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Screams from the Cave 2008
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Christmas Gift Guide 2007 (11/30/07)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2007 (8/17/07)
GAMA Trade Show 2007 report (4/27/07)
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Archive highlights
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 2
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 1
Frag Beta Capsule Review (4/14/01)
Battle Cattle Minis Preview (2/28/01)

Convention Report: GAMA Trade Show 2007
by Lee Valentine

Lee Valentine is the President of the Veritas Games Company, publisher of the non-collectible, customizable card game "Powerstorm" featuring art from Top Cow's comics. A regular OgreCave poster and Cave dweller, Lee has sent in his take on GAMA Trade Show 2007, as seen from an exhibitor's point of view. We've added some links where appropriate, and invite you to post your comments here.

In my never-ending quest to get declared an honorary Ogre (or an Ogre-in-training), I present you with my GTS wrap-up report.

That said, to cover my embarrassment if this is rambling, realize that I was exhibiting and trying to report for OgreCave, and thus I typed most of this at 1AM or 2AM each day after working the whole day. Some of the "facts" I'm claiming should be taken with a grain of salt, since, as a publisher and not a retailer, I didn't get a chance to attend the retailer-only events and had to interview people about them.

The first day of the show (Monday) the decorator staff seemed incredibly disorganized (or at least behind schedule) and setup was slow for the exhibit hall I was in. We had to go back many times asking for things from the decorator. Many of us didn't have our booth packages delivered until about 3PM, making us wait around needlessly. Other tables weren't setup until after 5 o'clock.

A number of the exhibitors were surprised by an unannounced change to the union contract for Bally's. You couldn't bring in your own materials through the loading dock and instead had to pay drayage fees to get your materials in, unless you wanted to carry them all the way through the hotel. This wasn't the end of the world.

I stayed at Bally's on Sunday night but later moved to Circus Circus. While the older rooms at Circus Circus are supposed to be less than desirable, the newer Main Tower rooms were substantially cheaper than Bally's. Circus Circus is also close to the Hilton which contains Star Trek: The Experience, which is one of the coolest (read "geekiest fun") things to do in Las Vegas (and one of the only things I intended on visiting a couple of times before I left).

The GAMA Staff had a great idea that was poorly advertised and thus underutilized. They put up lots of empty tables in the smaller exhibit call for people to socialize and for exhibitors to run demonstrations. Unfortunately, I'm not sure most of the exhibitors were informed about this, and thus did not bring extra staff. Without extra staff to man both booth and demo tables, the demo tables largely ended up being empty space dividing one part of the Game Publishers Association area from another, and serving only as a pit stop for weary retailers who happened upon the locale.

The first exhibit hall day for the show (Tuesday) was reasonably busy (at least in my hall, the smaller of the two) but not as busy as last year. However, on Wednesday many exhibitors in both exhibit halls reported that most of the day brought them next to no traffic at all. It was like Games Expo quiet for much of the day, and was very, very disappointing. Thursday wasn't a lot better - I got much more traffic by my booth last year at GTS and all I had was a postcard, some posters, and no product at all. So, something was definitely up.

Some theorized that Games Expo had taken a bite out of attendance at GTS. Possibly true, but I saw many folks at GTS who I'd just seen at Games Expo. I felt that show attendance was down. As one of the major publishers noted, "I guess this year is a wash for trade shows and we have to look forward to next year."

Now, to their credit, the retailers we were meeting were high quality business people interested in picking up products or at least testing them out. That said, the low attendance at GTS really meant that the per-contact costs incurred (in terms of travel, etc.) were very high, at least for us.

A lot more foreign store owners and distributors were wandering the hall this year as compared to last year's GTS and this year's Games Expo. Few were committing to buy into much of anything from us, though.

Advertising and Promotions
I continue to be amazed at how truly excellent Fantasy Flight's advertising bags are. For those who haven't attended a recent Gen Con or GTS, Fantasy Flight created these huge rectangular custom printed bags that are about the size of your torso. They are perfect at Gen Con for holding purchases or at GTS for holding free swag. They are so large and colorful that they are giant walking billboards for the company and, in my opinion, are simply a much better investment than any straight print advertising one can do at a show like GTS.

Speaking of great promotions, Boyan Radakovich, a GPA member, produces a game called High School Drama, a game which was just nominated for an Origins Award. Apparently GAMA had some additional space available, and was looking for something to do with it. Radakovich cleverly lept upon the chance and talked GAMA into throwing a dance called the "High School Prom" with Radakovich as master of ceremonies. Marcelo Figueroa of AEG carried around a laptop full of music and was the DJ for the evening. While I was too busy getting my geek on at Star Trek: The Experience to attend, I heard that a good time was had by all, and quite a number of people dressed up and got in the spirit of the prom-themed event.

