Hi Reddit! I'm Andrew Zorowitz, owner of Foam Brain Games. My company went to 58 conventions in the last 12 months and continues to blanket the country selling board games.

We've sold board games at a variety of conventions: PAX, New York ComicCon, AnthroCon, Steampunk Worlds Fair, Origins, Gen Con, local roller derby events, and many more. In the past 5 years, I've gone to over 150 conventions and my company has gone to over 220.

We've also done 7 Kickstarter projects for various gaming accessories and are currently doing our first licensed one for Sentinels of the Multiverse Merch (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1006691271/foam-brain-gear-sentinels-of-the-multiverse-collec)

Here are some of the things we've made in the past, including metal dice, spinning dice pins and more: http://redditgifts.com/marketplace/merchant/foam-brain-games/

I've seen a lot of incredible, fun and wacky things by travelling to so many conventions, and some things I didn't even really believe myself as they were happening. AMA, Reddit!

Proof www.facebook.com/foambrain

https://twitter.com/reddit_AMA/status/515142053450489856

.... And that's all for today. Thanks for an awesome AMA folks! Don't forget, if you're going to be at New York Comic Con, stop by and say hello! Booth 2155.

Comments: 243 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

SmallFemale57 karma

What's the weirdest thing you've seen happen at one of these conventions?

Zrealm112 karma

The weirdest thing I've ever had happen to me personally was at a show a few years ago. For some reason (which I can't recall) I was annoyed with the show management, and was waiting to talk to the convention chair, when the head of operations walked up and told me that I looked stressed it and then offered me poppers in an attempt to fix the situation.

The weirdest thing that happened at a show I was at, which I only caught a bit of, involved about 150 teenage girls dressed up as Nazis (well, the Germany character from Hetalia) gathering on the lawn outside a church on Easter Sunday for a photo shoot...

nerdgirl_jondi38 karma

hahaha! And I imagine the church people had no idea what was going on!

Zrealm39 karma

They were probably less than pleased....

universal_buttplug35 karma

poppers? like, those things that make your butthole loose?

Zrealm44 karma

Yes - those. I have no idea why he thought that would fix the situation....

Eggy21644 karma

How different is a Furry convention from a regular Anime convention?

Zrealm76 karma

In some ways they're not all that different - we set up, we sell things, we leave :) Furries tend to be a bit older than anime con attendees and also friendlier. Their vendor room does have somewhat of a higher undercurrent of adult material (though it's all well shielded from minors)

marimacc33 karma

Do you prefer working at larger conventions, or smaller conventions?

Zrealm45 karma

I prefer the thrill of larger conventions - I love the never ending masses of people. Smaller conventions can get kind of boring when we're spending 10 hours behind a table with limited waves of customers.

CougarAries5 karma

I found that I've had more fun at afterparties of smaller conventions. Barfleet parties has always been a blast.

Zrealm3 karma

barfleet is awesome!

lazyninja4231 karma

Best convention? Worst convention? (Not name so much as types/reasons)

Also how do you find and selectgood cons? Is there a process you have developed?

Zrealm47 karma

Best convention is probably PAX - there's something unique and happy about the PAX culture that is not replicated anywhere else. For us the worst are steampunk events - while there's a lot of overlap between every genre and gaming, steampunk is so much about the look (and people buying things to develop their steampunk look) that it's hard for other vendors to do decently at them.

Honestly, a lot of it is just by the numbers - bigger shows and fewer vendors both mean a show will do better for us. We do a lot of trial and error though, we've definitely lost bucket loads of money on events I've miscalled.

TheMaskedHamster19 karma

We do a lot of trial and error though, we've definitely lost bucket loads of money on events I've miscalled.

Is the loss that high? Certainly, booth fees, travel, and hotel expenses add up but they are typically aren't in the "bucket loads" range alone. What are the factors that turn a small loss into "bucket loads"? Or is this many small losses over time?

Zrealm27 karma

The most we've ever lost on a show is $7000 - I guess that's like 1 bucket load :) A combination of super pricey booths and a bad plan

AnaPins30 karma

Have you ever had anyone offer you sexual favors so that you would promote their product at one of the big conventions?

Zrealm50 karma

No, but I've had plenty of customers try (unsuccessfully) to trade sexual favors for product...

pugsntacos18 karma

How do you feel about the game Tanto-Cuore?

