New & Restocked Board Games : June 30, 2011

New Board Games
Alhambra New York Card Game
Ascension, Return of the Fallen
Fresco Expansion: Scrolls
Lancaster
Mammut
Paris Connection
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Signs/Stars B-Pack

Restocked Board Games
Arkham Horror Curse of the Dark Pharoah
Bang! The Bullet
Battles of Westeros
Battles of Westeros: Premium Banner Pack
Black Gold
Carcassonne: 10 Year Special Edition
DUST Tactics: Operation Seelowe
Dust Tactics: Light Panzer Walker
Dust Tactics: Light Assault Walker
DUST Tactics: Special Ops Grenadiers
DUST Tactics: Special Ops Rangers
Formula D: Expansion 1
Godzilla Kaiju World Wars
A Game of Thrones Kings of the Sea Revised Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: LCG Queen of Dragons Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: Return of the Others
Jaipur
Jungle Speed Expansion
Last Night on Earth: Zombies with Grave Weapons Mini Set
Lost Cities
Nuns on the Run
Rattus
Ricochet Robots
Runewars
Small World
Small World Cursed
Small World Grand Dames
Star Trek Expeditions
Talisman: The FrostMarch Expansion
Talisman: the Reaper Expansion
Tannhauser Equipment Cards
Tannhauser: 2nd Edition Rulebook
Tumblin’ Dice
Warhammer Invasion LCG: The Deathmasters Dance
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Arcane Fire Battle Pack
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Bleeding Sun
Warhammer: Invasion LCG the Burning of Derricksburg Battle Pack
Warhammer: Invasion LCG the Fall of Karak Grimaz Battle Pack
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Redemption of a Mage
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Silent Forge
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Skavenblight
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Twin Tailed Comet Battle Pack
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Warpstone Chronicles Battle Pack
Warhammer: LCG March of the Damned Deluxe Expansion

Data & Analysis

Thanks to my trusty new employee, I’ve finally been able to get some time off so that I can actually get some work done on a number of areas that have been neglected.  In particular, business analysis and review.

In many ways, as an online business we have access (and easier access!) to more data than  most brick & mortar (B&M) stores do.  Simple things (for us) like visitor count, conversion rates (% of visitors who buy), time in store and what they view are much more difficult for a B&M store to quantify. And while the systems we use to quantify that information have an error rate, it’s generally a consistent error rate.

Data

Data collection is quite simple when you are running an online business. A lot of it gets stored automatically (unless you specifically decide not to store that information, like credit card numbers in our case. Hint, hint Sony) somewhere in our servers.  Other information, for example, visitor logs – we have to consciously decide to  gather.

Perhaps the most important part of data collection is deciding what you want to do with the data so that it can be analysed later.  A B&M store that has a security camera trained on the entrance technically has collected the data on footfall in the store.  However, it’s not particularly easy for figuring out how many.

As such, when putting in place your data analysis procedures, think about what you’re going to do with the data as well.  Quite often, when using an off-the-counter package (whether it’s your accounting software for expenses / income reports or an analytics package); it’ll come with in-built reporting capabilities.  Understanding the capabilities of the software you use in this regard is extremely important.

 Analysis

So you got a ton of information.  Now what? The hard part isn’t getting the data or even extracting some useful information. It’s analysing it to give you actionable analyses.  Think of it this way – it’s not much good knowing how many people come into your store, the question is, what are you going to do about it?

An Example

Recently, I’ve been going over our sales figures and what we sell.  It’s a LOT of information, and the difficulty is pulling the data together in a meaningful way and then drawing meaningful analysis of it.

One of the things we’ve worked out is that we have a huge number of sales in the $30 – 40 range.  That’s mostly from Settlers of Catan obviously, not particularly surprising.  However there are a number of games as well within that range, so it’s not just Settlers.

The question is, what do you do with that information? It’s not as if we can sell more copies of Settlers to our existing customer base.  So what’s the use of that information? Well, here’s a few things we thought of:

  • Promote the Settlers of Catan 5 & 6 expansion more
  • Increase the number of games in the ‘sweet’ spot of $30 – 40
  • Improve the recommendations / upsell process for the above games
  • Make finding Settlers easier on the site

Canada Post Strike Update #2

So, the Canada Post strike continues.  From the sounds of it, the strike will continue for at least another week at the minimum even if the Government does push through their legislation.

