What to do with your Used Board Games

unnamedAs gamers, we  have a tendency to hoard games.  However, after a certain point, it’s easy to realise that you’ve just run out of space or that game that you loved when you purchased it hasn’t been played in over 2 years.  Or perhaps you never really liked the game and it’s just sitting on your shelf.  Thankfully, there’s a lot of ways to deal with your overflow of used games.

Trade Them

Obviously you can trade games with your local friends but one of the most efficient ways to trade games is to use the BGG Math Trade.  A Math Trade is a multi-person trade that uses your preferred wants to set-up the most efficient trade percentage. Rather than doing a direct trade between person A and person B, you might trade give your game to person C to get a game from person B who is getting a game from person D who is receiving a game from person E, etc.  It’s extremely efficient and local math trades allow you to trade without shipping while country / continent specific trades give you a wider range of games and people.

One interesting aspect of Math Trades is that you might even find a gift card or two available for trading. The biggest hurdle is setting up your games for trading and then learning the software / system.  Also, unless you are careful in making your decisions, you might get less than stellar trades (or none at all if you are too picky!) The other major disadvantage is that math trades (especially local one’s) only happen once in a while, so you must be willing to be patient.  It’s also worth noting that if you are taking part in a shipping trade (i.e. country / continent / international trade); shipping costs can be high as you are shipping to multiple locations.

Sell Them

If it’s cash or a cash equivalent that you are looking for, then selling your games would be the way to go.  There are a few major options, especially in Canada:

  • used items sites like Craigslist and Kijiji allow you to reach your local marketplace
  • bigger sites like eBay and Amazon require more set-up and knowledge to use but reach a wider audience (normally country wide).  They take a larger % of your sales though (minimum 15% plus with eBay listing fees)
  • at local conventions (if they have a used game auction table)
  • direct to game stores like us.  You’ll likely receive the lowest price compared to the other methods but you can sell in bulk and ‘ship’ in bulk, reducing your own overhead

Donate Them

Lastly, if none of the above methods work, you could always donate your games.  Obviously stores like the Salvation Army & Value Village will be happy to take your games, but some other options include:

  • Local conventions to increase their game library
  • Your local library might run / be starting to run local board gaming nights and need a more robust library
  • Homeless shelters, the Boys & Girls Club, local daycares and the like often would grateful for a few good games

 

Did you know about our old top 10 article links

top-10-listsOver the years, we’ve written a ton of articles and top 10 lists.  We figured if you hadn’t seen them before, you should take a look:

It’s interesting to watch the changes in the articles, especially as we revise and update them with new games coming out all the time.  Anyway, have fun reading!

Top 10 Games of 2015

Starlit Citadel’s Top 10 Games list of 2015 is now up.   As always, it’s a list of great games that are releasing (or have released) that we think most gamers will love. It’s a pretty broad range this year, with a few games currently out of stock though we expect there to be restocks for most of them before XMas.

As always, it’s worth noting that the Top 10 list is based off sales on in the site and some personal tastes in the company.  This is not the Top games list by Kaja & Joanna of the video review, they’ll be filming that list at the end of the month and it should be listed before the end of the year.

Gaming in the Community: Saanich Neighbourhood Place

Every year, we make a number of donations to community organizations, libraries, and schools that integrate board games into their education programs. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the community, and to see how gaming can be used for more than just entertainment. Whether it’s an elementary school starting up a gaming library or a teacher getting their students to exercise lateral thinking and creativity with some well-timed games of Dixit, board games are becoming a great way of broadening children’s and youths’ education, and making learning more interactive and engaging.

We recently donated a number of board games to a unique program run by Jordan Czop at Saanich Neighbourhood Place in Victoria, BC that uses gaming as a way of building important skills for local teens. Below, Jordan talks about the program, and the impact that gaming has had on the community he works in.

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Independent Contractors

I’ve talked about volunteers, interns & other free help before.  So today, let’s talk about another one of the most common ‘shortcuts’ businesses take in terms of cost and hiring is to hire an individual on as an ‘independent contractor’.

