A Booth at Spiel Essen 2011

I've been thinking that I should probably do some declarative thing about this so others can join in on it if they want to. Then I noticed that hey, it's almost exactly a year since I last decided to do the same thing. Beginning of May seems like a good time to work on Essen Spiel. As Forge has been revised since the last time around, I guess I'll do the main thread on the topic here at Story Games.

So, anyway: Essen Spiel last time went passably well, and I expect that we'll be able to cover the expenses once more, which means that it's time to get into the breach again! I'll be reserving a booth space at Essen within a week or so, with the intent of running a Forge-style indie booth; we'll have a large new shipment of American games here in Europe by then, and although I don't plan to have any new products myself, I'm confident that we'll do at least as well as last time around. After all, there's more experience in the game now, and the customer base has been softened up suitably. Last time the booth made total sales well in excess of 2000 €, and my personal goal is to improve on that this time around.

You can read about the last time we set this up here and here, and the outcome of the enterprise is reported upon here. As I explain in those threads, Essen Spiel is the largest tabletop gaming fair in the world, the people largely get English and even if roleplaying is a minority enterprise there (playing second violin to boardgames), there's still more customers than you've got sticks to shake at them. Also, just like last time around, I'd be happy to get into touch with other publishers who are interested in getting in on the action: we need a larger work force, and nobody operating on our kind of scale really needs that whole 5x2 booth entirely for themselves; I figure that if we could get half a dozen indie publishers into the booth, it'd be nicely crowded and happy and not filled with tired monkeys on the last day.

(In case you're wondering, last year we partnered up with Jim Raggi, a fine Finnish indie publisher; Jim is not coming this year, though, as he's looking for a German importer for his stuff and generally feels that his interests at Spiel will be adequately covered without him being there himself.)

The Program

The 5x2 meter booth considerably cheaper at the Spiel than the other options, so I'm strongly favouring that unless Luke Crane tells me that he wants me to get him a mosh pit. We'll have a retail section (essentially a big bookshelf + catalogues) at the back and a few high demo tables (ones you can stand next to), a POS and some normal table room for displaying the flagship products (which will be one from each participating publisher, I imagine). The booth program will probably consist of demoing, product presentation and customer chatting, the normal sort of things. Spiel doesn't feature separate gaming programming or anything of the sort, really, so the customer base is geared up for making purchases; it's hectic, truly a fair and not so much a gaming convention. The event lasts four days, plus wednesday for building and monday for packing (although we'll probably pack on Sunday after the halls close).

If we get a large enough staff for the project, then it's a distinct possibility that we might not be too tired for gaming after-hours. No promises, though - I and the Spiel have a history of exhaustion.

The Deal

I'm thinking that Arkenstone covers the real costs and most of the logistics (booth furniture, that is) of the project, just because I already know what I'm doing in that regard and this way I don't have to wait on anybody. However, we're short on salespeople and long on booth space, so extra indie publishers who think their product values will match the Forge style are very welcome, especially the first couple or three. My accounting brother figures that 180 € per publisher is a very reasonable cost of entry per extra publisher: that includes one person's ticket to the fair, and you get to work your ass off selling your stuff and everybody else's stuff; half a day of work per day will probably suffice, unless we end up with a supremely small crew. A degree of familiarity with the other people's product is recommended but not enforced - we'll coach each other in situ as necessary.

If you're totally green in indie publishing and nobody knows your game and you don't really know if you're going to sell even one copy, I'll cut you a deal at 120 €. The same if you know German well enough to use it with customers - I don't speak the language myself, and I'd like it if we had somebody at the booth who was fluent.

If you want to come and help out despite not having a real product yourself, you're welcome to do so - I'll pay entrance for monkeys if we don't get enough crew otherwise, and I feed monkeys now and then, too. You get to push your ashcans, free games or similar not-quite-real-products on the side, too.

The Schedule

I'm going to reserve the booth soonish, but I'm not in that much of a hurry about other people's participation. Confirm and arrange payment before the end of June, and I expect I'll be happy. I don't expect massive over-bidding here, but in case we get more than 4-5 interested partners, we'll close off the reservations when the booth seems sufficiently well-staffed and full of product.


Anything else come to mind? Any questions? Anybody or any place in particular I should be notifying about this project to reach the interested people? Improvements on the arrangements?


  • Do you already have a list of people who will be sharing your booth? Do you have a brief list of what (especially new) games people will come to find at the booth?

    I sure hope, everything works out for you!
  • edited October 2011
    Ah, yes. I've been meaning to write a bit more about this for several days now - makes little sense to go to the trouble of going to Germany and not bother to remind potentially interested customers that yes, the indie train is indeed going to Essen, last stop Essen Messen, showings from Thursday to Sunday next week. I blame the fact that I'm really a poet and not a businessman.

    Anyway, it is my understanding that the booth will involve inordinate amounts of work from yours truly, Matt Machell and Gregor Hutton. If anybody wants to come help (with the understanding that being hip to the merchandize would make you actually useful for the project) let me know, we could stand to have a few more hands on board. Not that this relative lack of headcount worsens the experience for the cognizant few who'll know to look for us, but I fear that we won't have the strength to push our stuff at strangers as hard as we could if we had, say, double this number of people participating.