And: favorite game?

Zrealm24 karma

I think Tanto Cuore is an improvement on Dominion - changing the price of the silver equivalent from 3 to 4 opens up the game options a ton. It's super super fan servicey tho.

I'd say my favorite game is Tichu, though lately King of New York is the thing I've been playing the most of.

flamingboard17 karma

What games/accessories do furries like to buy?

Zrealm30 karma

Light casual games - Red Dragon Inn is our number one seller. And dice, but everyone likes dice....

dahistoryteacher17 karma

As a fellow board game seller, I love playing games. Is there a game that you absolutely love but you have not sold to others? (Whether it's out of print or just too obscure for general public)

Zrealm32 karma

My absolute favorite unappreciated game is Tichu. At one point I was joking about stopping selling every other game and just selling that... but then I realized doing about $50 in sales each year was probably not a great choice.

Deynar7 karma

And is the answer Bunny Bunny Moose Moose?

Zrealm12 karma

ROFL I am very sad Bunny Bunny Moose Moose didn't get a US release - I genuinely think we could have sold most of a print run to congoers. They love goofy stuff like that!

Deynar7 karma

Didn't they announce that it would be coming stateside now that Czech Games is no longer working with Z-Man?

Zrealm4 karma

If they did, I missed it. And awesome! :)

2forkliftdrivers16 karma

What is your favorite part of your job?

Zrealm33 karma

My favorite part of the job is getting to spend much of my time looking for the cool and hot new thing and then (with any luck) make tons of money showing people something they didn't know existed and couldn't live without.

Stoooooooo15 karma

What do you prefer to see at cons from the staff/venue?

Zrealm17 karma

The thing that makes me happiest is when a staff is organized and knows the plan for move-in and opening and closing each day. It sucks when we're finishing a 10 hour shift and noone knows what the plan for getting attendees to leave so we can close is....

lazyninja4214 karma

OK. Another question. What made you go the pure convention route first? It seems like most game stores start as storefronts and then move to online and convention. You went the reverse? How did this happen? Did it work well for you?

Zrealm19 karma

We originally started as a LARP running organization, and were going to a lot of conventions to run LARPs. Somewhere along the way I realized this was a good way to spend dumb amounts of money on my hobby (probably 3 or 4 thousand dollars a year), but I still wanted to do something with the same awesome people. I forget who, but someone came up with the idea of selling board games at conventions, and off we went!

Sadly none of the people from that time are still really around but I do talk to them fairly often (and I miss them tons!)

AsmadiGames13 karma

Win, Lose, or Banana?

Zrealm17 karma

BANANA!!!

blueboybob11 karma

Best and Worst thing about Troy? I know you are an RPI graduate, but you decided to stick around. Why?

Zrealm13 karma

Best thing is that, for it's price, it's a really nice city. My mortgage on a giant house is half what my rent for a studio in NYC was.

Worse is I wish the crime level was a bit lower....

AniDanny10 karma

What is your favorite giant board game? Are you planning any new ones in the near future?

Zrealm15 karma

My favorite is giant Kill Doctor Lucky. We're working with Iello on a new giant board game to hopefully premier at NYCC in a few weeks, but I don't think I'm allowed to announce it yet :/

nerdgirl_jondi10 karma

What kinds of advertising, promoting...etc. do you use leading up to, and during, a Kickstarter campaign?

Zrealm12 karma

We usually run a round of Project Wonderful ads, sometimes Board Game Geek or Kicktraq ads, and we use our social media networks. The nice thing about having a bunch of successful campaigns is that each campaign gives us a bigger customer base to advertise to in the future.

Bainik10 karma

Hi, Zoro. How does selling at cons compare to storefront income? I seem to remember hearing the con side brings in way more money, so is the store basically there because you feel like it or is it actually a significant revenue source?

Zrealm11 karma

Basically we do about 7 times the sales at cons as at our store front, tho the expenses are somewhat higher...

We have a store to appease Wizards of the Coast and because it's nice to have a home base to get work done in (and I even have an office in our new location, which is nice!)

ganof3 karma

How does having a store appease wizards of the coast?

Zrealm11 karma

It's a requirement to sell magic.

dragonfly19939 karma

Do you have a packing kit of stuff you bring to each convention and what is the most surprising thing in that kit?

