Heads up, game designers!

First off, dear readers, you might be wondering where our website has been for the last month. I’m not going to lie to you: we’ve been battling cyber-gremlins. That’s right; the noble forces of Geekdom have been fighting an epic war against cyber-gremlins for the past two fortnights, and only recently have we emerged victorious.

But there were causalities. The following article about Tabletop Deathmatch, for instance.

If you’re unfamiliar with Tabletop Deathmatch, be sure to check out their website here. Essentially, TTDM is a competition for indie game designers. People submit their games, the judges (including the folks behind Cards Against Humanity) pick some finalists, and then those folks pitch their games to the judges at GenCon. The winner gets their game published (for freezies) and a booth at GenCon.

For more info, check out my interview with Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane, Events Manager and Customer Service Manager of Cards Against Humanity respectively.


Geek SmashSo am I correct in saying that 2013 was the first year of TTDM?



Also, what inspired you all to have the competition at all?

Trin: CAH wanted to do something extra special for Gen Con. We wanted to do something more than just have a booth and sit around in it all day long. We also have roots in the indie community – our game was a Kickstarter project back in 2010.

Jenn: It’s so important to us to help promote and fund independent games. We wanted to give the little guy a shot! And Cards Against Humanity gets dozens of emails asking us for advice on how to make a board game. So we wanted the competition (and the webseries) to be educational and informative and help people with their projects.


Geek Smash: What sort of games really pique the interest of the judges? (Either mechanically or thematically?)

Trin: I was not a judge, but I did help cull the initial 500 or so submissions down to 50. What I personally looked for was a brand new idea. I wanted to read about a game and then get really angry that I hadn’t thought of that idea first.

Jenn: Some of the judges preferred simple games, others favored long and involved games, but I do think ALL the judges wanted to see something totally original. I don’t think the judges liked it when they could easily notice, “Oh, the main mechanic here sounds exactly like a game that’s already on the shelf.”


Geek Smash: I read Max’s blog post on the games the judges weren’t interested in. Any other pieces of advice for contestants?

Trin: Don’t bother submitting if you don’t have a prototype. We’re happy to look at even the most basic, Microsoft Paint and meeples game if it has strong mechanics.

We love a unique theme. Think outside of wizards and fairies and bullshit. Have a look at the games we’ve aired so far to get a better idea of what we’re into.

Jenn: Playtest your game with complete strangers, or people outside of your friend group. And don’t run the playtests –  just observe as players learn the rules blindly, without your explanation.


Geek Smash: What’s your favorite game? 

Trin: My favorite tabletop game is probably Sentinels of the Multiverse. It’s just so well put-together and it’s so fun to play. The universe is so rich and just sucks you right in. Hanabi is a close second. I love games that put a limit on how much you can communicate with the rest of your team, and Hanabi does that really well without feeling too constricted.

Jenn: Out of the finalists, Discount Salmon and Fart Party were my favorite games. I like any game that’s simple and easy to pick up because I have almost no attention span.


Geek Smash: What impact do you think TTDM has had on the gaming community, and what kind of impact do you hope to have?

Trin: To paraphrase my boss Max Temkin, a game like Cards Against Humanity would never have been picked up by a major publisher. And people who have a great game are not necessarily people who know how to publish their game. So we want to bolster the creative tabletop community with as much help and information as we can give them. Next season, we’re going to show the finalists working with designers and artists to polish their prototypes, and we’re going to feature more educational material. We want our audience to come away with a better idea of what it takes to self-publish a game.

Jenn: I’ve heard over and over again that the contest pushed people to actually finish their half-completed games, which is amazing! I hope the contest continues to inspire and show people that anyone can make a game.


So there you are, fellow geeks: some hot info on Tabletop Deathmatch straight from the folks behind the competition. I’ll be heading to GenCon myself this August to check out the event, as well as all the other game-related awesomeness that’s going down in Indianapolis over that weekend.

Hope to see you there!

-By Colin O’Boyle