Push Your Luck

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.

 

 

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Careful What You Wish For

Writer_smallerKeep on playin’ games

Firstly, for those who care about such things (and I believe our audience numbers a few of you) there is another great value word game on KS right now. This one seems to have an extraordinarily simple rule set, so much so that I was put off a little at first, but it’s possible it is one of those games that works well, not in spite of, but because of, a simple rule set. At only 23 dollars including shipping, it’s quite likely I will find out. And the KS is still live as this comic is posted.

Halloween came and went with little in the way of opportunity for playing seasonal games. We did manage a solitary game of Werewolf (I won, and must say the villagers were delightfully tasty), but Mysterium, or Ghost Stories, or Dead of Winter all failed to haunt our gaming group with their presence.

Still, if Disney movies have taught me anything, it’s that Halloween was, and still is, in our hearts all along, and so can be celebrated right up to Christmas, at which point the carved pumpkins are likely to be no more than orange mushy puddles by your doorstep, and should be removed. The point being, spooky games are good all year round, so we shall try our best to get some in at a later date. In fact, we have been meaning to get back to Fiasco, and there are plenty of appropriately themed scenarios for a night of horror gaming. Our first game was an ordinary crime-themed bloodbath, so now we want to try a bloodbath of a more supernatural nature – zombies, monsters, politicians, accountants etc.

I have an X-Wing tournament this weekend, but after that there is no more competitive X-Wing (at least locally) until the new year, so I will be playing a broader spectrum of games in general. Having said that, it is also looking more and more likely that GW’s Blood Bowl will release this month, which means I will just be swapping an X-Wing obsession for a Blood Bowl obsession … Anyone else as excited about Blood Bowl as I am? (on a scale of 1 to pretty darn excited I would rate myself as being ‘pretty darn excited’)

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To Boldly Game

Writer_smallerTo seek out new board games . . .

“You’re a bigger Trek fan than I am” is an understatement. I was never much taken with Star Trek. The Next Generation, which was my generation’s Star Trek, passed me by completely. It already seemed to me to be dated by the time it aired, but lacking even that kitsch, novelty appeal of the original series, which also seemed to me to do a better job of the science fiction elements. The drama of the Next Generation always seemed to be set on the bridge, and seemed to me to be somehow distant from the alien life it supposedly explored. Of course, science fiction is just a speculative way of exploring human drama and issues, but the appeal of Next Generation always seemed alien to me (no pun intended). (Actually, of course I intended that pun, how could I resist?)

The only Star Trek series I ever did watch was Voyager, of which I was a big fan. I am given to understand that this is considered an even bigger anomaly amongst real Star Trek fans than not being a Trek fan in the first place.

So while not as excited about Star Trek: Frontiers as Aileen is, I am still excited about it. Because even if you strip away the license, this game is right in my orbit of interest. For starters, it’s sci-fi, so that’s a big plus. Mage Knight always looked amazing, but I just wasn’t willing to invest that much time in a fairly generic-feeling fantasy setting. Sci-fi is closer to my heart, and the idea of flipping hexes to uncover new systems, planets, and alien races seems exponentially more exciting to me than doing so to reveal hills, castles, goblins, and knights.

Eclipse is still a top ten game for me and, as a deep sci-fi strategy game, Frontiers feels close to it. But if you strip it down to its (warp)core, it utilises a wholly different set of mechanics than Eclipse does. Each player controls only one ship, but can still level that ship up with modifications and crew as the game progresses. I think this is where the deck building comes in, as you add to your abilities. Cleverly, if you are dealt damage, this is represented as damage cards that go into your deck. There are 11 scenarios in the base game, and these represent a mix of co-op, solo, and competitive play. The Dice Tower actually did an excellent and informative review you can watch here.

While we intend on going next year, we unfortunately didn’t make it to this year’s UK Games Expo. If you were there, we would love to hear about it. What was the big buzz at the show? What was everyone playing or talking about? What were the events like? Make us jealous!

25 Comments on To Boldly Game

Priorities

Writer_smallerPriorities

After reading the comic, I was afraid it would come off as sarcastic, or cynical about the seemingly universal praise and attention that Pandemic Legacy is receiving. Let me be clear. I am, in real life, and not just in comic form, just this excited for Pandemic Legacy. I am an excitable person. Pandemic still ranks as one of, if not our actual favourite game, and the Legacy system is a brilliant way to really bring the theme and knife edge tension of the game to life.

Our Risk Legacy campaign is technically still ongoing, but only just. I’m not ready to call Time of Death on it yet, but it has been on life support for a while now. I don’t want to give up on it, but getting the group together, and putting Risk Legacy in front of every other game is increasing difficult the longer it goes between games. We may have to just start Pandemic Legacy and leave Risk in suspended animation.

Brief blog post this week, but on a final note, myself and Aileen will be taking a few weeks off over Christmas. However, we have an exciting plan brewing to keep the comics coming while we fatten ourselves on seasonal treats, oversleep, be merry, and try to peel off the couch long enough to set up a board game or two. So the website will update with new comics all over Christmas, even as we take some time to recharge our batteries and figure out some improvements for next year.

22 Comments on Priorities

At twice the price

Writer_smallerAt twice the price

The first three panels in the comic, taken on their own, is a story you hear a lot. In fairness, it’s more joked about than seriously recounted, but it’s a joke I hear too often to not be supported by a strong scaffold of truth.

I don’t have this problem with Aileen, and Aileen doesn’t have this problem with me. Perhaps this is a problem in and of itself, of course. A not-insignificant pile of as yet unplayed games with several Kickstarters on the way would attest to this. That’s beside the point (at least it is in today’s blogpost; the point has, however, been filed away for future source material).

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The cycle of success

Writer_smallerThe cycle of success

Thanks for bearing with us while we went a little Star Wars crazy these past few weeks. While we can’t promise we won’t ever go back to that most distant of galaxies, I can assure you of at least a few weeks of more grounded comics. We will be going back to the gaming board, so to speak.

The past few weeks have been very busy for myself and Aileen, and with things calming down a bit now, we will be getting back to the gaming table in a more literal sense as well. A handful of games of Cosmic Encounter, and some Space Hulk is all the gaming that I have managed in the past month, and as my time begins to free up, I’m finding myself thinking more and more about what we will get to play. Finishing our Risk: Legacy campaign and getting Imperial Assault out of the box is pretty high on that list, but there is a pile of games awaiting our attention on the floor behind me as I type. Literally on the floor. Getting some new shelving units to accommodate our growing collection is actually first on the to-do list, and navigating the tricky corridors, traps, lures and myriad dangers of the dungeons of IKEA is the first game we will be playing. Kitchen gadgets we will never use and more flat packs than our car can safely hold will be our treasure, and untold hours of struggle with diagrams, screws and drills our legacy. Perhaps it will be longer than I thought before we return to the gaming table. If I don’t accidentally affix said table to a wardrobe or TV stand, that is.

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