Sub Terra represents everything we want to achieve with ITB, a game that communicates powerful ideas and emotions through a tabletop game, in an accessible, engaging, challenging and fun way! The engineering of the game itself is staggeringly well thought out; we’ve loved working with Tim so far and can’t wait to build it together.Peter Blenkharn
At the 10th Anniversary of the UK Games Expo, the UK’s largest hobby games convention, held in the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, I was chosen to be one of the judges of the Wyverns’ Lair, a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event where 12 disruptive new game designers present their best ideas to a panel of judges that represent the smallest indie publishers (hi!) to the biggest conglomerate.
This was an incredible opportunity for us to be front and centre with the freshest ideas in the biz, fighting it out with the big guns to work with tomorrow’s award-winning designer.
The Lair was a huge success for ITB, firstly the pure privilege of being asked to be a judge on a prestigious panel of publishers including Fantasy Flight Games, Mayfair and our partners in cardboard crime over at Braincrack Games.
The competitors represented, what was for us, an incredible view of the future of tabletop gaming. A staggering range of people, themes, game styles, it was a smorgasbord of cardboard. It made us even more determined to take on more challenging projects, and work with even more people across the industry, representing even more people and ideas in our games.
It was fascinating to see what people had brought with them from all corners of the country to this one transient board game geek paradise, for a fleeting moment bringing the creative energies of thousands of weekends, evenings, coffee breaks and moments spent lost in imagination, all together into that one room.
For the most part the presentations were a fantastic display of the enthusiasm within our community, from younger members inspired by their family game shelf to the veterans still smiling when they roll crit.
Being a publisher at this kind of event, rather than just another enthusiast is a weird experience. There were times when I forgot that I wasn’t just someone in the audience heckling ‘ooh that’s shiny’ and actually had a microphone. It was great just to watch the ideas flow, but to analyse and critique the games being presented was great, really digging into the theme, the concept, the mechanics, the visuals, all of the creative ideas behind the project. Being an indie set-up, my thoughts ran through “Is this someone I can work with?” “Do they believe in their idea?” “How easy would it be to convince them to go splits on Pandemic Legacy?”.
It’s a hard thing to convince someone you’ve got not just a cool idea but something that will actually make you both money. After all, game designers and publishers both need to pay rent, eat, and feed cash directly into Kickstarter’s tabletop maw. As a designer you’ve not only got to cover that your game works, but that it’s fun, that is has a clear concept, that it appeals to broad audience, and that ultimately you as the publisher can sell enough copies to make it worthwhile as an investment.
The style of the presentations was pretty mixed, with some giving slick, professional powerpoint-assisted presentations and others just opting for a straight up oral spiel (see what I did there?). One common thread throughout was that many of the designers chose to focus on the intricacies and subtleties of the game’s mechanical elements, rather than the ‘headline’ details like age range, number of players, game length, table space etc. Although this wasn’t a huge issue – it did make it difficult to quickly establish if this was a game you really wanted to tune into. A sliver of advice to those that flap up to the Wyvern’s Lair in 2017, make sure the publishers know the boring details as well as the interesting bits!
The Wyverns’ Lair was an incredible opportunity for us to see a driven group of fledgling game designers present their best ideas, and to engage directly with them in a forum of energy and enthusiasm. When Tim Pinder presented Sub Terra for the first time, I got a bit excited. My first question was ‘Cash or Card?’ His presentation was clear and enthusiastic, with all the essential information that the publisher needed to work out if this was a go-er out of the way early on, then firing straight into the interesting parts of the project.
I was proper excited. The game was seemingly well designed, had a strong sense of place and it’s conceptual direction really fit within our plan for ITB to produce games that communicate powerful ideas and emotions through engaging, challenging games. What could be more powerful and engaging than the existential fear of being trapped underground? A game that makes you feel claustrophobia and adrenal anxiety, fear that you’ll never escape, that you’ll never find the way out. The central idea, a cave surveying team trapped underground with limited time to escape their perilous environment, was genius. I had to be a part of it.
We were really pleased when Tim chose Inside the Box Board Games to be the publisher for Sub Terra. We’re so excited to work on this project, and to work with such a talented designer.
