New Board Games: May 30th, 2016

Android: Netrunner LCG – The Liberated Mind Data Pack
Descent: 2nd Edition – Stewards of the Secret Hero and Monster Collection
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
King Chocolate
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – The Bespin Gambit
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Bossk Villain Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – ISB Infiltrators Villain Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Lando Calrissian Ally Pack
T.I.M.E. Stories: Under The Mask
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest LCG – Legions of Death
Walnut Grove
under the mask

New Board Games: May 27th, 2016

Back To The Future Card Game
Fireteam Zero
Guild Ball Rulebook with Sleeve
Guild Ball Season Two Rulebook
Guild Ball Starter Set: Union’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Mortician’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Mason’s Guild
Guild Ball Season 2 Starter Set: Hunter’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Fisherman’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Engineer’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Butcher’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Brewer’s Guild
Guild Ball Starter Set: Alchemist’s Guild
Marvel Dice Masters: Civil War Dice Building Game Starter Set
Pathfinder: Bestiary Box 5
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Inquisitor Class Deck
Risk: Game of Thrones
Shadowrift: Archfiends
Who Am I?
World’s Fair 1893
guild ball rulebook

Spiel Des Jahres Nominees 2016

Spiel des JahresThe Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres juries have announced their nominations for the most prestigious awards for excellence in game design in the world, in terms of publicity and generated sales.  For those who don’t know, the Spiel des Jahres is one of the most prestigious board game awards in the world but it often trends towards ‘lighter’ family games especially in recent years.  To provide a more ‘gamer games’ award, the Kennerspiel des Jahres was created which is why you’ll find ‘heavier’ games in that list.

The nominees for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres, Germany’s “Game of the Year” award, are

  • Codenames designed by Vlaada Chvatil, and published by Czech Games.
  • Imhotep, designed by Phil Walker-Harding, and published by Thames & Kosmos.
  • Karuba , designed by Rudiger Dorn, and published by HABA.

Nominations for the Kennerspiel des Jahres are:

  • Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 designed by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau, and published by Z-Man Games. (By the way, there’s one more print run of this game before it goes OOP).
  • T.I.M.E. Stories  designed by Manuel Rozoy, and published by Asmodee & Space Cowboys.
  • Isle of Sky: From Chieftain to King  designed by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister, and published by Mayfair Games & Lookout Games.

Summer Promo: $100 Free Shipping Treshold

Free Shipping at $100!Now that Summer’s pretty much here, we’ve decided to lower our free shipping threshold in Canada from $175 to $100. Yes, that’s right. $100.

What’s the catch? Our usual free shipping policies apply.  The $100 threshold is per order and is calculated after discounts but before taxes and shipping is calculated.  Furthermore, if your order has pre-order / backorder items on it, we will hold the entire order till all items in the order are ready for shipping.

Of course, at the new $100 level, you should be able to split your orders quite easily to ensure everything that everything that is in-stock is in one order and everything that is a backorder on another.

Once again, this promotion is running for all of Summer and is scheduled to end August 31, 2016.

Happy Ordering!

 

 

The Game Wizard (Part 2)

Game Wizard 3.0I’ve recently gone on a spree revamping the Game Wizard once more.  The last time I touched it was in November when I wanted it a bit more up to date for the Christmas season, but we were still missing large chunks of new releases.  This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the backend processes, so if you haven’t read the previous post, you should.

Changing Goals

I’ve been thinking about the nature of the Game Wizard in comparison to a flowchart (which is what we initially based the Wizard off).  With a traditional flowchart, you really only want a few answers (mostly yes / no) since this allows people to track their path more easily. With the Wizard though, we can ask more open ended questions with multiple answers since we reload the page with the new question each time.    That leads to much ‘shorter’ paths while providing the same amount of information.

However, one danger we wanted to avoid was replicating what our filters already do on our category page.  We don’t want to ask questions like ‘how many players’ or ‘how long do you want to play’ even if we would ask those questions in real life, because those kind of questions are already best answered by our filter system.  A customer could go to the main category page and choose their options there, filtering by the various criteria to individual games.

