Eh. After watching three episodes of The Toy Box, the toy-focused, Shark Tank like television show on ABC, I’m not impressed. Though, perhaps I’m jaded from 9 years attending Toy Fair… Actually, some of the toys in the first three episodes of The Toy Box weren’t bad. But not bad just doesn’t cut it. I mean, Mattel, who promises to produce the winning toy, doesn’t need a televised national competition to come up with dolls that have ballet costumes and a couple of extra degrees of articulation.
Not that a decently made new doll, or nested foam sports balls, couldn’t find some room in the marketplace. These ideas, though, do nothing for a large established toy company like Mattel, which has many designers on staff, as well as existing relationships with experienced outside inventors. Frankly, I don’t think the average viewer either is going to be much impressed.
The concept, I believe, has a lot of potential but the first three episodes so far haven’t realized it. The mentors representing the first on-screen evaluation stage are far too calm and gentle. Here’s a guy who sold his house and moved back in with his mother to finance production of a kind of plush he didn’t realize was already in the market from a different company. Another contestant’s brilliant idea is to make a stiff curved swing-set seat specifically for kids to stand on. Does that really require $130 specialized equipment? Definitely not. But throughout, the panel of expert mentors is calm and polite and barely challenges the inventors other than to express “concerns”. Liven it up guys!
By the way, let me say from personal experience, with an emergency room visit and stitches to the head, that standing on a swing-set seat is not a safe activity for children!
The second evaluation stage in each episode—before a panel of four children judges—you’d think would be a lot more fun to watch. Unfortunately, it just isn’t. Eleven year-old actors paid to look young and recite adult lines are lacking in chemistry and spontaneity.
Now maybe you think differently. Maybe you have more confidence in what will come out of this series. If so, you should know that the final chosen toy—whatever that will turn out to be—is already in production and will be sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us beginning May 20th. Toys “R” Us is also running a sweepstakes, where the grand prize includes travel for four to Los Angeles, a tour of Mattel headquarters, $1,500 in gift cards, and a meeting with the show’s winning inventor.
Also, if you think you have the perfect toy or game for Mattel, MysticArt Pictures is already casting inventors for a second season. And a U.K. version of the show has been licensed to Electus International. Maybe that one will be better. I hope so.
Badges for the newest PAX convention go on-sale next Wednesday, May 3rd. Other PAX events have sold out, so if you’re interested don’t hesitate.
PAX Unplugged takes place November 17-19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The event is a joint effort of Penny Arcade and ReedPOP, and will focus entirely on tabletop games.
Posted by Rob Kalajian as Card Games
Cheapass Games has just announced the Button Men will be rising from the ashes in a new Kickstarter campaign that upgrades the classic James Ernest game from pin-back buttons to deluxe cards. Set in Fight City, a fictional 1950’s gangster town located somewhere on the Gulf Coast, the new Button Men game features four warring factions, each with their own style of play. Even though Button Men is now a card game the name still works since a “button man” is a low-level gangster.
While the game is getting a facelift, the rules are pretty much the same. This means that the new card-driven game will still be compatible with your old button collection.
The new campaign should be up sometime today and will have reward levels from $15 all the way up to $485.
For 15% off games from HasbroToyShop.com, use promo code “GAMES2017”.
HasbroToyShop.com also runs an eBay store front where many games are discounted more than at its namesake web site.
Here’s a coupon for 15% off at Toys “R” Us that’s good through tomorrow.
Dog Might Games Huge Inventory Sale means 20% off all in-stock items.
Blog and podcast giveaways:
Dungeon Masters Guild Megabundle #2 highlights products from the top-30 bestselling community authors for 87% off.
Currently available at Bundle of Holding are two deals for 4th edition Champions, Essentials and Universe. To get the Bonus Collections of both will cost around $70 but between the two, you’d get more than 60 books. Also being offered by Bundle of Holding is Rocket Age, the RPG of retro-style science-fiction from Cubicle 7, and East Texas University, modern high school horror setting for Savage Worlds.