Zrealm16 karma

We do, though we've very bad at maintaining it. The weirdest thing is a rubber mallet, which we mostly use for putting together our shelving, but also comes in handy for an unlimited number of unexpected tasks. You never know when something is going to be out of place and need to be replaced....

AniDanny8 karma

Did you ever ask Fuzz Face? What did he say?

Zrealm16 karma

I think he accused me of some crimes I hadn't committed in states I hadn't been to, and then told one of my employees I never showered.

darkangelx3877 karma

Whats your favorite game that you sell?

Zrealm10 karma

King of Tokyo soon to be replaced by King of New York

iseedoug5 karma

I live just down the street from your business. Is there a particular reason you choose the downtown Troy area?

Zrealm9 karma

I went to RPI and had strong connections so it's convenient to a lot of our customers

encens-moi5 karma

Where's the weirdest location you've been to for a convention?

Zrealm9 karma

Hmm, tough question. I once went to a convention that was on the outskirts of Triangle, VA (where Quantico is). We made a wrong turn and the next thing you know someone with a gun is asking us for ID in order to drive through the base (the town is on the other side...)

darkangelx3875 karma

Do you ever cosplay while you're working at your booth? If not what's preventing you from doing so?

Zrealm7 karma

I don't - we try to make sure all of the staff are coordinated and easy to find :)

darkangelx3874 karma

So HOW did you start up Foam Brain Games? What motivated you? What did you do prior to decided to do this? Have you ever regretted it? Is it hard to keep a balance of your personal life while attending all these conventions and traveling so much?

Zrealm6 karma

I started it up because I wanted to continue to do things with cool people and running LARPs at cons is expensive. I used to be a programmer.

It is super hard to keep a work\personal balance with the amount of travel I do and the stresses of being a small business owner. It's been the cause of much drama and breakups and angst, sadly....

darkangelx3874 karma

Perhaps there is lady con sellers out there that you guys can date and travel together :)

Zrealm7 karma

Maybe - but it would be super awkward if we broke up!

Dooooon3 karma

Hey there, i got a group of friends. We all life far apart but we meet like once a year. We love playing games with easy rules not too much accessories and a lot of fun social interaction. Do you or does anyone else have nice ideas? I would like to buy some new games.

Zrealm2 karma

Can you name a few games that have gone over well in the past?

woodsman7071 karma

I generally recommend:

  • Coup
  • The Resistance
  • Lords of Vegas
  • Love Letter
  • Cosmic Encounter

Do a youtube search for Concept and see if you think you'd like it, it's supposed to be amazing.

Zrealm1 karma

That's a good list :-)

uGeekPwnz3 karma

Hi Andrew! What BG would you personally recommend that's been released in the last 2/3 years?

Zrealm3 karma

Depends - what other games do you like? King of Tokyo, Ogre (though you might need to build an addition to your house to store it) and Star Realms are probably the 3 recent releases I play most often

uGeekPwnz3 karma

To be honest I've not got the biggest collection, a friend has started getting me in to them and I'm thinking about kick-starting my collection. So far I own;

Catan (basic)

Smallworld

Munchkin Cthulu

Cards Against Humanity (I know, not a proper BG)

King of Tokyo has caught my eye recently so maybe I'll go for that :)

Zrealm3 karma

All good choices! I think you'd like King of New York, Carcassonne, Dominion (or Tanto Cuore if you prefer fan service) and many others :)

cptstupendous3 karma

Got any good recommendations for board games that can easily be combined with drinking penalties?

Zrealm8 karma

We didn't playtest this at all is the best Imho :-)

cptstupendous2 karma

LOL, the description sounds interesting but the user ratings are not so great.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31016/we-didnt-playtest-all

Zrealm3 karma

It's a super light silly game. Perfect did drinking games but not as much what bgg tends to fall in love with.

L_vs_Sherlock3 karma

What's the highest number of sides on a die you've sold or seen?

Zrealm9 karma

We sell 100 sided zochihedrons. They pretty much look like golf balls.

laura47472 karma

Hey Andrew, would it make sense logistically for you to just give my kickstarter rewards to someone who is going to your place this weekend?

Zrealm2 karma

Sure thing. Any ideas who?

liberation-sans2 karma

Is Risk the best (your favorite) strategy-based boardgame?

