The Kookaburra Game –
Essen 2003 report
(see photos at the bottom)
This is a Essen report with a difference. One seen from
the other side of the counter. (where we stuff all the bags, jackets and the
games the staff bought “did you see that ? they gave me 3% off because I’m a
Day minus 2: Monday
Melanie spent 2 ½ hours at the customs in Dusselldorf.
Not that she likes this place that much but because with the games and stuff
sent from OZ I’ve slipped inside a credit card machine. You know one of
these good old shrrrrr-schlong paper imprinters): not allowed to bring them
into Germany. 2 hours later and with the help of the ‘old charm’ – victory –
they let the machine through. Feels like we’ve imported a machine to make
Monday is also the day we drive from Geneva to Essen with Annie, my sister.
Long drive (9 hours) but it’s ok, despite 6 tonnes of stuff including spot
lights, chairs, tables, a stereo, enough double-face sticky tape to wrap the
Sydney Harbour Bridge, a kangaroo costume, a didgeridoo, a tree in the shape
of a kangaroo, a kangaroo tapestry. We would still have had enough room for
half a bag of lollies had we wanted to take some with us.
Day minus 1: Tuesday
with Melanie at 9am: straight away she briefs us: Television Yes-Media is
here and they want the skin of the kangaroo now ! Well, the kangaroo costume
that is (which is made of totally synthetic grey brown fur – to reassure the
good people) they want to take it to the zoo ! So there go Mel and Annie
where they spend 4 hours in the koala enclosure pretending to play the
Kookaburra Game – the game about Australian animals – against a koala
(costume – made of totally synthetic grey fur – to reassure more good
people). They also have kids play the game in exotic surroundings. Hardest
bit being not to step in the kangaroo droppings (from the real kangaroos)
while filming. All this to end up as a 3 minutes documentary on German
television. Thank you Yes-Media !
During this time, I’m the one in charge of setting up the stall. Takes 30
minutes to align a poster when you’re alone.
Ha, there perfect … until the $^&%*#@^&*$#@ double-face sticky tape gives up
holding our 1.20m long kangaroo tapestry.
One also needs to install the power cables, hanging the spots lights,
covering them with stuffed toys, the kangaroo posters, the koala signs, the
crocodiles signs, the platypus.
When the girls are back from the zoo, we setup more things, the kangaroo
stuffed toys, the kangaroo tree and the tree with koalas. Oh I forgot, the
kookaburra poster. I wonder if anyone will notice we come from Australia ?
Some may argue that it is day 1 or day minus 1 but
let’s not go into this. Let’s call it day 0 because that’s the day of the
press conference. Very important day. Only exhibitors with new games are
invited. So the number of games displayed being limited, the idea is to have
press people and people who somehow managed to put their hand on a press
card to look at our game rather than the 200 odd other new games. That’s
where our kangaroo starts to play its part. Easily spotted, not so easy to
get around. Indeed the room is rather small, tables are very close by and
tripping on his tail reminds people that that’s where it all happens: the
display of the Kookaburra Game. The game with kangaroos.
We managed to get a mention during the press conference itself. Jolly good,
by the time all these press people come into the display room, they will
have heard of the Kookaburra Game. The game from Australia. Then 3 or 4
cameramen come and zoom on our game. Not sure if this will ever come to air
but it can’t be bad.
Our kangaroo Kathryn makes friends with the big tall warrior from the game
Anno 1503. Very similar games really, except that they haven’t got a real
platypus figurine in the game. And no croc either.
Day 1: Thursday
10am. That’s it, the race is on. Two main goals for the
next four days: Sell as many games as possible and find
manufacturers/distributors willing to hop onto the kookaburra wagon.
