Boxing Week Sale

Welcome to our first annual Boxing Day Sale

To see what’s on sale, just click on the ‘Promotions’ tab above. We have quite a few popular games on sale including:

Arkham Horror

Pillars of the Earth

Twilight Imperium

Zombie Fluxx

Mykerinos

Oshi

and a whole lot more

The sale lasts only so long as stock lasts. We have a limited quantity of all items, and once a product is out-of-stock, you will no longer be able to check out. The system should inform you that a board game out-of-stock and we will, throughout the course of the day, update the inventory on the site as well.

We apologise, but there are no rainchecks for any special promotion orders.

Shipping

Free shipping for all promotions will not be in-place for all promotional orders. This supersedes all other information on the site.

All orders made today will only ship out on December 28, 2007 at the earliest. It might take a day or two more.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Happy shopping.

Edit: We’ve decided to keep this  sale running until the end of the year.

Merry Christmas everyone

It’s nearly Christmas so for those of you who haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, best of luck!

We wish you, your family and friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From,

Tao and Alison

PS:  Don’t forget to visit us on Boxing Day. We’ll have some incredible deals that you won’t want to miss.

Last minute shipping Guidelines

Wow! Christmas is almost here. We are not going to be receiving any additional shipments between now and Christmas, so what we have in-stock is what we have in stock. So a few guidelines for shipping if you want to receive your order before Christmas:

  • Don’t order anything that is pre-ordered. It won’t arrive before Christmas and we might miss contacting you about that fact to verify if you want the order to go out!
  • Free Shipping for orders over $150 is shipped via Expedited Post. The timeline for Expedited Post is estimated on the ‘Shipping Options’ page, so if it won’t make it, then choose another Shipping option. We’ll take off the cost of Expedited Post shipping from your order.

Shipping within Canada:

  • Expedited Shipping – generally takes between 2 – 7 business days to arrive within Canada.
    • If you are in the East Coast, we can’t guarantee you’ll receive your order on time anymore! Check the estimated arrival date on the site for your postal code.
    • If you are in the West Coast, you have till December 17, 2007 to make an order to be safe. December 19, 2007 is your final cut-off for Expedited Shipping (and that’s if we don’t get snowed under with a ton of orders!).
  • Priority Courier – Offers Next Day Delivery within Canada.
    • Great option for East Coast residents. Cut-off date would be December 19, 2007. December 20, 2007 if you like living close to the edge!
  • Free Shipping for orders over $150 – this is Expedited shipping, so see above. If you do have a $150 order but need your order faster, choose Priority shipping and we’ll refund the difference between Priority Shipping and Expedited.

Shipping to the US:

  • Purolator™1 International Noon next day
    • Same cut-off as Priority Courier
  • Xpresspost™ – USA 3,4 and 5 days
    • Depending on where you live, cut-off date is either December 17, 2007 or December 18, 2007. If it’s past then, choose Purolator
  • Expedited Parcel™ – USA 6 days up to 12 days
    • Don’t choose this. It won’t arrive in time for Christmas

Lastly, if you haven’t received an e-mail from us and are worried about the order, do feel free to contact us. We will be happy to confirm it’s status and work with you to fix any problems.

Have a Merry Christmas!

New games, products back-in stock and new releases

Hi all, great news in that we now have a ton of stock and some new games too. So without further ado, games that are now back in stock include:

Alchemist

Apples to Apples

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal

Blokus

Fluxx

Freeloader

Heroscape Marvel Master set

LotR: Battlefields Expansion

Mr.Jack

Pit

Shadows over Camelot: Company of Knights

Sleuth

Starfarers of Catan 5 + 6 player expansion

The Very Clever Pipe Game

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride Europe

Wits & Wagers

New Games:

Deluxe Illuminati

Dust

Flandern 1302

Iron Dragon

Nippon Rails

Punct

Starship of Catan

Tamsk

Yinsh

Just released:

Carcassonne Abbey & Mayor

Zooloretto expansions

Frontiers

Tannhauser: Yula Figure

Bang! the card game review

Bang! is the card game of the Sphagetti Western. You’ll take on the role of either Sheriff, Deputy, Renegade or Outlaw in this fast moving, large party card game. It’s a ton of fun, though the descriptions on the card hold something to be desired (fixed in the Bang! the Bullet full edition release). As the Sheriff or Deputy, your job is to keep the Sheriff alive. As an Outlaw, you’ll need to finish the Sheriff off and the Renegade has to ensure he’s the last one left alive. True to the spirit of the Spaghetti Westerns, Bang is a mainstay for large groups.