Zrealm4 karma

Nah - it's ok though

mrsaturn423 karma

Speaking of strategy games, we have been playing game of thrones regularly for some time and are looking for something new. Do you have any recommendations for strategy games on the more deterministic side.

Zrealm2 karma

How many players? My favorite is sadly only 2 player :-(

Yonzy1 karma

Which one is that? Me and my friend have been looking for 2-player strategy games. So far we have Twilight Struggle and Memoir '44.

Zrealm1 karma

Ogre

daratum2 karma

Hey Andrew, I'm about to start developing an item to hopefully hey manufactured on a larger scale through Kickstarted and wanted to know if you had any ideas on how to proceed? How long does overseas shipping usually take? Have you ever used Alibaba? Have you ever had a bad experience with overseas manufacturing?

Zrealm2 karma

We have. Shipping takes 3 days by airmail or 8 weeks by sea. Yes we found most of the companies we work with on there. Yes, they miscolored thousands of earrings and then made us take them and pay (at a discount but still) and to redo them

Zrealm1 karma

Assuming that's BronyCon some of my employees were.

SRD_Grafter2 karma

Do you have any employees or friends that come with you to conventions to man the booth? If not, how does it work when you want to leave your booth for a bit (say to get food or go to the bathroom)? As unattended merchandise may walk away (unless people are really good about policing others).

Any suggestions for con goers as to what to do, see, or how to behave?

Zrealm8 karma

I do - Foam Brain has 5 full time people and is hiring a few more in the next year as we expand.

Honestly, the single biggest rule about how to behave is to follow Wheaton's law and don't be a dick. There's lots to see, but don't let that stress you about what you're missing - enjoy all of the awesome stuff you do get to go to. At bigger cons, ask how long you should line up in advance for panels you really care about, too...

MTGCorgi1 karma

Hey Zoro, when are you going to do a kickstarter for a full game instead of just accessories? Also, when can we expect to see you judging a GP again? :)

Zrealm1 karma

I believe we have more dice on tap for late 2014 or early 2015 and then a game for the end of first quarter 2015, so not that far from now :)

My schedule makes it hard to judge GPs and I might lose my L2 status with the recertification, so I'm not sure I will be :(

MTGCorgi1 karma

It would be unfortunate if you lost your L2 status (seeing as you cert'ed me for L1) but I am excited at the prospect of playing a game with the Foam Brain Games logo on it!

Zrealm2 karma

Technically you can already do that. We were a collaborator on Channel A by Asmadi Games and our logo is on the box :)

dieselxindustry1 karma

Do you ever make your way out to ACEN in Rosemont IL?

Zrealm2 karma

We do! I was at Anime Central 3 years ago, but Foam Brain has been there for 4 years running now :)

forthisisme1 karma

Will you be at NYCC this year and can I get the details on the secret handshake?

Zrealm3 karma

I will be at NYCC - stop by and say hi at booth 2155.

TheBurningStarIV1 karma

[deleted]

Zrealm2 karma

No, but there was a magic tournament where a guy ate his hat (well, about 3 bites of it....)

jffdougan1 karma

On the Sentinels merch kickstarter - is there any way that one of the earrings or pins could be repurposed as a tie tack? (at about 5'7", I'm short enough that if I were to do a tie bar the tie generally hangs obnoxiously low.)

Are there any other games you'd like to make licensed merch for?

Zrealm1 karma

The pins should be, though they'd be kind of giant. There are a bunch of other games I'd like to do licensed merch for assumign the details could be worked out :)

jffdougan1 karma

Games: Like what?

Zrealm1 karma

Sadly I can't say while we're in talks :-(

saintnicster1 karma

What is the thing you wish that you could sell, but either can't or won't?

What do you think of the folks who are going for the obvious consumer ripoffs/pure profit? My specific example would be seeing a vendor that is selling the CAH coreset for $50 on Friday Morning at PAXEast while the CAH guys are upstairs in the KS room.

Zrealm8 karma

I wish we could sell Cards Against Humanity :) But I don't want to be one of those stores who buys it on Amazon and marks it up. I think it hurts your reputation as a store in the long term and someday hopefully we'll be able to get CAH direct from the company.

Also, when I first read your question, I thought you asked about a CAH corset - that would be amazing and totally needs to happen.

watterson8151 karma

As an indie game designer, what's the quickest way to get a card game with high production value, packaging, etc. into your vendor booth? i am not interested in selling my game, but maybe you can clue me into some distributors you order through.

