GTS Press Conference Overview, Arcane Wonders, Crystal Commerce

At the 2012 GAMA Trade Show, all press pass holders were required to attend a press conference on Thursday of the show, taking time away from covering the Exhibitors’ Hall. Several members of the press at the show did not attend. They missed out on a number of smaller game designers and publishers. This year Press Coordinator Erica Gifford made a number of improvements, starting with dropping the mandatory press conference. There was a Media Center in the Exhibitors’ Hall, drastically reducing time exhibitors were away from their booths, as well as a Press Room in the opposite side of Bally’s near the seminar rooms.

Another improvement was the variety in those speaking at the Press Conference, ranging from nervous first-time game designers to Cool Mini or Not director Dave Doust, Wizkids staff, and Osprey Publishing. While it’s questionable that the larger companies will get much benefit from the 5-10 minutes they spent addressing the assembled press, for the smaller presenters, it may have been their only opportunity to receive any media coverage. Unfortunately there are only 10 hours to scope out the 110 plus exhibitors for the two days that the Exhibitors’ Hall is open. Every year tries to cover as many of the exhibitors present as possible, but several probably slip through the cracks.

The Press

As for the press, the following were at the Media Center on Thursday afternoon at 2 PM:

16 chairs at press conference with Tom Vasel, Eric Summerer, Milton Griepp, Scott Forster, and Larry Dunne in them

Meet the Press: ICv2, The Dice Tower, Pulp Gamer, and Tyro Magazine in the Flesh

That was it. While the quantity of press present might call for ironic quotations around “press conference”, the quality of those present perhaps made up for it. For the most part, there were no follow-up questions after the presenters talked about their game releases, which was another positive change from the previous year, when there seemed to be questions posed more out of politeness than any attempt to really gather information.

Arcane Wonders

Arcane Wonders employees speak to press with Mage Wars boxes in hand

Arcane Wonders: Byran Pope & Patrick Connor

Bryan Pope and Patrick Connor from Arcane Wonders provided an update on Mage Wars, which had its big release last August at Gen Con, selling over 15,000 copies to date. Pope had previously spoken at the 2012 GTS about the game when it was still in development, a five year process of figuring out and balancing the math for all the wizards and spells involved. The Force Master vs Warlord expansion came out in February and retails for $39.99. The Force Master’s spell book focuses on telekinesis and mind control while the Warlord excels at zone control. This summer Arcane Wonders will add a second expansion, releasing the Druid vs the Necromancer at Gen Con 2013 in August, also with a target price of $39.99.

The Mage Wars Organized Play kits are also doing very well with Arcane Wonders selling out of the first batch of them, despite printing twice as many as they thought they needed. Each kit comes with 36 gold foil promotional cards and costs retailers approximately $12 to order via their distributors. Players also impact the ongoing storyline set in the world of Etheria with their victories and losses, which are recorded and then compiled by Arcane Wonders. Arcane Wonders is also planning a spell book two-pack. This will allow aspiring mages to build multiple spell books. For example, a Beastmaster could have a hunter Beastmaster spell book, a shepherd Beastmaster spell book, or one built around the strategy of turtling. Another plan in the works is alternative artwork for mages, such as a Female Beastmaster, which will come in their next spell tome expansion. Each mage will also receive an alternative ability card, which may include one or two different abilities as well as possible stat changes.

Crystal Commerce

E-commerce Expert Anthony Gallela from Crystal Commerce in long-sleeved blue shirt

Crystal Commerce’s Anthony Gallela

Anthony Gallela from Crystal Commerce spoke next. Crystal Commerce’s ability to include singles, individual comic titles (including upcoming releases from Diamond Previews), and its integration with POS systems were some of the advantages he cited. Another service Crystal Commerce offers to gaming store clients is web hosting including a web storefront. Actual website design is also available for a fee, but the complimentary hosting includes a free template. Crystal Commerce will customize the template with a client’s logo for free. Crystal Commerce sites integrate with Amazon, eBay, and TCGPlayer. Retailers consequently only have one inventory to manage and the amount of work in inputting data is significantly reduced, down to just the item’s price to the end customer. Customers can also buy tickets or pay entry fees to events like Friday Night Magic using the Crystal Commerce software. They also have the option of in-store pickup for anything ordered online.

