W. Eric MartinUnited States
Cephalofair Games announced Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, with the goal of designing it "to be cross-compatible with all of our previous board game releases". The press release included an April 2023 launch date on BackerKit for the RPG and a line of miniatures for use with all Cephalofair products, a launch date that has slid to June 20, 2023.
But on top of the RPG and miniatures, Cephalofair Games' BackerKit crowdfunding project will also include Gloomhaven: Second Edition, a revised and updated version of Isaac Childres' 2017 blockbuster Gloomhaven.
Cephalofair notes that the world, story, and gameplay remain the same in this edition of the game, but it will feature "rebalanced and redesigned mercenary classes, items, and scenarios, as well as brand new artwork, newly written narrative and events, updated miniatures, a new faction-based reputation system, and more".
The project leads on this new edition are Drew Penn and Dennis Vögele, with the latter saying this in a press release from Cephalofair: "Drew and I have spent the last six years reading the community's feedback on all of the Gloomhaven games, so we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve with this project. We hope you enjoy playing Gloomhaven: Second Edition as much as we enjoyed working on it."
All of the components, tiles, encounters, and whatnot in Gloomhaven: Second Edition will be compatible with Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, as will the first edition of the game, so if you get a second copy of the game, you can play through it again to discover what's new, then use all the bits in the RPG. Of course, you might have no room in your home to play anything at that point, what with Frosthaven occupying half the bed and all, but I'm sure you'll make do.
Cephalofair Games plans to produce Gloomhaven: Second Edition in early 2024 for release later that year. Given the extent of the changes across numerous components, an upgrade kit for Gloomhaven will not be sold separately.
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Archive for W. Eric Martin
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Today 6:00 pm
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Challengers! was nominated for the 2023 Kennerspiel des Jahres, publishers 1 More Time Games and Z-Man Games have announced a standalone sequel that has clearly been in the works for far more than a week.
Challengers! 2 from designers Johannes Krenner and Markus Slawitscheck features the same basic game play as Challengers!. Players start with a fixed team in a "capture the flag" competition, then play a game that lasts seven rounds, drafting new members onto their team each round, ditching any team members they feel no longer fit, then compete to keep hold of the flag before your team runs out or you have no room on the bench for defeated team members.
Challengers! 2 includes seven sets of cards, such as beach club, rainbow, and game designer, and you use only five sets in a game, shuffling these cards together to form A, B, and C decks, with C containing the most powerful cards.
You can play Challengers! 2 on its own, or you can pick sets from Challengers! and the new release to create more combinations. You can also use both sets to create a tournament game that allows for up to sixteen players.
Challengers! 2 also includes a 16-card "Trainers" expansion that gives each player a unique power. Some give you bonuses when defending, some when you're on the offensive, and others can extend your bench or even let you rearrange your deck.
The publishers plan to debut Challengers! 2 at SPIEL '23 in October.
Wed May 31, 2023 3:10 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Dress for Battle in Conquest Princess, Scale Giants in Leviathan Wilds, and Get Stacked for a Party in the Back
30 May 2023
Carson City: Big Box from Xavier Georges and Quined Games is being republished, with this edition including new solo rules and a fancy-shmancy insert. (Gamefound link)
• Let's jump genres from cowboys to pirates with SlackJack, a game from Thomas Robert Beatman, Joel Colombo, Travis Magrum, Ian Moss, Jim Schoch, and Jellybean Games in which players try to convince the captain to make them part of the treasure-search team. Each player has a hidden role, including a scofflaw who will make off with all the gold should they part of the captain's team — assuming that team even gets the gold as that will be awarded to one side or another depending on the strength of each team. (Kickstarter link)
Pavlov's House: The Battle of Stalingrad, Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII, and Lanzerath Ridge: Battle of the Bulge is a trio of solitaire games from David Thompson and Dan Verssen Games that are not new, but I suppose a Gamefound campaign will bring them to the attention of new players.
All three titles are part of Thompson and DVG's "Valiant Defense" series, which also includes 2021's Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms.
