Friday, November 30, 2018

Three Great Things About WizKids

For those of you not familiar with them, and most people reading this column are, WizKids is the premier collectable miniatures and dice game company (though I could argue not the first as anyone who dealt with Games Workshop during the 1990s could attest, with the company’s tendency to include multiple poses of the same figure in a sleeve of them and customers trying to get that one particular figure with a Multi-melta or Assault Cannon for their army. A figure holding a Bolter just wouldn’t work.), at one time after the release of DiceMasters producing more dice than any other company in the world.

Anyhow, three things that WizKids does that I really like:

1.        Organized Play website—WizKids has really ramped up their OP program over the past couple of years and has made massive improvements to the website the company uses to track tournament results. The company has even embraced the “gamification” trend of the past few years, awarding badges to players and tournament organizers for “unlocking” achievements in OP. Behavioral research indicates that this actually works in terms of encouraging more people to participate in events in the hope of adding more badges to their collection, much as the Scouts have done for decades.

2.       Summer Campaigns—For the last few years, WizKids has run a massively supported summer Organized Play campaign complete with big cool prizes and limited edition boosters to draw customers into stores. In order to get access to these limited boosters, the customer has to come to the store and play in the event. A few retailers have violated the spirit and letter of the program and WizKids, from what I understand, has been pretty diligent in tracking the violators down and reprimanding or even sanctioning them from participating in further programs.

3.       Release Day Tape—The announcement of this was the thing I referenced earlier that made me happy. As I have noted in other columns, violation of street date, especially with high volume collectible items, is a bane of the retail end of the industry. Putting a notice on the packing tape of each box that the item has a release date and to go to the WizKids website to check it before putting the product inside out for sale will certainly help by giving people one less reason to claim they were unaware of the release date.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Why the Sale of Asmodee Should not Bother Anyone

In case you missed it, private equity firm Eurozeo found another private equity firm Pai Partners, to purchase Asmodee a couple of weeks ago for $1.2 billion euros or roughly $1.4 billion dollars America. Given that Eurozeo spent about $143 million euros in 2013 to purchase the company (That’s about $167 million dollars American), Eurozeo is getting a pretty good return on its investment, quintupling the amount originally invested in the purchase.. However, I have seen some people wonder if the purchase of arguably the premier board game company in the country by a private equity firm a good thing?.  First, it would probably be helpful to define what private equity and a private equity firm are.  From Investopedia:

“The simplest definition of private equity is that it is equity – that is, shares representing ownership of or an interest in an entity – that is not publicly listed or traded. A source of investment capital, private equity actually derives from high net worth individuals and firms that purchase shares of private companies or acquire control of public companies with plans to take them private, eventually become delisting them from public stock exchanges.”

If you have set up your store or company as an LLC or a subchapter-S or any other form of corporation and all of the shares of stock in the corporation are owned by you or you and your partners, with none offered for sale to the public, either on an exchange or OTC (Over the Counter), you have private equity, that is stock in a company that is not available to the public. I cannot buy shares of stock in Asmodee NA. I can, and do, buy shares of stock in Hasbro, because I want to own part of WOTC, and, since WOTC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hasbro, the only way to gain any ownership of WOTC is to buy Hasbro stock. Similarly, a private equity firm, such as Eurozeo, does the same thing, buying up all of the stock in a company, taking the shares off public exchanges and removing ownership of the company from the public, only doing this with multiple companies. Given that, here are three reasons why the sale of Asmodee to a private equity firm should not concern anyone in the industry.

1.    No one knew Asmodee was privately held. Until news stories started circulating about Eurozeo’s plans to sell Asmodee, people in the industry knew Asmodee was privately held, just like most other game companies (and game stores) are. It just didn’t concern anyone because Asmodee kept doing what it had done before the original purchase and after the original purpose, putting out games (and buying up or entering into partnerships with other game companies).

2.    A lot more companies are privately held than you might think. As noted above, most game companies in the industry, whether publisher, distributor or retailer, are privately held. In fact, a lot of the businesses you deal with every day are privately held companies. Here is a list of a lot of them.

3.    Debacles like Toys R Us are very rare.  Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado used a leveraged buyout to take TRU private, borrowing lots of money to buy TRU, with the expectation that TRU would generate enough profits to repay the debt. They figured wrongly and destroyed the company. Pai Partners’ willingness to pay 5 times Asmodee’s 2013 purchase price indicates the company sees significant value in the company. Pai will likely use debt to finance part of the purchase, since the company’s website says it likes to take an equity state in a company, meaning money invested, of between 100 and 400 million euros, leaving the rest of the Asmodee purchase to be funded through debt. However, Asmodee has a much stronger market position than did TRU.