    Regarding the booth inventory, it is truly massive due to how I packed just about everything from our webstore bookshelves onto the Spiel freight pallet. The selection is wide yet shallow, so make a point to visit early if you know you want something specific; I'll have just a couple or three copies of most games. The selection ranges from indie classics like My Life with Master to the newest esoteric sweetness that's too hip to even discuss at a plebeian place like Story Games, such as Dreaming Crucible and Mars Colony, to pick a few arbitrary titles. I've managed to read through everything in our inventory personally, so we'll be able to have many an entertaining moment discussing my Opinions on why the first edition of Little Fears was superior compared to the recent one, or whatever. For a relatively complete list of the "Forgean small press" section, one may consult our Finnish webstore page that lists everything I've managed to input into the database so far.

    Also, I will bring the Old School Renaissance collection Jim Raggi's been manganimously helping me to build up, so we well might have one of the best selections in that area, too. (One may assume that we'll have 98% of everything Jim features in his extensive webstore.) Because last year's experience with the OSR segment at the Spiel was somewhat lukewarm, this selection will be even more shallow, yet extremely wide: especially, if you've been thinking of buing a core rules system and want to make sure I'll have one for you, do let me know in advance. Adventure modules I'll be having by the dozen, so I'm certain that we'll have something for anybody wanting some of this sweet stuff. I will certainly personally use my hard-won experience in playing and reading the adventure flow to ensure that we'll sell the good stuff first and leave the cheap shit for the late-comers. (Incidentally, if anybody happens to know that there's enormous heat for Vornheim in Germany, do let me know so I can pick up a few extra copies from Jim; my own estimate is that interested people have probably mostly gotten their fix directly by mail, but I'm no expert on the German scene.)

    In the flagship section we'll be focusing on the new games from the UK: Gregor has Remember Tomorrow, which beats Misspent Youth as the best cyberpunk game I know. Matt's republishing a revised edition of The Agency, the Austin Powers roleplaying game the old-timers might remember from the sadly under-performing No Press Anthology. I did read a late draft of the game, and it's one of those British lite adventure games they all seem to be making; fine work from an established creator. We'll also be featuring Hell 4 Leather from Joe Prince, as Gregor specifically requested that we flagship that one - I've no complaints, I personally found it an enticing read and will be playing the game as soon as I find my Tarot deck and have a session free from OSR D&D; definitely, absolutely worth the sweet price-point.

    I won't have new games myself; I've spent the last year wasting time with OSR D&D for the most part, as well as doing complex convention appearances like our Ropecon Grill and this one. I'm planning to demo Zombie Cinema, of course, being as how that game sells in demonstrations, and I'm also considering doing something TSoY-related; the latter is a bit tricky, as I often don't feel good about pushing an arbitrary fantasy game at disinterested people just because I myself happen to think that it's the greatest fantasy game since Earthdawn. I enjoy gabbing about TSoY, but it's just nasty to push it at people blindly, without knowing whether they have the deep background required to appreciate a big fantasy adventure game. Hmm... it would truly make the most sense for me to run some demos of my D&D homebrew, if we were solely looking at where my personal creative emphasis has been lately, and what I've been working on as a designer.

    Regardless, we'll be running a booth worthy of the Forge name, if I have anything to say about it. Do bring along your own games and introduce them to me, odds are I'll be retailing it in the not too distant future anyway. And if you've been wondering about the bevy of small press games that comes out every year, I'd hazard that I just might be the most informed sounding-board out there when it comes to sheer reading; ours will be a booth capable of informing and educating the roleplayer on current trends in small press gaming like no other. Come one, come all, bring your wallets and help me cover the considerable outlay involved in doing the booth.

    (Hey, this wasn't a bad sales speech for the booth, at least from a postmodern hipster viewpoint. Bonus points if anybody wants to copy it for some German 'nets where most of the potential audience hang out.)
  • Is there any way of getting my product in your booth if I'm not able to be there? Germany not being close to Indiana.

    I'd love to get Jump the Shark out there for people to see.

    Chris Engle
  • Ah, yes. I'm almost out of Matrix Games, I think I have just a single copy of "Frankenstein" left. We should've talked earlier, it's getting pretty close to the convention - it starts next Thursday. Not much time for moving inventory.

    If any indie or small press rpg operator within mailing distance wants to get their stuff to the booth and it's not on the Arkenstone lists, feel free to mail it directly to our hotel, the Mövenpick Essen. Let me know that it's coming, and address it to my brother Markku Tuovinen, under whose name our reservation is. Use a mailing option that arrives before next Thursday for maximal impact. Half a dozen copies is appropriate for the Spiel if you think your game's going to move at all, or perhaps up to a dozen if the item has some extra hooks or whatever. The deal is, we'll sell your game for you, and after the convention we'll do one of three options with anything that remains: send it back (deducting the expense from your winnings), buy it at 50% off to retail later, or retail it on sales account (when eg. there's too much left over for me to buy outright).
  • Hey that's great info. I'll definitely pay you a visit and will pitch it to the local gaming community.

    There is – however – one information, which could boost your audience a lot: What booth number do you have? (I guess you will be in Halle 6, but the number could help people find you.)
  • It's booth 6-205, almost the same place we were in last year.
  • Thanks, you are announced in the German tanelorn.net Forum, on my blog and on my G+. Hope, it will help spread the word!
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