Instead, what we want the Game Wizard to do is ask the sillier / more thematic or generic questions, the kinds you might ask a friend who is standing in front of your game library.  You don’t necessarily want to say ‘how many players’, but rather ‘are you looking for something more thematic or strategy’? You know already, to some extent the games you can offer, what you want to know is what would suit them best at that moment.

The Lucky Few

By the very nature of the Wizard, we are narrowing down our options of games significantly.  We host over 5,000 board games (okay, card games and miniatures too) on the site. There’s no point asking specific questions to differentiate each and every game.  Instead, you have to choose a few.  So how do we do that? The usual really. Personal taste, sales and critical acclaim.  While I might weigh a little more to games I personally enjoy occasionally, if there’s a bestseller out there, I”m going to do my best to ensure it gets added to the Wizard somewhere.

That creates a circle of course, of bestselling games getting more attention which generate more sales which generates more attention.  It’s why I let things like my personal taste and other critical reviews have a say once in a while.  It’s also one of the reasons why we prefer the wizard, there’s no physical ‘space’ constraints we have to worry and the ability to ask more open-ended questions means we can have more answers, which can highlight some great less well known games.

The Flowchart

Will we ever return to editing the flowchart we created? I don’t know. In some ways, the flowchart being a picture has been spread much further than our Game Wizard even though we feel it’s an inferior product.  There’s too many limitations to the form.  If we ever did, we’d have to hire a professional designer to redesign the infographic once again and that would mean editing the various Q&A’s we created.

The Ask

One thing we do want is some feedback on the Wizard. Are the Q&A’s doing their job.  Are you getting where you want to go? Are you learning anything new? Have you tried it with new gamers? Do they like it? What answers / branches could we add?

Grow or Perish

Grow or dieOne of the aspects about any business is that to a certain extent, you are always forced to grow.  Standing still (in terms of revenue at the very least) is death.  Every year, your costs go up (unless you are lucky / down-sizing for some reason).  A real world example – our product shipping cost has grown by a good 4% in the last 2  years due to the fact that we have to buy from Canadian distributors rather than US distributors.   As mentioned, our portion of real estate taxes doubled in 3 years.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   Every year, costs go up.

As a business, you need to grow your revenues at least enough to cover the increase in costs.   That means you need to see a 2% increase at the very least (based off CPI)/ Most of the time of course you want to grow even more than that.  Unfortunately, for most of us, growth like this requires more than a wish and hope, it also requires spending more for advertising and often, working on new plans and streams.

For us, over the last few years it’s been about growing new product lines outside of board games.  Increased competition by gaming stores (both physical and online) means that the pie is being fought over ever more, and exclusives level the playing field in terms of stock availability in many ways.  Even with the gaming market growing, it seems that the increase in game stores is on-par and we no longer see the aggressive growth numbers we were used to seeing from our gaming categories.

It’s one reason why we’ve invested so heavily into other items like Pop! figures, geeky clothing and the like.   Don’t let that statement fool you though, gaming is by far our biggest category (so big that on our backend we split products up so that we can better track the types of revenue) and even low % growth is still significant.  Still, knowing that we have to grow is always on our mind and it’s been something I’ve been pondering more and more recently.

As I’ve mentioned, our lease is coming to an end next year and while we have an extension option, there’s been some significant consideration to opening a physical B&M store.  We have had more than a few customers want to browse our inventory and when we ran our Open Houses, we had significant interest.  Having a full B&M store opens up the option of doing events as well and snake & drink sales.  Presumably, many of our impulse purchase items would also see an increase in revenue, potentially significant enough to recover the difference in cost.

The biggest hurdle is capital. Having invested a significant amount of capital into inventory for our various other categories, we don’t have a lot of left.  That means opening the store would be on a shoe-string budget for things like tables, new bookcases, etc. There’s also a chance that sales don’t grow like we expect or at the rate that we expect, burdening us with significant fixed expenses and not enough revenue generated.  It’s why I’d love to be able to go into it with a significant capital cushion, which probably means looking at some form of external financing.