Zrealm1 karma

We order through the bigger gaming distributors - ACD, Alliance and GTS, but we also buy a lot of stuff direct from manufacturers, especially if its something I'm really excited about.

woodsman7071 karma

How do you buy direct from manufacturer? I didn't know this was possible...

Zrealm1 karma

I just contact them.

pudgie31 karma

What is the most expensive game you sell?

Zrealm2 karma

Kickstarter Edition Ogre, which we finally sold out of, at $225 is the most expensive board game we've ever sold

queefin_it_real1 karma

What did you think about the Bob's Burger episode about the Equestranauts?

http://bobs-burgers.wikia.com/wiki/The_Equestranauts

Zrealm1 karma

I didn't see it, I'll have to check it out. Honestly I find both the voice and animation style on bob's burgers annoying enough that I don't watch it.

phaserjunkie1 karma

So I wanted to ask you, as a merchant of games, what happened to Stupidduel?

Zrealm1 karma

I'm not sure - I think it's still available direct but for whatever reason they have chosen not to go through distribution or make it available to retailers

Critical_Miss1 karma

I've been thinking of going to Gen Con for awhile now but I don't know if it'd be worth it. I've gone to PAX East the last five years and loved it. How do the two compare to each other?

Zrealm2 karma

Gen Con is all games all the time - I like the PAX enviornment a bit better, but they're bot a lot of fun :)

LunatriC1 karma

Why?

Zrealm2 karma

Why not?

Ask_A_Sadist1 karma

Wisconsin gaming hoopla is this weekend, you gonna be there?

Zrealm1 karma

Sadly not. Will be there for awesome con Milwaukee next month tho :-)

Ask_A_Sadist1 karma

Date? Perhaps a sadistic reddit meet is in order

Zrealm2 karma

Weekend before Thanksgiving. We're running all of the tabletop gaming there :-)

fufoojoe1 karma

I am going to my first convention later this year any tips for a newbie?

Zrealm3 karma

As I said below, look at the schedule but don't overplan. Don't stress about the things you miss, enjoy the things you go to. If there's something you MUST SEE, find out how long of a line it's expected to have and when you can line up (or if you can go in at the end of the prior panel and they're not doing a room clear.

Don't forget to bring money to buy awesome stuff :-)

MoreEpicThanYou7471 karma

Do you have any stories involving Homestuck fans?

Zrealm3 karma

Once I was on a date with a girl and I was trying to explain my life as we wandered through the Boston parks. Suddenly we come across about 100 homestuck trolls in a park, some hanging out some playing spin the bottle or just making out. Pretty much I said that was about it right there.

The_Dominion1 karma

[deleted]

Zrealm1 karma

Decent though kind of sick today :-(

fireheadgirl1 karma

I have a friend who redoes board game art as a hobby. Do you think that could be at a profitable for him? What would be the most legal way to go about this kind of venture. As an offshoot of his personal art which is harder to market efficiently, I've thought his redesignes would be something he could share with other game enthusiasts.

Zrealm1 karma

Probably not unfortunately. There's not much you can do with derivatives unless you're deviating a lot from the game

Must_Be_Said1 karma

Was it hard growing up with the name Zorowitz?

Zrealm1 karma

I spent college with the nickname Zorro, so I think it was ok

frozenuggz0 karma

Are all the really hot women who dress up (cosplay) paid actresses? I have heard that, and wondered how true that is, and since you have a huge cross-section of Con's for comparison, I ask.

Zrealm5 karma

No, most of them are fans enjoying their hobby.

bluegator-1 karma

What's the best success story where a attendee hooked up with a show floor model? I want to believe

Zrealm3 karma

If you just mean with booth staff, it happens - booth staff are people too and a lot of us do a lot of shows.

If you mean the (very rare) paid models, I have no idea.

PM_YOUR_BOOBS_PLS_-2 karma

I've never been to a con, but I have this idea of a bunch of good-looking, nerdy, single girls running around and ready to "mingle".

How absurdly far from the truth am I?

Zrealm7 karma

It depends, there are often good-looking nerdy single girls, and there are often even events like speed dating if you're looking to meet people. HOWEVER I wouldn't go to a con just to get laid or assume that girls in general want to have sex with you. Just like anywhere else YMMV with your looks and personality.