Mixing & Matching – adding a new channel

One of the common suggestions I come across is for a retailer to expand either Online or into B&M if they are online only.   It’s an interesting idea and has some merit in that you expand your sources of income by expanding your services and reach.  However, there are some issues that most individuals who make the suggestions have not considered:

Focus

When you launch both an online store and a brick and mortar section, you actually double your workload.  Sure, certain things are shared (purchasing, accounting – maybe); but many of the tasks are very different.  With running any single side a full-time job (and more), you end up having to take shortcuts with either side leading to a lack of focus and efficiency.  It often is much more lucrative to focus on what you do best already rather than doubling your workload for marginal gain.

Additional Cost

There are additional cost to launching either side.  As an online store going to bricks & mortar, you have additional space requirements for  the B&M location, you can’t space your shelves as tightly or pack your games as firmly, you pay more per sq ft generally and of course, you have to pay for additional staff.  As a B&M store going online, you now have hosting costs for the website, additional box & packing material for shipping, additional time cost for shipping and box pick-up and an increase in customer service e-mails.  All of these add on to your work load, and often with minimal increase in revenue immediately.

Inventory Management

One of my constant nightmares is inventory management when you are effectively running 2 stores.  The question then becomes whether you seperate the B&M and online inventory (thus never allowing over-ordering) or you host a single inventory.  Now, hosting a single inventory sounds great – till you realise that it’s possible for a customer to walk up to your counter holding a game that was just sold online.  Now what? In either case, you are annoying someone.

Starting Over

Launching a website or a B&M store might garner you some additional sales from existing customers, but mostly you’ll just shift around how they order.  That might be fine for convenience sake on the customer’s part; but that obviously doesn’t provide you with new revenue.  As such, you end up starting over again having to build up new customers, new sales.  Sure, you might have some of the same infrastructure already but you’ve just added a bunch of cost without the revenue stream.

Competition

Competition is strange.  Sure, as an online store we compete indirectly with every B&M store in the world.  However, the customers who buy from us are often not the customers of a B&M store -they have different needs, different desires and vice versa.  Now, adding a new channel puts you in direct competition and you might find that you just aren’t up to it.  A B&M store might not be able to price well enough, ship fast enough to meet the desires of an online market.  An online store might not be able to provide sufficient events and game space for walk-in clients.  Having to compete on the same playing field generally means adding additional cost & procedures.  And if you refuse to play that game, you might not be successful at all – which then leads to the question of why bother?

Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small Review

Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small is the two person stand-alone board game version of the award winning Agricola.  Surprisingly, the game manages to keep both the theme and essence of Agricola while shortening the game length and number of players.  Overall, I’m a fan and have added it to my (limited) number of 2-player games.

Appearance: Those familiar with the Agricola artwork will find no surprises here.  Keeping to the same artist, Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small has a clean, clear design that is easy to follow.  In addition, the main board and tiles are of a good card stock, though the player boards are rather thin.  The design is clear and simple to understand, with players able to grasp the main mechanics using just the symbols on the board.   In addition, animal meeples are provided in the game which make differentiating between each animal type and the resources quite simple, speeding up gameplay and adding a touch of cute.

Rules / Ease of Learning: In All Creatures Big & Small, players start with 8 fences, a farm board and 3 family members that they will place on the main game board each turn.  As a worker placement game, players place the family members on the main game board to take the allocated resources or actions immediately.  Actions that are available include:

  • taking resources (wood, stone and wheat)
  • building a stall
  • upgrading stalls to stables
  • building one of the 4 special buildings
  • building fences
  • taking new fences & a farm land expansion
  • taking animals (4 actions with different animals in each section)
  • adding a feeding trough(s) to their farm land

Players can only keep animals if the animals are either kept in a building or in a fenced off location (exception, 1 animal can be kept next to a free-standing feeding trough).  In addition, animals may not be mixed together and are limited by the building / space on how many animals that can be kept at the location.  However, feeding troughs do double this number and one feeding trough can be placed per spot on the farm land map.  In addition, at the end of each round any animal type that a player has a pair or more of will breed a single additional animal that must be properly housed.

