News, reviews, business articles and site updates for a board games store in Canada

Summer Promo: $100 Free Shipping Treshold

May 24th, 2016 Posted in general, site updates | No Comments »

Free Shipping at $100!Now that Summer’s pretty much here, we’ve decided to lower our free shipping threshold in Canada from $175 to $100. Yes, that’s right. $100.

What’s the catch? Our usual free shipping policies apply.  The $100 threshold is per order and is calculated after discounts but before taxes and shipping is calculated.  Furthermore, if your order has pre-order / backorder items on it, we will hold the entire order till all items in the order are ready for shipping.

Of course, at the new $100 level, you should be able to split your orders quite easily to ensure everything that everything that is in-stock is in one order and everything that is a backorder on another.

Once again, this promotion is running for all of Summer and is scheduled to end August 31, 2016.

Happy Ordering!

 

 

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The Game Wizard (Part 2)

May 21st, 2016 Posted in business | No Comments »

Game Wizard 3.0I’ve recently gone on a spree revamping the Game Wizard once more.  The last time I touched it was in November when I wanted it a bit more up to date for the Christmas season, but we were still missing large chunks of new releases.  This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the backend processes, so if you haven’t read the previous post, you should.

Changing Goals

I’ve been thinking about the nature of the Game Wizard in comparison to a flowchart (which is what we initially based the Wizard off).  With a traditional flowchart, you really only want a few answers (mostly yes / no) since this allows people to track their path more easily. With the Wizard though, we can ask more open ended questions with multiple answers since we reload the page with the new question each time.    That leads to much ‘shorter’ paths while providing the same amount of information.

However, one danger we wanted to avoid was replicating what our filters already do on our category page.  We don’t want to ask questions like ‘how many players’ or ‘how long do you want to play’ even if we would ask those questions in real life, because those kind of questions are already best answered by our filter system.  A customer could go to the main category page and choose their options there, filtering by the various criteria to individual games.

Instead, what we want the Game Wizard to do is ask the sillier / more thematic or generic questions, the kinds you might ask a friend who is standing in front of your game library.  You don’t necessarily want to say ‘how many players’, but rather ‘are you looking for something more thematic or strategy’? You know already, to some extent the games you can offer, what you want to know is what would suit them best at that moment.

The Lucky Few

By the very nature of the Wizard, we are narrowing down our options of games significantly.  We host over 5,000 board games (okay, card games and miniatures too) on the site. There’s no point asking specific questions to differentiate each and every game.  Instead, you have to choose a few.  So how do we do that? The usual really. Personal taste, sales and critical acclaim.  While I might weigh a little more to games I personally enjoy occasionally, if there’s a bestseller out there, I”m going to do my best to ensure it gets added to the Wizard somewhere.

That creates a circle of course, of bestselling games getting more attention which generate more sales which generates more attention.  It’s why I let things like my personal taste and other critical reviews have a say once in a while.  It’s also one of the reasons why we prefer the wizard, there’s no physical ‘space’ constraints we have to worry and the ability to ask more open-ended questions means we can have more answers, which can highlight some great less well known games.

The Flowchart

Will we ever return to editing the flowchart we created? I don’t know. In some ways, the flowchart being a picture has been spread much further than our Game Wizard even though we feel it’s an inferior product.  There’s too many limitations to the form.  If we ever did, we’d have to hire a professional designer to redesign the infographic once again and that would mean editing the various Q&A’s we created.

The Ask

One thing we do want is some feedback on the Wizard. Are the Q&A’s doing their job.  Are you getting where you want to go? Are you learning anything new? Have you tried it with new gamers? Do they like it? What answers / branches could we add?

