Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wither Old Wargames?

We were going though a stack of old SPI wargames, and when I say old, I mean mid 1970s era, checking to make certain that they had all the counters, maps, instructions and tables.  It started me thinking about how few historic war games, with the exception of Axis and Allies, sell today.  We have a number of old SPI, Avalon Hill and GMT wargames in stock but only sell a couple a year.  People look at the ones we have on display and older customers reminisce about playing them in their younger days, but, unlike those games who reminisce about playing D&D, the wargame nostalgics never buy the games of which they speak so fondly.

There are two reasons for this, I think.  One is the space, or lack of it.  Older RPG books, modules and accessories take up very little space in the house, fitting thin and flat upon a bookshelf.  The thicker and bulkier boxed wargames take up much more space and are awkwardly sized, not easily fitting on a shelf, and, in the case of the plastic tray SPI games, easily fall or crack open as their decades old plastic cases turn brittle and shatter.

The second reason, and the one that influences the decision more, is the very nature of RPG books versus wargames.  It is very easy to pick up a RPG book and flip through it, stopping and reading passages that catch the eye, easily getting transported back over the years.  Wargames don't lend themselves to this ease of perusal.   Flipping through the pages of fairly dry wargame rules and running your fingers over maps and counters just don't bring back the same feeling that the pages of a book do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 Hottest Boardgames at GenCon

Courtesy of GTS

5. Smash-Up  (AEG)   
A fast, crazy, easy to learn game that can be played anywhere, at any time.  
4. Fleet (Gryphon Games)   
Here's the thing with this game: We played it, we loved it, but it's hard to find another game to compare it to. It's unlike anything we've played! It's part deck-builder, part engine-builder, part drafter. And the way the game's theme is pulled off is way cool!

3. Trajan (Hutter)   
Ryan Metzler from Dice Tower said it was his favorite game at the con. And then it proceeded to sell out in just under 36 hours.

2. Level 7 [escape] (Privateer Press)   
Another game that's unique to the point that it's hard to draw comparisons, we watched people line up all day to get this game. And there's a cool promotion where you can get your picture turned into a character card! Players spoke highly of the replay value and innovative mechanics.

1. Netrunner (Fantasy Flight Games)   
The line for this game wrapped around 8 different booths then extended down an entire wall of the convention center. It was the biggest line for a product at Gen Con that we had ever seen. And it triggered an online buzz around the country that was not rivaled by anything else at the show. Get this game.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More on Merle Rasmussen

The store had the opportunity to host Merle Rasmussen and his wife Jackie for a couple of hours earlier this month. Who is Merle Rasmussen and why would we want to host him and his wife?  Well, it depends on how long you have been in the game industry.  Merle Rasmussen, along with Allen Hammack, is the designer of the first espionage role-playing game, as well as one of the earliest RPGs to emphasize character skills over character classes and use percentages to determine outcomes, Top Secret.  Many nights during the early 80s, players tiring of crawling through dungeon tunnels and cells opted for an evening sending secret agents prowling on missions through the dark streets of Sprechenhaltestelle.  “Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle”, the module included with Top Secret, was also one of the first to provide a setting for the gamemaster with numerous adventure seeds rather than a fully laid out adventure.  Players could (and did) spend weeks exploring the various nooks and back alleys of Sprechenhaltestelle, as long as they had a gamemaster willing to put in the work to bring the city to life.
The success of Top Secret led to a game design position at TSR from 1982 to 1984, where Rasmussen, assisted by Jackie on occasion, designed some of TSR’s earliest solo adventures including Ghost of Lion’s Castle, Lathan’s Gold and the Magic Viewer adventure Midnight on Dagger Alley (It came with a piece of transparent red plastic you held over various spots in the adventure to read what the outcome of an action was.  Few copies available today still come with the original Magic Viewer), as well as Quagmire and Savage Coast for Dungeons and Dragons, Range War for Boot Hill and Ace of Clubs and the Top Secret Game Companion for, well, you know. 
After his stint with TSR, Rasmussen held a variety of jobs in his native Iowa, before going to work for Casey’s General Stores in 1988, where he still works, currently as a property management specialist/archivist, which occupied most of his time for the next decade or so, though he did sell the store copies of his Sqwurm and Beasties games, developed in the mid 80s, since then, which is how I have kept in contact with him.
Rasmussen got back into game design, this time focusing on card and board games, after the turn of the century and has been fairly prolific since then, with Keep Iowa Beautiful Travel Bingo, Knoxville Raceopoloy, Caseyopoly, Iowa State Fairopoly, and Newtonopoloy (all designed as promotional games for various organizations, as well as Lutheropoly and Stagecoach King, (one copy of each designed for private collectors).  Rasmussen’s latest work is Save Your Brain, a card game designed for the Advisory Council on Brain Injury to promote brain injury awareness, which proved popular enough to warrant a second print run and second edition.
So, for those of you hoping to enter the field of game design, let Mr. Rasmussen’s career serve as an example of one way to do it.  Sure, he doesn’t make a living at it, but he does get to do what he loves and people do pay him for it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Merle Rasmussen

