Formal Ferret Games

Gil Hova designs, publishes, and plays board games

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!

Play The Networks and Wordsy at a game store near you!


Thanks to my friends at Double Exposure’s Envoy program, you can learn to play my games Wordsy and The Networks at a game store near you this weekend and next! (Alas, this offer only applies to my friends in the US. Hopefully we can organize an event outside my country soon!)

Here’s how it works. This coming weekend, August 26-27, stores in 39 different states, from Maine to Hawaii, will be showing The Networks. You won’t need to know how to play the game, so this is a good chance to learn the game if you don’t already!

The following weekend, September 2-3, there will be a similar event, but for my game Wordsy instead. Again, it’s a great opportunity to learn the game!

These stores should have copies of both games in stock, so if you enjoy the game, please buy it from them as a thank-you for hosting the event.

Event times and other details will vary from store to store. Please reach out to each store individually to find what times they’ll be featuring The Networks and Wordsy. Some stores will only be running events for one game and not the other; you can see which is which on the table below.

Hope you enjoy it!

State City Store Games
AR Fayetteville Dragon’s Keep Gaming Room BOTH
CA Fresno Crazy Squirrel Game Store BOTH
CA Lake Forest Comic Quest
The Networks
CA Oakland It’s Your Move Games & Hobbies BOTH
CA Rancho Cucamonga 4 Color Fantasies
The Networks
CA San Diego At Ease Games
The Networks
CO Aurora Crit Castle Games BOTH
CO Aurora Shep’s Games
The Networks
CT Middletown The Board Room BOTH
CT Newington YFN Tabletop Shop BOTH
DC Washington Labyrinth Games & Puzzles
The Networks
FL Estero Dungeon Games LLC BOTH
FL Gainesville Gamesville Tabletop
The Networks
FL Hollywood Cool Stuff Games – Hollywood
The Networks
FL Orlando Cool Stuff Games – Waterford Lakes BOTH
FL Pensacola TBS Comics Inc BOTH
FL Temple Terrace Armada Games Wordsy
GA Athens Tyche’s Games BOTH
GA Flowery Branch Meeple Madness BOTH
GA Macon Dice Drop Games BOTH
GA Warner Robins Heroes and Villains BOTH
HI Honolulu The Armchair Adventurer BOTH
IA Sioux City Games King
The Networks
ID Moscow Safari Pearl Comics BOTH
ID New Plymouth Gaming Adventures BOTH
ID Twin Falls Black Dragon Games BOTH
IL Bloomington Red Raccoon Games BOTH
IL Chicago Da Sorce BOTH
IL Crystal Lake Affinity for Gaming BOTH
IL Quincy Underdark Comics
The Networks
IL Rock Falls The Gaming Goat
The Networks
IN Goshen Better World Books BOTH
IN Hobart Games Inn BOTH
IN Indianapolis Family Time Games
The Networks
IN Indianapolis Saltire Games BOTH
IN Indianapolis The Game Preserve
The Networks
KS Lawrence Boom Comic Shop
The Networks
KS Mission Mission: Board Games BOTH
KS Overland Park TableTop Game & Hobby
The Networks
KS Topeka Gatekeeper Hobbies Wordsy
KS Topeka Grog’s Games
The Networks
KY Louisville The Louisville Game Shop
The Networks
KY Richmond Legendary Games
The Networks
LA Lafayette Sword N Board BOTH
LA Metairie +1 Gaming BOTH
MA Greenfield Greenfield Games
The Networks
MA Northampton Modern Myths BOTH
MD Baltimore Canton Games BOTH
MD Gaithersburg Play More Games BOTH
MD Hagerstown Neverland Games BOTH
ME Belfast All About Games BOTH
MI Adrian Acropolis Games BOTH
MI Jackson Nostalgia, Ink BOTH
MI Traverse City TC War Room BOTH
MN South Saint Paul Level Up Games, Comics, and More
The Networks
MO Kansas City Limited Figures BOTH
MO Kansas City Pawn and Pint
The Networks
MO Republic Cards ‘n Stripes Games BOTH
MS Gautier maCnarB Gaming BOTH
MS Ridgeland Van’s Comics, Cards & Games BOTH
NC Jacksonville Hobby Chest of Jacksonville BOTH
NE Lincoln Gauntlet Games BOTH
NE Lincoln Hobbytown USA (Pioneer Woods Dr)
The Networks
NE Omaha Sparta Games
The Networks
NE Omaha The Game Shoppe BOTH
NJ Bernardsville The Bearded Dragon Games BOTH
NJ Washington Arcana Toys Games and Hobbies BOTH
NV Las Vegas Tables Board Game Spot BOTH
NV Reno Games Galore BOTH
NV Reno Games Galore BOTH
NY Hicksville Game Master Games
The Networks
NY Hyde Park Alterniverse BOTH
NY Pittsford The Game Gamut BOTH
NY Plainview Legendary Realms Games
The Networks
OH Cleveland Heights Critical Hit Games BOTH
OH Columbiana Fantastic Games
The Networks
OH Gallipolis Next Level Gaming Center BOTH
OH Mason Nostalgia Ink BOTH
OH Mentor Great Lakes Game Emporium
The Networks
OH North Olmsted Recess BOTH
OH Wooster Pegasus Game Parlor BOTH
OK Norman Loot & XP BOTH
OR Salem Wild Things Games BOTH
PA Allentown Encounter Comics & Games BOTH
PA West Chester The Games Keep BOTH
PA York Comix Connection BOTH
PA York The Comic Store West
The Networks
RI Warwick Toy Vault Games
The Networks
TN Kingsport Dewayne’s World of Comics & Games BOTH
TN Knoxville Level Up Games & Hobbies BOTH
TN Madison Comix City Too! BOTH
TN Memphis Comic Cellar
The Networks
TX Garland Brickhouse Games
The Networks
TX Houston Dragon’s Lair BOTH
TX Humble Ettin Games and Hobbies
The Networks
TX Lockhart Flash Candy and Toys BOTH
TX Mansfield Sockmonkey Junction BOTH
UT St. George Game Haven BOTH
VA Centreville The Island Games BOTH
WA Centralia Cosmic Comics and Games BOTH
WI Columbus Cardinal Comics and Collectibles
The Networks
WI Middleton I’m Board! Games and Family Fun
The Networks
WI Milwaukee The Board Game Barrister (Greenfield) BOTH
WY Laramie 8 Bytes Game Café
The Networks