According to a retailer that I interviewed, WizKids gave away up to a case of product to select retailers who showed up at their event wearing a HeroClix-themed Heralds of Galactus t-shirt.

I expect more readers and listeners will tune into the OgreCave Audio Report in the upcoming weeks because Mike Stackpole was wandering the halls passing out podcast business card binders to some retailers and most exhibitors. [Thanks, Mike!]

The Seminar circuit
Seminars were again largely retailer-oriented, although there was generally at least one publisher-oriented seminar per day. The type and diversity of the seminars for retailers was good, but not largely varied from the previous year. The publisher seminars were different and had some interesting topics, but were again too sparse for my taste - GAMA is not really thoughtfully dedicating equal air time to a publisher track like Games Expo did.

I really feel that the GTS folks have to rethink their seminars if they want publishers to be able to attend. The seminars continue up until the exact time that the exhibit halls open. Since many of us have some booth prep to do or have to conduct business in the hall, seminars that started a little earlier and ended a little earlier for exhibitors would be much more sound.

The best seminar I attended was headed up by James Mishler, editor of Comics and Games Retailer magazine. The seminar topic was marketing, and even though James intended on talking primarily to publishers, a bunch of retailers showed up and he adapted the presentation. Now, the coolest thing about this seminar is that James was very free about letting people ask questions and dialogue, and it was the first time in all my time dealing with the gaming industry that publishers and retailers had a forum to tell each other about what they needed from each other in terms of product information, demo materials, etc. to successfully get a game on the shelves and move it. Retailers, for instance, seemed a little surprised that, unless they contacted a publisher directly, the publisher wouldn't know to list the store on their "Retailer Locator" service. It's not something you think about, but distributors typically don't tell publishers who is buying their games. Just an example of how important dialogues between retailers and publishers are, and how insulated we can become as a result of our often indirect interaction with each other due to the presence of the third tier - the wholesale distributors - who we both more frequently deal with. GAMA should take note of the value of this type of dialogue and should actually set aside opportunities for this type of group dialogue at every GTS.

Retailers had a seminar slot on Wednesday about the "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" at the show. The seminar was supposed to allow Retailers to dialogue about what they've noted at the show that their peers might not have seen. I wasn't able to attend, but perhaps worth a shout out to other retailer attendees to see if there were any show sleepers or losers. [Post in our comments after reading Lee's report, if the mood strikes you]

In distributor news, Centurion and Premiere Hobby Distributors have merged, reportedly under the Premiere name, but I couldn't verify the new name for the merged company. Since this follows hot on the heels of the Canadian New Century/Universal merger it makes me wonder if something is happening at the lower tiers of distribution that OgreCave listeners ought to keep an eye on.

Products and Hype
Let's move on to the meat of the show - the products. Now, I got to actually demo precious few of these, so I'll tell you the ones that caught my eye based on look, theme, and marketing. I interviewed people about these products as much as I could.

John Nephew of Atlas Games reminded me that the coffee table book 40 Years of Gen Con is due out later this summer. I forgot all about this product, but I think OgreCave had a post on this a while back. The book will feature the musings of many key publishers and attendees of Gen Cons past.

Atlas Games and Seventh Circle (a French gaming company) continue to have a strong business relationship. I believe that Seventh Circle carries French versions of Atlas Games' products over in Europe. However, John Nephew of Atlas Games revealed to me that Seventh Circle's upcoming Jack the Ripper boardgame London 1888 will not be published in the U.S. by Atlas. Nephew said that the game is gorgeous and apparently plays well, but the components are too involved to manufacture right now, and so Atlas is setting aside the chance to produce the Ripper board game for now. If somebody's smart and has the wherewithal to accomplish it, they'll connect with Seventh Circle and arrange to get their board games printed and translated into English - the game I saw at Gen Con 2006 looked fantastic.

Red Juggernaut, headed up by Jim Long, made their first GTS exhibitor appearance. Jim has years of experience working with WizKids and a lot of experience working with licensing, fund raising, and dealing with Chinese manufacturers. If the industry press knows what they are doing, they'll watch Red Juggernaut like a hawk, because Red Juggernaut may, in my opinion, be the next up-and-comer in the board game category. Expect to see them nominated for an award at Origins in the next year or two.

