Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hardened Veterans (40K)

I'm continually tweaking my 40K list in small ways, but this time it was about dumping a major focus, the cameleoline. It's a cool option but one that has only helped against "shooty" armies. It provides amazing cover saves (3+), but "assault" armies just run up and hack the poor guardsmen to death. It's a cool equipment doctrine, but too one sided and expensive. For example, I must take it for all my troops, including my officers hiding in chimeras and my rough riders, assault troops that spend most of the game galloping after vehicles. Dropping cameleoline allows me to experiment a bit with more troops, this time with Drop Troops. Part of this is a desire to move away from a gun-line army, which I find kind of boring.

This "elite" choice includes a veteran sergeant and four veteran guardsmen with meltaguns. Veterans wear black head scarves. They've got the Drop Troop doctrine available to them, meaning they're intended to be dropped behind enemy lines, preferably behind a big tank, as an anti-armor suicide squad. Also notice the Calthan Brown bases. Painting the bases for the entire army took about 45 minutes.

The next project is a Tallarn standard bearer. The new list adds the hardened veterans, an additional rough rider, rough rider melta bombs, and loses a sentinel.

1500 Pts - Imperial Guard Roster - Imperial Guard Tallarns

HQ: Command Platoon (6#, 126 Pts)
0 Command Platoon @ 126 Pts
0 Command Squad @ [70] Pts
Drop Troops
1 Junior Officer @ [70] Pts
Drop Troops; Iron Discipline; Honorifica Imperialis; Close Combat Weapon; Laspistol
1 Honorifica Imperialis @ [25] Pts
4 Guardsmen @ [0] Pts
Drop Troops; Lasgun (x4)
0 Sentinel Squadron @ [56] Pts
Drop Troops
1 Sentinel @ [56] Pts
Drop Troops; Searchlight (x1); Lascannon (x1)

Elite: Hardened Veterans (5#, 90 Pts)
4 Hardened Veterans @ 90 Pts
Drop Troops; Lasgun (x1); Meltagun (x3)
1 Veteran Sergeant @ [28] Pts
Drop Troops; Close Combat Weapon; Plasma Pistol; Melta Bombs

Troops: Armoured Fist (11#, 180 Pts)
9 Armoured Fist @ 180 Pts
Lasgun (x7); Plasmagun; Lascannon
1 Sergeant @ [6] Pts
Laspistol & CCW
1 Chimera @ [85] Pts
Multilaser; Hull Heavy Bolter

Troops: Infantry Platoon (46#, 554 Pts)
0 Infantry Platoon @ 554 Pts
0 Command Squad @ [154] Pts
Drop Troops
1 Junior Officer @ [45] Pts
Drop Troops; Iron Discipline; Close Combat Weapon; Laspistol
4 Guardsmen @ [109] Pts
Flamer (x4); Chimera
1 Chimera @ [85] Pts
Multilaser; Hull Heavy Bolter
9 Infantry Squad @ [105] Pts
Close Order Drill; Drop Troops; Light Infantry; Lasgun (x7); Plasmagun; Lascannon
1 Sergeant @ [6] Pts
Drop Troops; Light Infantry; Laspistol & CCW
9 Infantry Squad @ [105] Pts
Close Order Drill; Drop Troops; Light Infantry; Lasgun (x7); Plasmagun; Lascannon
1 Sergeant @ [6] Pts
Drop Troops; Light Infantry; Laspistol & CCW
9 Infantry Squad @ [95] Pts
Close Order Drill; Drop Troops; Lasgun (x7); Plasmagun; Lascannon
1 Sergeant @ [6] Pts
Drop Troops; Laspistol & CCW
9 Infantry Squad @ [95] Pts
Close Order Drill; Drop Troops; Lasgun (x7); Plasmagun; Lascannon
1 Sergeant @ [6] Pts
Drop Troops; Laspistol & CCW

Fast Attack: Sentinel Squadron (1#, 55 Pts)
0 Sentinel Squadron @ 55 Pts
Drop Troops
1 Sentinel @ [55] Pts
Drop Troops; Lascannon (x1)

Fast Attack: Rough Rider Squad (8#, 120 Pts)
7 Rough Rider Squad @ 120 Pts
Close Combat Weapon (x7); Hunting Lance (- LP) (x7); Melta Bombs
1 Sergeant @ [15] Pts
Close Combat Weapon; Hunting Lance; Melta Bombs (Squad)

Heavy Support: Basilisk (1#, 125 Pts)
1 Basilisk @ 125 Pts
Earthshaker Cannon; Hull Heavy Bolter; Indirect Fire Capability

Heavy Support: Basilisk (1#, 125 Pts)
1 Basilisk @ 125 Pts
Earthshaker Cannon; Hull Heavy Bolter; Indirect Fire Capability

Heavy Support: Basilisk (1#, 125 Pts)
1 Basilisk @ 125 Pts
Earthshaker Cannon; Hull Heavy Bolter; Indirect Fire Capability

Total Roster Cost: 1500

Top Summer Games

Here are the top Summer games, by sales:

  1. Magic: The Gathering
  2. Dungeons & Dragons
  3. Warhammer 40K
  4. Warmachine/Hordes
  5. Flames of War
  6. Fantasy Flight Games
  7. Warhammer Fantasy
  8. Rio Grande
  9. Mayfair Games
  10. Melissa & Doug
  11. World of Warcraft CCG
  12. Days of Wonder
  13. Bleach
  14. Yu-Gi-Oh
  15. Steve Jackson Games
Big surprises? The strength of Magic: The Gathering and organized play. Magic saw a weak release over the Summer, but it's our strongest OP group, by far. Dungeons & Dragons should have taken the Magic spot with the big 4E release and Forgotten Realms (they were almost even). A new edition of 40K couldn't touch either, although it's still our top game for the year.

Weaker games moved up the chart. We saw a resurgence of Flames of War, albeit without any in-store play. I'm declaring this game in play again for our store, aka not dying. The in-store play issue is still perplexing. Warmachine and Hordes revived themselves, with many new players; which I credit to our steadiest organized play group in the store. AT-43 is not on the chart and has succumbed to monkey fatigue and no-play-itis.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday Night at the Store

A lot of game store owners will tell you: if they knew what they needed to do to be successful before they opened their store, they wouldn't have opened it. I'm kind of in that category, but most things I've done in life requiring hard work, well beyond my initial expectations, have been that way. There are always things you would rather not do, especially those you never planned on. The need for events and their planning is one of those for me. It's one of the jobs that I delegate as much as possible.

Part of this is that I can choose to either work the business side of things, working during the day, or staying late at night for events. The first couple of years I was open, I did both, but for some life balance, I chose the obvious, nine to five, business side. Part of my decision is I'm not a big fan of crowds. I'm kind of an introvert, defined as someone who feels large groups of people reduce their energy rather than increase it. So a large event like Friday Night Magic is something to sneak out of, rather than attend.

