Tuesday, February 9, 2016

No More Magic Event Decks

Or Clash Packs for that matter, according to this. I now realize we didn't get solicited for any during the Battle for Zendikar launch, nor the Oath of the Gatewatch. I don't really mind the Clash Packs going away, since they never served any really good purpose, but the Event Decks were good for someone who wanted to play a game but didn't have a deck with them. We could point out the Event Deck and tell them that someone could make a respectable showing in a tournament by playing it right out of the box. Would not win but would likely not get skunked either.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wiz Kids Hire

This week's ICV2 column has my take on the recent hire by Wiz Kids of Zev Shlasinger, formerly of Z-man Games, to head up their board game division.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Another Distributor Exclusive Ends

In case you missed the announcement earlier this week, Z-Man Games announced that, on March 15, it would end the exclusive distribution deal it has had in place for several years with Alliance Game Distribution, broadening its distribution channel to include not only Alliance but also Southern Hobby, ACD, GTS and Peachtree Distribution. Z-Man Games is probably best known for itsPandemic line of co-operative board games but the company also produces theCarcassonne, Agricola, Stone Age, Tragedy Looper as well as Camel Up and Dark Stories.
Z-man Games is part of the F2Z Entertainment publishing house, which also publishes the Plaid Hat, Pretzel and Filosofia lines of games and the success of Plaid Hat Games and Pretzel Games in using multiple distributors is what likely encouraged the company to end the exclusive arrangement with Alliance and move to a less exclusive arrangement with the other four distributors, which still leaves out smaller and regional distributors such as Aladdin’s and Mad Al.
By my calculations, this leaves about four publishers exclusive to one distributor or another. Alliance Game Distribution still maintains an exclusive relationship with WizKids Games, publisher of the HeroClix line of collectable superhero miniatures games; and Twilight Creations, best known as the publisher ofZombies! and its dozen or so expansions. ACD has an exclusive arrangement with Playroom, publisher of Geek Out and Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (if it ever gets back into print, copies are going for over $100 on eBay); andPersonally Incorrect, a card game similar to Cards Against Humanity, is distributed exclusively by Lion Rampant Imports.
In addition, Looney Labs reduced its number of distributors a couple of years ago to two, ACD and Alliance (see “Looney Labs Cuts Distributors”), and added a third, GTS, six months ago; while whoever publishes Kittens In A Blender had an exclusive arrangement with GTS, though I am not sure if that was a permanent arrangement or just for the first (and only) reprinting of the game.
So far, WizKids seems pretty happy with how Alliance has handled distribution of their lines and, especially with HeroClix's heavy reliance on distribution of Organized Play materials to drive participation in OP events and hence sales of HeroClix products, I see no reason to expect WizKids to end the exclusive relationship now and since, from what I understand, money is involved in the ACD/Playroom deal, it is doubtful that one will change any time soon.
However, I would not be particularly surprised to hear an announcement from Looney Labs that they will expand their distribution channels from ACD, Alliance, and GTS to encompass the other two distributors as well. It would give them greater access to retailers that do not have one of their current three distributors as one of their first choices and would make it much easier for stores to restock products like Fluxx and Just Desserts as they will not have to hold off putting in an order until time to place one with one of Looney Labs' current distributors.
The thing that concerns me most about the expansion of Z-Man to additional distributors is the company’s notorious out of stock problem. Though Pandemicand its expansions remained in stock through this holiday season, this has not been the case in past years and the need to bump up production to supply the needs of four additional distributors may prove problematic for the company. I am hoping we don’t see a return to the days of Z-Man’s popular games out of stock for weeks or months again.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Free Comic Book Day Release

Hey there, Alan Tudyk here. (That's me in the pilot seat above -- pretty handsome, huh?)

I wish I was there to show you a back mole. It is a concern. It's probably nothing, but these things ... you never know.
Also, I would like to show you a comic book series I co-wrote. The comic is called Back Mole. Sorry, it is actually calledSpectrum. There it is now! Over on the right. The first issue comes out on Free Comic Book Day from Automatic Publishing and the marketing guys keep telling me to give you this code number: JAN160018. I hope that means something to you.

Spectrum was the "show within a show" in Con Man, the comedy series Nathan Fillion and Ireleased on Vimeo. The "Con" in Con Manstands for comic conventions and it's about that world. We crowd-funded it and raised a little over three million bucks. It broke records and shit. 46,000 people contributed so we could write this comic. I think you should stock it so those folks can buy it. Totally.

