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Interviews by an Optimist #44 - Xavier Garriga

Xavier Garriga (36) “Probably my relationship with games is due to something genetic, because my father also worked with toys (although in a very different way). I was a teenage fan of Avalon Hill and SPI games until I discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1982 and probably that changed my life. I have been involved in the Spanish gaming industry since I was very young (writing in magazines and so on) until finally I founded with more people my own Gaming Company. We published RPGs and also we did studio work for other bigger companies. Finally I was hired to work as Publishing manager for Devir Spain. Devir is a international company based in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and USA, and we deal with games in a broad way (not doing exactly the same in every country but nearly). We distribute trading card games (Magic, Pokemon, Duelmasters, etc.), Miniature games (Mage Knight, Mechwarrior, Dungeons & Dragons) and also we publish the local versions of board games and role playing games (Catan, Carcassonne, war of the ring, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, etc.)”

Tom: Can you tell us about the board game scene in Spain?

Xavier: OK, the scenario in Spain is a little one. It's said here that the '80s were the years for RPGs and the '90s for CCGs, so the years for the board games are beginning now. I hope that will be true. In the past, we have had access to SPI, Avalon Hill, Victory Games and so on from some importers and distributors that used to add homemade and often terrible translations to the games. The only effort to publish something really in Spanish was made twelve years ago when Civilization, Diplomacy and Junta were translated.

Now there are still some importers that deal with GMT, Ravensburger, Mayfair or RioGrande games in English, and on the other side there are two main companies that publish the most important and popular board games. Devir does the Spanish editions of Catan, Carcassonne, War of the Ring, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings (Knizia) and Edge Entertainment does some of the Eagle games, Fantasy Flight and Steve Jackson (Civilization, Age of Mithology, Citadels, Wings of War or Munchkin).

The print runs in Spain are short; they vary between 1,000 and 3,000, only going to 5,000 in very special cases (the Lord of the Rings in the movies period, or Catan, for Instance). Now, the most popular games are Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, although Citadels is performing very well in the last months.

Tom: What kind of people are playing these games? Are they ordinary folk, or die-hard gamers?

Xavier: Well, the selling points use to make the distinction. The mass markets (department stores, toy stores and so on) only work some "big titles" like Carcassonne, Settlers or the Knizia's Lord of the Rings. The rest of the games are only sold in hobby or comic stores, so they are only for core players, the same kind of people that buy trading card games or role playing books. Our main job in terms of marketing consists in convincing the mass market points of sale to try these kind of games. We think that with a quantity of good games like these we may rebuild a market, and we will be able to add more games in the portfolio every year.

One interesting point is that for a lot of years people involved in the industry have said that Spain is a people of non-gamers because we have excellent weather, and people prefer to do open air activities. That made sense, but it can't be the only explanation, because in terms of video games, we are one of the strongest consumers of Europe.

Tom: But what about the board game phenomenon in Germany? Hasn't that spread across Europe at all?

Xavier: Not really. At this moment we lack of a few key points in the market. For instance, we don't have board game cafes that I think could do a good work of support to the hobby. We used to have a lot of gaming clubs based on the local city halls or in the universities, but they were mostly dedicated to role-playing games, and also they have almost disappeared in the last few years. The third place to see and play games are obviously the shops, but the owners prefer to use their tables to the most productive activities, like Trading card games or Games Workshop products. So now one of the most important problems we face is that we may not show and demo the games to the people. There are also no publications in Spanish to advertise these products, so we have had to advertise them in history magazines, for instance. In the actual situation it is easier to sell 1,000 copies of ten different games than 10,000 of one single game.

Obviously, the German phenomenon has arrived in Spain, and we receive a lot of feedback regarding it. A lot of people ask us and another companies to produce this or that game, that they have been told is a great one, but is not anything organized. A lot of Spanish people visit boardgamegeek.com everyday, and most of them do groundwork for it, like translations or play aids, but this is only important for real players. The goal is to cross the border between players and ordinary people, and I still hope that the great bunch of games of the last few years may help us to do it.

Tom: What about Spanish game designers? Are there many (any)?

Xavier: There are no full time game designers in Spain, of course. The most similar to that is Chema Pamundi. He is the designer of all the Fanhunter RPG series, and also he created the boardgames for that game world. One of them, Batallitas, was very successful, and it also had an expansion, Suburbia. It was an urban combat game with a funny twist. The other game in the series, Fanhunter Freak Trivia was a very smart proposal. It was a trivia game with questions regarding geek categories (games, comics, TV, Cinema and Sci-fi and fantasy literature). I think he is the most talented designer in the country, no doubt at all regarding this, but unfortunately he is not very prolific, although probably that is because he has to work also as translator and freelance designer.

