Thursday, December 18, 2008

The New New

I'm starting to feel a little pressure from the local gaming community to bring them something new. Gaming podcasts have replaced local competitors in providing new gaming information and play tests, with several of my alpha gamers wondering how the store goes about introducing such new games. While the alpha gamers itch for something different, I'm stuck with that "flight to quality," in which my sales of fringe games dry up in favor of safer choices. Our Magic and D&D crowds have never been larger and the 40K group is growing. Alpha players want something new, but they might have difficulty finding anyone to play with.

The evolution towards what's new is organic and it's not entirely dependent on me. A Blood Bowl league developed in the store on its own. Other stores in the area have seen other inexpensive and quick skirmish games increase in popularity, such as Mordheim and a game called Alkemy. Alkemy is a fantasy skirmish game with beautiful models based on various real-world cultures. There are Egyptian, Native American (sorta), Chinese, and straight up medieval Europeans. I have the starter boxes on order so those interested can give it a spin. I'm really liking the unique sculpts.

Warhammer Fantasy has seen some renewed interest, so some new things are old things. I think 2009 will be the year we see Warhammer Fantasy take off at our store. It's not especially new and doesn't require a big investment from me, but it may be a solution to the desire for newness.
There seems to be renewed interest in historical miniatures, with various individual customers putting out their feelers in different directions. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing any critical mass towards one game and Flames of War, our current historical option, remains stagnant.

Notice that all this interest in something new is coming from the miniatures gaming crowd. The RPG crowd has gravitated strongly to D&D and the CCG crowd is mostly Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, while the board game crowd is overwhelmed with new choices; probably too many. The miniatures crowds, however, seem to have a natural desire to mix it up on ocassion, something Games Workshop understands well, which is why they created their specialist games. They intend for their base to dabble in these games to refresh themselves before returning to the main games. This is something role-players do too, mostly taking a break from D&D, but there seems to be less acceptance of the concept and more gnashing of teeth when the "break game" ends.

Our crowd of anxious minis players is increasingly comprised of Warmachine players. Although that group continues to grow for us, there's a dissatisfaction or fatigue with the game that has driving players towards Warhammer Fantasy and other games. I'm hoping players in our Warmachine group can take a break with another game for a while, as opposed to seeing them slowly drift away down to nothing, like has happened at other local game stores. As a store owner, Warmachine and Hordes are problem games, as the skus (items) continue to arrive every couple of weeks, with no discontinuation of existing models. The warnings I received about 40K inventory creep are now more apt for Privateer Press.


  1. If you can get it, you should check out Uncharted Seas. It's a good system with a relatively low price point for a miniatures game. It also has a low sku count at the moment while still having a playable selection of miniatures for four factions.

    Production values are good, especially for a small company, and it should appeal to long time GW grognards that remember Man O' War.

    The disadvantage is that it's a naval game, but I know you have at least one alpha gamer there that's into naval games ;-)

    The other more serious disadvantage is that they're a British company and I don't know if they have a US distributor.

  2. Another factor that I forgot to mention is that it's been getting a lot of attention on at least two podcasts that I've been listening to (This Week In Wargaming and the d6 Generation). I bring that up since you mentioned podcasts being a factor now.

  3. I can get it locally through distributors. I'll pick some up and check it out.

  4. Do any of the miniatures companies send out demo kits for retailers so that people can see the game and get an idea if it is what they want?

    I would think that it would be in the interests of the small companies to ship out demos to allow retailers to decide if the product will work for their market.

  5. The way I see it, is that the younger players gravitate towards 40k and the like, while the older players dabble in both sci-fi and historical stuff. Sci-fi apparently has more appeal than historical now, and has for awhile. BF has been making some less-than-advantageous moves recentaly; which are alienating the older players, not really affecting the younger players, since they don't play anyways. I don't recall there being much else as far as organized historical gameplay goes at BDG.

    I'd be interested in another historical game but I don't know where to start. I'm interested in Napoleonics and Cold War stuff but that would be impossible to get going given the large demographic of 40k players, and their primary interest being bug hunts and stuff.

    Damn Space Marines.


  6. Most new things become new because it's something someone has seen somewhere. For me, it's usually a trade show. For many customers, they usually learn about it at a game convention.

    I'll likely see renewed or new interest in something following Dundracon. Then I'll be fired up over something after the Gama Trade Show in April. By Kublacon in May, we'll likely see something new being pushed. Then Gencon over the Summer will see big releases, usually RPGs.

  7. I was going to recommend Uncharted Seas as well. It's at the beginning of the design rollout so you are basically getting in at the ground floor. It's been getting a lot of visibility lately (heck, it has me interested and I don't even play minis) and not a lot of sku's for you to carry. The navy thing is the downside, but it is fantasy....

  8. I ordered a couple rulebooks and the orc and dwarf starter boxes. The other two starter boxes are out at the moment.

  9. I always liked naval games on the computer - Harpoon, which started as a mini game, still brings back good memories. My wife would kill me if I get any more miniature games. I have no more room in my house for toys.

    Maybe BDG needs to go to the cigar store model where you can rent locker space to hide your hobby from the wife :)

  10. This game looks pretty small from a miniatures commitment perspective.

  11. It is pretty small, at least for now. I wrote up a post about the game on my blog if you haven't checked it out yet.

    A starter army is 10 models, and two starter armies (navies) going against each other is enough to have a full game. Of course, if you like it you'll probably want more, but I can see having quite a few games with just the starter army before it got old.

    The game also scales well to handle both more ships and more players. Both team play and free for all should be a blast with this game. Alternating activation of units should keep everyone actively involved up to at least four players.

    Of course, it's a very different beast than Harpoon. For starters it's an age of sail fantasy game, so wind plays a factor with two of the four starting navies (the dwarfs use steam and the dragon lords use magic to get around the wind issue).

    The restricted turning radius also lets terrain play a more important role in the game than is usual in naval games. If you aren't careful you can find yourself unable to avoid running into an island, and if you're really canny you should be able to lure your opponent into such a position.