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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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