Formal Ferret Games

Gil Hova designs, publishes, and plays board games

Formal Ferret events at Gen Con 2018


As always, Formal Ferret Games will have a bunch of events at Gen Con! But things will be slightly different this year.

We will run our demo events in the Envoy area, between Halls C and D. The biggest change for you is that, unlike previous years, these events will all be free of charge! You will not have to pay anything for these events.

We’re also going to hold the first ever Gen Con Wordsy Tournament! Wordsy is a game ideal for tournament play. If you think you can out-word Gen Con, make sure you’re available on Saturday at 2 pm.

We will show off The Networks. If you haven’t played before, you can try the base game. If you’re familiar with the game, you’ll be able to play with the Executives and Telly Time expansions, both of which should be available at the show for purchase and backer/pre-order pickup.

We will close Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with a typically rousing game of Bad Medicine, with the Second Opinion expansion. If you’ve never played before, you’ll have no problem picking the game up, even with the expansion.

Finally, a lucky few people will get to try the game I have planned for my early-2019 Kickstarter, High Rise. This is a game about constructing tall buildings in a city that resembles a time track. You can gain advantages throughout the game by requesting “favors” from the city’s wealthy and powerful, but each favor is negative points at the end, and there’s a penalty for the player with the most favors left over.

I’ve been working on the game for a little over a year, and it’s become a really fun and compelling strategy game. My goal is to make it look and feel incredible, too. If this all intrigues you, come try the game!

So without further ado, here is the Formal Ferret event schedule for Gen Con 2018. Hope to see you there!

Oh, one more thing. Since Geoff and I had such a great response to our live Ludology episode last year, we’re going to do it again this year! I’m looking forward to answering your questions about games and game design.

April Fool’s Day and game promotion

Fifteen years ago, when the modern tech company was still being formed, April Fool’s Day was amazing. Their pranks were unexpected and delightful, and the sense of surprise was genuine. (It’s possible that, if I were as old, cynical, and crusty then as I am now, I wouldn’t recall it so fondly. YMMV. Anyway.)

These days, the corporate laughing wheeze of April Fool’s Day is something to be anticipated… and avoided. So many attempts turn out like, “yah, that was okay.” None of the shock and wonder we would have had in, say, 2003.

I’ve avoided April Fool’s pranks for Formal Ferret for this reason. Just like how I quit Reddit when I got sick of the same reposted joke over and over again (to say nothing of its other problems), or those threads on BGG Chit Chat where people amuse themselves by posting a new thread with almost the same subject line as another thread, but with one word or letter different, or someone replying to a long, belabored post with a familiar meme, it’s just not as funny as it used to be.
And this is not even mentioning the stock April Fool’s prank of posting something believable, getting others to offer genuine sympathy, and then toss that sympathy back in their faces. Sucks to be you for caring!

So… I haven’t been a big April Fool’s fan in a long time. Which is why I haven’t bothered with April Fool’s gags for Formal Ferret.

And yet, Google’s April Fool’s stuff tends to range from decent to really damn good. Today they integrated a bunch of Where’s Waldo games into Google Maps. I blew through them all this morning; they were a ton of fun. Play them if you get the chance!

It made me realize; there is still a right way to do April Fool’s here, even in 2018. It’s this: give people a genuine gift. If it’s a joke, make it a joke they can really experience, and perhaps even buy. Don’t just tease them with a Photoshopped press release; give them something they can actually enjoy. (With all due respect to my publisher friends who released Photoshopped press releases today!)

For fellow board game publishers, I think that means that if your prank is to send out a press release for a fake expansion for your game, then I think you should follow through and actually offer it. Like, as a print-and-play, or through POD, or even a tiny promo print run (assuming it’s affordable). Let your players actually participate in it, not just read about it with their April Fool’s shields up.

So much of staying fresh and relevant means realizing when a formula is tired and drained, and figuring out a way to revitalize it. For the next few years, I would love to see more companies embrace April Fool’s as a holiday of genuineness. Like, still be lighthearted and playful, but offer a genuine gift for your fans and customers.

The upshot here is: I have 365 days to come up with an awesome gift for everyone on April 1, 2019.

Introducing The Networks: Telly Time!

Telly Time cover

The Networks: Telly Time is an mini-expansion for The Networks that I’ve been wanting to do for a while – a set of Shows based on classic British television! I will release this mini-expansion at UK Games Expo in 2018. It will be available in retail worldwide soon afterwards.

Note that you must have The Networks base game in order to play Telly Time! The base game will be available anywhere games are sold on April 4, 2018.

Telly Time will cost $15 USD, which will probably translate to between £11 and £13, depending how stores handle VAT. You can pre-order it here.

