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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

Archive for W. Eric Martin

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New Game Round-up: Pizza in Naples, Pictures in Codenames, Broadsides in Merchants & Marauders, and Multilingual Maids in Tanto Cuore

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• In mid-March 2016, I mentioned an upcoming title in Quined Games' Master Print Series — Papà Paolo by designer Fabrice Vandenbogaerde — but knew nothing about the design beyond those bare facts. Now Quined has filled in some of the details:

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Papà Paolo brings you to the beautiful city of Naples, birthplace of one of the world's favorite dishes: pizza.

In Papà Paolo, 2 to 4 players compete to deliver the most pizzas to the hungry customers of Naples. To do this, you must outsmart your rivals by being a clever investor, bidding on the right city tiles, and creating your own little district of Naples.

Over the course of five game rounds, players first have to plan their actions carefully, choosing whether they want to invest in new pizzerias, make express deliveries, get sponsored by the bank, or decide to expand their district. Once all players have used up their action tokens, players get rewarded by receiving Lira, which they can then use in a bidding phase to determine how many deliveries you can make, and how many pizzas you can deliver. Once you deliver pizzas to your hungry customers, they reward you by boosting your abilities, making each action more powerful as the game progresses.

Z-Man Games has announced a Gen Con 2016 debut for Merchants & Marauders: Broadsides from Josh Cappel that bears this brief description: "Set in the Merchants & Marauders universe, Broadsides is a standalone game in which the two opposing players need to carefully choose between defending their ship and unloading everything they've got on the enemy."

• As many have anticipated, Z-Man Games will release Matthias Cramer's Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche in English. No word on a release date at this point.

Tasty Minstrel Games noted in its April 5, 2016 newsletter that it's acquired the rights to both Iori Tsukinami's area-control, trick-taking game Joraku from Moaideas Game Design and Jesse Li's Ponzi Scheme from Homosapiens Lab.

Japanime Games plans to use Kickstarter to produce versions of the deck-building game Tanto Cuore and its standalone expansions (Expanding the House, Romantic Vacation and Oktoberfest) in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and any other language in which it can gain the financial support of at least 250 backers.

• Dale Yu, editor at Opinionated Gamers, has posted a pic of one of the many prototypes that will show up at The Gathering of Friends, an annual invite-only convention run by designer Alan R. Moon. The convention started simply as a way for friends to play together, but it's evolved over the years into a platform for designers to pitch to publishers and publishers to showcase upcoming games, such as Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames Pictures from Czech Games Edition.

I got a glimpse of this design at Spielwarenmesse 2016, but it was still in rough form, so I have nothing to say about it beyond my continued admiration at the malleability of Chvátil's Codenames. The design is a delightfully interactive 5x5 shell that can be — and has been — filled with almost everything that people can imagine, and I'm curious to see what twists have been brought to the game in this iteration.

Image: Dale Yu
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Fri Apr 8, 2016 4:07 pm
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New Game Round-up: Details on Star Trek: Ascendancy, and the Return of Zendo (Maybe)

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Gale Force Nine has finally released more information about Star Trek: Ascendancy, a design from Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski and Sean Sweigart for which we previously had only the briefest of overview videos recorded at BGG.CON 2015. Here's what we now know:

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Boldly go where no one has gone before. In Star Trek: Ascendancy — a board game of exploration, expansion and conflict between the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire, and the Romulan Star Empire — you control the great civilizations of the Galaxy, striking out from your home worlds to expand your influence and grow your civilization. Will you journey for peace and exploration, or will you travel the path of conquest and exploitation? Command starships, establish space lanes, construct starbases, and bring other systems under your banner. With more than 200 plastic miniatures and 30 star systems representing some of the Star Trek galaxy's most notable planets and locations, Star Trek: Ascendancy puts the fate of the galaxy in your hands.

The great unknown lies before you; with every turn is a new adventure as your ships explore new space systems, encounter new life forms and new civilizations, make wondrous discoveries, and face challenging obstacles, all drawn from the vast fifty year history of Star Trek. Will you brave the hazards of Rura Penthe to harvest vital resources, race to develop Sherman's Planet before your rivals stake their claim, or explore they mysteries of the Mutara Nebula on an ever-growing, adaptive map of the galaxy. With an infinite combination of planets and interstellar phenomena, no two games of Star Trek: Ascendancy will ever play the same!

GF9 plans to release Star Trek: Ascendancy in Q3 2016, with two expansion sets — Cardassian Union and Ferengi Alliance — due out before the end of 2016. GF9 notes that it plans to post new information about the game each week on its website.



• In mid-March 2016, I posted an overview of Imperial Settlers: 3 Is a Magic Number — the next mini-expansion for Ignacy Trzewiczek's Imperial Settlers, which includes new cards for all five factions — and now Portal Games has announced a May 25, 2016 worldwide release date for this $16 item.

• In a press release announcing a new demo program for brick-and-mortar game stores, Stronghold Games teased three additional releases forthcoming in 2016, one with the unhelpful name "To be announced" while the other two are Kraftwagen: V6 Edition and The Fog of War. Asked for details, Stronghold's Stephen Buonocore promised information sometime later in April 2016.

• In its Kickstarter for Pyramid Arcade, Looney Labs notes that if the KS reaches $100,000 in support, it will start work on "a follow-up project called Zendo Arcade for 2017". Kory Heath's Zendo is not included in Pyramid Arcade as that game requires many full stashes of pyramids in a narrow range of colors in order to work well. From the project description: "This number covers the total cost of development and printing of the first 5,000 Pyramid Arcade sets. Bringing in this amount both ensures that we have the cash available to immediately start working on Zendo Arcade and convinces us that there is enough market interest to go forward with this project."
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Thu Apr 7, 2016 7:30 pm
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New Game Round-up: Sharks, Wonders, Juggalos, and the Start of a New Season for Baseball Highlights: 2045

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• Everyone always talks about this game or that one jumping the shark, but what are you going to do when the sharks start flying through the air, hunh? Try to jump them then, and they'll tear your stomach out!

Why would the sharks be in midair, you ask? Due to all the tornadoes swarming around, duh! Thankfully you can stay safely inside, and experience all of these terrible things from afar thanks to Sharknado: The Board Game!, a cooperative design based on the Sharknado movie franchise on the Syfy channel that features multiple scenarios and everything you'd expect based on this game's origins, including chainsaws, bombs, loss of limbs, and (of course) plenty of hungry sharks.

This Eric Cesare and Anthony Rando design from Devious Devices is due to hit Kickstarter in Q2 2016 ahead of a release in late 2016.

