8 Things a Gamer Wants From a Friendly Local Game Store on International Tabletop Day 2018

Since March 30, 2013, board gamers from around the world have celebrated their hobby and tried to bring new gamers into the fold on International Tabletop Day, hosted by Geek & Sundry.

Each year, there seems to be more and more buzz surrounding the day, as more and more game stores get involved and our hobby grows. But International Tabletop Day is still in his toddler stage, and I think after five either iterations, it is time to evaluate how we as gamers can make the experience better for the hobby in general.

What are we gamers looking for at International Tabletop Day (“ITTD”)? What can our friendly local game stores learn from us, the consumers?

Here’s a list of eight things I think game stores should do in 2018 to make ITTD a better day for all:

img_1159Number One. Use Social Media and free media to spread the word.

If you are a gamer, chances are you are on some kind of social media. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Slack. Google +. Websites like Reddit and Board Game Geek. If your game store did not advertise for free in 2017 on any or all of those platforms, you are doing yourself and your game store a disservice.

Gamers spend hours during their lunch hour or while waiting for the next elevator to find out the next big event. If a board gamer knows that your store is having an event, and that gamer thinks there is even a chance that someone will play Blood Rage or Anachrony with him or her, then that gamer will make every effort to get to your store. And maybe bring friends!

Get a calendar out; start backdating. About two months before, post a brief message saying “ITTD at — SAVE THE DATE”. Then a month before, start teasing out the events (see below). And the week of the event, make sure you are tweeting, Facebook posting, Instagramming and posting all about your event and what makes it special.

Number Two. Start a game night before ITTD happens.

This is a no-brainer. If your store does not already have a once or twice weekly game night dedicated just to board gamers, then start one before International Table Top Day happens. That seems counter intuitive, right? Most store would probably think to use ITTD as a jump off point to a regular game night. The opposite is true.

Hosting a regular game night in the weeks leading up to the day means you have a ready made audience who can build up some excitement about your upcoming event. Don’t wait until after, when the fire may burn down a bit (or more likely, they will just join a friend’s game group.) Put up some flyers, post it on

Number Three. Leverage your current assets.

Does your game store already have a game night? Then you have evangelists already on board! Three months before, spring for some snacks and drinks and have a 30 minute brainstorming session with your regulars. What games do they want to play? What events do they want to run for you? Do they want special hours, or a food special, or a game to be on sale that they can help teach? Maybe its a newcomer friendly game like Ticket to Ride or New York 1901? Or maybe they want at least a section of your store blocked out for some heavy cardboard? Find out!

Your regulars come to your game store because they like your space, and they need more people to come because that ensures you stay open. Plus, they have more people to PLAY THEIR GAMES. Utilize the volunteer sales staff you already have in place to craft the best experience for all.

Number Four: Use old media to drum up some interest.

Board games are hot topics in newspapers and on TV. Old line media loves anything nostalgic or anything that is out of the ordinary. Let’s face it, 90% of your non-gaming acquaintances think “Monopoly” and “Candyland” when they about board games.

A quick email or tweet to the local news desk might entice some young reporter (who maybe plays games or has an interest in the hobby) to come out and do a pre-ITTD story. The worst that the media can do is say no, right? But the best thing could be your own feature article.

Number Five: Take Pictures of the games!

I cannot believe I have to say this, but unfortunately I do. Get your iPhone / Android device out and snap some pictures! If you are uncomfortable putting people in your pictures for advertising sake, then snap close ups of meeples and dragons and actual boards and cards. Or, have a standard form (you can download free media use forms all over the internet) and have people sign — in exchange, they get a free promo card to their favorite game! Or they get their name in a drawing for a free game or expansion!

Giving out free promos or snacks or chance to win a game is the least you can do to have smiling happy people plastered all over your website, Twitter feed, and Facebook mentions.

