Category Archives: Days of Wonder

Asmodee Group, the local game store and our hobby

Asmodee, the publisher of such games at Formula D and 7 Wonders, has been making waves in the past several months. They cannot seem to go even a week without someone comparing them to the evil Games Workshop. A recent announcement from Christian T Petersen, CEO of Fantasy Flight Games, sent some users on board game geek intoa tizzy. In this post, I will, to the best of my ability, break down the recent events at Asmodee, the recent FFG announcements and what this will mean for the gaming hobby.

 

1. What is Asmodee?

Asmodee logo
Asmodee logo

Asmodee is a French board game publisher. Founded in 1995, Asmodee has published many hits like Formula D, Dice Town, Ca$h and Guns and Hanabi. Asmodee has a reputation for making not just good games but for making excellent components for games. This is why Wizkids and Pokemon gave Asmodee the European publishing rights to their respective intellectual properties.

I’ve been a fan of Asmodee’s games. Their gameartwork and component quality are almost Fantasy Flight or Days of Wonder level in their excellence.

So what’s the humdrum about?

 

2. August 25, 2015: Asmodee buys Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder logo
Days of Wonder logo

Days of Wonder, the publisher of Ticket to Ride and Memoir ’44, was bought out by Asmodee. This took the game world by surprise.

Days of Wonder, the Los Altos, CA based company, makes a small cache of games with high quality components. This purchase gave Asmodee a substantial U.S. presence. According to Forbes, this acquisition would not affect the overall direction of Days of Wonder. They would act as a studio in the Asmodee Group.

This news was greeted by users on BGG very positively. “Can’t think of a negative”, “Two class acts merging”. Positive post after positive post.

 

3. November 17, 2015: Asmodee acquires Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight Games logo
Fantasy Flight Games logo

From Forbes:

Paris-based board game giant Asmodee announced on Monday that it is merging with independent U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games. It’s Asmodee’s second major North American acquisition in the last three months, and more evidence of the company’s desire to expand out of European markets.

The merger works well for both concerns. FFG now has access to the European market for its games and vice versa for Asmodee.

Asmodee was no longer a small fish. They made their move. And we welcomed our new Asmodee overlords. If Asmodee buys one more game line, they can form Voltron.

 

4. January 6, 2016: Asmodee buys Catan

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that Muskegon still enjoys.
Settlers of Catan

So Asmodee can form Voltron now. They’ve acquired the rights to Settlers of Catan from Mayfair Games.

The press release from Mayfair Games is a boilerplate.

Voltron, defender of the Universe
Voltron, defender of the Universe

It says the “Catan Studio” was acquired by Asmodee for English language rights. Which, in layman terms, means everywhere but France and Quebec.

With the rights to Catan, Asmodee now has a strong Euro portfolio to go along with their FFG and DoW line up.

But the news didn’t stop there…

 

 

5. History is repeating itself: the evils of Hasbro

Hasbro
Hasbro

The Hassenfeld Brothers, Hasbro for short, founded their company in 1923. They didn’t become a toy manufacturer until the 1940’s. They struck gold in the 1960’s when they got the rights to make a doll for boys: the G.I. Joe action figure.

In 1983, Hasbro acquired major game publisher Milton Bradley. Hasbro acquired major game publisher Parker Brothers in 1991. And 1998 and 1999 saw Hasbro add Avalon Hill and Wizards of the Coast to their menagerie. Gamers are keenly aware of this history. The acquisition of Avalon Hill by a department store game publisher like Hasbro was ill received.

And for good reason. Hasbro had little interest in reprinting Avalon Hill’s wonderful catalog of high strategy games. Hasbro only wanted the rights so they wouldn’t have any competition.

The question on everyone’s mind is: Will Asmodee do the same with the wonderful catalog of games they have now acquired? The answer is: probably not. Hasbro spent a lot of money on all those brands. When Hasbro wouldn’t reprint games, little publishers came out of the wood work to make games. Hasbro’s attempt to eliminate the competition has only made the competition more competent. I doubt that Asmodee is going to do the same. Unlike Hasbro, Asmodee wants its subsidiaries to continue to do what they do best: publish awesome games.

 

6. History is repeating itself: the evils of Games Workshop

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

Asmodee Group has released a statement regarding a new pricing policy for its distributors. This has sent the board game world into its current tizzy. There have been howls from right field that Asmodee has become another Games Workshop.

The announcement about new pricing was met with great apprehension. Why acquire all these companies and then announce that you’re updating your pricing? The CEO of Fantasy Flight Games, Christian Petersen, gave an interview to clarify the policy.

