Boardgame Exchange : NetFlixing Board Games

It’s quite interesting that a recent discussion has brought to light that a new company has launched itself in the US that is attempting to be the NetFlix of Board Games.  Interesting because we actually considered and discarded the idea about 3 years ago when we first launched the site as a potential point of differentiation.

Mainly, we couldn’t work out a way to make it cost effective in Canada.  Of course, unlike the Exchange, we hadn’t thought to discard the boxes (i.e. just shipping components); but due to Canada’s size, it’d still be cost-prohibitive.   We’d generally looking at between $12 -$15 per shipment one-way; thus a total of $24 – 30 per trade.  Add time taken to review and count each game as it came back, and to just break-even we’d need to charge a minimum of $35 per month.  And customers would only be able to receive one shipment a month on this cost.

There’s also the major issue which I’m curious how they will manage – new board games.  If a new board game costs’ on average about $30 to stock; and with an average of say 5 games you’d like to add to the library each month, you’d be seeing about $150 in capital cost.  You would really need to add this ‘expense’ to your monthly fee.  Figure say 10 customers per game, your ‘cost’ to each customer is $3.  So that pushes your minimum fee to $38 or $456 a year and you’d still not be making any money!

As others have pointed, the other flaw of a rental plan is that you would end up with new games at the end of the year.   Of course, you could make the games purchasable (potentially at a discount); but that’s just an additional cost on top of the above.

Truthfully; I think this is another area is another that your local brick & mortar store is better able to provide.  With no shipping involved, the only real cost is the counting & replacement of the games and the need to add to the new ‘collection’.  So a minimum charge of $5 would probably cover the cost and provide a minimal profit.

So what do you all think? Am I off my rocker here? Would a service at say $50 a month that allowed customers to test any game they wanted from our catalog be worthwhile?

Best Practices : Responsibilities & Business Structure

Now that you have an idea about where you want to go, it’s important to build the foundations or shell of the business.  In particular, we’re talking about business responsibilities and structure.

Legally speaking (again, from my experience but I’m not a Lawyer so take it for what it’s worth); I have found that a company structure is best if you are entering business with more than 1 person involved in ownership.   If there’s only 1 individual involved, thanks to the bank’s and distributors requirements that you sign a personal guarantee; there’s no financial liability difference between a personal / business entity.   On the other hand, there is a difference if you (personally) go bankrupt in such a situation. At the end of the day, this is a decision that should be made with a Lawyer.

I’m more interested in discussing how the business responsibilities affect it’s structure.  Even if there’s only one of you involved, it’s worth breaking down the company into it’s functioning components and assigning these responsibilities .  The reason for this is that it allows you to consider the functions that are important to keep in-house and those that you could outsource.

Here’s a brief example taken from our business:

  1. Strategy / Direction
  2. Information Technology
    • Website Design & Infrastructure
    • Website Content
  3. Marketing
    • Advertising
    • Public Relations
    • Graphic Design
    • Promotions
  4. Logistics
    • Shipping & Receiving
    • Purchasing
    • Inventory
  5. Customer Service
    • Sales
    • Customer Support & Enquiries
  6. Finance
    • Bookkeeping
    • Taxes
    • Cost Management / Negotiations
  7. Administrative & Legal
    • Administrative purchasing & supply (paper, tape, pens, etc.)
    • Legal

By breaking down and assigning responsibilities, you can actually start planning your tasks list.  In addition, if you have partners / employees the list allows you to sign responsibilities and reduce arguments when something doesn’t get done.

Lastly, the ability to break down these areas lets you decide if you want to / can outsource the work.  I generally outsource the vast majority of the IT & Graphic Design work, ditto with bookkeeping, legal &  Taxes. Why? Because it’s not core and I don’t have the time / expertise to deal with it.  It allows me to focus more directly on areas that I can influence.

On the other hand, there will be specific areas in this list that you will not want to outsource (e.g. Marketing, Customer Service, Purchasing, etc.) as it’s important to the survival and differentiation of the business.

Lastly; the Boss.  Make sure, if there’s more than 1 person involved (especially if you have equal partners) that you assign where the buck stops. Someone should, at the end of the day, have the responsibility & authority to make the call.