So, I figure, unless PAI uncovers something really bad in Asmodee’s financial statements, the sale will go through and the company will keep making great games, just as it did under Eurozeo’s ownership

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Why Shop Local

Why shop local? Well, aside from the fact that it keeps the store in business, here are some other reasons from the Gift Guide of the Nov. 18th Southern Illinoisan newspaper:

1. Your money stays in the local economy. Different studies have different figures but in general, for every $100 you spend, if you spend it at a locally owned store, $65 to $70 stays within the local economy, spent with other local businesses or paid to staff members. $35 to $45 stays within the local economy if you spend it at a chain store and, of course,none stays within the local economy if you spend it online

2.  Your money recirculates in the economy before leaving to help other communities. In a comparatively small town like Carbondale, it will cycle through other businesses 2-3 times but in a large one like St.Louis or Chicago, the same dollar will circulate 7-12 times before cycling out.

3.Local businesses donate more to community based causes and non-profits. According to the Seattle Good Business Network, local businesses donate 250% more locally than do chain stores.

4. Taxes--Though no one really likes to pay them, the fact is that they go to fund the local police and fire departments, sewers and water, street repair, mass transit and other things that make life easier and safer.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Stocking Stuffers

Not only is this the time of year for big holiday game purchases, like Star Wars Armada from Fantasy Flight, Fortune and Glory from Flying Frog or Horus Heresy:  Betrayal at Calith from Games Workshop, any of which will set you back $100 or more, but the season also calls for smaller presents as well, for stocking stuffers, secret Santas or gift exchange. For these, you want a game that provides a lot of fun without melting down your pocketbook
. Here are some suggestions:
1.       Love Letter from AEG. This is Castle Perilous Games & Books Selected Stocking Stuffer of the Season for several reasons.  First, Love Letter is a lot of fun, plays quickly and offers quite a bit of replay value, especially with the number of variants that AEG has released.  In addition, it boasts a great price point at $9.99 for the basic game and only $10.99 for the Batman, Hobbit and Adventure Time variants. There’s even a Letters to Santa version if you want to get really thematic. Add in that the game is attractively packaged in both boxed and clamshell versions and you have a great stocking stuffer.

2.       Timeline from Asmodee. Gnome Games picked this one as its Stocking Stuffer of 2015 for the same reasons Castle Perilous Games & Books chose Love Letter (In fact, Gnome Games selected Love Letter as its Stocking Stuffer for 2013).  Timeline comes packaged in an attractive tin that fits neatly into a stocking, has an equally attractive $14.99 price point and offers plenty of replayability. Add in the fact that it actually teaches a bit of history and you have an all-around great choice.
3.       Fluxx from Looney Labs.  At $16 to $20, Fluxx is a bit more expensive than the first two options but still comparatively cheap and comes in a wide variety of variations. You can buy Nature Fluxx, Stoner Fluxx, Star Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Batman Fluxx or even, should your tastes run that way, just plain Fluxx. The number of Fluxx games make it relatively easy to find a version that would appeal to anyone on your Secret Santa or gift exchange list. In addition, since the rules change with every game, even with every hand, Fluxx, whatever version you buy, offers immense replayability.

4.       Happy Birthday from North Star Games.  Though Happy Birthday doesn’t have the name recognition of North Star Games’ other games such as Evolution and Wits and Wagers,  or even the other games on this list, it is an enjoyable game in its own right, which is one of the reasons it makes the list. Also, surprisingly given the size of North Star Games’ other products, Happy Birthday comes in a compact 3’ x3’ box with a nice heft to it, perfect for tucking into a stocking. Add in the extremely reasonable $12.99 price point and that fact that Happy Birthday is a game that younger children especially like to play, the age range is 6 and up and the game can handle up to 8 players, making it good for family get togethers and you have one more great stocking stuffer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How To Get Your Name Out There

All game (and comic) stores have to work to get their names out in front of potential customers and

WOTC has been doing a pretty good job of weekly disseminating both basic and novel ideas used by other stores to keep their customers coming back and making customers feel special. However,  even though it is far easier to generate additional sales from existing customers, at some point you need to get your name out in front of new potential customers and get them into the store. Without a flow of new customers, a store will eventually tap out its existing customer base and see flatlined sales. I wanted to suggest three ways to get your name in front of new customers. As a savvy store owner (or publisher) you are likely already but just in case you’re not:

1.       Social Media—the great thing about social media is that it is free, to start. Set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, maybe even Vine, Snapchap and Instagram.  Unfortunately, due to the ways in which the various social media sources have tweaked their software, you now really do have to spend money in order to get your name and posts out in front of potential customers. The great thing about social media it that you start out for as little as 5 bucks to boost a Facebook post and have a lot more control over who will see it than you would with advertising in traditional formats. Facebook, and other forms of social media, allow you to have friends and friends of friends see your boosted posts or you can keep them from seeing them and spend your money to reach a targeted market that’s not already familiar with your company. I know stores spending 4 figures just on monthly boosting of social media.

