Wednesday, January 25, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ Euro-Snoots & Free Shipping

What's on my mind this week is a collection of random bits and pieces from my local gaming adventures to BGG trends and gaming thoughts in general.

For example ~

Tom Vasel did an email interview with me about a year and a half ago for his 'Interview with an Optimist" series on and we went right into the whole online discounter versus local store mud pit. What I suggested to Tom was that online retailing of board games at steep discounts is a temporary thing. Given what I know about wholesale discounts and with the ever-increasing cost of doing business, it's not likely that deep-discounting will remain in place for much longer. I personally think it's an unhealthy business to be in.

Lo and behold, what occurs but Thoughthammer - the poster child for board game cheapskates - has raised it's free shipping minimum and Fairplay has as well. Gee. Too bad. Now the confirmed skinflint gamer will have to leave his online basket incomplete for several more weeks as he builds an order that can all ship at once so he's guaranteed an extra $10 or so in savings.

What's going to happen when you only get free shipping with $200 or $300 orders? Will penny-pinching gamers start building their shipping lists months or years in advance so they can still save that extra $10 or $15 dollars? I can imagine the conversation now:

"Hey Bob, did you pre-order that new Euro Game Through the Dry and Luckless Desert coming out from Alea?"

"I sure did Fred, but it'll be the end of 2007 before my order ships."


"Yeah, well I want to save on shipping and since ThoughtlessHammer has the best deal, free shipping on orders totalling $350 I have to wait for a few games to be published before I get my copy of TTDALD."

"Er, Bob, TTDALD has been out now for 2 months, maybe you could pick it up locally and actually play the game."

"You gotta be kidding Fred! I'd never pay retail!!!"

"Bob. The game only costs $35 retail and Nerdsters Games, Gadgets, Goodies & Geek Gear down by the mall always gives 10% off."

"Not a prayer Fred. No way am I going to pay that guy's rent. I don't owe him squat just because he owns a store. Besides which, there are people who shop there who fail miserably at meeting my incredibly high standards for human contact. Some of them are stinky and others don't look like me or think like me so I won't lower myself to comingle with peons."

"Yeah, right Bob. Well, what's on your order with ThoughtlessHammer that's holding it up?"

"Settlers of Caylus, Princes of Foppery, the expansion to the Analytical Attenuation series of abstracts and the Settlers of Caylus: Shrimps & Coral Reef expansion."

"Er, Bob, none of those games are even released yet. In fact, Settlers of Caylus was just announced and the company that produced the Analytical Attenuation series just went bankrupt."

"I don't mind waiting."

"Wouldn't you rather just go buy a new game to tide you over until 2008?"

"What? And pay retail? I'd sooner quit gaming altogether."

If you think I'm exaggerating, then pop over to BGG and read some of the threads about what extent some people will go to in order to save $5.

Euro-Snoot Stuff

I've been doing my best to play some of the popular Euro-Snoot games and I managed to play both Modern Art and Princes of Florence. Then I posted my thoughts on BGG and sprouted a 3 page debate, spiced with political overtones and national taunting. None of which was my fault I assure you. I innocently made an unobtrusive comment and the Euro-Snoot Jackals came unpinned.

I'm still trying to get my mind wrapped around the type of gamer who can rate games like Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence higher than games that are actually fun to play...with other people.

I'm not suggesting that Puerto Rico or Princes aren't good games, they are. Or they're not enjoyable, they can be. But they aren't fun... I mean fun in the sense that they don't create a feeling or sense of mutually shared gaming experience with your fellow buddies around the table. They're games where you pick a strategy from the two or three that will almost always work, then plod along reacting to the choices others make and trying to keep your pre-programmed strategy on track. Then the game ends, points are totaled and everybody says, "Let's play a filler!!" Which lights up smiles as For Sale or Bang! or some other light and interactive game with randomness and back-stabbing and lots of oohs and ahhs and thrills and taunts and...well, fun.

I certainly hope Caylus offers something more than that because I want to like Euros more than I do. Well, I already like El Grande, but it's pretty interactive and there is lots of opportunity for screwage and bubble-busting.

Finally! Giganten

I've owned this game for at least a year, maybe even two years. Four of us sat down and played it Saturday evening and it was a gas. Essentially it's a race game, where you're struggling to find the best oil deposits and also attempting to control the three markets to build your cash. I like the game a lot because it has some nicely balanced cards wherein one benfit, say a high movement allowance, is balanced by perhaps a fewer number of licenses to sell oil, which severly effects whether you can take advantage of the fluctuating market.