The Business Case

Hiring an independent contractor to do work for you has some advantages for a business, at least at first glance:

  • Less bureaucracy –  You get an invoice, you pay it.  You don’t need a Canada Revenue Agency Payroll account, you don’t have to withhold funds for EI or CPP or deal with the paperwork involved
  • Lower cost – you don’t have to pay EI or CPP or WorksafeBC.  Often, you can ‘bargain’ lower salaries / rates overall because the contractor sees more of their actual pay.
  • Quick termination – if they are contractors, there’s a lot fewer requirements if you are looking to terminate the contract
  • HST / GST savings –  as an ‘expense’, you get to clawback some of your HST / GST revenue if the contractor charges HST

The Contractors Case

So why do these contractors agree to this? Well, here’s a few reasons why:

  • Lack of power – sometimes, the job is offered only on these terms.
  • Expenses – whether it’s HST / GST that they charge and thus can use for other input tax credits or general expenses (e.g. telephone, rent, internet, etc.); there’s definitely financial benefit here
  • Multiple sources of income – as a theoretical contractor, you could potentially have more than one source of income as a contractor.

It sounds like a win-win situation for everybody doesn’t it? Except…

Business Liability

The problem is, there’s a definite liability if your ‘independent contractor’ is found to be an employee.  You are liable for:

  • unpaid taxes, penalties, interest, CPP and EI premiums
  • injuries on the job since the contractor wasn’t covered by WCB
  • the onus is on the business, not the contractor to prove a contractor relationship if any complaints go to HRDC or the like

Contractor Liability

  •  obviously, the contractor is also liable for unpaid taxes, penalties, interest, CPP and EI premiums
  • in addition, you aren’t automatically covered by HRDC and other employee laws.  You can always complain, but it becomes a longer process to get restitution

What CRA looks for:

  •  Control – how much control does the employer have in this relationship? Does he dictate when, where and how you work? A great example is our bookkeeper.  She does all our work remotely, I just send her the files.  The only real control I have is when I expect the work to be completed.
  • Ownership of tools – whose tools are being used? how significant are those tools? Rob who shoots all our videos brings and uses all his own equipment
  • Chance of profit / loss –  who runs the biggest risk here of profit or loss? Is the contractor taking on any potential risk? Kaja for example isn’t a contractor since she’s guaranteed her pay and she hasn’t taken on any operating expenses for the business or herself
  • Integration – This is a kind of a weird one and discusses who is absorbing who into their business practices.  It’s often an indicator of how much work is being done by the contractor for the employer / number of clients the contractor has.

Now, I’m obviously not a lawyer so this isn’t legal advice.  However, from all that I know of, the risk of not ‘hiring’ an employee properly is often quite high.  Sometimes, the line can be quite grey.  Other times, the hassle might seem too much – example, hiring a really short-term worker (a few days).   In both cases, as a business owner and as a potential independent contractor; it’s worth knowing your rights and liabilities.

 

What Sells a Game?

Lately, I’ve been playing a few new games (Ora & Labora, Forgotten Planet & Leviathan to be exact) and it struck me how different each of these games are in terms of prices, themes and contents.  Combined with my own research recently into what games sell,I thought I’d write a little article about what drives the sales of a game, especially on a first impression basis.

Disclaimer – the following is completely my own opinion, barely backed up with any numbers.

a) Cover Art

Cover art is important.  Art in general is important (prettier / nicer it is; the better generally) but good cover art makes people pick-up a game.  When we are at conventions, it makes a huge difference of which games we’ll display and which games a customer will pick-up, look over and consider.  Without good cover art, you never even make it to the ‘this looks interesting’ phase.

b) Pretty pieces

Leviathan does pretty pieces so well.  Yes it’s more expensive; but there are certain segments of the gaming population who’d buy a game just for the pieces.  Same with Dust Tactics or many other FFG games.

c) Box Information

One of the most frustrating things I run into all the time.  Box covers that provide no information on the game.  Minimum information required is:

  • No. of players
  • Age range
  • Game Duration
  • Photo of game-play & pieces

d) Box size / Price / Weight Ratio

We instinctively expect more pieces, more weight when a game is more expensive.  If you have few pieces, but are in a large box, we almost feel cheated especially if the price is high.  I had that with Forgotten Planet. It doesn’t matter how good the game is, I expected more considering the cover price.  On the other hand, Ora & Labora has a nice heft to it.  You ‘know’ that you’re getting a good deal, even before you play the game.

