Friday, December 30, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

Here’s what I hoped to see happen in 2011

1) More publishers participating in the Bits and Mortar program. 
2) States make more of a push to collect sales tax from online sellers.  .
3) New Games Day. 
4) Publisher communications will have correct release information

Well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad.  Haven’t much from the Bits and Mortar program this past year.  It’s still a great idea and kudos to the publishers that participate.  It’s nice to tell our customers, “Hey, buy this book and we can email you the PDF .”  What a deal.  Looking at the website (which, unfortunately I haven’t done recently), it appears that a number of publishers have uploaded files in the past year, most from small publishers, though one major one, Mongoose Publishing, has added over 110 files since the last time I checked earlier in 2011.  Bully Pulpit Games has added a PDF for its popular Fiasco RPG and Rogue Games has added a couple of more files for its Colonial Gothic Game.  Good for them and here’s hoping the imitative gets much more promotion in 2012.

States, hurting for revenue, are making more of an effort to collect sales tax from online retailers.  The biggest, and worst offender, Amazon, has agreed to collect and remit sales tax for purchases made by California residents by January 2013.  This is important because of the size of the California market and its position as a market leader. So often, as California goes, so goes the nation.  By agreeing to do this, Amazon has agreed it is possible for it to collect and remit sales taxes from individual states and localities.  The company had argued in the past it construed too much of a burden for it to do so (Nevermind that hundreds of other online retailers with physical locations as well, Wal-mart and Staples coming to mind immediately, have successfully done so).  Now that Amazon has made this agreement with California, and assuming the company follows through, expect more states to seek similar arrangements with the online behemoth and other online retailers to slowly follow suit.

Publisher communications getting better than last year. WOTC is still the champ at publishing and keeping release dates, keeping to dates they have published a year out.  Both WizKids and Pazio have improved significantly at setting and keeping release dates, and, importantly, letting us know when dates shift, as a couple of HeroClix sets and the Pathfinder collectible miniatures sets did.  Now if Games Workshop would just get out a list of releases more than two weeks ahead of time. The company must know a year ahead of time what it plans to release.  You build up anticipation for new products by telling your customers to expect them ahead of time, not by keeping them in the dark and relying on rumors until you decide to send out the information a week or so before the release date. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

End of the Year Specials

For those looking to spend their Castle Perilous gift certificates they got in their Christmas stockings, we have the following items on sale Dec. 26 through Dec 31.  Quantities are limited to only in stock items though:

Magic Intro Decks 2 for $19.99 ($14.99 individually)
Captain American and Superman HeroClix bricks $79.99

Battletech and Games Workshop Metal blister packs miniatures, 25% off.

Carcassone and Blokus games 25 % off
Puzzles 50% off
All non-Vertigo graphic novels, buy 2, take 25% off.
Hope you have a great Christmas and a Merry New Year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stupid Store Managers

Given that our employees are on the front line when dealing with our customers and how valuable (and rare) a good one is, much less a great one, it always bemuses me when I run across stories of managers and employers disrespecting their staff.  I got thinking about this again after running across the following in a  recent News of the Weird column:
 In March, William Ernst, 57, owner of the QC Mart chain of Iowa
convenience stores, excitedly announced a company-wide employee
contest with a prize of $10 for guessing the next worker that Ernst
will fire for breaking rules. "Once we fire the person, we will open
all the envelopes [containing the entries], award the prize, and start
the contest again." Ernst added, "And no fair picking Mike Miller
from (the Rockingham Road store). He was fired at around 11:30
a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good
luck!!!!!!!!!!" (After firing a cashier who had complained about
Ernst's attitude, he challenged the woman's unemployment-
compensation claim, but in October, a judge ruled in her favor.)
[Des Moines Register, 10-3-2011]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hulk Clix

Well the Hulk HeroClix set came in  and are moving a bit better than the Superman but still much slower than previous sets, which goes to show, at least to me, that WizKids' plan of putting the BIBTB figure in the brick was a really bad idea, at least from original purpose of the program. The original purpose was to drive sales of bricks in brick and mortar stores by requiring a receipt from a B&M store to receive the figure.  Later, WizKids modified the program by sending the figures to the stores so that we could redeem them when the customer bought the brick.  Again, a good idea, although, since they had to produce so many of them,  WizKids wasn't particularly happy with the quality of the figures.