Gen Con – a brief wrap-up, and a note on attendance

I am back from Gen Con 50! It was a memorable event, made even more memorable because I was able to see the total eclipse on the Monday after the show. Here’s a quick wrap-up.

  • People are really excited for The Networks: Executives! I got to show it off at the First Exposure Playtest Hall, and the odd edge cases are starting to fall.
  • The Networks sold very well, especially considering that it’s a year old.
  • Wordsy sold very well, and I’m quite thrilled that people are seeing it as a novel new word game.
  • The setup at Lucas Oil Stadium was amazing. I was thrilled to actually be on the actual field, although the grass was covered by a temporary floor. There was a museum set up that was the exact size and dimensions of Gen Con I, filled with old memorabilia like letters from Gary Gygax, early editions of D&D and games like Chainmail that led up to it, and early Magic cards.
  • While I was at the stadium, I got to meet and chat with Caelyn Sandel, an interactive fiction author I admire. I’m just starting to get into IF, and she helped give me some context about the scene that I was missing.
  • I was lucky to be next to the Exploding Kittens booth, which had the most creative setup of anyone in the vendor hall. Watching their whole presentation, plus the random mystery items they sold for $1 (everything from potatoes to toilet plungers to sunglasses; I got a laser pointer) was a delight. They had a line and a crowd for the entire show.
  • The puppetry track. Seriously folks, I gave you plenty of notice about this, and you missed some incredible performances. The puppet slam was raucous, hysterical, and definitely not for children, and the two evening shows I recommended (Uncle Nappy’s sing-a-long and Ubu Faust) were marvelous. I also got to meet Claire the Sheep and her “dingus,” puppeteer Stacey Gordon! Stacey handled Claire for Catan during the Bob & Angus Show, but she’s best-known for being behind Julia, the new autistic Muppet on Sesame Street.