There is another one, Antonio Catalán, that did the Captain Alatriste boardgame. I think he did a good job, but especially because he is a great student of the XVII century history, he managed to involve the game with that atmosphere.

We have also some good RPG writers here, like Ricard Ibáñez, Juan Cuadra or Jordi Zamarreño, but I understand this is not the point of your question.

Tom: Can you tell us about any board games that have been designed in Spain?

Xavier: Yes, in addition to the former, there are some interesting projects. There is for instance a small editorial called Ludopress-Alea that publishes a magazine called Alea specialized in wargaming. They include their own designed Wargames in the very style of Strategy and Tactics. Most of them are dedicated to conflicts where Spain was involved (Spanish Civil War, Napoleonic Wars, Latin America Independence Wars, etc.). They have a good design team. Two of them, Juan Carlos and Francisco Javier Cebrián, did also the Spanish Civil War expansion for Advanced Squad Leader for Critical Hit.

In the more German Style games, Oriol Comas and Jep Ferret did two years ago one game called Gaudi inspired by the famous architect works. It was a tile placement game with a very good design.

But the most interesting game can be probably the Bruno Faidutti's game, Terra. This was designed especially for Barcelona's Forum of 2004, and it was published by Days of Wonder. Now you may find it everywhere. It's a card game where you have to control the world crisis (military, ecological and economic) and also try to win the game. If all the players are greedy, the game will end with a complete loss for all the players, so you have to be very smart. It's a very interesting game (well, it's a Faidutti game, so that's a good guarantee!).

Tom: Terra is a type of cooperative game. What kind of games are most popular in Spain - wargames, cooperative, trading, etc.?

Xavier: In the past wargames used to be the most popular. In the '80s we even had a Spanish wargame company called NAC that had a huge portfolio of games, but they closed more than ten years ago. Now the more popular games (apart from Role Playing Games and Magic, of course) are Catan, Carcassonne, Citadels and Lord of the Rings. From that we could say that the favorite games in Spain are those with a mix of trade and cooperation, with a twist for bluffing and treason. You have to think that the most popular traditional card game in Spain is "Mus", a game similar to poker, but ten times better, where you bid on four aspects of the game with the same four cards. So Spanish gamers are people used to bluff (I'm not sure of the year, but I think that two or three years ago, the Catan world Champion was Spanish).

Tom: Are there any game conventions in Spain?

Xavier: We have a Spanish Gen Con (licensed from the original one), but it doesn't have an annual basis. It's done every two or even three years, always in Barcelona, and there you can find the usual in these kind of conventions: Tournaments, demos, conferences, presentations, etc. The last one was done last year, and it was a huge one. This is organized always by the holder of Wizards of the Coast rights, and this has changed three times in the last fifteen years.

Also, we have a very nice convention, celebrated two times every year, called CLN (Gaming National Meetings). This is organized by players. There is a commitee that receives projects from different groups all over Spain and decides which one is better. The decision is taken in terms of budget, help obtained from the town halls, facilities for gaming and hosting the players, etc. In the last five years we have had these conventions in ten cities around all Spain: Algemesí, Gijón, Errentería, Armilla, Ferrol, Ponferrada, Vitoria, Avilés, Sestao and Torrelavega. Normally they are no big cities, but beautiful ones where it is easier to find support from the local government and facilities for the convention.

We have also the Games Workshop Games Days, where GW fans may find offers and big games of their favourite games and also a big circuit of Magic: The Gathering tournaments.

Tom: Can you tell us more about your job with Devir Spain?

Xavier: My business card says that I'm the publishing manager for Spain. That's very nice, but let's see what it means.

I'm in charge of all the publications in Spain. We are the Spanish licensors of Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars Role Playing Games, between others. So I decide what titles are going to be translated and overview the team of translators, correctors and designers, that is becoming a huge one, because we also publish the Dragon magazine, the Hackmaster RPG and some fiction books and comics (more than 60 titles every year).

In terms of board games I'm responsible for managing the projects since we decide we are on them until they are released, dealing again with translators and designers and caring about production budgets with the printing and transport companies.

In addition to producing the existing lines of products, a good part of my time is dedicated to deciding what new projects we will join for next year. This is great, because it is a good excuse to go to Essen, to Gen Con or to Nuremberg. There we see new products from people of Kosmos, Hans im Gluck, Nexus, Fantasy Flight or Sophisticated Games between others; and if I'm lucky enough, I may playtest some games with them. The final decision on going or not in a project is not only mine, because I have a managing director here, my good friend Joaquim Dorca, and also we prefer the games that we may do in conjunction with our companies in Brazil and Portugal, but I have a good share in the final green or red light.

