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Seminars, starships and superheroes fill Alliance Open House

By John Kaufeld
Published: October 4, 2012
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The Alliance Game Distributors booth displays a variety of new games in the exhibit hall at this year's Open House in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Photo by John Kaufeld
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Fantasy Flight's demostration team walks retailers through its new Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game.
Photo by John Kaufeld

The 2012 Alliance Open House brought a host of retailers and game manufacturers to the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind. About 260 retailers representing more than 140 retail outlets attended the show, viewing products and presentations from 60 sponsors, vendors and organizations.

The show’s three-day run from Saturday, Sept. 21, to Sunday, Sept. 23, featured retail seminars, manufacturer focus groups, a packed exhibit hall, and nightly game demonstration sessions. Retailers attending the show took home sample products to boost sales and delight customers in their stores.

Seminars and focus groups opened the event on Friday and continued on Saturday. Topics included promoting your store through social media, improving profitability by paying attention to store layout and customer experience, product diversification, and secrets of finding a great location.

Several manufacturers, including Wizards of the Coast,Fantasy Flight and Days of Wonder, ran focus groups and product presentations to educate retailers on upcoming products. Mayfair Games offered another of its popular Demo-2-Demo events, teaching retailers how to play three games and providing demonstration copies of the games for their stores.

Also part of the open house was the inaugural Best of the Game Trade awards, which honored outstanding professionalism among retailers. The first round of awards had 58 nominees in seven categories. The winners were selected by retailers in attendance in a secret-ballot vote. 

Rainy Day Games in Aloha, Ore., won awards for Best Collectible Card Game Section, Best Board and Family Game Section, and Best Organized Play. Epic Loot Games and Comics in Centerville, Ohio, won awards for Best Gaming Area and Best Miniatures Section. Books, Comics and Things in Fort Wayne, Ind., won the award for Best Role Playing Game Section. And Lone Star Comics in Dallas won the award for Best Window Display.

New product announcements and organized play previews highlighted Saturday’s breakfast, lunch and dinner presentations.

Fantasy Flight showed upcoming expansions for its popular X-Wing Miniatures Game. Samples of the Millennium Falcon and Slave 1 were well-received by the crowd. Fantasy Flight also demonstrated its innovative in-store promotional system, the Fantasy Flight Media Center. Stores that purchase $999 worth of Fantasy Flight products receive the Media Center free. Retailers can get full details about the program at www.ffmediacenter.com or by talking with their distributor. 

Diamond Select Toys announced a number of new licensed products from brands such as Star Trek, Marvel, Star Wars and the Walking Dead comic. New products included a classic Star Trek Klingon Disruptor, vinyl Yoda and R2-D2 statues, neon Boba Fett and Darth Vader helmet signs, neon Marvel superhero signs, and a Walking Dead gelatin head mold.

Wizards of the Coast talked up its Kaijudo game, focusing on the strength of its cross-marketing efforts, which bring together local organized play along with the television series and online play. 

Building on its success with the Cthulhu Fluxx demo sets, Looney Labs announced new demo kits focusing on its pyramid games. The Cadet Training set includes a multiweek training system to help local volunteers teach and promote the pyramid games, while the Holiday Gift Promo kit ties your store into Looney’s annual holiday promotion.

WizKids announced many months of Marvel and DC HeroClix releases along with updates on Pathfinder Battles, its Star Trek ship-to-ship combat game and expansions to its Quarriors dice series. Notable releases include new vehicles in DC HeroClix Batman (coming in November), Romulan ships in Star Trek Tactics (November release), and a seasonal holiday figure promotion featuring Mephisto, the Holiday Elf and White Lantern Batman. Looking ahead to 2013, watch for a Lord of the Rings dice game built on the Quarriors system, new HeroClix Spider-Man and HeroClix Teen Titans sets, and a HeroClix Iron Man 3 movie tie-in set.

Days of Wonder brought back Mystery of the Abbey and Pirate's Cove, two long-out-of-production games that are sure to please customers looking for casual games. Days of Wonder announced Ticket to Ride Map Collection 3: The Heart of Africa along with a reprint of its Map Collection 1. Days of Wonder previewed the Halloween Freighter, a limited-edition set of pumpkin-laden trains to spice up your Ticket to Ride set. The Halloween Freighter is available for pre-order, and will ship in mid-October. Days of Wonder also talked up its retailer demo program (available through Alliance), offering retailers big discounts on demonstration games.

A variety of other companies showed new and recent releases in the exhibit hall and in the open demo area. Asmodee demonstrated Libertalia and Seasons, and previewed Serenissima (October release). Global Games Distributors showed Sheepland and Siberia. Foxmind games engaged retailers with Fauna and String Railroad

Zvezda, known for its detailed plastic model kids, was on hand showing its Art of Tactic historical miniatures games. Samurai Battles puts players in charge of historical armies in Japan, while World War II Operation Barbarossa puts players in command of World War II units.

Out of the Box Games had retailers laughing with Snake Oil, a new party game release that won the Mensa Award. Stronghold Games featured a pair of engaging strategy games, Crude: The Oil Game and Milestones. Z-Man focused on Atlantis Rising and Africana, both strong Euro-style games.

Next year’s Alliance Open House takes place Oct. 4–6, 2013, in Fort Wayne.

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