Appearance: Bang! comes in a small box that fits all the necessary cards together. Graphcics on the card reflect the comic and Western motif with individual character pictures leaning towards the often seen ‘Wanted’ pictures. The Bang! original card versions are minimalistic with only symbols depicting what each card does. Overall, graphically there’s nothing to complain about.

Rules / Ease of Learning: This is probably the most problematical part of Bang! The rules have obviously been translated from another language, badly in some cases. While the game itself is simple, the rules take too long to explain these simple rules and worst, are at times confusing in their explanations. Definitely not the best part of the game.

Worst, the cards for Bang! all use symbols to depict their actions, which means in the beginning you’ll need to constantly reference the rule-sheet to understand what the various cards mean. It would have been easier and better to just put the rules on the card, making the game run much smoother with new players. I understand that the Bang! the Bullet release has solved this problem thankfully.

Rules are simple – survive and kill the others. At the beginning each person is dealt a random character, each of whom have different abilities. After that, you will be dealt a ‘role’ card and the equipment/Bang cards. Everyone but the Sheriff keeps theirs hidden with players using the remainder character cards to help keep track of their lives (which vary depending on the characters).

Cards come in three main varieties – Bang! cards that allow you to hurt/kill other characters, equipment cards that let you more easily hurt/kill other characters or heal yourself (Beer!) and a few special action cards (marketplaces, force discard cards, etc.).

The biggest rule that players will need to understand is range – which is how many players from you that you can shoot. This is particularly important when you need to kill that Sheriff but all those other pesky Outlaws are in the way!

Actual Gameplay: Bang! is a fun card game, especially once you get over the learning hump of the various symbols. The hidden roles make it interesting in large player games as players will be scratching their heads on whether anyone is a Renegade. There’s also some good reasons to ‘kill’ others on your side if you’re an Outlaw so that can always keep things interesting. Gameplay can go pretty fast, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes per game we’ve found.

Our major issues as a gaming group, beyond the bad design on the cards, is the issue of game balance. Specifically, there are some characters who are much more useful than others and due to the random provision of the roles can seriously distort the game. Also, to a lesser degree, bad luck on the draw of cards can cause major issues for players. I have seen games where the Sheriff has no Bang! cards and is just torn apart from multiple ‘Duels’.

Conclusion: Bang! is a fun party game for a large group, especially those who are into Western’s. Minor changes to the way the game is played (removing all the ‘horrendous’ characters) make the game much more balanced and fun to play especially after the initial learning curve is over.

Edit: The new 4th Edition of Bang! comes with additional information on the card, removing the complaint about the lack of information (other than symbols) in this review.

Back in-stock products

Our shipment of board games from our Canadian distributor arrived and the following board games are now back in-stock:

300 the Board Game

A House Divided

Attack!

Attribute

Babel

Bang!

Barbarossa

Dragonland

Easter Island

Empire Builder

Enemy on the Horizon

Feudo

GiftTRAP

Gloria Mundi

Hera and Zeus

Incan Gold

Killer Bunny Blue Starter

Killer Bunny Orange Booster

Lord of the Rings: the Duel

MidEvil

MidEvil 2

Mystery of the Abbey

Owner’s choice

Power Grid

Power Grid IT/FR

Primordial Soup

Saboteur

Seafarers of Catan

Settlers of Catan the Great River

Settlers of the Stone Age

Shear Ppanic

Starfarers of Catan

Stratego

Take Stock

That’s Life

Thief of Baghdad

Tigris & Euphrates

TransAmerica

Twilight Struggle

Unspeakable Words

When Darkness Comes : the Awakening

Launching a board games store in Canada – Part 3

When we last left off this article, we had decided to launch the online side of the board game business first.

We came across a few major issues that had to be tackled at that time:

Banking. Who has the best deals? How supportive are they?

Board Game Distributors. More correctly, locating one that would sell to an online only company for the moment

Site Design & back-end software. Who would do it? What type of software would we use on the backend? Did we want something fully customizable or get an off-the-shelf solution? What about future growth? What were the costs?

Payment Gateways. Also known as – how do we get money from our customers?

We could easily write a full blog post on each of these issues and we will. For now, here’s the overview.

