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Alliance inspires a large crowd

Published: October 25, 2016
Wizkids unpainted samples1
Open House sign
Mayfair demo to demo1
GW Build and Paint sample1
Exhibit hall
Best of Game Trade
Discussions of upcoming products, brick-and-mortar store support and ways to protect local retailers from predatory online sellers dominated the 2016 Alliance Game Distributors Open House.

This year’s event took place Sept. 9-11 at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne, Ind., the home of Alliance’s Midwest warehouse. The sessions moved to Friday through Sunday this year, instead of last year’s Saturday through Monday schedule.

Representatives from more than 134 retail stores across the U.S. and Canada at-tended the event, along with staff members from Alliance, Diamond Comic Distributors and 82 game manufacturers and publishers.

“This year we celebrated ‘40 Years of Armory and Alliance’—and the turnout was appropriate for a celebration,” said Michael Webb, vice president of marketing and data services for Alliance.

Learning opportunities

The weekend included a mix of educational seminars, game company information sessions, discussion panels and sponsored meals, along with plenty of open game demonstration time.

Mayfair Games led Saturday’s programming with its popular “Demo to Demo Program,” featuring Oh My Goods, Fight for Olympus and Costa Rica. Attendees had to pre-register for the event, which sold out again this year.

Retailers learned how to play and teach all three games, plus re-ceived demonstration copies and printed demo instruction sheets.

Nine companies presented during three rotating sets of retailer focus group sessions. Some of the sessions focused on upcoming products and promotions, while others were engaged discussions about events and policies, particularly those relating to online sales.
Several companies either announced or clarified rules regarding online product sales, including Asmodee for its upcoming Star Wars: Destiny dice and card game. The policies were generally well-received by brick-and-mortar retailers, although some special situations may require more work, such as retailers who contract with an online service for their Web store. If your store sells game products online—especially collectible games—check with your distributor to make sure your offerings follow all of the rules.

The weekend’s nine seminars covered everything from building better communication with your sales rep to successfully reaching new customers. Because many of the presenters are current retailers, the information came from real-world experience, not theory. Attendees chimed in as well, asking questions and sharing their own tips.

The vibe of trading experiences and learning from each other extended into this year’s Best of the Game Trade Awards. The awards are designed to help retailers connect and learn from each other, with the ultimate goal of raising professionalism and profitability throughout the industry. More than 40 stores from around the world were in the running for this year’s honors. In the end, three outstanding stores shared the five prizes (see page 6).

New products
On the exhibit floor, in the meal presentations and during many of the focus groups, manufacturers shared a wealth of new product and promotion information.

“We maxed out the showroom floor with the largest number of exhibiting publishers in my memory for the event,” Webb said, “and had some of the best turnout for our seminars and focus groups I have seen.”

WizKids showed a new line of unpainted plastic miniatures for the first quarter of 2017 that support both the Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder role-playing games. Each package of figures features a mixture of poses (for monsters) or experience levels (for heroes). Packs of items are also available to make scenes more realistic. All miniatures come pre-primed and sculpted with deep cuts to make painting and de-tailing easier for hobbyists at all skill levels.
WizKids also announced four small $20 family board games for the holidays that will make great stocking stuffers, as well as several upcoming Dice Masters expansions in both the Marvel and DC worlds. HeroClix celebrates its 15th anniversary soon, so watch for new products and promotional opportunities.

Games Workshop announced a new line of “Build + Paint” model kits. The first series features Space Marines vs. Orcs. When completed, the six kits in the set form a completed diorama for display. Although the sets do not contain any game instructions, they clearly create a path for potential players to follow into the hobby. Sets are complete with paint, glue and brushes. Set sizes include small at $14.99, medium at $24.99 and large at $34.99.
Iello previewed six titles for fourth-quarter release. The three titles in its small-box line—Schotten Totten, Welcome Back to the Dungeon and Rent-A-Hero—will be available by the end of October, as will Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, the seventh title in its “Tales & Games” series. Iello’s two larger games, Oceanos and Kanagawa, are both expected in November
Calliope Games discussed upcoming releases in its much-anticipated Titans of Gaming line. The first releases should appear by the holidays. These include Running with the Bulls, Menu Masters and the Hive Mind party game.

Wizards of the Coast focused its presentations on the “Bollywood steampunk” Kaladesh release and the new “Planeswalker” decks and bundles for Magic: The Gathering. It also touched on Storm King’s Thunder and Volo’s Guide to Monsters, both for Dungeons and Dragons, along with an expansion for Betrayal at House on the Hill that includes a bathroom tile. (The bathroom tile announcement drew applause from the crowd, so it may delight your customers, as well.)

Catan Studios presented its Rivals for Catan: Deluxe game, the updated Struggle for Catan game and the “Catan Christmas Card.” Organized play options and local store promotion materials are all available from the company.
Looney Labs showed early versions of its upcoming Pyramid Arcade set, which contains 22 games including six award winners and six more new games. Demonstration versions of Arcade will be available from Alliance at 70 percent off retail.
Renegade Games plans a variety of board games for the holiday season, along with a “Santa’s Renegades” promo package. This package, available directly through Alliance, includes special promo pieces for nine Renegade games. Retail stores ordering $350 worth of Renegade products by the end of the year will get 10 free copies of the promo package, while supplies last. Stores can also buy the promo package singly at regular discount.

For stores where dice do well, Q Workshop showed off its new sculpted theme dice sets and announced special pricing on two displays through the end of the year. Upcoming 2017 themed sets include Dr. Who, One Ring RPG, Pathfinder Goblins, and Mythical Metal Dice.

Mayfair announced 2017 expansions for Isle of Skye and Oh My Goods, an updated version of Iron Dragon and an updated all-in-one version of All Creatures Great and Small. For this year’s holiday season, look for The Colonists city-building game, plus the Bag of Bullets and Bag of Hearts Zombie expansions from Twilight Creations, now part of the Mayfair family. It also promoted its new Pre-Release Program, which gives stores an inexpensive demo game, promotional giveaways and two weeks of early access to promote and take pre-orders for the game.

Atlas Games will offer Hounded during the holidays. This 2-player asymmetrical game features a classic theme of dogs chasing a fox. The company also announced a variety of customizable social- media resources, downloadable from

The board game side of Cool Mini or Not, now known by the initials CMON, showed Bloodborne: The Card Game, which is set in the same world as the PS4 video game. Other new or upcoming titles such as Massive Darkness and Rum & Bones will include retailer-exclusive content. Talk with your distributor for more details.
“If this year’s excitement is any indication, the future looks bright for our industry,” Webb said. “I’m energized to be part of the next 40 years in our business.”

Next year’s Alliance Open House takes place Sept. 8-10 in Fort Wayne.

—Contributing editor John Kaufeld

Best of the Game Trade Award winners

• Best New Store Opening: The Round Table, Guelph, Ont.
• Best In-Store Demo Experience: Little Shop of Magic, Las Vegas
• Best Marketing and Merchandising Practices: Rainy Day Games, Aloha, Ore.
• Best Community Engagement: Rainy Day Games, Aloha, Ore.
• Best Preorder Program: Little Shop of Magic, Las Vegas