This Friday was different, as Usi was schooling me in 40K, literally and figuratively. We started at 3:30, to avoid the crowds, but we didn't finish until 7:30, well into FNM territory. FNM (Friday Night Magic) has a bit of sub-culture going, which was interesting to watch. One guy showed up with a garbage bag full of food, spoils of his job, shared with the crowd. Various groups broke up and played either the organized FNM plan or friendly side games, complete with obscure acronyms and terminology that I wouldn't have known a few years ago. The crowd owned the game center, for the most part. Nobody else was there except Usi and myself. It was interesting watching this controlled chaos, from the well run "official" event coordination to the eddies of chaos that comprised the side games. It was kind of exciting.

Some of the younger kids wandered over to ogle at our 40K models. Gamers may not play all games, but there's gamer cred in knowing about the other games. Basic army identification and tactical analysis are part of all gamers bag of skills. Thes kids enjoyed a little armchair analysis, including the fact that Usi seemed to have many more models left on the table than I did. It's hard not to be condescending when you're getting your butt handed to you. These situations always requires some teaching of gaming etiquette, the most important being you don't touch other peoples models without permission. I would post a sign if I thought people would read it.

As for my game with Usi, it was mostly to better familiarize myself with the rules. 40K is as complex as Dungeons & Dragons, which is why I like it, but unlike D&D, it seems you need to learn the rules in play. They seem like harder rules, while D&D has softer rules. Maybe 40K is more spatially oriented; not my best attribute. Then again, how many people can adquately describe every instance of an attack of opportunity in D&D (besides Allen). Anyway, it's harder for me to grasp, so I'm practicing.

At this point I'm also learning to properly use my army. There are army choices I made because they were statistically good, yet they're only useful when properly deployed. Rough riders, for example, require the skill to charge without being counter-charged, and they need to bring the right stuff when they arrive. I've yet to use them properly, and my inclination is to switch them out for flame tanks, which I would do if they weren't so darn pretty. If they hadn't been painted already (and I really hated painting them), I would drop them, but I think they're owed a competent commander before I start placing blame on the troops.

Rule #1 about touching other people's models: Senno Ekto Gamat
(Never without my permission)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heat Wave

Yesterday was the slowest day of the Summer, mostly due to the 106 degree weather. We had 35 customers. Our slowest day ever was March 27th, 2005, Easter Sunday, with 6 customers. We're not open Easter anymore. There was a heat advisory yesterday, recommending people stay indoors with their air conditioning, and that's what our customers did. We got a lot of carpet cleaning done. We, meaning Michael. The heat wave is supposed to end tonight, just in time to start the holiday weekend.

Artificial Shortages

No, I'm not talking about gas, I'm talking about the game industry intentionally under printing collectible card games to create artificial demand. I suppose it's really not artificial, since people want the product but can't get it. What they need to understand is that it's alright to create a limited edition item, like the new From the Vault: Dragons, for Magic, but you can't expect retailers to support you if all your releases are limited. We've gone through dry spells for most of the Japanese style card games recently.

As for that From the Vault release for Magic, we were sent four by Wizards of the Coast, of which all were pre-sold to customers at the $34.95 price (mostly to astute kids). Two more arrived from our primary distributor, with no more ever available. I've got one on eBay now, as they're expected to go for around $100.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Seminar Notes

In case anyone can't make it to ACD Games Day and wants to read my handout, I just finished it. It's here. Even better, read it and tell me I'm a jackass so I can tweak my presentation. ;)

Gift Certificates

I knew something was missing from my POS presentation. Every store should sell gift certificates. They're free money. This was hard for me to grasp at first, because there's an expense to gift certificates, about $.65 per certificate for printing costs; Less if you want to make them yourself. It's free money because the statistics are true, about 30% of the value of gift certificates are never redeemed. Over the past few years, this has resulted in a balance of about $3,000 for the store. It's not only $3,000 of free money, but it's also counted as a liability on my taxes.

I think they're a good idea for customers who don't know what to buy. Some parents will regularly come in to buy them for their children as rewards for good grades. Most sell during the holidays, purchased by the confused non-hobbyist. It's not a scam, as many gamers will blow their entire gift certificate, which I recommend unless you want to add to my gift certificate unused balance. However, many will end up getting thrown away, destroyed in the washing machine, lost or forgotten. That last balance of a couple bucks might not mean a lot to the average customer, but it's what props up that big gift certificate "deficit." Some will assume the certificate has expired, which is not true in California. In California, if you purchase a gift certificate, it never expires. If you're given one, such as part of a contest, it can have an expiration date.

Giving gift certificates is a much better idea for donations than actual games. If you give a game, what have you done? It's a thing with no link to you that may not get to someone who actually enjoys it. It might not be age appropriate or interest appropriate. A gift certificate given for a school auction or church charity event means the winner, who spent money to get it, wants games. They will have to seek you out and learn about your store. The best balance is probably a mix of gift certificates with a little bit of product. That helps explain what kind of games your store sells, since most will assume electronic games. Gift certificates given in this fashion are the ones that come back the least often, but when they do, they often bring along a new customer. What do you have to lose?

Gift cards are rumored to be even more effective than certificates, as customers are said to spend more money on cards than paper certificates. I don't believe that, but those who have switched seem to think so. The problem with cards is that they don't integrate as well with POS systems and they usually require fees. Another company is managing the gift cards for you. I'm wary of anything that hits cash flow, so for now I use gift certificates.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Resin Envy

I ordered more Forge World today, a Salamander kit, Chimera track guards, and a Chimera flamer turret. My 2500 point list requires two more Chimeras. I can't bring myself to build two more standard models; they're just so tedious after 7 vehicles using this pattern. One of the required Chimeras will be the modified one with the flamer and track guards and the Salamander will replace a Chimera as my command vehicle. I'm still not sure anyone will let me use the Salamander rules from Forge World, but if worse comes to worse, it works as a Chimera. Hooray for works as.

To help pay for this, I'm selling my Dresden Files book collection and my Imperial Guard novels on eBay. If this continues, my Ogre Kingdoms army for Warhammer Fantasy will be up soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Toy Analysis

After a year of selling toys, here's my overall impression of the difference between selling toys and games, and why they can, but don't necessarily, work together.

Toys generally have a low value footprint. For the amount of space they take up, the value of a toy SKU is significantly lower than a game. The average toy value in our store is $7.72, compared to the average value of a game at $14.47. A toy takes up just as much space as the average game, if not more. This means, all things being equal, your sales per square foot is roughly half of what you would expect with games. With the high cost of real-estate in urban areas, it means toys under-perform games out of the gate.

The solution to the low value dilemma, is to stock deeper. Unlike games, it's common in the toy world to stock multiples of these low priced items. Suddenly that $7.72 puzzle isn't so resource intensive if it sits on a stack of 6 of them. Birthday parties often see parents buying multiple low value toys to be given as gifts. Siblings often require identical items in order to prevent rivalry. Retail game stores, however, do just fine with single game items. One copy of a board game is not uncommon in a game store, but for mass market shoppers, those who tend to buy toys (as they're not hobbyists), a single item on the shelf signifies a problem and possibly an inconvenience. Is it damaged? Unpopular? Why don't they believe in this product to order sufficient quantities? One item doesn't work for them, yet turn rates in a non-toy store don't justify more inventory. That brings us to the issue of volume.

