All in - Ruthless at Spiel '16

I live and work with the attitude that if I am going to do a thing then I am all in. So when Ruthless, the game I was designing and illustrating started to look promising I jumped in.


Spiel is the largest games event in the world. It is a great place to shop and discover new gamesbut also the best place to make new contacts and meet publishers. Last year I went for one day as an illustrator with Suspicion as my business card and not having booked any meetings in advance. This year I went with a much expanded portfolio of games projects and my game Ruthless. I booked a table to exhibit my game. Printed banners and flyers. Made 30 copies of my game - including 2600 hand stickers tokens 30 handmade drawstring bags in addition to the cards etc. I also organised lots of meetings in advance. The preparations had taken most of my free time for two months and cost a small fortune but I was ready. Excited and anxious I headed to Essen for the games fair. Wondering if I had made a big mistake or it would all be worth it. Either way it was going to be an adventure.

The scale of Spiel is hard to exaggerate. Hall after hall of booths full of game companies. Filled with thousands of people hauling amazing numbers of newly purchased games and lots of small meeting rooms full of hopeful new designers pitching their hopeful projects. This temporary bustling world would be work and home for four days. 

I set up my booth with Gijs who had kindly come to help me out. We had a table in the prototype space for new/unsigned designs. Having gotten there early enough to secure a prime spot and put up the banners and decorated the table. Ruthless had a really good presence and stood out well. So far I was pleased to have made the extra effort with the preparations. 

My first meeting was booked for an hour after we arrived. Following a panic to get wifi access and riding a wave of adrenaline and anxiety I went to deliver my first pitch and show my work. I laid out Ruthless on a table surrounded by boxes, as the publishers booth was still being erected. Despite the chaotic start, the publisher was interested in the mechanics of Ruthless so we played a few rounds of the game. Still interested he asked if he could take a copy to play with his colleagues. Finally I relaxed and showed my illustration work which was very enthusiastically received. It was a perfect start to the 4 days ahead. It was great to get some approval from a publisher that I had made something interesting. A professional opinion on a creative endeavour was an accolade in and of itself. 

Over the next two days I had meetings from 9am-12. Then I would rush back through the hordes of excited gamers to get to my booth and take over from Gijs who was demoing for me. As I had no idea what to expect from the publisher angle, having a booth was a good way to generate some interest in Ruthless incase I decided Kickstarter was my best option following Essen. Having an actual presence also drew some extra publishers to stop by and chat too about the game and the art. So whilst the extra work of running the booth daily was heavy the pay-off was worth it. We ran a daily competition to win a copy of the prototype. This and the banners drew a steady flow of interest. Many people demoed the game for a few rounds and every day a few groups wanted to play a whole game.

The meetings I had were mostly a combination of showing Ruthless and my portfolio to a producer and art director (or some similar combination). I also had a few illustration only meetings. I had been pretty stressed about the meetings but in the end I quite enjoyed them. Ruthless was received with interest by all of the publishers I showed to and almost all took prototypes to test further. All the people I met were very open and interested and it was nice to meet so may nice people. One meeting where the demo was a disaster, as a result of a nightmare card draw that hadn’t occurred in hundreds of playtests, was great for some critical feedback and a good chat, I took some note and he also took a prototype in the end to my surprise! 

My illustration portfolio was an even greater success and so I bounced through the weekend happy and increasingly exhausted. Surviving on adrenaline, beer meat and potatoes. Mid way through On On Saturday we packed up early and went to get beers try out some games and do some shopping with the funds from selling the prototypes.

In retrospect then this year’s Spiel adventure was a great experience that promises much for the coming year. This is the end of a chapter though and not the story. Will Ruthless find a publisher? What games will I get to work on next year? and will I do it all again next year? 

Stop press: at the time of writing I am talking to two publishers about publishing Ruthless. Watch this space…