The player with the highest victory points at the end of the game wins, with scoring based on the number of animals a player has as well as building victory points and the amount of additional land completely used by a player.  Each of the animal types begin scoring points after a certain number, with all animals costing 3 victory points if players do not have a minimum of 4 of those animals.

Gameplay: Dry rules aside, how does the game play? Pretty well.  It’s a fast two player game that runs between 30 to 45 minutes each game.  It carries much of the same flavor / feel of the original Agricola so players familiar with that game will find picking up All Creatures Big & Small much easier.  Action choices in All Creatures though do not feel as ‘tight’ and the lack of a feeding phase for your workers reduces the tension in the overall game compared to Agricola.

For all that, All Creatures Big & Small is quite fun.  It’s a compact 2 player worker placement game that plays fast so it can be brought to most locations including cafes and can still provide a lot of enjoyment.  The choices can still be quite tough and after a dozen play I’m still looking at different strategies for winning as I adapt to my opponents moves.  With so few spaces, some level of ‘blocking’ can certainly be added to the game, though in the games we’ve played so far it’s not as prevalent.  I certainly can see some instances (and have had some occur) where blocking tactics have been brought to play but they often seem to be incidental to your own strategic needs.  Admittedly, it could just be the way we have played the games.

The only real concern is that the game could get stale after more plays.  With so few actions and special buildings, there are only a finite number of strategies available.  Sooner or later, especially with more experienced players, all the options would have been ‘played’.  Certainly, the expansion (More Buildings Big & Small) seems to be something you’ll want to add soon enough to keep variety in the gameplay.

Conclusion: Agricola : All Creatures Big & Small is a fun two player game that plays fast and is compact enough to carry around.  It’s fun; but there are concerns of how much replay value there might be in this game.  On the other hand, it’s also a great introduction game to worker placement.

 

New Used Games: January 28th, 2013

This is where you will find the latest updates on all of our new Used Game arrivals. Be sure to subscribe to the Used Games Category RSS feed to the right of this page.

January 28th, 2013

Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean – Used (Damage Grade A)
King Arthur – Used (Damage Grade A)
Labyrinth Card Game – Used (Damage Grade A)
Pocket Battles Celts vs Romans – Used (Opened)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Used (Opened)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Used (In Shrink)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Used (In Shrink)
Okko: Era of the Asagiri + Era of the Karasu – Used (Damage Grade A)
Marvel Heroes – Used (Damage Grade B)
Keythedral – Used (Damage Grade A)
Monastery – Used (Opened)
Ostia – Used (Opened)
Civilization (Gibsons Games Edition) – Used (Damage Grade B)
Axis and Allies – Milton Bradley Origina Edition – Used (Damage Grade B)
The Republic of Rome – Avalon Hill Edition – Used (Opened)
Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia (Avalon Hill) – Used (Damage Grade B)
Arkham Horror – Used (Damage Grade A)
Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror – Used (Damage Grade A)
Arkham Horror: Dunwich Horror – Used (Damage Grade A)
Arkham Horror: The King in Yellow – Used (Damage Grade A)

Video Review: Battle Line

Here’s our newest video review, for Reiner Knizia’s classic 2-player game, Battle Line. It’s a great choice for couple’s looking to add some more direct competition and strategy into their standard game repertoire, and for nights when you don’t have much time, or your gaming group ends up being smaller than anticipated.

Just a quick reminder of our new promotion for all games featured in Season 2: if you order a copy of Battle Line within a week of its video release (before February 4th), you’ll get 10% off.

Top 100 Units Sold

Just looked over the list of our items sold in 2012 and I thought this might be of vague interest.  We sold a total 2984 unique SKUs on the site last year, with these being our Top 100.