Czech Games Edition editor/developer Paul Grogan notes that an expansion for Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization with alternative leaders and wonders that substitute for cards in the base game is in the works and will likely be shown at UK Games Expo in June 2016 — assuming that development has finished by then.

Into the Echoside from designers Robert Bruce and Louis Simpson and publisher Psychopathic Records "is a Juggalo version of a deck building game where players delve into the deepest levels of the Nethervoid, gain allies from some of the most notable characters in the Juggalo universe, and fight creatures of infinite evil to aid them in their quest to halt the evil that threatens to consume the mortal realm!" Juggalos, for those who don't know, are fans of the musical group Insane Clown Posse, which has been performing since 1989, and Into the Echoside is scheduled to debut on July 20, 2016 at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos.

• Mayfair Games has noted that as of April 1, 2016 "Asmodee North America will also be handling all customer service for component issues and rules questions" related to the Catan game line, even though Mayfair will "continue to facilitate events and sales of Catan during the 2016 convention season".

Eagle-Gryphon Games has announced Baseball Highlights: 2045 tournament kits for 2016 that include a Single Player Play Mat as a grand prize and a Double Player Play Mat as part of the kit that stores can use to organize the games. Both of these items are available for purchase separately ($25 and $50 respectively), and EGG also plans to eight new starter teams for Baseball Highlights: 2045: teams 17-24, representing Canada, UK, Pan Asia, the Caribbean Basin, and other locations.

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Tue Apr 5, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Roll the Dice in La Granja: No Siesta, Prepare to Flick Up Tomahawks, and Rattle, Battle on an Angry Ocean

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• On Brettspiel News, Daniel Krause has posted an overview of Matthias Cramer's revised version of Glen More following test games at Ratinger Spieletagen (a weekend gaming event) in March 2016. Krause notes that the design is still being developed, with the main change being a switch from three rounds of play with scoring at the end of each round to the inclusion of character tiles that trigger a scoring when acquired; in addition to this predetermined scoring, the player who takes the tile can choose whether to score chieftains, whisky, or tiles.

• Christoph Post of Brettspielbox also posted about Ratinger Spieletagen, and in addition to talking about "Glen More 2" (which is not the final name), he highlighted La Granja: No Siesta from Andreas Odendahl, which will be coming out from ADC Blackfire Entertainment and Stronghold Games. Here's an overview of that game from the designer:

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In La Granja: No Siesta, a standalone dice game following up the boardgame La Granja, players need to collect resources to cross them off on their scoring sheet in order to get the most victory points. They can hire helpers to use their special effects. They build a barn to store goods and sometimes they need to have a little time off and have a siesta!

The dice game singles out the dice mechanism from the board game and transfers it into a much lighter game. Every round the players roll the dice and draft them until everybody has at least three dice to score.

Once a player completes the siesta track, the game comes to an end. Whoever collected resources in the most effective way wins!

• In a mid-March 2016 post, I covered some of the forthcoming items from Portal Games, including something for Ignacy Trzewiczek's Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot. Well, turns out that European distributor ADC Blackfire Entertainment lists a Gen Con 2016 release date for something titled Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot: Scenario Pack – Angry Ocean. Portal Games has declined to share any info about this item right now.

Pretzel Games has announced a second expansion for Gaëtan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis' Flick 'em Up!, with Flick'em Up!: Red Rock Tomahawk scheduled to debut at Gen Con 2016. Here's an overview of this expansion, followed by a teaser video:

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The infamous Cooper clan has begun taking over small villages. Those villages, however, belong to the Native Americans who are armed with bows and tomahawks and ready to defend their land in five exciting scenarios — but they best be careful around the Cooper clan's new weapon: the relentless Gatling gun...

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Mon Apr 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Delivery Troubles, Narrative Games, and Animals on Stage

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• Designer Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games offers advice to first-time publishers — well, all publishers really — on the costs and trouble spots involved with shipping your games to backers of your Kickstarter project. An excerpt:

Quote:
The plan was to ship a few cases of the games to SFC for Asia/Australia/New Zealand fulfillment, and put the rest on the boat to go directly to the Amazon Fulfillment Center (FC). Additionally, there were two cases of promotional cards (blank Drug Cards) that were supposed to have been sent directly to me.

I didn't think this was a complex shipping plan. I now know it is. The plant put everything on the boat: games for U.S. backers, games for Asian backers, and my two cases of blank Drug Cards. As a result, any game going to backers in Asia had to circle the planet; they had to go from Asia to the U.S., and then to the UK, and then back to Asia.

In the future, for any shipping plan more complex than "put it all on the boat", I will request that the plant not ship anything until they confirm the shipping plan with me. That will hopefully prevent this sort of issue from recurring.

• Old news from the inbox: Joshua Kosman at San Francisco Chronicle weighs in with 2015's best board games for that paper's annual holiday buying guide. Which games get the "jumpy man" this year? Mysterium, Colt Express, Elysium, Mogul, Trambahn, and Isle of Skye.

• In The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Chabris delivers "The Inside Story on Narrative Games", highlighting what separates Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E Stories from other games:

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The legacy and narrative formats violate two familiar premises of most games: The rules never change, and you can play as many times as you want. Traditionally, a game is defined by its rules. If you don't let pawns turn into queens, you aren't playing chess, and if you make captures optional, you aren't playing checkers. The success of Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E. Stories shows that this rule itself was made to be broken.

• In The Seattle Times, an article by Tracey Lien is headlined "Artificial intelligence has mastered board games; what's the next test?" One answer: different types of games, namely those with incomplete information. From the article:

Quote:
"The game of two-player-limit Texas Hold 'em poker has almost been solved," said [Tuomas Sandholm, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies artificial intelligence], who described "solving" a game as finding the optimal way of playing it. "In the larger game of two-player no-limit Texas Hold 'em poker, we're right at the cusp of it. We currently have the world's best computer program, but we are still not better than the very best dozen or so humans."

• Carlo A. Rossi's Zoowaboo from Pegasus Spiele was featured on the German television show "Das Spiel beginnt!" in March 2016. In the game, animal cards are revealed one at a time after players have been presented with a raft. As long as everyone thinks that the animals can fit on the raft, another animal card is revealed. As soon as someone votes "No", then all those who voted "Yes" have a limited amount of time to make those animals fit.

On the show, kids competed against adults in eleven games, with one of them being a giant-sized version of Zoowaboo.


