Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan Game Review

Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is a role-playing adventure game based in the Catan universe.  In Candamir, players are the actual settlers who are attempting to grow the settlement and are competing to see who can contribute the most to the settlement.

Candamir front coverAppearance: Candamir’s game board and pieces are of good quality with some great layouts to make the game easy to learn and pick-up.  Most of the information you’ll need is right there on the board, keeping the game simple.  However, the actual art is not particularly good as you can tell from the box cover.  It’s not horrible – it’s just not good.

Rules / Ease of Learning: The rules for Candamir are not particularly complex and thus easy to teach.  Each player receives one of the four character boards; who each have different skills in one of 4 skill sets.  Which character you receive dictates your strategy for the rest of the game quite often.

Players start in the centre of the board where the settlement is and move through the larger game board’s forests, plains and mountains in search of lumber, hides and ore.  Each of the squares on the board are covered by tiles which contain resources, experience points to upgrade your attributes, and victory points.  Deciding on which tile to move to is much of the strategy of the game.

The actual movement in Candamir is dictated by the movement cards that you play, and depending on where you move to you will be forced to fight the animals that populate the island of Catan. This can be potentially beneficial as you can gain hides and experience from such combat, but it is also dangerous as you can lose health doing so.  In addition, you can encounter Candamir and help him chop wood or take part in an Adventure which is drawn from the adventure card.   All tests in the game are dealt with by an attribute + die roll difficulty challenge.

When you’ve collected sufficient resources, you can then aid the other NPC settlers on the board by fulfilling their wishlists.  If you are able to do so, you get to place your points on the board.  Each wishlist must be fulfilled in order, so sometimes you’ll have to wait for another player to complete his tasks before you can fulfill yours.  You can also use the various NPCs to build additional items to aid you in your tasks.

Gameplay: Playing Candamir : The First Settlers of Catan is very muc an RPG version of Settlers of Catan. There is some limited interaction between players, but with such a large board (respectively); it’s mostly a race to get to the right tiles before the other players.  The real strategy of the game is deciding where to go and how to best get the resources you need with both the abilities your character has and the items they might find.

There is a lot of random luck in this game though – from what tiles you draw to the movement cards you get to the die rolls to succeed at tasks.  This can make the game frustrating for some players as the best laid plans can fall by the way side.  However, the interesting adventure cards and the fact that the game doesn’t last that long (an hour to an hour and a half for 4 players) makes sure that the pain doesn’t last too long.

Overall, Candamir seems to fill a strange RPG / Development niche that isn’t very populated.  There’s a lot less ‘combat’ than pure RPG adventure games like Runebound or Talisman have and yet it provides the satisfaction of character development that are the major source of fun for these games.

Conclusion: I’d definitely recommend trying out Candamir if you can get your hands on a copy.  This isn’t a game for everyone and while the mechanics are solid, there’s also nothing exception here either.  Still, it can fill as a gateway game to more hardcore adventure games for Eurogamers or a good family game as well without the multiple-hour commitments of other adventure games.

 

Turn Rates

Turn Rates are interesting as an online game store.  We have over 4,000 plus items on our list; but a chunk of those are not in-stock or were out of stock.  So the information below is only for those that sold during this 1 year period and does include a large chunk of our ‘sale’ items (over 400 games).

Turn Rates for a Year
Turn Rates for a Year

If you look at the above chart, we move most of the stock that comes in in a regular year.  We often restock a game at least once sometimes twice before we stop carrying a product. Most (64%) sell at least 2 copies (if you exclude the 400 or so sale items that were sold this year) and another 32% sell over 4 times in a year. Over 400 products (16%) sell more than 10 times a year – everything from sleeves, boxes to our bestsellers like Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan.

Video Review: Bunny Bunny Moose Moose

This week’s review is for a great party game from one of our favorite designers, Vlaada Chvatil, called “Bunny Bunny Moose Moose.”

The game doesn’t currently have a North American distributor, but we’re talking to the publisher about bringing in some copies. If you’re interested in picking it up, please contact us to discuss a special order.

Getting My Hands Dirty

With summer in full swing, the employees have been taking off while things are relatively quiet. That means I’ve had to get my hands dirty once again pulling, packing & receiving.  Over the last year and a half I’ve slowly transitioned to a more cerebral role in the business – spending more time doing marketing, accounting, planning and IT.  As such, for the first time in  while I’ve actually gone to the warehouse on a regular basis and did the grunt work.

