Designer Publisher Speed Dating Best Practices


Designer Publisher Speed Dating Best Practices

I have been asked several times to coach new designers on how to pitch at a Designer Publisher Speed Date. I’ve done a LOT of publisher speed date events, both as a designer and as an agent for a publisher. Below is some practical advice distilled from that experience.

To prep for this article I interviewed several publishers to see what they wanted to get out of a speed date pitch. This advice has been developed with those publisher requests in mind.

In the first 30-60 seconds of your pitch you should tell the publisher:

* Your name.  
You would be surprised how often designers often forget this one.

* Number of Players
The number of players your game supports. 

* Play time.
How long it takes to play. This helps the publisher get a sense of the weight of your game. Be realistic.

* Audience
What audience you are aiming for (casual players, tactical gamers, bearded Euro players).

* The Hook
What makes your game special or different from every other game on the market? There are tens of thousands of games out there and hundreds more come out every month. What makes your game stand out? What is unique compared to any other game? This is likely the MOST IMPORTANT thing you will say during your entire pitch.

In the second 60 seconds of your pitch you should tell the publisher:

How do you win the game?
What are the win conditions? What triggers the end of your game? 

What does a typical turn look like?
Don’t run through all the options and edge cases, give a concise example of a normal turn.

Other tips:

Do NOT use all the time allotted explaining the rules of the game. If the publisher wants to know all the rules, they will ask you or ask for a copy of the rules.

Do your homework on what publishers are looking for and what their existing lines are like. The list of publishers is posted ahead of speed date. Look them up and look at their games. Don’t go on and on about your 2 hour Euro game to a social games publisher. 

Be careful about comparing your game to other games. Some publishers find it helpful if you compare your mechanics to existing games so they can understand your game. “This game uses dice placement like in Kingsburg.” Other publishers do not like it when you compare your game to existing games. Referencing mechanics can help. “My game is better than game X” comparisons won’t help your pitch.

Know the component counts in your game. Your list of components should also be on your sell sheet. If the publisher asks you “How many cards are in this game”, you need to know the answer.

End your pitch before the time runs out and return some time to the publisher. You can use that remaining time to do one of three things:

I. Listen and Answer questions. 
End your pitch early and offer to answer questions. Let the publisher drive the conversation to what interests them.

II. Play a sample turn or round. 
Set up your game and advance it to the most exciting point of the game. Rig the hands, decks, and values to make for an exciting turn. Ask the publisher if they want to play a sample hand/round.

III. Get a lead. 
If the game is not a good fit for the publisher you are talking to (this is often the case), ask “Who should I show this game to?” That will give you an idea of what publishers you should focus on or approach. Not all publishers are at speed date. 

Lastly, if you have other published games, mention that so the publisher knows you understand the process and how the industry works. 

Perhaps I’ll see you across the table some day at a publisher speed dating event.


John Shulters of Black Straw Games pitching like a Pro at Designer Publisher Speed Date.

John Shulters of Black Straw Games pitching like a Pro at Designer Publisher Speed Date.


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Protospiel 2017 Recap and Budget

Each year I post the final attendance numbers and budget for Protospiel San Jose.


In terms of 2017 attendance we had:

80+ Designers

600+ Players (Uniques, not turnstile)


Honestly, that is as big as I want to get. I was at Unpub 7 this year, which is much larger. Unpub was a great event, but it didn’t have the same feel at that size. To maintain the community feeling, I want to stay about the size we were at in 2017. If needed, I can expand to two events per year instead of doing a single larger event.


Protospiel San Jose 30 Second Video Recap


Join the Protospiel San Jose Mailing List Here:


What I plan to do different next time:


1. Book the back room for media and panel(s). 

We didn’t do a panel this year as the noise level from last year made hearing difficult. The back roomat Game Kastle MV is now set up with lights an some sound. Next year we can try some panels again. Also I want to carve out time and space to encourage podcasting and interviews from the back room.


2. Try Adding Basic Sandwiches to the snacks

Year one and year two I tried offering full meals. Meals proved too expensive and time consuming. Year three and year four we had just snacks, which worked much better. I had a volunteer that did ALL of the food this year and did a fantastic job. Next year I plan to add basic sandwiches (Bread, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Cheese and small amounts of cold cuts) to the food budget.


3. Offer More VIP Player badges.

I planned a very limited quantity of VIP player badges this year. They quickly sold out much faster than in past years. Next year, I’ll aim to offer 50 VIP player badges.


4. Diversify Raffle Prizes

In 2017 I bought raffle prizes from three sources. The quantity was not as high as it was in 2016, but the variety was greater. Next year I plan to do something similar and expand to several sources of raffle prizes. 


Finally, here is our final budget for 2017. Drop me a line if you have any questions at (

Protospiel San Jose 2017 Budget

Protospiel San Jose 2017 Budget

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Parking Tips, Quick Updates, Thanks to Card Lords


1. Where to Park
2. Quick Updates
3. Sponsor: Card Lords

Where to Park

Good gamers play nice with others. In that spirit we are asking all attendees of Protospiel San Jose to park behind Game Kastle or off to the right side (green checks in photo below). Please DO NOT park in front of the store (red x below). Leave that parking for the people who need access to Trader Joes. If you park in back, there is a sidewalk that takes you right up to the Game Kastle entrance. Thank you!