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Sat Apr 2, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Zombicide Creators Welcome Massive Darkness, Alderac Revisits Valley of the Kings, and Dice Hate Me Gets Meta

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Zombicide publishers Cool Mini Or Not and Guillotine Games have announced a new title by the designers of that game — Raphaël Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, and Nicolas Raoult — a dungeon crawl RPG titled Massive Darkness that will hit Kickstarter in mid-2016. Here's an overview of the game from the publishers:

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Massive Darkness brings the classic fantasy RPG experience to modern board gaming, with an action-packed campaign chock full of gorgeous miniatures and a streamlined system that keeps the focus on the heroes' actions, with no need for a game master to control the enemies.

Using the popular Zombicide system as a starting point, Massive Darkness adds all the richness of a dungeon crawl RPG. Pick your hero, choose a class, decide on which skills to spend your XP, and get loot by searching the dungeon or killing special enemies that can use the equipment against you! Face a multitude of different enemy types, coming in all shapes and sizes, whose behavior is resolved automatically...or you can try to sneak around enemies by taking advantage of dark areas of the map.

Players begin their adventure in Massive Darkness by picking a Hero – each with two special starting skills – and pair them with a Class of their choosing. Depending on the combination, another skill can be unlocked, giving players a wide range of choices and play styles. In Massive Darkness, the created Heroes go on Quests, killing monsters, collecting loot, and gaining XP. Players spend their XP to unlock new Skills, growing more powerful as the Quest progresses.

Throughout the game, players encounter different monsters, including Minions, Agents, Roaming Monsters, and Bosses. A unique mechanism of the game is the Guardian. Any of the monster types have a chance of spawning as a Guardian, meaning it will use a random piece of equipment in the fight against Heroes. However, if players are able to overcome this difficult encounter, they will acquire that piece of loot!



• We recorded a bunch of game overviews with Alderac Entertainment Group at the 2016 GAMA Trade Show (Mystic Vale, Love Letter Premium, the return of Guildhall, etc.), but the publisher has still more coming in 2016, including Ryan Miller's dice-rolling, hero-recruiting Fantahzee in August 2016 and Valley of the Kings: Last Rites, the third iteration of Tom Cleaver's deck-building card game Valley of the Kings, which introduces the various citizens and roles of people in the ancient Egyptian kingdom.

• In early March 2016, Greater Than Games announced the winners of its "_________: The _________ Game" contest, with the two winners being published under the Dice Hate Me Games brand, along with a third in-house design. The winners are:

Time Management: The Time Management Game from Nathaniel Levan: In this quick-playing, tile-laying game that serves as its own expansion, players are workers at the Office of Time Management, managing the space-time continuum. Their goal is to add temporal workers to the work force and arrange them in such a way to ensure the safety of the continuum and to save time — and save time!

Trick-Taking: The Trick-Taking Game from Tovarich Pizann and Bob West: The world's greatest magicians have been assembled to establish who is the best illusionist of all time — but as with all great magic, there is much sleight-of-hand afoot, and the magicians will use cunning and great mentalist powers to steal each others' tricks!

Traitor Mechanic: The Traitor Mechanic Game from Christopher Badell and Peter C. Hayward: Players are automobile mechanics, all working together to fix cars. However, one of them has been hired by a rival auto-shop to undermine their efforts and make this auto-shop go bankrupt. You must work together, fix the cars, and attempt to reveal just which one of you is the...traitor mechanic.

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Fri Apr 1, 2016 4:18 pm
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New Game Round-up: Riding the Rails in Europe, Fighting in Greece, and Rummaging Through the House

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• I thought that I had covered everything on Rio Grande Games' 2016 release calendar in a Feb. 2016 BGGN post, but here's another title coming down the rails: Orient Express from the husband-and-wife design team of Jeff and Carla Horger, who were also responsible for the 2015 release 20th Century Limited from Rio Grande. Here's a summary of the setting and gameplay:

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Europe is a continent that is both insular by nation and yet hopelessly entangled economically as a whole. You have decided to be a part of the growing railroad boom. All over the continent rails are needed to connect disparate regions for business and recreation. As your lines cover more ground it is likely that they be coveted by the very governments you have chosen to support. Eventually they will nationalize your work. Of course you will be well rewarded but your company will have to start all over with in new locations to keep moving ahead. Victory will come to those most able to merge the private and public demands. You may be the mogul that creates the Orient Express but eventually all of your hard work will become property of the people.

In Orient Express, players create passenger routes or some of the most famous railroads of Europe. When Regional Company routes are scored, they are removed from the board as those routes have been nationalized. The game is very flexible allowing players to choose what regions to build in and which ones to connect.

Djumble is a party game from designer Nicolas Bourgoin and publishers Cocktail Games and Asmodee that has a ridiculously simple concept that translates perfectly into memorable and bizarre experiences, which is something of a Cocktail Games trademark. Here's the overview:

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In Djumble, players reveal cards from the deck that have descriptions such as "green", "floats", or "weighs more than 1 kg", then everyone races around the house — or wherever they're playing — to find something that fits as many of these categories as possible, then they argue about which things fit best in order to score points.

To see the game in action, check out the demo video that Tric Trac recorded of Djumble being played inside an Ikea.

Osprey Games has been an interesting company to watch since its entry into the non-wargame market with Peer Sylvester's The King Is Dead in 2015 as you have no idea what to expect next. It has a decades-old, yet never before published game about stealthy submarines, a couple attempting to share memories that might be eaten, a more authentically Norse-looking game about racing ravens, a competition for Marie Antoinette's leftover cakes, and now a two-player design from Günter Cornett titled Agamemnon that's due out in August 2016 at the same time as the aforementioned Let Them Eat Cake:

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None can defy the will of the gods but the gods themselves. Driven by the bloodlust of their king, the Greeks have arrived at the shores of Troy. Some seek power, some seek revenge, while still others seek the great moment in battle that will define their place in history.

Agamemnon is a fast-paced strategy board game in which two players take on the roles of ancient Greek gods during the Trojan War. By tactically deploying warriors to where they're needed across the board, each player may influence the final outcome of the battles famously detailed in Homer's ''Iliad''. Some areas will be decided by the strength of the warriors, others by sheer weight of numbers, and some by the inspiration your heroes provide.

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Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:00 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2016: Movie Edition — The Godfather x2, Ghostbusters, Speechless, and Fast & Furious: Full Throttle

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• Both Cool Mini Or Not and designer Eric M. Lang announced many upcoming games at the GAMA Trade Show in mid-March 2016, and one place where those Venn diagrams of game announcements overlapped was The Godfather: The Board Game, which Lang describes as "thugs on a map", with players also having to manage the contents of their hand as anything extra they acquire will end up being handed over to the Godfather as tribute.