• Conquest Princess: Fashion Is Power is a co-operative game from Peter Yang, Seppy Yoon, and Fight in a Box in which you are a member of the Temporal Intergalactic Armed Response Agency (TIARA) who dresses for battle, then faces off against "the worst classic space problems: Invaders from Space, Giant Mecha-Monsters, and the dreaded Fashion Tyrant Mu-gahgah". (GF link)
Loam from Cardboard Revolution, you are a plant that wants to build healthy soils. Writes designer Max Helmberger, who is also a soil ecologist and biology lecturer at Boston University, "You have a lot more power and agency over your environment than humans often give you credit for. Use chemical inputs to sculpt the soil's weird and wonderful biodiversity to assemble vibrant ecological communities." (GF link)
• 9th Circle seems like a radical departure from R&R Games' usual fare, with this design from Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta putting you in the role of a demon lord who uses minions to gain control of various parts of the eighth circle so that you can use those powers to gain favor with Malacoda, that is, a bad ending. (KS link)
Leviathan Wilds from Justin Kemppainen and Moon Crab Games challenges 1-4 players to scale gigantic creatures that are depicted on a two-fold spread in a spiral-bound notebook to remove the crystals that bind them.
Each player has a unique deck of multi-use cards, and they also represent your ability to hold on to the leviathan; run out of cards and you fall to a rest point, which resets your deck. The bound leviathans resist your efforts to free them with a deck of effect cards that gain strength over the course of play. (KS link)
• In Asteroid Dice from Camden Games, players play cards to compete for the giant squishy die of their choice, then roll them on the table — or smash them against already rolled dice — to try to get the high number. (KS link)
• We'll close with a non-game project from BGG's own Chad Krizan and his wife Caylyn, who run the company Puzzle Bomb and are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a trilogy of all-wood jigsaw puzzles titled "Party in the Back".
All three puzzles have multiple layers to them, with many different thematic images in the parts of the puzzle that will be buried once it's fully assembled. The images below give a taste of what these puzzles are like, with the KS campaign featuring animated GIFs that feature all the levels...should you wish to have them spoiled in advance.
- Carson City: Big Box
- Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII
- Pavlov's House
- Lanzerath Ridge
- Leviathan Wilds
- Asteroid Dice
- Conquest Princess: Fashion Is Power
- 9th Circle
- Xavier Georges
- Nicholas Cravotta
- Rebecca Bleau
- David Thompson (I)
- Justin Kemppainen
- Seppy Yoon
- Travis Magrum
- James Schoch
- Ian Moss
- Joel Colombo
- Peter Yang
- Max Helmberger
- R&R Games
- Dan Verssen Games (DVG)
- Quined Games
- Fight in a Box
- Cardboard Revolution
- Moon Crab Games
- Camden Games
- Jellybean Games
Tue May 30, 2023 10:00 pm
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Cross the United States in Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West
30 May 2023
Roughly a week after publisher Days of Wonder teased a Ticket to Ride legacy game, it's now officially announced Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, a game for 2-5 players from Alan R. Moon, Rob Daviau, and Matt Leacock.
Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:Quote:In Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, players embark on twelve journeys across North America as 19th century pioneers. The campaign begins on the East Coast, with players working their way to the West from one adventure to the next, meeting challenges along the way. As in Ticket to Ride, completing your tickets will remain your primary goal, but you will need to develop other skills if you hope to overcome the unexpected events and your resourceful rivals. Game after game, route after route, you will continuously fill your vault with earnings. As the story progresses, you will open frontier boxes that unlock new rules, content, and many more surprises.For hints of what's inside the box, the components list includes 13 frontier game boards, 7 event cards, 6 newspaper cards, 77 postcards, a story deck, and a conductor's toolbox.Frontier boxes
In the Legacy style, Legends of the West is a unique experience molded by player choices. Each player has their own role to play, allowing them to change the way the story unfolds around them. Combined with evolving mechanisms that change as the game progresses, players will have a new experience every time they gather around the board.Sample tickets
At the end of the twelve games in this legacy campaign, you will have transformed your game into a unique copy that you can continue playing for a lifetime.
Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West will be demonstrated at Gen Con 2023 in August and released in fourteen language editions on November 3, 2023, bearing a US$120 MSRP.
Tue May 30, 2023 6:06 pm
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In that spirit, I thought I'd talk about my hit of the show for BGG.Spring 2023, which ran May 26-29. That game is Mind Up!, a card game from Maxime Rambourg and Catch Up Games that I played eight times on a review copy with all player counts from three to six. I wrote about Mind Up! in February 2023, noting that it has "a simple premise and lots of interactivity", while adding "Sounds like a recipe for what I want to see on the table!" — and that expectation was resoundingly met.
For reference, let's look at a six-player game that's one turn into a round:
To win, you want points. Over the course of a round, you collect seven cards. My first collected card above is pink; if I get more pink, those cards will go in the same pile, and if I collect a new color, it gets placed in the next column over. At the end of a round, each card is worth points based on where it's placed — in this case, 3-4-1-5-2 points per card — with bonuses and minuses affecting the sum.
On a turn, you all play a card from your hand simultaneously, then you arrange those cards in order from low to high underneath the cards already on the table, then you collect the card above the card you played. The played cards become the targets for the next turn. After six turns, you place the last card in your hand into your collection. Score those cards, then pick them up because those seven cards form your hand for the next round! After three rounds, whoever has the most points wins.
Everything about this design clicks for me:
• You can explain the game in a couple of minutes.
• You interact with others directly by competing for items in a common pool.
• You generally know what others want — if they have green on the 5 card, they want more green! — giving everyone clarity about other players' goals...which informs your own decision.
• You feel the impact of having more or fewer players at the table, so player count is meaningful rather than merely being an indication of how many components are in the box.Playing with three gives you more control, but fewer card options
• Your action matters twice, determining which card you collect now while creating a target for next time, whether one to avoid or pursue.
• You start in a fog that disperses over the course of play; no new cards enter the game, so while initially you know only that the deck contains cards numbered 1-60, after the first round you've seen all the cards, you know which colors are plentiful and which are short, and (in theory) you know all the numbers in play. (**Correction below)
• You don't really know all the numbers unless your memory is far better than mine, so you're forced to act from intuition rather than calculating the perfect move.
• You are repeatedly surprised, both positively (which makes you feel good about your choice for that turn — "I'm smart!") and negatively (which you shake off because the "luck" of who played what just didn't fall your way — "Maybe next time!").
• You build toward that final card play, ideally ending on a high note. (Again, "I'm smart!")
• You shuffle the scoring cards each round — for example, this round they're 5-4-2-1-3, then they're 1-5-2-3-4, then 3-1-2-4-5 — which affects how you play your hand and heightens the lottery feel of the game.
• You end at just the right time, late enough that you get to use knowledge learned during play, but not so long that you feel like you're repeating yourself.
6 nimmt!, Wolfgang Kramer's classic card game from 1994 in which players each play a card from their hand simultaneously on a turn, after which the cards are lined up, with players hoping that their card doesn't land in the wrong spot.
What was interesting is that some players said they liked 6 nimmt! and enjoyed Mind Up! just as much, if not more, and some players said they hated 6 nimmt!, but enjoyed Mind Up! despite the similarities. I think those latter feelings come from two elements. First, in 6 nimmt!, scoring is all negative. The best you can hope for on a turn is playing a card and having nothing happen to you. It's a game of avoidance and (ideally) schadenfreude, whereas in Mind Up! you collect a card each turn that (almost always) adds to your score. Sure, you might have wanted the blue for 5 points, but you got an orange for 3 points that bears a +1 bonus, so that's almost as good.My best round of the show: 39 points
Second, the cards cycle in Mind Up!, giving you additional reasons for deciding what to play when. Perhaps only two purple cards are present in a three-player game, and you have one in hand that you can play now, then likely collect next time to fill your 1 slot. That increases the chances of the other cards you collect landing in more valuable spots. Of course that plan might not work, but you can still make such plans, especially if you can also track some of the numbers in players' hands. I could recall the three or four lowest and highest cards so that helped a bit in terms of assessing whether I might get sniped or when it was safe to play a particular card to grab something on the end of the row.
