Push Your Luck

Push Your Luck

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Push Your Luck

The Kickstarter was a huge success, so now Tabletop Cork is only a matter of time, and of finding the right venue. And while they are sourcing good locations, Chris and Emer also have all that Kickstarter money to spend on shiny new board games for the cafe. While we like to think of ourselves as generally being good, honest people, board games are so expensive, and we only have so much furniture, family heirlooms, and clothing we can sell to pay for them.

Chris and Emer, you are probably both reading this, so I would just like to say, we would never do that to you in real life.
But also have you guys seen the Heroes of Land, Sea and Air Kickstarter?

 

In all seriousness though, games becoming more expensive does seem to be a trend. As the hobby grows, and the market becomes ever more crowded and competitive, this would appear to be counter-intuitive. More competition should mean more competitive pricing, and not the reverse. So why are board games bucking the trend?

While it’s impossible to give conclusive answers when dealing with such a large market, there are some definite culprits. Firstly, I think the trend towards miniatures has had a part to play. It’s the big Kickstarter trend in board games, and has been for a while – pack the box with minis and charge accordingly.

This isn’t to say that companies who produce miniature-heavy games are ripping people off. The point here is that it has become ‘normal’ for a board game to cost 100+ Euro/Dollars/Gold Coins/Victory Points. Five years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of a board game that cost that much, but now it’s not that unusual. This trend has allowed for games like Kingdom Death Monster, and Mechs Vs Minions – boxes that cost literally hundreds.

Again, that is not to say that these are not good value games, but rather, as higher pricing becomes the norm, so other manufacturers are more likely to follow suit. To include miniatures in their box, or higher value production and components because that is where the market is trending.

Another culprit here is definitely the huge number of mergers and acquisitions that the hobby has seen in just the past three years. While there might appear to be as many competing publishers as there ever was, the reality is that these publishers are in fewer and fewer hands, and are not actually competing in the same manner that we think they are.

In the past three years, Asmodee has acquired Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight. Last year it bought F2Z Entertainment, which owns Plaid Hat, Z-Man, and Filosophia. That is a huge number of publishers, brands, and games all under the one roof, and there is no reason for Asmodee to consider reducing its prices.

A company the size of Asmodee can exert such an influence of its market as to distort it – hence the laws against monopolies that exist. Recent reprints from Fantasy Flight Games have shown this. Citadels went from a small box, sub-20 Dollar game to a 30-dollar game in a much larger box (now published by Asmodee). Of course, you get so much more in the box now, in terms of game and components, but it’s still a worrying trend. The same thing can be seen in the shiny, lengthened, hardback new edition of ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

 

One small positive to be gleaned from this is the also-growing trend for micro games. As an answer to the ever-growing price tag and box size of popular games, some publishers and designers have seen an opportunity to stand out by doing the opposite – tiny boxes with equivalent price tags.

Love Letter is of course the flagship of this movement – containing just sixteen cards and with a price tag well under sixteen dollars/Euros, it presents phenomenal value and great gameplay. Star Realms is our most played two player game. At well under 20 of your local currency, its tiny box is packed with variety and replayability. While it might not technically be a ‘micro game’, it is a cheap game in a tiny box, and that’s good enough for me. I think a reduced size means a game has to be stripped back to its bare minimum – no frills, excesses, or unnecessary complications, and that can turn a good game into a truly great game.


On a final note this week, I want to give a mention to Our Turn Podcast: Women in Gaming, who as of this week are part of the Dice Tower Network. Co-host Sarah Reed is a friend of the comic, and an all-round great person too. The current episode focuses on ‘gaming challenges’ – such as the 10×10 (which we tried last year but failed appallingly), which Sarah was the original architect of.

 

 

18 Comments on Push Your Luck
  • wr00t

    I think i’ve read an article recently that board games have surpassed video games in money collected through Kickstarter. Personally i think i have only backed a few games with full game pledge. One of them was a micro game and another one a 15$ little card game 😀

    • Wow, that is a lot of money for board games. But hooray for cheap micro games!

