Archive for the ‘Boardgame Industry’ Category


After nearly 7 years, the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game is shutting down.  The 21st Set, “Timewalkers:  Reign of Fire”  is the final set of cards for the game.  I can’t say I’m tremendously surprised, I don’t think the WoW TCG has been particularly healthy for sometime.  Though it has continued to score a small piece of real estate at mainstream retail stores like Target and Walmart it has clearly been on a slow decline in sales.

It could be argued that WoW TCG never really stood a chance against the much larger and more entrenched 800lb gorilla that is Magic the Gathering.  Still, WoW:TCG was actually a very good game design that leveraged a popular IP with some genuinely interesting and unique mechanics to see some degree of success:

– A unique resource system based around quest cards that rewarded you for using quest cards for resources but allowed you to use any card as a resource.  This meant no more mana screw and opened up some interesting player choices.  The quest rewards also helped the end-game I think.

– The class system for abilities strongly tied the game to the WoW theme while also setting some themes for deck-building.  I know some also viewed this as a weakness since you could open several packs and not get any abilities for the class you were interested in playing.

– The Raid decks.  I think these will always be viewed as a breakthrough in TCG design and were even featured on Penny Arcade several times.  The Raid Decks took some of the most evocative content from WoW and brought it into the cardboard realm as a fantastic and rewarding opposed co-op experience.

– The loot cards.  It’s hard to know just how much these lengthened the life of the game but I imagine quite a bit.  The number of people who bought booster boxes of the TCG simply for the handful of loot cards to use in the online game is absurd, showing just how crazy some people are about WoW and what they are willing to spend; after all, these are the same people paying 20 bucks for some mount in the computer game.  At one point loot cards for Swift Spectral Tigers from the 3rd TCG set were selling for around a thousand dollars, if I remember right, which artificially raised the price of that set.

At the end of the day, though, I think the game was just too similar to Magic and WoW was too divisive of an IP for the game to ever hope to see the kind of broad success it needed to stick around longer.  The end of a trading card game is always sad since people who spent money on the game system are now stuck with likely hundreds or thousands of dollars of cards for a game that is not longer supported or being developed.  I don’t know what the exact amount is but I spent probably at least a couple hundred dollars on the game; more than I have spent on Magic.  I did really appreciate and enjoy the Raid decks and would consider those my favorite method of playing the game, but overall I would have to say I probably did not get my money’s worth out of what I purchased.  Every game purchase I make is begun as a mental calculation of the hobby value I will get out of playing that game vs. the financial cost of the game itself, but TCGs can be tricky because you usually acquire them in small purchases and can more easily rack up a lot of expenses over time without realizing it.  Magic is referred to as “cardboard crack” for good reason.

Still, I don’t regret the time I did spend with the game and I hope that my collection will see some use in the future.  I don’t intend to try to sell it, mainly because my cards are all from older sets and I’m sure I would only get pennies on  the dollar.  The Raid decks alone are reason enough to keep it around.

In the meantime I have signed up for the Hearthstone Beta, the digital and spiritual successor.  I haven’t gotten in yet but have had a good experience with the digital TCG Duel of Champions I have high hopes that Hearthstone will provide a good gaming experience for minimal cost.


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As if the rush of Lord of the Rings LCG and other news from GenCon was not enough, Fantasy Flight games has officially bought CardGameDB and is going to incorporate it as an official company resource, while maintaining and improving the tools and utilities there for players.

I think this can only be AWESOME for the future of every LCG, it is going to mean a lot more interplay between FFG announcements and forum discussion and the CardgameDB forums and card stuff.  For example FFG can post an official suggested deck build as a link to that deck on CardGameDB now.  It’s not specifically said, but presumably they are paying Drew now so he can put even more time into the website.

It’s definitely a win-win, but it’s also a very fascinating turn of events as this sort of thing is not common with any gaming community that I’m aware of.  Usually companies maintain their own websites and resources as strictly separate from community ones.