Banking

In the beginning, we needed the basic bank accounts up as soon as possible. As such, and since Alison has banked with them for a while, we went with Coast Capital Savings. They are a great credit union and we’re still working with them. In particular, they provide full online access at no additional charge along with a no monthly fee account. We only pay for payments out (not deposits!). That’ll be important later.

Board Game Distributors

With board game distributors, as any distributors out there, you will need to make sure you have all your administrative information on-hand and ready to go. That means tax numbers, business licenses and payment methods. If you’re a new business like us, you’ll also likely not be allowed to run an account with them.

Furthermore, board game distributors in Canada are not competitive in their pricing compared to US distributors. This was so even before the Loonie hit par, and now it’s even worst. I’m not sure why, but that is probably the reason why other board game stores in Canada are priced so high – it’s the base cost. We’ve been lucky because we were able to find a great US distributor in DC which we can then purchase directly from to reduce our costs. It is a high price in terms of time, but we find it’s still worth it to bring our costs for board games down. We hope you do too!

Site Design

We got lucky. Through personal contacts, we knew of Collins Harper who gave us a great quote and even better service. They have a lot of combined experience in e-commerce, which is always good. For Starlit Citadel, we use the base OS Commerce design with quite a few changes. Our developers are big proponents of it, and the flexibility to continue adding modules (either drawn from the public realm or hard coded by Shane) means that the site can continually updated and improved.

Perhaps the most important thing when you’re working with an external supplier, especially your IT guy, is to make sure they can communicate with you. You’ll find a lot of great developers who cannot either understand your points, or who cannot communicate theirs.

Payment Gateways

Oh do we “love” Moneris. They are the largest payment processor in Canada, and as such, the one almost everyone uses. The biggest problem with them is that set-up costs are high, on-going costs are high and they only work with HSBC or BMO. Moneris also ‘clears’ your account on a daily basis, depositing the sum that you made every day.

You’ll find that with most business accounts, especially HSBC, there’s a set number of activities that come with your package – and anything over that, you will be charged. This includes deposits.

Do we see the problem here? Add the fact that HSBC charges you for online access (a ridiculous fee that was in the $60 a month range for the basic package) and it just wasn’t worth it. So in the beginning, we opted to use PayPal only.

Those were all the major issues in the beginning, but more would crop up. Some of it, things we never considered. We’ll also go into more detail about each of these points, highlighting specific problems and things you need to look out for when starting your own business in Canada – in board games or not!

Returning board game inventory

Wow, and once again, products are flying off our shelves. So, to let you know, we’ve got two major shipments that should the vast majority of our products back in-stock.

Our Canadian board game distributor’s shipment should arrive Friday or possibly early next week. Some of the popular board games arriving from them include:

Bang!

Dragonland

Empire Builder

Shear Panic

We’re also picking up a ton of games from our US Distributor this Monday, so we should be able to ship any pre-orders on those out by Tuesday. Board games we’re already picking up include:

Pit

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride Europe

Tigris & Euphrates

Heroscape Master Marvel Set

So do make your pre-orders for these games now, we shoud have most in stock soon. Games that we do not expect in stock anytime soon are:

Arkham Horror : the Dunwich Horror Expansion (arrival TBA)

Ticket to Ride USA 1910 (early-mid January only)

Ingenious (arrival TBA)

Killer Bunnies Blue Starter (arrival TBA)

As always, if there’s a game that wasn’t mentioned that yo’d like to confirm additional information on, do feel free to contact us.

Order of the Stick Review

Order of the Stick is probably one of my favourite web comics. It’s such a great mixture of storytelling and humour that checking for a new strip each morning is part of my routine. So I’m not an entirely impartial judge. The Order of the Stick Adventure Game is basically a card game where players take on the characters of the comic strip. Your goal is to make your way through the dungeon, killing monsters and collecting loot to eventually reach Xykon to kill him. At that point, you’ll need to escape the collapsing dungeon. Final victor is the player with the most bragging points which is calculated from a mixture of loot, shticks , who got out of the dungeon first and who killed Xykon. Overall while it’s a fun game, the general consensus of the group was that it just took too long to play.

