Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Battle for Baldur's Gate

 Commander Legends:  Battle for Baldur’s Gate, the new set for Magic the Gathering released recently  and the results for us, at least, have proved underwhelming, which seems a pattern across game stores with most reports fewer attendees than for a normal pre-release, although several did report selling out of all available product by the end of Saturday. Here, our Friday night event went off with better attendance than expected but no one showed for the Saturday event, even though the other stores running events locally did not start their until later in the day. Here are a few reasons I think we are not seeing the numbers for a normal Magic  Pre-release:

1. This is not a normal Magic pre-release. Although Commander is arguably the most popular format, drafting is a version for which few players opt. Couple that with the variations implemented in a Commander draft that differ from both regular draft and Commander and that can put people off.

2. Too soon. Streets of New Capenna released just a little over a month ago and Double Masters 2022 streets in early July. As I noted before, that’s an awful lot of Magic for the market to absorb in 3 months’ time. (See ‘A Swell of Magic and RIP Scott Bennie’ )

3. Drafting new sets. Anytime a player drafts, they make the choice of either drafting to play or drafting for value, i.e. keeping the expensive cards they open, even though they will not work well in the deck. Unless a player keeps a close eye on spoiler lists and Magic pricing sites, they will not know if the rare they just opened is worth a buck or 30 bucks. That uncertainty will put off some players until they get a better feel for the value of the new set.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Alta Fox Proxy Fight

 

After my interview with a reporter from NPR for a story about the proxy battle brewing inside of Hasbro (See FCBD Rating Problems, Hasbro Responds to Alta Fox), I came away learning one thing and getting reminded of another:

1)      Reporters spend a whole lot of time talking with their interviewees and only a fraction of the material discussed appears in the story. The reporter, Wailin Wong, and I spent just under an hour discussing Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, Dungeons and Dragons and the proxy battle Alta Fox has brought seeking seats on Hasbro’s board. From that material, only about 45 seconds worth made it into the actual story. Wong said, when I asked after listening to the story, that was not atypical. She had conducted 2 hour interviews for Planet Money with only a fraction of the material making it into the published work.

2)      Everybody, and I mean Everybody, likes to talk about their characters. One of the reasons Wong asked to get assigned to this story is that she plays D&D so, of course, we spent several minutes discussing her 5th level druid and my 3rd level cleric.  Everyone likes talking about their character and their adventures. However, unless you are well acquainted with them, do not do so in stores with the store staff. Not everyone is as fascinated with your character as you are, and the staff cannot readily walk away (See Did You Know People Still Play Boardgames).

I    Incidentally, the attempt by Alta Fox to put three of its nominees on the board was, as Hasbro put it, "soundly defeated".

II



Thursday, June 23, 2022

4th Edition was Ahead of its Time

 

At least in one respect. Let me back track a bit. Among other topics, I discussed the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons with a reporter last week and the topic of the generally vilification of 4th edition. I can find people who wax nostalgically over their 1st edition half elf fighters (myself included), who still seek out and want to play in 2nd edition campaigns, who avidly purchase any 3rd and 3.5 handbooks on which they can lay their hands and, of course, 5th edition has sold fantastically since it released last decade. 4th edition, meanwhile, gets very little love as most of our customers refer to it disparagingly as WotC’s attempt to migrate video game concepts into a table top RPG and failing spectacularly.

I never had quite the distain for 4th edition that a lot of my customers did. I found it an interesting attempt to merge boardgame concepts with tabletop RPGS, though running the published modules proved problematical as whomever designed them opted to drop the linear progression of most published modules and instead separate encounters likely to involve combat into their own section of the book, meaning extra flipping back and forth for the DM. Still, I found the published adventures playable.  Creating homebrewed adventures proved more problematical.

However, there is one concept that 4th edition introduced that was far ahead of its time and that was the idea of Dungeons and Dragons as a spectator event. Granted, people had watched other people play D&D in the past for generally not for very long, just until a spot opened up for them. Setting up games for one group of people to play while another watches has come into its own with streaming programs such as Dimension 20, Dungeons and Daddies and, of course, Critical Role.

However, in 2011, D&D 4th edition and the Wizards Play Network introduced the concept of the Lair Assault. The WPN positioned the seven Lair Assault scenarios and extremely challenging adventures designed for 2-4 players to finish in a couple of hours. However, the idea behind Lair Assault was that the scenarios, while short, were designed to be so difficult to complete that those players would have to attempt them multiple times, leaning from each attempt, before completing them. However, it was the concept of encourage non-players to come watch that, locking back, I found unique. The focus on RPG play, to that time, has always been on participation. The  WPN, in its directions for Lair Assault, encouraged stores to recruit their best local players to participate and invite other local players to come watch top-tier players attempt an extremely challenging adventure, in effect having one small group playing through the adventure while another group got the opportunity to watch a master class in RPG play. I am not sure how other stores did with the program. I would assume not well, since it only lasted for two years and we found it quite difficult to recruit the same players to come multiple times to play through and complete the adventure and I only remember one person coming in to watch the game, but still the basic concept, though flawed, was there. It just took the advent of the Web and the development of podcasting techniques which made it relatively easy for anyone who wants to put their own gaming sessions online.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Talk 0f the Town and Free RPG Day

 Scott will be on WDBX tomorrow at 10 a.m. CT to talk about Free RPG Day and the place of Carbondale in the history of Dungeons and Dragons

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Effect of Inflation

 

Prices were going to start falling as the money from last year’s stimulus checks worked its way through the economy but with the war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed on Russian exports, expect to see them moving up again. Sanctions against Russian mean there are sanctions in place on their international trade against three of the major oil producers in the world:  Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.  The world’s economy has been doing OK with the sanctions against Iran and Venezuela but Europe, last time I checked, gets about 40% of its oil from Russia. The US, currently the number one oil producing nation in the world, has promised to ramp up oil production to help fill the gap left by the expected loss in Russian oil production, although the sanctions may provide exceptions for energy, which makes them much less effective. According to S& P Global Platts, about 75% of the world’s sunflower oil comes from Russia and Ukraine and  just under 25% of its wheat supply comes from the two countries, so disruptions in the supply from both of them will mean further, and longer term, price increases in the food supply. Food is a necessity, games and comics, luxury items. When it comes to how to allocate dollars as prices rise, food will (usually) take priority over entertainment. Although it is doubtful we will see the double digit inflation rates of the late 1970s, the current 7% rate still triples the numbers we have seen over the last 20 odd years and will likely continue for most, if not all of this year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Double Masters 2022 in Baldur's Gate

 According to this article, foil versions of single Double Masters 2022 cards have appeared in Battle for Baldur's Gate Collector Boosters. Reddit users have posted images of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth which they allegedly found in the Collector boosters. WOTC has neither confirmed nor denied the reports but this is not the first time it has happeend. In the past, for example, cards from Zendikar Rising appeared in packs of Double Masters. One of our customers that purchased a pair of Collector Booster boxes did not find anything immediately apparent but did say he noticed a few cards with symbols differing from thos used on the Battle for Baldur's Gate boosters.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Role Playing Game Day

 The city will proclaim June 25 as Role Playing Game Day in Carbondale at this Tuesday's city council meeting

1. Preliminaries to the City Council Meeting

1.1 Roll Call

1.2 Citizens' Comments and Questions

1.3 Council Comments, General Announcements, and Proclamations

1.4 Proclamations for Juneteenth, Feed My Sheep Day, and Role Playing Game Day