By 10:15am we’ve sold our first game ! not a bad start. Heaps of people
pouring in from somewhere in the back alley going somewhere in the front
alley. Some people seem to be running, looks like there is a free meal at
McDonald’s or something. Many people stop and listen to our little
demonstration. Doesn’t take long to explain the Kookaburra Game. (…) First
the aim then the so-called ‘animals rules’. From the beginning, as soon as
they hear the aim of the game, we got the comment “Aah, it’s like Ärgere Dich nicht’ (a German variant
of Parcheesi/Ludo). Simply because it’s a race game with dice. All of them
however , after they hear the animals rules, will happily admit that it’s
much more than Ärgere Dich nicht.
More possibilities, differents ‘power’ for each animal, short cuts, rescues
by the Kookaburra, great looking pieces, Australian theme.
- “Aaah, it’s very different to Ärgere
Dich nicht !”
- Correct !
The Kookaburra Game. The game packed with 20 real figurines Australian
animals, 2 dice, a double-sided boardgame and lots of fun. All in a small
So during the whole day, whoever passes is invited to listen, to grab a
leaflet card give-away or a clip-on koala. We came with 2000 of these,
they’re cute and people love them.
Every 5 minutes the Kookaburra laughs loudly on our portable Hifi to let
people know what racket these birds make when they share a joke (most of the
time around 5.00 in the morning in my garden)
It is interesting that some people don’t dare to stop unless there are many
people listening. Shyness maybe. Or fear of the
‘hard sell’ ?
- At what time is the next didgeridoo demonstration ?
(Nearly forgot about the didg. It has been pretty busy around here.)
- now !
♪♫dooowooiinnnwooounggg …♪ digedi digedidoo digeda doo. ♫…boing, doing
- cool !
The day has gone and we’ve sold 70 games. Not too bad for a first day.
Our feet are very sore, our backs hurt, our throats are dry like the Great
Sandy desert but we’re happy: we did well and people of all ages like the
Kookaburra Game: The board game parents buy for the kids they don’t have yet
Day 2: Friday
7:30am we pick up Sonja & Jean-Claude at the station.
They have come from Switzerland to help at the stall. We start with
breakfast and already it’s time to go to the fair. We have to sneak in
through security to park in a little street near the fair instead of using
the remote parking P2. We don’t want to walk 4 km with a 25 kg box full of
games on our shoulders. Melanie however won’t be that lucky. She had to park
a.f.a.p (as far as possible) the parking guardian could think of.
And the day starts,
- yes Madam, the kangaroo can take another animal in his pouch when hopping
along. – Can it take the crocodile as well ?
- Even the crocodile !
We start having distributors coming around and inquiring about wholesale
pricing. About freight costs from Australia. Oh yes, it’s a long way from
Australia to Europe but not that long by economy airfreight. For quantities
up to a few hundred it’s still worth considering airfreight. Of course I
dream of having a whole ship packed with Kookaburra Games arriving in
Hamburg but it will take some time. Was it Bill Gates who’s vision was “One
PC on each desk” ? My vision is “One Kookaburra Game in every family” !
Every family needs koalas and kangaroos to play with.
- Ok now stop dreaming and do some work.
It is interesting how you can tell if some people are really interested.
Most of them will tell us “I go around and I come back” and many do actually
come back. Many listen to the demo again and buy one game. Of course we have
a special price for the show, 16 Euro is a pretty good price compared to
other games full of emptiness and factory air. Every one agrees on that
after we show that our box is small but packed.
- And it’s not two board games, it’s one game with a board with two
The aboriginal artwork on one side of the game has lots of fans, our artist
friend from Sydney Darren Ritchie must have ringing ears.
During this time Annie our kangaroo keeps going around the fair,
distributing our cards. Let’s be honest, many of them end up on the floor.
That’s ok people will have read it and learned about the Kookaburra Game
before accidentally dropping them. The Kookaburra Game, the game that
climbs on tree and smells of eucalyptus. Huh. What I meant was: The
Kookaburra Game, the game with koalas.
- I’m opening a new shop and I want to buy some of your games but I
don’t think I can pay all at the same time. Can I pay only 50% and the rest
- Huh … how many (hundred of) games were you thinking about ?
