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 LivingDice.com 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.”

Games Workshop at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show

Painted miniature terrain from Cities of Death in foreground before Games Workshop banner displayGames Workshop had a much stronger presence at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show than the previous year. Still represented at GTS by North American Director of Sales Andre Kieren, GW hosted two Premier Presentations for retailers on Tuesday, March 19, ran a table at Wednesday’s Game Night, as well as exhibited in the Bally’s Convention Center.

Games Workshop Premier Presentation

Andre Kieren began his presentation by remarking that Games Workshop is “having a great year”. He asked for a show of hands from attending crowd, revealing that an overwhelming number of retailers attending already carry GW products. Most of the hands remained in the air when he asked whether they also run GW tournaments. The company has recovered from a dip in retail stores carrying GW products, going from a low of 700 independent gaming stores in 2006 to over 1400 now (presumably in North America). Kieren attributed the mid-decade dip to “poor customer service in the past”. One area that Andre Kieren touched on is Games Workshop’s new focus on running events for newcomers and he pointed to Wizards of the Coast’s consistent success in that specific arena. Even Escalation Leagues can be too much for newer players who may not have the resources or time to paint even a squad of Space Marines, so hosting events like Space Marine Paintball or a Kill Team activity could involve them further in the hobby, Kieren suggested.

GW Employee Andre Kieren addresses seated audience during Power Point presentation

Andrew Kieren Addresses Retailers at the Games Workshop Premier Presentation

The Modules and Retailers’ Unused Product Support

According to Andre Kieren, over 450 independent stockists have yet to use their product support which will expire in May, and which will not roll over.

The meat of GW’s presentation was a slideshow detailing the costs and benefits of each of the first three module racks that GW encourages retailers to carry. Module 1 consists of their best-selling products such as Space Marine Tactical Squads, Warhammer 40,000 Dark Vengeance boxes, Lord of the Rings starter boxes, and so on. The modules make it easy for stores whose specialty is perhaps board games or card games to diversify out into tabletop wargaming. Each module also comes with product support from Games Workshop, with Module 1 offering $300 of unrestricted product support. A store can use the unrestricted product support to claim more merchandise from GW for whatever product they would like during the course of the year. This support can replace older product such as obsolete codexes, be used for prize support, or to create store terrain. Rather than being a regular calendar year and ending in December, the product support year ends in May, since GW’s fiscal year begins in June. According to Andre Kieren, over 450 independent stockists have yet to use their product support which will expire in May, and which will not roll over. Additional product support is offered for each increasing tier of module ordered with Module 2 offering $300 in restricted product support and $300 in unrestricted product support. The essential difference is that restricted product support should only be used for events.

And the Horus Heresy of Disgruntled Retailers: Terms & Conditions

Before Andre Kieren and company could even get to the matter of unused store credit and top-selling modules though, they endured a hail of verbal bolt pistol fire concerning changes to their Terms and Conditions, as well as other retailer complaints. Kieren first reassured retailers that if they qualify as stockists, that the updated terms and conditions would not change the free shipping that already exists on certain orders.

When asked though whether GW was trying to eliminate online sales by other businesses, Kieren smiled and pointed out “We’ve been trying to do this for 10 years.” With the changes, GW has made “a renewed attempt to effectively enforce” the pre-existing terms and conditions that have been in place before, Kieren added. He then put it in management-speak and said that Games Workshop wants to “reserve the online channel to ourselves.”

Part of this is due to the practice of shelling, in which other companies or individuals shuck GW’s packaging and sell the plastic sprues directly or part them out, thereby “erroding” GW’s brand. Another assault on GW’s intellectual property Kieren cited was the drop-casting and selling of Space Marine shoulder pads. Unfortunately for consumers, GW does not like the practice of people clipping plasma guns and selling them separately. Will GW be going back into the bits business itself? Kieren’s answer: no. When a retailer asked for clarification on shelling, pointing to online website Battlewagon Bits, Kieren responded, “Yes, the way you are describing what Battlewagon Bits is, we would not want that.” GW has subsequently followed through on that.

At this point, one retailer complimented Games Workshop’s response, saying that “We’ve been getting screwed for so long by these guys [Battle Wagon Bits and other shellers]” He was met with a smattering of applause. When another member of the audience joked “So there’s an Errata coming, right?” it broke some of the tension in the room.

Someone in the back of the room pointed out that he had liked the Games Workshop Outriders program that was active over a decade ago, as a useful tool in helping him to run events and sell GW games. He went on to add that his store is now selling more Privateer Press products and that Flames of War is about to overtake his GW sales. Are there any plans of reviving the Outriders program, he asked. Kieren’s response was a firm no, because GW had done a cost-benefit-analysis which included a huge tax fine incurred in the early 2000s because the corporation had not paid its Outrider volunteers for what amounted to actual work. Consequently it discontinued the program.