• As noted earlier in March 2016, multiple games based on The Godfather films have been announced. The Godfather: An Offer You Can't Refuse from Nate Murray of IDW Games and Nathan McNair of Pandasaurus Games is a Mafia-style hidden role game that sets the Corleone crime family against undercover policemen.





Cryptozoic Entertainment raised more than $1.5 million for Ghostbusters: The Board Game on Kickstarter, so it's not strange at all that they're bringing Ghostbusters: The Board Game II to the neighborhood. At GTS 2016, Cryptozoic's Sara Miguel showed off some of the new gameplay elements to be found in this standalone game.





Fast & Furious: Full Throttle from Jeff and Carla Horger and Game Salute presents players with a street-racing challenge that brings in characters from the movies to provide optional unique powers.





• Okay, I'm cheating here since Speechless the game from Mike Elliott and Arcane Wonders has nothing to do with Speechless the movie, but I posted the overview of the Back to the Future game the other day before realizing that I could pull together this themed post. Oh well.

In any case, Speechless is charades with a twist, with one player performing in silence while everyone else guesses in silence, possibly scoring from others' guesses along the way.

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Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Drill for Dregs, Cultivate a Garden, and Freeze in the Great Outdoors

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• Spanish publisher 2Tomatoes has licensed Peak Oil from designers Tobias Gohrbandt and Heiko Günther, with the game still being available in a print-and-play format now for those who want to try their hand at commodity speculation. Here's an overview of the design, which doesn't have an announced publication date yet:

Quote:
You are the top manager at one of the big oil companies, tasked with leading your enterprise into a future without oil. With peak oil looming ahead, you try to squeeze the last drops from oil fields around the world to gather the resources to invest into various oil replacement technologies. While you may try to emerge from the coming crisis by regular means, your competitors will most probably not, forcing you to dirty your hands as well.

On your turn in Peak Oil, you assign your agents to different action spots on the board. If your agents are in the majority at any given action spot, or you decide to send mercenaries to their help, they squelch the competition there and allow you to take the linked action. Actions include developing and harvesting oil fields, building pipelines, hiring new agents, buying new ship contracts, investing in oil replacement technologies, conducting PR campaigns, engaging in piracy, and manipulating public opinion and oil prices.

After some time, the oil — represented by a set number of small barrels you draw from a bag when developing new oil fields — will run out. This is called "peak oil" and marks the end of the game. Players tally the value of the technologies in which they invested and promoted during the game. Whoever shaped the future best (i.e. gained favor for their company) wins.


Blind Ferret Entertainment's two-player tile-laying game Orphans & Ashes includes "more miniature orphans than any other game on the market, guaranteed".

One Thousand XP is a new U.S. game publisher with a couple of designs forthcoming from podcaster (now designer) Chris Rowlands. Under My Bed is a microgame for 3-8 players in which one player is a child dressed in a monster costume and everyone else is a monster; the monsters want to determine which player is secretly the child, while the child needs to figure out which monster is hiding under the bed.

Rowlands' The Last Garden is a more traditional-sounding game:

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The world as we know it has ended. One woman is all that remains of the human race, and she is known only by her title: The Queen. As her final decree, The Queen aims to recreate the beautiful and lush gardens of her youth. However, there is very little moisture left, so The Queen will implement a new plan.

In her travels, The Queen has accumulated a collection of out-of-commission mining robots. She has reprogrammed them all into Robotanists and will use them to turn metal and rare gems into an elaborate garden. The Robotanist AI isn't the best, but they'll try as hard as they can to please their Queen. She doesn't quite remember exactly what the gardens look like, but she'll know it when she sees it. Until then, the Robotanists will work the mines, build the garden, and place gems as the all vie to be the Queen's favorite.

The Last Garden is a worker placement and betting game for 2-4 players. Each player controls a number of Robotanists as they seek to create a beautiful garden out of scraps and gems. On every turn, a player places a Robotanist onto the board and plays a card that shifts the structures in the garden or manipulates gems. At the end of a set number of days, the player who has gained the most favor wins.

Frostbite is the first release from Darrek Olson and Neanderthal Games, and it presents players with a challenging gaming environment:

Quote:
In Frostbite, players collect resources and assemble huts, but must be wary of the bitter cold while doing so. The weather changes constantly and the temperature keeps falling. Players must endure until the final shelters are created!

Each player has five action points per round to use for migrating, scouting, hunting, gathering wood, crafting shelter, and raiding other clans. Players migrate by moving their clan member tokens. They may gather wood only in forest regions and may hunt only in regions with wildlife. Hunting success is determined by die roll. When failing to kill wildlife, a card is drawn to determine the direction it runs away, possibly into another clan's territory. Once players have enough resources, they may build or upgrade shelters.

After each round, cards are drawn to decrease the temperature in different areas. Clan members die if they occupy a region that is too cold, but this may be mitigated by fur coats and shelters.

Only the clans that complete their villages will survive and claim victory.

Be sure to play in the winter with the windows open!
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Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:00 pm
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A Historical Perspective on Changes Announced by Asmodee North America

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April 1, 2016 is almost here, with that date being the start of Asmodee North America's new sales policies for U.S. hobby game retailers, whether brick-or-mortar retailer, online retailer, or both, so I thought I'd reflect on what's changing and why. These statements are my own (except when I quote someone) and are based on my experience in the industry and multiple interviews on and off the record; they do not reflect the opinion of my employer, BoardGameGeek LLC. With that in mind, let's go...

•••

In its March 2016 issue, Inc. profiled Pharma­packs, a $70 million retail business in the U.S. that sells a somewhat random assortment of items through the online marketplaces on eBay, Walmart.com, Overstock, and (most importantly) Amazon.com, from which Pharma­packs earns 40% of its revenue. Here's an excerpt from Burt Helm's article:

Quote:
[T]hey discovered that selling on a platform like Amazon was totally different from running their drugstore or even a standalone website... They could sell whatever they wanted, at whatever price, for whatever period of time. A marketplace vendor doesn't worry about stocking a full line of shampoos, or whether certain soaps are always on sale. If they want to sell lotion one week and hairspray the next, they can do that.