If you don’t have time to take the photos yourself, then just ask people to post to Twitter / Facebook / Instagram and tag your store. Make it a game. Give people bingo cards with spots like (a) take a picture of people laughing while playing (b) tag the store and © get someone to like that photo. The list is endless but if someone gets BINGO (or whatever game you use), give them a free drink or a promo or a chance to win a prize. Gamers love prizes almost as much as they like playing games!

Number Six: Not too few, not too many, but just right.

What’s International Tabletop Day without fun events? Well, from a consumer side of things, I would rather see fewer than greater. For most people, the day is really about playing as many games as possible while still having time to hydrate and use the restroom…and socialize with our friends, too.

So don’t overschedule, but don’t under schedule, either. Again, use your local talent and knowledge. Get some volunteers to be willing to demo family friendly / new gamer friendly games. (If your game store is not a part of the Envoy Herald program, what are you waiting for? Join now and get free help to demo games EVERY WEEKEND and EVERY GAME NIGHT.)

Get some of your diehards to run bigger games that day, too, but ask them to leave one or two spots open for newcomers. Make sure that the schedule is posted prominently on your website and Facebook pages and somewhere on your wall. Maybe end up with a big event, like a game show or big group game such as Two Rooms and a Boom.

Number Seven: You got customers.

We know that the reason (most likely) that you opened this game store was not just to provide a friendly atmosphere for gamers and/or families to play board game nights on week nights and all weekend. We get it, there are bills to be paid. So, let us help you!

Have some kind of sale for that day, something that would entice both the new gamers and the experienced hands alike.

You will most likely have a handful or even a few dozen newcomers to the hobby strolling in, just curious to see what the whole “board game craze” is all about it. Have a display of games that are easy for them to get into, but mix it up between old favorites like Carcassone and Ticket to Ride to things we know by heart but they have probably never heard of: King of Tokyo, Codenames, Kingdomino, Sheriff of Nottingham, Imhotep, Karuba, Pandemic, and Camel Up. Give them a reason to buy those games with some kind of special, like Buy One, Get One Half Off. Sure, we know that some of the “friends” will split up the cost of the games, but you may end the day with a lot of two games sold instead of none transactions.

For the experienced gamers, give them a coupon for 20% any game in the store if they teach a game to a newcomer. Or have a pre-order sale — give them a discount if they order from you that day only if they order from you instead of Amazon. Again, it is a sale for product you don’t even have in the store, so you would have missed out on it anyway.

Plus, look around your store. There must be a really big ticket item (maybe the Takenoko special edition?) that has been sitting on your shelf way too long. Pick out five or ten of them, and make a big display out of them with a sales price TODAY ONLY.

Number Eight: Gonna Dress You Up In My Knowledge

Ever walk around World Market’s wine section? There’s always stickers and index cards and posters and arrows pointing out which wines made this Best Wine List or scored This Many Points on Wine Snob’s 2017 List. Now’s your chance to help spread some knowledge today, and it just might get you a sale or two.

Make a display with all of the SdJ winners that you stock in your store, and list them out by year and with the awards they won. Or do the same for BGG and The Dice Tower awards. You can probably find one of your regulars who would be willing to write up a little index card about the game and why it is awesome or why they think it won that year.

For some of your heaviest games, don’t be afraid to post the Heavy Scale from Board Game Geek right on the box or on the shelf. For some gamers, that will actually make the game more attractive!

If you know of a podcast or board game media creator that has talked up a product, mention it right there! If you are stocking Baseball Highlights: 2045, why aren’t you mentioning that it is a favorite of The Dukes of Dice? Or if you have any Bruno Cathala games, you have to note that “this game is from one of Zee Garcia’s favorite designers.” Or if you happen to have a copy of Blood Rage, connect the dots to The Secret Cabal. And if for some reason, you have multiple copies of Strike, then I guess you should put Tony from Rolling Dice & Taking Names right on the shelf there too pointing out the game.

