Bestselling Games since 2007 (Top 100)

This is mostly for those data junkies out there.  One of the things I’ll be working on in the next few weeks is a series of lists of bestselling games for a variety of different players (family / 2-player / solo / Eurogames / etc.).  To do that, I needed to pull our bestselling games so I thought this might be amusing read for others.  Note that the way the backend handles orders is that it lists products based off their title, so games like Settlers of Catan which have been sold in multiple formats (Promo Packs, 4th Edition, pre-97 edition, 5th Edition) get short-changed in their rankings.

I’ve also included the % of revenue each particular product has generated for us.   These top 100 games consisted of 27.5% of all our revenues in these past 10 years.   It isn’t really a surprise – after all, we all know the 80/20 rule no?

Product % of sales Active
Ticket to Ride 0.99% Yes
Eclipse 0.78% Yes
Dominion 0.70% Yes
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 0.63% Yes
Settlers of Catan 4th Edition 0.62% Yes
Electronic Gift Cards 0.59% Yes
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island 0.57% Yes
Pandemic (2013 Edition) 0.55% Yes
Small World 0.55% Yes
King of Tokyo 0.52% Yes
7 Wonders 0.49% Yes
Pandemic 0.47% Yes
Ticket to Ride Europe 0.45% Yes
Agricola 0.43% Yes
Star Wars: Imperial Assault 0.42% Yes
Dixit 0.40% Yes
Power Grid 0.40% Yes
Caverna: the Cave Farmers 0.37% Yes
Forbidden Island 0.35% Yes
Battlestar Galactica 0.35% Yes
Star Wars X-Wing: Core Set 0.33% Yes
Betrayal at House on the Hill 0.32% Yes
Stone Age 0.30% Yes
Takenoko 0.30% Yes
Sushi Go! 0.29% Yes
Carcassonne 0.29% Yes
Formula D 0.29% Yes
A Game of Thrones Board Game – 2nd Edition 0.28% Yes
Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition) 0.28% Yes
Twilight Struggle Deluxe Edition 0.28% Yes
Cosmic Encounter 0.28% Yes
Sheriff of Nottingham 0.27% Yes
Blood Rage 0.26% Yes
Codenames 0.26% Yes
Mage Knight Board Game 0.25% Yes
Galaxy Trucker: Anniversary Edition 0.25% Yes
Settlers of Catan For 6 players (4th Edition) 0.25% Yes
Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men Foil Pack 0.24% Borderline!
Citadels Card Game 0.24% Yes
Shadows Over Camelot 0.24% Yes
Star Wars X-Wing: Tantive IV 0.24% Yes
Dominant Species 0.24% Yes
Ghost Stories 0.24% Yes
Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary Edition 0.24% Yes
Warpaints: Mega Paint Set II (2013) 0.24% Yes
Mansions of Madness 0.23% Yes
Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition 0.23% Yes
Puerto Rico 0.22% Yes
Settlers of Catan Seafarers Promotional Pack 0.22% Yes
Seafarers of Catan 4th Edition 0.22% Yes
Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition 0.22% Yes
Mysterium (English Version) 0.22% Yes
Arkham Horror 0.22% Yes
7 Wonders: Duel 0.22% Yes
Race for the Galaxy 0.22% Yes
Robo Rally 0.22% No
Scythe 0.22% Yes
Super Dungeon Explore 0.21% No
Survive: Escape from Atlantis 30th Anniversary Edition 0.21% Yes
Star Wars X-Wing: Millennium Falcon 0.21% Yes
Suburbia 0.20% Yes
Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game 0.20% Yes
Scythe – Base & Kickstarter Add-On Items 0.20% Yes
Takenoko Special Edition 0.19% Yes
Twilight Imperium and the Shattered Empire Package 0.19% Yes
Pandemic: On the Brink (2013 Edition) 0.19% Yes
Eldritch Horror 0.19% Yes
Castles of Burgundy 0.19% Yes
Wrath of Ashardalon Dungeons & Dragons Board Game 0.19% Yes
Dominion : Prosperity 0.18% Yes
War of the Ring Second Edition 0.18% No
Descent : Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition 0.18% Yes
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective 0.18% Yes
Ticket to Ride USA Promotional Package 0.18% Yes
Carcassonne Big Box 3 0.18% Yes
Last Will 0.18% Yes
Star Wars: Armada Core Set 0.18% Yes
Memoir ’44 0.17% Yes
Star Wars X-Wing: VT-49 Decimator Ship Expansion 0.17% Yes
Seasons 0.17% Yes
Risk: Legacy 0.17% Yes
Flash Point : Fire Rescue (2nd Edition) 0.17% Yes
The Complete Munchkin 0.17% Yes
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game 0.17% No
Star Wars X-Wing: Lambda-class Shuttle 0.17% Yes
Cities and Knights of Catan 4th Edition 0.17% Yes
Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game 0.17% Yes
Dominion : Big Box Edition 0.17% Yes
Bohnanza 0.16% Yes
Bang! : the Bullet! 0.16% Yes
Zombicide 0.16% No
Smash Up 0.16% Yes
Forbidden Desert 0.16% Yes
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set 0.16% Yes
Star Wars X-Wing: Slave 1 0.16% Yes
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization 0.16% Yes
D&D: Lords of Waterdeep 0.16% Yes
Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries 0.16% Yes
Dominion : Intrigue 0.16% Yes
Settlers of Catan 5+6 Player Expansion 4th Edition 0.16% Yes
Total 27.59%

