Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Has the CCG Market Collapsed?

Well, no.

We're seeing a couple problems.

Demand: Maybe your maskless rogue republic has strong event attendance, but a lot of stores see greatly reduced event attendance. You risk your life to experience organized play. Some of us have decided the risk is worth it. A lot of people have decided it's still too dangerous. After nearly two years, some of this behavioral change is permanent. We will need to rebuild those communities over time. There's a small chance the model is fundamentally broken or diminished in some way we haven't figured out yet. As I wrote recently, I'm personally getting back on that horse, running D&D games again at home. It's a risk I'm willing to take.

How are my sales though? Is this lack of events hurting sales? Oh my god no, the sales are stratospheric. My Magic sales have doubled from the year before the pandemic started. My Pokemon sales are six times higher. I put Pokemon on clearance the summer of 2019, right before I begged for anything with a Pikachu. 

CCG sales are so strong and so baked into my business model at this point, that I don't know what my store would look like if it went back to normal. I also doubled my inventory, so I can't parse what current sales level is CCG craziness and what part is having a fundamentally different store. 

Experiential retail, all service oriented experiences really, have taken a back seat to plain old product consumption. We are old fashioned stores once again. My guess is increased event attendance will be a leading indicator of slower retail sales to come. Meaning, once people are back to paying for experiences, retail sales will slump. In my personal quest to buy a travel trailer, the lots are filling up once again after two years of premium prices and zero supply. Retail sales of travel trailers will slump as people book their flights to new vacation destinations. Leading indicators.

Supply: There are two tiers of stores. Those who were able to navigate the supply chain and get the quantity of product they needed, and those who couldn't. Those who couldn't haven't seen much of this strong sales activity. They know it's there, but they haven't gotten a good taste. Heck, it took me nearly a year to dial in my supply issues. I've visited quite a few small stores recently who complained of being unable to acquire hot product, while I was worried about tremendous overstock of that product they wished they could get. Talking about this issue really depends on which camp you're in.

Supply of current product has finally caught up and completely overwhelmed any sense of reasonable demand. I have hundreds of boxes of overstock Pokemon, and prices have dropped to around $90-95 for the most overstocked sets. That's less than $5 over cost. This was the price we well organized stores knew we would have to pay when the music stopped. As a retailer friend recently said, relax, you will eventually sell it. But... Remember how my Pokemon sales are currently six times higher than normal? How much longer will that last? Is there a long tail for Pokemon product for me or am I sitting on tens of thousands of dollars of dead product? Time will tell. I've got the Pokemon profits to ride it out. I'll trust the friend for now.

Monday, January 24, 2022


 Get an accountant.

Got one? Great. Now ask them to help you set up your accounting software, especially your Chart of Accounts. Articles online make this sound easy, but each business has a kind of Chart of Accounts signature, a number of categories that reflect its business model that may not be present in others. My first accountant helped me set this up and over the years I've added and subtracted categories. 

My own categories are below. They don't include my own idiosyncrasies related to shareholder shenanigans, buying vehicles back and forth, and other nonsense. This is a cleaned up list, for the most part. You might look at it and notice some overlap or areas that could be combined. No doubt. I am not an accountant. 

Quickbooks is open on my laptop as long as the store is open, which means nearly every waking hour. I live in the registry. I run a couple key reports. I add deposits from five different sources daily by hand, using my online banking. I am a book keeper and I'm pretty good at it, but I don't understand 95% of what Quickbooks can do.

At tax time, I gather my documents, fill out a questionnaire for my accountant, and he and I painfully do the taxes dance. My taxes have only gotten more complicated and the rules change all the time. I am even farther away from being able to do my own taxes than when I started. I am dependent on an accountant for my taxes, and this is by design of our government. So bottom line:

Get an accountant. 