This hobby is all about socializing in person and on the internet, and if you can show that your store is an active follower of board game media, then the new customers will be impressed. Remember, not all of those new faces in your store will be newbies to the hobby — many of them will be people who rabidly digest board game media but have never been to your store before.

BONUS! Post-Game Day Means Posting Pictures!

There’s nothing more frustrating to a gamer than to know that she missed out on a great day of board gaming. Maybe it was the latest hotness from Essen, Gen Con or Kickstarter that hit the table all day and she had been dying to try it (and maybe buy it?) Maybe it was that old classic that she loves to play with a big group. Maybe it was just a large scale party or crowd game that she has never tried.

Make her and her friends desire to pledge that they will not miss ITTD the following year, with some salivating pictures of people playing games and having a great time. That will set the table for next year for sure, and maybe lead them to your game night if you advertise it in conjunction with the postings.

I hope this helps friendly local game stores from around the country see International Tabletop Day from the gamers perspective. This day should be a celebration of everything good about our hobby, but also give you a chance to show everything good about your store. Take advantage of the day, and maybe you will have a Krewe of gamers knocking at your door saying, “Can we play a game?”

So, how was your International Tabletop Day experience?  What did your friendly local game store get right, and what could they use some improvement on for next year? Post a comment below or hit me up @boardgamegumbo on Twitter.

Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

— B.J.

Lagniappe! with 7 Wonders: Duel

In Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain marveled at a Louisiana word he heard used very frequently, called “Lagniappe.”  He called it “something thrown in for good measure,” and compared it to the thirteenth donut in the baker’s dozen.

What is interesting about Twain’s essay is the story he relates about its usage. Here’s Twain: “When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — “Give me something for lagniappe.”

Notice that the child is asking for extra even though he received his full due.

That brings me to my next topic. In terms of expansions to our favorite games, when is enough, enough? When have we gamers received our full due?? That, my friends, is a question for another time, but today, let’s figure out together whether “enough is enough” when it comes to Antoine Bauza’s top rated civ building game, 7 Wonders.

The original 7 Wonders is a card drafting game similar to Fairy TaleSushi Go! or Magic: The Gathering draft style games, but in 7 Wonders, the admittedly tenuous theme is a competition among up to seven players to score the most points as you build the ancient 7 wonders.  Players take turns drafting their “civilization” out of a shared set of cards. The cards that are drafted generate resources, build up military, garner money, stockpile victory points and eventually lead to the building of one of the great 7 wonders. The player with the most victory points at the end of Three Ages (each with successively more powerful cards, buildings and resources) wins!  Antoine Bauza has released three major expansions for the game, all changing the rules or adding to them significantly. But there was one area he did not address until now.

Look, 7 Wonders is an awesome game, one of my favorites to play.   But the base game is more fun with at least 3 players (I think the sweet spot is 4-5 but it handles 7 quite easily). And it does take some explaining for those new to the hobby.

It also contained a two player variant that…well really wasn’t all that fun. But now,  Bauza’s back, with his fellow game designer, Bruno Cathala(that’s right the guy from Shadows Over Camelot and Five Tribes). 

And the two of them have designed a variant for the game that is so much more than just a variant. It truly stands out on its own as a new game. I am talking about that 2015 release from Repos Productions, 7 Wonders: Duel!

In 7 Wonders: Duel, Cathala injected a unique pyramid building structure for each age (so the shared hand is laid out in front of both players instead of in hidden hands.) Of course, some of the rows of cards are face up (and you can make a plan for how to get them) and some are face down (so it is a surprise to you when they turn over). It plays very similar to 7 Wonders in the respect of drawing the resources, building the buildings, and getting victory points, but they made subtle tweaks to a few areas. For instance, there is a military track where each military card moves the plastic shield piece one way or the other towards the players depending upon the number of shields on the card played. If one of the players can move it all the way to the other side of the track, then the game is over.