Crystal Commerce’s plans for the future include adding a purchase order system, exposing more sales data to retailers, and the launch of Point of Sale 3. Point of Sale 3 is currently in beta development, but will offer retailers a significantly more intuitive user interface, as well as the functionality for split payments, such as cash and credit cards, or cash and store credit. But what is Crystal Commerce and what does it actually do?

“Basically, we do all the heavy lifting and try to free up game store owners to do what they do best, build relationships with their customers and sell awesome games.”

– Jerad Ellison

To answer that, I contacted Crystal Commerce after the GTS via their online sales chat feature and chatted with salesman Jerad Ellison. He clarified that Crystal Commerce is an e-commerce solution with a core strength in inventory integration. Rather than a store owner tediously inputting and managing separate sales information and pictures on Amazon, eBay, TCGPlayer, and the store’s own website, merchants can simultaneously control their product inventory across multiple platforms, including in-store sales. As Ellison put its, “We want to make the lives of our clients easier. If you have ever tried to list something on eBay or Amazon and keep an accurate inventory of one item selling in multiple spots you may understand.” Ellison also pointed out that Crystal Commerce offers retailers suggested prices for Magic singles as well. Crystal Commerce’s main selling point? “Basically, we do all the heavy lifting and try to free up game store owners to do what they do best, build relationships with their customers and sell awesome games.”

2012 GAMA Trade Show Press Conference Part One

On Thursday March 15, those of us with press passes at the 2012 GAMA Trade Show were supposed to attend a Press Conference. Most of the companies who signed up for the press conference attended. It was a very small affair, no flashing cameras, and no stunning revelations. This is part one of two for the GTS press conference.

Mage Wars from Arcane Wonders

Mage Wars box art from Arcane Wonders

Mage Wars box art courtesy of Arcane Wonders

Bryan Pope from Arcane Wonders talked about Mage Wars, which is set to come out just before Gen Con in August. In Mage Wars, each spell is represented by a card. Players control wizards who flip through their spell books and select which card they wish to play. Even though in most RPGs, a wizard does not cast spells directly from his or her spellbook, there is something very enticing to me about having the spell book in the form of a binder in your hands. The game itself combines CCG tactics with tactical miniatures play in a magical arena setting.

The initial mages will be the Priestess, the Beastmaster, the Warlock, and the Wizard, but expansion mages are already in the works. There will be a total of 24 mages to choose from and the plans are to release them 2 per expansion, so players will have the Force Master and the Warlord and then the Necromancer and the Druid. The game is not collectible, but it is customizable. The expansions are expected to retail for $30. There are also plans to do Arch-Mages for the holidays. One Arch-Mage can potentially take on 2 or 3 other mages.

Mage Wars Wizard vs. Priestess

The Wizard makes arcane battle with the Priestess, image courtesy Arcane Wonders

Mage Wars will retail for $75, takes 75-90 minutes to play, and will come with everything that you need to play the game. Arcane Wonders has had 18 playtest groups across the country striving to balance the game and its magic-users. Each type of mage has at least 5-7 tactics or strategies to pursue that the playtest groups have discovered, but I bet an innovative mage will create a few more. An interesting aspect of play are hidden enchantments played face down. Another is that while your opponent is normally restricted to 3 copies of a spell for its Spell Points cost, he or she can add additional copies for an additional cost. You won’t necessarily know what you’re up against in Mage Wars. At the same time, there aren’t hundreds of cards to keep track of. The core of each type of mage’s deck is built around 55 spells.

Arcane Wonders will be supporting the game with league play and I look forward to playing it myself this summer.

Square Shooters

Square Shooters Deluxe bot from Heartland GamesAmber Dickens from Heartland Consumer Products talked about Square Shooters. The key concept in the product is that a deck of playing cards has been represented on 9 dice, including 2 Jokers. The concept originated with inventor Carmelyn Calvert and was patented in 2011.

Square Shooters dice with card faces on them.

Square Shooters images courtesy Heartland Games

I can’t quite predict the exact uses, but I do envision some gamers buying the dice just to add to their dice collections. The playing cards on die faces concept is a tricky one. According to Dickens, the suits and numbers are distributed so as to allow every straight flush and every 4 of a kind. The National Parenting Center has called the dice “mindblowing”. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but there are some implications for traditional card games. The fact that the 7 of Spades is with the 9 of Clubs, and 3 of Hearts should make a 6-7-8-9-10 straight more unlikely, because you can’t “draw” or “toss” the other face values.

