Video Review: Exodus Proxima Centauri

Starlit Citadel Reviews are back! After a month’s hiatus while we got things underway with our new production team, we’ve returned to our regular schedule of 1 video every 2 weeks. There have been a few minor changes to our look (some of which will only become apparent a couple reviews down the road, as we finish working with all of the footage that we’d shot before our break), but we’ve kept the structure and feel of each review the same. We hope you’ll like what you see, and are very happy to be back.

This week, we’re covering the tight, combat-focused 4x game, Exodus: Proxima Centauri.

Conventions – A Little Love, A Little Hate

I have a love / hate relationship with conventions.  They can be decent marketing opportunities and decent sales, but they disrupt our regular work and are extremely draining.  Some conventions are better than others (in both terms of sales and physical drain); but I thought it might be interesting to discuss a convention from the perspective of a dealer.

Long Days

When you think of a convention, you think of it starting on a Friday or Saturday and ending that Sunday.  It’s a 2 to 3 day event, mostly with a ‘decent’ 8 to 10 hours.  However, that’s not what it is for dealers.  It starts the day before, when we pack up for the convention.  That can take 3 to 4 hours easily.  Then, we start 3 to 4 hours before the event doors open, setting up the booth.  There’s the games, the shelves, the pricing all to be completed.

Once the event starts, we’re standing up talking and dealing with customers and browsers all day long.  Once the doors close, we’ve got another 20 – 30 minutes of clean up (and waiting for the last stragglers to leave) before we have to input that days orders in.  At best, most days are 9 hours long, at worst we can be doing up to 16 hours in a day (GottaCon!)

Through all that though, we have to be happy and chirpy and on the ball.  We get asked questions, recommend options and search through our memories for stock while smiling.  It’s physically and emotionally draining and in 3 days we can do 30+ hours.

Then of course, once it’s all done we’re back at work on Monday (at least, some of us!)

Building a Mini-Store

At a convention, we’re basically building a mini-store.  It’s great training for owning a retail store I’d think – you have to think about traffic flow, the potential customers, merchandising and the checkout process.  If you can’t run a convention booth well, perhaps you shouldn’t run a retail store it seems to me.

What’s Going on Where?

Working a convention is just that – work.  Many conventions do not have after show events, so once the vendor hall closes it’s hard to go do anything.  Breaks during the day are often only an hour to two hours long – not really enough time to watch a panel especially when you consider those breaks include lunch / dinner.  In most cases, after talking to people for 4 hours straight, we just want to find a corner and hide!

So for us, most conventions revolve around the vendor hall.  We get to see customers, maybe watch them play a few games and talk to them; but actual events at the convention are often missed.

Networking

One amusing part of being a vendor is that you often see the same vendors at other events.  After a while, you start making friends, shaking hands and commiserating over bad sales days or your aching feet.  You network, and it’s kind of fun because often you aren’t in direct competition (except for that event); which means you can be somewhat more open.  I can tell a clothing retailer much more about my business than another game store owner, even if we both don’t really understand each others markets that well.

Aftereffects

After doing 2 conventions in a row, I wanted to talk about the aftereffects too.  Conventions throw things off by a large amount, more than you’d think – we have a significant number of staff ‘disappear’ for days on end.  To ensure we don’t go into too much over-time, we have to cut their hours during the normal work week which leaves us short-staffed.  Projects that have a more flexible work date are pushed aside while we get ready and then do receiving, and of course; there’s always a little damage to the product through all the moving.  Conventions are hard on the business and the staff, and it’s no surprise that so many businesses who do conventions just do conventions.

New Releases: March 21st, 2014

A Game of Thrones LCG: Spoils of War Chapter Pack
Combat Commander: Paratroopers
Command & Colors : Napoleonics Expansion #3 – Austrian Army
D6 Dice Set – Scarab Jade with Gold (16mm)
Galaxy Defenders
Galaxy Defenders: Elite Alien Army
Hordes: High Command – Elemental Rage
Marvel – Legendary Deck Building Game: Paint the Town Red
My Little Pony: Collectible Card Game – 2-Player Starter Set
Smash Up: Science Fiction Double Feature
Star Wars X-Wing: Imperial Aces
Star Wars Trooper Assault Art Sleeves
Star Wars Power of the Dark Side Art Sleeves
Star Wars Power of the Light Side Art Sleeves
Star Wars Princess Leia Art Sleeves
Star Wars Han Solo Art Sleeves
Star Wars Jabba the Hutt Art Sleeves
Timeline: Cinema & Music
We Didn’t Playtest This Pasted-On Theme at All!