<![if supportMisalignedColumns]> <![endif]>
Account Type
Checking Bank
Inventory Bank
Savings Bank
Cost of Goods Sold Cost of Goods Sold
Investor Capital Equity
Investor2 Capital Equity
Investor3 Capital Equity
Opening Bal Equity Equity
Retained Earnings Equity
Shareholder Distributions Equity
Accounting Expense
Advertising Expense
Bank Fees Expense
Charitable Contributions Expense
Distribution Expense
Equipment Lease Expense
Events Expense
Fuel Expense
Insurance Expense
Insurance, Auto Expense
Interest Expense
Licenses & Permits Expense
Loan Fee Expense
Loan Interest Expense
Lodging Expense
Meals Expense
Merchandising Expense
Mileage Expense
Miscellaneous Expense
Office Expense Expense
Outside Services Expense
Parking Expense
Payroll Expense Expense
Payroll Processing Fees Expense
Payroll Taxes Expense
Wages Expense
Petty Cash Expense
Reconciliation Discrepancies Expense
Rent Expense
Repair and Maintenance Expense
Repair and Maintenance, Auto Expense
Sales Tax Included in Sales Expense
Software Expense
Subscriptions & Dues Expense
Taxes Expense
Travel Expense
Uncategorized Expense Expense
Utilities Expense
Furniture, Fixtures, Equipment Fixed Asset
Improvements Fixed Asset
Less - Accumulated Depreciation Fixed Asset
Vehicles Fixed Asset
Interest Income Income
Publishing Income Income
Sales Income Income
Sales Referral Income Income
Table Rental Income Income
Note Payable - Loan1 Long Term Liability
Note Payable - Loan2 Long Term Liability
Rent Deposit Other Asset
Inventory Asset Other Current Asset
Payroll Liabilities Other Current Liability
Payroll Tax Payable Other Current Liability
Sales Tax Payable Other Current Liability
Depreciation Other Expense
Property Damage Other Expense
Insurance Settlement Other Income
Other Income Other Income

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Back to In Person Play (My Gaming)

My store has been doing in store play for many months, but I haven't been in an in-person game since February of 2019, right before lockdown. This post is about my personal gaming experience, and what I have in mind for the future. I decided this year that I really don't enjoy online D&D, and sadly dropped out of a very good D&D game where I was playing a darakhul (ghoul) paladin. 

What I gain from D&D is social interaction, and I just don't feel it online. It feels awkward, despite having a great online game master and some stellar players who were way better than I deserved to be around. So with boosters and a waning COVID (ha), I decided I would go back to in person D&D. We've already delayed it once due to a COVID scare in my household, but we'll hopefully have our first game on the 30th. Game Zero. 

 I had an elaborate D&D sandbox game going before lockdown called Second Sons. It was about exploring a mythical North America with Native American tribes, Land of the Lost Sleestaks and pylons, with themes of colonialism. The name came from the colonial English idea that second sons of nobles would be sent off to the New World to acquire land and make their fortunes. The players threaded the needle of liberating the indigenous tribes from the evils that threatened them while pushing back their colonial masters in a bid for independence, with some underlying exploitation. They explored a vast continent, adventured, built armies, formed alliances, and began their countdown towards independence.

I ran this game both at home and for the first time, I ran a second game at the store simultaneously. That's right, in 15 years, I had never run a long term D&D game in my own store. This was my best work, I think. It was highly involved, had enough miniatures that I needed help getting them to and from my Jeep, and it had an enormous list of NPCs in play, which meant tracking them in both campaigns simultaneously. It was a world builders dream and the players in both groups were highly engaged. However, it became clear during COVID that neither of these games would resume.

After a very long break of what's now nearly two years, I realized I couldn't go back to this game. I just didn't have the inertia or interest to continue and I certainly had lost all that short term knowledge. I dreaded the whole idea of it. In fact, motivation to play at all was lacking, with most of my personal plans revolving around real world adventuring in Mexico. There's a lot of psychological drama here, having nearly lost my business, a mostly new staff, learning I could work and live remotely, and understanding nothing held me back from my dreams but my attitude. Another D&D game was not high on my priority list.