I just looked at the mole in a mirror -- it's a zit. I'm relieved and a little disgusted.

Anyone who liked our work on the TV show Firefly will be interested -- that inspired a lot of what we did on Con Man. But Spectrum is a cool sci-fi series on its own. It's got a gritty premise (a little girl is trying to prevent the complete destruction of the universe with the help of an alien, a handsome captain, and a spaceship built by a madman) and memorable characters with a lot of mystery and intrigue.   

We believe in it enough to put out the first issue of the four-issue mini-series for free, and I think you will like it. Nathan Fillion’s mug is on the cover. Sarah Stone did an amazing job illustrating for us. Shannon Denton is curating. Sci-fi novelist PJ Haarsma is co-writing it with me. There are some preview pages at the bottom of this email here.

There are no back moles and/or backne in the comic.

Yours partially,
Alan "Wash Lives" Tudyk
Alan Tudyk On His Spectrum Comic For Free Comic Book Day
That's me talking comics in the video above. I'm into this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Changes to WOTC Pre-releases

Another week, however, and another controversy.  WotC has told distributors they can no longer offer incentives in order to get retailers to purchase pre-release tournament products through them.  It appears WotC wants the focus on the pre-release and the story surrounding it rather than on individual items that not all stores will have available for players.

Even though Wizards of the Coast has not announced this policy change publicly, distributors’ release announcements for Shadows over Innistrad make no mention of any pre-release specials tied to ordering the pre-release from that distributor, which is a noticeable change from past pre-releases.

For those not familiar with how pre-releases are handled, stores in good standing with WotC are allowed to host pre-release events for each new Magic release.  All pre-release products come from WotC and are allocated to stores based mainly upon how many players the store had attend a prior pre-release.  However, stores have the option of ordering their pre-release product directly from WotC or one of about a dozen distributors.  WotC even facilitates the choice by offering the list of approved distributors to stores.  Each distributor, or WotC itself, sells the pre-release products to the store at a specified discount.

As pre-releases can account for hundreds of thousands of dollars of sales in a short period of time, distributors have found it lucrative to convince retailers to sign with them by offering incentives for doing so.  Such incentives have included discounts on other WotC products, free sleeves and deck boxes, and limited edition items such as the store-branded playmats ACD offered a few years ago, or the POP figure from Southern Hobby.  Now, WotC wants to end the practice.  Due to the amount of cash a pre-release brings in during such a short amount of time, neither stores nor distributors will want to push back against this and risk losing the ability to host a pre-release.  Ergo, unique promo items will go by the wayside and distributors will find some other ways with which to compete on pre-releases.

Response from WOTC via ICV2.
We asked Wizards of the Coast to confirm whether it had asked distributors to eliminate incentives for pre-release orders.  A spokesperson responded:

“Although we do not disclose the terms of distribution agreements, we want to ensure every retailer that we do not prevent distributors (or retailers) from marketing prerelease products. Rather, we ask distributors to refrain from certain incentives and conduct that detract from the player experience and damage the brand. For example, in the past we’ve demanded distributors stop offering playmats with explicit images of our characters or from withholding Magic product unless stores buy other nonrelated items.

“It is best for retailers and our fans when distributors compete on effective distribution, price and customer service; our policies reflect this.” 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WOTC Stance on Proxies

As the 800 pound gorilla in the gaming industry, pretty much anything Wizards of the Coast does is news, as I pointed out in last week’s column regarding the coming changes in the Organized Play program for Dungeons & Dragons and the controversy that erupted last week when the company announced players could no longer use proxy cards in non-sanctioned in-store Magic tournaments (see "Rolling for Initiative--WotC's Changes to 'D&D' OP a Death Knell for the Program?").  Near as I can tell, after the resulting tizzy, tournament proxy use remained at status quo (see "WotC Clarifies Proxy Position on 'Magic'").

Players, as before, still cannot use proxies in sanctioned tournaments, except under VERY restricted conditions.  Players, as before, can use "playtest cards," cards clearly marked as representing another card in a deck in non-sanctioned play (i.e., writing "Black Lotus" on a Swamp card and using that in an unsanctioned tournament).