Red Juggernaut has a variety of new board games coming out this summer and fall which look to be well thought out and well designed. The two of the games I've seen thus far have both had themes associated with history or foreign cultures. One game, called Battue, is about a group of Mongols raiders trying to control the areas of a major city. Robin Laws and other industry names are reportedly already working on fleshing out the background of the world Battue is set in so that future product expansions will have a story to them. If Laws is indeed involved and Battue takes off, I'd guess that Red Juggernaut may have a property in a year or so that they could leverage into an RPG with a small audience if they wanted.

Another game Red Juggernaut has in the works is called Mansuba. It's like a complex, intriguing game of Chinese Checkers using a board and pieces with an Egyptian theme. The pieces have certain powers over each other, that makes their position and movement relative to each other very important.

Another game company to watch is Tenacious Games, trying to prove that a new company can make a serious mark with a CCG. Tenacious' only product is The Spoils. For people who have been in a cave for the last year, The Spoils is a new CCG on the market that gave away thousands upon thousands of cards for free last year during a process called "the Open Beta". The Spoils is themed with custom IP surrounding a world that looks like Cthulhu, crossed with steampunk, crossed with the movie The Gangs of New York. Set in a sort of pseudo-Europe filled with a menagerie of creatures like catmen who control the banking industry, The Spoils is an IP which will undoubtedly be leveraged into other properties if the folks at Tenacious Games have their say about it. Many people have categorized the Spoils as a Magic-clone with a better resource mechanic. Whatever you make of the game, it's clear that Tenacious Games believes you have to spend money to make money. They have just announced that they have two touring buses going across the country, stopping at key cities around the U.S. to hold card tournaments and give away cold, hard cash. While Upper Deck's Vs. System is still a solid seller in the market, if Upper Deck reduces the amount of money available to their Pro Tour as expected, then players looking for cash tournaments may move from the Vs. System to The Spoils. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen.

White Wolf had a new movie monster themed boardgame that I barely saw, but it may be worth taking a look at. It involves playing a movie style monster wandering around and eating human flesh. [This was Monster Mayhem, which White Wolf just posted a components preview of today]

4Kids Entertainment is trying to make a big splash with their new Chaotic CCG. It apparently has unique alphanumeric codes on cards (like Bella Sara) which let players type in the code online to gain access to a virtual copy of the card for online play. Supposedly there's a tie-in with a kids' TV series, but I haven't seen the series myself. If Chaotic and/or Bella Sara (see below) are successful, you can expect a growing number of games to try this key code on their cards. In the past some companies have feared releasing online versions which might cannibalize sales of real cards, but this model may encourage sales of print cards to interface with the virtual games.

At the WizKids booth I got to see the new Star Wars constructable minis game. For what they were and the price on them, they seemed pretty neat. If retailers can let out a scream of anguish and get over the doubly collectible nature of the product (collectible ships plus collectible cards), then this hybrid CCG/minis game may just sell because of the Star Wars license, the price point, and the look of the product (which was pretty good given that it features miniatures put together out of punched out styrene cards).

I also saw WizKids new Action Clix: Halo figures. I'll let you make your own judgement on these. I don't know if these were early release figures or what. The sculptures themselves were not bad, but the paint jobs on them were so monochromatic that I cannot honestly say they were anywhere near as appealing as the HeroClix or HorrorClix figures.

Hidden City Games did a Bella Sara presentation and had a booth. The new horse-themed CCG for girls did not make a favorable impression on the one retailer I interviewed at the show, and he claimed others were falling asleep during the presentation he saw. Still, I've talked with other retailers who said they were able to move the product well among the younger girls who wandered into their store. I suspect that this will be a hit or a bomb depending on the store and it's target audience. It's the kind of game you'll have to push hard to build interest, but once you do it might start to gain a life of its own.

AEG did a major presentation and gave away a lot of swag. While I wasn't invited to the retailer-only event, I heard from some that AEG is releasing a new Warlord online CCG. According to the retailer that I spoke to AEG is willing to give away lots of free demo CD-ROMs to stores, and have some plan associated with the CD-ROMs so that somehow if a store helps to get a player into the online Warlord game, the referring store will continue to get a percentage of the profits that AEG makes from the sale of online Warlord booster packs, etc. AEG seems to be regrouping this year and really, really focusing on their Legends of the Five Rings and Warlord product lines. But John Zinser of AEG plans to release a new board game this summer that he designed.

I saw a game that has long been on the market but was totally new to me. It was Front Porch Classics' Dread Pirate game. The game has two versions at two different price points. One version features a standard board with plastic components. The other version is one a cloth board with beautiful metal ships and metal pirate coins. A well-displayed version of the metal version of this game is bound to sell in the right shops. The plastic version was visually less impressive.