Re-starting Second Sons was too big of a task to resume without momentum. It was also well into the campaign where my extensive early level notes, over 300 pages, were just an outline now. That's how these things get written, a lot of high level detail early on, with sparse notes for later. It makes no sense to build the lich's lair when the characters are first level. You need to know where the lair is, and that's about it. It might be a year of real time before the players get there. So without a lot of detailed content prepared, it meant I had a lot of work to do. I also felt my objectives in writing and running the campaign had been met. We were going out on top. I already knew we were hitting a plateau before lockdown, so I was writing the next thing as the world fell apart.

As I saw my enthusiasm wane in early 2019, I started work on a new D&D campaign, based on fantasy Venice called City of Masks. It's centered in the Venice-like city of Laguna. I'm using the fantasy map of Braavos on Jonathan Roberts website. It's from Game of Thrones, and is about as blatant a Venice rip off as you can imagine. I thought about having a thinly veiled Venice map commissioned, but Braavos fit the bill, and who really knows the ins and outs of Braavos? None of my players. File off the serial numbers, rename most things, and if I ever run it again, maybe make a different map. I finished writing an elaborate world guide in lockdown, March of 2019, and promptly sat on it, forgot most of it, and realized what a bloated impossible disaster it was for nearly two years.

In the summer of 2021 I dithered about running Village of Hommlet, decided against it, and dusted off my fantasy Venice, Laguna in my world. Now that giant world guide looked like a book I vaguely remembered reading, but written well enough to where I could pick it up and run a game like it was any other world book. The premise of the new campaign is borrowed from Matthew Colville. They're basically a mercenary company. To prepare, I read the Condottiere 1300-1500 book by Osprey, Machievelli's The Prince, and several books on Venice, including a couple Venetian fantasy novels (terrible). I also read Black Company and the new 5E book of Italian adventuring, Brancalonia, which I backed for my store.

I decided late in development I really disliked the grimdark of Black Company and the farcical nonsense of Brancalonia, so some elements remained, but it's essentially standard D&D with a Brancalonia style Den for our mercenary company that has leveling benefits with things like troops and followers from Colville's Strongholds & Followers. The comparisons end here as the mercenaries save the world from an unexpected threat. Below is the "Central Tension" as Colville calls it:

More D&D nonsense:

Central Tension: You are condottieri, captains of The Crimson Company. Condottiero means contractor, and you sold your services to the highest bidder during the War of Unification. You reputation and livelihood are based on these contracts.

You fought in the recent wars and took heavy losses, your leaders killed. You stepped in recently as condottieri captains and showed yourselves to be leaders with unique skills. Now your troops are "on the beach," as they say, in Laguna: City of Masks. They are restless and await your instruction.

The Crimson Company is tired. Their gear is junk. They need a resupply and a job. Their morale is stable, but low, and you will need to provide them gold for equipment before they can effectively fight again.

Your staff sergeant is Frigo Vanini (Frig), a loyal soldier who understands you're in over your heads. Frig is from Laguna, and has been adept at keeping the troops entertained and out of trouble. You have about 100 troops. Your full fighting force with your current officer structure is 200. You disband below 50. You could lead thousands, under the right circumstances.

After Staff Sergeant Frig, the most important person to The Company is your lawyer. He negotiates and enforces your contracts.

Fabio Pesce is your attorney, or more affectionately referred to as "Fish Face," (faccia di pesce), due to his features and mixed feelings about the man. Fabio screwed you out of a great deal of money on a legal technicality with a contract when he represented the Kingdom of Parma. Both you and Fabio ended up enemies of the state, and Fabio agreed to negotiate your next contract for free, if you safely delivered him to Laguna.

The war is over, but the fighting never stops. And now Fish Face has a job for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Mindful Wealth Podcast Interview

Happy new year. We talk about money, wealthy, and freedom.