Diversification and Margins

One of the major themes for us in the past few years have been diversification.   We’ve worked on broadening our revenue streams, not just in terms of new product lines like clothing and figurines but in miniatures too such as bringing in over 400+ new Bones mininatures.   We even briefly tried to bring in Guildball.  In terms of revenue streams, we have the Fortress Geek website, we sell on other channels than the site itself and we have our Kickstarter Fulfillment operation.

We diversify to reduce risk, the same way financial experts tell you not to purchase just a single stock.  Sure, you can make a lot of money doing so and if you are lucky enough to catch the ride horse / buy the right product line / stock,  you should ride it out as long as you can, but at the same time, not diversifying / taking your profits is dangerous.  When the bubble pop’s, it pop’s.

I’m thinking a lot about this recently due to the increasing restrictions we see in the board game trade for online stores as well as the lower than expected sales for Aether Revolt.   As I understand it, a lot of companies are desperate to dump their stock at cost just to recoup their capital.  Even before this though, every summer I used to wonder what we could / should do.  Our sales have always slowed during Summer, both because of release schedules and our customers propensity to enjoy the outdoors.   I always wondered if we should (and occasionally took a look at) more summer oriented items (disc golf was something we considered); but we always came back to keeping it relatively ‘geeky’.

It’s important not just to be diversified but for it to stay to a theme.  We could try to sell sports equipment out of Starlit Citadel, but it wouldn’t make much sense.  And the amount of effort required to build a new website is significant, so much so that the time taken to do so is probably not worth the potential returns.  It’s easier and more efficient to stay to the geeky theme for us while diversifying to different customers rather than trying to attract entirely new customers.  Having sports goods and books and board games all on the same website is something only someone like Amazon or Wal-Mart can do with their marketing dollars and capitalisation.

Product diversification isn’t necessarily easy though.  It takes time to find the right product, money to purchase it and more money and time to acquire new customers.  That means you need to start as soon as you can.  It does help though to have multiple sales channels.  It’s surprising what sells on one channel and which won’t sell on another – the product sales between Fortress Geek and Starlit Citadel are completely different.  Having multiple channels at the same time lets you diversify your risk and potentially speed up your rate of adoption of a new line.


Opportunities in the Board Game Industry

A recent post on a forum asking if it was a good idea to start an online game store had me thinking.  The simple answer is no (definitely not in America, not so great in Canada either really).  However, the fact stands that there are a significant number of opportunities in the industry currently which don’t involve direct retail of board games.  I figured I’d detail some of them here (at least from my view point).  Note that I don’t, in most cases, have direct experience so it’s an outsider perspective.