So, to up the quality of he figures and remove the difficulty of having to handle redemption themselves, WizKids moved to including the BIBTB figure in one of the boosters in every brick, essentially making it a 1 in 10 chase figure, available from both B&M and online retailers.  Sales of Superman and Hulk are reflecting this as sales of both have run about half the sales we saw of Giant Size x_men, 75th anniversary and even Captain America.  I hear that WizKids plans to change the program yet again. Even so, I plan on cutting our orders on the next set by about a third.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thanks, Amazon

If you missed it this week, Amazon, as a Christmas present to brick and mortar retailers, announced it would give up to $5 in credit on anyitem if a customer would go into a store, scan the item using the  Amazon Price Check app, then purchase the item through Amazon. The customer saves 5% of the cost of the item, up to $5, Amazon gets millions of people out there price checking for the company, and the local retailer suffers yet another attack yet another attack upon their business model.  Granted, Amazon’s promotion targets big box retailers, since both compete by selling a comparatively small selection of items at the lowest perceived possible price, more than us.  The product categories we sell make us essentially an afterthought to Amazon.  Looking at the current list of top 100 toys and games sold on Amazon, only four items we sell in the store show up (Bananagrams, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Apples to Apples), though if you sell Melissa and Doug items, you are in a world of hurt as it looks like half the items listed come from the Melissa and Doug line.  Apparently, some of the large chain retailers are actually undercutting Amazon on items such as DVDs and books and this is Amazon’s way of fighting back.

Still the problem comes from a violation of an implicit agreement between customer and brick and mortar store:  the store still will offer a selection of items, available for immediate purchase and possession, and answer or attempt to answer questions the customer might have about the items under consideration. The customer, in return, will give reasonable consideration to the store’s offer and may or may not choose to purchase said item, but will not make a deal with another store while standing right in front of you. Essentially, that’s what Amazon is asking their customers to do: find an item in your store, get all the info they can from you, then deal with the salesperson they brought in with them. As Gary Ray, owner of Black Diamond Games, put it on his “Quest for Fun” blog, there isan implicit agreement between customer and salesperson:
Here's something I learned when I was younger. When you enter a business and engage a sales person, you have entered into a social contract where it is expected that both of you are acting in good faith. The sales person honestly and factually attempts to assist you, while you have intention to actually buy. It's alright if you're "shopping around," or not ready to buy, but the intent should be that the sales person has a chance at some time in the future.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Savage Worlds Release

New for Savage Worlds, releasing in Feb.

Product Image
SW: Horror Companion
$19.99 SRP

Take your Savage Worlds games to new depths of darkness with the Horror Companion.

With new rules for signs and portents, buckets o' blood, ritual casting, sanity, and gear, this tome of terror is bound to spice up your creepiest settings.

The Horror Companion is designed to extend the reach of your Savage Worlds games into the most frightening recesses of gaming, but it isn't a stand-alone product. It's designed to work with a copy of the core Savage Worlds rules.

This is a softcover, full-color, Explorer's Edition-sized book (6.5"x9"). 144 pages.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Job Opening

Not here, I'm afraid, but if you've ever wanted to work in the gaming industry:

There is currently a vacancy for the position of Sales Manager at Alliance East. Interested applicants should forward their resume to William Myers at and Marc Aquino at no later than close of business Friday, December 9.

Below is the job description for this position:
LOCATION: Alliance East - Baltimore, Maryland
DATE: 12/2011
DEPT: Sales


The Sales Manager is responsible for the operation of the Baltimore Sales Office and the Southwest Sales office in Austin, Texas. The Sales Manager is responsible for maintaining the morale and efficiency of the sales force through training and motivation. The Sales Manager maintains the technological training of the sales force as new computer programs become available. The Sales Manager will act as liaison between all other departments and the Sales Department to ensure that they work together to maximize sales efficiency.