The question is, how is it affecting us?  We’ve definitely seen an increase in local sales, while seeing a contrasting decrease by a more significant amount of shipped sales; even with FedEx in-play.  In fact, our overall conversion rate (no. of sales / visitors) is down by 23%.

Of course, conversion rates don’t tell the whole story – it just indicates the number of sales which includes local pickups and shipping orders.  We certainly have seen an increase in local pickups recently; from both our regular customers and new.  Unfortunately, local pickups have always been a smaller average dollar sale  than our shipped orders.

Currently, the saving grace for us on shipping are our customers who are putting orders through on our new $200 free shipping level.  The monetary increase in revenue there has provided us with an on-going stream of funds while we wait for the strike to end.

Certainly, speaking with others, customers have often just put their ordering on-hold till the strike ends.  I think most small businesses are hoping that once the strike does end, we’ll see a rush of orders.  It certainly is what I’m hoping for, even if I’m not planning for it.

Overall, financially we’re still quite stable – while we are running a loss during this period, I generally plan for the worst anyway during a year and we have sufficient available funds to ride out the strike.  I certainly wouldn’t be hiring if I didn’t think we could handle it.

New & Restocked Board Games : June 23, 2011

New Board Games:
Call of Cthulhu LCG That Which Consumes
Deadlands Invasion of Slaughter Gulch
DUST Tactics: Operation Seelowe
Dust Tactics: Light Panzer Walker
Dust Tactics: Light Assault Walker
Nightfall: Martial Law
Seven Dragons

Restocked Board Games:
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor
Airlines Europe
Aye, Dark Overlord (09 Ed)
Back to the Future: Card Game
Call of Cthulhu LCG Aspirations of Ascension Asylum Pack
Chessex Plastic Counter Storage Tray
Cosmic Encounter – Cosmic Incursion
Chronicle
Cosmic Encounter
Formula D: Expansion 2
Formula D: Expansion 3
Galaxy Trucker
Ghost Stories: White Moon Expansion
Game of Thrones : Epic Battles Chapter Pack
Heroes of Graxia
Onirim
Rise of Empires
Shogun
Settlers of Catan : Replacement Card Deck
The Resistance
Tribune: Primus Inter Pares
Tumblin’ Dice
Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow
Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow New Moon
Yggdrasil

Top 10 Science Fiction Games

Science Fiction explores the worlds that could be, pushing the boundaries of the future and alternate realities to make us question the world that we live in. In the following list, we provide a review of the some of the best science fiction board games currently available in-stores – games dripping with theme and great mechanics.

Dust10. Dust

Starting off our list is Dust, an alternate reality board game where World War I never ended, and alien technology has infiltrated our lives. Now, a never ending battle rages over our planet. Often described as a streamlined, well designed Risk, Dust is geared for those looking for just a little more science fiction in their wargames.

Doom9. Doom : the Board Game

Doom helped launch the first-person shooter video game. Now, in board format, players take on the role of the Space Marines in an attempt to escape the base. Dripping with theme from the computer game, the Marines are short on ammo and armour and will need to find the exit fast.

 

Space Alert 8. Space Alert

Space Alert is a team survival game: a type of cooperative game. Players become crew members of a small spaceship scanning dangerous sectors of galaxy. The missions last just 10 minutes (hyperspace jump, sector scan, hyperspace jump back) and the only task the players have is to protect their ship.  Of course, it’s easier than it sounds as calamity after calamity hit the spacefarers.  Can you work together long enough to survive?

 

Race for the Galaxy7. Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy is somewhat light on theme, with only cards representing the various galaxies, technologies and economy the players have, but makes up for it by far with exemplary gameplay. Years in the making, Race for the Galaxy plays fast and uses the ‘role choice’ system made popular in Puert Rico. Highly strategic, Race for the Galaxy only gets better with its expansions.

 

Starcraft the board game6. Starcraft the Board Game

Another computer game turned board game, Starcraft is a big box, galaxy spanning game where players take control of one of the races and must balance building and unit production. In addition, using an order marker system, players activate individual galaxies for conquest, production or just to bluff their opponent out!

 

Cosmic Encounter5. Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter has been reprinted multiple times since its initial release, with various publishers editing and changing the game slightly. Yet the core, highly popular racial abilities and simple, but fun, combat system has stayed the same. A game that plays quite fast and provides players with few, but significant decisions throughout the game, its no wonder that Cosmic Encounter continues to be reprinted.