1.  Game Reviewer

Firstly, let’s start by saying that there are only a few reviewers out there who do this full-time.  This is a long-term play as you need to build up enough of a fanbase that they would be willing to pay for you to continue development & publication.  It took us nearly 4 years (over 100+ videos) before we ran our successful Patreon campaign and even then, at $400 per video which came out every 2 weeks, it wouldn’t really be enough for most people to live on.  However, we also only published a video every few weeks and focused on significantly higher production values than most game reviewers, so if you had the time, ability and funds to do this for a year (or two), it should be possible to make a full-time career from it.

The advantage of this is that you’d be playing games constantly unlike other parts of this business.  After all, part of your business is playing games  The negative is that it takes a lot of time to create a video review, so you’d be on a constant ‘mill’ of content development.

2. Game Accessory Retailer / Manufacturer

An interesting area that has cropped up is the development and sale of game accessories.  Whether it’s sleeves, tokens or inserts, there does seem to be some demand for this.  My guess is that the actual margins on producing and selling multiple tokens is quite high once you get past the set-up cost.  The negative is that you are targeting a small portion of an already small market, so I’m not sure there’s enough of a market to generate a decent income.  On the other hand, if you can combine this with sales to publishers for their prototype designs, there could be a decent business here.

3. Publisher

This is probably one of the two areas that I’d certainly look into more significantly if I had the time and capital.  With Kickstarter available these days, capital requirements are actually significantly lower than previously (I’d guess between $3-5k per game for artwork, design and testing and prototypes to be sent to reviewers).  Risk is significantly lower as you are able to crowd-fund the cost of publication to start.  The major disadvantage (beyond the significant time investment to find and playtest games) is the time-lag.  It seems to take between 8 to 12 months to produce a game and most backers would prefer to see the delivery of their first game before you begin Kickstarting a second game.  As such, until you’ve developed a significant following (and/or have a decent hit for a game), your income is likely to be pretty low for the first few years.

4. Game Publishing Management (ala Game Salute)

Game publishing management is something I haven’t seen since tried since Game Salute.  Rather than being a full publisher (purchasing rights, developing the art, etc.), that there might be a space in the market for someone to work as a contractor to aid in the marketing, design & manufacturing and importing of the game.  Certainly it’d require quite a bit of knowledge in this area and and it’d be tricky to work out compensation.  If you charged an hourly rate, you might not be as attractive to a new publisher, but if you did it on a commission basis, you run the risk of a failed Kickstarter (or low funding Kickstarter) since you aren’t personally choosing / editing the games yourself.

5. Distributor

This is really only for those with a lot of money and probably not in the USA. I know at least in Canada, we could probably do with a well-funded West Coast distributor and I’m sure there are significant opportunities for distribution in other countries.  When I say a lot of capital though, I’m talking in the millions.

6. Game Cafes / Restaurants

The hottest trend in retail is game cafes & restaurants.  This seems to be quite profitable if you could can locate a good spot that is large enough and can be staffed regularly.  This is the other area I’d recommend putting money into if you had the desire to get involved with the game industry.  Unlike publishing though, this requires significantly more retail.   From my estimatation, you probably need at least CAD$30k to barebones launch a business and I’d really not want to get involved without at least $60k.  Comfortably, you’d be better of with $100k.

7. Rulebook reviewer / editor

If you’re reading this, you know how many bad rulebooks there are out there.  If you have the skillset to write good rules, this is probably a good market to get into.  This is however (like being a cover artist / board designer) something that is very skill dependent.

8. Game Designer

Unless you become a publisher yourself, most game designer’s aren’t able to make a living just designing board games.  On the other hand, you don’t have to put up a lot of money for this and who knows, maybe you’ll design the next Pandemic / Catan / Scythe and end up raking in royalties forever.