Asmodee, and therefore FFG, want to nurture the local game stores over the online game stores. This is the heart of the new pricing policy. Asmodee values the local game stores and the new customers they bring to the hobby over the online game stores. As such, they are going to give better discounts to local game stores than to online game stores.

This can be taken to mean that local game stores will get a steeper discount. But more than likely it means that online stores will get worse discounts while local game stores will get the existing discount. Which means that Asmodee is simply increasing their own margins at the detriment of online stores. Coupled with their massive acquisitions, this can be seen to be bad news for our hobby. A good game company is now buying everything it can and screwing over its customer base.

Games Workshop indeed.

 

7. Of Monopolies and Paydays

Waddingtons' Monopoly
Waddingtons’ Monopoly

Asmodee’s price restructuring was met by lots of apprehension and teeth gnashing by gamers. But owners of local game stores were very happy with the news. Jeff from Out of the Box

Century Club in Muskegon
Century Club

was very vocal about it. He believes he can sell more Asmodee products with such a scheme. Other game shop owners have said the same thing.

This new policy will undoubtedly mean that if you buy games online, you will be paying more than before. Before you might now get 25% less than MSRP whereas you’ve been enjoying a 30+% discount heretofore. This policy will level the playing field between online and local game stores. It sucks for people who buy their games online because they will just be paying more.

But what about those of us with a local game store? How will it affect us? First off: it won’t affect us financially. We will not get games cheaper than before–it’s just that online stores will get their games more expensive than before. Second off: it will drive local demand. This means that your local stores will see an influx in consumers. People who shop for games online are not opposed to making local purchase when the prices are comparable

And this should make things more comparable.

This means that local game clubs (like the Muskegon Area Gamers) could see growth. This is the true goal of the new pricing. Petersen said he estimates that 10% to 20% of the people in our hobby leave each year. This means he needs more gamers to make up the deficit. I agree with him here. We see gamers leave our group all the time. This means we need to constantly recruit.

With all of these mergers going on, the specter of antitrust has reared its head. Do all these recent acquisitions along a new price structure constitute a monopoly or unfair market practice? Probably not. Asmodee is simply paying for a more prominent location in the stores of its choosing–the stores that Asmodee believes will drive demand long term.

The real question is: with Asmodee becoming the size it has now become…when will Disney or Hasbro make them an offer to join their collective?

Resistance is futile
Resistance is futile

Thrift Store Finds

Here is a list of my rescued treasures from around the Muskegon area in the past month.

I love going to thrift stores to find board games. Here are the latest additions to the Muskegon Area Gamers’ library.

1. Axis and Allies

Axis and Allies from the Goodwill on Grand Haven Road
Axis and Allies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found this for $4. It is complete and in well-cared for condition. The clerk was chatting me up because her husband had been looking for this game for some time. Their family enjoys board games. Note to self: I need to make some business cards so I can hand them out to people!

 

2. Star Wars: Epic Duels

pic1248093_md

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a really lucky find! For $2 in Grand Haven, I found Star Wars Epic Duels. The board is missing so I will have to find someone who has a copy. But once complete, this game goes for quite a bit of money.

 

3. Can’t Stop

Gamers in Muskegon certainly Can't Stop
Can’t Stop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I usually cannot turn down a copy of Can’t Stop; I literally can’t stop myself. Plus, Mongo needed a copy. I found a copy in good shape in Hudsonville, MI.

 

4. Quicksand

Don't get caught in the Quicksand! Come to the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
Quicksand from Parker Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found Parker Brothers’ charming Quicksand complete and in good condition this month. I think this will be a good addition to the family/children offerings at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon.

 

5. Stocks & Bonds

Take Stocks and Bonds at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
Stocks & Bonds (Avalon HIll)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found a rare Avalon Hill version of Stocks & Bonds. The 3M version is common enough but I don’t think I ever saw the AH version. Until now. $.99

 

6. Acquire

Acquire games in Muskegon.
Acquire (Avalon Hill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I find right next to Stocks & Bonds? You guessed it! Avalon Hill’s Acquire. Complete for $.99. I love thrifting!

 

7. Ticket to Ride: Europe (Days of Wonder)

Getcha ticket to ride some board games in Muskegon
Ticket to Ride: Europe (Days of Wonder)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found two copies still in shrink wrap for $15 each! I was amazed!

 

 

 

The Gaming Annex’s September List

I thought it would be cool to have an ongoing segment about what games we played at the Gaming Annex so people would know what actually takes place within our four walls. Here is our September installment.