(One of Claire’s jokes during the puppet slam: “What’s the difference between a park bench and a puppeteer? A park bench can support two people.” May also apply to game designers.)

  • I was part of two seminars. Geoff Engelstein and I recorded an episode of Ludology live, which we set up as a live Q&A. We worried about if we’d have enough material to take us through the full hour, but we got a great turnout and had no shortage of questions. This episode will air on Sunday, August 27!
  • The second seminar I did was The 10 Mistakes New Board Game Designers Make. About 100 new game designers came by, and I’m really happy with how the episode came out, even though I lost count and wound up giving 11 mistakes! I hope to put this on YouTube soon.
  • My booth staff. I can’t say enough about how much they came through. Between my seminars, my playtests, and a mild attack of con crud that forced me to take a nap on Saturday (though I still haven’t lost a full day to con crud since I implemented my fist-bump-instead-of-handshake policy), they ran the booth for me. Having this flexibility during a major show was incredible, and I can’t thank them enough.


Clockwise from top left, thank you to Alex, Dave, Andrew, John, Min (who was Chief Demo Weasel, which allowed me to run seminars and playtests), Kelsey, me, and Emma. Not pictured: Shaun, who had to leave before this photo was taken. 

Yes, that’s Clucky on my shoulder, and no, he was no help at all.

One last Gen Con observation. They just released their attendance statistics, and announced a turnstile attendance of 207,979 people. This translates to a TPD of 51,995, which is a new record high for the show.

(If you haven’t read my article about TPD, my new favorite way of estimating convention attendance, now would be a good time to do so!)

What I find interesting about this press release is that they are not announcing unique attendance anymore. All they’re saying is: “For the third consecutive year, Gen Con targeted an approximate attendance of 60,000 unique attendees.” But they did not announce the exact unique figure.

Unique attendance went down between 2015 and 2016, from 61, 423 to 60,819, even as total (turnstile) attendance went up. In other words, more people attended, but they tended to be the same people over the course of the event. In 2017, 4-day badges sold out weeks before the show, which was unprecedented. And in the days leading up to the show, all badges sold out, which has never happened since the show has been in Indianapolis (and I’m not sure it happened in Milwaukee either, though I could be wrong there).

My guess: the number of people who came for the whole weekend was so large, it decreased the number of unique attendees. I would speculate there were fewer than 60,000 uniques. If this is true, this would be the second straight year that unique attendance has fallen.

I would bet that Gen Con didn’t mention the number of uniques in their press release because it would give the incorrect impression that the con isn’t growing. On the contrary, it is growing enormously, and would have grown more had they not sold out of badges. Essen SPIEL does not disclose unique attendance either, and my guess is it’s for the same reason: unique attendance gives a misleading impression of attendance.

When a convention announces, say, 60,000 unique attendees, they’re not saying 60,000 people per day showed up; they’re saying that over the course of the event, 60,000 different people showed up. This is useful for vendors like me who want to know how wide an audience we can attract, but not so useful to figure out the “mass” of an event. Sometimes, you just want to know how many people are in the building each day.

If two 4-day events report 200,000 turnstile attendees, but event A reports 60,000 uniques and event B reports 50,000 uniques, that doesn’t mean that event A has 10,000 more bodies in the hall on a given day than event B. Both events attract the same number of people, but there are more attendees who attend event A for a day or two, so the individual people who will appear from day to day will be different. Whereas in event B, the faces will be the same from day to day.

Let’s modify Event A’s turnstiles to 190,000. It still has 60,000 uniques. Event B has 200,000 turnstiles, but 50,000 uniques. Which event is “bigger?” It depends on how you look at it. Event A draws more different people, but Event B will have more people in its halls on any given day. That’s what makes measuring convention attendance so tricky; the two metrics measure their own thing.

As a vendor, I like learning about uniques so I know how many different people I can sell to. But as a fan of games and the game scene, I’m interested in how many total people are around on any given day. That’s why I like to measure convention attendance in TPD; it lets me compare “bodies in the hall” con attendance as directly as I can.

So looking at this through TPD, where does this put Gen Con 2017? As far as I can tell, it’s the largest tabletop-focused convention in the world, with its new peak TPD of 51,995. Lucca Comics & Games drew a TPD of 54,242, but that has such a huge focus on comics and general nerd-dom, I don’t think it’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

The next convention in Gen Con’s league is the Festival des Jeux in Cannes, France. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good attendance metrics for it. The best I can tell is that they drew (a clearly estimated) 150,000 turnstiles across 3 days in 2014. That’s a 50,000 TPD, which Gen Con has eclipsed.

If you’re wondering about Essen SPIEL, it drew a TPD of 43,500 in 2016. Still quite large and impressive, but well behind Gen Con. In terms of the number of people in the building per day, Gen Con is larger.

My gut feeling, from anecdotal evidence, is that if both shows released unique attendance, SPIEL would have more uniques. It’s very common for people to show up at SPIEL for a single day, as they’re usually looking to buy a shortlist of games, and there are no events to keep them coming back the next day. There are plenty of people who are there for the whole show, but there are also hardcore fans who appear on Thursday to gobble up the new hotness, locals who are only there on the weekend because they didn’t want to take time off work, and families with kids on Sunday.

Again, this is a generalization based on anecdotal evidence, but I think it’s a good comparison with Gen Con, where the majority of attendees have 4-day badges and a packed schedule of events the whole way through.

What’s the future for Gen Con in general? This is an fascinating question. Interest in the con grows every year, and Indianapolis is always a gracious and friendly host city. But now that the badges are starting to join the hotels as a scarce resource, the convention is going to have to get even more creative to figure out ways to grow the event. They’ve already expanded into Lucas Oil Stadium, and they’re going to need to figure out ways to utilize every square foot of space they can next year.

Stephen Buonocore mentioned on Board Games Insider that Gen Con didn’t stop selling badges out of some conspiracy. If they could keep selling badges, they would have. Their badge supply is likely tied to fire codes and other regulations that keep the convention from getting too crowded, not that it isn’t crowded already! I’m very curious to see if and how the convention decides to grow the event for next year.

The Networks: Executives will hit Kickstarter on September 5!

I know it’s taken me a long time to formally announce this, but I wanted to get all my ducks in a row:

The Networks: Executives, the newest expansion to The Networks, will launch on Kickstarter on September 5 at noon EDT!

I’m sure you have plenty of questions, so let’s get right to answering them.


What does the expansion add to the base game?

The crux of the expansion is 12 Executives. You’ll choose one of these Executives at the start of the game, and you’ll get a special power from that Executive for the whole game. However, the Executive will also force you to play around a specific weakness or liability. Each Executive completely changes the feel of the game, adding an immense amount of replayability.

There is also a new “Season 0” draft. Instead of all players starting with 1 Star, 1 Ad, and the same 3 kinds of Shows, you will each draft your starting Shows, some of which will give you Stars, Ads, and extra money. Some of these shows have Genres and some don’t, so you’ll have to choose what Genres you’d like to start the game with. This will mean that at the start of Season 1, players have already chosen their path to play the game.

Finally, there are now Mogul Cards you can earn by scoring a 5-Show Genre Bonus or two 3-Show Genre Bonuses. These Mogul Cards act like supercharged Network Cards, giving you strong bonuses that can help you win the game.

There are a few other things here and there, but that’s the meat of it!

Show-Live_Dental _Drilling

Didn’t you say you were launching this Kickstarter in August?

I did! Alas, it took more time to prep for the campaign than I’d anticipated, and my time on the road at conventions this summer affected my available time to work. By pushing the campaign back to September, I can make sure that I have everything I need for the campaign to launch ready to go.

Will I be able to buy the base game in the campaign too?



Will I be able to buy the On the Air expansion? Will you address its printing issues?

Yes, I plan to reprint the On the Air mini-expansion from the first Kickstarter campaign, and with any luck, we will not have a repeat of the annoying printing issues we encountered the first time around.

Who is doing the art and graphic design?

We’re lucky enough to have the original illustrator, Travis Kinchy, and graphic designer, Heiko Günther, back to work on the expansion! You can see some of Travis’ art for the expansion on this page.

How much will the expansion cost?

I will have pricing information in a few weeks. But count on it being between $20 and $30 USD.



Can you remind me when the Kickstarter goes live?

Yes, if you sign up to my mailing list, you’ll get an email the moment the Kickstarter campaign goes up.

Thanks everyone for all your enthusiasm so far! I’m really happy with how the expansion has been playing lately, and I’m excited to finally get it up on Kickstarter. See you there!

Gil’s Gen Con 2017 schedule

Gen Con is in a few weeks, and I’ve been prepping madly for it! I have a TON of stuff to share with you there, so hopefully I can help make this year memorable, beyond the fact that this is Gen Con’s 50th show!


You can find Formal Ferret Games at booth 2665, a few aisles down from where we were last year. We’ll be selling The Networks and Wordsy. I have a few copies of The Networks: On the Air remaining, and I’ll also be selling laminated scoresheets for Wordsy for as long as I have them.

Gen Con 2017


I will be testing The Networks: Executives at the First Exposure Playtest Hall on Thursday and Friday, at noon and 2 pm on each day. It’s free; just show up at the FEPH about 30 minutes before the game starts. Note that I can’t guarantee you’ll get a spot; there will be limited seats for each slot, and plenty of interest in the expansion.

If you want to play the base game of The Networks, I will have staff teaching the game at ticketed Gen Con events on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 1, 4, and 8. Unfortunately, there are no tickets left for these events, but you’re welcome to watch them, or perhaps offer yourself as an alternate if we have any no-shows.

If you want to try Wordsy away from the booth, I have ticketed events for those too, and there are plenty of tickets left for all slots as of the writing of this post.


On Friday at 5 pm at the Capitol III room of the Westin, Geoff Engelstein and I will be recording a live episode of Ludology! It’ll be a Q&A episode, so bring a question, or just come and hang out with us.

On Saturday at 5 pm in the same room, I’ll be holding a seminar on the 10 Mistakes New Board Game Designers Make. This event is sold out (!), but I hope to release audio and/or video of it shortly afterwards.

Other fun stuff

Did you know that Gen Con has a puppetry track now? I have a few good friends involved with it.

One of my oldest friends (and college roommate) Brodrick Jones will be showing his work Ubu Faust on Saturday at 10 pm at the Crowne Plaza. He’s a fantastic puppeteer, so this is worth seeing.

My friend K80 Correll (whom you may have meet at the Formal Ferret booth at Dice Tower Con) will be holding a seminar on the intersection of puppetry and robotics. It’s on Friday at 2. (Despite her name, she’s not a robot herself; she just builds them for a living.)

I’ve never seen Uncle Nappy perform, but Jones tells me he’s amazing, and his show is worth seeing. I plan to be there, right before Jones’ show.

There’s the Late Night Puppet Slam on Saturday at 11. I hear these puppet slams are incredible; you don’t want to miss it. And I’m hoping some more of my puppetry-involved friends will show up!

As for performers who only occasionally use puppets, there are still a few tickets left for the They Might Be Giants show. I won’t be able to make it to see them, but I’ve seen TMBG live more than any other musical act, and they have never been disappointing. It’s a good way to spend a Thursday evening!