Early on, the guys decided that it would be easiest to offer whatever their suppliers had in stock. They built each online listing, and had a developer code a script that scraped the suppliers' databases to enter each product's information. When a customer ordered something, they in turn would order it from the supplier, pick it up, and then pack and ship it. That's still the model, more or less, though nowadays they order in bulk using sales projections and need three trucks and a van to pick everything up. Inventory often stays in their warehouse only for a few hours before going right back out the door. The business is less like traditional merchandising than it is like a commodities trader from a bygone era, buying and selling well-known goods and turning a profit on each transaction.

The article notes that Pharmapacks averages a 3-6% net profit margin per item that it sells, while making 570,000 shipments each month on an inventory of 25,000 different products.

What does this have to do with games? Well, let's turn the clock back to December 2015 when the newly-formed Asmodee North America announced that as of the start of 2016 it would allow only five distributors in the U.S. — ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply — to distribute its products to retailers within the country and that ANA "will be very selective as to which online merchants will be authorized to sell our products". While Pharmapacks doesn't retail games (as far as I can tell), it's an example of the type of company that ANA doesn't want handling its products — a business interested in short-term sales numbers with no consideration for long-term growth of the gaming hobby. To excerpt once again from the Inc. article:

Quote:
The next time you buy some humdrum product on Amazon, pause for a moment and check the Other Sellers listed on the right side of the page. That lip balm? Thirteen vendors offer it. Those vitamins? Twenty. As you click and shop, a battle rages in that little box, fought every day by entrepreneurs like [Pharmapacks'] Vagenas and Tramunti on practically every one of Amazon's 410 million product pages.

This is the Amazon Marketplace, where anybody can sell just about anything right alongside Amazon's own wares. Unlike eBay, where each vendor maintains a separate listings page, Amazon tidily groups its Marketplace sellers by item, hiding away the inferior offers, to showcase the best deals up front. (In seller parlance, landing the number-one spot is called "getting the buy box.") What looks so clean on your screen obscures the messy and massive jungle of the Marketplace: There are now more than two million sellers on Amazon. While the Seattle-based giant still sells the most popular items on the site itself, Marketplace sellers now ship nearly half of the products — about two billion items each year, all told — and those sales are growing twice as fast as Amazon's, according to the consultancy ChannelAdvisor. The Marketplace started in 2000 selling used books. In 2016, it's a retail phenomenon as significant as any in the past 50 years — together these sellers ring up what ChannelAdvisor estimates to be $132 billion in sales each year. That's more than Walmart sold in 1997. Yet we know so little about who they are.

For the most part, buyers are comfortable not knowing who is selling them these products. They want Product X at the cheapest price possible — or (alternatively) a cheap price convinces them that Product X will be a fine replacement for Product Y or Z — and they know that if something goes wrong, Amazon will reimburse them for the purchase price.

Manufacturers, on the other hand, may not be comfortable having their goods sold for bargain basement prices. As ANA CEO Christian T. Petersen stated in an interview with ICv2 in Dec. 2015: "When we, or one of our publishing partners, start development of a game product, we do so with a conviction that the product will have a certain value to the gamer, the consumer. On the basis of this expected value, we invest in design, creative inputs, safety testing, manufacturing, marketing, licensing, and the many other aspects of successfully getting a game to market." Having games sold a few percentage points over cost diminishes the perceived value of the item, especially when a retailer (or a distributor acting as a retailer, which has happened in the past) dumps overstock, thereby tanking the market for that game, which necessitates dumping by all the other distributors as well in order not to get stuck with dead goods.

Part of "successfully getting a game to market" involves that final step of getting the game into the hands of players. While Fantasy Flight Games (which Asmodee acquired in Nov. 2014) and Days of Wonder (bought by Asmodee in August 2014) sell games directly through their websites, for the most part these brands and parent company Asmodee North America sell product either directly to mass-market vendors (Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble) or indirectly to retailers through distributors, and once those vendors or distributors get hold of the games, there's no telling where they'll end up for sale or for how much — and that's part of what ANA intends to change through the imposition of its new sales policies. (Note that all of these changes affect the U.S. only, despite the "North America" in the company's name.)

By cutting the number of distributors it works with — and more importantly by requiring each brick-and-mortar retailer to agree to the terms of its Asmodee North America Specialty Retail Policy (PDF) and become an "Asmodee Specialty Retailer" — ANA has an easier time tracking who's buying what. By requiring online hobby retailers to purchase items directly from ANA, the publisher will have similar knowledge on that section of the marketplace.

(During a 45-minute off-camera interview at GAMA Trade Show in March 2016, Petersen noted to me that some online retailers would effectively by buying from ANA via proxy, as with, say, CoolStuffInc, which is almost adjacent to a warehouse owned by GTS Distribution. In cases like those, Petersen said it made sense to take advantage of the proximity of the distributor to serve that customer more directly. Petersen also acknowledged that online retail outlets with an established brick-and-mortar presence, such as CSI, could continue both operations under the new ANA policies as long as the businesses are legally separated and the inventory for each business kept distinct. ANA CMO Steve Horvath and ANA VP of Marketing Aaron Elliott also participated in this interview.)

What's more, ANA is changing the discounts at which games are available to its B&M and online clients, with B&M purchasing games at roughly a 45% discount off MSRP (based on their purchase volume with the distributor) and with online receiving a substantially lower (albeit unpublicized) discount off MSRP. At GTS 2016 as part of the ANA Keynote Address, Petersen spent fifteen minutes laying out his explanation for why ANA is changing its discount policy, reaching back to the 1980s to identify how stores used to be the hub for how people discovered and learned more about games. Petersen said that game publishers adopted a discount policy at that time similar to the comic industry due to games often being sold through those same distributors, and despite all the changes that have taken place over the last thirty years, that discount policy has never been revisited, even though (in Petersen's view) online sellers provide little service to buyers beyond the mere availability to games. (Detractors view this change in discount as something designed to "prop up" B&M stores; Petersen would counter that the online retailers are the ones who have been propped up by a discount that outweighs their service to buyers and this change will balance discount for services provided.)

Brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, enable the long-term success of ANA based on the availability of games, the introduction of games to people not already in the hobby, the introduction of new games to those already in the hobby, and the development of a gaming community based on shared playing spaces and events. Fantasy Flight Games, for example, has supported organized play events for years for multiple games. In 2015 alone, FFG sold more than 33,000 event kits to B&M retailers, with Elliott estimating that "between two and three times as many kit-less events occur, putting the total number of global events easily above 100,000 for 2015". Asmodee started its own organized play program titled AsmoPlay in 2015, and it's expanding that program in 2016. Organized play programs are designed to encourage B&M retailers to promote these titles to new and existing players, and if ANA has a better idea of which stores are selling which games (which it will), it can in the future tailor event programs to match those sales records or reach out to stores to encourage more participation in such events.