9. Comprehensive Board Game Website (competitor to BGG)

Everyone thinks the design on BGG is horrendous.  They’ve been working on a version 2 of the site forever.  So far, no one has come up with a serious competitor to the site but considering the sheer volume of advertising / marketplace sales and industry information there is, I would have to say there’s a significant revenue source here.  Of course, this requires specific skillsets, a decent capital bank and reliable servers, but I’m sure there’s a business case in here somewhere.

10. Kickstarter Fulfillment

We do this as Starlit Citadel Logistics.  There is certainly money in this business, but it is fast getting extremely competitive in Canada & the USA.  Outside of those countries, South America and Asia seems wide open and potentially Europe (or at least, there’s no leading player in Europe from what I understand).  The biggest barrier to entry in this area is shipping cost.  Many of the established players are able to get significant volume discounts from the courier companies and as such, unless you have an existing business that does a lot of shipping, this could be a major disadvantage.  Other things to watch out for in this business is that income is not predictable – you could do 3 Kickstarter’s in a week and then nothing for a month or 3.  Lastly, most Kickstarter’s break out (from what we’ve seen / been told) into the following volumes – 60% USA, 10% Canada, 20% Europe & 10% everywhere else.  If you assume most Kickstarter projects fund at the 1000 backer level, there’s only a small number of shipments everywhere but the USA which means you’d need to get a significant number of projects signed up to make a decent living.  Then again, there are always the mega projects (Kingdom Death anyone) that help pay the bills for months…


2016 in Review: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

2016 has been a mixed year for us, mostly with overall improvements in the business but with some setbacks as well.

Industry Consolidation & Restrictions

We continued to see industry consolidation including the purchase of F2Z by Asmodee creating a single company that now owns about 70% of all board game sales.  We’ve already seen (and expect to see) further increases in our base pricing (as it stands, Asmodee products direct from Asmodee Canada are marked at 40% discount with an exchange rate of 1.5!).  In addition, PSI is working to block the sale of games to online only stores, which has caused some issues for us (especially during Christmas) in terms of availability.

I expect we’ll see even more price increases / restrictions in the coming 6 months as Asmodee North America decides what they are going to do about Canada and other publishers follow suit in an attempt to reduce the price devaluation of their products online.  This has been a trend in the last few years and I don’t expect it to change.  It does however put us in an interesting position, which leads to…

Geek Product Explosion

Armored Batman Figurine!Most of you probably noticed the huge increase in geeky products including clothing, pop figurines, graphic novels and more.  I know it’s caused some difficulty in finding new board games, which is why we created a whole new category for listing new board games, but it’s not perfect as yet.  The goal is / has been to widen and diversify our categories such that we are not as dependent on board game sales.  We’ve now reached what I expect to be a stable inventory value / volume, and we’ll just be rotating product like our board games for the next year.

Backend & Stock Management

We mentioned last year we were looking at better ways to managing stock.  That meant trying to (again) implement an ERP system.  That did not go well, and after 6 months of struggling with the software, we put it to bed before the Christmas season started.  It was painful in many ways since it did make ordering simpler, but order processing more difficult.  Unfortunately, it also meant that our push towards using barcodes went haywire.

Our Location Move

We are extremely close to finalising our location move and once all the paperwork is complete, we’ll be able to provide further detail.  Expect a full blog post about this once it’s ready.  This has / will consume a ton of our time in Q4 2016 / Q1 2017 and probably Q2 2017.

Kickstarter Fulfillment

The other area of major growth for us has been Kickstarter Fulfillment.  From smaller projects like the 7th Seas RPGs to the giant Scythe fulfillment project, we’ve been busy with Kickstarter projects. It’s been fun to work with publishers directly and our current plans including actually going to GenCon & (potentially) BGGCon to meet more publishers in-person. It’s never (likely) going to be a huge business in Canada since our population is so small, but it does pay for the occasional nice meal :).  You, our regular online customers actually benefit on the backend as the more product we ship, the greater our ability to negotiate lower rates.  It’s probably something you might have noticed in mid-May as we dropped rates by over a $1 all across the board as we signed a new contract.