To stock 6 deep of a toy, what would be an 18 months supply of a solid game, you need to have volume sales. This means you need to be in a location that has a lot of foot traffic, like in a mall. Again, you don't need to be a hobbyist to buy a toy, you just have to be young or have young ones in your life. High volume is the key, which means toys are a tricky add-on to game store accustomed to low volumes of customers. You can't make up that kind of volume by advertising without muddling your message that you're primarily a game store. If you do advertise extensively, you put yourself in direct competition with other toy stores, meaning toys are a much more prominent part of your business than say, carrying comic books, which has cross-over and a hobbyist clientele, rather than mass market appeal. How do you think you'll stack up to your toy competition? My guess is not very well.

The dilemma is for the game store that has everything, or believes they do. The question is: will the low value, low turn toys bring in enough new revenue in comparison to the fringe products of the game world. In other words, will top selling toys in a game store, outsell the lowest selling games? That's a question that we're still trying to answer, but part of that answer is focus. Would you rather run the game store that has everything or a really good game store that also sells toys? What do customers think?

There's the concept of "top of mind," in which you want your customers to think of your store first when they think of your product. Adding an unrelated department muddles "top of mind," diluting what you may be doing very well as your competency. On the other hand, as we've learned from experience, game customers tend to be very focused. All but the "alpha" gamers tend to stay in their departments. The miniature gamers don't tend to visit the board game section. The role-players don't care about the new collectible card game. Are they really confused, put out, or is their opinion of your store muddled, if there happens to be one more "unrelated" department that they don't visit?

Gamers generally aren't offended by a toy department, while a mass market toy customer can be scared away by specialty games. Walk around the average game store and count each time you see the word "war." Also remember, that hobby gamers are people too, meaning they're the general public and can find your toy section just as relevant as everyone else, provided they have a need to satisfy the demands of children.

I don't have an answer yet, but my tendency is to want to drop toys in favor of just about anything game related, even better displays.

Pegasus Hellhound Painted (40K)

Oh so much easier and satisfying than the Forge World model.

I've noticed I'm getting sloppier on the prep work. It's something you pick up as you're painting. I'm just tired of the chimera pattern vehicles. Yet I have at least two more to build for my 2500 point list as part of a couple of armored fists.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Contrast (40K)

Several people have mentioned they thought my 40K army lacked enough contrast, and have suggested that I paint my bases a different color. First, I wanted to point out that I did shamelessly copy the GW painting scheme, as I lack a good sense of color and contrast. Nevertheless, I can agree that the models lack contrast and all you see is red.

Here are some paint scheme options for the bases. On the far right we've got the standard terracotta base. I admit it's awfully red. In the middle is Calthan Brown, which I think contrasts the red nicely and matches the brown details on the model. On the far left is a terracotta base with Khemri Brown drybrushed over it. It provides some contrast without changing the color too radically. It's subtle.

On the left here is Adeptus Battlegrey. Although it makes a stark contrast on my camo vehicles, I think it's too jarring on the men. The only grey on the model is their canteens, on their backs. Khemri Brown is on the right. It works alright, but it doesn't match the model details like Calthan Brown. I was originally basecoating with Calthan Brown and then using a standard Citadel paint over it, but I soon realized that my Devlan Mud wash was turning it very close to Calthan Brown, so I learned to save time by skipping the second coat of paint.

The flash photography highlights this far more than you would notice at the table. Check out the top photo for the practical differences.

What do you think? In the spirit of the election season, please vote on the right side of the page.

McCain Camp Slights D&D

A McCain aid made a D&D slight, which later resulted in an apology and an interesting follow-up article that takes the comment to task.

"It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others...."

My favorite comment:

We should pool our geekiness on the Prime Material Plane, with the capability of rending the fabric of the universe asunder, toppling an evil dark lord, and bringing peace to the land. It's called an election, and I call on all my fellow geeklings to register to vote. Bring your dice into the voting booth, if you want. Vote for whom you want to, but the choice is between the tired old 18th level fighter, years back from the wars, and an inspiring new mage possessing BOTH an 18 Charisma and an 18 Intelligence. I know which way I'm going.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I went with the family, including my parents, to the California State Railroad Museum yesterday in Sacramento. This is a place I take my son several times a year and a place my parents took us once when I was a kid. There's something magical about trains. I'm a car guy, but cars are accessible, possessable, and are about the now. Trains are gigantic relics of the past, a technical marvel that's tied to history and community. Cars are about individuality and personal empowerment, but trains are something you can be proud of as a people. The museum was full of Californians but also tourists from around the US and other countries. One group listened in rapt attention, through their Russian translator, as a volunteer explained how mail was delivered by train.

I talk about trains as if they no longer exist nowadays, which is true in the US except for commuter varients. Amtrak is as much a relic as the old steam locomotives in the museum. It's a slow, ponderous, expensive mode of travel, with poor service and many delays. I would suggest that it's for the elderly with lots of time on their hands, but the trains aren't kind to the disabled or lesser abled. The last long trip I took on Amtrak was from the East Bay to Orange County, a 10 hour trip that cost twice as much as a plane ticket and with many delays. Rather than being scenic, the trip mostly went through the graffiti covered junk yards of California. Most of the delays came from making way for freight trains. Freight rules the rails, while passenger service is an amusing sideline (literally). Rail travel is alive and well in many countries, and I've experienced excellent rail service throughout Europe and India. I would much rather take a train in these places than a plane.

Game stores could probably take a lesson from train stores. There were several in old town Sacramento, and like train stores everywhere, they had a "live" display of moving trains, complete with beautiful terrain. That's something I would like to do at our store, create a large display of say, a 40K battle in progress. This would go either in the window or better yet, in the miniatures section separating the minis from the toys. The toy department would be shrunk to make space. We have miniatures on display now, mostly painted models in display cases and our Warmachine demo table, but it hardly does justice to the huge amount of wall space covered in lead. A fully painted, full size miniature game with terrain is really a site to behold. I'm not looking for a demo table, but a static display with plexiglass preventing theft and damage, a regular problem with our Warmachine table. If anyone wants to build such a thing, let me know and we can come to an arrangement.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I'm still distilling my Madison seminar plan down to what would be most useful. It's now more about what I wish I had known about running a game store and the technology to do it. Some of the technology is new and shiny, like hosted solutions for remote access and backups. Some of it is old retail concepts enhanced by technology, like turn rate analysis and purchasing budgets. I'm certainly no expert, and the more I write this, the more I think it would be better with a panel of store owners. They recently had such a panel seminar at Gencon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cobra Kai

It didn't take long after the closing of the last local game store before we started being treated like the big bad meanie, the Cobra Kai dojo of game stores. At least it feels that way. Our inventory and prices were scrutinized, our staff professionalism questioned, and the problem customers of the area came in droves to test our kung fu.