They also changed up the way science buildings are scored, and introduced a randomized set of “bonus” cards that can really change your strategy of building your civilization. In the games I have played so far, money has been tight early in the game, leading to a lot of tough choices whether to buy a card or wait for the cheaper one down the road.

So, let’s turn back to that final question. Is “enough, enough?” in the case of 7 Wonders?   Did we really need to ask the designer for yet another expansion to what was already a great game? Did we really need a littler “Lagniappe” for 7 Wonders considering the very well received expansions that have already been produced? 

Absolutely!  7 Wonders:Duel is not only a great addition to the 7 Wonders family, it can stand on its own as a great game. 

If you like two player games, or you like 7 Wonders but can’t always get that big game group together, then 7 Wonders:Duel is for you.

Better rules, better gameplay, great components — 7 Wonders: Duel is the complete package. So head out to your friendly local game store, and ask for a little lagniappe —

7 Wonders:Duel.    Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

B. J.

 

Lagniappe! with Takenoko Chibis

There’s a word we use in Louisiana that is very apropos to gaming: Lagniappe.

It means “a little something extra.” What a great word for our board game hobby, especially when a designer gives us a little something extra for a beloved game.

Today, I’ve got a little lagniappe for you — one of the best expansions of 2015 —

Takenoko Chibis, a small expansion for Takenoko. The base game came out in 2011, and was designed by Antoine Bauza one of my favorite designers. As a side note, still not sure how Takenoko was not recognized with the 2011 or 2012 Spiel de Jahres, or at least a nominee.  Sure Quirkle has sold a million copies, and Kingdom Builder by Donald X Vaccharino is more fun than Tom Vasel gives it credit for, but of those three games, which one of the three is going to have a more lasting impression on the hobby (not on the mass market) — yep, Takenoko is still played, still beloved, and the only one of the three to get an expensive but beautiful extra large edition.

But back to our Lagniappe. Chibis is a small box expansion designed by Antoine and Corentin Lebrat (they previously collaborated on “Open Sesame”).  The base game is essentially a cute tile laying game similar to Carcassonne that adds a few thematic elements. The players score points as they build out the gardens, or if the Royal Gardner grows certain types of bamboo, or even if they can entice the Giant Panda to eat the just the right color of bamboo.

IMG_1757This new expansion essentially adds three elements — (1) new specialty tiles (including some beautiful new water tiles); (2) new objective cards to score points, (3) and a giant female panda with her little baby pandas that produce effects to help the players irrigate the plots or improve the tiles. And of course, those little baby chibis pandas also give bonus victory points at the end.

The word LAGNIAPPE implies that the something extra is something “good” (or else it wouldn’t really be LAGNIAPPE.) That’s what I like best about this expansion. It adds more of what we like in the game (unique tiles, cool new objectives, and more Pandas!!) without adding to the length of the game. You should still be able to set up and complete a game in ABOUT AN HOUR.

There is a couple of little downsides.  While the game box is perfectly sized and has a great insert, there are some printing issues on the backs of the tiles that make the new ones stand out. But, Takenoko the base game never really relied on blind draws, since you could pull three tiles at a time and choose the one you wanted to use anyway.  Another downside is that the little panda chibis are just small round cardboard tokens. Sure, Antoine probably needed it this way to make it easier for game play, since the Chibis have little icons on them showing what to do with them. But, it is a little disappointing that the only Panda miniature in the box is the mother panda, when it would have been so much cooler to have her as well as her little chibis babies.

But as you can tell, I am just nit picking here. This is a well thought out, well designed expansion that hits all the marks for me. It provides a little more complexity, a little more strategy, definitely new elements to make it a fresh game again, and all without increasing the length. My wife and I don’t play Takenoko anymore without the Chibis expansion. I give it 3 out of 5 Cayenne Peppers.

I am glad the folks at Bombyx and Matagot got together with Antoine to bring to the Takenoko world a little LAGNIAPPE for the game. If you own Takenoko, get to your friendly local game store and get you some LAGNIAPPE too.

Until next time, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

B. J.