It’s time for our last review of Season 3! It’s for one of our favorite games of the year, Czech Games Edition’s Alchemists. This game has yet to release in North America, and is expected to arrive in January 2015.
Just some general musings while I create the list of items that are going on-sale for Boxing Day. The process is rather simple – I download everything that we have in-stock on a certain date then filter items for those products that have been on sale before. I look these overs to see why they’ve been on sale (over-stock or non-sellers) and deal with them individually. That creates the ‘core’ of the list.
The second portion is finding items that were good sellers that don’t sell anymore. This is more of an ‘eyeball’ situation, where I scan down the remainder of the list looking for items that I don’t recall selling recently. If I hesistate on the answer, I check against our records. It’s not scientific but considering the sheer volume of SKUs involved, it is faster than checking each item individually.
Of course, on top of that there are numerous items that are given a pass for one reason or the other. These include:
- newly released items (obviously)
- items going out of / already out-of-print (on a case-by-case basis)
- dice (the more the merrier)!
- Bones figurines (again, these sell occasionally and cost us so little to keep in-stock it’s worth keeping. Till we run out of space anyway).
- ‘classic’ games that make sense to keep. While we don’t sell a lot of these, it helps give us a legitimacy to have stock of things like ‘Sorry’ and ‘Taboo’ and the like.
- Expansions of a good selling game (e.g. The A Touch of Evil: Something Wicked Expansion sells slow for us, but the base game is good; so we keep the expansion around).
Next step of course is figuring out what kind of discount we should provide. This is much simpler – we’ve got a little chart that indicates how often a game hs been discounted and what the last discount amount was along withwhat the next discount should be. So that’s all plug-and-play.
And that’s it, create the full file and then upload to the site. Generally, we’re hoping to see some items we won’t ever bring back in go out the door. It’s really nice to see ‘dead’ stock disappear because it’s ‘found’ money, money we can now use for other, better selling games in the future.
So, just a quick update for those curious. Bestselling products for the XMas Season so far include:
It’s interesing that the difference between Sushi Go! at the top and the Star Wars X-Wing: VT-49 Decimator Ship Expansion at the bottom is nearly 4 times. Of course, Sushi Go is comparatively cheaper, but there’s a steep curve going on here.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with timing as well. If you check the automated Bestsellers list which pulls from the last 30 days, it’s got Takenoko and the VT-49 Decimator much higher, mostly due to when the products came back into stock. Other items, like the One Night game might have sold more if we had more copies, but just couldn’t get enough stock in (ditto with Sheriff of Nottingham now since we are now out of stock).
Steam Donkey‘s my new portable light strategy game for multiple players. Previous games that have been in that category includes San Juan and Lost Cities. It’s a pure card game that focuses on hand management and tableau building and will play up to 4 players in a 30 – 60 minute game.
Steam Donkey’s a nice looking game with very 19th century, steampunk elements. Now, Steampunk isn’t for everyone but the art is cute and the design well thought out in the cards. It’s easy to tell what cards are placed where and what each card is, so that gameplay is fast and smooth.
That’s the thing of good design – when it works, it works and you barely even notice it unless you are thinking about it. That’s what Steam Donkey has, and I’ve got to give them kudos for it. Card stock is nice and thick too so there’s no issue at all with the card peeling – at least for a while.
The rules in Steam Donkey are simple. Players are resort owners who must build attractions in their resort to attract the most tourists. They have 3 sections to build resorts in – the Park, Beach or Town area and four different types of attractions they can build – amusements, lodgings, monuments and transportation attractions.
To build an attraction, players must discard cards from their hand of the same attraction type and place it in the appropriate area. Only one attraction in each area can be built though, so you’ll have to decide on which attraction works best for you. To get more cards in your hand, players can decide to instead draw from the discard pile or begin attracting visitors. Visitors are colour coded (on the back of the cards) to indicate the area they are interested in, and players can transport all visitors who would are going to the same area to their attractions at the same time. In subsequent turns, they may then draw the players from the attractions into their hands.