I have to admit I felt a certain leverage, as if certain games could potentially survive or blow away based on our support. However, there's also that annoying sense of responsibility, as if granny will suffer if bridge score pads are not on our shelves. For us it's about opportunity and risk, not responsibility and support.

Where we need to re-focus is on finding a new competitor, someone bigger. My wife had this Guy Kawasaki book lying around called How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. I scanned it a bit, and the first rule was to pick a much larger competitor. Being a thorn in the side of the big bad meanie competitor is cool and chic, like Macintosh making IBM users look like 1984 drones. Doing the same thing to a smaller competitor is bullying. It's much easier to be the underdog. Americans like underdogs and it provides ready motivation to succeed. But where to aim when you envision yourself on top?

Regional competition is definitely not something I envision as the next step. Yes, we compete regionally already. People drive long distances to our store, just like they drive from here to other very good regional competitors. Our goal is to retain those people as much as possible, but it's folly to believe we're competing directly with these other stores for the majority of customers. We could spend a lot of money advertising to attract regional customers, and some of my regional competitors do that (a mistake, I think). I believe our competition is more nebulous, the Internet, big box stores and the various stores that take a small slice of our pie.

If you were to divide up our product mix pie and assign competitors, you wouldn't find a direct competitor, but you would find a bunch of smaller ones, each taking a bite out of the pie. Each of these stores have other core competencies, but sell one of our product areas as a sideline or minor part of their business (we do the same). The GW store sells Games Workshop, and much better than us, no doubt. The comic book store sells Heroclix much more sucessfully than us. How could they not be sucessful with a game based on their core competency?

Target seems to own Yu-Gi-Oh among the small kids. Barnes & Noble sells a ton of RPG books. Various card shops still exist, mostly sports cards places, and they sell Magic and whatever's profitable this month. These stores aren't IBM sized monolothic corporations, but they're probably our most direct competitors. The strategy is probably more subtle. We instead need to figure out how to do what we already do, but better. It doesn't make us less Cobra Kai, however. I wonder what Guy would say.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GW Price Increase

Just after I gave them credit for sticking to their five year price increase plan, and they stated in their annual report that increased costs wouldn't be a problem for them. Perhaps they had this in mind for a while. A public announcement is scheduled for August 25th.

The price increase will affect part of our paint and hobby ranges, as well as a large portion of our metal models and printed materials.... Even with the pressure of rising costs we are adamant that we will not at this time raise prices on any plastic model kits.

Laissez Faire

As the last place in the area with game space, we've acquired a number of play groups, especially the most excellent Friday Night Magic. The flip side of that is some games are difficult to coordinate. Our store model for game space is borrowed from other successful stores: we're open late, with open gaming, no fees unless it's for prize support, and volunteer event coordinators. The other successful store model has limited hours, a tight gaming schedule, usually with staff running the events. You play what they promote, when they allow you to play it. They're both good models, with the controlled model likely to be more efficient, but more work.

While the tighter model offers higher quality events, I think, we offer quantity and the opportunity for an event to take place by consensus. Bring me a group of half a dozen people and a game we sell and you're on the calendar. Can't make the date? Create another event for the same game. What I can't do is create an event and run it with staff because of demand. I also can't wrangle all the people who buy a game, but decline to play in-store. This is especially true with the elusive crowds for AT-43, Warhammer Fantasy and Flames of War. This model can also be a little messy. If your organizer is bad or flaky (or makes fart jokes), or table space is limited, what might have been a successful event is now a disappointment.

Our laissez faire game center model does not work with centralized control. Like the economic concept, in exchange for these freedoms we don't charge a fee or interfere short of serious problems. Libertarian game space. We don't pay employees to run your game, we pay them to keep the game center open while you entertain yourself. It might seem obvious, but lately people have had a hard time putting their heads around it.

A Note on AT-43: Like many other stores, we've marked up the price of AT-43 due to the ridiculously low margin that the French have provided us. Now that it's being distributed by Fantasy Flight, voila! the discount is now the Fantasy Flight Discount and new items will be cheaper and re-stocked existing items will go down to the MSRP (remembering that the "S" is suggested).

A Note on Yelp: Our single-star reviewer was a misguided customer of another store. Yet another problem with the Yelp concept. Everyone's a critic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Last year I was called for jury duty on a guy who came home and found his wife doing this other guy in their bed. It sounded like the wife had done this on purpose. The guy was on trial for hitting his wife and as the details began to unfold, it was clear in my mind that he was getting a pass from me. So yeah, if you're wife is doing some guy in your bed and you lose it and hit her, you get a free pass if I'm on your jury. It's like the Texas law of "He needed shootin'." The same is true for when you lose your cool and beat a shoplifter with a blunt object.

I was talking with a friend today at the counter about the new camera system going in soon when this punk kid goes behind the nearby shelves and starts to act peculiar. This is an area that has had a problem with "pilferage" in the past, a term used to describe when product is taken to a lesser observed location and stolen, often by dumping the packaging. I started paying lots of attention to the kid and when I finally moved over to confront him, he had managed to dump three unrelated items on the nearby shelves. Unbelievable.

Forge World Hellhound (40K)

I knew I had a problem the minute the primer hit the model. The resin pieces weren't taking it, and primer just sat there on the model. Eventually it dried, but unevenly, so I hit it again and when that dried, got something satisfactory, but still kind of rough. I painted the base coat without a problem, put on my bluetack, and painted the two coats of red. However, when I removed the blue tack, it pulled all the paint off the resin areas, down to bare resin.

Resin is tough to work on, but I got lazy and neglected to wash these pieces. Patient re-painting of the pulled up resin areas with base coats and secondary coats eventually got the vehicle completed. Hopefully a few coats of varnish will keep everything in place permanently.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That Little Pyramid

The store has been doing well enough lately to make me think we may be over that first year hump. It's bumped me up the ladder of my personal Maslow. Maybe it's the store making money or maybe it's the security system making me feel more secure, but I definitely have been thinking more expansively. Things like my long term finances, college funds, and religious aspirations have slowly returned to my life.

Maslow was this psychologist who created a hierarchy of human needs. You can't really "progress" up the hierarchy until your baser needs are met. It's one of those things I learned in high school that always stuck with me. For example, being a creative, self-actualized human being isn't possible if you can't get enough to eat or if you're in fear for your safety. That little pyramid is always in the back of my head.

40K: I'm still debating on whether I should build my Apoc army with an intermediate point value in mind. I've got a healthy 1500 point army and a plan for a good 3000 point Apocalypse army, but if I had to play a 2500 point game, I would be out of luck. 2500 points means I build a couple chimeras and a couple more 10-man squads (probably one with hardened vets). Those same point values in Apocalypse mean a third Hellhound and a Hellhammer. I could also wait for the new IG codex and models this spring before adding those extra intermediate points.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Primer II

We used a new bottle of Games Workshop black primer ($10), Armory black primer (5.95) and Board to Pieces black primer (7.99). Not included were Testors, since we rarely have black in stock and automotive primer, which was discounted because the quality was uneven. Usi did our test, our local multi-time painting contest winner.

