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Inside Munchkin Boosters

(NOTE: This article first ran in Game Trade Magazine.)

Our first Munchkin booster packs, Fairy Dust and Waiting for Santa, were published in 2009. Those first micro-expansion packs were soon followed by other inexpensive Munchkin boosters, and as each new set was released we heard demands for more and more themes and new ideas. The boosters were, both financially and from a gameplay perspective, far more successful than we had originally hoped.

The format, though, wasn't perfect. Two different - and very public - problems kept the boosters from truly reaching their full potential, while a third issue with the boosters (behind the scenes) nagged at us more and more as the number of booster releases kept climbing.

Those three grievances were:

* The fin-seal packaging, while tidy and effective, confused new Munchkin players as well as veteran fans. Over and over again we had to shout to the world "These aren't random," but despite our best efforts to educate the world the "How many packs do I need to buy to collect the set?" question haunted us.

* Additionally, the fin-seal and PoP (Point of Purchase) display caused problems for stores. These micro-expansions just wouldn't shelve neatly with the rest of the Munchkin games, expansions, and accessories.

* Finally, behind the scenes, those fin-seal packages required more time to manufacture and the minimum order requirement was higher than our usual expansion formats. That meant it took longer to get these ideas to shelves than we liked and we couldn't justify keeping the packs available. The safest action for us was to print a single run and then allow the booster to go out of print.

We hate when Munchkin expansions go out of print. It drives the aftermarket prices to unreasonable amounts which makes it expensive for new Munchkin players to grab older cards. That's no fun!

A Possible Solution? When we outlined our Star Munchkin plans for 2015 (Star Munchkin 3, Star Munchkin Deluxe, and Star Munchkin Cosmic Demo) we struggled over whether or not to reprint the Space Ships booster. Prices on eBay were around the $40 mark, but the demand wasn't high enough to justify printing tens of thousands of copies of the booster. What could we do?
Board Game: Star Munchkin Cosmic Demo

After several phone calls, emails, debates in our conference rooms, and painful tears, we settled on an idea that we felt could work: The blister pack. What's a blister pack? You've seen these thousands of times before. A piece of cardboard and clear plastic shell are glued together to form a hangable package that allows us to see what's inside. Blister packs are used in almost every industry -- how many of these did I tear open when buying Star Wars action figures as a kid? -- and a blister pack would allow a store to display Space Ships right beside Star Munchkin 3.

And even better is that the blister pack is standard for us, and both quicker to produce and can be run in lower numbers than a fin-seal. We believed we had the solution so we went with it, shipping Space Ships to print in the new packaging format before talking with more than a handful of outside partners.

We revealed the Space Ships packaging to retailers at the GAMA Trade Show, and the response was positive! This turned out to be one of our best decisions of the year, automatically making reprints of boosters viable and providing stores with a package that pegs in the exact same spot as the various Munchkin tuckbox expansions. Win!

As soon as we knew that the new format would work we sat down and went through the list of out-of-print boosters and selected two to reprint right away. Our processes usually require more time, but the staff pulled together and managed to get these two boosters revised and off to the printer quickly.
Board Game: Munchkin Dragons

* Munchkin Dragons - Probably the fastest-selling Munchkin booster ever, this was first in line since it fit perfectly with the new Dragon's Trike booster.

* Munchkin Marked for Death - As both an expansion and workable demo set, this was a perfect second choice. Marked for Death rushed off to print soon after we finished Dragons.

But reprinting out-of-print boosters wasn't the only use for the blister packaging. A few ideas floating around the office weren't big enough for a tuckbox expansion, but we had more than 15 ideas for cards. We quickly worked out pricing and plans for 30-card blister packs and created two new sets that will be in your favorite local game store before Christmas:

* Munchkin Kittens - After working with Katie Cook on Munchkin Love Shark Baby we just had to get her adorable artwork into another expansion. Munchkin Kittens is insanely cute. Now to tackle Munchkin Puppies!

* Munchkin Hipsters – Illustrated by John Kovalic, our staff pulled together to come up with more hipster jokes than you can shake an organic lemon-ginger mocha macchiato at!

And, we’re not finished yet! The flexibility of the new blister packaging over the old booster fin-seals has us reviewing our 2016 plans. Now that we can print fewer copies of a micro-expansion, we’re looking at bringing back some other out-of-print boosters, and the 30-card format looks perfect for a few other ideas.

We would love to hear from you about the new packaging for the booster packs. You can find us on Twitter (@sjgames), or leave a comment on our forums at www.sjgames.com. And if you have an out-of-print Munchkin booster that you want to see back in stores, please let us know! After all, part of the reason we made the packaging change was to make it easier to reprint those earlier Munchkin boosters.
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Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:41 pm
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Bringing a little holiday cheer to your game sessions.

Over the years, we have produced many holiday expansions for Munchkin, but despite many fan requests, we have never created a full holiday-themed Munchkin core set.

With Munchkin Christmas Lite -- set for release late this year -- we have answered that call.

