The More You Know: Scanner Accuracy Law Rant

While I was in high school and college I worked at a few large chain retail stores. During that time I learned about this cool law in Michigan that is geared towards forcing retailers to maintain the accuracy of their prices. At the time I found it incredibly annoying as I'd have to put a price tag on every little foam paint brush in a bulk case of 1000 (yeap that was a couple wasted hours each day), however other parts of the law do quite a bit if you know about them. (Hang in there 'til the end you'll see how this is hobby related)

Essentially what the law says is if a scanner rings up a price and it doesn't match what is marked on the product, the seller has to pay you the difference + 10X the over charge with a minimum of $1 and maximum of $5. (if the clerk doesn't catch the error before you pay) I guess the idea is that for the inconvenience of having to come back to the store or wait at customer service you're entitled to compensation. It also works to punish the stores for not keeping their systems up to date, nothing is more annoying than picking up a product and not knowing the price, or getting to the register and have it ring up for more than you thought it would be. 

I'm not sure if other states have a similar law or not, but if you live in Michigan be sure to bring it up anytime you get overcharged. When the law first came to pass in the 1990's most big chains had to train employees and it was a pleasant surprise when you went in for your refund. However as of late it seems many large chains like Home Depot, Dollar General and more are choosing to ignore the law and swindle consumers. (man, I sound like a crotchety old man...)

On more than one occasion I've been over charged asked for the bounty and been denied because the employee doesn't know what I'm talking about. In fact once at Home Depot my wife bought some blinds that were marked $50 (along with a bunch of other stuff), when she got home and looked at the bill they charged her $75. I took it back in asked for the refund an bounty and was denied both twice by different managers. It in fact took two phone calls to their corporate headquarters and a complaint with the attorney general to solve the issue.

More recently I ran into the same issue with some 1:43 scale cars I bought at the Dollar General. I've been stopping at random locations to see if they have any other body styles of those bBurago cars for my near future board. To my delight I found several styles and they were marked cheaper than the first ones I found. I snatched them up paid and went to my car happy. At least until I looked at the receipt and realized they overcharged me. I went into the store and let the clerk know the issue and asked for the refund and bounty. Of course she had no idea what I was talking about and called over her "manager" who also looked at me like an idiot. After explaining the law and showing it to her she still refused ... So now I'm calling corporate to get this fixed. I'm sure I sound like a jackass for making such a big deal about this but the law is the law and I feel that unless chains are forced to comply with the law we'll continue to get shitty service, miss marked product and pay more than we should because of scanner or human error.

If you live in Michigan know your rights as a consumer and demand that chains follow the law. If Meijer, Target and Walmart can do it they why aren't these other chains held to the same standard? If you've been denied the bounty on scanner inaccuracies file a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General.

Farewell old friend

Alas poor Twinkie, your time was too short. It really bums me out that Hostess is closing. The sweet preservative filled treats were a staple of my childhood. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Chocolate Cupcakes, Snowballs and Wonderbread will be no more.

I picked up a few boxes this morning and plan on gorging myself on the sweet nostalgic cakes over the weekend. The store I stopped at only had the three boxes left on the shelf.

To think it didn't even take a Zombie Apocalypse for these to disappear from the store shelves, just good old American greed.

Kickstarter - Bad for Business?

Editorial – Having seen and/or participated in numerous Kickstarter campaigns recently I've found them to be fun, good bargains for many games. However, out in the blogosphere there seems to be a growing amount of grumbling that "established companies" are using it to get "free loans" and or free marketing etc. I can understand the grumbling however I don't really agree with attacking companies for taking advantage of a funding source that guarantees sales of a upcoming product.

How many games come out each year 100s, 1000s? How many of them do you hear about after the initial buzz and launch 10s, 20s? Investing in creating a new game is a risky venture for any small business even large companies can suffer from releasing a stinker or a product the market isn't ready for yet. To use Kickstarter or other crowd funding sites as a gauge of interest and potential sales makes sense. It takes some of the risk out of the process and allows companies to potentially improve on quality because they're sure of the initial sales. 