In our interview, Petersen stated that ANA doesn't have hard numbers for the breakdown of sales via B&M and sales via online outlets (something they hope to change once these policies go into effect), but I believe — and multiple talks with people at various levels of the hobby have confirmed — that the vast majority of game sales are made through B&M outlets. Why change discount policies if this is true? For the same reason that Mayfair Games instituted similar changes in 2007, and to cover that history lesson, I present this lengthy column that I published on BoardgameNews.com on October 30, 2007:

•••

Mayfair Games has announced a discount cap for its line of board and card games. What's relevant from the end user's point of view is that retailers must now offer no more than a 20% discount on Mayfair products or else risk losing the ability to carry Mayfair titles in the future. For reference, here's the announcement as it appeared on game industry forums:

Quote:
Dear Trade Customers,

Greetings from Mayfair Games! Our team wishes you all well. After all, we wouldn't be looking forward to our 27th year of publishing fine games without your strong, enduring support.

We're writing to you to outline our retail pricing policy. Our manufacturer's suggested retail prices ("MSRPs") reflect our firm belief in a healthy balance between "free trade" and "fair trade." Mayfair Games embraces and supports healthy competition. We feel that in order for our market — and thus our company — to prosper now and over the long term all our partners in the distribution chain need to respect this balance.

Whenever a firm threatens healthy competition among our trade customers, and thus endangers this balance, we must act in a vigorous, even-handed fashion to police the distribution and sale of our fine products. Mayfair Games doesn't intend to specifically dictate how its customers do business...but we will act in cases of predatory, irrational, or patently detrimental trade activity...

So, it's important that all of our trade customers know where we stand on pricing and discounting...

• Distributors should sell Mayfair Games products at no less than a 25% margin or no more than a 50% discount off MSRP.
• Retailers should sell Mayfair Games products at no more than a 20% discount off MSRP, or the appropriate ratio given exchange rates.

Trade customers that violate these guidelines shall be subject to sanctions. If necessary, we will cut them off.

We're well aware of the fact that our individual customers operate under individual circumstances. Some are more profitable than others. Some seek to establish themselves or need to acquire some critical market share. Mayfair Games understands, and sympathizes with, this reality.

At the same time, we've been in business long enough to know that that it's far better for us to encourage healthy competition rather than cutthroat discounting. Ours is not a mass-market business, nor is it a business based on inter-changeable widgets. Our wares are special, unique, premium games. Savage discounting is unnecessary and counter-productive for everyone in the mid-to-long term. While some individual consumers might benefit in the short-run, rabid discounting only acts to erode the profits and incentives necessary to keep our market healthy.

As it is, consumers receive great entertainment value for full MSRP. It's unnecessary — and even a bit insane — to subsidize folks who already enjoy a good deal. It is far healthier for us, our distributors, and our retailers to derive a healthy profit from the sale of our games than it is for us to see them dumped into the marketplace. Every viable firm in our distribution chain should collect its fair profit and have an incentive to further promote, buy, and sell our games.

Our trade customers should endeavor to increase their profit margins, not their discounts. They can thus improve service, which — along with the high quality of our games — should be the principal means of growing our market.

Mayfair Games asks all its trade customers to understand that we are partners in growing a healthy games market. Again, we want free and fair trade. It's healthy...for all of us. It's in our best interest...and in the best interest of the entire social game industry.

That's all for now. Take care.

For Mayfair Games,
Pete Fenlon
(CEO, Mayfair Games, Inc.)

The targets of this policy change — deep-discount online retailers — are clear (although anonymous), and the terms used to describe them and their practices are damning: "predatory, irrational, or patently detrimental"; "savage"; "rabid"; "a bit insane".

Response to the Mayfair announcement has been all over the place. BoardsandBits.com and Thoughthammer.com have announced that they'll abide by the new discount policy, while Boulder Games has vowed to stop carrying Mayfair titles. Retailers on one industry forum I frequent have applauded Mayfair and said that they'll demo the company's titles — such as the Catan line that relaunches in early November 2007 — more heavily over the holidays and beyond. Hardcore gamers on BoardGameGeek have run the gamut from personal boycotts to shoulder-shrugging. Casual gamers have no response because they don't even know about the policy change.

What's fascinated me the most are the predictions that gamers have posted on BoardGameGeek, most of which, quite frankly, are from people talking through their non-existent hats. Gamers with no retail business experience have posted ludicrous scenarios of how the Mayfair policy change will play out in the years ahead: Mayfair's sales will plummet, Mayfair will raise prices to make up for lower sales, Mayfair will have trouble signing designers due to lower sales, Mayfair will publish worse games in the future because other publishers won't want to license games to it due to its (say it with me now) lower sale volume.

How do I know these people have no retail business experience? Because they start their arguments with claims that contradict reality, and the surest way to reach faulty conclusions is to start with nonsense.

Chad Ellis of Your Move Games posted a long note on BGG detailing how retail works within the game industry, which I'll summarize for your education: Publishers typically sell product to distributors at 40% of the MSRP; distributors typically sell product to retailers at 50-60% of MSRP (with the discount dependent on the volume of business from the retailer and the goods purchased); retailers sell the product at 65%-100% of MSRP to customers.

Deep-discount online retailers are at the 65% end of the scale, offering customers 35% off the MSRP because they have relatively low fixed costs and want to encourage frequent, large, low-margin purchases. They make money on volume, so they want to move goods out the door as quickly as possible. Brick-and-mortar retailers fall on the 100% end of the scale, charging MSRP because they need the high margin on sales to cover their relatively high fixed costs. They make money on service, giving customers side benefits beyond the game itself to encourage repeat business.

Admittedly not all retail stores provide side benefits. Some of them feature no gaming space, no bulletin boards to find local gamers, no tournaments or open game days, employees or owners who don't know the games, poor return policies, no food or drinks for sale, no loyalty program, no preorder or special order program, and prices over MSRP. Some people have no game store at all within driving distance. Many people do have such stores nearby, however, and for these stores providing these types of services — along with electricity, garbage service, retail association fees, and so on — is part of the cost of doing business, a cost that must be covered by the margin on the products they sale.

Mayfair Games' open support for retail stores isn't new. In a May 2007 essay on ICv2, former CEO Will Niebling noted:

Quote:
The game market needs a healthy balance of core market and broad market retailers. The former serve as our consistent retail foundation, the latter as a means of occasionally reaching out to a broader audience. Titles that appeal to the latter still sell in the core market; however, it's not a two-way street. This means that in order to sell the games that generate much if not most of the profit that keeps the industry alive and healthy, manufacturers rely on shops both within and without the core game trade.

