Players at UKGE 18
Graeme Fraser-Bell of Accentuate Games, and Simon and Nigel Roper of Merlin Games

Graeme Fraser-Bell his wife, Daphne and sister Fiona, won investment on Dragons' Den from Peter Jones in July 2015. They were a huge inspiration for our setting up Merlin Games to make and market Thieves. And kindly agreed to meet us to answer a range of questions about the issues of setting up a games company and running it successfully.

Despite the differences in our games, there was a lot of common ground. Like Merlin Games, Accentuate Games are a family business and entered the board game market as outsiders with a single game.

Over a couple of illuminating and entertaining hours, Graeme and his wife Daphne shared their experiences of the past three years. Advising us on the setting up of our distribution, the value of offering demonstrations to retailers, PR and online marketing strategies.

At the end, we swapped copies of our games, but sadly had no time left to play either.

The two 'Best Abstract Game' awards Merlin Games recieved for Thieves at UKGE 2018
The two 'Best Abstract Game' awards Merlin Games recieved for Thieves at UKGE 2018

We launched Thieves for sale at the UK Games Expo. Exhibiting for the first time and winning both the Judges' and People's Choice awards for 'Best Abstract Game'.

For a new comapany launching a new game by a first time designer, this is extremely exciting. It gives us confidence about our plans and hopes for Thieves success in the UK, and later in Europe and the USA.

Thieves players on the Merlin Games Stand, UKGE 2018
Thieves players on the Merlin Games Stand, UKGE 2018

Despite our being an unknown company launching a new game with no PR or advertising to raise awareness and stimulate interest, our stand was busy throughout the show. All five of the boards we set up were occupied by players on each of the three days, and usually there were several couples or individuals queing to play. Despite our being an unknown company launching a new game with no PR or advertising to raise awareness and stimulate interest, our stand was busy throughout the show. All five of the boards we set up were occupied by players on each of the three days, and usually there were several couples or individuals queing to play. 

Our sales were much better than we'd forecast with approximately four out of five players buying a copy at the end of their games. Some people, frustrated by queing but impressed by the obvious enjoyment of those playing,  bought copies of Thieves without testing for themselves!

The rules of Thieves being explained on the Merlin Games Stand, UKGE 2018
The rules of Thieves being explained on the Merlin Games Stand, UKGE 2018

What seems to please many at the show was the simplicity of the rules, that they could play and enjoy the game within 2 minutes of sitting down, and that the complexity of the game emerged organically during play as they encountered dilemmas and realised deeper strategies. Most players also commented on the beauty of the design and the quality of the components.

UK Games Expo was for us a hugely worthwhile event. Not only for sales and for winning two awards but for serinditous meetings with other games companies, and feedback about Thieves from the huge range of players attending. All of which with help with our future marketing.

We will exhibit again next year and, as we had queues of attendees waiting to play this year, will probably double the size of our stand in 2019.