Advertising and the Spiel

As many might know, I advertise on the Spiel, a gaming podcast.  We signed up for a 6 month contract, starting in October of last year and then taking a break for a period of 3 months before going back to it.   We just finished our run with them.

Production wise and service wise, we’ve been more than satisfied.  They’ve been great and I can certainly say they’ve done the best that they can to both promote the store and their own podcast (i.e. growing it).

However, while they are large, the vast majority of their listeners are in the US.  That leaves us with a relatively small percentage in Canada (our target market).  Dollar for dollar, on a directly trackable basis (and yes, it’s not that trackable…) we’ve made a lost from advertising there.

Reasons for supporting (continuing to advertise) on the Spiel:

  • Supporting the podcast & the gaming community through them
  • Branding / awareness generation among non-customers in Canada
  • Generating goodwill among existing customers who listen

Reasons for not supporting the Spiel (assuming we’re using the same funds for marketing)

  • Too broad a market targeted via the Spiel
  • Funds can be directed to more targeted (i.e. Canadian) advertising locations (e.g. other sites, Cons, etc.)
  • Additional modules can be added to site to increase effectiveness of site

This is one of those cases where I think it’s worthwhile actually asking – should we continue? I’d love to hear from you, our customers.

Confucius the board game review

Confucius the board game is a complex 3 – 5 player Euro game that attempts to depict the maneuverings among the Chinese family in the Chinese Imperial bureaucracy.  Since the Imperial Bureaucracy hasn’t really changed since the time of Shi Huang Thi; the game itself could be set in nearly any period of Chinese expansion.  Overall, Confucius is an interesting game that alters depending on the number of players and the experience of the players involved.  It certainly does what it sets out to do, which might make the game too complex for some game groups.

Appearance: The artwork in Confucius is inspired from traditional Chinese artwork, so whether it looks good depends on personal artistic taste.  Having grown up around this kind of art, I don’t mind it at all and it does lend the game a distinctive appearance.  The board itself is very functional, making the overall appearance and game simple enough to work.

Rules / Ease of Learning:  Let’s be clear here, Confucius is a complex game. This game is targeted at serious gamers (or should be at least) and as such, the rules are long and quite involved.  While the game itself is relatively simple and fits into place quite well once you start playing, it does take a while to get through the rulebook.  However, the rulebook is quite well laid out, most questions are answered in it and we found referencing it very easy.

In Confucius, players are rival Chinese families attempting to increase their influence in the Courts.  As such, they have one of three avenues open to them – control of the three Ministries (Military, Domestic and Trade),  military conquests and trade to distant lands.  Each of these options provides various victory points and additional benefits including lower costs and Emperor Reward Cards.

Throughout each round, players receive a number of actions equal to the number of gifts given and received.   They then may play these actions on the board; choosing from the possible actions which include : buying / securing influence in a ministry, buying junks and armies, launching invasions or voyages, setting up individuals for the Imperial Exam and forcing an Exam to buying / giving gifts or receiving additional funds.

The biggest complexity in the game comes from gifts.  Gifts have a variety of effect on those who receive them, some of which can be game changing.  It forces players to aid your candidate during Imperial Examination, limits the amount of influence an individual may have in a Ministry and dictate what kind of gifts you can receive in turn.  In fact, the gift giving aspect of Confucius is a very subtle and evil way of managing others.  It reminds me so much of dealing with my family.

Gameplay: Confucius is a complex game to play but fun.  The game definitely changes with the number of players involved – the limited number of spaces in the various ministries / voyages / foreign lands increases the competition among players, while the free flow of gifts increases the complexity as well.

There are numerous strategies to winning, and it is quite possible to hinder other players with gifts.  While the ministries might be the highest point areas in a game, they are also the most contested, dictating players look at conquering foreign lands or conducting voyages to gain points.  In addition, the use of gifts can severely hamper a ministry strategy at the same time.

However, having no presence in the Ministries can make other strategies more difficult as the cost of purchasing increases significantly.  In addition, multiple actions are needed to not only raise armies / buy junks, but to send them on invasions / voyages.  It makes the game very well balanced and again, complex.

The only major complaint is that players have to continuously double-check on the gifts that they have received / given as this can dictate their options / strategies.  While the gift grid used is very handy for this, mistakes can be made, slowing the gameplay down significantly.

Conclusion:  Confucius ranks in my mind up there in terms of complexity with Le Havre and Louis XIV.  I actually prefer Confucius over Le Havre due to the higher level of interaction from the gifts.  This is a great board game for serious board gamers who have 3 – 4 hours to play but certainly not for beginners or those looking for a lighter game.

Warhammer : Chaos in the Old World Review

Warhammer : Chaos in the Old World is one of the best 4 player games released in 2009.  Having had a chance to play it numerous times, the replay value for this game has held up very well due to the numerous strategies available for each Chaos God and the changing Old World Cards.  This is a must have game for any Ameritrash player.

Appearance: This is a Fantasy Flight Games production, so obviously the game is pretty.  Lots of little figures for your various acolytes and soldiers, while the board itself has been quite well designed and really pretty.   I love the dials that are used on the board to keep track of the advancement of each God – it’s fast and intuitive to use.  My only complaints are that the banners for the various miniatures have a tendency to break, but it really doesn’t affect gameplay.  What does affect gameplay is the gameboard – it takes a few minutes to realise where the borders are and aren’t.