 

1. Wars of the Roses (Z-Man Games)

Wars of the Roses
Z-Man’s Wars of the Roses…a board game that Muskegon needs to play much more often

The battle between York and Lancaster heated up at the Gaming Annex. This game is quite fun for what it is. And it needs to hit the table more often.

 

2. Twilight Struggle (GMT Games)

Twilight Struggle
The Cold War is fought in Muskegon almost every Sunday. Thanks GMT Games.

The USSR defeated the USA in a game of Twilight Struggle this month. This is my second favorite game. Only TI3 is better. I love it!

 

3. The Three Musketeers (Sirius Products)

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers along with their trusty d’Artagnan slipped past the Cardinal’s dragnet of goons and deftly saved the Queen from embarrassment. This was our first play of this. And I am confident it will get much more table time in the coming months.

 

4. X-Wing MIniatures Game (Fantasy Flight Games)

X-wing base game
X-Wing Miniatures Game is The Gaming Annex’s favorite minis game.

After teaching Nate how to play, he went on to defeat me 🙁 His Green Squadron Pilot (A-Wing) slapped the #%$@ out of Darth Vader. Now I have to trade this game.

 

5. Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League (Kosmos)

Perry Rhodan
Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League is a solid offering from Kosmos & Z-Man games.

Players take turns picking up/delivering in this action-move game. It only accommodates two players but it plays two players very well. 30 minute run time is also attractive.

 

6. Pirate’s Cove (Days of Wonder)

Pirate's Cove
Pirate’s Cove is a good, family game. Arrr!

 

We took to the high seas with this adventure game. Tense battles and lots of booty were had by all.

 

7. Martinique (White Goblin Games)

Martinique
The Gaming Annex set sail for Martinique (from White Goblin Games)

Martinique is a nice tactical/logistical/deduction game for two. The pirate theme is totally pasted on but that shouldn’t detract from this otherwise filler-esque game.

 

8. High Society (Gryphon Games)

High Society
There’s plenty of High Society at The Gaming Annex.

A nice 4 to 5 player filler, High Society sees lots of table time at the Gaming Annex. It’s got a few hooks that keep the game interesting.

 

9. A Game of Thrones 2nd Edition (Fantasy Flight)

A Game of Thrones
The war for Westeros was finally decided. Historians called it, “The Siege of Muskegon”.

We had a six player game of A Game of Thrones this month. We used the expansion A Dance of Dragons. This expansion gives a different set up to the normal rules. It was quite good.

 

10. Formula D (Asmodee Games)

Formula D from Asmodee Games
Formula 1 Racing in Muskegon

We played the full rules to Formula D. This game has it all: thrills, spills and chills. If you do not like NASCAR or other forms of racing, you will still like this game. I am not a fan of NASCAR or its ilk either. But I do like this game.

 

11. Fury of Dracula (Fantasy Flight games)

The Dark Lord visits the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
The Dark Lord visits the Gaming Annex in Muskegon

We cut our teeth on Fury of Dracula. Nate, who loves this game, had never had the chance to play as Dracula. Nick and I hunted him across the North Sea and the English Isles. We trapped him in Iberia where we finally buried the stake, sending him to the nether reaches.

 

12. Dungeon Roll (TMG Games)

The Muskegon Area Gamers assembled their adventurers in Dungeon Roll.
The Muskegon Area Gamers assembled their adventurers in Dungeon Roll.

Dungeon Roll is my favorite 2 player filler. The theme is quite good for a filler. And the decisions you make are often tough.

 

13. Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War (Stronghold Games)

Stronghold Game's Confusion is a favorite at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
Stronghold Game’s Confusion is a favorite at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon

We played a tense game of Confusion. This is a deduction/logistical game where players know how their opponent’s pieces move but must deduce how their own pieces move. It’s very good but can be heavy.

 

14. Memoir ’44 (Days of Wonder)

Muskegon Loves Memoir '44.
Muskegon Loves Memoir ’44.

We played several scenarios of Memoir ’44 this month. This game is fantastic! I love the hand management aspect. I love trying to set traps for my opponents. I highly recommend it.

 

15. Mage Knight (Wizkids Games)

The Muskegon Area Gamers plays Mage Knight about once a month.
The Muskegon Area Gamers plays Mage Knight about once a month.

 

Epilogue

As you can see, we have eclectic gaming tastes. And we certainly do not agree unilaterally on any game. This is also an abbreviated list of games. We played several more than what is listed but all of them cannot be crammed into a single post.

See you in October!