The Sales Manager will be responsible for a territory of 900 customers whose special needs require the Sales Manager’s personal attention. The Sales Manager will promote positive public relations by hosting the Alliance Open House, attending various industry trade shows, writing for industry and Alliance publications, and answering customer inquiries on how to maximize their sales. The Sales Manager will assist new businesses with their business plans. The Sales Manager will maintain an active knowledge of current game trends and impart this knowledge as well as how to acquire this knowledge to customers.
· Act as head of Alliance East and Southwest Divisions.
· Create policies and procedures for selling product more professionally and efficiently.
· Provide ongoing training to sales force in product knowledge, sales, and computer technology.
· Write trade articles for Alliance publications as well as trade publications.
· Host Alliance Open House and attend various industry trade shows.
· Maintain approximately 900 customer sales territories.
· Act as liaison between customers and Alliance to ensure fair solutions to problems.
· Provide product and industry knowledge to customers so that they will be able to recognize new trends.
· Provide a daily report to customers on product receiving, requests for pre-order and general company information.
· Maintain strong industry knowledge through trade publications, web pages and on line forums.
· Design forms for company-wide use.
· Coordinate sales with all other Alliance Sales Managers.
· Work with Purchasing Department to maximize availability of product.
· Work with Graphics Department to ensure smooth flow of information from manufacturers to customers.
· Work with Computer Department to ensure new software is readily taught to Alliance Sales Force.
· All other duties as assigned.
· Strong industry knowledge and experience.
· Strong knowledge of computer hardware and software.
· Minimum of 2 years Sales and Supervisory experience required.
· 4 year college degree required and/or equivalent work experience

Monday, December 5, 2011

New from FFG

Coming in January

Product Image
40KRPG: Black Crusade: Hand of Corruption
$39.95 SRP
UPC 9781616613525

40KRPG: Dark Heresy: Chaos Commandment
$24.95 SRP
UPC 9781589947634
Hand of Corruption is an adventure in three acts for Black Crusade.

Presented in one comprehensive volume, this epic story takes a small band of Heretics from the swirling depths of the Screaming Vortex to the far reaches of the Calixis Sector, and then to a parched and windswept Imperial penal world called Saint Annard’s Penance.

With a host of challenges designed to appeal to a range of group types and play styles, Hand of Corruption offers ample opportunities for both savvy roleplaying and grueling combat.
A conspiracy at the highest levels of the Calixian Church has finally come to fruition, and the sector rests on the edge of interstellar upheaval.

Can a small band of Acolytes prevent this coming apocalypse? The Chaos Commandment is an exciting adventure for Dark Heresy. The final chapter in The Apostasy Gambit trilogy (and also playable as a standalone adventure), this epic story pits a small band of Acolytes against an ancient and powerful threat.

Friday, December 2, 2011

New in Jauary for CoC and GoT

Coming in January
Product Image
Product Image
CoC LCG: Shadow o/t Monolith Asylum Pack
$14.95 SRP
UPC 9781616611422

GoT LCG: Where Loyalty Lies Chapter Pack
$14.95 SRP
UPC 9781616611767
The sixth and final Asylum Pack in the Ancient Relics cycle for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, Shadow of the Monolith continues the cycle’s development of the exciting new Relic trait and concludes the cycle’s exploration of the Ancient Ones’ global reach.

60 new cards (3 copies each of 20 different cards) take the game’s different factions to the South Pacific, where they are greeted by malevolent cultists and their dark spells. Who will prosper when the region’s Relics are unearthed? Who will fall mad or die along the way?

Shadow of the Monolith removes the final veils of the Ancient Relics cycle of Asylum Packs, but its secrets aren’t for the faint of heart!

The A Tale of Champions cycle of Chapter Packs for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game places a strong emphasis on the unique knights, lords, and ladies who would be at the forefront of the tourney environment.

Where Loyalty Lies continues this focus with the introduction of 12 bold, new unique characters, including all-new characters and new versions of existing characters. Players will find more support for the cycle’s exciting new Joust and Melee keywords, which are certain to lead to all manner of new deck types.

With 60 new cards (3 copies each of 20 different cards), Where Loyalty Lies offers players exciting new bannermen for each of the Great Houses of Westeros, though fans of House Lannister and their machinations should be particularly pleased with this new Chapter Pack.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Deckbuilding Game

Coming in April!

WoW: Clash of Champions
Coming some time next April.
$ 45.00 SRP

A new deck building game, centered around one of the most popular online worlds – World of Warcraft: Clash of Champions. Players take on the role of their favorite World of Warcraft Heroes: Thrall, Jaina, King Varian, Garrosh, Sylvanas, and King Magn. Each Hero has special abilities that only they can use in combat. As Heroes level, these special abilities shuffle into their decks. Face off against up to 126 Monster Cards and 9 Epic Bosses. For each victory against an Epic Boss, Heroes level up! Defeat monsters, gather loot, bring down bosses, and stand victorious. World of Warcraft: Clash of Champions allows for incredible replayability with 425 Game Cards. No two games will play the same!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday, the Failure

We’ve had pretty good luck running Black Friday events in the past, opening at 5 or 6 in the morning with a table of specials and a discount schedule that gets smaller as the morning wears on. We also serve breakfast: toasted bagels with cream cheese and hot apple cider from a local orchard. Typically, we don’t have huge crowds but have three to six people browsing and spending money at any given time during the event. Sales usually run about 25 to 50 percent above a typical Friday. This time, we tried something different which failed quite thoroughly and will serve as a valuable object lesson for next year’s planning.