CoolStuffInc’s 15th Anniversary Celebration features many games at significant discount, such as Pandemic Legacy for 52% off, SeaFall for 56% off, and a MtG Modern Masters 2017 booster box for 21% off.
Through the end of the month, furniture orders from Geek Chic qualify for free accessories.
ACD Distribution is giving away a Pokemon: Sun & Moon Elite Trainer Box.
Hasbro is getting in to the subscription box business with the launch this summer of Hasbro Gaming Crate. At $50 each, the boxes will be delivered four times per year and contain three brand new games. Customers will be able to subscribe to either family or party game versions of the box. In this case, “party” means edgier adult games.
An early adopter of crowdfunding, Tasty Minstrel Games is now looking to raise general operating and marketing funds through equity crowdfunding portal MicroVentures. The company says it has three games in development, 15 in production, and has sold over 400,000 units since 2010. It appears that any return on a crowdfunding investment could only come about through the sale of shares back to the company or if the company as a whole was sold at some point in the future. But equity crowdfunding is significantly more complex that your typical game project. Read those documents carefully.
Calliope Games has been doing a great job with its focus on easier-going strategy games. Next in that line is to be Dicey Peaks, currently funded and aiming for stretch-goals in its final hours on Kickstarter. I got a brief preview of Dicey Peaks at Toy Fair. It’s a push-your-luck dice game of mountain-climbing. To win, players must make their way to the summit while managing their oxygen and avoiding yeti attacks.
With Commands & Colors: Tricorne from Compass Games, designer Richard Borg takes his C&C card-driven system to the American Revolution. The game will include more than 300 wood blocks, printed dice, a mounted map-board, and separate decks of combat cards to represent the differentiated strategies of the British and Colonials.
On the verge of funding is another block war game, Combat Infantry. Columbia Games’s version of squad-level combat in World War II, this one emphasizes fog-of-war with blocks that are single-sided and rotate to record current strength. The box will include six historical scenarios from the invasion of Normandy, as well as four additional generic scenarios.
Tesla vs. Edison: Duel is an abbreviated, two-player card game that covers the same history of early electric utilities as Artana’s full Tesla vs. Edison board game. Most importantly, the company finally included Samuel Insull, my favorite personality of the period.
Kenzer and Company is on Kickstarter for the first time with Aces & Eights: Reloaded, a revised edition of its wild-west roleplaying game. Kenzer promises a second edition “chock-full of new rules, tweaks, art and other enhancements,” while maintaining the game’s unique shot-clock, a targeting overlay for fun old-west style shoot-outs.
Phil Reed, CEO of Steve Jackson Games, published the company’s annual Report to the Stakeholders today. In it, the company revealed that they had a second year of decline from 2014’s high of $8.5 million to $6 million. The main reasons cited for the income slowdown were delays on planned releases of Car Wars Sixth Edition and the Munchkin Collectible Card Game. With the delay on Car Wars, Mr. Reed writes it was due to “an insistence on making the game exactly the way we want it. We would rather not ship the game than ship a game that doesn’t meet our standards.” They are also seeking to get the Munchkin CCG ready to print by the end of the year.
The company looks to have a difficult year ahead for it, with the Ogre Kickstarter campaign from 2012 still not completed. “We are still sinking time into the project,” he writes, even though “we’re seeing real progress; several outstanding pieces of the project are finally coming to a close. Whew.”
Issues with the GURPS line have been problematic for the company as well. Two hardcover books for the GURPS line, Discworld and Mars Attacks, were released but performed poorly at retail. “Today’s cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there.” Also tying up resources at the company is the Dungeon Fantasy GURPS introductory box set. Reed writes, “what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss.”
But it isn’t all doom and gloom: Munchkin continues to do well with reprints, Guest Artist Editions, and expanding into Walgreens. In the top twenty products sold by dollar volume, all but three were Munchkin related. The company released five new games which appear to have done well at retail, and Zombie Dice had to go back to reprint due to “unexpected demand during the fourth quarter” of 2016. “A game from 2010 that keeps outselling our forecast is good and bad, but we’ll take this situation over the opposite problem any day.”