- 2 or 3 games !
- huh ? … no !
Day 3: Saturday
Described by all other exhibitors as “crazy day”, it
sure starts like this. Lots and lots of people running down the alleys and
trying to play the game. Two tables at the stall are not enough. Some end up
playing on the counter or on their knees.
Ah, it’s time to introduce The Kookaburra Game, the game that travels. (we
have a mini-Kookaburra Game prototype, please see web page
Thorsten comes to help us on the weekend. Very good: German speaking help is
much appreciated and it will give us more time for meetings.
The day goes by very quickly, Melanie and I are meeting with some big
companies interested in making the Kookaburra Game in Europe. Most talks
happen in English AND German. “German ist ein very schwierig language” you
know. We get by.
Ah let me introduce The Kookaburra Game, the game of many languages
- yes Sir, naturlich you will find the rules in Deutsch inside the box !
We also have the owner of a big game shop in Japan interested in
distributing the game in the country of the rising sun.
- And you can find the rules in Japanese inside the box!
- Wow !!!
- and we also have a sticker with the summary of the rules in Japanese
for the back of the box …
- Wow !
If you wonder why that is, it’s because we also sell our game on the tourist
market in Australia and Japanese people are a big part of that market.
Day 4: Sunday
Starts on a flash but sales are slow. People listen and
like the demo, look at the price on the wall, emit some kind of hummmming
sound then go away.
- Sir ?
- I’ll look around and I come back.
Somehow today they sound less convincing. Cannot be about the game, the
kookaburra can still fly all over the game to rescue other animals, cannot
be about the price, it hasn’t changed, still 16 Euro, cannot be us, we had a
shower and changed our t-shirts this morning. So what is going on ? We see
people passing with trolleys full of games, some others have filled their
‘climbing Mount Everest’ type back-packs with games.
Takes us a while to figure out that all other stalls (especially the
distributors/shops type stalls) have slashed the price of games heavily for
the last day. Suddenly our game that everybody agreed was good value starts
to look expensive !
Only after we put the price down do the sales start picking up again !
Funny day, lost of rush, some customers get more than one game, many
distributors come and talk to us, some buy a dozen games to try it back in
Comes 5.00 o’clock and there are few people left.
- Oh yes Madam, if a croc tries to eat another croc that makes a croc
- But it’s violence !
no, Madam, the eaten croc just goes back to the beginning and starts again
- Ah good, I’ll buy one game for my grand-children then.
Irony: remember the credit card imprinter that gave us so much trouble at
the customs ? Not one during the whole fair has asked to pay with credit
- and you can pay with Visa or Master Card too !
- naaah, I’ve got cash !
A shop owner comes back to take the posters we promised
her for her shop. The nice lady from Spielbox comes for a chat, everybody is
happy that it’s over: We still go and deliver 100 games to
will be distributing our game in Germany. Oh no, we’ve got only 50 left, we
have to go back to the hotel to get the last box!
As I rush out of the fair on the way to the hotel,
outside it’s raining, cold and miserable.
The Kookaburra Game. It’s almost as good as a holiday in Australia !
Claude Debetaz Nov 2003
More photos of Essen 2003
setting up stall - notice the kangaroo bush in the right hand corner !
in the press room, awaiting the rush ... Look closely at the grey jacket ... and also the Akubra hat ... real aussie mate !
Day -1 for Press only in the Press room
Press conference - Our kangaroo rubs shoulder with the famous
the kangaroo has shed its skin and is having a rest (on the left)
some serious players put all chances on their side...
And the kangaroo can take another animal in his pouch !
Almost the end of the day ... quick, one more demonstration
very busy it was
Mel speaks ook een beetje Nederlands too !
Television (YES-MEDIA) came to film us ... they even went to the Essen zoo in the koala enclosure for our big kangaroo to play against a big koala !
The Kookaburra Game team - Essen 2003
web masters, feel free to add a link to your web page !
Also see The making of a
kangaroo costume !