I mentioned a lottery earlier, and Mind Up! very much feels like you're gambling. You play the odds that your card will end up in the position you want, akin to playing a slot machine and hoping for three cherries. Sometimes you play the 21 in a six-player game, and it is unexpectedly the highest card played — which creates a nice "How did that happen?!" moment — and sometimes you hit perfectly, prompting a clenched fist "Yes!" before you grab your treasure.Three-way tie, which Michelle won by having the largest score in the final round
Scores in a round have ranged from a low of 18 to a high of 41, but they're often relatively close, giving you the feeling that one big score in the final round can still propel you to victory.
I was slightly misleading earlier when I said everything about this design clicks for me. I've yet to play with the optional objective cards. The game includes 14 such cards, and you can lay out a new one at random each round or leave out multiple ones for the entire game. I understand that variability is a selling point for publishers, but so far I feel like I'm getting all the variability I need from the base game and don't want to add unneeded distractions.
Here's a sampling of the objective cards from the English rulebook:You don't use objective cards bearing the same letter
Note that despite the existence of an English rulebook from the publisher, currently only a French edition exists, having been released by Catch Up Games in mid-May 2023. Many titles from this publisher have been licensed for release elsewhere in the world, so perhaps it will show up in different editions down the road.
I brought only a few games with me to play at BGG.Spring 2023 — after all, we have a library on site with several thousand games that attendees can borrow — and I'm grateful that Mind Up! was one of them as I got to share it with many people and (I hope) helped them have a good time.•••
Additionally, he pointed out something I missed in the slim rulebook: "Players are actually supposed to draw a new card at the beginning of round 2 and 3. It hampers the players who could really count all cards, though I feel it doesn't negate your point that you do have a clear idea of which colors are numerous or not in play. I totally see how the variant of not drawing a card is interesting to give a bit more control."
Inadvertently, for Mind Up! I have replicated a variant for 6 nimmt! in which you use only cards numbered from 1 to 10x+4, with x being the number of players. This gives you complete information about the cards in the game, allowing you to track everything that's been played if that's your jam.
I'm fine with surprises and playing the odds, so as much as I already like the game, playing with all of the rules will probably be better, both for the spice that comes from swiping a card that an opponent didn't think could be swiped and for potentially higher scores in each round, giving players more hope for a comeback and greater odds of reaching the end of the line in a 3-1-2-4-5 layout.
Mon May 29, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Revisit Black Friday, Play Seasons in Holly Oak, and Flip for Freaky Frogs From Outaspace
27 May 2023
written about Faiyum: Privileges, but it turns out that designer Friedemann Friese of 2F-Spiele has at least three other items that will be released by SPIEL '23 in October.
Black Friday is a revised edition of Friese's 2010 stock market game of the same name...or named Schwarzer Freitag if you have the German edition. In this game, 2-5 players try to gain as much gold as possible by dealing in shares before the huge stock market crash. Ideally you can earn cash by cleverly buying and selling shares, thereby manipulating the market development and share prices, then spend it on gold to lock in your wealth.
Black Friday includes an independently acting opponent, the M.I.B.S. (minimally intelligent broker service), that you can use or not depending on the number of players in the game.
• Friese has released a few solitaire games over the years — Friday, Finished!, and 5x15 — and now he's releasing a new one: Freaky Frogs From Outaspace, a card game that simulates a pinball machine. An intro:Quote:Try to keep playing as long as possible, relying both on skill and luck. If everything runs perfectly, you will start the nerve-wracking Multiball, or you gain an Extra Ball to play an additional round.Rio Grande Games plans to release all three of the titles above in North America.
This game can be unfair, exactly like a real pinball machine. Sometimes you lose a ball very quickly without having any opportunities to aim at the targets: Bad luck!