Had the opportunity to have Merle Rasmussen in the store the morning of August 6.  Who's Merle Rasmussen, you ask?  Rasmussen was a writer for TSR during the early 80s and the designer of one of the earliest espionage RPGs, Top Secret.  Rasmussen is also the writer behind the 1980s modules Savage Coast, Midnight on Dagger Alley, Ghost of Lion Castle, Quagmire and Lathan's Gold, all of which were solo adventures, a rarity for the time.

In recent years. Rasmussen has worked as a property management specialist for Casey's General Stores, while shifting his game design focus to card and board games.  In recent years, he has released Save Your Brain (brain injury/awareness card game), Keep Iowa Beautiful Travel Bingo, Caseyopoly and Iowa State Fairopoly, as well as the Sqwurm card game, which Rasmussen is holding.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Breakdown of Sales

For those interested and who would like a better idea of what sells here in the store, here is a rough breakdown of categories and percentage of sales.  Note that since this is an approximation, the percentages probably won't add up to 100%:

Role-playing games  8%
Boardgames  7%
Miniatures 10%
Paint and miniatures accessories 7%
Collectible Card Games  20%
Single Cards  5%
Card Supplies 8%
Collectible Miniature Games 5%
Dice 4%
Comics 8%
Used Games  3%
Books 3%

Friday, August 3, 2012

European Game Stores Part 5

See part One for the setup:

Handicapped accessible means something different there.  One of the stores I visited had a "Handicapped Accessible" logo on the store door.  In the States, this means the store is laid out with wide enough aisles inside for a wheelchair to traverse and aramp or some other way for a chair to get to the door.  Not in France.

From what I was told, the "Handicapped Accessible" sign means there is a handicapped parking space in front of the store, which there was. However, the door was positioned a couple of inches about the sidewalk on a doorsill, meaning someone in a wheelchair would have to get over that bump while trying to get through the door, which did not automatically open.

Further, the layout of the store's aisles was such that, while a wheelchair could move through them, they were narrow enough that someone else could not be in the aisle as well.  I did not see any wheel chairs in the store wile there but I did see a woman maneuvering a baby carriage through and there was not enough room left on either side for her to get around anyone standing there.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New 40K RPG

Only War Core Rulebook
$ 59.95 SRP

Only War is a standalone Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game experience in which players take on the roles of soldiers in the Imperial Guard, the galaxy-spanning armies of the God-Emperor. Fully compatible with FFG’s other Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay titles, this comprehensive game system explores a previously unseen side of life in the Imperium of Man. Join the ranks of brave men and women inducted into the God-Emperor’s armies, trained to fight and sent off to far flung stars and systems to hold the line against the coming night. Despite overwhelming opposition, or perhaps because of it, these fearless soldiers are bound to each other by a code of brotherhood and honor. They are the thin line that protects the Imperium from complete and utter destruction. They are the Imperial Guard.

Arriving in August

European Game Stores Part 4

See Part One for the setup:

1.      A Sense of design pervades the store.  Unlike many American game stores, which have a mishmash of fixtures from different sources (mine included), here, with the exception of displays provided by the manufacturer, store fixtures all matched, avoiding the jarring effect of bookcases interspersed with rolling video racks or three different styles of display cases making up the cash wrap.  Colors and shelf design were consistent throughout the stores, creating strong eye appeal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Pazio

August 16th Street Date!

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Item Cards: Shattered Star
$ 10.99 SRP

The power of the ages is yours to claim with this treasury of mystical items. Among these riches wait all the rarest relics and most mysterious magic items of the Shattered Star Adventure Path. This 54-card set of beautifully illustrated, full-color item cards allows you to track the riches you recover in vibrant detail. GameMastery Item Cards allow heroes to keep track of their equipment in style. Each full-color card features a beautiful portrait of an item on one side with blank space on the back to keep notes. GameMastery Item Cards are compatible with any fantasy roleplaying game.

Map Pack: Rooftops
$ 12.99 SRP

GameMastery Map Pack: Rooftops contains 18 full-color 5 x 8-inch map tiles, stunningly crafted by cartographer Jason A. Engle, that combine to form a variety of rooftop configurations fit for harrowing chases, cunning infiltrations, and high-story action! For use with all tabletop roleplaying and miniatures games and suitable for experienced GMs and novices alike, this product fits perfectly into any Game Master’s arsenal. Wet, dry, and permanent markers erase from the tiles!