Tom: Are you currently working on procuring the licenses of any interesting games?


Xavier: I prefer not to talk about this, because there is nothing signed yet. We have been offered some interesting licenses for this and next year, but we are still studying them and for now I may only talk of what I have signed. I'm just arranging the final details for Genial (sophisticated games), Doom (Fantasy Flight), Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals (Hans im Gluck) and the new Dungeons & Dragons basic box (Wizards of the Coast).

One interesting aspect here is that usually we are interested in much more than we can really do. Every one of our "usual partners" produces every year two or three games interesting for us. If we add three or four more good games for that year from other companies and three or four games of past years that we haven't been able yet to produce, every year we would like to do 25 games. Unfortunately, due to the size of the Spanish market, we are only able to send to the market between five or eight games every year, so we have to be very cautious in our annual portfolio. Also, we have to keep supporting the games that have expansions, like Catan or Carcassonne, so the whole matter is more complicated every year.

Tom: In this business, do you have any competition, such as from companies outside of Spain?

Xavier: The only other company that does something related to this is Edge Entertainment, a company from Sevilla that has done the Spanish versions of Civilization, Age of Mythology, Citadels, Wings of War and Munchkin, and it seems that they have more projects in the pipeline. Of course, there is Hasbro, that produces the more standard games like Monopoly, Clue or Risk, but I don't think they are exactly in the same target group as us.

Also, there are importations of games from international companies, but they are minor quantities. In the case of games not yet published in Spanish they even help us, because the core players may test them and begin to spread the news of the good ones.

Tom: How are most of the games in Spain sold? Through the internet or via local hobby stores?

Xavier: The major part of games are sold in toy stores and hobby stores. Some of them are sold in department stores, but they are only big hits. In Spain very few people buy through the internet right now, only very hard core players that can not wait until the game is in the stores. I know some of them that join the GMT project 500, but that's in terms of support, because they know that if they do not help the company, maybe the project will not be released at the end.

I think that people prefer to go to shops because there they can see a lot of different games, and the shop owners are much more informed with the hottest news and the best games.

Tom: How popular are war games?

Xavier: There are some war games clubs in the big cities, and in them people play a good variety of games, the old Avalon Hill, Victory Games or SPI games, Serie Europa or the modern GMT and The Gamers games. In these places they play also miniature war games (ancient and Napoleonic are the most played). Outside these club circuits war games are getting more and more old fashioned in Spain. Most of the people that used to play them now are playing role playing games, euro style games or pseudo war games like Axis and Allies or War of the Ring. Occasionally a good war game is very accepted and played, like Paths of Glory from GMT, but anyway they are not big quantities, only for core players, because they are not translated.

Tom: What have you found to be the best way to advertise your games?

Xavier: The best way, of course, is by word of mouth; that has been very powerful in the case of Carcassonne. We have done advertising in history magazines, specialized magazines (like the Spanish version of Dragon Magazine) and even in TV (we did a Catan spot and aired it on cable TV), but nothing has been so effective like the public opinion. To be in touch with our costumers, we do a lot of organized play and demo programs (we have a good structure due to the Magic the Gathering circuits we have) and we also use our web site as a good showroom. For Christmas we use also the toy store
catalogues, that are good ways to notice our games, especially for the more "juvenile" games.

Tom: What about you? What are your favorite games?

Xavier: My first experiences in gaming were the Avalon Hill wargames. One of my favourite games is the old Air Force. I still have it and manage to play it sometimes. Also in wargames I love Paths of Glory, Russian Campaign, Squad Leader and Fire in the East between a lot of them.

I have been a roleplayer for more than twenty years, so I have a special twist for Dungeons & Dragons in all its editions and settings (especially Forgotten Realms and Birthright).

In terms of theme games I have a plenty of favourite games. Of the old ones I like Circus Maximus, Junta, Gunslinger, Magic Realm, Talisman, Kremlin or Pax Britanica, between them. I love the old Games Workshop games. I proudly have a copy of Fury of Dracula, and I still play Space Hulk one or two times every year (we used to do big games at Christmas time with twelve gamers involved and four of five copies of the game, every year going bigger and harder for the marines). Regarding more modern games, I like Magic: The Gathering, and I play Mystery of the Abbey, War of the Ring (I think that the Nexus guys did an incredible work with it) or Catan sometimes.

As I'm growing older and I have more familiar responsibilites and less time to play, I'm starting to like easier games, for instance Lost Cities, Balloon Cup, Kahuna, Cartagena or even Axis & Allies.

Tom: Do you think the recent surge of collectible card and miniature games has negatively affected the board game market?