For gamers that decide to back a project on Kickstarter they're making an investment in fun. Hopefully the projects they back will turn out as expected and become part of their stable of games. However like any investment there's a risk. What if the game sucks, what if the final product isn't what you were expecting or worse what if nobody will play it with you. Suddenly your great deal turns into a money sink that you'll ebay for a fraction of the cost.

The flip side of course is the game takes off and succeeds, you have a ton of special edition stuff that will rise in value because of its limited nature. Or you got a great deal on a ton of extras and don't need to purchase anything else for this cool new game that you helped get produced.

That not needing to purchase anything else leads to the title of this post. Kickstarter is great for the game companies trying to publish and produce product. But what about their retail partners?

In the internet age we've already seen a drastic decline in Friendly Local Game Stores. The overhead costs of running a brick and mortar location make it difficult to compete with online liquidators that can afford to see things for a fraction the MSRP. Gamer's love to have a place to hang out and play their games but many of them run to the internet to get a better price, essentially leaving the FLGS hanging in the wind. (I'm a firm believer in spending money where you play, sure you might not get the best deal but if you have a place to gather and play games you owe it to that store owner to support his/her business).

Enter Kickstarter, the internet is buzzing with the latest project with all the crazy stretch goals and 300% funding. Holy crap this is going to be the next big thing! The hype machine reves up, local store owners take note and plan to order when the game is released, because it should sell like hotcakes right?

Not necessarily. Hugely successful Kickstarters seem to consist of the same early adopters jumping into a new game based on the shininess of it and or innovative mechanics etc. Many of the core customers at most shops have no idea what the new hotness is or care. The demographic of customers that will buy new and shiny most likely backed the project and got a ton of stuff so they don't need to buy anything else for quite a while.

That leaves the FLGS sitting with a bunch of product that won't move until those early adopters grow the interest in the community to play their shiny new game. If they can't grow that community their copies are bound for ebay or the shelf and the game sits on the shelf until Christmas sales come around and the owner needs to free up space so they discount it to move.

Of course this if the doom and gloom view of the process which unfortunately 90% of the games that come out are destined for. The cycle changes from area to area and so long as their is some popularity systems will continue to thrive. 

Time will tell if Kickstarter is a good or bad thing, but for me I think I'm done with it. The bandwagons and rush to produce things now that companies have found a fountain of free money is resulting in a glut of games that may or may not take off.

Essentially many of the recent campaigns have become less about funding a project and rewarding backers and more about doing a hyped up presale for something you haven't made yet. 

SIDENOTE: I'm still pissed I didn't get in on the Zombicide Kickstarter and the limited editon Tentacle Bento models look cool (dunno about the game ... but).  But I can't wait for Relic Knights and Evil Baby Orphange to get released. 

Sixth Edition – Is it worth it?

Warhammer 40K – It's that time once again when GW rolls out a new rule set for Warhammer 40,000. I haven't really been playing the game often so I'm not overly excited about this and looking at the latest rumors the cost of the new book has significantly increased. ($70+ for a core rule book ... really?) Given the quantities I assume they print this book at for worldwide release I'd love to know how they fail to get the cost down to something more reasonable. Rather then digress into a diatribe about GW's pricing policies I'll try and stay on track.

I really enjoyed the 5th edition rules, I found them to be simple and clear cut. That said I think I played maybe 30 games in total over the course of the four years the edition was out. So while I love the 40K universe and am very attached to my armies (which I will finish someday) I'm just not as excited about this release as others are.

The rumours about the psychic disciplines and other similarities to the latest edition of fantasy seem like they could be interesting if done right. I think I'll wait until the actual product is out and reviewed before I jump back on this bandwagon again. 


That Guy

Editorial – Every gamer knows or has been that guy at some point in their life as a gamer (and probably real life, but that's a topic far to vast to discuss today). Sometimes players are oblivious to the fact that they are "that guy" while other times the revel in it. Vagaries aside I'm going to break "that guy" down into some of the more offensive behaviors. I'm going to refer to these archetype as guy because it tends to be the dominate species in most environments however female gamers are just as likely to fall into this category.