No it’s not logical, but it it does seem to play out quite a bit.

e) Themes

Themes seem to have a strange relationship to sales.  Some customers buy into products / categories based on theme – they’ll specifically ask for ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Science Fiction’ games.  On the other hand, a lot of our bestsellers are more real world or generic in themes – e.g. Dominion, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic.

I think it’s a matter of tapping into bases.  With a highly themed SciFi / Fantasy game, you get those interested in that genre but might miss out on everyone else as the theme is restrictive.  On the other hand, more ‘generic’ themes might not restrict your base but you then have to compete with a lot more games too.

f) Play Time

Looking at our sales stats, I have to say; the vast majority of our bestsellers play within 2 hours.   In fact, a good portion of them (7 Wonders, Forbidden Island, Dixit) play in less than an hour.

 

Pricing & Quantity Sold

In our quest to understand the business, I use a lot of statistics.  I run up charts to understand where we are and where we need to be and one of the more recent charts I did was on Quantity & Price chart (with a secondary ‘Revenue’ figure approximated).  After some internal debate, I’ve decided to post it to the blog – but without any actual numbers for quantities & revenue.  I think the graph by itself even without those numbers can be quite useful.

Disclaimer – the following is from Starlit Citadel’s numbers only.  These aren’t industraty statistics, nor am I a statistical whiz.

The Graph

Revenue & Quantity Sold Product Chart for Jan - July, 2012

The Graph Explained

The entire graph is plotted on 3 axis for Revenue and Quantity on the two Y-axis & on the X-Axis; Sale Price in our store.  I ‘bucketed’ a lot of our price points (e.g. everything that sold at $2.01 – $2.99 became a $2.95 price point) to get the Quantities.  In addition, Revenue is a basic Price Point (bucketed) multiplied by Quantity (bucketed); so there’s obviously some obvious overstatement of numbers there.   Also, the entire graph is excluding some scatter points that are significantly above the norm (i.e. I cut the axis short so that we could focus on the graphs).  In addition, the graphs come from using Excel’s Polynominal Graph function (set to 5 intervals) to create the trendlines.

Quantity Sold Graph

Not surprisingly, we sell a lot of items in the <$3 price range (that’s Sleeves for the most part).  In fact, you can’t even see the marker for it because we had to cut the entire graph short.  However, even from the trendline you can see the huge swing down as we move from $1 to $10 range, and this is all within the accessories side of our business.

Between $10 – $20; we sell mostly smaller expansions or cheaper card games and again, the slide is significant but beginning to moderate.  In our experience, expansions always do sell less than base games.  I don’t have any numbers, but a guess it’d be between 2 to 3 to 1 (i.e. 2 to 3 copies of a base game to 1 expansion sold).

We start seeing ‘full’ board game sales in the >$20 range; and that seems to run a more straight line graph til it hits $80.  It’s much steeper in the $20-30 part; but after that you can almost say things like ‘every $10 increase in price sees a drop of 25 copies sold’.

After $80 though,  we have bundled products where for example; we sell both Twilight Imperium & its Expansions together which creates a bump in the Quantity Sold since we only really create packages for popular products.

The Revenue Graph

The Revenue Graph is where things get interesting.  For example, we might sell a lot of items for <$10 – but revenue wise, it’s a small part of the business.  When it comes to revenue, you can see that we do most of our actual revenue from products in the $30 – 45 price range.   This seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ for our revenue / sales and I’d assume for publishers as well.

Interestingly, overall the entire revenue graph doesn’t move as much as you’d think.  Sure, quantity sold seems to be affected (which is important for how much you order / print) but revenue you generate not as much.  The other interesting aspect of the revenue graph is how sharply it begins to move up as we reach the higher end of our price points as even a small movement in quantity sold is significant in terms of revenue.