Online game discounters cater to a subset of the core hobby gamer. These individuals know which games are new, what the BGG ratings on these games are, and what BGG even is. They tend to be very price-conscious and view anything that will cost them more money as a personal affront. (Such as, oh, I don't know, convention previews that take hundreds of hours of work...) Their view of this announcement is that Mayfair is gouging them, that Mayfair is adding a premium to the cost of its games, that Mayfair is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage, that Mayfair is engaging in price-fixing and short-sighted business practices.

Hogwash, says I.

Starting with the last claim and working backwards, "price-fixing" refers to sellers who collectively decide to charge a set price for an item, a practice that typically happens with a highly desirable item in short supply. A hypothetical example: When Zooloretto won Spiel des Jahres, for example, and retailers became aware that the game was in short supply from Rio Grande, if they had talked amongst one another and decided to sell the few copies still in stock at $60, that would be an example of price-fixing.

Every company that provides product to retailers, either directly or indirectly, sells the product under certain conditions, some of which are spelled out in business contracts and some of which are implied. Retailers can't, for example, add a label to a product that promises something not included within the packaging.

One thing that companies can do in their business contracts is specify pricing terms for the products to be sold. Why are Apple computers and iPods the same price no matter where they're sold? Look to the contracts that Apple signs with distributors and retailers. Yes, a retailer still has the ability to sell a product at whatever price it chooses, but if it's violating the terms of the business contract it signed to get that product, it shouldn't expect to get more stock in the future. The retailer knows the terms going in, and if it disagrees with the terms, it shouldn't carry the product.

Why do companies set pricing terms? For multiple reasons, but two are important for this discussion. First, they want give their products a certain image. An article on the Starbucks coffee chain that I read recently noted that you'll never see sales or discounts for its drinks. A quote from the article: "[Starbucks chairman Howard] Schultz wants you to view his product as the epitome of opulence."

Take this line from the Mayfair press release: "Our wares are special, unique, premium games." You might disagree with this assessment, but that's the image Mayfair wants to present. Mayfair can't compete on price with Hasbro because it doesn't produce games in the millions; what's more, it doesn't even want to pretend to compete on price. It has a specialty item unavailable elsewhere (in English) and it wants buyers to think of its products in those terms.

Mayfair isn't alone in this regard. The typical Spiel des Jahres winner is heavily discounted during the holidays and available in hundreds of non-game stores across Germany. When Ticket to Ride won SdJ in 2004, Days of Wonder refused to adopt a deep discount policy and offered the game to retailers only on its standard terms. Many retailers balked, and the game appeared in fewer locations than most SdJ winners. Days of Wonder doesn't want to sell discount games to looky-loos on the hunt for a bargain; it wants to sell beautiful games to customers again and again.

Besides, what would customers think when Ticket to Ride: Europe debuted at €40 after they saw Ticket to Ride advertised for, say, €25 all over the place? They'd probably feel like they were being taken advantage of, a feeling that gamers have today when thinking about being charged (gasp!) only 20% off the MSRP of Mayfair products.

As for the impact of this reduced retailer discount, how does it actually play out in practical terms? For a game with a $50 retail, a 20% discount equals $40 while a 35% discount brings the price down to $32.50 — a difference of $7.50. That's what all the fuss is about?! I don't know about the rest of you, but my wife and I spend far more than that when we go out for dinner — or even just for ice cream after dinner. Skip a $5 appetizer at some family restaurant and after tax and tip are worked in, you'll have saved the $7.50 needed to pay the exorbitant price now charged for a Mayfair big box game (not to mention saving yourself and your family the negative health effects of a deep-fried Texas Tonion). Alternatively, don't take a flyer on some cheap card game (just because it's cheap), and you'll be able to get the game you really want.

If you bought three Mayfair games per year, you'd spend maybe $20 more — or the equivalent of one game, for those who automatically equate money with games. (I'll admit to doing so.) Mayfair is gambling that people have enough room in their budget to spend an extra $20 annually, a safe bet I feel sure.

As for the second reason that companies set pricing terms, they want to develop and perpetuate a certain business environment for the sale and continued growth of their games. Mayfair Games believes that brick-and-mortar stores provide a better environment for the introduction of its games to new players, so it's adopting policies to put that belief into action — or rather it's continuing such policies. Mayfair has already had a demo game program in which stores that order a certain small number of games can receive a free copy to be used for demonstration purposes.

Many gamers can give examples of people who they personally introduced to hobby games, and some present themselves as individuals who discovered hobby games through an online retailer. Great, wonderful — but you are not representative of game buyers en masse. Most people will not find hobby games through a random Internet search, and even those who are taught their first hobby game by a friend will benefit from the services of a real world game store. As Chad Ellis wrote in his BGG post, "My sales to people who already know about Battleground is probably only helped by discounters...but my ability to grow the market of Battleground players is hurt whenever a FLGS decides not to carry it."

In general, brick-and-mortar stores do a wonderful job of "gamer education", converting interested passers-by into gamers. Educating customers takes employee time, which equals money, and a retailer hopes that investment pays off so that customers learn how to navigate a store on their own, leaving employees free to assist and educate new customers. If customers head to deep-discount online retailers as they become more educated, the stores lose out on that investment and will be less willing or able to offer it in the future.

Mayfair undoubtedly has a better handle on the game industry and what it needs to do to ensure its future than any handful of people whose experience consists solely of purchasing and playing games. Its policy change has already engendered notices of support from multiple retailers who have said they'll demo Mayfair games more because they'll be less likely in the future to lose customers solely on the basis of price.

Sure, Mayfair might lose a few customers in the short term, but those who make purchasing decisions solely or primarily on the basis of price are the worst kind of customer that a business can have. These customers want low-cost goods, but they complain if the goods look or feel low-cost; they have no loyalty and make each decision on a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately basis; they value a great deal over a great product; their cheapness is matched only by their volume when complaining about how they were done wrong by some predatory company.

Businesses can't make decisions based on the whims of this unreliable group. From Mayfair's point of view, these people make up a small percentage of BGG visitors, who are themselves a speck among the number of people who play games worldwide. When you're hunting for elephants, you can't let yourself be bothered by the swarming of gnats...