Do not give up if you initially score only 1,000 points. From game to game you will get better. Score Bumpers, hit the Ramps, and possibly activate the Multiball...and you will get to scores of 100,000+ points, just like with a real pinball machine.
Fancy Feathers will see an expansion — It is getting colorful! — that features six new types of animal cards. You play by choosing any six types of cards in the game, so you can add these to the mix, giving you 18 types from which to choose.
Like the base game, the expansion is for two players, but additional copies can used to accommodate up to six players.
• To expand on Rio Grande Games' offerings, the publisher plans to release Prussian Rails, a new edition of John Bohrer's German Railways, which originally debuted in 2008 as Preußische Ostbahn in the second half of 2023.
• In that same time period, Rio Grande plans to release Holly Oak, a seasonal trick-taking game Tom Lehmann in which 3-5 revelers mark the passing of the seasons, seeking the favor of the Oak and Holly kings. In game terms, trump rotates with the seasons as spring becomes summer, then summer becomes fall or autumn (depending on where you live).
Sat May 27, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
IDW Games announced Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game from Emerson Matsuuchi, stating that the game was "Coming 2019". Here's an overview of this 1-4 player game:Quote:Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game is a fully co-operative, miniatures board game. Following the story of the first Metal Gear Solid video game, players take on the roles of Solid Snake, Meryl Silverburgh, Dr. Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, and Gray Fox the Cyborg Ninja and need to use their unique skill sets to avoid detection as they complete objectives across multiple campaign scenarios. Featuring a highly dynamic A.I. system and sandbox gameplay, missions can be completed in multiple ways and always play out differently.Then more than two years passed.
In February 2021 Matsuuchi announced that IDW Games would not be releasing the design:Quote:The rights to the design were finally given back to me a few weeks ago. So I have reached out and enlisted the help of a friend that is a bonafide expert in licensing and has connections with Konami. We're working to keep this project alive and exploring possible options. While there are no guarantees that our efforts will bear fruit, I'm still optimistic that we will be able to get the MGS game to market, to the patient fans that have been kept waiting.If you are one of those patient fans, your patience is now being rewarded ...sort of, as you still have to wait at least one more year.
CMON has announced that it plans to release Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game in May 2024, with a pre-order open now for the "Integral Edition" of the game that includes a graphic novel that illustrates each mission, as well as a 13 cm tall "Metal Gear REX" miniature.
CMON notes that the game's 14-mission campaign will be the same in both the retail edition of the game and the "Integral Edition". Additionally, it clarifies that "all exclusive promos are exclusive to this Pre-Order (or crowdfunding platforms), with remaining stock available through conventions and special promotions only", so maybe "exclusive" isn't quite the right word.
For more on the game, you can check out this interview with Matsuuchi (and IDW's Spencer Reeve) at Gen Con 2019:
Thu May 25, 2023 5:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
KENDi is a German publisher founded in February 2023 by Franz Jurthe, who was previously the managing director at Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag (NSV). At KENDi, Jurthe has been joined by Steffen Benndorf, who designed two of NSV's biggest hits: Qwixx and The Game, and Reinhard Staupe, who had been a game editor at NSV since 2012, in addition to being a designer himself.
The goal of KENDi is to publish designs similar to what they used to do at NSV. As Staupe said in an interview with Michael Weber for Reich der Spiele:Quote:This is mainly due to my own vision: I generally like developing simple games, both as an editor and as a writer. In other words, games that use simple means to bring as many people as possible to the table and build a bridge. In terms of game mechanics, I'm always looking for a reduction to the essentials. The perfect example of this is The Mind. Almost no rules, ingenious and bold. A spectacular shared experience easily accessible to everyone.In that interview, Staupe mentions that Qwixx, The Game, and The Mind have all sold more than a million copies and they "have such great potential that they will certainly continue to be represented on the market at a very high level."
