Here are a few surprise holiday hits:
Felix: The Cat in the Sack
What it's About: With their mice, the players attempt to grab the famous cat in the sack. In the sack, there are both good and bad cats. Each player can also put a dog or rabbit into the sack instead of a cat, allowing players to bluff one another. At game end, all positive cats and mice count plus points, but negative cats count minus points.
Why it was Popular: This quick little card game from Rio Grande was created by Friedmann Friese, creator of Power Grid and many games with the initials "FF". That name alone sold a game or two, but it was playing the game in-store that tended to sell it best. Just about everyone who played it bought a copy and some bought multiples as gifts. It's now out-of-stock at distributors, so I don't think we're the only ones who found it a fun little game. Rio Grande card games are hit or miss, but this one will be around for many years to come.
Wizard's Presents: Races and Classes
What it's About: This lavishly illustrated book gives roleplaying game fans a unique, behind-the-curtain glimpse into the making of the [4th edition] Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The book contains essays and asides from the game's premier designers, developers, and editors. Through words and illustrations, it explores some of the D&D game's most iconic races and classes, sharing insights never before revealed in any previous game product.
Why it was Popular: While D&D dorks everywhere (myself included) analyze every quote on Enworld and in game developers blogs, the rest of the D&D crowd waits patiently or honestly doesn't give a damn about the impending release of 4th Edition in June. Those who were curious picked up copies of this book, much to everyones surprise. There's no crunch in the book, no rules content, it's all essay. We sold twice our original order and distributors ran out. When it first came in, I was convinced I had made a huge mistake in ordering as many as I did. We talked in the store about how nobody would ever buy it. Every once in a while I declare that my coffin will include copies of a particular overstocked game.
Warhammer 40K: Imperial Guard Baneblade
What it's About: The Baneblade Super Heavy Tank is the primary super-heavy tank of the Imperial Guard, and one of the largest and oldest armoured fighting vehicles in Imperial service. Massively armed, the standard Baneblade complement includes a turret-mounted Mega Battle Cannon with a coaxial Autocannon, three twin-linked Heavy Bolters (one sponson-mounted on either side, and one turret mounted on the front hull slope), two turret mounted Lascannons on either side, directly above the side sponsons, and lastly, a fixed-forward hull-mounted Demolisher cannon.
Why it was Popular: Well, it's really cool! It's the coolest 40K model I've ever seen and it makes me want to play 40k, if I could find something else about it appealing. Everyone wanted one, and several people bought multiples. Our 40K organizer bought four to show off, so that might have helped. I might buy one just to paint after I get my ogres done. Note the photo I nabbed with the box on someones carpet. One of the nice things for retailers is you're not allowed to use trade photos if you sell GW online. They do their best to keep sales to themselves and game stores.
What it's About: Arrrgh! Treat yer minor cuts, scrapes and scratches suffered while commandeering a ship with the incredible healing power of pirate bandages. And if a fancy bandage isn't enough to dry up yer tears, how about a FREE TOY! Each 3-3/4" tall metal pocket tin contains twenty-five 3" x 3/4" adhesive bandages and a small plastic trinket to help make even the ouchiest owies feel all better in no time. Ages 3 and up. Contains natural rubber latex.
Why it was Popular: You're rolling your eyes, but these fun little items were perfect stocking stuffers for the holidays. I've tried to make the new store fun with little items like this, trinkets and point-of-purchase stuff that adds to the wonder. Other new things that sold well: Jesus action figure, Nun-chuks (hurls nuns across the room), light prisms, slinkies, and science kits that let you build radios or electrical kits. The gamer purists scoff, but I like that we've got fun stuff for all ages. Oh yeah, and so far I've only found one person who finds it disconcerting that pirates are so popular, despite their history of rape and murder.
Other things that sold well: Cthulhutech RPG, Race for the Galaxy board game, Cuba board game, the new Settler of Catan, all things Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy sold better than Warmachine, Melissa & Doug toys (but not Thomas the Tank Engine), Magic the Gathering, but no other CCG's in relevant numbers. Dungeons & Dragons sold just fine, despite 4th Edition news. Core books, like the PHB, DMG and Monster Manual sold slowly but supplement books sold just fine. Party games, especially Wits & Wagers sold well, unlike in previous years. They were more prominently displayed and I learned a bit more about them.
Surprisingly Soft: Blokus sold poorly compared to previous years, I think because I had less sales interaction with customers due to the store size. I've noticed that Warmachine has relatively light holiday sales compared to Warhammer 40K, possibly because the players are adults and don't get as many presents from family members. As I mentioned, Warhammer Fantasy outsold Warmachine, which was surprising. Battlelore sold poorly, with almost no customers I pitched it to buying one. I'll have to work on that. Thomas tanked, so to speak, and a 40% off sale helped only a little.