It’s actually been a very good experience in many ways.  Firstly, I get to see firsthand how some of the policies I’ve dictated have been put into place – or not.  That means I get to offer a more direct interface rather than the numerous statistics we keep (which still have their place).  Secondly; as the primary purchaser in the company and with games ‘disappearing’ from inventory for no reason (IT bug which puts Settlers of Catan to -3 for example for no reason) it’s good to actually know how many games we actually have (for some at least).  Lastly; and rather importantly – I get to see what my employees are doing and fix things.

By fixing I mean creating new processes or removing old processes to increase efficiency.  It can also mean looking at hours spent and considering if we need more help during specific times in the week.  While it’s always nice when the employees come with their own ideas, one of the reasons you’re the boss is theoretically; you have more experience than they do.  You certainly have a better understanding of all parts of the company and thus can make the calls they can’t.

Sometimes, getting your hands dirty is the only way to know.

Video Review Update : New Playlists and Articles

In lieu of a new video this week (as our videographer/editor is off at GenCon), we’ve sorted our existing videos into themed playlists for easier browsing.

If you’re a fan of classic Euros like Power Grid and Agricola, check out the Strategy Games list for new ideas, while fans of Arkham Horror and Battlestar Galactica can go to Thematic Games for inspiration. Newcomers to the genre and gamers hoping to rope in a friend or partner can use our Gateway Games list as a starting point, and those looking to kick back with something lighter should take a look at Fillers and Party Games.

We’ve also added a special Gateway Games article to our main site, which adds suggestions for where to go next once you’ve played and enjoyed one of the basic games in our list.

We’ll be back with a new video next Monday, and will be updating these playlists and adding new ones as we upload more content. If there’s anything you’d like to see us do to improve the channel and make it easier for you to find the games and videos you want, let us know.

The Wheaton Effect – A Follow Up

It’s been a few months since Tabletop started; and since then numerous new games have been released.  As a follow-up on our previous article I thought I’d track both the effects of the new releases and the lingering effects (if any) on the older series.  Once again, Starlit Citadel is a Canadian game store.  One store, Canada, not representative of the industry necessarily; etc.

An explanation on the graph is required before we talk about results:

  • There are 4 line charts below – Total Sales, Sales of Geek Games (i.e. products found mostly in Game Stores only) and Total Mass Market Games (games that are found in the mass market; specifically Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan & Say Anything).  All three above lines are averages of sales for each product since it is much easier to read this way).  The last straight line is a trendline for the Total Average Sales of Geek Games.
  • I’ve included the data for Munchkin & Munchkin Deluxe Edition in the data set since both seemed to have been positively affected by the video. Get Bit is included in this data for the most part; even if it has been out of stock for most of the period.
  • The horizontal bar on the bottom shows number of weeks since the launch of the Tabletop video (with Week 1 being the week it launches).
  • It’s also worth remembering that the jumpiness is numbers sometimes has to do with lack of stock / out-of-stocks on both our side and the distributor / publishers as well as timing (e.g. sales are always more at the start and middle of the month when people receive their paychecks).
Wheaton Effect - On-Going Data
Click on Chart for Larger Image

Observations

Total Geek: Significant increase in the first week it is launched, with a substantial drop afterwards (about 50%).  The next 2 months sees a smaller decrease overall; but it seems to last with sales continuing to be pretty good till a least 20 weeks (5 months!) afterwards.

If you understand turn rates, if we sell only 1 copy a week that’s a turn rate of 52! That’s amazing considering the average turn rate of a retail store is between 2 – 3.  So, the question of  whether this is a flash in a pan effect seems to be ‘No’.  There’s defintely an on-going interest especially among game store only games.

Total Mass Market: Strangely enough, it seems like the week that the game comes out; we see a dip in sales.  It might just be a matter of luck & timing; it might be because people are just waiting to watch the show and decide.  Since these products are easily available in mass market retailers; there’s no ‘rush’ to buy them perhaps.

In addition, as you can probably see; sales continue to be pretty consistent (and at a higher level) than the Geek Games.  However; this isn’t too surprising – Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride have always been bestsellers for us.  In fact, I’m not sure that Tabletop has made any real difference in our sales for these games.

Chaos & Order

I’ve noticed there are 2 types of people – those who thrive on Chaos and those on Order.

