Watch my panels from Metatopia 2015!

by Gil Hova

Metatopia is quickly becoming one of my favorite game designer conventions. This is partially because it’s in Morristown, NJ, only about 30 minutes from where I live, but mostly because it’s full of amazing playtesting opportunities.

Designers can request playtesters of a specific demographic, and the con organizers will do their best to find just those people. This way, I got to run three valuable “blind tests” of The Networks, in which I watched players try to figure out how to play the game with only the rulebook. It taught me what parts of the rulebook work, and what parts still need attention. Thankfully, none of the tables messed up any significant rules, so it looks like I just have to make some tweaks here and there.

But one of Metatopia’s biggest appeals is its panel schedule. For three days, you get to hear all sorts of industry experts give their opinions on the theoretical and practical sides of game design and publishing. (And there are some later at night run by podcasters that turn out to be less useful, but infinitely sillier.)

This year, I resolved to run a bunch of boardgame-specific panels, and I was overjoyed with how well they were received. I appeared on seven panels in total!

I have YouTube video of five of these panels, and you can check them all out in this playlist. That’s five hours of great discussion about game design and publishing! Here’s a breakdown of the five videos.

I gave a “Board Game Design 101” lecture that was the talk I needed to hear 15 years ago. This was one of my best-attended and best-received talks. I think the concepts I discuss in this lecture are concepts that more game designers and game fans should embrace. They tie directly into what makes a good game.

I organized and appeared on a panel called “Crossing Over,” which matched me with RPG designer Jason Pitre, video game designer Nik Mikros, and freeform/transformative game designer Sara Williamson. The endlessly-energetic John Stavropoulos moderated, asking questions that cut across all our fields of design. This was the panel that intrigued me the most; I’d never seen anything like it elsewhere, and I think we analyzed our craft in a way no one ever has before.

Geoff Engelstein (co-designer of the first two games of the Space Cadets series of games, host of the Ludology podcast, and all-around clever and sweet guy) and I joined forces to talk about how to write a good rulebook for your board game. This was another very well-attended panel, on a critical subject that all designers and publishers should know about, despite the odd technical glitch.

I met up with Tim Rodriguez (designer/publisher of Ghost Pirates) and Dan Cassar (designer of Arboretum) to talk about 2-player board games; what makes them special, and how can we use their differences to our advantage? It was a really good talk about a subject you don’t get to hear much about.

Immediately after the 2-player panel, Tim and I joined the always entertaining and insightful RPG designer Joshua A.C. Newman to discuss our experiences in crowdfunding. I honestly joined this panel at the last moment, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But the panel turned out to be fascinating, because our experiences in crowdfunding were so different.

Now I have a year to figure out how to top this!