The Basic Set sells for $12.99 and comes with the 9 dice, 100 chips, a dice pouch, and game cards to play the Square Shooters games associated with the dice. The manufacturer, Heartland Consumer Products, is actually a playing card company which helps explain why the Deluxe Set includes a set of playing cards. You also get a fairly nice felt-lined dice cup for the $19.99 that the Deluxe Set costs.

Square Shooters has been out since August of 2011, but this June, Heartland will be releasing Rodeo Rummy targeted towards younger players, which will be available at Origins.


P.O.W.E.R. Rifle Squad featuring photograph from U.S. Army

P.O.W.E.R. card courtesy Power Games

Wednesday night I took the opportunity to play P.O.W.E.R. and thus much of what creator PK Torretto said on Thursday afternoon I either knew firsthand or was repeated. P.O.W.E.R. is a card game with movement based on the modern military, America’s in particular. Players control M1A1 Abrams, Apaches, Force Recon, and Sniper Squads, battling to reach the opponent’s control or deployment area.

The game was fairly easy to pick up with the 8-card version offering a few tactical choices. The key to playing, at least when not building your own deck, is understanding the icons on the cards. This Rifle Squad, for example, is not equipped to shoot down attacking Aircraft. Instead, because of the icons near its bottom, the Rifle Squad can engage other Infantry, Supply, Defense (like Patriot batteries), Armor, and Artillery. To shoot down enemy aircraft you would need a Stinger S.A.M. card. Some cards enhance other cards, such as the Body Armor for the Rifle Squads, boosting their defense. The Rifle Squad has 1 offense and 1 defense and a range of 0. It must move into the space holding an opponent to do its 1 damage. The directional icon at the top also means that it moves a grueling 1 square a turn. By comparison, the Supply trucks zoom across the battle area with a movement of 3.

Further much-needed expansion cards are in the works including a German blitzkrieg deck, a Chinese infantry deck, and several surprising choices including an animal deck. I say much-needed because the U.S. military battling against the U.S. military is not a very satisfactory experience. Where are the French Mirages and French Foreign Legion cards? Where is the Taliban? Essentially the rules are in place though, so whatever other factions get added, be they zombies, Belgians, or drug cartels, they can use the existing rules.

The first expansion was also at the GAMA Trade Show. It adds a naval and air support column to the playing grid. Destroyers and aircraft carriers battle with F22s. Particularly exciting to me as a Battlefield 3 player, was an anti-air vehicle resembling the Tunguska, the S.A.M. A.D.A.T.S., which can be found in the basic set. Its attacks are not restricted to one square, but to entire rows of aircraft on the battlefield.

M1A1 Abrams Armor card for P.O.W.E.R.

M1A1 Card courtesy P.O.W.E.R.

One of the key components of P.O.W.E.R. is the Build Queue (BQ). The BQ adds a real-time strategy feel to the game with units queueing up on the side to enter the game. You can look at your opponent’s BQ and alter your battle plan accordingly. You can also plan ahead for your own. The BQ3 in the upper left hand corner of this M1A1 Abrams means that it will take at least 3 game turns before it deploys. The game is played on a 4×8 grid with the unit cards navigating the 32 rectangles of the battlefield. Even though the game can be played without a playing mat, I find it hard to imagine. Torretto’s playing mats are made in Alaska, while the cards are printed in Battle Creek, Michigan. All of the game, Torretto is proud to say, is made in the United States. One of his plans for the game is to participate in the Games for Troops program and have P.O.W.E.R. be played in Forward Operating Bases (F.O.B.s).

One of the advantages he also cites of P.O.W.E.R. is that it’s not collectible. He doesn’t like that winning in many collectible card games comes down to the richest players having particular cards. The other thing he was careful to do in designing the card boxes was to make the game easy to fit in a Point of Purchase display on a counter, but at the same time the game boxes have hang tabs to make retailers’ jobs easier in deciding how they want to use their precious store real estate.

P.O.W.E.R. has been picked up by Alliance for distribution with the basic set retailing for $20, I believe. I will be interviewing PK Toretto in the near future.