Telly Time comes in a small tuckbox, which contains 59 cards and 35 small plastic chips. Most of the cards are new TV shows.


“The Offenders”

And yes, the puns are just as bad.

What’s in the box

45 of the cards in Telly Time are brand new Shows. There are three new Genres represented:


Chat Shows have a special power: the moment you Develop one, you may rotate all Stars and Ads in one of your timeslots (including the one the Chat Show is going in) to their good sides.

FFG_TNTT-cards_shows-fronts-180308 26

Quiz Shows also have a special power: at the end of each Season, you may use any Quiz Shows active in your lineup to convert money into Viewers at a rate of $1M to 1 Viewer, up to $3M for 3 Viewers for each active Quiz Show in your lineup.

FFG_TNTT-cards_shows-fronts-180308 27

Kids Shows have no special explicit powers, but tend to get you a lot of Viewers for their cost, and you can stuff them with Ads. But they only want to go on your earliest slot, with a big penalty if you put them on in the wrong time slot.

(The asterisks in the upper-left corners of the cards are for setup, to ensure as equal distribution of Genres as possible.)

These 3 new Genres make for a total of 9 Genres. In Telly Time, you no longer get a Genre Bonus for getting 3 or 5 Shows of the same Genre, as that would be too difficult.


Instead, each player will get a different Genre Bingo Card. Whenever you develop a Show, you cover its corresponding Genre with a plastic chip on your Bingo Card (if it’s not already covered). If you ever get 3 chips in a row (noughts and crosses, or tic-tac-toe to Americans), you get a Genre Bonus, and remove the 3 chips in a row.

Each card has a Genre-Bonus-O-Meter at the top. You’ll start with a plastic chip on its leftmost space. Whenever you get a Genre Bonus, you’ll move it one space to the right. If you get it to the rightmost space, you’ll score a 5-Show Genre Bonus.


“The Ancient Ones”

Telly Time comes with replacement Network Cards that replace their counterparts in the base game anytime you play with it. “Good Branding” now gives 3 Viewers for every Show you have of the same Genre, and “Market Research” is now an immediate card that allows you to place a chip anywhere on your Bingo Card.


The Networks: Telly Time is partially compatible with The Networks: On the Air. I don’t recommend playing it with the Shows from On the Air, but it will work just fine with the Stars, Ads, and Network Cards from On the Air.

The Networks: Telly Time is fully compatible with The Networks: Executives. Mogul Cards work the same way, except that you pick them up when you move the marker on your Genre-Bonus-O-Meter to the end.

There are some changes to Executives. Generic no longer places Marker Cubes on their board. Generic may score a Genre Bonus when they place their fourth chip on a Genre Bingo Card. If they do so, they have to disable two squares on their Bingo Card with a Marker Cube. Generic still scores a Genre Bonus when they get 3 chips in a row, and in that case, they don’t have to disable squares on their Bingo Card.

The player who takes Specialist is the only player in Telly Time who gets a Genre Bonus when getting 3 Shows of the same Genre. If they push the chips on their Genre-Bonus-O-Meter all the way to the right a second time, they get a second Mogul Card.


“Monster Flatmates”

Telly Time brings back ace illustrator Travis Kinchy and first class graphic designer/game designer/rulebook editor/nuclear tank enthusiast Heiko Günther. I also enlisted a bunch of my British friends to make sure my references were solid.

To be honest, when I started Telly Time, I expected this to be just a pack of funny Shows with maybe some interesting new Genres. The Genre Bingo Card originally required players to fill out the entire card, but my playtesters suggested that they really wanted to play tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses). Once I put that in, Telly Time really came into its own.

I’m really proud of this expansion. It came together ridiculously quickly, and Travis and Heiko worked very hard to meet a crazy deadline. I’m looking forward to playing it with all of you!

Formal Ferret 2018 convention schedule

2017 was an amazing year for Formal Ferret Games, and part of the reason was an ambitious convention schedule. I attended all 10 conventions on my schedule last year, and The Gathering of Friends made it 11.

So of course, this year, I will be at more. It’ll be 13 events in total, plus the GoF. And that number may go up if I decide to attend more trade shows!

Here’s the schedule for 2018.

Want to help me at one of these events? Yes please! Go here and let me know what you can attend, and I’ll get back to you. Thanks!

My convention schedule for the rest of 2017: FalCon, Essen, Metatopia, and BGG.CON

I looked at my calendar and realized that I’ve booked myself for four conventions in the next six weeks! How do I get myself into these situations?!

Nevertheless, here we are. If you’re attending any of these shows, come by and say hi!