Giganten also was produced in the classic Euro-Snoot format; beautiful board, high quality cards, cool looking oil derricks and trucks and colorful rules for the german-speaking amongst you. I'm going to rate this one an "8" on BGG and then re-rate after a couple more plays. If it holds up then I think it'll be a "9" for me. I like games with chance, with pressure, with money and with manipulation. Giganten has all that and more. Too bad it's out of print. Go get a copy if you want to have fun in the "fun" sense.

Fast Forward to 2008

"Hey Bob, did your ThoughtlessHammer order arrive in time for your family getogether at Christmas?"


"Uh oh. What's up?"

"Those SOB's. They finally shipped but when it arrived, two days after the family went back to Peoria, my copy of Through the Dry and Luckless Desert was dinged and it was missing 3 of the 3200 wood meeples and cubes. Not to mention, since I had to substitute half of my order for other games, I ended up with two Monopoly clones, a SuperMarvelHeroScape expansion that I saw later for less at Walmart and they back-ordered the Shrimps & Coral Reef expansion because FairForUS Games got an exclusive on that expansion and it might only be generally available for a month next year."

"Well, if you really want it why not go buy a copy at FairForUs Games?"

"Fred... how dumb are you? FairForUs doesn't have a free shipping program and they only offer 20% off. I'd never stoop so low as to pay that much money for a game."

"Well, you don't have to tell anyone. After all, it's not really their business and the game is hot, I've been playing it for 6 weeks now."


"Bob? Are you okay?"


"Are you breathing man? You're turning blue!"

"Ggggaaacckkkk....why... ..... not ..... tell smart... and .... gggaaacckkk...thrifty.... I am."

Okay, okay. Maybe I'm still overdoing it a bit. But it really can get almost this bad.

So here's DW's advice:

Game Good?
Buy Game Now.
Play Game tonight.
Do not invite Bob.


Mark Haberman said...

Your idea of fun is not the same as everyone elses. I think Bang! is dead boring. Yes, it's fun to pretend to be someone your not, and argue over who is who for the first 10 minutes. Then everyone figures it out, and you spend then next agonizing 30 minutes playing mindlessly, or waiting for the game to end so you can actually PLAY something instead of sitting out.

The difference is, I can understand that some people would find the game fun, and don't criticize them for enjoying it.

And I doubt that the deep discount online retailers will be dying out any time soon, cause that's the way things work here in the good ole US of A. Competition will drive the market, not some whining game dealer who picked the wrong business to open.

DWTripp said...

The difference is, I can understand that some people would find the game fun, and don't criticize them for enjoying it.

Good on you. You do realize that this is the internet? That noble experiment where free speech and free-wheeling commentary abounds and only the perpetually insecure ever take it seriously?

Competition will drive the market, not some whining game dealer who picked the wrong business to open.

Exactly my point! When competition drives out the marginal online retailers then prices will rise. For verification, check the price of gas.

As for whining game dealers... I don't know any, but having been a successful one for 23 years perhaps it was the company I kept?

gamesgrandpa said...

Oooohhh, Mark is trying to provoke a fight......

Hey, DW -- what's wrong with Royal Turf, Around the World in 80 Days, Hacienda, and Australia? Inquiring minds want to know. :)

Now, if you say you haven't played them, then you need to enlarge your sample of Euro-Snoot games before judging too harshly. Of course, that's only my really humble opinion.......

Anonymous said...

I *know* that I get looked down on for busting out Runebound, Descent, etc, at my FGLS. I can see it in their eyes. I dont mind though, because we are having a ton of fun while they fiddle with cubes and slaves or whatever. The thought of suffering through a game of Caylus makes my blood run cold, while the thought of Warrior Knights makes me drool...

As for the power of a good FLGS, preach on.

wargamer66 on bgg

DWTripp said...

Hey, DW -- what's wrong with Royal Turf, Around the World in 80 Days, Hacienda, and Australia? Inquiring minds want to know. :)

Well GG, the only one I have played is Around the World and I bought it. It gets very little time but I consider it a keeper because it is light and has a family appeal that keeps my collection rounded out.

I have heard that Royal Turf is similar to Daytona 500 and so I haven't made an effort to get a copy because I have the Daytona game.

They both work well for me and I think I have rated them 7 or 8 based upon what they are and what I perceive as the target audience.