Of course, we could just continue doing what we are doing, taking on some additional side projects like the Kickstarter fulfillment; but we risk very slow growth in that case.  hat though might not be a bad idea – pay down debt, earn a little bit more money and continue onwards. Unfortunately, it’s also boring…

 

 

New Board Games: May 13th, 2016

Air Show
Alan’s Adventure
Boss Monster 2: Limited Edition
Dark Matter
DC Comics Deckbuilding Game: Batman vs The Joker
Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis
Looking for Group RPG
Goblin Hunters
Ninja Dice: Cage Masters
Seven Wonders
Shadowrun 5th Edition: GM Screen
Tin Goose
The Lord of the Rings: Flight of the Stormcaller Expansion
Vikings: The Board Game
Village (Restock)
Village Inn (Restock)
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest LCG – Final Gambit War Pack
gladiator

Lion Rampant Open House

We visited the Lion Rampant Open House for the first time to chat with the distributors, some retailers and the publishers.It was a fun event, if exhausting coming on the end of 2 conventions. Between multiple conventions and the time zone differences, I was wiped and didn’t spend as much time gaming as I’d like.  Still, I did get a chance to see some interesting new products, some of which I took photo’s of.

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft

The Games:

  • Costa Rica by Mayfair Games.  A rather cut-throat push your luck game with set collection where players flip over tiles and collect various animals but must be careful not to get cut off from the island as other hexes are collected out from them.
  • Agricola (vaguely, it’s interesting to see the new design and there’s mentions of new cards)
  • Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft – a good 2 player worker placement / set collection game that seemed to play fast and make sense, with interesting resource management aspect. Very well put together.
  • Android: Mainframe – obviously one of the most popular games out, this is a multi-player abstract that seems to work very well. Players build out ‘walls’ through the system, attempting to cordon off their own nodes from others while messing with other players.  Quite fun and vindictive, the game is simple to teach too with pretty intuitive iconography.
  • Mystic Vale definitely  needs a closer look. I never had a chance to play a whole game but I like the simple deck-building / card drafting mechanic and the clear cards that combine together.  I think it’s a nice change from the other games we’ve seen, and I think it might be a good game. I just don’t know yet.
  • Boomtown Bandits is a fun dice rolling fighting game with a Western theme.  Fans of Cash’n Guns would probably like this – it’s a light-filler with tons of randomness but some fun shouting and lots of dice rolling.

Networking:

  • As always, networking at these events is interesting. We managed to meet a number of our online competitors and also physical b&m stores and trade war stories about the industry which is fun.  It’s a nice break to chat with people who understand what we are seeing on the backend.  It’s also interesting to note how many old timers there are at this business (there are people who have been around for 27+ years!) and get their perspective as well as the newcomers.  There was a gentlemen who had purchased 3 stores in a year and was now trying to figure out what to do which seemed incredible to me.
  • FFG doesn’t seem to have any major plans (yet) to change what is going on in Canada.  They have to deal with existing agreements which need to either run out or be re-negotiated and of course, Canadian law is somewhat different from US law.  As such, from speaking with them, they aren’t going to be majorly changing what and how they are handling Canada in the near future.
  • Board games are becoming a major part of many game stores businesses which means even more competition for us, but also means that the market is growing.
  • Game store owners are seriously beginning to span a wide range of people from youngsters to old timers. There’s certainly a subtle changing of the guard, especially from the other Open House we went to a few years ago (WA not Canada though)

 

Takeaways:

3D Chess!
3D Chess!

 

  • I really, really want one of these (see right).
  • There’s a lot that we are not able to do as an online store that I’d love to do.  It’s certainly made me think that we need more and more to look seriously at a B&M retail location as well. Of course, we’d need the money for that which is a whole different ball of yarn.  Anyone have a $100k to loan?
  • I really enjoy board gaming and I really should get back into gaming more.
  • Clearance items! We picked up a bunch at the warehouse (just a few copies each) and once they actually arrive here in Vancouver, we’ll throw them up on the site and pass on the savings to you. Have fun!