WotC wants to discourage its players from using the high quality counterfeits that have hit the market in recent years, often listed as "suitable for proxy use," thus trying to legally skirt the counterfeiting issue.  WotC wants it made extremely clear that this form of "proxy" violates its copyright, infringes on its intellectual property and damages tournament play and the value of collectors’ legitimate cards by adding counterfeit cards to the available pool.  With a moderately played Unlimited Black Lotus selling for between $3000 and $5000, collectors have a vested interest in stopping the introduction of counterfeits to the available card pool.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Upcoming Munchkin Releases

Munchkin Marvel Universe
Prepare for Battle! Unleash your Superpowers with Munchkin Marvel Edition, an all-new Munchkin game that fuses the classic card game fun of monster-slaying and roleplaying with the most iconic characters from the Marvel universe. Created under license from Steve Jackson Games and in conjunction with Marvel, Munchkin Marvel Edition features new monsters (villains), allies (heroes), and custom S.H.I.E.L.D. Identification Cards. This boxed set comes complete with six oversized S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent role cards, 168 Cards (including Door cards and Treasure cards), six level trackers, a custom die, and game rules.
SKU: PSI MU011-000
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin Card Game (Mass Market Edition)
Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Designed by Steve Jackson, the Munchkin card game captures the essence of the dungeon experience as you and your friends compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. And it`s illustrated (now in full color!) by John Kovalic! NOTE: This product is identical to SJG 1408 except for the outer box.
SKU: SJG 1408M
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin Fu: Guest Artist Edition (John Kovalic)
Everybody's Kung Fu fighting in classic Munchkin style! Join John Kovalic for his distinct take on the Dragon Tooth Katana and polish up your Drunken Monkey Kung Fu - those mooks and demons aren't going to kill themselves! Learn new styles, kill those monsters, take their stuff, and level up Kung Fu style with Munchkin Fu, featuring high-flying, martial arts action at its goofiest!
SKU: SJG 1517
SRP: $29.95

Star Munchkin: Guest Artist Edition (Len Peralta)
Celebrate 15 years of Munchkin with special Guest Artist Editions! Featuring far-out card illustrations by Len Peralta (TenState, Exterminite), the classic space expansion for Munchkin gets a whole, new makeover that's out of this world! In Star Munchkin, players are now Mutants, Cyborgs, and Cat People grabbing Lasers, Vibroswords, and Nova Grenades fighting Fanged Fuzzballs, Bionic Bimbos, and the fiendish Brain in a Jar!
SKU: SJG 1518
SRP: $29.95

Munchkin Steampunk
                Grab your gears, put on your top hat, whack the monsters, and grab the treasure...with the power of SCIENCE! Featuring brand-new art by Phil Foglio (Girl Genius), Munchkin Steampunk brings the zaniness of Munchkin to the pseudo-Victorian steampunk era. Bully! Tea service not included (maybe)!
SKU: SJG 1531
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin 6.5: Terrible Tombs
                More Chaotic Chasms! More Violent Vastnesses! More Abysmal Abysses! Fully compatible with Munchkin 6 - Demented Dungeons, Munchkin 6.5 - Terrible Tombs introduces 20 new Dungeons to delve and 16 new Portals to get you there.
SKU: SJG 1541
SRP: $11.95

Munchkin: Puppies Blister Pack
The latest in Steve Jackson Games' series of Munchkin booster packs is also the newest double-booster featuring 30 cards focusing on adorable, cuddly, evil puppies! Developed by Devin Lewis and illustrated by Katie Cook, the hit team behind Munchkin Kittens, this expansion is the perfect companion for every Munchkin game!
SKU: SJG 4216
SRP: $9.95

Munchkin: Knights Blister Pack
Get ready for Knights to remember! Enhance your Munchkin merriment with a cavalier attitude with this booster pack of 15 new knight-themed cards. Perfect for backstabbing fun at round tables everywhere, this expansion features amazing art by Ian McGinty and new a-sword-ed monsters and Treasures for your Munchkin game.
SKU: SJG 4253
SRP: $5.95

Munchkin Meeples
Ever play some other board game and think "This isn't Munchkin enough!"? Now you can have your Munchkin fandom invade other games with Munchkin Meeples! These classic-style wooden game pieces come in six different designs that feature all your favorite Munchkin characters. Each version comes with four regular-sized meeples and one MEGA Meeple, and feature in-game bonuses when used in Munchkin!
SKU: SJG 5596
SRP: $19.95

Munchkin Playmat: Spyke Gets Suckered
                Don't be suckered by other non-Munchkin mats! This gorgeous playmat acts as a handy reference for the game (including a bonus Cheat! space) and features fantastic art by Ian McGinty.
SKU: SJG 5596
SRP: $16.95