Check Your Bills

One of the most boring aspects (and one I occasionally skip) is the checking of bills.  Bigger organisations obviously have an accounts payable individual who deals with it, but when you are the owner of a small store like we are; you got to do it yourself.

It’s extremely important for us to check bills coming in because while increasing revenue is hard, driving costs down is even more important.  If you figure net profit to be only 5%, then the other 95% are all costs.  So, if your cost increases by 1%, that’s nearly a full 1% (0.95%) decrease in your profit margin.  Put another way, if you run a $200k business, that’s $1,900 of loss profit.

How can it happen? A number of reasons, and the most common one’s are below:

Intentional

Whether it’s price increases, a new levy or fee or just a supplier attempting to slip one pass you, intentional increases can often add to your cost base on a permanent basis.  These changes are important to catch fast, because a cost increase can sometimes be fought and removed.

An example – phone lines.  If you’re Canadian, you understand what I’m talking about.  Watching for sudden increases or new charges is important, especially when you are a business.  Sadly, they like slipping in charges for businesses more often than not.

Unintentional

More often though, the charges that you are looking for or the increases are unintentional issues.   This is especially prevalent if you have non-standard contracts with the companies – whether due to negotiations or some other reason.

Here’s a few examples from the game trade – interest charges on mistakes made in the accounting department (e.g. invoices indicated unpaid even if they are) or cash discounts that are removed when they shouldn’t be or just product discounts that are calculated wrong.

Don’t get me wrong – you won’t always catch mistakes that are in you favour. Sometimes, it won’t but I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do then.  Still, in my experience when mistakes happen it generally is in your disfavor, which is why it’s worth checking.

How much can it work out to? Well, our most recent error catch was in the $500 region – though if we had been doing our job properly, it’d have been a lot lower (i.e. caught faster).

New Releases: March 14th, 2014

Al Rashid
Concept
Continental Express
Cthulhu!!!: Hastur La Vista, Baby!
Dropzone Commander: Aircon Units & Ducts Pack
Duck! Duck! Go! (2nd Edition)
Give It To The King!
Hex Dice Tray (Walnut)
Island Siege
Spielbox Magazine: Issue 7 (2013)
Tessen
Ultra PRO 9-Pocket Page for Standard Size Cards
Volt: Robot Battle Arena
Warpaints: Mega Brush Set
We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre

Conventions – GottaCon & Toronto

I’ll write a much longer blog post later when I have time, just got back from the second convention in a row that we have gone through and am still somewhat bushed.  On a personal good note though, I have managed to somehow miss the Con-lurgy.   I too am amazed.

We did GottaCon at the start of this month and the new location and format had both it’s high points and low points.  Being based downtown, the convention was amazingly well situated with food options easy to get to and hotels a short walk away.  The fact that the convention was split over multiple rooms and floors was a bit of a problem in terms of concentration of events, but it did mean that con-goers could just focus on what was most important to them.  It was also really, really nice to have carpeted floors to stand on.

For us, the big problem was having to move-in / set-up the day before and setting up for the school event that was a huge bust.  The children basically paid no attention to us as vendors, which was understandable – but it did cost us a significant increase in funds to arrive a day early and staff the booth.  Hopefully, this will be changed again.

The board game section was once more buzzing – there were 22 ‘main’ tables and another side room with another half-dozen tables, all of which were packed during the busiest periods.  In fact, there weren’t enough tables at some points during Saturday.

Overall, we enjoyed ourselves at GottaCon and will definitely be back next year.

As for the other convention, we visited as Fortress Geek; so I’m going to just say that if you do live in Toronto; the Toronto Comic-Con is a ton of fun.