New & Restocked Board Games : August 26, 2010

New Board Games
Descent Sea of Blood Ocean Map
Duel of the Giants
DungeonQuest
Magical Athlete
Road Kill Rally
Tannhauser Reich Troop Pack
Tannhauser Union Troop Pack
Pizza Box Football

Restocked Board Games
Alhambra
Amun Re
Ants! For Queen & Colony

Arkham Horror King Yellow Expansion
Battleground Fantasy Warfare : Mens of Hawksfold Starter

Carcassonne Kids of Carcassonne (SA)
Carcassonne: Bridges, Castles & Bazaars
Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune
Citadels Card Game
Colossal Arena
Cyclades
Doom the Board Game
Forbidden Island (limited quantity!)
A Game of Thrones Battle for Blackwater Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones : LCG Core Set
A Game of Thrones : A Change of Seasons Chapter Pack
A Game of Throne : Illyrio’s Gift Expansion
A Game of Thrones : King of the Sea Expansion
A Game of Thrones : A King in the North Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones Lords of Winter Expansion
A Game of Thrones : Princes of the Sun Expansion
A Game of Thrones : Raven’s Song Chapter Pack

A Game Of Thrones LCG : Return of the Others Chapters Pack
A Game of Thrones : A Sword in the Darkness Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones : Wolves of the North Chapter Pack
High Society
Horus Heresy
Jaipur
Killer Bunnies Quest Orange Booster
Kingsburg
Le Havre
Le Havre Le Grand Hameau Exp
Pandemic
Pandemic : on the Brink

Race for the Galaxy
Runebound 2E Champions of Kellos Adventure Pack
Ricochet Robots
Risk: Godstorm
Runebound: Isle of Dread
Steam: Rails to Riches
Talisman Revised 4th Edition
Tannhauser Boardgame

Tannhauser Oper Novgorod Exp
Tannhauser Revised Rulebook
Through The Ages
Titan
Tobago
Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition : Shattered Empires
Zombie in my Pocket

Restocked Accessories

10″ Octagon Wood Dice Tray

Dice Boot
Monte BlueDragon DP 50ct 82006
Chessex Plastic Counter Storage Tray

Dust the board game review

Dust is an alternate reality sci-fiction wargame along the lines of Risk. Players are in control of their nations, attempting to build up their armies and areas of control to win the game. Unlike Risk however, players must manage not just the quantity of their armies but the mixture of the units in the armies, production centres and power sources to fuel their production centres. This makes Dust a much more strategically involved wargame, but streamlined rules and a victory point condition makes the game faster to play and finish.

Appearance: Firstly, Dust has the cutest little tanks ever. Seriously, those tanks are so, so cute. The various other models for the units are very well designed as well, cute and easily distinctive across a table. In addition, the artwork on all the cards and in the rulebook is great – I like the comic style art that they have going on. However, the biggest complaint is the board- instead of using a mounted, folded board, the board is made up of multiple cut pieces that are meant to join together. Which they do. Sort of. Various bulges appear consistently, causing pieces to lie askew and sometimes slide.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Since Dust is a Risk derivative game, the basic rules are well known to most players. Each player has units, which do battle against other units via die rolls. However, additional rules are added in Dust to make the game more strategic. First, players have action cards that they play in the beginning of each round which dictate their turn order, the number of production points they have, the number of movement points and attack actions. In addition, each action card has a special ability that may be used once per round. Since the cards (and values) vary,players must balance their options and the main goal of each round before playing the card.

Production of units are dictated by the number of production centres, power sources and the cards controlled by each player. In addition, production of units can only occur in production centres, so players must consider exactly where to locate their production centres.

In Dust, each round moves through production then movement of troops then attacks for each player before the next players turn. There is additional impetus to attack in Dust to receive additional victory points, which is how the game ends (most commonly).

Overall, the rules of Dust should not be hard to teach, leaving the majority of the time to actual gameplay.

Gameplay: Firstly, I should note that I’m a huge fan of Risk-derivative type games. I enjoy the strategic level of gameplay allowed in these games, without getting bogged down in individual unit details. There’s also a lot of fun in tossing dice.

With that said, Dust scratches the itch very, very well. It does exactly what I want it to do – play fast, provide a high level of strategic and tactical decision making where luck might play a part but certainly doesn’t control the game. Good decisions are rewarded in Dust, while tactical surprises can still occur due to the various action cards.

The play between production centres and power sources forces players to hold both areas tightly, attempting to balance both their ability to produce units with the power sources needed to run the centres. In addition, the need (towards the latter half of the game) to keep their Headquarters under guard adds another element of risk to the game. While there’s some complaints that keeping HQs in Dust invoilable in the first half of the game reduces the tension, I think it allows players the ability to be aggressive with their units, which is a good thing.