Xavier: Not really. I think that the collectible card games affected the role playing games market more, although after some years they expanded the market and in fact they built the ground for the miniature games phenomena and for the euro games expansion. Also, I think that a lot of companies that won money with collectible card games are investing the profits in board games. I think that electronic games have been really a major problem for the board games. In fact, the war games industry has been nearly wiped out by the computer games.

Tom: Xavier, thanks for all this information. Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

Xavier: Well, I don't think so. You have been very comprehensive in your questions, so I don't know what more I can say. Honestly, I would like to thank you for your kind questions and proclaim that it has been a pleasure to be here.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”
June, 2005
 
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Bowie
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Is good to know by this interview, not in the Devir homepage, that Devir is planning to publish Doom in spanish. Wont it be to late as the great majority of Doom fans own this game yet?

Juanjo
 
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Fran F G
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Great interview.

I begin to think that maybe we, the spanish core players, should be a little more comprehensive with spanish editors. I'm sure they are trying to do the best and cheapest editions of games...
 
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Sure, but i can't understand why they dont try to offer us newer games, publishing them at the same time (1-3 months) than in other countries or announcing their schedules in their websites. Who of us knew that Doom was planned to be published in spanish?.

The link between publishers and costumers is really broken, and we both are losing a great chance to start a new and solid gaming community in Spain.

Juanjo
 
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Fran F G
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Café Race is a race game set in a business office. The players take the role of office workers going upstairs to the first floor to get a cup of coffee who then improvise a race while they are going back downstairs… with a cup full of coffee.
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Someone you trust is one of us. Fnord. - Ich bin ein Spielfreak, aber ich spiele sehr selten
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Well, maybe I'm more naive
 
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Jose María Flores
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Xaiver, for curiosity:

Can you send us the Catan's TV spot? Which was TV's channel used for the promotion?

I have not seen it and I would like to see it.

Thank you very much.
 
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xavier garriga
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Hola, estoy pensando que tal vez sea más adecuado responder en castellano... o no. Bueno, de momento ahí va:

El contrato de Doom no se firmo hasta hace un par de semanas, así que no podía decirlo antes. Pensé en esperar hasta que saliera en la entrevista de Tom (por cierto, pensaba que no se publicaría hasta el sábado, ahora pondré un link en la web de Devir).

En cuanto a lo de Catán, el spot se emitió la pasada navidad por algunos canales de pago (Discovery, History y demás). Obviamente no es tan visible como una TV en abierto, pero era lo único que podíamos pagar y nos pareció que el público al que iba dirigido era el adecuado.

Un saludo,

Xavi
 
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Muy buenas, por pura curiosidad, no tienen el anuncio para poder colgarlo por internet (solo si se puede por supuesto), ya que publicidad mas barata que esa no tendria.

For people who speak english, I was asking if they could put the tv advertisement of Catan to see it trouth the net, because that could be a cheaper way to show it to the people.
Sorry about my poor english.
 
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Café Race is a race game set in a business office. The players take the role of office workers going upstairs to the first floor to get a cup of coffee who then improvise a race while they are going back downstairs… with a cup full of coffee.
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quietman wrote:
El contrato de Doom no se firmo hasta hace un par de semanas, así que no podía decirlo antes.


Veremos algún día en castellano el Twilight Imperium III?
 
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Pues en castellano:

Los canales de pago, por eso no pudimos verlo la gran mayoría.

Una buena idea que ya te han sugerido y hace Ravensburger, es poner en cada ficha (de la web) de su juego una serie de ficheros asociados, los anuncios para poder verlos, los manuales, etc. Puede que esto os ayude a la hora de mejorar la Web, y que no cuesta nada hacerlo:

http://www.ravensburger.de/portal/index,1451245-1451247-1456...

Respecto a lo del DOOM, siento mucho decirlo, pero no estoy muy a favor de las conversiones PC - Tablero. Como el WarCraft, el Civi o VASSAL que tan de moda está y esto sí que perjudica los derechos de autor junto toda la cadena de la venta de un juego de tablero (ya que muchos quizá no se vendan por esto mismo = gratis).

Un saludo.

#----------o----------#

In English, if someone reads us and can contribute with ideas or experience:

The payment channels, because of it, the great majority could not see it.

A good idea that already we have suggested and Ravensburger does, in every on-line card of your game put a series of associate files, TV-Spot, the manuals, etc. It is possible that this helps you improve the Web, and make it, is very simple:

http://www.ravensburger.de/portal/index,1451245-1451247-1456...

With regard of the DOOM, I am sorry very much to say it, but I am not very in favour of the conversions PC - Board. As the WarCraft, Civi or VASSAL that so fashionable is and this yes that harms the copyright of united author the whole chain of the sale of a game of board (many people probably do not buy the game = free).

A greeting.
 
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