  • Dexter Ó Thuithear

    I love micro games. I have a real grá for any of those small box style games for a number of reasons, but two huge parts of it are simple portability (love taking them with us on road trips, or even abroad), and the fact that most of them are simple enough that you can teach them to newbies in minutes, but often engaging enough to warrant multiple replays.
    On the far end of the spectrum, I just picked up Mansions of Madness. I was in the same boat for a long time of thinking that price for a board game is mad, but they seem to all be creeping up these days. The days of big box games being about €40 seem to be a distant memory. I know MoM comes with a ton of miniatures in the box got that €100 price tag, but they’re not all that great in quality, and much of the box size is wasted space. Looks like an Asmodee stunt in price justification, really.

    Speaking of both micro games and Kickstarter though, I just backed a Kickstarter micro game about… well, about backing new ventures… It’s called Pitch Deck, and it looks like a blast. Kickstarter has been a great spot for some of those really interesting micro games lately. It’s becoming a regular haunt for me.

    • I had a quick look at Pitch Deck there, and it’s by some of the people behind Monikers, so it’s definitely one I will look into more. Monikers is consistently the best, and funniest party game we own.
      I have really wanted MoM since it was reprinted, but I am having a hard time justifying spending that much, regardless of components in the box. It’s just so much. Having said that, I heard someone say that the previous printing actually had more miniatures in the box, and it sure wasn’t as expensive as the new printing. Have you played it yet?

      • Dexter Ó Thuithear

        Truthfully, if the price is as high as it is because of the minis, it should be about €30 cheaper than asking, because they’re not that great. I wasn’t expecting them to be painted, but I was at least expecting them not to arrive in a bag, where they’d been left free to bang around and bend in transit. The moldings aren’t great, and the plastic feels super cheap. I think I expected a lot more because of X-wing and Armada, where FFG have done a stellar job with the minis. Even the bases for the minis here are… frankly, baffling in quality. Apparently the mini quality on the previous edition was exactly the same, so the only explanation I can fathom is they’re bundling the price of the “free” app into the cost of the physical game.
        The game itself is supposedly very good though. The app takes over the organisation role that was so much of a chore and turn off with the first edition.

        Honestly, I was really concerned about the app as a forward compatible component of the game (we all know how fickle app development can be after even just a few months), but some of that was alayed when I discovered the same app could be downloaded directly from Steam. I’m hoping to give it a go over the weekend, or at least some time in the next week. I am, thankfully, off work until next Saturday, so we have time to break it out (although we had planned a trip to Cork for one of those days, and she’s working for some, so… who knows).

        • I am really surprised to hear about the poor quality of the minis. I associate FFG with really high quality products and miniatures. Odd that this is such an exception, especially with the very-premium price tag. Having heard such great things I do still kinda want it, though, but will find it very hard to justify the price. Maybe the guys need a copy for the board game cafe …

          • Dexter Ó Thuithear

            Yeah, it’s something that surprised me, too. I had heard reports, but thought people may have been over critical, or perhaps that the first edition had minis of exceptional standard and these simply didn’t follow that. Unfortunately, they’re just… well they just feel cheap. That’s massively disheartening having spent €100 on a game which claims aesthetic as one of it’s key selling points.

            The map tiles and app look rather slick, but that’s it. It’s a huge box that’s about 60% air. The minis come thrown in a couple of zip lock bags, and the punch-out cardboard is above that. The box could have been easily half the size, but I guess the visual concept of a “big box” game being expensive is seen to translate to “huge box” games being very expensive indeed.

            The scenarios in it all have time estimations for completion. Most of them are 90+ minutes, but some of the are into the 4 hour territory. There’s also not many in the box, so picking up expansions is necessary if you make it through the first couple quickly, because there doesn’t seem to much in the line of replay.

  • Snarkastic Android

    I actively dislike minis – I rarely game at home, so the difficulty of transporting minis is not a trivial problem, especially if you’re trying to keep the paint from chipping if they’re painted. Not to mention if they come unpainted or need assembly so you have that to content with before you can get the game to the table. Give me standees every day of the week. Have the minis as an extra for the people who want them, but let me get on with just enjoying the game…

    • I certainly don’t dislike minis, but they are definitely not a big draw for me. I would certainly rather pay a more reasonable price for a game and not have scores of unpainted miniatures on the table. They are a really huge trend in games right now though, but I’m sure eventually that will pass and giant box mini-packed games will not get as much funding as people get fatigued with them.