Quick Updates

Documentary Filming On Site
There will be a documentary on board games and board game designers filming on site. If your game is secret, please remember to provide signage on your table that it should not be photographed.

Correction: Designer dinner is Friday the 7th.
The day of the week and time in the previous updates is correct. An attentive designer pointed out the date listed was a typo. The Designer Dinner is this Friday night.

Industry Guest: Steve Jones of Blue Panther
Blue Panther LLC is a publisher and manufacturer of board and card games, game accessories such as dice towers and dice trays, and custom components in a variety of materials, including dice.

Thanks to our final sponsor: Card Lords

CardLords is a game design and publishing company with an emphasis on player interaction and high quality artwork.  The owner, Tucker, started CardLords by publishing token cards used in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game.  BattleGoats was his first design and the first full game published by CardLords, which funded in under 24 hours on Kickstarter in 2016.  They have two new games coming out (Take the Gold this month and The Pirate's Flag in early 2018), as well as an expansion for BattleGoats that will launch at GenCon 50 later this year.  Tucker and the CardLords team will be at Protospiel San Jose testing their upcoming games and looking for new 10-15 minute family oriented games to publish.

Thank you to Card Lords for making Protospiel San Jose free for players.



Why 6 PM Friday? Industry Guest: Scott Gaeta of Renegade Games


Just 5 days until #ProtospielSJ

1. Why does the event end at 6 PM Friday?

2. Industry Guest: Scott Gaeta of Renegade Games


Why does the event end at 6 PM Friday?

I've been asked why the event only runs from 10 AM to 6 PM on Friday. The answer is simple: Friday Night Magic. Magic keeps game stores open and pays the bills. Game Kastle is a wonderful host and is giving us a great rental price. As part of that deal, we have to make space for Friday Night Magic. 

Provided we give back all tables needed for Magic after 6 PM you are welcome to stay and keep playing games until closing on the remaining tables. All tables need to be shared from 6 pm to 10 pm Friday. Assigned tables resume Saturday morning.

I would urge designers to attend the designer dinner after 6 PM on Friday.


Armadillo Willy's
1031 N San Antonio Rd Los Altos, CA 94022

Friday April 7, 6:30 PM to ?

Please RSVP via this link:


Industry Guest: Scott Gaeta of Renegade Games

During Scott's 20 years in gaming he's published games based on some of the biggest pop culture brands in the world. In less than 3 years Renegade has become one of the leading Indy publishers in the industry with such hits as Gravwell, Lotus, Lanterns, Fuse, and Clank! Scott’s vision for Renegade is to expand the audience for games by shaking things up and not be bound by old school thinking. 

Scott will be attending Protospiel on Sunday looking for innovative new designs that Renegade can develop.




Designer Dinner, Free Shipping from PnP


  1. Designer Dinner
  2. Volunteers Needed
  3. Free shipping offer from Print and Play.
  4. Sponsor: Brian Henk, Overworld Games


Designer Dinner and Mixer (Optional)

Friday night hang out with designers over dinner and talk some shop.

Armadillo Willy's - (Across the street from Game Kastle)

1031 N San Antonio Rd Los Altos, CA 94022

Friday April 16, 6:30 PM to ?


Counter-serve barbecue, bar, some vegetarian options. Seating is limited to the first 25 people to RSVP. You will need to pay your own check. Armadillo Willy's is within walking distance of Game Castle. If you need a ride, you can ask for a ride share as part of your RSVP.

Please RSVP via this link:



Call for Volunteers - Your Help Is Needed

Protospiel San Jose is not for profit. Each year the budget is posted publicly on the website. How well the event turns out due to the efforts our awesome volunteers and contributors. Once again, we need your help to staff the welcome table/registration desk. 

If you are willing to help staff the welcome table please reach out to our volunteer coordinator Jonathan Grothe at Thank you!



Industry Guest & Free Shipping Offer

Andrew Tullsen will once again be joining us as an industry guest this year.

Starting the company Print and Play Productions at age 16 from his bedroom, Andrew Tullsen is now the regional manager of the Print and Play Division owned by AdMagic. 

Print & Play is know for their custom work in board game prototyping. They offer boards, boxes, bits and more. Cards come in standard and custom sizes. Their support team works closely with customers to ensure satisfactory products. Print and Play strives for quality, consistency, and fast delivery with every order. 

Since Andrew is coming to the event, he is offering free shipping for any order headed to Protospiel San Jose. Andrew will bring your order with him. Head over to to take advantage of this great service. Use coupon code "local17" for free shipping, make sure to mention it's going to Protospiel San Jose in the order notes! 



Thanks to Sponsor Overworld Games

A hearty thanks to Brian for helping make Protospiel free for players.

Brian is the President of Overworld Games, creators of 7 successful Kickstarter campaigns and publishers of easy-to-learn and quick-to-play games with heavy social interaction. Brian is the co-designer of games like Good Cop Bad Cop, Exposed, New Salem, and Leaders of Euphoria. He is also one of the co-hosts on the Board Game Business Podcast where he discusses the business side of the tabletop game industry.


Brian Henk of Overworld Games

Brian Henk of Overworld Games