No. Product Name
1 Euro Card Game Sleeves
2 Ultra-Snug "Almost a Penny" Card Sleeves
3 The Lord Of The Rings Heroclix Booster
4 Pandemic
5 Standard American Board Game Sleeves
6 Standard Card Game Sleeves
7 7 Wonders
8 A Game of Thrones Board Game – 2nd Edition
9 Standard Card Game Sleeves (63.5 MM X 88 MM)
10 Settlers of Catan 4th Edition
11 Eclipse
12 Dominion
13 Forbidden Island
14 Descent : Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition
15 Android Netrunner LCG Core Set
16 Mage Knight Board Game
17 Ticket to Ride
18 Zombie Dice
19 Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
20 Star Wars X-Wing : Y-Wing Expansion
21 Small World
22 Ticket to Ride Europe
23 Citadels Card Game
24 King of Tokyo
25 Dixit
26 Power Grid
27 Agricola
28 Mini American Board Game Sleeves
29 Dominion : Intrigue
30 USA Chimera Game Sleeves 57.5 X 89 MM (100 pack)
31 Gift Wrapping
32 Star Wars X-Wing : TIE Advanced Expansion
33 Premium Standard Card Game Sleeves
34 Mini USA Card Game Sleeves
35 Risk : Legacy
36 Standard European Board Game Sleeves
37 Standard USA Game Size Sleeves
38 Premium USA Game Size Sleeves
39 7 Wonders – Cities Expansion
40 Tsuro
41 Magnum Large Card Sleeves #1 – 65 MM X 100 MM (Premium)
42 Card Protectors – Clear
43 Twilight Struggle Deluxe Edition
44 Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game
45 Settlers of Catan 5+6 Player Expansion 4th  Edition
46 Electronic Gift Cards
47 Elder Sign
48 Star Wars X-Wing : X-Wing Expansion
49 Summoner Wars: Master Set
50 Arkham Horror
51 Star Trek HeroClix Tactics Booster
52 Dominion : Dark Ages
53 Gloom
54 Eclipse : Rise of the Ancients
55 Pandemic : On the Brink
56 Munchkin : Deluxe Edition
57 Carcassonne Big Box 3
58 Dixit Odyssey
59 Euro Card Sleeve – Black Backed
60 Battlestar Galactica
61 This is a BGG Secret Santa Gift
62 Munchkin
63 Bohnanza
64 The Resistance
65 Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland
66 Quarriors : Quarmageddon Expansion
67 7 Wonders – Leaders Expansion
68 Premium USA Chimera Game Sleeves 57.5 X 89 MM (50 pack)
69 Mini Chimera Game Sleeves 43 X 65 MM (100 Pack)
70 Stone Age
71 Puerto Rico
72 Flash Point : Fire Rescue
73 Star Wars X-Wing : TIE Fighter Expansion
74 Merchant of Venus
75 Dominion : Big Box Edition
76 Carcassonne
77 Munchkin 2 Unnatural Axe
78 Dominion : Seaside
79 Saboteur
80 A Game of Thrones LCG Core Set
81 Last Will
82 Ora & Labora
83 Pathfinder Heroes & Monsters Miniatures – Standard Booster
84 Seasons the board game
85 Dixit 2
86 Dominion : Hinterland
87 Munchkin 3 Clerical Errors
88 Castles of Burgundy
89 Ascension Sleeves
90 Descent : Journeys in the Dark Conversion Kit
91 Lost Cities
92 Thunderstone : Towers of Ruin
93 Quarriors
94 Bang! : the Bullet!
95 Race for the Galaxy
96 Galaxy Trucker
97 Dominion : Prosperity
98 Super Dungeon Explore
99 Innovation
100 Cosmic Encounter

Video Review: River Dragons

Our first review of Season 2 is here! We’re previewing Asmodee’s River Dragons, a beautiful re-release of 2000’s “Dragon Delta”. It’s a fast, accessible family game that offers a surprising amount of strategy for more seasoned gamers.

Starting with this episode, all games featured in our reviews will be marked down 10% from our list price for the week following their video’s release. So if you’re looking to knock a bit off the price of your River Dragons preorder (it’s due out in February), you have until January 28th to order and take advantage of this offer.

We’re also continuing to work on making our videos more polished and professional in the new season, which includes some hair and makeup help from local makeup artist Ashley Young, who has done great work on Joanna’s main series, Standard Action.

Turnover Rates 2012

Following is a pie-chart showing how many copies of each SKU we sold in a year. Nearly 40% of our SKUs only sell a single copy; while 62% of our products have 3 or less copies sold through a year.