October 13-15
Stamford, CT

This is the most informal of the four shows; I’ll be attending with no schedule or booth on the Saturday and a bit of Sunday.

I’ve been going to this convention for several years now, along with its slightly bigger sibling, ConnCon, in the spring. It’s quite small, only a couple hundred people at most, but the crowd it attracts is really good. Lots of friendly and smart people who want to play games with you, and the people who run the show are very good folks.

I’ll have The Networks: Executives on me, plus a new prototype or two, so if you want to play, let me know!

October 26-29
Essen, Germany

From tiny FalCon, we go to Essen SPIEL, one of the largest tabletop-only conventions in the world. I’ll be there for the third straight year, but this will be the first year I will have my own booth. Come to Hall 2, D141 and say hello!

I’ll have Wordsy with me, and I’ll be offering a free translation kit so you can play it in German (as selling an English-language word game in Germany is not a great idea). It will be the local equivalent of $20 USD, so between 15-20€. The translation kit will run out, so come to my booth early!

I’ll also have English-language copies of The Networks base game, plus a few copies of On the Air. The Networks will be the local equivalent of $50 USD (between 40-45€), and On the Air will be recommended 10€, pay what you want.

You’ll notice I had to specify “English-language” just now. That’s because my friends at Board & Dice are offering a German version of the game! You can pre-order it for Essen pickup here.

And if you want to try The Networks: Executives, I will have a demo copy with me to show off!

November 2 – 5
Morristown, NJ

Metatopia is one of my favorite game designer conventions. Protospiel brings together designers who can take intensive deep-dives into your prototype and make crucial early changes, while Unpub invites hordes of playtesters to torture-test your game and find all sorts of possible corner cases.

Metatopia is a great mix of the theoretical and practical. On the practical side, you can schedule a bunch of tests for your game, and you’ll have some control over the demographics of folks to test it. In return, you’ll be expected to provide tests for other designers, but you already planned to do that, right?

But Metatopia also embraces theory, and to wit, they have a robust selection of panels that I try to contribute to each year. This year, I’m bringing you four panels that I’m really excited about:

D011: “How To Demo A Board/Card Game At A Convention” presented by Gil Hova, Heather O’Neill, Melissa Lewis-Gentry, JR Honeycutt. Are you a publisher showing your games at conventions? Maybe you’re a booth helper? Join us as we discuss the best ways to demo a game at a convention. We’re not talking about teaching games in general; we’re talking, very specifically, about showing players the heartbeat of a board game in as short a period of time as possible in a noisy, crowded environment. Friday, 12:00PM – 1:00PM; Serious, All Ages.

D037: “Podcast Editing LIVE” presented by Gil Hova. Do you edit podcasts, or are you looking into the possibility? Are you self-taught? Want to get better at it? Join us as we edit a podcast live in front of you! You’ll learn about noise reduction, dynamic compression, hard limiters, and parametric equalizers. You’ll also see and hear what you should edit out, what you should leave in, and what makes a good edit good. Friday, 9:00PM – 10:00PM; Serious, All Ages.

D047: “Cooling Down the Hot Take: A Look at Hierarchical Thinking in Gaming” presented by Gil Hova, Jonathan Gilmour. From Jones Theory to “this game fired that game”, hierarchical thinking – comparing one thing to another in a way that ranks one as better than the other – is very popular in the gaming world. How useful is it? Are there situations where it hurts us? We will talk about the pros and cons of hierarchical thinking, and dive into why it’s so appealing to us game fans. Saturday, 11:00AM – 12:00PM; Serious, All Ages.

D070: “Player in Three Persons – Studying the Theme/Mechanism Join of Board Games” presented by Gil Hova. “This game is so immersive!” “This theme is pasted on!” “Should designers start with theme or mechanism?” Lots of board game fans like to debate theme and mechanism. This panel is a technical deep-dive into the fascinating join of theme and mechanism of a commercial board game, and why the two don’t always get along. Saturday, 7:00PM – 8:00PM; Serious, All Ages.

I’ll try to record all these panels, but I’m not always good at capturing them. Audio for my 2016 panels came out really poorly, although I still want to get those out at some point.

Also, if you attend, you might get to try the game I’m planning to Kickstart next September…

November 15-19

Dallas, TX

As always, I will close the year out in Dallas with BGG.CON. I will have a booth, and I will be selling The Networks and Wordsy there. We’ll be only a few months from the relaunch of Bad Medicine: Second Opinion on Kickstarter, so I’ll probably have that with me as well. I’ll also have some prototypes on me.

It’s going to be a wild finish to 2017. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!