The publisher's name, by the way, originates from a shortening of "I kenn' di", which is apparently the Bavarian way of saying "Ich kenne dich", which means "I know you" — which is appropriate since the three main parties have worked with one another for more than a decade. (I have Bavarian friends living nearby, and they've mentioned that Bavarian German is almost unintelligible to Germans elsewhere, so it's almost like they speak two languages since they also speak "regular" German. I felt similarly confused when I visited southern Mississippi long ago, barely understanding anything I heard despite me living in Tennessee at the time. Dialects are fascinating...)
KENDi launched with three titles in April 2023 at the SPIEL DOCH! game fair in Dortmund.
• The short description of Benndorf's Get It!, a card game for 3-6 players, might be "Speed Hanabi Mind". To explain:Quote:Your goal as a team in Get It! is to play all of your cards in ascending numerical order. Sounds easy, doesn't it? However, you have only one minute to do so, and you are not allowed to speak...and you can't see your own cards — only the cards of the other players! Can you give the right signals and interpret your teammates' signals correctly to play everything in time?• Durchmarsch is a press-your-luck dice game from Staupe in which 2-4 players attempt to march through ("durchmarsch") a row of numbers on their player sheet:
To win, you need to complete six levels of play. For level 1, deal out ten cards from a deck numbered 1-40 as evenly as possible. Sort the cards face down (without showing anyone else) to stack the cards from low to high. Each player picks up their topmost card facing away from themselves so that it's visible to everyone else, then someone starts the timer. Whoever has the lowest card must play it. How will they know? Tell them with your eyes! If they play the card correctly, they pick up their next card, then you all figure out who plays next; if not, restart the level, losing the game if you fail a second time.
If you complete the level by playing all cards correctly, add the special cards for level 2 — smile cards — and deal 13 cards. Special cards can be stacked anywhere in a player's pile other than the topmost card. When a player holds a special card, that's considered the lowest card in play. Each level adds new special cards, such as the mirror and a second copy of some number cards, and more cards dealt to players. Make it through 25 cards in one minute at level 6, and you win!Quote:Each player has a sheet of paper with four rows of numbers from 10 to 1. If you cross off all the numbers in a row, you win!• The Choice is another dice-rolling game from Staupe, with 2-4 players choosing how to use the dice results each turn:
On your first turn, roll the eight dice, then see whether you can use two dice to sum to 10. If you can mark a 10, you either:
—Set aside one die, and roll the remaining dice, hoping that two dice add up to a 9; if so, mark the 9 in the current row, then make this decision again for the 8, and so on. You never set aside more than three dice in total.
—End your turn, passing all eight dice to the next player.
If you end your turn, on your next turn roll all eight dice and hope to mark off the leftmost unmarked number in your current row. To mark off 7-10, you need two dice that sum to this number; to mark off 1-6, you need one die that matches this number.Image: Spellenclub Incognito
If you ever fail to mark off a number, mark the "misthrow" box at the end of the current row; next turn, roll the eight dice and hope to be able to mark the 10 in the next row down. If you have marked a misthrow in all four rows, start on the top row once again, trying to mark off the leftmost unmarked number. If you misthrow again in this row, mark through the row completely. If you mark through all four rows, you're out of the game.
If any player crosses off all the numbers in a row, they win. If no one manages to cross off an entire row during the course of the game, whoever remains in the game the longest wins.Quote:In The Choice, each player receives a pen and a sheet of paper from the game pad. Each side of the paper shows an area with 13 hexagons, each filled with a number, surrounded by a ring of 16 hexagons, each filled with a color. Start on whichever side you want; you use both during play.
On a turn, the active player rolls three dice, then can re-roll any number of dice once. Each die has the numbers 1-6 with a different color on each side. After the roll, all players use these dice to mark off hexes on their sheet. For each die, you can use either the number or the color; additionally, you can sum numbers on the dice, which will be required since the numbers in the hexes go up to 12.