GW primer had the best results, with an even spray, even coverage that covered the model smoothly and completely.

Games Workshop

Board to Pieces primer had very good results, similar to Games Workshop, with even coverage and smooth, almost glossy coverage. Where it didn't do as well was in multi-model coverage, as the nozzle design isn't as good as what you find with Games Workshop. A single model or two primes fine, but painting a larger array of figures might result in uneven spray as you try to figure out exactly where the paint is spraying.

Board to Pieces

Armory primer went on evenly, but with a chalky consistency. It covered evenly and completely on the model. Armory does well in a pinch, but it's usually my last choice of primer.


So what do I think? You get what you pay for. I prefer Testors when I can get it, but I use Games Workshop for the most part. For single model painters, Board to Pieces is a giant step up from Armory, with a 20% savings compared to Games Workshop.

I'll try to get some photos.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


What I'm reading, writing, playing, watching.

Gaunt's Ghosts: The Founding. By Dan Abnett.
This is the omnibus containing the first three books of the series. It's vastly more detailed than the Sandy Mitchell Commissar Cain books, but it's also gritty, violent and lacking the fun of the Cain series. I probably won't continue past the omnibus, but it's enjoyable, light reading.

The Economist. I eagerly awaited my current issue after NPR made a mess of their reporting of the Georgia-Russia hostilities. Their attempt at impartiality ruined any attempt at clarifying how things happened. In other words, they pretended the Russian account of things deserved equal time and consideration. The Economist showed up and thankfully put the conflict into perspective for me. A subscription is some serious money, but it's worth it.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher. This is a Tibetan Buddhist text that had a profound influence on me in grad school. It's written for lay Tibetan Buddhists, the common yak herder of centuries ago, so it's very easy to understand.

I'm working on my presentation for the ACD Game Day. Despite all the blog posts on the topic, the actual presentation is a lot more focused on POS systems and how to leverage them. My deadline is in two weeks, so I'll be spending more time on it soon. Really. Promise.

My D&D 4 group meets again today after several weeks of Summer malaise and scheduling issues. Time will tell if the campaign gets off the ground. Right now I'm not terribly interested in putting any more effort into it until I see commitment from the players.

My goal to achieve a 3,000 point Apocalypse 40K army is sidetracked a bit with the Ard Boyz Tournament. It's not that I want to play in it, or even qualify an army for it, but it got me thinking I should carefully get to that 2,500-3,000 point mark without Apocalypse models. Until I figure it out, I've got two Hellhounds to paint and my melta gunners.

Our RPOL Traveller game should be gearing up to start any day now. Yep, any day now.... Or did we start already? It's hard to tell. My character is in a bar. I'm probably more excited about this than my D&D game.

Oh what a TV watching whore I've been. I've been starting out renting series on Netflix and then picking them up if I like them with Bit torrent. Netflix messed up their shipping last week, reminding me how their business model is increasingly irrelevant. I'm a regular watcher of:

BBC Top Gear. It's done for the season, but you can't get their banter on BBC America (it's edited out). I'm still a car fan and especially love to see cars we can't get here. For example, I've got a big crush on the Alfa Romeo 159 sport wagon. My final frontier (and eventual heartbreak) is an Italian car. Every man should own an Italian car before he dies, or a German one out of warranty (same thing).

Huff. Moderately interesting Showtime series about a psychologist whose life is going to hell in a hand basket. The first season is good. Skip it after that. It's uneven by entertaining.

Burn Notice. On USA Network, it's a modern interpretation of The A Team. There's an interesting secondary story about the Burn Notice issue that moves far too slowly for me. Stop getting cats out of trees and take on the faceless spy organization that burned you! It's like when I skip the Frodo/Sam scenes on the Return of the King DVD and just watch all the battles.

Weeds. The plotline of this Showtime drug induced fantasy has gone way off the deep end, but the acting keeps me watching. It's sheer spectacle pulled off brilliantly. This is the one show that I greatly anticipate watching.

Generation Kill. HBO series puts you with a Marine recon unit in the early days of the Iraq war. I can't tell you if it's an accurate portrayal, but man, does it feel like the chaos we heard about. It's dark, sad, tragic, often funny and riveting. It always puts me in a bad mood, but it's highly enjoyable anyway. It's the show that I save for when everyone in the house is asleep.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hellhounds (40k)

I was looking through Apocalypse Reloaded and found a cool option involving combined fire with three Hellhounds. That changed my 3000 point army plan, and I was thinking all week how I would do that third Hellhound. One of my original plans before I bought a Forge World Hellhound was to make a custom job using the Pegasus chemical plant. I was reluctant to spend the money on the materials; it cost me about $45 for this custom job. However, I wasn't feeling I got my moneys worth on the Forge World $100 version. It's nice, but not $100 nice and a months wait. On a whim, I started building it today and it came out pretty good. I envision it as an earlier version of the Forge World Artemius.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Primer Wars II

Coming Soon:

I gave a can of each primer to our expert painter and set him to work with one of those $8 boxes of Cadians. I'm waiting for his write-up, but the results may surprise you. The models are on display in the store.

Rough Week

It's been a rough week with the dentist office going in next door. Construction involved many hours of jack hammering every day this week. It starts to wear on you after a while and by the end of the day I'm physically exhausted. Hopefully they'll be done with the heavy construction soon. It can't be good for sales, although customers are far more understanding than I am.

I learned that the new tenant got a free year of rent. The place had been vacant for a long time, so the property management company came up with an incentive. Commercial leases are impossible to time. You might start a three or five year lease during a hot period, locking you into an expensive lease. You might weather tough times and come out at the other end having missed some great deals. Leases benefit property owners with stability, but you can occasionally get lucky, like our new neighbor. How lucky?

Imagine this scenario: A year of free rent would be like the landlord welcoming me to the building, handing me the key to the front door and then fishing in his pocket, producing yet another key with a little fob on the end. He pushes the button on the fob. Chirp, chirp. I look out in the parking lot and there sits my new Porsche 911 Carrera. A bonus gift for taking the property off his hands. That's the value of a free year of rent. Of course the money would all go to debt and build-out expenses, but I can't help thinking about my missing Porsche.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Primer Wars

Miniature painters are fiercely loyal to their primer. Many will only use Games Workshop primer, and we go through about 6-8 cans of black each week. They will put off painting rather than buy another brand. Armory is another choice, often because it's inexpensive. Loyalty to Armory is about being cost conscious, for the most part. My preference is Testors/Floquil primer, but I'll grab GW primer as a second choice or Armory in a pinch. Right now I'm priming white with Floquil, Black with GW and gray with Armory.