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It’s been a while since I’ve written a dice post.  Seth Owen’s Pawnderings blog has posted a nifty link to a detailed analysis of 6-sided dice done by an engineering professor at ASU who happens to be a tabletop miniatures gamer.

It turns out that many 6-sided dice are not particularly good when it comes to the statistical liklihood of the 6 possible outcomes; ideally each numbers should be rolled 16.67% of the time but in reality he found that Chessex, Games Workshop, and other dice with rounded corners actually roll ones a staggering 29% of the time!  Dice with square corners were much closer, with 1s being rolled only 19% of the time.  Certified casino dice used for craps were just about dead on.

This is pretty disappointing as I really like dice with rounded corners, they just feel and look better than dice with square corners.  Not only that, it is somewhat counter intuitive as it seems like dice with rounded corners tumble better, so you would think that would lead to better randomization of the results.  Instead it seems like the mass distribution of the dice after the pips have been hollowed out and the corners rounded off produces this very uneven result.

So it turns out that if you want more fair results from your D6’s you better be using dice with square corners and the heavier the better.  Or, if you are really particular about your dice, you better be using Casino dice which it turns out are pretty pricy.

Anyways it’s a fascinating little article, definitely check it out if you play any sort of games with dice rolling.

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Kickstarter has been a huge boon to the gaming community, with all sorts of new games being funded for development and/or publishing via Kickstarter efforts.  Games that almost certainly would never have seen the light of day otherwise.  What’s interesting to me, however, is that now even larger game companies are leveraging Kickstarter to put out new product that normally one would expect would be funded internally.  The most recent example was an email I got in my inbox from Days of Wonder announcing their new Kickstarter campaign for Small World 2, a new iPad app which will function as both an improvement and a replacement for the original.  Although it quickly becomes apparent that Days of Wonder are hoping to use this Kickstarter campaign to do a whole lot more.

The original Small World app was $10 if I remember right and, while very high quality, it lacked some pretty key features.  It was limited to 2 player only and the multiplayer was pass-n-play only.  Still, it’s a game that is well suited for the iPad as a platform and for synchronous and asynchronous online play, so the potential was always there for Days of Wonder to add more features.  It looks like their intended method of doing that is to fund it via Kickstarter.

Interestingly, however, they are also using this campaign to introduce a new deluxe level of components including super high quality tokens, boards, miniatures, etc.  The tokens are what pique my interest; high quality gaming tokens are a particular weakness of mine.  However, to get a full playset of tokens including the expansion races looks like it’s going to cost $240 so at least I’m relatively safe from that temptation.

I really do enjoy Small World, there is a lot to like about it and I think it makes a superb app.  I especially like how the app can color code the tokens to the owning player, as keeping up with who owns which races can be a pain in a 4-5 player game.  While I never bought into the original app I will almost certainly buy into this one.  However I don’t think I can afford the Kickstarter itself right now due to money issues, I will wait until I get another of the free Apple iTunes gift cards I get periodically at work and use that to pick up the app once it is available.

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I was on Coolstuffinc earlier today and in their boardgame category Lord of the Rings LCG was 4 of the 11 top selling products, with Khazad Dum coming in at 11 and 3 of the recent Adventure packs coming in at 3,4, and 8.

So people are still buying the game in droves and Fantasy Flight is still raking it in.  With the first Hobbit film releasing later this year and the expected wave of LOTR enthusiasm I don’t see that dropping off anytime soon.

Personally I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do.  After trying out the core set and gaining an appreciation for the depth of the mechanics and the possibility of the system, I committed to the first adventure cycle. I’ve since purchased Khazad Dum and committed to the second adventure cycle, and I’m certain I’ll pick up the Hobbit 2-part expansion series and probably the second deluxe expansion that comes out in that same timeframe (assuming one comes out in addition to the Hobbit saga expansions).  Where I may draw the line, for now, is at the start of the third adventure cycle; at that point I’ll have a huge pool of cards and a lot of replayable quest content.  And with the ease of online retailers it would be relatively easy to come back later and buy the entire third adventure cycle in one go for around $60.