Wargamer66 Everything I know about Game Night Games is all good. Hopefully my friends who are going to open a store in Boise this spring will do a similar approach.

Anonymous said...

Royal Turf is the same as Daytona 500? Well, they're both race games, I guess...other than that, I can't see any similarity. D500 is card driven, with an auction for pole postiion. Royal Turf is a betting game with dice.

You are a bitter man, DW! :)

Unknown said...

Hey DW, I'm not going to debate Eurogames with you anymore, but when you said:

For verification, check the price of gas.

Are you presuming to understand how the price of gas is determined?

DWTripp said...

Are you presuming to understand how the price of gas is determined?

Aw, you wacky Canadians are too much. Really Ryan... really, really, I enjoyed PoF, I really did. I just think Modern Art is better!

Oil prices are way too political for me to want to discuss them on a blog that is filled with cheer, gaming goodness and also my submissions. But dude, I'm from Texas and I voted for Bush... of course I understand Texas Tea! heh..heh

mike said...

I'm afraid the internet discount stores are here for good. Why? Because the barriers for entry are so low, relatively speaking. It's pretty stinkin' easy these days to slap together a decent ecommerce site. You simply need enough capital to buy inventory...not a trivial amount to be sure, but nothing like you would need for a B&M retail store. You will not get rich doing it, but there are enough suckers out there who think it would be fun to buy games at wholesale to replace any that drop out.

And I'm with Mark. It has taken me a long time to come to the realization that people's brains are just wired differently. I find the planning and execution of said plan to be tremendously "fun", but I must acknowledge that others do not. (of course I also find Bang to be a hoot since I get to say "Badges?!? We no need no stinkin' badges!" in a stupid accent, so there you go).

Fraser said...

Internet discount stores is a bit of joke term if you live outside of the US, well certainly if you live in Australia. I remember searching for Puerto Rico a while back and the main online "discount" stores would do quite a nice price on the game but it was going to cost more than the cost of the game to ship to Australia because most of them only gave one option which was airmail. A couple of ebay stores are nice and offer normal seamail (which is where I ended up getting Puerto Rico plus two other games and the shipping price for all three games was just over half of what the Internet "discount" store wanted to charge me for one game.

We have ordered some stuff from Germany because it is just not available in Australia, one order from an internet place in the US which was placed by a US resident who then reshipped the stuff to us seamail.

Most of our stuff (excluding German only games) comes from Aussie FLGS.

Oh and if you want to know how to ship something properly get something from, the best packers in the known universe.

ekted said...

I order games 10 or so at a time. If there was an FLGS within an hour of me that I could get all 10 games at once, it woul dbe an easy choice, even for the extra $100. But there isn't.

So why not buy the 5 games locally, and the other 5 online? Well, if I have to make an online order anyways for the other 5 games, why pay the extra $50 AND not get the shipping discount? I'm not paying extra money to a store that doesn't know any of the games I'm buying.

Unknown said...

DW, understanding the price of oil is much easier than understanding the price of gas.

Mark Haberman said...

Not tying to provoke a fight, DW just gets me all fired up because he is like the anti-me.

Anonymous said...

Lets see, in the last few weeks we have seen this column make fun of Euro games, CCGs, online retail and anyone who uses or enjoys these things. All supposedly said in jest.

I think this is a nice case study for Alfred Adler's psychoanalytic theories on personality.

huzonfirst said...

DW, you must write "Fun is in the eye of the beholder" on the blackboard until the message finally sinks into your noggin (or until you start to enjoy it).

Buying a game retail so you can play it that day is certainly a good reason (I've done it quite a few times) and needs to be added into your equation for where you want to buy. But how fast does it have to be there? I just put in an order with GameSurplus on Monday morning (with the usual 30% savings over list price) and the games arrived Tuesday afternoon! Plus, I get to support two great people in Sarah and Thor who frankly have done more to spread the word of gaming than any FLGS owner I know (and that was BEFORE they bought GS!).

Different strokes, my friend.

DWTripp said...

My main argument on local vs. internet seems to get lost in all the fuss about whether there is a local store or whether it stinks or not or what the price for a gallon of gas is and other foggy issues. So I'll clarify what I really am saying ~

Internet DEEP discounting will be history, not internet SALES. These two items are apples and oranges.

Another HUGE misunderstanding that so many intelligent people seem to have is that competition always brings prices down. Not true. The demand for a product versus the supply of that product can determine the final price in a free market. There are many other parts to the equasion ranging from delivery costs to the total amount of a given item available, who acquired the majority of it and other factors.