My current issue with primer is availability. Testors was making their primer available through the game trade for a while, but they pulled out. I heard they were concerned with alienating their hobby accounts by supplying product to the game trade. My new source for Testors is an Internet discounter. I wait for primer to go on sale and buy a bunch. It's then marked up a small amount from there. It will always be cheaper elsewhere, like Hobbytown, but in a pinch, we try to have it. Black refuses to go on sale, so for new we have white and gray.

Armory is actually a house brand of Alliance Game Distributors. This the biggest game distributor in the country, but not our primary distributor. Lately they haven't played well with others, or some such story, so my main distributor no longer carries Armory. I would very much like to wean customers off Armory, but I know it will be an uphill battle.

Our replacement for Armory is the new house brand from ACD Distribution, called Board to Pieces. Reports from ACD are favorable and we've got sample bottles for our painting pros to check out. It's a little more expensive than Armory, and all four brands have different formulas, so these aren't all direct comparisons.

As for availability, Games Workshop has the highest "fill rate" of anyone I order from, so there's almost always primer available to order. However, as orders arrive only once a week, sometimes product is available, but in transit, which doesn't help you as a customer. Armory is now harder for us to carry, but we're not giving up on it. However, sometimes it can be gone for weeks at a time. Board to Pieces will be the easiest primer to carry, with next day delivery when we're out of stock. My solution is to carry each of these primers deeper, rather than annoy customers with out-of-stocks.

If anyone wants to do a head-to-head write-up, I'll provide the free primer (but you have to do the write-up). Heck, I'll even reimburse you for a can of Krylon if you want to throw that in the mix.

Deja Vu

Yesterdays Gencon post seemed kind of familiar. I went back and realized that I posted a similar one with the same title almost a year ago. The original intent of the blog was to document the buildout and move to the new location. Then I thought it might be a neat anthropology project. In college we were taught that you couldn't understand a culture until you had spent a full year with a people. That full year is up, as you can see, so I have to take note when I start repeating myself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gencon Week

It's the week of Gencon, the big, national, end-all be-all of game conventions. In past years customers have made the long trip to Indianapolis, returning with cool pre-release stuff from game manufacturers. I'll learn who made that trip next week, but nobody has talked about it. I've lost sales from Gencon in the past, but I think this one will have a minimal effect on us. The subtext is that people are spending less money right now.

Stores within a wide radius of Indianapolis have a tough time during this period, with all the gamer dollars sucked out of their towns and dumped in Indy. Worse, since many items are sold early at Gencon, future product sales are impacted negatively. I've had this experience, as I announce the arrival of some shiny new release, only to learn that the local gaming group acquired it from Gencon, or indirectly from Gencon via Ebay. Some claim that it has an overall positive effect, as the Midwestern gaming community seems more vibrant than the rest of the country. The effect on us is usually more subtle.

Game companies are the root of the problem. All but the biggest are small and understaffed, meaning Gencon week is a kind of week off. Distributor stock is low, with lots of items unavailable, either because manufacturers aren't shipping while they're gone or preparing, or worse, because they brought it to Gencon. Some, like Playroom Entertainment have great new releases, while their core product remains out-of-print. Manufacturers are getting better at this, but it's an obvious issue this week.

Another issue for us is product glut. I swear, you could sell me anything remotely interesting in January or February, when game companies are practically dormant and customers are looking for something new. In mid-August, the releases are fast and furious, and overwhelming. I put together a $200 order yesterday for my primary distributor that quickly blossomed to $650 with all the new releases, and that was pushing some things out to later in the week. My purchasing budget is a couple thousand dollars in deficit, but as long as the sales are strong, I'll keep bringing in the new stuff. This is obvious product glut, and it's not rational.

The decent product competes and loses to the good product. There are only so many gamer dollars out there, so a product that could have been successful in March, is a loser in August. Also, this is the end of Summer, not the beginning. My big selling season is winding down, so a lot of Gencon released product, coming out in the next couple of weeks, will be introduced to a dwindling customer base as people resume their normal lives, going back to school or work. The product languishes and slowly sells off through the Fall, and hopefully there's still buzz for the holidays. This makes Fall bearable, as new product drives sales, but the timing just seems wrong to me.

My current 40K project. The Artemia pattern hellhound arrived yesterday from Forge World, so that got put together. My dislike of resin grows, as pieces need to be carefully trimmed or heated to fit. I also have four Tallarn meltagunners for my command squad. One complaint: The only way to get these models is in a special weapons pack with the dreaded grenade launchers. I now have 10 extra launcher models. After these are painted, I get to work on the Hellhammers!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


"That's what governments are for — get in a man's way."
Malcolm Reynolds

I'm busy trying to figure out the government reporting software for the Department of Commerce. This is for their economic census report, something I've been ignoring based on the fact that it takes up so much time. They've noticed my ignoring them so they're threatening to send me to the Department of Justice if I don't file, so I suppose I've got my incentive now, albeit negative. At the moment it requires figuring out how to use a cheesy software program they created. Yeah, government employees as software developers. You get the picture. Next is a call to tech support in Washington. I suppose someone like me that loves to throw around numbers shouldn't grumble too much when I'm asked to provide them.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

40K Sales

This might give you a slight idea of the popularity of each army. There are a couple of caveats, however:

  • Sales based. This is based on sales. Since not all armies are equally expensive, it skews towards more expensive armies.
  • Stocking. You can't sell what you don't carry and we've only recently begun carrying the full line. Some lines, like daemon hunter and witch hunter armies were only recently carried in full. Then again, if I didn't carry it before, it meant it couldn't have been that popular.
  • Newness. The Daemon army is brand new, so it doesn't have a track record. Armies like orks had been neglected for a long time, so their sales are up due to new releases.
  • No Specialist orders. No special orders are included, so my Tallarn purchases aren't here, for example.
Despite all this, the chart confirms what was in my mind about popularity of armies, although I had this idea that Necrons were more popular.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

40K (40K)

I got one 40K game in today. I was planning on more, but my 3 year old was sick most of the night so I was pretty exhausted. My one game today was against space marines (played by Frank). It was an elimination game, which is really bad news for imperial guard since the way kill points are calculated goes against their army structure.

After two and a half hours, we completed four turns and called it a draw. A large number of space marines died in combat, but because of the way kill points work, my loss of a basilisk, a chimera and my infantry platoon command team resulted in a tie. I really should have lost the game, as the scenario and army combination was stacked against me.

Plasma guns made the difference in most combats. I was debating about these before. The las/plas combo is the "default" for those who know imperial guard. I was using melta guns, which have cool fluff, but have very short range. After three games of never hitting anything with a melta gun (got 3 shots off), I decided to switch to plasma. In this game, plasma guns killed maybe half a dozen space marines, with zero overheat casualties on my side.