The real dangerous draw for me is the individual faction synergies that they keep releasing stuff for, that’s where the completionist in me wants to keep buying stuff beyond when I might otherwise want to take a break.  It’s easy to say no to an as-yet unannounced product but when that product turns out to be the cards to finally make a Gondor-themed deck feasible or something I’m suddenly tempted since it not just adds new cards but also increases the value of cards I already own.  That’s the dangerous hook that Fantasy Flight has created with this system and the brilliant mechanics of the game offer them all sorts of possibilities.

There’s also the looming possibility of Fantasy Flight someday creating organized competitive play which would probably have some draw for me, since I basically got into this game at the ground floor and could actually be competitive.  Right now there are no signs of that happening anytime soon but it’s been discussed and certainly Fantasy Flight is perfectly capable of attempting it.  Whether or not it would succeed with this form of game is another question but that might be yet another hook this game could get in to me.

As a side note, it looks like Fantasy Flight has 7 of the top 15 selling games on Coolstuff, pretty darn impressive.

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I haven’t written a “Boardgame Industry” post for a while but today’s Penny Arcade comic (profanity warning) and column linked to a great Penny Arcade Report article on Days of Wonder and how the Ticket to Ride iPad app has increased sales of the physical game.  The same is apparently true for Small World:

Days of Wonder had already realized the strengths of digital gaming by the time the iPad was released. Digital versions of board games removed the challenges of distribution, since people could just download the program. You ensured that people learned how to play the right way, since the computer wouldn’t let players make the wrong move. The program could explain each turn as it happened. You also removed the fear that players will embarrass themselves by not knowing how to play or that they may appear foolish in front of a large group. With a digital copy of a game, you can sit by yourself and master the game’s rules.

Days of Wonder released a free browser-based version of Ticket to Ride, which became a monstrous success. People began (more…)

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I just read this absolutely fascinating column about what is happening to the pencil and paper role-playing game industry right now, specifically D&D.   The column is written by Ryan Dancey who has a long history in the industry and who ran the D&D unit at Wizards of the Coast for a while back around 1999-2001 time-frame.  Times are not good for Tabletop Role-Playing-Games (TRPG), of which Dungeons and Dragons is the industry standard and market leader and possibly one of the most influential games in the entire history of hobby gaming.

The statistics in the article are grim; in 1995 Dancey estimates there were approximately2,500-3,000 full-line hobby stores in the US that carried TRPG products, along with about 2,500-3,000 mass market book stores that also carried TRPG products and were responsible for roughly half of the sales.  Today he estimates there are fewer than 1,000 hobby stores remaining, possibly as few as 500… and the bookstores have not fared well either, with only around 700 left in business.  In addition, business practices have changed; stores used to buy large lots of product from the publisher, giving the publisher an immediate influx of cash after releasing a new product and putting the risk of sales on the retailer.  Now many stores are buying on consignment, meaning the publisher is now holding all the risk and is only paid when the product actually sells.

The reasons for this decline should be fairly obvious; a general and significant decline in serious hobby tabletop gaming of all kinds, and a lack of adoption by a new generation of gamers due to the much stronger appeal of online MMORPGs.  Dancey doesn’t offer any sales numbers but it’s fairly obvious the drop has been precipitous.

That’s not to say D&D hasn’t tried to vary their business model to adapt… the D&D Online MMO was a (largely failed) attempt at entering the MMO market while Wizards has also been increasing the amount of online resources for the tabletop game, including using a subscription model for online content which I don’t believe has been very successful.

More recently Wizards has turned to the general boardgame community with the D&D Heroscape releases, which met only limited success, and the more recent D&D boardgames which seem to have met a much more solid reception.  Conquest of Nerath looks like it has been a decent hit and the co-operative boardgame series that started with Castle Ravenloft (which I own and have written about here and  here) has continued with Wrath of Ashardalon and Legends of Drizzt and has done very well.

I’ve never played D&D (or any tabletop RPG for that matter) so I have no personal attachment but just out of interest in the industry and the D&D legacy I’m also highly interested to watch how Wizards proceeds forward from this rather unenviable position.

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