Conclusion: Dust is fun to play and by far the best Risk-derivative game out there. It certainly does better than Risk 2210 A.D. with fast play, additional strategic and tactical complexity without bogging the game down in too large swings in power dynamics. While luck still plays a factor in Dust, it’s definitely not the major factor in gameplay.

New & Restocked Board Games : August 19, 2010

New Board Games
Bang! Wild West Show
Legitimacy
Nile
The King Commands
Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements

Restocked Board Games
Anima CG: Beyond Good & Evil
Anima CG: Shadow of the Omega Revised Edition
Arkham Horror: Dunwich Horror
At The Gates of Loyang
Carcassonne

Catan Histories : Settlers of America

Claustrophobia

Descent Journey in the Dark
Descent: Altar of Despair Exp
Dixit
Duck Duck Bruce
El Grande Decennial Edition
Fairy Tale
Frag Gold Edition
Gloom Card Game
A Game of Thrones : Ancient Enemies Chapter Pack

A Game of Thrones : the Battle of Ruby Ford Chapter Pack

A Game of Thrones : LCG Core Set
A Game of Thrones : War of the 5 Kings Chapter Pack

In the Year of the Dragon
Ingenious
Jamaica
Killer Bunnies Blue Starter
Last Night on Earth
Martian Fluxx
Memoir ’44 Air Pack Exp
Memoir ’44 Battlemap Disaster at Dieppe
Memoir ’44 Breakthrough Expansion
Munchkin 5: De-Ranged
Munchkin 7: More Good Cards
Munchkin Bites!
Munchkin Booty
Munchkin Booty 2 Jump of the Shark
Munchkin Card Game
Munchkin Cthulhu 2 Call of Cowthulhu
Munchkin Impossible
Munchkin Quest
No Thanks!
Nothing Gained But Glory
Oregon
Red November
Ricochet Robots
Robo Rally
Scotland Yard
Shear Panic!
Shogun
Talisman: The Highland Expansion
Tannhauser Revised Rulebook
Thurn & Taxis : Power & Glory
Thurn & Taxis: All Roads Lead to Rome
Tigris & Euphrates Revised
Twilight Struggle (’09)
WarHammer Fantasy RolePlay 3rd Edition
Warhammer: Chaos In The Old World
Word on the Street

Zombies! (Second Edition)
Zooloretto

Anime Evolution 2010 Convention Report

On the Con in General

Anime Evolution (AE) 2010 was an interesting convention.  This year, they were back in UBC and the Gym that is close to the Student Union Building.  Now, for those of you who have never been to AE or any Anime convention, the major characteristics of the crowd are ‘large’ and ‘young’.

There were at least 5,000 attendees over 3 days, mostly in the teens to early 20’s.  Compare this to most gaming conventions where the majority are between mid-20’s to early 40’s.  The other aspect of AE is that  most con attendees (at least40%) are Cosplaying – in a wide variety of Anime related characters.  Mostly, I noticed a lot of Bleach and Naruto; being familiar with both those Anime.

The Vendors Room

Since the entire convention was spread out across UBC I didn’t get to see how the rest of the con went; but the vendor’s room was generally well trafficked.  Generally that is till about 4pm onwards; as con attendees wilted in the heat.  Unfortunately, a lack of air circulation and proper air-conditioning meant that the vendor’s room had a tendency to get warm.

Most of the usual suspects in the vendors room were back; so during quieter periods I wandered the hall talking to the other vendors that we knew.  We were again placed near the noisy pornographic book vendors.  Luckily, unlike last year; they weren’t as noisy and tasteless – at least most of the time.

Another interesting aspect for us were the number of game retailers at AE.   Last year, there were 2 others; this year there were 3 others.  All 3 sold board games as well, though not as their main focus.  Even with the greater competition (and at least one vendor dropping their price 3 times to a final discount of 35% off their posted price); we did better than last year.  Admittedly, we sold fewer games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan because of the competition.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the vendor’s room was ‘Ultimate Showdown‘ a card game created and promoted at AE.  It’s a storytelling based card game where players describe the actions / abilities of the cards they use.  It’s a fun little, cheap card game which you might actually see a lot more of; especially among casual gamers.

The Spiel – another year of sponsorship

The Eagle-Eyed among you might notice that the Spiel now has a spot on our front page, where we’ll be hosting their most recent podcast updates.  That obviously means we’ve decided to continue sponsoring them – for a year to be exact.

After considering our options and listening to the various comments we felt that continuing to sponsor the Spiel was a worthwhile investment.  More than anything else, continuing to support them means supporting something that we feel is worthwhile – a podcast dedicated to gaming for gamers.