      • Snarkastic Android

        It’s hard not to be tempted to put minis in when most of the big funding kickstarters use them. I do wonder if Mechs Vs Minions might throw a spanner in the works though as it’s considerably cheaper than most games of it’s ilk. There are reasons (the game wasn’t intended to make a lot of profit as much as a reward for fans of League of Legends, being manufactured in a much larger scale getting greater economies which most board games can’t come close to doing), but those won’t be of interest when people are comparing values of games in a (web)store

        • You know I actually thought Mechs Vs Minions was priced at over 150? I had no idea it was as cheap as it is. And the box is HUGE! I am really impressed, it’s only 75. Maybe that will throw a spanner in the works.

  • Sarah Reed

    Aw, thanks for the shout-out! Really appreciate it!!
    You got it exactly about KS lately. It’s either been giant $100 games or small less than $20 games. There haven’t been many in the middle and the few that there have been, have not done well. I think a lot of people are going to one extreme or the other. A lot of people are really attracted to miniatures and high quality components. I mean, just look at Heroes of Land, Sea & Air. It has amazing components!! I don’t blame anyone for wanting that. But it’s a bit too rich for my blood. On the other hand, you have a lot of companies that focus on small portable games. Button Shy and Green Couch Games are two companies that come to mind that focus on the smaller end and they are very successful in their own right.
    Makes me a bit worried about the next game we’re putting on KS, Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture, because it is squarely a mid-sized game at $30. I just hope we’re going to be able to draw people in. Guess we’ll see.

    • While Heroes does look great, it’s also definitely too much for us as well. It is just really, really difficult to justify spending that much on any game. I would much rather get 2 or 3 regular-size games for that price. On the other hand, much as we love micro games as well, we rarely back them because of shipping costs from KS. It’s not unusual to see a game for 15 dollars that costs an extra 15 dollars to ship to Ireland. All of a sudden the micro game costs near the price of a regular game. It’s quite frustrating, as I do love small, portable game.
      Good luck with Oaxaca! I’m sure you’ll do well. We are spending tomorrow evening playing two player games, and Project Dreamscape is high on my list. We haven’t played it in ages, excited to get into it again, it’s really great!

      • Snarkastic Android

        There is a standee only version of “Heroes of…” which is significantly cheaper (~$60). That said, I very rarely do kickstarter as I want to know what the final quality will be, and what kind of reviews it gets (plus avoiding the horrific shipping costs that a number of projects get!). I’m just hoping that the standee version is available in retail but I don’t think it will be… *sigh*

        • I would guess you are right about the standee version not being available at retail, though I have to admit, I did think that was a great idea – to offer the standee version for a lesser price.
          I definitely agree about the shipping costs. I know here in Ireland that is a serious problem for us with KS. If a game doesn’t offer a reasonable European shipping option then we can’t even consider it.

  • Daniel Sroka

    My introduction to gaming, way waaay back in the 80s, was Metagaming’s Microgames: only $2.95 (or a whole $3.95 for the “deluxe” games) got you a fun, crazy game. I loved having so much creativity come in such a tight, budget-friendly package. These days I follow the work of James Ernest (of Cheapass Games) and Daniel Solis for my micro game kick.

    • I actually have some very fond memories of some Cheapass games from way back in the day. ‘Devil Bunny Needs a Ham’, Kill Dr Lucky, stuff like that was super-good fun and was made as deliberately inexpensive as possible.
      We follow Daniel Solis on Twitter, and have heard a lot of great things about some of his recent games (Kodama, Belle of the Ball) but have never had the opportunity to play one of his games, unfortunately.

  • Guyver

    Then Chris backs the “Rising S*O*n” Kickstarter instead of the “Rising S*U*n” Kickstarter foiling the plan. Remember kids spell checking is important!