´re not saying that as an author you should definitely use their service (because you´ll have to pay for that, while you could just as well send your game to us for free instead :)). But we will say that they are efficient professionals and nice guys as well and we very much enjoy working with them.
Step Two: Reality Check
Sure enough, many people in the company liked the game and we felt that it might be a good prospect. So… we think that we have a good and original game on our hands. At this point in time we have to take a step back and try to analyze:
– What is the target group for the game ? Mass Market, Educational or Gamer, Kid, Family or Adult ? -> Mass Market/Kid+Family
– Do we have a good way to market this game and to reach this target group?
-> Probably, we will have to get it into the big market chains…
– Is this target group big enough in our market to warrant making this game here -> Targeting Mass Market, of course the answer is Yes.
– Can we produce this game with an adequate quality, regarding artwork and material, while keeping our consumer price low enough for our target group? -> Maybe! – (…)
Some of the answers to these questions seem obvious: A game with little monkeys and catapults and coconuts is definitely more of a kid/family game than an adult game, right? When we look at the last question however, it gets more complicated, especially in the case of Coconuts: The original material (catapults and coconuts) provided by the author, which you can see above, combined two unlikely features: It was both perfectly suitable for the game regarding handling and feeling and perfectly unsuitable to be reproduced in the mass-market version of the product (Due to price of production, aesthetics and minor issues like flammability).
So we had to choose and make new material that would
– fit our price point (to get out with any profits after royalties, discounts and our own running costs, the production cost needs to be a very small fraction of the final consumer price
– at the expected sales level
more expected sales = more games produced = lower price per game, but higher risk
– for the chosen target group
MSRP of a mass market/kid/family game must of course be lower than that of a game for hardcore gamers.
– and still be fun to use in the game the launcher must be controllable, coconuts must reach all cups comfortably, but not fly too far. Cups shouldn´t fall over when they are hit…
At this early stage of development there is a lot of guesswork that can be hit-or-miss on things that you can´t really accurately predict. Previous sales data of comparable games is of limited help, but mostly this is where it is important to have experience in your market and in making games as well, to put it all together and get to an appraisal of the chances and risks that is as accurate as possible.
While we are certainly the most experienced game company in Korea and we do know our market quite well, this is nevertheless one of the first games we publish ourselves. So for us to go for making this game despite the existing uncertainties might actually not be the most reasonable thing to do. Except that we really wanted to.
We´ll not go into actual numbers, but in the end, after having a thorough reality check, we decided to go ahead and make the game, despite the fact that there was quite some risk involved and despite the fact that we could already see that there would have to be a lot of additional work before we could put the game on the shelves….
That´s it for today!
In the second part of this short article we´ll tell you more about the actual development process of the game and all those other things that still had to happen on the way to publication.
Last year we felt that actually playing the games was crucial to judging them, so we tried to stretch our shipping budget to the limit and include as many good entries as possible.
Nevertheless, this year again, some very interesting games had to be dropped off of our lists. So we would like to thank not only those who are listed below, but also those who did not get selected this time around, for making the contest interesting and giving us some tough choices in the first round already. Find the full list of finalists below the line.
The full list of finalists:
김건희 – 해마 Sea Horse
김민상 – 히어로 디텍티드 Hero Detected
김조희 – 샌프란시스코 San Francisco
노성종 – 총사령관 The Commander
박진선 – 워터 봄 Water Spring
신승원 – 몽타주 Montage
신형규 – 메모리필드 Memory Field
여지우 – 오적 Five Thieves
오주현 – 흑백공방 Black and White Studio
이동명, 최선주 – 보석왕 통통이 Bouncy Gems
이진솔 – 지금 시체들이 향하는 곳 Where The Dead Go
임세환 – 워부티 War Booty
황소망 – 스팀 엔진 Steam Engine
Carlos Quesada Gonzalez – Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
Christian Peter Tapp, Hyung Kyu Choi – Cucumberpocalypse
Christwart Conrad – Dice Royal
Daniel Solis – Train Town
Daryl Chu Hong Chow – The Centauri Expedition
Eirini Malegiannaki – Ichinilates in ancient Athens
Espen Klausen – Pack It!
Ferenc Vasas – PonTogon
Hartmut Kommerell – Scramble – Don’t miss the Ark
Mark Klassen & Yves Tourigny- Glaciation
Mathijs Jansen – Boulder Crush
Petra Wolf, Daniel Wolf – Gouda
Samuel Mercer – Wolf & Pack
Torsten Landsvogt – Window Cards
We will contact these finalists via email, later today, to arrange for the shipping of the prototypes to our offices. The prototype testing phase will begin on 26th of August and we will announce the overall winners on 1st of October.
In the meantime, we will continue to post news on the contest and other projects frequently on this site, so be sure to check back from time to time!
UPDATE: Note that the emails to international participants have been sent. If you are one of the international names on this list, but you did not receive an emal yet, please contact us!
Christwart Conrad is an Author from Bonn, Germany. He won second place in last year´s contest with his entry “Grazing Lands”. Subsequently he was offered a contract with KBG for the game, which is currently in production. Read about his life with boardgames, last year´s contest and regarding the cooperation with KBG, after the break.