If any of the main internet deep discounters had stumbled upon a few cases of El Grande or Hannibal in 2005 do you really think for a second they would have sold those games at 30% off of the MSRP? I wouldn't have, you wouldn't have and they wouldn't have.

So why do I believe what I believe? Because competition has the effect of killing the weakest links. The marginal merchants will close up and slowly and, without any collusion, the strong will decide the time is right to make money.

For those board game fans who had local stores that were weak and closed up, they will end up paying as much and possibly more for games than they could have locally. For those who never had local stores, their costs will rise. For those, like me, who have been proactive in either building a local retail community or promoting one, not much will change because the stores that replaced mine do have discount programs in place and they like doing that.

This is how I see things unfolding. It's not what I do or don't want. I just suspect online purchasing of games will evolve into an issue of access for many and price won't be as big a deal as it has been.

haberman ~ Mark, somebody has to be the anti-you... so consider it a blessing that it's me and that I accidentally ended up in this role by writing stuff because it's fun.

Another anon poster drops a firecracker that fizzles out:

I think this is a nice case study for Alfred Adler's psychoanalytic theories on personality.

I think proclamations about another's "state of mind" demonstrate aggression, and an inferior ego that one is compensating for by supposedly being superior enough to proclaim another person has issues. OTOH, if you had made me laugh, I wouldn't think that at all.

Unknown said...

DW, your predicition runs contrary to history. Once the deep discounters have run everyone else out of business, they will not all raise prices.

One online game store won't raise their prices before all the others, as they'll lose business. For all online game stores to do so would require collusion, a.k.a. "price fixing", which is illegal.

Consider this: In Canada, big-box stores like Staples and Office Depot rushed into town in the 90s and pushed all the small office supply stores out of business quickly with their much-lower prices. Ten years later, their prices haven't risen. Why? If they do, someone else will come into town and offer the lower prices that used to be in place. The same has happened with grocery stores, hardware stores and electronics stores.

Face it: deep discounts are the way of the future. Online retailing is a more efficient way of selling games, which is why they can sell them so cheaply.

DWTripp said...

Ryan I understand your thinking. Board games though aren't produced in the millions and even billions of units and the actual market for them is very, very tiny and also finite. It's my view that what drives pricing for items that Staples or Walmart sells and what drives pricing for something with perhaps 3,000 copies in existence or maybe even 25,000 will lead to a different place.

Overall though, I think everyone's gaming life would be better if there was an additional 5,000 local retailers and I believe that would grow the audience faster than any other single thing. But it still wouldn't eliminate online merchants, nor would I desire that.

Joe Gola said...

Regarding Daytona 500 versus Royal Turf, I thought that Daytona 500 had some really cool, interesting moments, and it also had some great "arrgh!" moments when things played out in a wacky way, but overall I felt like it was too slow and thinky for a race game. With Royal Turf, the dilemmas are not quite as involving, but it better matches the idea I have in my head of what a race game ought to be. Yes, you miss out on the whole "jockeying for position" aspect, which is too bad, but it more than makes up for it with the "come on come on come on you stupid horse MOVE YOUR ASS ALREADY!" aspect.

Man, now I'm really in the mood for a game of Royal Turf. Damn! I hate it when I do that.

DWTripp said...

Hmmmm... looks like I was mislead by some comment on BGG about Royal Turf being similar to Daytona 500. I went and looked at the entry on BGG and it's not even close. Looks like a good game though. And since it's up for a re-issue I suspect I'll have to add it to my collection. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Daytona 500 and its predecessors (Top Race et. al) are similar in one aspect to Royal Turf in that you moving all of the pieces involved in the race. Movement is done through cards in the former and dice in the latter.

Actually, if you play Top Race, you add the betting component making it even more similar to Royal Turf. All this being said, Daytona 500/Top Race have a different feel than Royal Turf. If I had to choose between them, I probably would pick Daytona 500/Top Race. Which one depends on your tastes in auto racing and whether or not you want betting in your game.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking with Larry Whalen at Face 2 Face Games the other day, and he said that Winner's Circle (the reissue of Royal Turf) should be out relatively soon. Lots of trouble with production delayed the release at the end of 2005, but the game should be out soon.

gamesgrandpa said...

I'm with Joe Gola -- I'd play Royal Turf anytime. Too bad it's not available to play online, so I could get a quick fix now and then, between regular game days.

Anonymous said...