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PFA: ShS1: Shards of Sin
$ 19.99 SRP

The Shattered Star Adventure Path begins with a thrilling new adventure from fan-favorite author Greg A. Vaughan! In Varisia’s bustling frontier city of Magnimar, the Pathfinder Society’s newest lodge recruits a team of rookie Pathfinders to track down rogue agent Natalya Vancaskerkin—who also happens to be one of the Varisian criminals known as the Sczarni. Yet when these heroes track down the missing woman, they find far more than a Pathfinder on the run, becoming embroiled in a swiftly expanding hunt for a fragmented artifact from the ancient empire of Thassilon—a quest that will take them to some of the most dangerous corners of Varisia. This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path launches the Shattered Star Adventure Path and includes: -“Shards of Sin,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 1st-level characters, by Greg A. Vaughan. -An exploration of the ancient Sihedron artifact and its ties to powerful Thassilonian magic, as well as details on the mysterious skymetals that fall to Golarion, by James Jacobs. -Forays into the even seedier underbelly of Riddleport in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Bill Ward. -Five new monsters, by Benjamin Bruck, Craig Campbell, Adam Daigle, Amanda Hamon, and James Wilbur.

PFRPG: Bestiary Box
$ 34.99 SRP

The brutal beasts of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary come alive on your tabletop with this box-busting collection of more than 300 creature pawns for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or any tabletop fantasy RPG! Printed on sturdy cardstock, each pawn contains a beautiful full-color image of a nasty monster from the core Pathfinder RPG monster reference. Each cardstock pawn slots into a size-appropriate plastic base, making them easy to mix with traditional metal or plastic miniatures. With multiple pawns for commonly encountered creatures and more than 250 distinct creature images, the Bestiary Box is the best way to ensure you've got the right creatures to push your Pathfinder campaign to the next level!

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PFRPG: Rise o/t Runelords AP Pawn Collection
$ 19.99 SRP

Key monsters and NPCs from the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path come alive on your tabletop with this collection of more than 100 creature pawns for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or any tabletop fantasy RPG! Printed on sturdy cardstock, each pawn contains a beautiful full-color image of a monster or NPC from the Rise of the Runelords campaign, including goblins, dragons, giants, ogres and dozens of unique NPCs that are also suitable to represent player characters. Each cardstock pawn slots into a size-appropriate plastic base from the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary Box, making them easy to mix with traditional metal or plastic miniatures. With multiple pawns for commonly encountered creatures and tons of distinct creature images, the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path Pawn Collection brings the friends and foes of Pathfinder’s original campaign alive like never before!
PFRPG: Ultimate Equipment
$ 44.99 SRP

Choose your weapon and stride boldly into battle with Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment! Within this handy, all-in-one reference, you’ll find 400 jam-packed pages of magic items and adventuring gear, from simple camping equipment and weapons up to the most earth-shaking artifacts. Included as well are handy rules references, convenient price lists, and extensive random treasure generation tables, all organized to help you find what you need, when you need it. With this vast catalog of tools and treasures, the days of boring dragon hoards are over, and your hero will never be caught unprepared again. Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment is a must-have companion volume to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. This imaginative tabletop game builds on more than 10 years of system development and open playtests featuring more than 50,000 gamers to create a cutting-edge RPG experience that brings the all-time best-selling set of fantasy rules into the new millennium. Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment includes: -Thousands of items both magical and mundane, including the best weapons, armors, magic items, and gear from the Pathfinder RPG hardcover line and select other Pathfinder sources, as well as hundreds of never-before-seen items. -Tons of special materials and magical abilities to help you create exactly the magic item you’ve been looking for. -A wealth of specific magic items, organized by type to ensure your character is always wearing as much magic as possible. -An innovative new treasure generation system, designed to help GMs roll up exactly what they need, every time. -New alchemical weapons, tools, and poisons. -Kits to help your character get the most out of her skills or profession, plus new mounts, animal companions, and retainers. -Descriptions of every item, plus hundreds of full-color illustrations to aid in window-shopping. AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!