Speaking of pirates, Bent Castle Workshops has a new deck of standard playing cards with custom drawn pirate art. I got to see the sell sheets, but not the actual product. The art I saw looked good. Retailers looking to make a buck off the upcoming third part of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy would do well to carry a modest supply of the pirate products seen at GTS this year. Supposedly Bent Castle makes another pirate game called Skallywags, but I didn't see it at the show.

Bent Castle also has a game that just came out called Numbers League. It's a math-based game that has a superhero theme. I think it's primarily targeted at younger kids, although it may have some appeal to adults as a game to play with their kids. The company behind this is going all out to market it and are looking to leverage the IP into an animated feature or series of some kind, and are already talking to people about it, although it sounded like there was no firm commitment from anyone to produce such an animated series.

Kenzer and Company folks were wandering around the hall in western garb, looking sharp, and pushing their new game Aces and Eights.

Technomancer Press has a booklet on teaching RPGs to young children.

If your store features puzzles instead of just games, the Family Games booth had a series of puzzles themed around history and myth ranging from pyramids to the Da Vinci codex. Each puzzle in the Sacred Myths and Legends series can be solved as a stand alone process, but solving an earlier puzzle in the set helps you unlock the next puzzle in the set.

Your Move Games really went all out in support of their Battleground "card-based miniatures" product line which now features even more race decks, a 15 square foot laminated terrain pack, and a scenario book. Chad Ellis of YMG said, "The most exciting thing for us has been the great response to Battleground becoming a full product line."

Sevinpold Games was also there with their Castles of Sevinpold game. I haven't seen this game carried anywhere, but it's worth mentioning. Ogre Cave readers may remember me mentioning this on my notes from GENCON 2006. If the price point hasn't risen, I thought this was an attractive game with a lot of fun components for the price. The rules had a couple of problems if the game is played by super rules lawyers, but for general play it is fun and very different. One player is in charge of an ever-growing Nazgul-like population of dark warriors and the rest of the players assemble against the forces of darkness, and they travel throughout the land gathering magical artifacts in attempt to bring back an ancient ruler to the throne of Sevinpold.

Crunch Waffle Enterprises is a GPA member I was next to. They produce fantastic miniatures. Some of them have an artsy but historical feel to them, such as Native Americans, and Asian martial artists and samurai. They also produce a gorgeous hula dancer figurine. Additionally the produce a wide variety of miniatures representing fantasy monsters that were novel but somewhat silly. The company is working on releasing a skirmish set of rules for their figurines. One retailer complained about one problem with them -- they are available in distribution only from one smaller distributor, and so it's hard to restock just a few of their miniatures at a time without eating a lot of shipping costs. Even he agreed that the miniatures were great and moved in his shop. Check out their website and if you find them intriguing give out shout out to your distributor to bring these guys on board.

If gamers you know love the CSI shows consider taking a look at the card/tile game Inquest the Game. It's a game of forensics and law. I didn't get a chance to demo it, but a quick glance caught my attention. I suspect the market for this is limited in the hobby game industry, but that it might do quite well in book stores.

Both Ken Whitman of RapidPOD and Mike Sager of Thunder Castle Games revealed to me that they had had a verious serious disagreement concerning the Highlander CCG (which Rapid POD was doing print on demand releases for). The game is still in production with a different printer. Supposedly a press release was made concerning the dispute but I don't personally recall hearing about it before GTS.

Dragonfire Laser Crafts owns an Epilog laser cutting machine capable of engraving and precision cutting about any kind of game component. Publishers looking for nice prototypes are advised to check out Dragonfire's capabilities.

Overall I thought the show was interesting, although I think I would have enjoyed the show a lot better wandering the hall than manning the Veritas Games Company booth.

In closing, I'd like to tell folks who haven't been to Vegas before, that they should visit the fountains at Bellagio, the pirate ship show at Treasure Island, and the waterfall/volcano at Mirage. All these shows are free and are entertaining spectacles. Of course Star Trek geeks with a little cash to burn should visit the Hilton for Star Trek: The Experience. If you are into drinking, multiple gamers told me that the Warp Core Breach drink at Quark's Bar at the Hilton is incredible.

This effectively wraps up my OgreCave field report on GTS. Let me know if you have questions and feel free to post corrections or clarifications if you are more in the know than me.

Deputy Ogre Lee signing out.

Lee Valentine
Veritas Games Company, LLC


OgreCave extends its hearty thanks to Lee for his whirlwind tour of GTS '07. Thanks, Lee!


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