From gallery of PhilReed

A gift for your friends!

Munchkin Christmas Lite was created to serve two different purposes.

First, the game is the holiday-themed core Munchkin game many of you have asked for. You and two or three of your friends can grab the box, add a die and level counters, and play a complete Munchkin game. Adding any of the numerous holiday expansions and accessories is optional (but highly recommended!). If we know you guys, your 112-card Munchkin Christmas Lite game is going to incorporate all kinds of fun extras.

Second, the game is an introduction to Munchkin. We've packed the game in a tuckbox to keep costs down, and we even dug deep into our profit margins to offer the game at only $9.95. That's cutting our usual MSRP on a game this size in half. It is the season of giving and all, so we're happy to pass some savings on so that you can gift copies to your friends who do not yet own a Munchkin game of their very own.

From gallery of PhilReed

What's in the box?

Munchkin Christmas Lite includes streamlined rules and 112 game cards. A little over half of the cards are existing Munchkin cards that have been re-illustrated by John Kovalic. Which cards? That would be telling, but here we're happy to show three of the cards in their original Munchkin form and the all-new Munchkin Christmas Lite version.

From gallery of PhilReed

The Gazebo all decked out for the holidays is one of my favorite classic Munchkin monsters that has joined the festivities. I still want to see several of the monsters turned into toys, and seeing John's new illustration for the Gazebo makes me want those toys more than ever. Gazebo with accessories? Yes, please.

From gallery of PhilReed

As you can see, John had a lot of fun crafting Christmas-themed artwork for the set. Andrew and his team selected the basic game cards to carry over into the set. Any guesses as to which other cards may have found their way into Munchkin Christmas Lite?

From gallery of PhilReed

And there are new cards!

49 of the 112 cards in Munchkin Christmas Lite are completely new. Andrew and several members of our staff gathered together in the conference room to devise terrible holiday puns. Andrew then took the list of bad ideas and put together wonderfully awful new Munchkin cards that are going to draw as many giggles as groans.

From gallery of PhilReed

Get ready for the holidays.

Munchkin Christmas Lite is at the printer and scheduled to reach store shelves in early November. At $9.95 we're hoping that many of you will use this as a stocking stuffer for the holidays. And with this set we've answered your requests for a stand-alone holiday Munchkin game.

Now to deal with all of your other demands . . .
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Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:35 pm
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Halloween, Munchkin, and Cards Instead of Candy

Back in 2012, we started to discuss giving Munchkin fans a way to pass out game cards at Halloween. Giving away treats other than candy at Halloween isn't a new idea, but we had never produced something specifically for distribution at Halloween, so we had a lot of work ahead of us.

Fortunately, a really big job doesn't look so bad once it’s broken down into smaller bits. After some conversations in the office, discussions with our factory rep at Grand Prix International, and several talks with John Kovalic, we determined that we could make the pricing work. Then the work really began.

* Andrew and Steve worked through the card designs and settled on suitably Halloweeny fun we felt would make a good introduction to the Munchkin humor.

* John Kovalic took those card designs and art specs and – somehow, most likely through magic or a deal with some horned being – cranked out Munchkinly-funny artwork in record time. (We were a little behind schedule at this point. Sorry, John!)

* Our talented production staff colored everything and mashed it together into a complete package. These guys are often left holding the bag and come together to assemble games on a tight deadline. I owe our entire production department a reward of some sort; think they’d like some candy?

With the Munchkin Halloween Pack at print, it was time to prepare the world, and there is no better way to start spreading the word than to tell retailers directly.

Board Game: Munchkin Halloween Pack
The first step in selling any new product is the creation of a sell sheet – a one-page document that distributors and retailers use to absorb the specifics of a new title. The numbers, description, and a cover image are all retailers and distributors have to work with when choosing what to carry in their stores, so we try to put enough info on the sheet to make it enticing but not overwhelming.

Randy, in his role as Retailer Liaison, calls stores every day of the week (when he isn't at a convention) to update retailers – telling them what’s new, what’s going out of print – and to make sure the retailer is completely stocked with promo items and any demo games they may need. The Munchkin Halloween Pack idea went over well with our retailers, and we were soon ready to ship the packs.

Once distributors and retailers were aware of the new pack, we started sharing news of the project with the gamers of the world. Advance releases at San Diego Comic-Con and Gen Con gave us the first indication of how things were going to turn out for the idea, and based on response and sales at those two conventions, we knew things were going to turn out great.

And that brings us to today. The Munchkin Halloween Pack is now in stores, and in a few more weeks kids will start receiving the cards during Halloween. With luck these cards will make kids laugh, and we will create some new Munchkin fans just in time for the holidays.

Anything it takes to introduce more kids (and adults!) to gaming is totally worth the effort, and we cannot thank all of the Munchkin fans out there enough for embracing the idea and supporting it . . .

. . . even if we know you guys are totally passing these cards out just for the chance at more opponents to beat on your way to victory.
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Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:09 pm
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