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PF Tales: Blood of the City (novel)
$ 9.99 SRP

Luma is a cobblestone druid, a canny fighter and spellcaster who can read the chaos of Magnimar’s city streets like a scholar reads books. Together, she and her siblings in the powerful Derexhi family form one of the most infamous and effective mercenary companies in the city, solving problems for the city’s wealthy elite. Yet despite being the oldest child, Luma gets little respect—perhaps due to her half-elven heritage. When a job gone wrong lands Luma in the fearsome prison called the Hells, it’s only the start of Luma’s problems. For a new web of bloody power politics is growing in Magnimar, and it may be that those Luma trusts most have become her deadliest enemies... From visionary game designer and author Robin D. Laws comes a new urban fantasy adventure of murder, betrayal, and political intrigue set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. 400-page mass market paperback
PFAP: S&S6: From Hell's Heart
$ 19.99 SRP

With an enemy fleet intent on conquering the Shackles looming on the horizon, the adventurers must build their own fleet of pirates and buccaneers to defend against the invaders, culminating in an epic naval battle in the middle of the Eye of Abendego. Will the adventurers defeat the invading navy and save the Shackles? Or will the independence of the Free Captains be eradicated forever? A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure for 13th-level characters, this volume concludes the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path. This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path also presents a host of options for GMs looking to continue their Skull & Shackles campaign, along with details on the deadliest sea monsters said to lurk beneath the waves. New monsters from the depths of the sea and exotic islands also fill the Pathfinder Bestiary, while Robin D. Laws (author of the Pathfinder Tales novel The Worldwound Gambit) concludes his tale of pirates and lost treasures in the Pathfinder’s Journal.

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PFCS: Paths of Prestige
$ 19.99 SRP

This indispensable 64-page book presents thirty new prestige classes for use in your Pathfinder RPG campaign! Each ten-level prestige classes is tied to a different organization or theme found in the Inner Sea region of Golarion, featuring long-awaited explorations of the Aldori Swordlords, Hellknight Signifers, Paladins of Irori, and the infamous Gray Gardeners! Looking for a way to ride a mastodon into combat? Take some levels in the Mammoth Rider prestige class! Eager to harness the mysteries of ancient wizardy? Delve into the secrets of the Arclords of Nex! Looking for some respect and power for your gunslinger? Join the ranks of Alkenstar's Shield Marshals! These and many more prestige classes await discovery in the pages of Paths of Prestige! By Jason Bulmahn, Benjamin Bruck, Matt Goodall, Jason Nelson
PFPC: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends
$ 10.99 SRP

Never has a land needed heroes more than Varisia. There, at the edge of civilization, barbarians clash with dark armored invaders, foul creatures lurk within the hearts of titanic monuments, and daring explorers unearth the secrets of a forgotten age of wizard-tyrants. This definitive guide equips players with all they need to face Varisia's dangers and mysteries, as well as dozens of new options for playing characters native to this wild region—perhaps as a mystical thundercaller of the Shoanti barbarians, a daring bravo leading a caravan of Varisian wanderers, or an obsessed magic-user steeped in the lore of the sinister Thassilonian empire. New options for character backgrounds and campaign traits allow players to integrate their characters into any of the Adventure Paths set in Varisia—such as the Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star Adventure Path—like never before. Varisia needs heroes, be one of them with the all-new format Pathfinder Player Companion: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends! Written by F. Wesley Schneider Each monthly 32-page Pathfinder Player Companion contains several player-focused articles exploring the volume’s theme as well as short articles with innovative new rules for all types of characters, as well as traits to better anchor the player to the campaign.

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PF Module: The Moonscar
$ 13.99 SRP

An interplanetary adventure for 16th-level characters. To astronomers and stargazers, the unusual pale patch on the moon is known as the Moonscar. Many theories abound as to the nature of this strange feature, yet the truth is a terrifying legacy from the ancient past. When a renowned archeologist disappears while investigating a strange mountaintop ruin, the adventurers must follow the abductee through a mysterious portal into a land of lunar madness and demonic nightmare—for what scars Golarion's moon is a blight from the depths of the Abyss itself! This adventure builds upon elements first introduced in Distant Worlds and the Book of the Damned II: Lords of Chaos, and features challenges that will test the mettle of a group of four 16th-level Pathfinder characters—such as those who might have finished a Pathfinder Adventure Path and seek a new story to challenge their powers!

European Games Stores: Part 3

See Part 1 for the set-up

1.      Playspace is at a premium.  Both stores had gaming areas, but less than a quarter of the size of the playing area you would find in a typical US store. Both were located on an upper level, accessed via a very narrow staircase, overlooking the store below, meaning that customers in the retail part of the store could easily hear people playing and talking in the gaming space above.  Each area could seat anywhere from 6 to 12 people comfortably but not much more than that.  I also didn’t notice many of the posters that cover the walls of a typical American game store.  Whether that is due to aesthetic choices on the part of the store or a lack of promotional posters received by the store, I am not sure.