We’re really looking forward to working more with the competitors we’ve spoken to in the coming year, and to help kickstart some more game design careers next year. ITB has some big plans for the future, and we want YOU to be a part of it. The Wyvern’s Lair is a brilliant feature in the growing UK tabletop community as a way to connect great ideas and great people to the means to make those ideas a reality. I can’t wait to sit on the panel in 2017!
I wouldn’t have been able to make this connection without the Wyvern’s Lair, and Sub Terra would have forever languished on a forgotten shelf instead of spreading claustrophobic terror, despair and panic through groups of gamers everywhere!Tim Pinder
I’m a programmer in the videogames industry who’s been designing tabletop games as a hobby for the past few years. My skills definitely lie on the technical design end of the spectrum – the idea of self-publishing didn’t appeal to me, and approaching a traditional large publisher felt daunting and unlikely to succeed. I was happy enough making games for myself, friends and family, and that’s where I assumed they’d stay.
I’d been working on a promising cooperative survival horror game for a few months when I heard about the Wyvern’s Lair event at the 2016 UK Games Expo. I submitted a short one-page pitch outlining the core concept, and was fortunate enough to make it through to the main event itself. There, I delivered a longer pitch to a panel of traditional and indie publishers, which expanded on the theme, the mechanics reinforcing that theme, and the overall player experience goals for the project. Despite obvious nerves due to my complete lack of public speaking experience (remember: programmer!), this seemed to go pretty well!
After the event, several members of the panel expressed interest in publishing the game. After a short consultation process, I decided to join forces with the accomplished Peter Blenkharn of ITB Board Games to turn Sub Terra from a sketchy prototype into a polished professional product. Teaming up with an indie publisher allows me to concentrate on the mechanical and creative direction of the game while delivering the business/marketing/logistics side of things into more appropriate hands. I wouldn’t have been able to make this connection without the Wyvern’s Lair, and Sub Terra would have forever languished on a forgotten shelf instead of spreading claustrophobic terror, despair and panic through groups of gamers everywhere. I hope you all get to play it soon!
I am so pleased that Sub Terra has made it through to plans for a Kickstarter because of the Wyvern’s Lair at Expo this year. We believed the event was worthwhile and that has been proven. Yes, Wyvern’s Lair is entertainment, but it also helps to support new games and indie game designers.Mick Pearson
As an organiser for UK Games Expo for 8 years I have seen the show, and gaming in general, grow and flourish. The ‘nay sayers’ years ago predicted the death of games because of the rise of computer games, but they have been proved wrong – with ‘real’ games now more prolific than computer games. What we see in the computer games market is formulaic games, nothing really innovative or new. In our market we see innovation, creativity and a much more diverse range of games than ever before.
This is why I am so pleased that Sub Terra has made it through to plans for a Kickstarter because of the Wyvern’s Lair at Expo this year. We believed the event was worthwhile and that has been proven. Yes, Wyvern’s Lair is entertainment, but it also helps to support new games and indie game designers.
I am getting enquiries about Wyvern’s Lair 2017 and judges from this year’s event are already volunteering to be involved – at an early stage in the process as well. We are grateful for their support as the industry specialists, it shows commitment to the development of quality games and a desire to widen the market. Long may this situation last.
Sub Terra will be released on Kickstarter early 2017 and will be published by Inside the Box Board Games. If you would like to know how to get involved as a Sub Terra playtester, be one of the first backers of the game, or just find out more about the game before anyone else – check out the preview below!
The UK Games Expo is the biggest, and best, hobby games convention in the United Kingdom, bringing together tens of thousands of gamers and games in one place for a fun-filled weekend of tabletop fun. When the time comes, get a fistful of tickets and join in the fantastic fun!
A tense and terrifying cooperative game of subterranean escape for 1-6 players, can you survive Sub Terra?
Players take the role of a group of cavers, who find themselves trapped in an unexplored and perilous subterranean network. They must work together to find their way out of before the oxygen runs out or the darker things that lurk beneath the Earth catch up with them…
Sub Terra is a fully cooperative, exploration & innovative action management game which will get your heart pumping as you resist the Earth’s will to eliminate you one by one. Players will progressively explore the cave network in the hope of finding the exit, while struggling against the horrors of the claustrophobic environment around them, from floods to cave-ins, to darker things…