The way I looked at it, with the number of squads I have (5), multiplied by the number of turns in a game (average of 5), and the number of games played (3), gave me a total of 75 potential shots with the meltas. Getting 3 shots off means they're only employed 4% of the time. In this game, I estimate I got a plasma gun shot off about 80% of the time. Who cares if a gunner dies in combat if he's only useful 4% of the time? Yes, the fluff is goofy for plasma, but it makes statistical sense to use them.

We're also talking about opening up the league so people can play each other during off-league hours. We would create a method of making challenges on the BDG forum. I'm much more able to play three games conveniently scheduled within a two week period than three games on one Saturday, every other week.

Also, Michael and his girlfriend are working feverishly to paint the new Assault on Black Reach 5th Edition 40K starter so we can put that on display. It got a lot of attention at the store today as everyone ogled over the very well done models. The models are very easy to assemble, yet they've maintained dynamic poses. The Deff Koptas especially made me want to play orks. The set is $60 for about $300 worth of models. Customers are encouaged to pre-order -- some are pre-ordering more than one!

Friday, August 8, 2008


I was reluctant to do it, but I ordered a closed circuit TV system today, complete with digital video recorder. I would have much rather added a new product line, or embarked on one of our other projects we had planned, like the POS system upgrade, but the level of theft at the new store is remarkably high. It's depressing and demoralizing and I need it to stop now.

There are a couple of reasons for the increased theft. First, we've moved from a low crime area to an average crime area, as it's tracked nationally. Second, we've gone from a 1,000 sqft store to a 3,300 sqft store, but haven't added an additional employee. This means we have the same employee coverage over three times the space with more likely incidents of theft. It's just too much, yet we can't afford additional employee coverage yet. I'm angry enough to beat a shoplifter to death with the new 40K rulebook, so it's probably time for an alternate solution before I make a mess.

The system should pay for itself quickly if it reduces shrinkage significantly, and should be cheaper than hours for an additional employee. We actually talked about this today, what it would cost for an additional employee to stand in the area with the most shrinkage. You could almost afford to pay them just to keep the bastards from stealing!

Cameras are not the answer to all my shrinkage problems, but I'm hoping they act as a deterrent, and since I bought a decent enough system, the camera resolution should be capable of identifying suspects for the police, although they'll only care if there's a more serious crime. I would like nothing more than to go over how cool the system is, but security is one area of technology I don't discuss.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Forge World Tallarns (40K)

So, Forge World resin Tallarn models: twice as expensive, an hour each to prep and assemble, issues with warping and flexing, but man they're nice when it's all said and done.

Tallarn lascannon team

Tallarn snipers

Next in my move from 1500 to 2000 points:

  • Melta Guns. I've got 4 Tallarn melta gunners on order to go with my platoon officer as a counter-assault unit.
  • Artermius Hellhound. On order from Forge World, along with a Tallarn tank commander for one of the Hellhammers (from 2000 to 3000 points).

Lead vs. Tin

I just noticed this notification from Reaper. They're going back to their original formula for lead miniatures for a new product line. It will be in addition to their tin based minis, rather than converting the line over. They cite the Indonesian desire to own the tin market and the subsequent cost increases for their reasoning, and the new lead prices seem to be back to older price structures. Minis that used to be $3.99 and recently jumped to $4.99 are only $2.99 using their P-65 lead formula. Right now the only lead minis in our store are Flames of War from Battlefront (Rackham's Confrontation metal minis used to contains lead).

"Pewter" is an alloy comprised of around 90% tin, by the way. Everyone is always surprised when I start going off about tin, since they think their minis are made from this mystical material called Pewter.

Oh and in case you were wondering about the Lead Exposure Reduction Act of 1994, here's the exception for minis:

(4) WAIVERS FOR TOYS AND RECREATIONAL GAME PIECES- Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Administrator shall promulgate regulations to waive the requirements of subsection (a)(2)(B) with respect to certain toys and recreational game pieces that are collectible items and scale models intended for adult acquisition.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The One Dollar Coke

"Coke for a dollar! What a rip off!" I heard that a lot this Summer. Let's take a look at the $1 Coke.

Cost of Goods: $.22
This is the cost per can of Coke at good old Costco.

Delivery Cost: $.10
This is the cost of an employees time (almost always me unpaid) to go fetch the Coke. It's based on the average amount that I can fit in my car in one trip, divided by $10/hour. It would probably be about $.30 if it was delivered by a service, provided they would agree to do so.

Mileage: $.02
This is the miles to Costco, multiplied by the IRS 2008 mileage allowance, divided by the average load of soft drinks. I don't claim this, but I probably should.

Electricity: $.02
You want that cold? This is an estimate of electricity for the commercial cooler, divided by the number of drinks we sell each month (about 1000).

That's a gross cost of goods of $.47.

Sales Tax: $.08
Arnold needs his cut. Carbonated beverages are taxed. We're really selling Coke's for $.92 with the tax bringing it up to an even dollar.

Bottom line?
Our gross profit margin on a can of Coke is 49%, about average for our store. We're not trying to make our drinks a major profit center, like movie theaters that rely on concession sales to pay their bills. A movie theater medium drink is around $2.50. We're just trying to provide another product in exchange for a reasonable profit.

Also remember that our $.45 profit on that coke is a gross profit. The net profit for the average game store is about 8% (Coca Cola's is 20%), which means, if I'm lucky, I make an exciting 7 cents per $1 Coke. Also, the margin is less on other $1 can drinks such as Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, as they're often between $.30 and $.44/can.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

There is Only War (40K)

"In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, There is Only War."
It's fairly easy to explain away a lot of fantasy game violence as heroes overcoming evil. In fantasy games, there is absolute evil. There are irredeemable monsters who were born evil, with an evil nature, who want to hurt the good folks. They need to be destroyed. They will never live in peace with us or see our point of view. There is no moral relativism, so the heroes, who are good, set out to defeat these foes who have done some sort of mid-level wrong (but nothing too heinous, because this is a game, after all). However, in the 40K universe, humans aren't any better than their foes. There is no inherent evil. So how do you justify the darkness?

It's not all grim darkness actually. It's considered a terrible heresy to turn on ones fellow humans (or super humans). Since all humans are devoted to fighting for the imperium, and the imperium's will is a substitute for the will of God, killing a man is a sacrilege. For what it's worth, just remember that all that war and killing is in defense of humanity, rather than the modern violence of man-on-man dogma and belief. One thing the 40K world has done is remove modern religion. Modern religion is divisive, so it was a clever move for the writers. Instead we have an emperor, and as humans tend to do, they've taken him as a god of their own. If you want to unite humanity and you had a magic wand, this would be your first step.

Human life is cheap, kinda. There are millions of worlds with billions of humans. Many worlds, especially "hive" worlds are heavily populated with 50-100 billion people. So even single worlds are populated more than modern Earth. I've been playing humans in 40K, also known as Imperial Guard, and the cheapness of their lives is something you have to come to terms with. Squads of troops are often refereed to as "speed bumps" for enemy troops. Only large "horde" armies of humans can win a battle. Men are referred to as being as cheap as ammunition, and spent just as quickly. So life is cheap, right? Not really. If you read the novels, which I've been doing, the heroes of the imperium are those who value human life, regret the loss of life, and generally have modern sensibilities towards war. Gaunt, Cain and other leaders of the Imperial Guard are heroes that value human life and work hard not to waste it.