Currently on Kickstarter: two review(ish) boardgame shows looking to do awesome stuff in their sixth year. Rahdo Runs Through is looking for funding for a sixth year of production, with most of his $30,000 goal reached. Rahdo’s funding comes through yearly campaigns like this: no YouTube ads are on his channel of gameplay videos. The Secret Cabal, a gaming podcast, looks to expand their offerings to video, additional programming, and more by making co-host Jamie Keagy a full-time media producer for the group. They’ve already hit this goal and offer several promo packs for a variety of games at a $45 pledge level.
I’ve always liked the games with transparent cards (see Gloom and Ren Faire from Atlas Games and Gamewright’s Imagine). XYbird is a monster-makin’ game that uses these cool components. Following your diabolical secret agenda (well, secret “breakthrough” cards), you build monsters from the lab with a combination of the 116 transparent cards to become the most infamous mad… no, genius scientist extraordinaire! The world will be yours! Or at least this cool game will be yours in November, for a $29 pledge.
Now I like the design of the ships in Star Eagles, a miniature spaceship combat game, and at $60 for a physical starter set good for two players, I don’t think the pricing of the game is off. But the lore or setting of the game is an original IP and isn’t spelled out on the campaign page apart from “here are some humans” and “here are the aliens” and “they fight”. The sculpts look great and the game system is said to adapt most small-ship fighting battles, so if you have some Cylon Raiders and Colonial Vipers handy… The pdf of the rules will be available in July along with files for your 3d printer, physical copies are to be available in September.
I have to recommend Lizard People: Lords of the Media for an interesting party game. I’m having a difficult time deciding if I should put it next to the “It’s just like Cards Against Humanity, except _____” graphic, because while it plays like Apples to Apples combined with Texas Hold ‘Em, somehow it looks… good? Like there’s an actual game here and not just like a fresh coat of paint on an already-acclaimed game design?
Here’s the deal: we’re all lizard people and we’re manipulating the media by pitching headlines for articles in the hopes of gaining favor with the editor so he’ll give us a human meat-suit disguise so we can walk among the humans and be One of Them. The editor plays three word cards from their hand (Horse, CEO, Uncovers) then the other players use at least two of those words in combination with their cards to create an article headline (Human CEO Discovers Teen Were- Horse). Editor picks the best, awarding a human body part covering to the winner. A $16 pledge will get you a copy of the game in December.
Boards Alive is giving away Sunken Treasures, an expansion for Clank! by Renegade Game Studios.
Sign up for Fat Dragon Games’ newsletter and get a free 3D model (STL file) each month. For April, it’s a model of a worship font. Last month, it was an altar.
White Wizard Games is giving away two sets of score-tracking cards for Star Realms.
Cool Stuff Inc. is giving away a Runwars Miniatures Game from FFG with painted figures.
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (WWI), Microgame Design Group is giving away a free copy of its Vimy Ridge game with every order.
Rebel Minis is running its annual Spring Sale. Everything is 20% off with coupon code “Spring17”.
Buffalo Games’ Spring Sale includes all puzzles and games at 25% off.
ACD Distribution is giving away Escape From 100 Million BC from IDW Games.
ACD Distribution is looking to hire a Sales Representative in Middleton, Wisconsin. The job involves cold-calling and managing existing customer relationships. “Knowledge of and a passion for board games are a definite plus.”
TCGplayer has a number of openings in Syracuse, New York. Some are for software development; others are for some aspect of project management and customer relations.
Green Ronin is recruiting women for contract work on its upcoming Lost Citadel Roleplaying Game.
Patrick Leder, owner of Leder Games and designer of Vast: The Crystal Caverns, needs all-around help running his company—production, customer service, marketing, all of it—so he can focus on product development. The position he wants to fill, Operations Coordinator, is part-time and contract and can be done remotely, though proximity to the Twin Cities would be an advantage.