 

Galactic Emperor4. Galactic Emperor

In Galactic Emperor, you are vying for control over the recently opened Galactic Throne. Using a series of role cards, players will have to balance the economic and technological development of their empire with military conquests and diplomacy. With multiple routes to victory and a highly balanced system, Galactic Emperor provides an immersive; galactic wide struggle in two to three hours.

 

Battlestar Galactica3. Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica brings the struggles of your popular TV characters to life on this board. A (mostly) co-operative board game, players take on the roles of their favourite TV characters in an attempt to guide the Battlestar Galactica and the rest of the human race to Earth. Be warned though, anybody can be a Cylon – even you as ‘sleeper’ Cylons get activated halfway through the game!

 

Galaxy Trucker2. Galaxy Trucker

Galaxy Trucker is a riot to play. Players must first build their space ships and then fly them through a hostile galaxy to cash in on the ship at the other end. However, there’s a time limit on building your ship and you’ll never know what tile you’ll draw, so decisions have to be made fast in how to build it. A bellyful of laughs, Galaxy Trucker is heart pounding fun and amusement for the whole family.

 

Twilight Imperium1. Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium continues to be the board game that all other science fiction games measure up against. A Fantasy Flight, big box game, Twilight Imperium can play for a staggering 11 hours, but players will be enthralled all through the game. You’ll take control of an alien race with their own special abilities, technologies and ships and must trade, negotiate, develop and battle your way to galactic dominance.

New & Restocked Board Games : June 17, 2011

New Board Games:
A Game of Thrones LCG: Called By Conclave Chapter Pack
Godzilla Kaiju World Wars
Red Dragon Inn 3
Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege
Star Trek Expeditions

Retced Board Games:
Arkham Horror : Dice Set
A Game of Thrones LCG: City of Secrets Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones LCG: LCG Forging the Chain Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones LCG: LCG Kings of the Storm Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: LCG Queen of Dragons Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: Lords of Winter Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: Raven’s Song Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones LCG: Tower of the Hand Chapter Pack
A la Carte Desert Expansion
Bang! Dodge City Expansion
Battlestar Galactica Exodus Expansion
Call of Cthulhu LCG Initiations of the Favored Asylum Pack
Call of Cthulhu LCG Secrets of Arkham Expansion Asylum Pack
Combat Commander : New Guinea Battle Pack
Cuba
Elfenland
Formula Motor Racing
Fresco
Jamaica
KinderBunnies
Modern Art
Memoir ’44 Pacific Theater Expansion
Munchkin 3: Clerical Errors
Munchkin 4: The Need for Steed
Olympus Strate Libri
Red Dragon Inn
Red Dragon Inn 2
Warhammer Chaos in the Old World : Horned Rat Expansion

PEST Analysis

So, I was thinking of the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) & PEST (Politics, Economics, Sociocultural & Technology) of the store as I am have a new employee and need to give them a briefing about the business. I figured that the PEST analysis might be of interest in particular to readers, since it deals with the external environment.

Politics

Well, 4 years of the Conservatives.  That means probably lower corporate taxes (not that it matters since we fall under the ‘Small Business’ tax regime; though I like their discussion of killing more red tape).  It also means austerity measures  are likely to kick-in and cause a rising interest rate; both of which should effect the economy.

Economy

Canada has had the best recovery of the G8; but a lot of that is fueled by housing & commodities.  A rising interest rate will effect our housing situation, while a too strong dollar might affect our commodity market.  In addition, there’s been a lot of signs of cooling of the global economy which will affect our commodity prices as well.

For ourselves, with no external loans anymore, interest rate changes by the Bank of Canada won’t affect our bottom-line directly, though it might make getting loans if we are looking for them harder.

Overall, I have a bad feeling what the next couple of years will bring to Canada’s economy.  I’m curious to see how it affects us – the initial period I think we’ll see a drop, after that it might balance out and potentially grow.

Sociocultural

One of the major issues that affect the gaming industry is the aging of our major target market.  This is worst in the case of RPGs, but even in board gaming the vast majority of our customers are over their 30’s.  With fewer gamers entering the market for tabletop games, the pie will eventually shrink from pure demographic / cultural factors.

At the same time, board games have seen a resurgence.  There’s a few reasons I think – firstly, economically they are cheaper than most forms of entertainment.  There is also a cultural ‘push-back’ I see where people want to interact face-to-face.   I don’t think it’s in-place of electronic interactions (e.g. Facebook, text messaging, Twitter updates) but in addition to.  A ‘need’ for physical interaction; and one that does not necessarily require a lot of money.