Last Comments

Correlation isn’t causation.  So for example – are our sales in the $30 – 45 range because that’s the price cutsomers will buy at or because Settlers of Catan, Dixit, Ticket to Ride & Dominion are all in that range?  They are our bestsellers, so they are definitely going to influence the demand graph significantly.

The thing that you need to realise is that these numbers are all consolidated including the trendline graphs.  Each game is going to be different.  Sales of Eclipse for example is way above what is normal for that range.

Running the Sites Backend – Process Progression

Over the years, the how and why of managing the websites’ backend – the files and databases has seen a gradual progression to more complex methods.  I think in many ways it showcases the common route smaller e-commerce / online businesses progress in their processes so I figured I’d write it up.

Single Site – Everything Live

In the beginning, we had single site with everything live on the site.  So any changes we made was automatically on the website as we had to test changes ‘live’.  Bugs, code fixes, new content – it all went up live.  This meant that we had to be careful when we started deploying code and keep all the back-up files on our computer in case something went wrong and we couldn’t figure out the code fix quickly.  On the other hand, it also meant that there was only one site to ever worry about and everyone who worked on it had access to the same files (mostly – see below for potential problems).

This works fine if you don’t mind deploying code and fixes late at night or when you know there are few customers around.  It’s fine if you don’t have a lot of customers or don’t have a lot of big changes to do; but can be a mess if you have a ton of customers at any time of the day or worst; are trying to install a large upgrade / expansion / module.

Oh, the other major issue – all your developers (if you work with more than one) have access to all your ‘real’ databases including customer information. A potential privacy problem.

Staging and Production Sites

A staging site is a ‘fake’ website that (in theory) is exactly the same as your production site.  The staging site can be populated with ‘fake’ database information; reducing privacy problems while allowing you to continue to test code changes.  In addition; because the site is not live your devleopers can put up a partial fix, test it out and then come back to it at a later date (or leave you to do a test).   Timing becomes less of an issue because the staging site can be broken without affecting front-end sales.

Once a change is considered production ready, you can then download the changed files and send the files over to the live site.  This is generally a manual process and one that you have to do yourself.  Part of the reason you implemented this entire process is for privacy reasons.  It makes no sense to ask your developer to do the fix.

Of course, as any IT person will tell you – just because it worked on the staging site doesn’t mean it will work on production.  Sometimes that means a bit of scrambling; but it’s a lot less likely to be a problem.  We’ve been doing this process for the last 3 years or so; bumbling our way through multiple sites, trying to remember to take backups as necessary and keeping multiple versions of the files on our home computer.

Developer, Staging, Production & Version Control

We’ve recently grown-up and moved to a more complex system with 3 sites and version control.

The Developer sites reside on the developer’s server where they test code.  It’s the working version of the site where all the changes are tested in multiple versions till a ‘good’ fix is ready.

Then the ‘good’ fix is sent to Staging, where it’s deployed.  Here, I do the test to ensure there’s no bugs that the developer has missed.  If there are, I send the bug report to the developer who goes back to working on the Developer site before uploading the fix.  If there isn’t, we deploy to Production.

It’s very similar to the above method; except for the addition of Version Control.  We use Springloops for our version control system and can’t be happier.

Version control systems do a few important things for us:

a) it automatically keeps a repository of all files – old and new.  It keeps dates and keeps information about changes so we can ‘roll back’ to an older version with just a click of a button.  No more hunting for files and hoping we had backed it up properly; its all done.

b) deployment of code can be set up to be automatic to Staging servers and Manual with Production servers, while keeping deployment simple.  Quite literally; a click of a button again – so no more worrying if we had missed a file.  The exact same set of files get sent to both; so it removes ‘human error’ from the equation.

c) it allows multiple developers to work on the site at the same time.  Even if a pair of developers download the same file and make different changes, the software will show and indicate any conflicts.  This way, no one developer’s work is ‘over-written’ by accident.

d) it restricts access even further.  With Springloops, we provide access to the repository but not to the actual FTP site. It also lets us invite multiple developers and kick them out easily while keeping track of all the files they’ve touched.

Truthfully, I cannot be happier that we found this solution.  It allows us to get more changes done with new modules and to roll out changes easier.  It’s something I’d recommend to anyone with a website that they have numerous changes on.