As a part of an interview series with last year´s winners, we talked to Carlos Moreno Serrano, designer of the third placed entry Promises, Promises. He told us about his challenges when designing his entry, his disappointment in KBG and lessons he learned when dealing with evil publishers like us.
[You can view a short description of Carlos´ game in our round-up post of last years contest]
For us in the KBG development team, this weekend was pretty exciting. Apart from finishing the first phase of our new contest, our company was present at the 2013 Board Game Con in the halls of the COEX Exhibition Center in Seoul, South-Korea. This was a big opportunity for us to see how our new products would be received by our (potential) customers.
Although none of the games from last year´s contest were quite ready to be presented here, a few other products we developed in the meantime were going to have their first showing here.
The sales/interest level at a fair will never determine the overall success of a product, the quantities are too low. Nevertheless a good showing here could generate a good mood and word-of-mouth advertising that is invaluable. So we were pretty anxious…
And of course it is just awesome to see people enjoy something you helped to create…
Overall, this fair was a great success for us and we can only hope that we will have just as much fun and success in Essen later this year. There, we will also show our results from last year´s contest.
With the submission period of our newest contest running out next sunday, we would like to take a look back at what happened the last time around! Read about the 2012 contest and what happened to the two games that received contract offers from us.
Our View On the Contest
When KBG decided to increase its efforts in publishing, that in itself was already a big step for us. The company was successful in distributing games, but had little experience in creating and developing them. Therefore we looked to the example of the big western publishers, most of which have editorial teams that filter and develop ideas created by external authors.
Consequently, we opened ourselves up to submissions. However, we noticed that it is not as easy as just waiting for the good games to come flying towards us: For western authors we wouldn’t be the first choice (if they had even heard of us), so we would mainly get designs that had basically been rejected by every other option out there. There was also not a big pool of Korean designers -for whom we might have been a more natural option- to draw from.
That’s why we decided to have a contest for both of these audiences, trying to remedy these situations at the same time. We didn’t expect a huge amount of submissions, but we felt that the contest would show western authors that we are a viable alternative (or at least hoped that the passable prize money might convince them) and it would also encourage Korean designers to step it up. At the same time it would be a nice experience for us, working with designs from all over the world and seeing what everyone came up with.
The KBG Design Contest 2012 took place from 9/18/2012 to 11/7/2012. During that time we received more than 80 submissions from all over the world, with about 50% of that number being submissions from Korea. These figures alone already constituted a huge success for us, but they also meant that we had huge logistical problems to accomodate that high number and make sure that we reviewed each individual submission with the appropriate care. We also found that the quality of the entries exceeded our expectations and it became quite hard to eliminate games from the competition. I still feel that another jury might have selected three completely different winners and they’d be just as worthy as the ones we have chosen. Anyways, we ended up having to delay the announcement of the finalists by a bit, but I feel we managed to do a good job overall.
What about the winners ?
Our contest produced 3 winners, Love Means Nothing by Ariel Seoane, Grazing Lands by Christwart Conrad and Promises, Promises by Carlos Moreno Serrano.
Love Means Nothing is our first place winner. It simulates a game of tennis by players shooting and receiving shots in different areas of the field. The catch is, that the number of cards you may play depends on how many you display openly in your “preparation” area. This balance between flexibility and secrecy is quite novel and makes for some interesting decisions. While the rules are easy to understand, the game also features quite a bit of depth: Depending on how many cards are visible, quite a lot -and sometimes too much- calculation is possible. And yet you might get unlucky and lose a whole play (which counts as one “game” of tennis – as opposed to a whole match) due to bad card draws. You can find a full print-and-play version here.
Even though a “tennis” – theme usually is cause enough for an instant rejection, we felt some huge potential here, so we made this game our winner and we made a contract offer to Ariel, which he accepted. The game is currently being developed by us. Working on the game mostly involves trying to find a theme for the game that is anything else but tennis. We will be developing this game for the Korean market, but we are also looking into having a small english edition or making the game bilingual. We are still hoping to make it an Essen 2013 release, but we will have to see whether we can pull it off.
Grazing Land is our second place winner. It is a really fast and fun game, where players simultaneously play cards, trying to stay below a shared limit. We enjoyed the streamlined nature of the game and we offered Christwart a contract, which he accepted. We are currently working out some kinks in the rules. We have decided to produce a version for the Korean market that is based on another IP of ours, changing the theme to something that will probably not be acceptable for western kid’s game audiences. We are in talks about coproducing an international version. This game is well on track to be available in Korea around the time of the Essen fair and we might bring some bilingual copies to Essen, too.
Promises, Promises is our third place. This game, with a political theme, is arguably the most elegant of our entries. It involves winning “elections” by making promises (in a kind of bidding process) and the winners of the elections having to scramble to meet their promises by negotiating with other players. We really liked this game as gamers and editors, but due to marketing considerations and our limited capacity to produce games, we couldn’t give Carlos an offer this time around.
So, as you can see, we found quite a few gems and we are not only busy to realize them in cardboard form, but are already bringing in the next batch of prospects with our 2013 contest, which will conclude its submission period this sunday. Hopefully we will have a similarly spectacular result as last time – or might we dare hope to even surpass the previous year?
Tabletop news, views and announcements with the team of Nice Game Publishing.