It seems to me that it’s the same target market (over 30’s) who have been pushing this; which has caused the board game market to increase in size.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the next decade or so, due to Technology.

Edit: On another note, which probably doesn’t come under Social but I’m not exactly sure where else it falls is the continuing push-back by publishers and traditional brick & mortar (b&m) stores against online game stores like us.  There is the obvious danger of being completely ‘locked’ out of certain large, good publishers as time goes on.

Technology

Yup, that big killer.  The biggest change I can see coming / already here are Tablet PCs.  As they become more ubiquitous and cheaper, I’m expecting that a number of games (particularly Eurogames) to become bigger sellers electronically than physically.  After all, if you have 4 players each with an iPad what is to stop everyone from playing their game on their pads together over a local Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / etc. connection.

The other aspect that seems to be taking part are the crowd-funding sites / projects that appears to be happening.  I have a feeling that this is going to push the already high rate of game introductions to a whole new level as smaller publishers finance their designs through sites like Kickstarter.  That’s both good and bad for us.   A game like Eminent Domain might be sold out in the first run directly to consumers, but in second and subsequent runs retailers could ‘get in the act’.

New & Restocked Board Games : June 10, 2011

New Board Games
Black Gold
Expedition Sumatra
Fastrack
Gipsy King
Rails of New England
Sun, Sea & Sand

Restocked Board Games
A Game of Thrones Card Game Core Set
A Game of Thrones Illyrio’s Gift Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones Kings of the Sea Revised Expansion
A Game of Thrones A Song of Silence Chapter Pack
Battles of Westeros
Carcassonne: Phantom
Cosmic Conflict
DUST Tactics: BBQ Squad
El Grande Decennial Edition
Grass
Junta
Labyrinth the Card Game
Magic Labyrinth
Parcheesi
Tinners Trail
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Core Set
Warhammer: Chaos In The Old World
Yggdrasil

The New Employee

So, we just hired again.  This time, we’ve hired for a full-time employee with the hopes of a better quality and more stability.

It’s interesting actually,  since I actually think of the new employee as a full-time and potentially permanent addition tot he company, I’ve  seen a difference in how I consider my procedures and practices as well as the responsibilities I expect to give them.

Among other things, I’m looking at the vast amount of unwritten procedures that I have and thinking – crap, this needs fixing. Of course, this really means that I’m going to train the new employee and then make them write the procedures.

New & Restocked Board Games : June 6, 2011

New Board Games:
Call of Cthulhu LCG Gleaming Spiral
Carcassonne: 10 Year Special Edition
Carcassonne: Dice Game
Carcassonne: Phantom Expansion
Combat Command Battle Pack #4: New Guinea
Dominion: Cornucopia
IronDie: Black Starter Pack
IronDie: Blue Starter Pack
IronDie: Expansion Stick
IronDie: Red Starter Pack
Legends of the Five Rings : War of Honor Boxed Set
Struggle for Catan
Warhammer: Invasion LCG Legends Expansion

Restocked Board Games:
A Game of Thrones: Ancient Enemies Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: City of Secrets Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones : Lords of Winter Expansion
A Game of Thrones: Queen of Dragons Deluxe Expansion
A Game of Thrones: Raven’s Song Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: Sacred Bonds Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: A Song of Summer Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: A Sword in the Darkness Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: Tales from the Red Keep Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones: War of the 5 Kings Chapter Pack
Arkham Horror
Axis & Allies: Europe 1940
Axis & Allies: Pacific 1940
Bang! (4th Edition)
Battleforce Scale Starter Box 1 – Inner Sphere
Battleforce Scale Starter Box 2 – Clan
Betrayal At House On The Hill
Call of Cthulhu Ancient Horrors Asylum Pack
Call of Cthulhu LCG Twilight Beckons Asylum Pack
Castle Panic
Descent: Altar of Despair
DUST Tactics: Recon Grenadiers
DUST Tactics: Special Ops Grenadiers
DUST Tactics: Special Ops Rangers
DUST Tactics: The Gunners
Early American Chrononauts
Frag Gold Ed: FTW
Frag Gold Edition
Galactic Emperor
Great Dalmuti
Hive Ladybug Expansion
Kids of Carcassonne
Knights
Last Night on Earth
Munchkin Quest

Munchkin Quest 2: Looking for Trouble
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Tanto Cuore – Deck Building Game
Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition : Shards of the Throne
Thurn & Taxis Power & Glory