Protospiel San JOse 2018 Budget and Lessons Learned




Time for the annual recap of Protospiel San Jose. This is provided to give you a peek behind the scenes, to act as a resource for other organizers, and to provide accountability.


Additional feedback is welcome. Please send it to boardgamebuilders at gmail dot com


We had 750+ unique players and 80+ designers attend this year.


Find a photo gallery of Protospiel San Jose 2018 on Flickr here:



What Went Well


Beginner Friendly Game Signs

We had an even greater number of Beginner Friendly Game Signs available at the front table this year so casual players could find games that fit their desired play time. At one point ALL of the signs were in use.



Ricola at the front table. We went through a LOT of Ricloa this year. Two industrial size bags + more I bought at Walmart late Saturday. Good to see it was helping designers to maintain their voice.


Secret Game Signs

Secret Game Signs were once again available at the front table for games that needed to avoid photos and publicity. Only two designers out of 80+ needed them this year, and one of those designers was smart enough to print and bring his own.


Raffle Signs

New signs for how the raffle works. At both the welcome/front table and the raffle table we had signs detailing how exactly the raffle worked. More on the raffle later.


Designer Diner

The designer diner was once again well attended. We will continue to offer this as long as there is a volunteer to organize it. Thanks to Shane for once again organizing this year.


Improve Game Design Contest

This remains a fun and uplifting side event. Each year a new designer organizes it and brings a fresh twist to the contest. Get a box of bits, design a game in an hour, then pitch it. Great practice for pitching. Several past design contest winners have gone on to be designer games in circulation. Thanks to JonnyPac for organizing the improv contest this year. 


Hotel Block

We had an official hotel room block for the first time this year (the event is not in a hotel). Volunteer Rebecca did a fantastic job of setting it all up and we had lots of people take advantage of the deal. Many thanks to Rebecca and the Courtyard Marriott.


Pand GM Panel

Peter from Panda gave a well attended presentation about Panda GM and the services they provide on Friday. In every past year when we did panels, I got lots of complains about the panels. This year, only positive feedback about Peter’s presentation. 


Video Pitches

We had a video pitch/demo room with Ed Baraf Saturday. Ed filled ALL of his time slots and was busy the entire day. If Ed is willing to do it again next time, I would love to bring it back. Ed has a nice summary video here: https://youtu.be/NyfsoQRjR30



What I Will/Might Do Different Next Time


Earlier Date

Both March and April are crowded with events. This year we were date sandwiched between GDC and the Gamma Trade Show. There is no weekend that works for everyone. I need to hold the event earlier in the year in case we overwhelm the AC, so that we don’t roast the players. I’m considering running the event in early February next year (before DundraCon).


Designer Tag Table Badge Tiers

Although you still get plenty of traffic in the back, some designers really hate being back there. I think I’m going to two sets of badges next year, with the second set being the back tables. Register early to get a better table.


Even MORE Easy Game Signs

We ran out on Saturday and designers were asking for more. I will encourage designers to print their own sign next year and send out the template. We can’t provide signs for everyone, that would break the budget.


Company Name on Industry Guest and Sponsor Badges

This was bonehead move on my part. I forgot to turn this on in Tabletop.Events before printing, so the industry badges didn’t have company names on them. Will be fixed next time.


Location For Large Fan In Floorplan

We used a large industrial fan to keep the hall cooler. This required moving a designer table to the back. Many thanks to Jason Lentz and Philip Henderson for moving their table for the benefit of the entire community. Their team spirit and self sacrifice is greatly appreciated.


Acrylics for Signs

A lot of the acrylics purchased five years ago to hold table signs were damaged this year. They have lasted almost five years, but were treated poorly this year. I will have to re-evaluate if its worth replacing them with a budget or if I’m going to let that perk go and put designers on notice for more of their own signage.


Get More Games Posted in the System


We used the Tabletop.Events system this year to create a list of prototype games at the event. However, a lot of designers ignored it and I once again had publishers and players contact me after the event trying to find a particular designer they wanted to reach out to. Next time, I will push game entry harder. Game description entry only takes a moment, and it will get designers more remote play testers and publisher eyeballs.


The Raffle

The raffle was more diverse this year with games from several sources. I plant to diversify even further next year. 


The raffle was a huge problem this year. We had games set aside in the back (and under a table) for the Sunday raffle. They were clearly marked. However, we still had problems with people blatantly stealing those games. People also took games from the store’s game library and helped themselves to armfuls of games multiple times. The level of theft was depressing. The era of the “honor system” raffle is sadly over. Next time we will have to have a much more controlled raffle, this will require additional volunteer labor, but I don’t see an alternative other than getting rid of the raffle all together.

 Protospiel San Joe 2018 Budget

Protospiel San Joe 2018 Budget



Please help spread the word for 2018!

I have a favor to ask you. Please help spread the word for the event. The more players we can get, the better for everyone involved. We have a lot of raffle prizes as a thank you for the people who come to test games. 

Below are some printable flyers and cards. Take them to your local game night or post one up at work. Your friends and co-workers get to help out the local board game community and win games for doing so.

If you need a hotel for the event, this year we got a room block with the Courtyard Marriott for $125 a night. Use this link to claim the group rate: 
Book your group rate for Protospiel SJ 2018


4Up 2018 Cards.png



Protospiel San Jose 2018 Registration is live. 




Registration for Protospiel San Jose 2018 is live here:



Player badges are free. If you plan to attend, please sign up for a badge. 


Registering for a badge will:

  1. Get you on the mailing list to stay informed.
  2. Provide you with a nice printed badge and holder on site.
  3. Really help us out as we can plan snacks and raffle prizes based on registration.


Please register for a badge and we will see you at the event!



Friday, March 9th - 10 AM to 10 PM

Saturday, March 10th - 10 AM to 10 PM

Sunday, March 11th - 10 AM to 10 PM


Game Kastle Mountain View

550 Showers Dr.

Mountain View, CA 94040

(650) 935-2229



Find more details on www.boardgamebuilders.com


Find our Facebook group here:



Join the Mailing List Here:



RSVP as a player via the related Meet Up group:





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 (boardgamebuilders@gmail.com).

 Protospiel San Jose 2017 Budget

Protospiel San Jose 2017 Budget

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