Rules / Ease of Learning:  Chaos in the Old World is actually relatively easy to learn with the majority of the information available on the handy player aids.  The gods are given power points that they must use up each turn, with each god having three kinds of followers.  These followers can help fight / kill other Chaos God followers or corrupt the individual lands.  Once the threshold of corruption has been reached,  points are scored for the corruptors.  In addition, players can also win the game by advancing their God’s dial to its maximum – though each God has a different number of dial advancements.

Gameplay: This is where the Chaos in the Old World really shines.  Each God has different abilities and goals, so they all play very differently from one another.   Players have to adjust both their play style to what Gods are present in the game as well as the current effects of the Old World cards, which means a shifting strategy all the time.

In addition, while some Gods are easy to learn to play (Korn); others take a while to grasp the best strategies to use.  As such, it’s a continual learning process in Chaos in the Old Worlds.  Players are always engaged, as they watch the actions of each other, shifting priorities as needed.  It definitely takes two to three games to grasp the intricacies of a God, though even from the first game, Chaos in the Old World is fun.

Occasionally though, the Old World cards line up to really hammer the most effective play style of  a god – or greatly benefit another.  In such cases, it sometimes feel that there’s very little a player can do to individually effect the games outcome.  Of course, being the game that it is, the players can work together to hamper a runaway leader.

Conclusion: Chaos in the Old World is a great 2 hour game.  It’s involved, it’s deep, there are numerous strategies to explore and it has just enough randomness to make the game nail-bitingly tense at times.  This is definitely a ‘must buy’ recommendation from me.

Conquest BC – Con Report

Having recently come back from Conquest BC held at the Compass Inn in Surrey, I thought I’d write a quick con report.

Conquest BC was tiny.  There were 80 people at most through the entire weekend with the majority on Saturday and much fewer on Sunday.  Of course, the World Cup might have had something to do with that…

Half the attendees were there for the Warhammer tournament, the other half split evenly between board gamers and RPGers.  There was a lot of D&D 4th Ed being played that weekend, with scattered board games for the rest.  I saw games of Battlestar Galactica, Munchkin, Alhambra, Agricola, Stone Age, Galaxy Trucker, God Dice and HeroQuest played that weekend, so not a bad assortment overall.   Half of the named games were run by Alison and myself while we sat around bored.

On a vendor’s viewpoint, we obviously didn’t make any money from the Con with so few people there.  Co-ordination and support from the organisers could have certainly been improved.  We weren’t told where we were or when we were meant to set-up even after numerous attempts at getting this information.  In addition, the cost of the Con table itself was extremely high.

Would we go back? Probably not as a vendor unless there was a lot more advertising beforehand.  And certainly not without a significant reduction in the vendor table pricing.  Still, it was a fun weekend since we spent most of it playing games. 🙂

HST Tax Rates

Eagle eyed customers might have noticed that certain provinces have seen a huge jump in the amount of taxes they have had to pay.  This isn’t a mistake – it’s due to the introduction of HST in British Columbia.

Unfortunately, that means we now have to charge the full HST in all provinces that use that system.  It’s meant an increase of between 8 – 10% in the tax rate for many customers.  Of course, those of you in PST provinces are still only paying GST.

It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, changes in the sales are going to be like.

Location, location, location

I’ve been thinking about location once again, specifically I’ve been thinking about our current location and our need for a larger space.  Right now, we are crammed and I’ve had to use a few innovative tricks to keep stock in the storage location.

Whatever the case, coome Christmas, we’ll need to expand since we increase stock significantly to handle the increase in sales.  Luckily, our current location has a few office places open that we could rent but which are all bigger than our current location.  It gives us flexibility but at an added cost.

Interestingly enough, once we increase to the new size, we’ll be at a point where our rental cost is significant enough that actually renting a small warehouse makes sense. The options are a warehouse near Vancouver, but at nearly the same pricing as our current location or a warehouse in Delta or Surrey where prices are much lower (about half) but are much less convenient.

At the same time, the question is how big to grow.  Renting a new space in our current location gives us about a year to a year and a half of breathing room.  Renting a (small) warehouse gives us at least three years of time at current growth rates.  Which, after moving numerous times, is important.

Of course, a larger space is a higher cost.  Of course, option 3 is to out-source again; leaving logistics issues to someone else to deal with.  However, that kills Local Pickup’s which is not an insignificant amount of revenue.

Truth be told, the short-term solution might just be a sale.

July 2010 Newsletter

July Newsletter

Contest Winner Announcement

This month’s winner is Hogan with his review of the Settlers of Catan. I love his comment on the game – “The Ultimate Board game hater conversion tool”..

Ongoing Contest

The monthly review contest is continuing this month and the winner of each monthly review contest will receive a $20 gift certificate. In addition, we are now awarding 50 Citadel Points to each approved review. Lastly, the winner is enterred into the end of the year draw for the Grand Prize of $250 of board games!

Site Updates

Well, holiday’s over and things went mostly well though a number of issues cropped up while I was away that lead to slower restocks. We do apologise about that, but stock levels will be back up to normal by Friday.

In addition, we have a Convention this weekend down in Surrey, BC. So if you can make it to Conquest BC come say hi to us in the Vendor’s Room.

Lastly, the long awaited site conversion is this weekend. There should be little issue with the site switch, but do let us know if there are any.

Upcoming Games

Tons of great games have arrived, so only a few new games expected within the next few months including the Killer Bunnies Ultimate Odyssey Combo Packs, Pressure Matrix,the Small World Tales and Legends and Thunderstone : Wrath of the Elements Expansion.