Appearance: Very good. The artwork is drawn directly from the comic with a lot of personal touches such as different pictures on loot cards, and a variety of images from the strip or new strips for the various cards. While the artwork isn’t Boris Vallejov, it is entirely in keeping with the comic and that has it’s own charm. Definitely a major plus for me.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Okay, first off – the ‘quick start comic strip guide’ isn’t. It is really, really long to read (8 pages) and doesn’t cover all the necessary important aspects – such as NPCs aka ‘what if you don’t have 6 players?’. While it’s entirely humorous and all, the quick start guide just didn’t do it. The rulebook itself, for what is in fact a very simple game is entirely too large and unorganised. While I liked the various tips about how to play each PC to win, I feel the rules itself could have been streamlined and the rulebook clarified. It didn’t help that the game came with an entirely new sheet of Eratta.

Players choose (randomly by default) the characters they will be. Each of the PCs is very much a D&D clone (the warrior, mage, rogue, ranger, bard and cleric to be exact) which is of course the point. One thing that was done very well was the balancing of powers of each character with no one PC being overly powerful. They are all also very different, both because of their abilities and the respective characters personalities so their routes to winning are quite different. Very well done here.

Once chosen, players choose their starting shticks – the special abilities. As the game progresses and you earn experience (from killing monsters generally or trading in loot), you’ll gain more shticks, increasing your power and ability. You also gain loot cards at the beginning and loot is dropped every time monster are killed. Loot cards have ‘faces’ on them, indicating which character drools over them. Loot with your face on them are valuable to you, otherwise, you’ll need to trade them away for help.

Battling monsters in Order of the Stick is very simple – compare your attack or defense against their attack or defense and then roll a d12. If you beat their attack/defense number, you win. You can also get help at any time from anyone on the same level as you by giving them loot that they drool over ( i.e. have faces for).

The dungeon is created by placing new dungeon cards on the table as you explore, so better have a big and clear table free. You’ll need to search for stairs to go down a level, the number of levels dependent on the number of players and difficulty level chosen. And that really is the basis of the game – explore the dungeon by moving, enter the room, fight the monster (you’re always defending when entering a room), kill it and pick up loot. Rinse and repeat. You can always fight other PCs too. In that case, you get to steal their loot! And slow them down. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re Belkar.

Lastly, there are Screw This cards that basically allow you to break the rules of the game. Evil little cards generally that need to be played as fast as you can, because once you run out of monster cards, you discard your entire hand.

Actual GameplayOrder of the Stick amuses me because of its wry humour. All the characters are really true to the comic and their interactions are geared to the way you’ll see in the comic. As noted above, the actual gameplay isn’t very complicated. There’s an interesting level of competitiveness and co-operation in the game, as players can play Screw This, monster cards and attack other players but also, quite often, need the help of other players to win battles. So you can’t push your luck too far or else you’ll never get any help and watch the other players pull far, far ahead of you.

The rules are messy, and in the interest of making monsters interesting, the monsters have special abilities. These can, unfortunately, take some time to learn so it does slow the game down somewhat. Also, as the game is based around collecting loot and shticks, players are continually exploring the dungeon searching for more monsters to kill. It does create quite a level of repetition, even if the monsters are amusing.

Probably the biggest problem in the entire game is its length. What is supposed to be a 2-3 hour game according to the rules takes nearly 4 hours in reality. While there’s always something to do, there just isn’t enough variety for a 4 hour game.

Conclusion: Order of the Stick is entirely fun and has a definite novelty factor for fans of the comic. It’s also got a level of strategic depth to it beyond ‘bash monster’. I like the balance of cooperative and competitive play and there’s definite tactical considerations (when to rest, when to fight, what monsters to play, etc.) but the length of the game is a major killer. I’m definitely going to have to adjust the base game since holding the interest of a gaming group for 4 hours at a time is not possible. I’m still happy I have the game, but I feel the need to adjust the base game to make it shorter.

Minor amendments

Settlers of Catan for 6 players 4th Edition Just a couple of minor amendments to the site. Firstly, after realising we’re naming the edition for Settlers of Catan wrong, it’s now corrected on the site. So it’s the 4th Edition not 2nd. Oops! Sorry for the confusion.

I’ve also updated the Bestsellers list so for those of you who are curious or need some help choosing gifts, there you go. Ticket to Ride and Blokus were by far the best-selling games – there was a gap of over 10 copies between each of them and their nearest rivals. Otherwise, the spread of sales was very close, with games at the 5-10th places differing by 1 or 2 games only.

Obviously a wide variety of tastes out there.

Lastly, look out for our very first newsletter to arrive in your mailboxes very soon.