P.S.: Marcus King, owner of Titan Games & Music, posted the following story in an industry forum that devotes a lot of resources and advice to game retailers. I reprint the story (lightly edited) with his permission:

Quote:
On a not completely unrelated topic, last evening, after posting the earlier thanks to Mayfair, I had a couple come into my store and ask the sales clerk on duty: "Uh, we are looking for a settlers of Cat-On."

Since my sales clerk is not as knowledgable on games as I am, I stepped out and had a good conversation with the couple, in their late 40s, who wanted to find the Cat-On Game.

I showed them the game, discussed its playability, and asked how they heard of it. It was for their son, returning from a tour in Iraq, and he wanted it. They then expressed absolute sticker shock when I showed them it was $38.00.

The father was a bit surprised that a "game" could cost $38.00. Why they had just bought a nephew a set of Monopoly for $14.99 at a TRU in Kalamazoo!! How could this (smaller) game be worth more money!?!?

I asked them how often they played their favorite game. They were a bit surprised by the question, so I asked them whether they played cards, bowled, bingo, paintball or volleyball. This confused them more. I explained that all of these were examples of "playing a game" — though the games were far different, they were all games.

I went on to explain that Monopoly and Settlers of Catan were not competing products. That Settlers of Catan was a game product that competed for their time with a video rental, or maybe playing Euchre with friends. I also said, "I am not sure I really like this game, I haven't decided yet. I have played it only about 500 times." They laughed, then I explained that I was not exaggerating — I had played Settlers about two or three times a week for about four years.

They asked why I wasn't bored with the game, so I went into the replayability factor of having a randomly generated board with the tiles, and how starting positions were taken, etc. I further went on to say that if they played Catan only ten times, it would have cost them less than $2 per player, per game. I also mentioned that most people who played and enjoyed the Catan series of games played it more than ten times.

Then I closed with my best pitch: "If you buy this game and play it — and decide you don't like it — I will take a return on it, opened and played, for a full refund."

They bought two copies, one for their son and one for them. They are coming to our next game night to play Pillars of the Earth, too.

•••

Okay, that was a long diversion — yet it wasn't a diversion at all as everything that I stated in that column is still true. Far from going out of business due to people boycotting its titles, Mayfair Games increased sales of Catan year after year after year. In 2013, Mayfair Games decreased retailers' maximum advertised discount to 10%, and in January 2016 it [thread=49680]sold the English-language publishing rights to Catan to ANA[/thread]. (The purchase price has not been announced; one figure I've heard — $20 million — would equal roughly $1 per Catan item sold since its debut in 1995 as Catan GmbH reports sales of more than 23 million copies Catan items, including expansions. Fenton, by the way, now heads Catan Studio, a publishing studio within ANA that oversees all things Catan.)

Asmodee North America will likely be similarly affected after lowering the discount at which online retailers can purchase ANA titles — and by "similarly affected", I mean "barely affected at all". ANA has stated that it will not "institute or impose official price floors or 'minimum advertised price' policies" on its authorized retailers, but the effect of lowering discounts works roughly the same way as a MAP, lowering the discount at which an online retailer will offer games to buyers.

Petersen understands that some people will buy fewer ANA titles as a result of these changes. At GTS 2016, ANA Executive Projects Manager Anton Torres got in hot water when he stated on livestream broadcasts from both The Dice Tower and BGG that ANA would prefer that people buy two games under the new policy than ten under the old. While I understand the point he was trying to make — better a small number of enthusiastic fans than a mass of indifferent volume buyers — Petersen refuted Torres' statement, noting that Torres is not part of the business-side of ANA and stating that he is fine with people buying however many games they want, whether they treat them as doorstops or actually play the games.

At the same time, Petersen says that ANA isn't looking solely at sales volume when trying to determine what's best for its long-term health. More specifically, he said, "If all we cared about was moving units, we could sell games direct to buyers for 50% off MSRP and move far more than we do now." That's not ideal for long-term growth, though, because all you're doing with an operation like that is selling to an existing customer base instead of working with retailers to introduce your games to new people. To quote Petersen again from the ICv2 article:

Quote:
The most significant obstacle in the growth and perceived value of the gaming business is the need for players to find other players, and for new players to enter the hobby. I estimate that the hobby loses between 10-20% of its players every year, so the creation of new players into the hobby is vital for every participant to have a thriving marketplace and have exciting new products developed.

Petersen understands that some will boycott ANA based on these new policies, but he doesn't care. Okay, he probably wouldn't say that directly, instead stating that this is a business decision that reflects long-term goals, yada yada yada, but this would be my interpretation of his statement: "You do whatever you feel is necessary when determining which games to purchase, just as you've always done in the past with everything else you've purchased, whether game, soap, cereal, or slacks. For our part, we need to do whatever we feel is necessary when determining how much to charge for the games that we produce so that we can be in a position to continue to produce games far into the future. Ideally you'll still buy our games, and we'll do our best to produce games that merit your attention, but if not, I hope you can at least understand what we're trying to do."

As I stated in the Mayfair Games post, people who announce such boycotts and stick to them "make up a small percentage of BGG visitors, who are themselves a speck among the number of people who play games worldwide". Yes, BoardGameGeek is the largest game site in the world, with more than 3.5 million users in any thirty day period, with a plugged-in userbase that often knows more about what's coming out when from which designers than those who own the game stores in their town — but these BGG users are not representative of the larger world of game buyers because most games are bought by people who have never heard of BGG.

In a March 2016 BGG News post, for example, I quoted designer Fréderic Moyersoen saying that sales in the Saboteur line have reached a total of 1,400,000 copies, and a BGG user subsequently noted that BGGers list ownership of only 27,121 of those copies, roughly 2% of the total. Similarly, at Spielwarenmesse 2016 Mayfair Games noted to me that Moyersoen's Nuns on the Run — a game rarely talked about or logged as played on BGG — is on its sixth printing and such a consistent seller that the publisher is considering an expansion for the future. Catan, as mentioned earlier, has sales of more than 23 million items across the line, whereas BGG ownership for all of Catan is roughly 300,000 items — just over 1%. Heck, as I noted in the initial ANA announcement about its sales policy changes, Days of Wonder claims to have sold more than three million Ticket to Ride games, while no more than 175,000 TtR items of any type are listed as owned by BGG users.

No, not all BGGers record their collection online, but if you double these figures, the larger point remains: The pool of existing gamers is vast, far beyond what we see on our ever-busy site, and the pool of potential gamers-to-be dwarfs this number multiple times over. That larger pool of gamers and potential gamers is who ANA is shooting to serve years down the road by instituting these policies, and however much some people might complain or wish otherwise, the problems of some percentage of these three million little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that...
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