For those who have played San Juan, the game sounds and is very similar, but is much simpler as there are fewer ‘special’ cards that break the rules. At the same time, the game has a decent amount of complexity as players must decide between building attractions immediately to begin attracting visitors with saving cards to build the right kind of attractions. With the addition of secret goal cards and the fact that all built attractions score, there are a few viable strategies to winning.
In addition, Steam Donkey is easy to teach. The (basic) rules are relatively simple like all good Euros and this keeps each turn passing quickly. Of course, the advanced rules (not explained) add more complexity to the game along with more tactical options which greatly enhance the gameplay for those who have mastered the basic rules.
A word of caution – shuffle well. Due to the way visitor cards ‘clump’ together when played, if you don’t shuffle well you will find that you will be drawing visitors of the same type constantly, which might cause issues with how fast the game plays. Also, at times you’ll just be drawing cards because you are waiting for a specific card, which if you don’t shuffle the cards together properly can make for a long time of just drawing.
Lastly, something to note, while the game itself is easy to transport when playing it can take up a lot of space because of the tableau. This isn’t a game that plays in a very small space well, so be careful.
Overall, it’s a good accessible game that is easy to transport. If you need a basic filler, Steam Donkey is definitely something you should consider getting especially since San Juan is currently out of print at this moment.
Waggle Dance is a worker placement game that has players act as Queen Bees, using their bees to grow their hive, collect pollen and of course, produce honey. Waggle Dance is an interesting development of a worker placement game, with an interesting resource development engine in place that has to be carefully balanced. Overall, with nice artwork and cute dice, it’s a decent addition to the worker placement genre.
In Waggle Dance, each bee is represented as a die. At the start of each turn, players roll their dice and take turns placing them on the available cards, taking up spots in the cards (which at times can be limited) which represent actions that the bees are taking. Actions for the bees during that turn include increasing the size of the hive, plantin an egg, hatching an egg (for more workers/dice), collecting pollen of a colour type, changing eggs or pollen to pollen of another type, collecting special cards, moving collected pollen around the hive and turning pollen into honey.
4 pollen of the same kind must be collected and stored on a cell to make honey, and during a turn a player can only collect at most 2 pieces of a single colour of pollen. As such, making honey is a multi-turn process. As the winner of the game is the player who first reaches 5 pollen, this makes the collection of pollen a race.
Waggle Dance is a well designed and developed game. The dice are small and custom made, but perfect for their use and not hard to read. The colours are all bright and easy to pick out and the game uses a lot of symbols to indicate actions, but for the most part the symbols are quite easy to discern. Overall, I have to give Waggle Dance great marks for the overall design.
Gameplay for Waggle Dance would probably place it in the medium-light ‘weight’ as a strategy game. The ruleset like most Euros is pretty easy to learn and if you’ve played a game like Castles of Burgundy or Kingsburg before, you’ll understand the entire worker placement as dice aspect really quickly. That leaves the game balance, which is achieved by pitting competing needs against one another.
Specifically, players have to have sufficient space in their hive to collect and store pollen (and honey eventually) while providing space to plant eggs to hatch for new workers. Spend too much time growing your hive and collecting pollen and you won’t have enough workers to compete against other players, however, because of the limit of the number of pollen available in a round; you can’t neglect pollen collection to just grow your workers.
This makes Waggle Dance ‘feel’ more like a traditional euro with a full resource engine behind it, but one that is extremely tightly developed as it is a race to 5 honey instead of victory points. As such, you’ll always be watching what other players are doing while potentially attempting to block their actions. I definitely like that competitive aspect of the gameplay, especially the competition around pollen collection.
I would definitely put Waggle Dance as an extremely solid addition to the worker placement genre. It should definitely be part of the consideration for a collection if you don’t have a solid worker placement game as yet. Or you know, you like bees.