A couple of times a year (the store anniversary and Halloween) we host a party for our customers, the focal point of which is the distribution of over a thousand dollars worth of prizes through drawings. Customers get tickets through doing various things such as purchases, bringing in cans of food, coming in costume, etc and the drawings pull in a large number of excited people, especially since they have to be present to win (we don’t want to keep track of who won what) and are accompanied by significantly higher than normal sales. Based on this, for Black Friday, we decided to do another drawing and tie ticket distribution to time of day and amount purchased, along with other ways to earn tickets. As I said, based on past experience and customer enthusiasm and chatter about the event, I thought this was a great idea, especially since we had hot cider and bagels. Boy, was I wrong.

The day certainly started well. I arrived a bit before 6, got the bagels and cider ready and welcomed the first customers at a few minutes after 6. That should have been my first clue. In past years, we have had people lined up outside the door when we opened. The first customer spent a goodly amount and then, I got what should have been my second clue, when he passed on receiving any drawing tickets, saying he wouldn’t be there for the drawing. Second customer bought a pack of Magic 2012 and a few common cards and left. Then nothing but the sound of crickets for three more hours. The only person to set foot through the door until regular opening time at 10 a.m. was a guy who stops in to pick up a copy of the free student newspaper and he just complained that the students hadn’t put one out on a day when the students had all left for the holiday.

Does this sour me on the idea of running Black Friday events? Of course not. This was an experiment that failed. From what I have heard, other stores did incredibly well. Albany, New York’s Zombie Planet posted on their Facebook page that Black Friday broke sales records and St. Louis’s Star Clipper also posted about huge crowds.

Lesson learned. Customers will come out for discounts, premiums and specials, not for hot cider and extra drawing entries. Planning for next year began today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New This Week

Several new items in this week:

Game of Thrones The Board Game 2nd edition
Ninja:  Legend of the Scorpion Clan
Risk Legacy
Traveller RPG Campaign 1:  Secrets of the Ancients
Call of Cthulhu RPG  Lovecraft's Dreamlands

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Demo Games

Courtesy of Impressions Advertising and Marketing and a number of their clients, we now have the following in the demo game library.

1955:  The War of Espionage
Cookie Fu
Tom Jolly's Way Word
Zox So
Grave Business
Nitro Dice
Nile deLuxor
Heroes of Graxia
Zombie High School
Red Dragon Inn:  Gambling?  I'm In!
Villains & Villagers

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Against The Darkness

The store recently received a copy of Against the Darkness, “A Roleplaying Game of Vatican Horror and Conspiracy”, from Tabletop Adventures. I’ve known one of the principals in the company via email from the GPA (Game Publishers Association) and was intrigued by the game when I saw them showing it off at a convention I attended last week.  I’ve always been a sucker for modern day horror RPGs (long time fan of Call of Cthulhu and I still run a game of Pacesetter Games’ Chill on rare occasions), so when I saw ATD in Tabletop’s display rack, I asked them enough questions about it that they finally gave me a copy (I also bought two copies and a GM pack for the store so they made some revenue off me).

Against the Darkness really intrigued me because of the similarity in themes between it and the anime, Trinity Blood.  Both involve representatives of the Catholic Church and the Vatican, fighting against the forces of darkness, save that Trinity Blood focuses on vampires as the main villain and is more overt in the conflict between the church and the vampires than ATD.  In ATD, the darkness is always there, but it hides in the shadows and the players must venture there, outside the ken of their fellow men.  The quality of the book looks good as well, the only problem I have is that Tabletop has saddle stapled it with no room for a logo on the spine. Ergo, if it (and the GMs pack) gets shelved spine out, well, it vanishes, leaving only the folded over cover of a book to attract the customer’s eye. The company is looking into the economics of producing a book with a printable spine and probably will come out with one in the future.