Only 38% of the games that we have sell  more than 4 copies, and of those, 17% of our SKUs sell more than 10+.  In other words, if you have a hit, you have a huge hit which can sell a ton of copies.  Many of these 17% of SKUs sold (505 total) are perennials like the entire Munchkin line, the various sleeves, Settlers of Catan series and the like.

Note, one aspect of this is that these are by SKUs sold, not by our total inventory.  We definitely have SKUs that have sold not at all in 2012.

2012-sales-by-sku
2012 Sales by SKU

Online vs Brick & Mortar

When starting out a game store, one of the first questions you run into is whether to create an online or Brick & Mortar store. There are, in my view, numerous reasons to choose one or the other.

Skill Set

Let’s start with perhaps the most important aspect – skill set.  The skills and knowledge required to run a B&M store compared to an online store are quite different.  In B&M, you worry about shrinkage, inventory, merchandising and upkeep of the physical store.  Online, you deal with website infrastructure, online marketing, inventory and logistics and shipping.  There is some overlap – customer service, purchasing, accounting but at times the information you receive and the processes are vastly different.

Depending on your previous experience and occupations, you might arrive with differing levels of knowledge in each area that would push you in one direction or the next.

Capital

Capital wise, it’s much more viable to start an online store with much lower capital amounts.  Mind you, I am not saying you’ll succeed with an extremely low capital amount but it’s possible to launch an online store that way.  In fact, if you use eBay or Amazon only where the focus is individual sales, you could probably make a small profit selling only a few games.

With a B&M store, that’s just not viable.  At the least, even a small hole-in-the-wall requires a commitment of a lease and inventory to stock the location sufficiently to make it viable.   As such, capital requirements are much lower.  In addition, with an online store it’s possible to create a decent store if you have the skills to do it yourself.

Time Commitment

Here’s another thing about going online.  For the first few ‘months’ of launch, you could potentially work part-time for the company since you are unlikely to have that many orders to ship out.  This is much more difficult with a B&M store as you still need to staff the store even if it is empty.

In addition, you can outsource a large chunk of work with an online store.  Everything from shipping and logistics to marketing & customer service can be outsourced when things are done on the Internet.  Obviously there’s a degradation in quality and a cost, but if you are willing to eat the margin hit, it is viable.

Personality

Here’s one I don’t hear as much but plays an important part.  Not everyone is suited to running a B&M store or an online store.  B&M store’s require a more extroverted personality, individuals who are happy (or least able) to interact with individuals on a daily basis for 8 – 10 hours a day while staying pleasant.  Online stores require disciplined individuals.  There is very little external stimulus to force you to work, so the discipline required is very similar (in fact, can actually be) the discipline required for telecommuting.  If you can’t do one, it’s really going to be hard to the other.

Competition

Local competition in the city you are in can dictate whether or not a B&M store is viable.  If your town / city has no game stores, your local competition is extremely low, making a B&M store much more attractive than starting such a store where there are already 2 or 3 existing (and strong!) competitors.

In addition, the landscape of online automatically places you in competition with the big boys.  You do not get a chance to ramp up slowly, your store is automatically compared to much larger, more established stores.  With competition only a click away, you have to put your best foot forward from the start, leaving little time to work out kinks in the system.  On the other hand, with little to no marketing your online store will never have customers due to the sheer number of competitors.

Motivation – Vision & Mission

Having worked in fthe field of marketing for a number of years, one of the major recommendations that many marketing consultancies and marketing managers give is to ‘write out a vision & mission statement‘.  For those who have luckily managed to miss this bit of corporate speak, from Wikipedia:

Vision: outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be (an “idealised” view of the world). It is a long-term view and concentrates on the future. It can be emotive and is a source of inspiration. For example, a charity working with the poor might have a vision statement which reads “A World without Poverty.”

Mission: Defines the fundamental purpose of an organization or an enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision. For example, the charity above might have a mission statement as “providing jobs for the homeless and unemployed”.

