Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fighting Italians

Wizards of the Coast announced a new Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition which adds the Italians as an axis power. I figured Fulminata would want to know. The game also features a larger board, 600 pieces, and cruisers for your naval forces. It's out in October. We'll also see releases for the miniature game, both War at Sea and the standard A&A. Diplomacy and Acquire will also be back this year.

Retailer Jitters. Speaking of the Italians, retailers seem like they're in retreat lately. There are a lot of retailer jitters out there and mainstream retail is contracting (unless you're Wal-Mart). The game store forum is full of economic uncertainty, usually citing macro economic issues. If you run a cookie cutter franchise, you may be in trouble, but specialty retail seems pretty healthy. Distributors report that game store "traffic" is up substantially this week with lots of stores reporting good end of month sales. Black Diamond is having it's second best month to date (after December), with very strong sales, despite somewhat boring new releases. A lot of mainstream retail will disappear because they've got flawed business models, and I expect some specialty retailers on shaky ground will find their new purpose in life.

My business partner, a finance guy, points out that the press makes a living on writing about bad news, and there's no lack of bad economic news. The positive stuff gets ignored by the press and balances out the bad news. We're technically not in a recession, which has very clear technical parameters, and the Fed thinks we'll avoid one:

"...the Fed is still predicting that the economy will narrowly escape a recession, policy makers have sharply cut their forecasts for growth in 2008 to less than 2 percent and expect almost no expansion during the first six months of this year."

The economy is technically not in retreat, although it's looking a little shaky (it's staggered at zero hit points for you D&D 3.5 players). Everyone will get some stimulus in May as their big ass checks arrive form the government. The housing market has a couple more sub-prime mortgage resets that will end by Summer (March and May). We're expecting a record year at the store.


  1. People have been wondering what the "third game" would be for the AH anniversary. Acquire and Diplomacy had already been announced. No one thought it would be a new version of Axis & Allies because A&A wasn't even an AH game until after Hasbro bought AH.

    Frankly, it's a bit of a disappointment since Hasbro had led us to believe that they'd be reprinting three games that actually were published by AH, and not AH/Hasbro.

    Two out of three isn't too bad though. Diplomacy and Acquire are arguably two of the best games to come out of AH. Diplomacy isn't my kind of game, but I recognize it as a classic of design.

    I will probably pick up a copy of Acquire. I missed out on the last printing, and have been meaning to add it to my collection.

    I don't want to slam A&A too much. It was a fun game when I was a teenager, but there are other ways I'd rather spend my gaming time today, plus it's a bit of a letdown when I was expecting something from the old AH line.

  2. Not being a board gamer until I ran the store, I only know of the Avalon Hill of my youth (Panzer Leader and the like) and what sells in the store. The war games seem like they've been picked up and developed to great effect by other companies.

    As for what sells, although most of AH games sold poorly for me, Betrayal at The House on the Hill was a clear "evergreen" product. Diplomacy and Acquire are the only other ones people have asked for.

  3. I think one of the BGG comments summed it up best: the only people that care about AH's 50th Anniversary are AH fans, and AH fans know that A&A isn't an AH game. They could have released a new edition of it anytime, but releasing it as part of the celebration is disappointing at the least. Especially when they had led those who pay attention to these things to believe that they were releasing an out of print AH game.

    There are tons of good games still sitting unused in AH's catalog. Everything from History of the World, to Football Strategy, to some classic family abstracts.

    Heck, if they were going to re-release a Hasbro game they could have at least done one that was actually out of print (maybe A&A is technically out of print, I don't know, but it's certainly not hard to find). With the popularity of Colmmands & Colors a release of an updated Battle Cry pushed by Hasbro could have been successful.

    Admittedly, my feelings on the issue aren't unanimous on BGG, or anywhere else, but I'm not alone.

    Oh well, to paraphrase another BGG comment: at least the third game wasn't an AH themed edition of Monopoly...

  4. All half-dozen versions of Axis & Allies are in print.