Chaos

I’m Chaos – I work well under periods of stress and high-volume information flow.  Most entrepreneurs are like me too from my experience – because the very act of starting a business requires you to be able to handle that level of chaos.  I don’t necessarily work very well with structure and bureaucracy.

On the other hand, as an entrepreneur you need to be able to create (or at least understand) Order in your business.  Not everybody is Okay with changing how you do things 3 times in 2 days.  Or learning a whole new set of skills every 3 months as you grow.

Order

Which is where, luckily, Kaja seems to come in for us.  She’s more of an Order bringer; which is great since I hand off a lot of the routine work to her.  She helps write all the procedures and files them away in a nice manual.  I might tell her to ‘track Shipping costs and postal codes’; but she’s the one who has to do it every day and add it into the daily routine.

The ability to take Chaos and make Order out of it is is extremely important.  It’s not as much fun as riding the edge of crisis everyday; but it does mean that things run more smoothly for everyone.

At the same time, bureaucracy can be the death of a business – especially small businesses. Since we only have a small base of customers, each customer is important and the bureaucracy of processes can kill customer loyalty.

Industry Size 4 (updated with 2008 numbers)

If you have been reading for a while, you’d notice that a while ago we looked at the 2006 numbers for the industry (NAICS 451120 – Hobby, Toy and Game Stores).  Since then, they’ve released the 2008 numbers (only 4 years behind!); so I thought I’d take a look at the differences we can see in the gaming industry in Canada.  There’s obviously a lot of other retailers other than pure gaming retailers here included but it’s the closest we have to real numbers.

So here’s some of the things we found interesting:

1) Higher No. of Stores

In 2006 we had 1,328 – now it’s 1,413.  That’s a 6% increase in 2 years.  On a straight line basis, we’d be at 1,587 stores now in 2012.  Obviously, we’re growing!

2) Better Margins

Net profit has gotten better to 2.6% with 58.2% cost of sales.

3) Average total Revenue dropped

From $323.6k to $320.3k.  It’s also interesting to note that the 50-75% quartile has seen a lower low and high value at $143k and $364k respectively.  That means there’s a lot more businesses making less than they were 2 years ago – while the guys at the top have pulled away further with better profits.

4) Wages continue to be extremely low

If you’re at the bottom 50% of the groups surveyed (over 700 stores); you’re looking at most $16.4k in wages (including the ‘profit’ the company made).  If you’re in the 3rd quartile, $39.2k is your total wage.  A bit better than last year for the 3rd quartile, but man is that low for the amount of work we put in.

5) Rent

This is a strange one.  I’m not even sure how to read this – for the 2nd quartile (25-50% of all businesses); their average rent was $8.9k.  That’s $750 a month.  Obviously not everyplace is as insane as Vancouver for retail prices, but still, rent at $750 a month has got to mean a maximum store size of 1000 sq ft and more likely 500-700 sq ft.  I’m assuming taxes and other operating costs are not included in that calculation.

It begins to make more sense at the 3rd quartile at $1,800 per month for rent.

6) Marketing Expense

As a whole, the industry spends about 1.8% of their gross revenue on marketing.  However, the smaller businesses spend a proportionately higher percentage than the larger – it goes from 2.8% down to 1.6% as you shift quartiles.  I guess there’s something to be said about scale and (probably) number of years in business.

7) The Averages are a Lie

There’s a last section that compares the profitable vs non-profitable businesses and it’s enlightening.  At each level, the differences between the profitable and non-profitable businesses are marked; especially when you look at their net profit. Example in the 2nd Quartile, the average profitable business makes a net profit of $19.5k compared to the non-proftiable average loss of $17.3k.  In the 3rd Quartile, it’s $29k to -$29.2k respectively.

So obviously, there are businesses that are doing really well for the owners at each level. If you assume the average wages / etc stay the same for these businesses, then the total wages possible for an owner working by themself in the 2nd and 3rd quartile moves to about $33 and $61k respectively.  A decent salary – though insane hours!

Final Thoughts

All this is old data.  From my experience, we’ll likely see a much higher number of stores in 2010 and 2012 when the numbers finally release.  In Vancouver alone, we’ve seen at least 4 new businesses open since 2008 in the game store industry with only 1 closing in the interim.  It’s also interesting to note how little is actually spent on marketing – in terms of both actual dollars and % of business.

At the end of the day though, all these numbers are just guidelines of where you should / need to be.  Every business is different and learning to adjust to your specific situation is what makes or breaks a company.