However, once you mark a colored hexagon, you can mark only the adjacent colored hexagons from that point on. Similarly, when you first mark a number, circle that number. The next number you mark must be in an adjacent hex; draw a line that connects this number to the circle. With each subsequent number marked, you must extend the line, never crossing it or revisiting a marked space.Image: Suzan
If the active player can't use all three dice, they mark a misthrow box on their sheet; the same is true for non-active players who don't use at least two dice. When you mark all three misthrow boxes, flip your sheet, then start marking the other side on the next turn; you can also choose to flip your sheet before you get three misthrows.
When any player has three misthrows on their second side, the game ends, and players tally their points for each side, summing those values. The more hexes you mark off, the better your score!
Thu May 25, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Days of Wonder has dropped a 28-second teaser video — only on the accursed Facebook, alas — that seems to promise a legacy version of Ticket to Ride courtesy of designers Alan R. Moon, Matt Leacock, and Rob Daviau.
The only info so far from the publisher: "This fall, embark for a once-in-a-lifetime journey!"
Screenshots from the video:
I can't help but offer a reminder that publishers should never use seasonal release dates given that fall for me won't be fall for someone in the southern hemisphere. Think globally, act locally...by timing globally!
Update: June 1, 2023: On May 30, Days of Wonder announced Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West.
Wed May 24, 2023 6:05 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Steve Jackson Games has published its annual stakeholder report for 2022, with gross income from the year being "a bit north of $4.7 million". Notes outgoing CEO Phil Reed: "We could have booked a small profit; for tax purposes we dumped some slow-moving inventory and showed a small loss. (Let's see a Fortune 500 company give you a report that explicit, never mind doing it in two sentences.)"
Two sections of the report are worth quoting as they mimic what I hear from other publishers and go hand-in-hand with one another:Quote:Direct SalesI've written about publisher frustrations with distribution previously, but the topic was on the lips of many once again at GAMA Expo 2023, with publishers making strong pushes to retailers to place direct orders.
As distribution sales continue to...change?...we have explored more direct sales opportunities. There are few things as frustrating as hearing "when does this come out?" when the game in question shipped months ago, so we devoted more energy to growing our direct sales – to gamers and retailers – in 2022. Our new Shopify store went into testing late in the year. We put an awful lot of work into every game, and we want to make sure that you find out about it. We'd love it if you buy it, too, but first you have to find out about it.
We had another strong year on Kickstarter, running a lot of large and small campaigns and seeing success in every single one. Kickstarter the marketplace has been good to us, and Kickstarter the corporation has become a valuable partner.
A downside that didn't become apparent until the year was over: Some people saw how much we were using Kickstarter and assumed that we had to do it for cash flow. Nope! We did it because it got a lot of games into the right hands and let us control inventory more effectively. The cash flow was just a lovely bonus.
In general, distributors don't care about moving specific products; they care about moving whatever they have on hand. I've heard that a distributor needs to move 90% of an item before it makes a profit on that item, and that threshold encourages distributors to keep less of any one particular item on hand. After all, hundreds of games are released each month, so why bother restocking game A when games B-F are on the way? We sold out of A, which means we made a profit on it, so let's not re-open that door and risk having goods stuck on hand.
As a result, distributors don't have an incentive to push any particular product, which is a letdown for publishers since they would very much appreciate distributors pushing their products to retailers. Since that's not happening, publishers are promoting direct sales to retail stores — not specifically to cut out the middleman, but to ensure that a store that wants a particular item will have access to it. (I've seen plenty of stores complain that game X is unavailable from distributor Y and Z, with the publisher responding that game X is in stock at their warehouse, so...drop us a line.)
That "direct sales to store" approach would be ideal if not for three things:
1. Time: Ordering directly from publishers takes more time than ordering from distributors since you need to deal with each publisher independently. (This is one reason people order tires, honey, and socks in one go from Amazon rather than shopping at three stores.)
2. Space: Even with all the time in the world, a retail store has a fixed volume, and it can't possibly carry every game available, especially since a direct purchase from a publisher is typically for a full case (usually six or twelve copies), whereas a distributor will sell in smaller quantities. This is one advantage of ordering from distributors; you can keep a single copy of a game on hand, replacing it as needed.