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Editorial – Nerd Rage

Note: Apologies to regular readers it's time for another rant. The following is an off topic rant caused by the extreme ignorance of others, we'll return to regular posts next week.

Why is it that gamers/comic guys/geeks in general insist on being complete douche bags on forums and message boards? Is it because they feel so emasculated in real life that they need to vent testosterone in an anonymous venue hiding behind random forums names hiding their information from the masses, lest they be found out as the waste of flesh they are.

As of late on several forums I regularly frequent their has been a huge upswing in nerd rage and douche-baggery. Most notably there seems to be an influx of disenfranchised infinity players bad mouthing Malifaux on their own forums and than dragging their discussion back to the Wyrd forums. I've seen it on Bell of Lost Souls as well, game forums becoming victims of their own success. I fondly remember the GW forums before they were shut down due to the constant stream of "OMG THis Is Sooooooo BrOken!" or "I'm Gona boykot if u dont lower moneyies." Is this necessary? Do gamer's really think they'll gain anything by ranting like this. Or is it really just the immature 10 year old boy in them screaming out because they suck at everything?

I tend to believe it's the later; as gamer's tend to be a vagabond group traveling from new game to new game and back like gypsies in the night or more aptly like dirty carnies dragging there wares about; their fellows develop an extreme prejudice towards new and "better" systems. These players then feel the need to rip apart and discredit the popular game (much like they did the jocks in high school) and make it look bad to their fellows. These raging nerds truly believe misery loves company and they must bring everyone into their cold sad world.

The other group that seems to be more vocally dissing the Malifaux system are the gamers version of "hulked out ragin' jocks" those ultra competitive blowks from across the pond who insist on world wide rankings and a tier system for everything. They've clung to WarMaHorde like grease on chips. Many have left the systems they helped mold into the codex creepy new army every month to attempt and bastardize new systems. Their opponents that get fed up with the nonsense move to a new system only to be followed by the very type of gamer they're trying to avoid.

Now it appears those chaps have decided Malifaux is the game for them and the forums are flooded with the same complaints about VAT, tiers, balance, shipping, and limited release stuff. Why can't people be happy with a system that is just fun.

Additional Note: If you do happen to fall into one of these groups or feel like I have offended you in any way go bitch about it on some other forum. This is not directed at normal fellow gamers but rather those forum Trolls and Hammerheads. 


It seems that some of the more vocal angry elements have recently left the boards. This is a good thing in my opinion. It sucks when a small really vocal group becomes the unwanted face of a group of players.

This post was originally targeted at a very specific group of forum trolls that turned a pleasant forum into a den of constant complaining and nit picking at minor problems turning a game that has no business being cut-throat competitive in my mind into their tournament go to.

It does ... WHAT!

During the course of playing any miniature war-game (or most any type of game) you'll come across a model, card etc. that "breaks" the game. This doesn't necessarily mean the piece in question is overpowered or unbeatable; rather it changes the nature of the game.

What this leads me to is my least favorite faction to play against in Malifaux. The Neverborn are the bane of my existence. The general consensus amongst players I've spoken with is that Neverborn are "unbeatable" or otherwise "unfun" to play against. While opinion cannot be legitimately classified as right or wrong, I do tend to severely dislike playing against them. I could be playing against my favorite opponent, but as soon as those purple cards hit the table I lose a bit of my enthusiasm. 

The question then comes up as to why this is. The models are relatively "balanced" and once you figure out how to deal with them their weaknesses become obvious (still working on this one...). I think what it boils down to is every one of the Neverborn masters somehow ignores or changes a core mechanic of the game. Which in turn means that when playing against them you have to change your thinking and read and re-read their abilities. That I think is where the "unfun" issue comes up. When I have to try to remember every weird interaction possible, and my opponent has to do the same thing, games tend to drag on and get bogged down with looking up rules and interactions.