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New Board Games: May 20th, 2016

May 20th, 2016 Posted in general, new releases | No Comments »

8-28
A Game of Thrones LCG: True Steel Chapter Pack (2nd Edition)
Magic The Gathering: Shadows Over Innistrad Gift Box
Orc Dice Bag
Pirate Dice Bag
POOP: The Brown Bag Combo
Riff Raff
Roma
Raverun
Steampunk Dice Bag
Targi (Restock)
T.I.M.E. Stories (Restock)

true steel

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Grow or Perish

May 18th, 2016 Posted in business | 2 Comments »

Grow or dieOne of the aspects about any business is that to a certain extent, you are always forced to grow.  Standing still (in terms of revenue at the very least) is death.  Every year, your costs go up (unless you are lucky / down-sizing for some reason).  A real world example – our product shipping cost has grown by a good 4% in the last 2  years due to the fact that we have to buy from Canadian distributors rather than US distributors.   As mentioned, our portion of real estate taxes doubled in 3 years.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   Every year, costs go up.

As a business, you need to grow your revenues at least enough to cover the increase in costs.   That means you need to see a 2% increase at the very least (based off CPI)/ Most of the time of course you want to grow even more than that.  Unfortunately, for most of us, growth like this requires more than a wish and hope, it also requires spending more for advertising and often, working on new plans and streams.

For us, over the last few years it’s been about growing new product lines outside of board games.  Increased competition by gaming stores (both physical and online) means that the pie is being fought over ever more, and exclusives level the playing field in terms of stock availability in many ways.  Even with the gaming market growing, it seems that the increase in game stores is on-par and we no longer see the aggressive growth numbers we were used to seeing from our gaming categories.

It’s one reason why we’ve invested so heavily into other items like Pop! figures, geeky clothing and the like.   Don’t let that statement fool you though, gaming is by far our biggest category (so big that on our backend we split products up so that we can better track the types of revenue) and even low % growth is still significant.  Still, knowing that we have to grow is always on our mind and it’s been something I’ve been pondering more and more recently.

As I’ve mentioned, our lease is coming to an end next year and while we have an extension option, there’s been some significant consideration to opening a physical B&M store.  We have had more than a few customers want to browse our inventory and when we ran our Open Houses, we had significant interest.  Having a full B&M store opens up the option of doing events as well and snake & drink sales.  Presumably, many of our impulse purchase items would also see an increase in revenue, potentially significant enough to recover the difference in cost.

The biggest hurdle is capital. Having invested a significant amount of capital into inventory for our various other categories, we don’t have a lot of left.  That means opening the store would be on a shoe-string budget for things like tables, new bookcases, etc. There’s also a chance that sales don’t grow like we expect or at the rate that we expect, burdening us with significant fixed expenses and not enough revenue generated.  It’s why I’d love to be able to go into it with a significant capital cushion, which probably means looking at some form of external financing.

Of course, we could just continue doing what we are doing, taking on some additional side projects like the Kickstarter fulfillment; but we risk very slow growth in that case.  hat though might not be a bad idea – pay down debt, earn a little bit more money and continue onwards. Unfortunately, it’s also boring…

 

 

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New Board Games: May 13th, 2016

May 13th, 2016 Posted in general, new releases | No Comments »

Air Show
Alan’s Adventure
Boss Monster 2: Limited Edition
Dark Matter
DC Comics Deckbuilding Game: Batman vs The Joker
Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis
Looking for Group RPG
Goblin Hunters
Ninja Dice: Cage Masters
Seven Wonders
Shadowrun 5th Edition: GM Screen
Tin Goose
The Lord of the Rings: Flight of the Stormcaller Expansion
Vikings: The Board Game
Village (Restock)
Village Inn (Restock)
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest LCG – Final Gambit War Pack
gladiator

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Lion Rampant Open House

May 10th, 2016 Posted in business, general | No Comments »

We visited the Lion Rampant Open House for the first time to chat with the distributors, some retailers and the publishers.It was a fun event, if exhausting coming on the end of 2 conventions. Between multiple conventions and the time zone differences, I was wiped and didn’t spend as much time gaming as I’d like.  Still, I did get a chance to see some interesting new products, some of which I took photo’s of.