Overall, 2016 was a good year.  We saw overall decent growth in our main game sales with some good growth in our new product lines / areas of business.  With the big move, it’ll be time to consolidate further and trim product lines and selection to increase turn rates and provide a higher overall return from our investments.

Pursuit of Happiness Review

sg8023_lThe Pursuit of Happiness is a game about life, specifically, living your life to generate the greatest long-term happiness.  At it’s heart, this is a worker placement game with an interesting theme which it carries out well.  It’s not ground-breaking, but there’s potentially a very good conversation to be had during and after the game about goals in life and even the structure of the game.

Appearance: This is a cute game.  The artwork is cartoony without being distracting, symbols and information are easy to read and understand and tokens are differently shaped to make things simple to locate.  Perhaps the coolest thing they have are the hourglass tokens which are used as ‘workers’.  This is a decent looking game but it won’t blow the socks off anyone. I should also point out that both the jobs and partner cards are double-sided, allowing  you to pick your job / partner in a way that suits you.

Rules / Ease of Learning: The Pursuit of Happiness is a relatively easy game to learn.  You have hour glasses for your ‘workers’ and can take actions on the board to purchase items / activities, get a job, date someone, pursue a project or spend your free time being creative, studying or making social connections or just working for money.  Spending time taking up projects or taking part in activities can generate creativity / knowledge / social connection points which can then be used to complete further projects or complete your upkeep for your jobs.  There’s nothing particularly innovative about the way the game works and any experienced gamer will grasp the basic mechanics very fast.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that the game brings to play is the ‘stress’ track.  The stress track dictates the amount of time (i.e. workers) your receive each round and at the higher ends, can lead to your death.  With ‘Old Age’ rounds adding to your stress track automatically at the start of the round, players who have managed to lower their stress in previous rounds will be able to gain an additional round (or two).

Gameplay: This game can play fast if taken lightly.  However, if you  have players who are prone to analysis paralysis or who need to get the most out of each round, this can drag as this is a pure information game.  All the cards, all the options for each round are laid out so it’s easy to spend a while analysing the best route to get the most out of your turn.  This can cause the game to drag a bit.  In addition, the uneven ending times can also cause a bit of frustration for those not playing the last round(s), so this is definitely not a game for people looking to finish at the same time.

Other than that, the game plays quite well. There’s ample opportunity for ‘role-playing’ your characters and even more fun making up stories about who and what you want to be.  My last game, I was the fitness fanatic, zen-master ex-President who found love late in life after spending the first half of his life ‘finding himself’.  Another player was the true geek of the group, building up his gaming collection, taking part in and running gaming groups who in the end found his time sucked up by a high-paying job and a demanding wife.

And that’s where the game shines.  The Pursuit of Happiness lets you make decisions that make sense.  Want a job that gives good money? They often require significant amounts of time to upkeep each turn.  Want a relationship or a family? That’s going to require upkeep each turn, how much depends on how involved you are.  Each relationship and job will have different per-requisites  and often different benefits, so best pick wisely.

One criticism I will level at the game is the lack of opportunities to reduce stress.  There are very few cards that allow you to ‘jump’ between stress bands, which means that players are often deadly afraid of getting any forms of stress.  It certainly feels more forced especially since the opportunities to improve your health are entirely luck-based and almost purely project based, ensuring that a player who manages to get a couple of those projects has a distinct advantage over his opponents.

Final ThoughtsThe Pursuit of Happiness begs to be discussed in a meta context.  Does having a relationship really generate that much long-term happiness? Is it always that stressful to date multiple partners (especially if it’s ‘casual’)? Is it better to have items or take part in activities to be truly happy? Should they both contribute the same amount to your long-term happiness? Don’t / can’t a career make you just as happy as raising a family? Those are all questions that can be raised and discussed, both with your friends and family after this playing game.  Unless you have very specific objections to it, it also allows you to discuss the options that people decide to make to ‘win’.

