I’m supposed to be posting these on Thursday but haven’t been able to get caught up yet. Maybe next week…
Over on the Teaching Board Games list, my friend Mike Frantz has been sharing his attempts to start an adult “Beyond Monopoly” class at his local community college in Wenatchee, Washington. The idea comes from a course Ben Baldanza offered in the DC area, and it appears to be an effective way to reach an audience that might otherwise miss out on the typical mainstream marketing done for strategy games (that was a joke… what marketing?). Mike appears to be close to his goal and recently posted the flyer he will use to advertise the course. I would love to do something like this but I’ll need to wait until I shed some other extra-curricular, which I seem to be adding faster than I can take away. While I step down as Cubmaster for my sons’ Cub Scout pack in February, I’m going to start teaching a Ruby on Rails class to high school students in February and will be head coaching a baseball team starting in March. Where are my priorities?
My lovely wife Julie, on the other hand, is very active using games during special break-out sessions with third graders at Jacob and Matthew’s elementary school. Favorite games include a 4–player version of Shut the Box that we picked up at Essen, Rolit, Amazing Labyrinth, Pickomino, and Blokus. I just purchased three copies of 6–player Take it Easy to give to the school – we both think this is a great game for this age and it is the most scalable game since Bingo. I hope to get Julie to write a guest column soon about her experiences doing this with the kids. She takes a very no-nonsense approach and is equally likely to use older abstracts (like Othelo) as she is shiny new games. I’m just a bit biased towards the new shiny thing, though I do teach chess twice a week at school and I guess that qualifies as an “older abstract”. Most of the students that get pulled out are in the “Talented and Gifted” (TAG) category, but it is always at the discretion of the teacher involved.
For Christmas, I gave games as gifts to several of my co-workers over at Corillian. In all cases, the games were hits with the families and I’m getting the common follow-on question – where I can I get more? That’s when I know I have them hooked. When asked, I invariably point them to our friendly-local-game-store (FLGS) – Rainy Day Games. There’s nothing quite like the impact of walking into a store, being able to browse and touch the games, and getting advice from a knowledgeable store owner.
Changing subjects, over on Spielfrieks there has been a very involved discussion about the wisdom of exclusive arrangements between publishers and retailers, namely Funagain Games. Clearly I’m biased here, so take my comments with a healthy dose of skepticism. The thread started with a comment about recent games being carried by Boulder Games that are exclusives at Funagain. If you look at the product page for Carcassonne: Neues Land over at Boulder, you’ll see this editorial comment:
Note: If you believe competition is good and going into cahoots with a producer to get an exclusive to thwart competition and fix the price is bad, then buy this game instead of Carcassonne: the Discovery. You not only strike a blow for all game consumers, you save yourself a good bit of money.
This is one of the silliest, most uniformed statements I’ve seen in a while. When Funagain decides to enter into an exclusive arrangement, they take on a significant amount of sales risk in the process – they are effectively transferring risk from the publisher to the retailer. I know this first-hand as a principal at Sunriver Games. This is at the heart of what competition is all about – finding strategic ways to offer a competitive edge over the competition! What would be anti-competitive is retailers getting together to decide not to do exclusives (or to price fix).
Havoc: The Hundred Years War is a first-rate production, but it is too bad that Sunriver chose a way to market the game that alienates gamers who believe competition is good and price-fixing is bad.
I guess I’d like some feedback – for those of you that believe competition is good, did we alienate you? I’m convinced that we’ve sold 2x the product we would have otherwise, largely due to the exceptional marketing provided by Funagain. What if we had chosen to only sell the product direct (as Columbia Games did for a while)? Is that anti-competitive? I guess I just don’t see the connection. Exclusives are a common competitive attribute of a free-market system.