3. Money: This ties into the space issue. If you order a case from a publisher, you'll likely pay less per copy than buying from a distributor — but you're buying more copies, and if those copies don't turn quickly, then you have money locked on the shelf that could be used for something else.
(A store's "turn rate" is effectively how many times it sells through its inventory in a year. If you have $50,000 of inventory on hand, and the cost of the goods you sold was $200,000, then your turn rate is 4 (200,000/50,000). To increase your turn rate, you can lower inventory on hand, carry only the top-selling products, do a better job of selling games, improve your marketing, etc. Having a high turn rate doesn't necessarily mean you're profitable since that depends on what you earned from selling those goods, what your other costs were, and so on, but better a high turn than low.)
(When I worked at a game store in the early 1990s, I vastly beefed up the miniatures and RPG section by bringing in older items that the distributors still had on hand, and while sales shot up due to the wider variety, the turn rate dropped a lot, which earned me a call from management as they wanted a higher rate. Placing smaller orders more frequently would lessen the cost of inventory on hand at any one time, while ideally still leading to more sales due to more diverse stock. This took more time on my part, but so be it.)
Thus, even when retailers do order directly from publishers, they don't tend to order everything from publishers — only high-volume games that turn consistently thanks to what's hot in their local market, promotion at game days, etc. They order the rest from distributors, and they still don't buy everything on the market...so if you're a publisher, you start looking for the even more direct route of selling directly to individuals. Hence Kickstarter.
After all, if I'm a fan of designer Y or game Z from publisher Ω, I will likely be looking from more, so why not market to me directly with whatever you have to sell. Maybe my local store doesn't carry your games, maybe I don't have a local store — doesn't matter. You don't know my circumstances; only that game Z has sold ∑ copies, which gives you some idea of how many expansions or spinoffs or similar games from designer Y you might sell, with the crowdfunding campaign giving the additional bonus of solid pre-order numbers, plus capital up front.
announced in 2022 that it would keep running annual campaigns for Thunderstone Quest expansions "as long as there's customer support". (Retailers in its "Alpha Store program" can also purchase these titles.) Apparently enough Thunderstone Quest players exist to support the design and development of new expansions, but not enough to support efforts to place those expansions in distribution.
AEG is using a similar sales tactic with a crowdfunding campaign for a quartet of expansions that I covered in mid-May 2023. I've seen comments from people who feel that AEG is too big to use crowdfunding for this campaign, that those games are wildly successful and it makes no sense to crowdfund them, but I would wager everything I own that these people have no idea how many copies of each game have been sold and what percentage of those games' owners purchase expansions. These people think they know how to run AEG's business better than AEG does, and I would suggest they are wrong.
Through this campaign, AEG can sell those expansions directly to players, get a better idea of how many to produce, and possibly pick up new players for those games thanks to the discovery process on Kickstarter. The same is true for pretty much every crowdfunding campaign out there, and it's why companies like CMON and Queen Games continue to run them. They want to boost their turn rate, so they're making decisions to improve the chances of that happening.
As PAX's Matt Morgan succinctly noted on my earlier AEG coverage: "No publisher should have to justify their use of crowdfunding. It serves an invaluable purpose for both big and small creators."
That said, naturally you have no obligation to support such campaigns. You can decide that company ∂ is untrustworthy based on past crowdfunding efforts, or it has too many open campaigns, or you don't want to pay today for games at some unknown time, or you've been burned by crowdfunding in general, or you want to actually play the game first, or whatever.
Just as companies have the freedom to use crowdfunding, individuals have the freedom to avoid companies using crowdfunding — but anyone complaining about company ∂ running a crowdfunding campaign is noise in the wind. It seems foolish to think that any of us know better than the publishers themselves when it comes to making decisions about what's best for their financial well-being...just as I would hope that others don't argue about me making decisions about what's best for my financial well-being.
• Okay, that was longer than I had originally intended, so let's close with the first video from new YouTube channel Above Board TV:
Wed May 24, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls