BrettSpiel is a blog about board game design, written by game designer Brett J. Gilbert.

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An Englishman in New York

In which I am introduced to the delights of the Upper West Side by game designer and publisher Mark Salzwedel of Strategic Space.

When the cheery but often rather stern-faced immigration officials at JFK ask “Business of pleasure?” I always reply the latter. And it was indeed a pleasure to meet Mark Salzwedel — the man behind the growing stable of games at Strategic Space — for lunch on Wednesday, in New York’s salubrious Upper West Side.

Since I was going to be in town for a while I contacted Mark, whose tweets about some of his exploits as @ssgames, to see if he would be happy to meet. As a game designer and aspirational game publisher I thought it would be educational to get Mark’s take on game design and the business of selling games.

Mark started Strategic Space three years ago and now offers seven games, including a new US edition of Chili Games’ intriguing 3D Eurogame Die Aufsteige, which will be published this year by Mark as The Climbers.

After lunch we took a post-prandial stroll through Riverside Park and chatted about many aspects of game design and publishing: the state of the hobby game market in the US and UK, the vital importance and possible frustrations of playtesting, the way in which the packaging, presentation and pricing of a game affects its sales potential, and the mystery of exactly how a game designer actually designs a game in the first place.

Back at his small studio on West 73rd Street Mark also gave me a quick ‘show and tell’ of some of his recent protoypes, including a production model of Samsara, an abstract negotiation board game for 3–8 players. Indeed, when I arrived Mark had been hard at work designing the components for a new tile game prototype. The mind of a game designer is never at rest!

So, I must thank Mark for taking the time to meet and show me around a slice of New York which I had never visited before. I must also thank him for his parting gift: a copy of 4th Corner, one of Strategic Space’s most successful games. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to try the game out, but very much enjoy tile games — Mark himself described it as a cross between two modern classics: Carcassonne and Labyrinth — so will report back when I have a chance!

It was a pleasure meeting you too, Brett. My financial consultant asked you to contact him if you are looking for investors to help you start up your own publishing venture. We've identified quite a few investors interested in board games. I was surprised how similar our philosophies and values are, and I look forward to hearing and seeing how your game launches go.

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