Another question posed concerned the new requirement for retailers to actively separate GW merchandise from obscene and pornographic materials. Kieren didn’t think that a store carrying the Walking Dead would be an issue. As for consequences for violators of the terms and conditions and whether GW would “blacklist” distributors or retailers in a retailer’s words, Kieren answered in the negative. GW will “not blacklist. I wouldn’t use that term… yes, [there would be] consequences.”

Space Marine Paintball and Paint and Take

When he reached the end of his slideshow presentation, Kieren asked the attendees whether they were familiar with Space Marine Paintball. When only three raised their hands, Kieren invited volunteers to come forward to learn the mini-game, while another GW employee ran a Paint and Take on another small table at the front of the room. This effectively ended any further GW-bashing or debate from the audience, but also left the rest of the retailers who could not possibly participate at the front tables to disperse or talk to one another.

Retailers cluster around Games Workshop realm of battle board to learn Space Marine Paintball

Retailers at the Games Workshop Premier Presentation Learn Space Marine Paintball

GW in the Exhibitors’ Hall and at Game Night

Beautiful painted Warhammer 40k miniatures in GW display caseIf there was anything new and shiny in GW’s spacious booth in the Exhibitors’ Hall, it was carefully hidden away. Instead there was the usual amount of brilliantly painted miniatures in glass display cases that any GW retail store should boast. Andre Kieren and his staff were on hand to answer any retailer’s or distributor’s questions and to possibly enroll any new retailer in Games Workshop’s program.

In a like manner, Games Workshop ran a table at Wednesday night’s Game Night with some of the same activities from the Premier Presentation on offer including what looked like another round of Space Marine Paintball and some Hobbit-related gaming at a well-attended table.

GW Employee Andre Kieren speaking with GTS Attendee at GW booth in Bally's Convention Center

Andre Kieren Speaks to a GTS Attendee in the GTS Exhibitors’ Hall

2013 GAMA Trade Show Exhibitors’ Hall: Impact Miniatures

Impact! Miniatures was exhibiting again at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show. Since speaking with company owner Tom Anders at the 2012 GTS, the Impact City Roller Derby game successfully Kickstarted and was on its 16th backer update while at the 2013 show. Anders confirmed that the roller derby girls were off the docks at Boston and on the jam, heading towards Impact Miniatures’ warehouse. Game Salute will be offering the game in April with Impact! itself following in May.

Chibi Dungeon Adventurers: Chibi Crawl

The first of the new products that Impact Miniatures was highlighting is its line of chibi dungeon figures for the upcoming Chibi Crawl game being designed by Glenn McClune. The Chibi Dungeon Adventurers range has 103 spin-cast plastic figures ranging in price from $5 for adventurers up to $12-15 for larger monsters and tops out at the $25 five-headed Hydra. While the Hydra is already available for purchase online at the Impact! website, the rest of the lineup will be available in May.

Five-headed plastic chibi Hydra with wings on display stand at GAMA Trade Show

The Flagship Chibi Dungeon Figure: The Five-Headed Hydra for $25

Among the $12-$15 monster crowd, fans of chibi cuteness can expect to find a Djinn, a Troll, a Chimera, a Basilisk, Cthulu, and an adorable Balrog. More startlingly though, fans of the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon may recognize the one-horned, winged form of Venger and the distinctive fat head of Dungeon Master. A club-wielding Barbarian and a female Acrobat are also among Impact!’s offerings.

Three plastic Impact Miniatures, Dungeon Master, Barbarian with Club, and Unicorn in display case

Chibi Dungeon Cuteness: Smug Dungeon Master, Barbarian, and Unicorn Pegasus

As Krosmaster Arena continues to exceed funding on Kickstarter and with successful expansions of Super Dungeon Explore from Soda Pop Miniatures, the sub-genre of chibi fantasy is beginning to swell. Anders has capitalized on the market perfectly. In looking over the figures on display, Impact has also offered at least three sculpts sure to delight any brony, including a feisty Unicorn Pegasus and a larger more fiendish Nitemare.

Miniature display case in foreground with tentacled Cthulu and pony while Tom Anders is in background smiling

Anders Smiles Behind Just a Fraction of His Chibi Range Including Unicorns and Cthulu

New Dice

Tom Anders also had new dice to show, including the rarer breeds of d5s, d7s, d14s, d18s, and d22s. Anders has an “if you build it, they will come” approach with these new dice, pointing to Freeblades’ use of the d14 as a potential application. A major selling point for the opaque dice is that Impact! Miniatures has arranged for them to be color matched to a variety of Chessex opaque dice sets for color purists.

Five-sided dice, seven-sided dice, and a D12 and D14 on red background

Selection of New Dice from Impact! Miniatures: d5s, d7s, and a d14 next to a d12