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft

The Games:

  • Costa Rica by Mayfair Games.  A rather cut-throat push your luck game with set collection where players flip over tiles and collect various animals but must be careful not to get cut off from the island as other hexes are collected out from them.
  • Agricola (vaguely, it’s interesting to see the new design and there’s mentions of new cards)
  • Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft – a good 2 player worker placement / set collection game that seemed to play fast and make sense, with interesting resource management aspect. Very well put together.
  • Android: Mainframe – obviously one of the most popular games out, this is a multi-player abstract that seems to work very well. Players build out ‘walls’ through the system, attempting to cordon off their own nodes from others while messing with other players.  Quite fun and vindictive, the game is simple to teach too with pretty intuitive iconography.
  • Mystic Vale definitely  needs a closer look. I never had a chance to play a whole game but I like the simple deck-building / card drafting mechanic and the clear cards that combine together.  I think it’s a nice change from the other games we’ve seen, and I think it might be a good game. I just don’t know yet.
  • Boomtown Bandits is a fun dice rolling fighting game with a Western theme.  Fans of Cash’n Guns would probably like this – it’s a light-filler with tons of randomness but some fun shouting and lots of dice rolling.

Networking:

  • As always, networking at these events is interesting. We managed to meet a number of our online competitors and also physical b&m stores and trade war stories about the industry which is fun.  It’s a nice break to chat with people who understand what we are seeing on the backend.  It’s also interesting to note how many old timers there are at this business (there are people who have been around for 27+ years!) and get their perspective as well as the newcomers.  There was a gentlemen who had purchased 3 stores in a year and was now trying to figure out what to do which seemed incredible to me.
  • FFG doesn’t seem to have any major plans (yet) to change what is going on in Canada.  They have to deal with existing agreements which need to either run out or be re-negotiated and of course, Canadian law is somewhat different from US law.  As such, from speaking with them, they aren’t going to be majorly changing what and how they are handling Canada in the near future.
  • Board games are becoming a major part of many game stores businesses which means even more competition for us, but also means that the market is growing.
  • Game store owners are seriously beginning to span a wide range of people from youngsters to old timers. There’s certainly a subtle changing of the guard, especially from the other Open House we went to a few years ago (WA not Canada though)

 

Takeaways:

3D Chess!

3D Chess!

 

  • I really, really want one of these (see right).
  • There’s a lot that we are not able to do as an online store that I’d love to do.  It’s certainly made me think that we need more and more to look seriously at a B&M retail location as well. Of course, we’d need the money for that which is a whole different ball of yarn.  Anyone have a $100k to loan?
  • I really enjoy board gaming and I really should get back into gaming more.
  • Clearance items! We picked up a bunch at the warehouse (just a few copies each) and once they actually arrive here in Vancouver, we’ll throw them up on the site and pass on the savings to you. Have fun!

 

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New Board Games: May 6th, 2016

May 6th, 2016 Posted in general, new releases | No Comments »

Fairytale Games Battle Royale
Halfling Feast Card Game
Knuckling Knights
Kodama: The Tree Spirits
My Very First Games – Bubble Bath Bunny
Orchard
Orleans (Restock)
Thunder & Lightning
kodama

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New Board Games: May 3rd, 2016

May 3rd, 2016 Posted in general, new releases | No Comments »

Ancient Terrible Things: Lost Charter
Ancient Terrible Things (2nd Edition)
Android: Netrunner LCG – Salsette Island Data Pack
Animal Upon Animal: Here we Turn!
Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers
Apotheca: Secret Potion Society
Billionaire Banshee
Bring your own Book
Candy Chaser
DrunkQuest: 90 Proof Seas
Dragon Punch
Little Orchard
Lost Legacy: Fourth Chronicle: The Werewolf & Undying Heart
Krosmaster: Quest
Quadropolis
Rory’s Story Cubes: Score
Rory’s Story Cubes: Intergalactic
Rory’s Story Cubes: Medic
Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman Edition
Sea of Clouds
Tiny Epic Kingdoms: Heroes Call
Twilight Squabble

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A Big Bet

April 21st, 2016 Posted in business | No Comments »

We’re about to fly off to do two major conventions tomorrow and it’s a bit scary in someways. We’ve thrown a bunch of cash at it already, so at this point it’s mostly a sunk-cost but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big bet.   We’ve never done Regina before and the costs involved is very high, especially when it’s not a (mostly) sure bet like Calgary.  We’d love to try Toronto one day but getting into the show is a bit of a struggle – they are booked up so fast, even on the waiting list, we still aren’t able to get in yet.