The Empire is expanding. This is arguably the darkest part of the 40K universe. Part of expanding the empire is uniting humans under one umbrella. The first thing you learn, is that there are other humans, even other emperors, who have their own imperium and are quite happy to fight for it, thank you very much. These kinds of conflicts against other humans are seen as regrettable, but it's part of the mission of humanity, at least the humanity that we're reading about. Only a united humanity can survive against species that desire their destruction. As for planets inhabited by other species, they are subdued or exterminated, much like those species do to human inhabited worlds. This is the endless war part of the 40K milieu, seen as a mission to grow or die. If humanity isn't expanding, it means their enemies, intent on their destruction, are growing in power instead. Through a lens of violence of humans fighting humans, this is pretty dark. Through a species-vs-species prism, it's akin to something like men versus dinosaurs (although not historically accurate).

The Meta. I don't want to be an apologist, but most people don't read the fluff. I wish they would read more, as you've heard me railing about kids who don't own their own rulebooks and codices. At it's base level, the game is about modeling and painting, and for the most part people don't even play humans. They're too expensive and difficult to play well. People prefer to play genetically engineered super humans, scary robots, giant bugs, green monsters in red trucks, and similar sci-fi fun. Now that's the game that people recognize. As for the future being only war, remember the humble roots of the game. It was always about models (and still is), with a light science fiction background with plenty of monsters. The fluff came much later. In fact, a big criticism about the game is that the company sees itself as a model company, with all this fluff a sales driver. It's infuriating if you take it seriously, which they clearly don't.

My son is too young to play these games. Would I allow him to play them if he was old enough? First, I would be fairly cautious about the reading materials and would probably consider the fluff I've mentioned as adult fare, not suitable for a young mind. Second, there are some good values in this game. It gets kids off electronic games, which I see as the most corrupting influence in turning my kid into a zombie. It's a game that requires social interaction. Many fathers are playing with their sons and most kids get into it because other kids are playing (the key to any game). Third, it teaches kids to think. It has much more tactics than I originally thought, despite the giant handfuls of tiny dice that determine an army's fate.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Inner Lawn Shouter (politics)

The Britney Spears comparison that McCain used on Obama sure smells of desperation. It's an argument that basically says, millions of people support Obama because he's popular, not that he's popular because they support him. It's Yogi Berra logic: "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded." Using Britney is an attempt at getting in touch with voters' inner angry old man. "Get off my lawn!" is what McCain is really shouting. It's not about whose playing the race card, McCain is instead flouting his decrepitude, his inner lawn shouter.

For me, Obama is saying so many things that resonate with exactly what I want to hear, that I'm suspicious. I've noticed that my pseudo libertarian, free market economics world view has begun to crumble when my paycheck comes up short each month. The sweet sound of protectionism and the promise that the government will solve all my problems is intoxicating. A couple more stimulus checks and I'll be out of credit card debt. It's the lure of the Ring of Power, however, so I'm trying not to give in too much. It's tempered by Obama's backsliding on promises that frankly I had wished he hadn't made. The backsliding is problematic, although the message is much improved. It blows most of his credibility for me, however.

Before George W., I might have slipped into middle-aged Republicianism. However, now I plain don't trust them and doubt I ever will. I wonder if this is true with other people like me in the country? I wonder if Republicans will become a dying breed, much like bridge players? At best, they'll re-organize and let those more in-step with the country run their party, with a promise never to listen to half-wits again or those with shiny new theories they want to employ on the world stage. They can promise, right? It doesn't matter if you believe in half of what a group says, if the other half has elements you find repugnant. Democrats, for me, are at worst, misguided and ethically challenged, rootless opportunists. But that's a classic definition of a politician, right?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Circle is Now Complete

So says Darth Vader when he meets up again with Obi Wan. Our Warhammer 40K selection is now complete, with every item in the line. We started by saying we would never carry Games Workshop products. "“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no substitute for a good blaster at your side," said Han Solo to Obi Wan and Luke. We wanted to do a game store right, and what most customers didn't know was that GW had a reputation as a ruthless predator of a game company. If it was possible to do a store without turning to the dark side, I wanted to do it.

That was nearly four years ago. They turned away from the Dark Side a couple Summers back. Why, had to do with sliding sales, and of course we all worry that they'll go back to the Dark Side when sales improve. For now, they're the best company in the game industry and their recent annual report credits courting independent game stores for stopping their sales slide in the US. Who thought it could happen?

GW changed their trade policies and we took advantage of their newfound largess. Two years after swearing them off as Sith lords, hearing horror stories of how they slew noble jedi store owners, we became a Games Workshop partner store, one of five spread throughout the Bay Area and the only one in the county. This has been the natural result of a 900% increase in 40K sales since we moved, a statistic attributed to the closing of the GW store in Concord at around the same time, along with our simultaneously increasing 40K inventory to at least a minimal level, providing play space and our excellent 40K league run by Justin. If you're looking for a regular time to play, our every other Saturday 40K league might be the answer (other than the two open play nights every week). If you're looking to get into the game, this league is great for beginners and receives 100% of our very generous GW prize support. I've been to the league day twice and hope to continue playing when my schedule permits.

We're still figuring out how to stock 40K, and we're sometimes out of key products as we figure out depth of stock, now that we have breadth. I kick myself when I'm out of a battleforce box, which the kids refer to as "starter boxes," a telltale sign that they've been trained recently at a GW store. That's their next stop on their shopping trip when we're out of stock. Continued growth means I'm making constant inventory adjustments to prevent problems like this. Where stocking one of an item, say a box of Chaos Space Marines, would have been fine before the new store, we've gradually increased our stock on hand to two, then three, now four. Talking to past GW managers (they're all over the place it seems), some GW stores keep as many as 12 of key items in stock, but we're not quite there yet. Our goal is to be the one-stop shop for 40K in the area, along with having a solid organized play program for the game.

This is a difficult balancing act, of course. New 40K products are released almost weekly and few are discontinued. Combine that with our rapid expansion, and we've seen a massive shifting of inventory dollars to the game. Remember, inventory is a zero-sum game, so any increase in one area means a decrease in another. For the most part we've downsized our toy section, mostly because toy companies made us order high quantities of each item when we started. Just reducing that number creates ready cash while not affecting our toy selection.

Anyway, the issue of 40K inventory creep is a big issue, but it's on the back burner while sales are so intense. I have been warned and common sense dictates that growth won't last forever, thus the hesitancy to not go crazy on the ordering. The circumstances around 40K's ascendancy can be given credit for keeping the store going since the move. Without 40K, I think we wouldn't have made it this far. The creep issue may yet be a problem. As Princess Leia complains to Han Solo: “This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”