Industry Spotlight: Hachette Boardgames UK
Here on Punchboard, I spend a lot of time talking about games. I love talking about games almost as much as I enjoy playing them. It’s almost always the cardboard that gets the attention though, the game on top of the table, covered with little wooden meeples.
I’ve decided to start something a little different, so from time to time I’m going to publish some of these Industry Spotlight pieces. I want to take a look at the people and businesses bringing these games to us, so that we all get to know them a bit better, and meet the people behind the brands.
We’re starting off with Hachette Boardgames UK. Hachette is an importer and distributor of board games here in the UK. You can’t buy games from them direct, but your favourite local or online store certainly can. They specialise in bringing games across the Channel from French publishers, and there’s some really good stuff available.
Today is a special day for them – it’s their first birthday! Awww, one year old. Writing that seems crazy to me. It feels like they’ve been around for years, but that’s probably because they’ve been to all the same conventions as I have. They’re also a prolific bunch on social media. If you don’t already, give them a follow on Instagram, it’s never boring!
I grabbed some time with their head honcho, Flavien Loisier, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself, and about Hachette. Let’s get into it.
Adam: Thanks for sparing some time for me. Let’s start with the basics; who are you, and what do you do?
Flavien: Hi, thanks for the opportunity, I am Flavien, who is sharing the love of board games in the UK with Hachette board games since summer 2021, importing games I love mainly from the other side of the Channel.
A: Would you describe yourself as a gamer? If so, how long have you been playing, and what do you think was the game that really brought you into the hobby?
F: Clearly, yes, always been gaming, with the early Ravensburger games, Abalone or Quarto when they released but the absolute blast has been Catan, putting the Junta, Civilisation or Diplomacy in the cupboard.
A: And just so we have an idea of your taste in games, if you had to pick, which games would be in your top five of all time?
F: Mythic Battle Pantheon – I like the hand management and the combo on the board.
Concordia – streamline ruleset for a tense gameplay.
Iki – amazing learning curve for a mid weight euro with an interesting hand management.
Trick taking/discard games – I won’t chose a special one, I love so many, the atmosphere it creates at the table, the thought process and all their variants.
Dominion – the purest deckbuilding experience.
And I now hate any backstabbing experience in gaming! Especially in long games…
A: Before around this time last year, if you’d asked me who Hachette are, I’d have said a bookseller and publisher. Tell us a little bit about Hachette Games UK came to be.
F: Hachette is a 200 year old book publisher indeed, and they decided to develop a board game division four years ago, because a lot of the skills and structures are similar. Regarding the UK, I was about to start my own distribution company in 2020, after having been here 6 years, I knew what was missing on the market and what I could bring. I approached Blackrock games to build my business case, they had games I wanted to import and I was sure about their values. The meeting went perfectly well but they explained to me that they’d been bought by Hachette, who were thinking about opening a UK subsidy … and here we are! In the game of life, you have to be lucky in your encounters 😉
A: Hachette have entered the UK board game scene with all the subtlety of a fire engine. A lot of that is due to you, and now your compadré Richie, hitting social media hard. Are you at all surprised with just how much of an impact you’ve had on the scene here?
F: Funny to see it this way and I am taking it as a compliment 😊 We entered it just being genuinely ourselves. The amount of positive feedback and visible joy at our booth at UKGE was so rewarding. For me, who’s never been on social media but always shared my passion in clubs and conventions, discovering this new fascinating world and the number of people we can reach is unbelievable.
A: So far, there’s an obvious lean towards French publishers for the games you distribute, with the likes of Funnyfox and Sorry We Are French on-board. Are there any plans to start importing games from any other countries?
F: UKGE has been an amazing portal to opportunities, that was not a short term plan, but that’s changing !
A: When we chatted at UKGE you mentioned that there are some games that you can just look at and know whether they are likely to do well in one country or another. Why do you think this is, and are you able to give us any good examples?
F: Gaming culture is really different from one country to the other, but culture in a broader sense too. Theme will have an impact, Baseball Highlights is a great deck-builder, but it couldn’t be sold in France where baseball is almost non-existent. Family games are different in the UK too, not as mainstream, and I’ve learned the hard way. Peek a Mouse (which is an amazing co-op memory game where the box becomes the home) for £30 doesn’t fit the British habits … at the moment!
A: If you can tell us, what has the response been like from the other publishers and distributors in the UK? I would guess you’d ruffled quite a few feathers.
F: The first UKGE has been a surprise for the others, but nobody threw stones at us. In January at the toy fair, everybody took the time to come and welcome us, play a game with us, give general advice, that was wonderful. And if I have to name names, Coiledspring and Thames and Kosmos have been especially welcoming!
A: It seems like the UK wasn’t the end of it. I noticed that you’re starting to get a footing in the US now. I saw that Danni left Pandasaurus to be the face of Hachette US. How have things been going over there?
F: With the help of our sister company in Canada, Randolph, the US operations have started few months ago. It will allow us to do worldwide releases and give more visibility to amazing games!
A: What’s next for Hachette in the UK? Have you got any big plans, or anything you can tell us about?
F: From a company point of view, Rory Kelly just joined the team, another passionate omnigamer, but unlike us, he is already super-experienced and known in the UK! We are also spending time and external resources to make UK-specific versions of games. The first one in October is the new version of Feelings (a coop game about being empathetic) for example, which has 15% of the cards rewritten!
On the gaming front, we have a new RPG experience for boardgamers, and are working on our existing lines too: a new Cartaventura, Suspects 2, a new Gigamic classic wooden game…
A: Finally, and maybe most importantly, what’s the best biscuit?
F: Dark chocolate and ginger biscuits of course!
I’ve reviewed a couple of the games that Hachette have brought to the UK over the last year, and there are more to come.
Iki is a middle-weight Euro set in feudal Japan, which I love. The more cynical among you might thing “It’s just because it’s got a rondel…”, but that’s only partially true. It’s a really clever game which mixes lots of interesting mechanisms and choices, and it’s one which won over plenty of people when we played it at this year’s UKGE.
There are more reviews to come, including the clever little set-collection game Sobek: 2 Players. In the meantime, if you want to hassle your FLGS for any of the games they distribute, point them to https://www.hachetteboardgames.co.uk/
A special thanks to Flavien for his time, and Richie for sorting out some photographs for me.