Conventions outside your main city is always expensive. There’s no way around it as you tack on a series of additional cost that aren’t present in local conventions.  Among the additional expenses:

  • Travel costs. This is not just the ticket but also the travel time of your employees (in Canada, you have to pay for the hours traveled at their regular rate)
  • Accommodation costs. Yeah, everyone needs a place to stay.  Also, a side hint for business travelers – AirBnB is becoming quite, quite useful for budget travelling especially if you prefer to cook for yourself.
  • Transportation costs. That’s transportation from the airport to your accommodation and back and of course, to the event itself if you aren’t staying in walking distance.
  • Freight costs.  You’ve got to get your products there somehow.  Figure anywhere from $300 – 700 per pallet.
  • Insurance costs. Depending on your insurance, you might need to get an additional rider (or just a separate insurance package) to cover your tradeshows / conventions.
  • Opportunity cost of lost shows (a bit more hard to quantify, but in our case, we’ve got our stock out of the warehouse for a good 3 weeks at least).

On top of that, you have all your usual costs too:

  • Staffing costs
  • Table / booth fees

It’s what makes most organisations decide not to do conventions, or in some cases, just do conventions.  There’s also a lot of economies of scale involved in doing conventions outside of your province.  If you are shipping a pallet for example, the cost per pallet goes down the more pallets you add.  If we are staffing, there’s no real difference in staffing 2 booths to 3, while 4 booths only require a marginal increase in hours. However, if you are a small or new business, losing 2 or 3 valuable staff members at your main location can be a major issue.

For us, we’re not a large organisation so putting out all this money and taking myself and Elise out is a big bet. If you’re in Calgary or Regina though and read the blog, come say hi. We’ll be working hard but promise to at least give you a smile.

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Mining for Gold

April 20th, 2016 Posted in business | No Comments »

I watch a reality series called Yukon Gold regularly.  It’s about gold miners in the Yukon who strip tons of earth in search of ounces of gold.  There’s a metaphor there about the amount of muck everyday people have to wade through to get a tiny amount of gold but that’s really not what I came to write abut.

No, what struck me while watching the current season was the differing amounts of gold each operation needed to breakeven.  Some required a half ounce of gold for every hour they operated, some an ounce.  The largest operator wanted 3 ounces of gold to make him happy.  They are all miners in the same geographic region (sort-of, the Yukon is HUGE); and yet they each had so different requirements.

It’s true for any business really. As we grow, my ‘breakeven’ amount for each day has shifted too.  What I need to keep the lights on is very different from when we started in 2007.  What any of our competitors need is going to be different.  There’s a myriad number of reasons for this – from different leasing rates to different personnel, higher fixed or variable cost, more or less efficient operations, it all varies the amount of gold we need to find in the pan at the end of the day.

The other thing that isn’t accounted for is what each group would consider ‘success’. One group’s a young family with 2 children whose entire livelihood is based off their operation.  Another is a retired business owner who is chasing his dream.  Then we have the ‘professional’ crew with multiple diggers and trucks who are working on a completely different scale from everyone else.  Each group has a different goal amount, but those goal amounts also include the needs of their families or corporations.  It’s one thing if all you need is to breakeven because your ‘salary’ is what you are looking for.  It’s another when you are looking to generate a decent return of investment for your investors.

This difference is something most people who don’t run their own business don’t get.  What seems to be a ‘lot’ of money for one corporation might be nothing for another.  What end goals each group needs varies and often has nothing to do with any external objective of ‘fair’.

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