The Pursuit of Happiness is a decent, mechanical game, but it’s the theme and conversations that rise from playing it that raises it above the generic slush of worker placement games out there.



Inventory – Breadth or Depth?

With the year coming to an end, I’ve been taking a look at our turn rates and our inventory.  Some parts of our inventory (clothing, media products) have been somewhat lackluster in terms of their turns. Others are running too hot (our general board game inventory probably could be beefed up, though I’m considering ‘splitting’ the category further to give us better insight).   It’s all the usual part of running a business, where you review your turns and sales and decide what to do.

The question that came to mind, more than anything else when dealing with our game inventory is whether we’d be better off increasing our breadth or depth.  It’s one thing to say ‘increase inventory dollars in board games’, and another to decide whether to do so by:

  • buying more unique products (increasing breadth)
  • buying more of our hot-sellers (increasing depth)

Increasing Breadth

When increasing breadth, we are looking to bring in more games than we have now.  This could be a return of older games that have been ‘cut’ due to low turn rates or by bringing in more new games, relaxing our normal restrictions on what we think should (or should not) be brought in to the store.

The advantage of bringing in older games is that many of those games were once good sellers.  While sales might have slowed, the demand was once there and because the games were once bought /are in people’s collections, there might be latent demand for these games (or slow trickling demand).

On the other hand, bringing in newer games allows sleeper hits to make their way into our portfolio.  Some of our better sellers have been games we’d never expect to sell and so, by bringing in more independent / small games, we might hit on more of these.  However, the disadvantage is that we might see a significant increase in games that we need to clearance.

In both cases though, we are able to have more stock and potentially increase the likelihood for customers to find eactly what they are looking for, particularly customers who have a specific idea of what they want.

Increasing Depth

pandemic_new_ed_Increasing depth on the other hand focuses on our ‘bestsellers’.  This is a hedge to ensure we never, ever run out of stock.  With many bestsellers already, we have started carrying 3 weeks worth of sales (i.e. if we expect to sell a copy a week, we’ll keep at least 3 copies on hand).  This is mostly due to the restock period for many games.

However, this doesn’t take into account stock-outs.  Scythe for example is currently out of stock again.  3 weeks of stock would (at our last week worth of sales when we had stock) be around 20 copies.  However, with the game out of stock right now, when we could have restocked it, perhaps we should have restocked at the 3 month level.

Of course, Scythe is rather unique (it is the hotness).  Let’s try Pandemic instead.  We sell around 4 copies of this game every week at least, so our regular stock level (or the stock level we try to keep) is 12 copies.  However, there are weeks when our ‘normal’ estimate is off, and like now, we are out of stock of this game (again!).  Perhaps instead of keeping 3 weeks, we should be at 2 months? That’d mean we’d have to stock 32 copies, but we’d never have to worry about the game running out of stock on a day-to-day basis and as importantly, stock-outs at the manufacturer level wouldn’t affect us either (well, for 3 months at least).

This tactic would give us the ability to continue to cater to our customers, but it does target more ‘new’ customers (i.e. customers looking for the ‘staples’ of our business like Pandemic, Dead of Winter, etc.).  It doesn’t cater to ‘alpha’ gamers who have a specific independent game that they really, really want.

It also has the disadvantage of being really expensive.  Even going from 3 weeks to 4 weeks for say our top 30 bestsellers (and assuming average cost of $30), we’re looking at $2700 ($30 x 30 SKUs x 3 copies a week) increase in capital cost.  If we decided to do 3 months, that’s a $27,000 increase in our inventory!

What Will We Do?

Well, firstly we’re going to pay all our Christmas bills off and ensure we are caught up on any bills.  After that, we’ll review to see how much additional funds we might have to put into play any of the above strategies.  It’s clear we need to increase our inventory value in our board game side and I’m personally leaning to a ‘mixed’ option, with a slightly heavier focus on increasing depth.  If we can shift some funds from our slower-selling categories, we probably will do that too.