The Negatives

As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of this.  I’ve gone into too many meetings where after hours spent discussing ‘what is the Vision’, ‘what is the Mission’; the end result is a bunch of non-definitive gobbley-gook that uses the most popular lingo of the week.  Sure, there’s lip-service given to making sure everyone involved ‘buys-in’ to the vision, that everyone’s views are a given but the truth is quite often these exercises are just good ways to pad a consultants bill.

Worst, it can often tie a business down.  So many startup companies begin with an idea and end-up veering off course (quite successfully too).   A written vision or mission statement; if slavishly followed, can tie someone down to a course that might not be viable.

Lastly, all too often what you view as your vision / mission is often just internal fluff that has no bearing on what customers / suppliers / government agencies view you as.  Do you know what Apple’s vision statement is? Do you care so long as they continue to produce shiny new i-things?

The Positives

All that being said, a clear vision and mission statement can provide guidance when needed.  Zappos emphasizes customer service above all else – letting profitability fall by the wayside in their goal to create a truly memorable customer experience.  Johnson & Johnson used the guidance of their vision statement to pull off one of the fastest and most comprehensive callback during their drug-tampering crisis.

Perhaps more importantly, these vision / mission statements help guide hiring and thus the development / preservation of your company culture.  It’s not really a problem when you have a 2 or 3 person team; but when you are hiring your 100th employee making sure they have the right mindset to work for you becomes much more important.

So What’s Ours?

As you can guess, I’ve never bothered to write either statements.  I have a general idea about where we are going and what I’d like from the company and beyond that, I’ll just see what the world brings.

Food Fight Game Review

Food Fight is a card-drafting card game that works as a great tutorial for Magic Draft tournaments but is outshone as a pure card drafting card game by other, older games like Fairy Tale or 7 Wonders.

Appearance: Food Fight has some great artwork and importantly, the card stock is nice and thick.  This is a game that knows the cards are going to be shuffled and used a lot and has paid attention to this fact by providing good thick stock.  The card names are highly humorous and card art also adds to the overall ‘feel’ of the game.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Food Fight is not a a hard game to teach or learn.  Each turn, 3 Battleground cards depicting either Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner are turned over.  Cards of the same meal type are joined together and indicate the meals that might be fought over this turn.   Each player is then dealt 9 cards and must choose one before passing the remainder to the player next to him.  This continues till all 9 cards have been selected.

Players then choose 5 cards to be their army this turn, sending them into battle in one of the meals available.   Each player will shuffle their deck of 5 cards and simultaneously play a single card from their army each turn, playing Instants from their hands to ‘win’ the fight.  Each won fight gives players a victory chit with the player who has the most victory chits at the end of the battle winning the meal.  If a meal has only one player fighting for it, the player must then do battle with the dog (a random deck of cards with varying values).

The first player to accumulate 10 Victory Points worth of Battlefields wins the game.

Gameplay: There isn’t much different in Food Fight from other card-drafting fighting games like Fairy Tale.  The game can be played quickly and smoothly, the options to choose which Battlefiled to take part in gives some flexibility to players.  The combinations of cards are quite interseting as well and it doesn’t take long to play a full game through.

However, as players first draft their cards, assign their armies and then shuffle the army deck; there is no guarantee in which order your cards are going to come out in.  As such, certain cards that can be extremely powerful (e.g. General cards that give bonuses to all ‘Dinner’ or ‘Breakfast’ cards) might not arrive till the end of the round.  Other cards, which double the bonuses of other cards can also be of less use.  Players who want more control over their entire hand will find this extremely annoying as it’s easy to ‘lose’ due to bad shuffling.

To alleviate this, players can choose to go for ‘middle-strength’ cards, deciding against ‘picking’ combinations that might never work for strong initial cards.  However, in a larger group game this will likely result in a loss as other ‘luckier’ players will choose combination cards and actually manage to pull them off.

Conclusion: Food Fight isn’t a bad card-drafting game.  If you are more interested in a direct conflict game, or are interested in learning how to draft cards (e.g. for Magic Draft games); this is a cheap method to get some good experience card drafting and building decks.  However, there’s a lot of randomness in this game and it feels that often even the winners aren’t sure why they won over another player’s choices beyond some good luck.