2.       Join Civic Organizations—Become a member of organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club or Kiwanis or Jaycees or Main Street. Not only do they work to better the community, and he better your community is doing , the better your business will do, but becoming a member allows you to take advantage of the services the organization offers. For example, as a member of our local Chamber of Commerce, I can send out promotions and notices to all other Chamber members , many of whom would have no idea what the store sells. Also,  if you have some sort of negative event take place, a position as a recognized member of the local community  helps mitigate the effects of bad publicity.

3.       Press Releases—The local media is always looking for local news and your store (or company) is newsworthy, whether you are hosting an event, are hiring new staff or even have a list of the top 5 games in your community for the year. This last one is one we sent out and we got a spot on local TV as well as mentions in two local papers, all for about half an hour’s work and another 5 minutes or so emailing them to the local media. Remember, you may not follow local news much but there are a lot of people that do, people who may not know you exist but have money to spend on what you are selling. Don’t know how to write a press release? Search for “sample press release” on the interwebs or hire a local journalism student to write one for you.

Friday, November 9, 2018

GMTricks of the Trade

Another in the series of GM Tricks of the Trade from Troll Lord Games 

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together another 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: When starting a new campaign, or a running a convention game, or even a one-shot adventure, keep the goals of the adventure relatively simple. Players, especially new players, are going to need a little time to adjust to the new game (even if it’s the same RPG), the setting, in some cases the rules -- and in others your style of play. They have new characters with new backgrounds and personalities, etc. Keeping it simple allows them time to get a grip on what they want to see and how they want to play the character. Simple goals include small dungeons (4-5) rooms, travel from point A to point B, an escort adventure, hunting a monster or brigand. Now, all that said, it behooves you to introduce elements for a larger game that is coming in sessions in the future.

#2: With #1 above in mind-- When you are running a long campaign, try to avoid making ‘save the world’ the game’s focus. If you are going that route, that’s great, just plan to have hosts of games in the middle that have little or nothing to do with saving the world. It gives everyone a break from mission-oriented games, makes many stories, and allows for level and treasure acquisition.

#3: Occasionally you’ll have players that want to correct you, or at least “help” you understand the rules a little better. These players, whether well intentioned or not, are often a bit troublesome. I’ve found that little good comes out of arguing with them. I often take note of their comment and calmly respond with “there’s more going on here than you aware of” or perhaps “I look at that a little differently”. Make eye contact, direct the comment to them, and make sure everyone can hear it. Be consistent and don’t give in. The vast majority of people stop after a while, usually because they think you are just doing it wrong and are beyond help, and you can get on with the game. Arguing is just going to bog it all down and cut everyone else out of the game for 20 minutes while you resolve the situation. It’s important to note however, to not linger on the person. Make your comment and move on immediately.
#4: Give ‘em a death swing. When they are dying and all is lost give them one last shot at glory. We are talking negative 10 death. When the character cannot be saved, the damage is done, the hit points bludgeoned out, tell ‘em to take one more swing. It doesn’t change their fate, but it allows them to go out in glory…or to utterly miss and make things a little worse, but at least they can try. Give ‘em a death swing.

#5: Use player input, and if their idea is better than yours, go for it. I once had characters passing through a large tunnel that was guarded by some mythic beast chained to a wall. The wall was decorated with the faces of the dead. My plan was to have the characters use brute strength to force their way through in an epic battle. But mid-catastrophe (they were getting hammered) one of them decided that the faces of the dead on the wall were the creature’s source of power and began destroying them. I thought to myself, well that’s just wicked cool, and went with it! They never knew until later of course, but it didn’t take away from the moment. It was just too cool. It’s why I’ve said, though I created the world of Aihrde and wrote the Codex of Aihrde, it wasn’t done in a vacuum. Inspiration came from a host of sources and all the players at my table.

Follow these simple rules when interacting with your group and you will be assured a great game night, every night.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Free Comics for Election Day

Since we believe strongly in people voting, com into the store on Election Day wearing your "I voted" sticker and we will give you a free comic from the stack we have behind the counter. Vote early, but only vote once.