In my opinion the Dreamer and Pandora are the worst offenders. Both significantly change the way the game is played and involve more "single-player" aspects than other masters. Pandora is annoying because her ability revolves around Wp tests, in order for her to work she removes the immunity that some models have to Wp duels (and pay for). The Dreamer just makes my head hurt, mostly because his crew involves much more thought in dealing with and playing then any other crew in the game.

Regardless of what Neverborn Master you face you will have to deal with the fact that some aspect of the game becomes irrelevant.

Lilith – Ignores Terrain, Creates New Terrain, and can swap any models on the board

Pandora – Removes immunity to Wp, causes wounds for tests that you may or may not usually have to take, jumps around the board.

Zoraida – Takes control of you models, can hurt you indirectly, can ignore terrain

The Dreamer – ignores initial deployment (for the most part), can pop models up where ever, can't be targeted (under specific circumstances) and a few other weird thing I'm forgetting at the moment

So are these models "broken," probably not. There's ways to deal with them and ultimately playing to your strategy or schemes and avoiding them can win you games. Are they "unfun," that depends on your perspective. For me I have a hard time getting my head around them and remembering all the odd interactions so they border somewhere between annoying and passing on a game (depending on my mood). That's not to say I haven't had really fun games playing against Neverborn players, but on the same level I've also had plenty of unenjoyable games against really great opponents that are only unenjoyable because of the crew I'm facing.

I hope this doesn't come off as whining or complaining. There's nothing wrong with any of the models described above. The issue for me is really just finding the way to deal with them while still having fun. 

Tournaments and turnout

Today I went to a tournament, unfortunately due to numerous factors only three players showed up. This was pretty disappointing as I brought 4 of my custom boards and a bunch of counters/tokens to give out as random prizes. I felt bad for the organizer since there is a sizeable (20+) Malifaux community within the Metro-Detroit area. But that sad the three of use who showed up played a 30SS three-way slaughter game and had some fun. I brought McMourning, some Belles, Canine Remains and Bette Noir; my opponents were Leviticus and Perdita. I'm getting the hang of McMourning, using him with Belles can set up some interesting situations. The Leviticus player won, in part because I lured the Desolation Engine into combat with Perdita when she had Quick Draw up, which meant she couldn't use it and Leviticus could summon the Hollow Waifs he needed to survive.

Given the turn-out for this event and the low turn-out for another event last month I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what it takes to run a successful tournament. Before i begin that discussion I think it's important to talk about why store run tournaments and how they benefit from them. Obviously any retailer is in the business to make money, when they run tournaments it is expected that players will come in and buy stuff while they are at the store. If they don't then the store needs to generate money through the cost of the event. It's important that players realize this ahead of time.

I've seen several hobby stores in my area go out of business because their player base bought everything online (ebay, discounters etc.). While it is great to be in the hobby for the love of it, if you're not covering the bottom line then there's no point in offering gaming space. The moral of the story is to support your store. For stores offering a discount on the days you run an event for a system is a good way to generate more sales.

The other reason stores run tournaments and leagues is to show off the community of gamers for a particular system. When a customer comes into the store and sees 10+ guys all playing the same system, they feel more comfortable dropping the cash on a new game because there's obviously lots of of people to play it with. they can ask existing players questions and get a feel for the game, maybe get a demo and hopefully get hooked. 

Players enjoy tournaments for a variety of reasons the competition, playing against new people, prizes all are valid reasons for playing in a tournament. When they decide they are going to play it's a commitment to 6-8 hours on a Saturday or Sunday. When they make that commitment if the event goes poorly for whatever reason, they will feel like they've wasted an entire day. For people with families or girlfriends (face it, the majority of your players are guys) creating the time for that commitment is a chore in itself. 

As a tournament organizer (or Henchman for Wyrd) it is you duty to do everything in your power to make sure that both the store and the players are happy with how the event goes. If you don't the parties involved will most likely not make the same commitment in the future. For those of you that listen to podcasts check out World's End Radio they've done some excellent segments about running events. Some of what they talk about is very GW-centric but lots of it pertains to all game systems. Some of the advice is duplicated below

So how does one go about fulfilling the needs of both the store owner and player-base to run a successful tournament? I would start with the following:

• Make it affordable. Entry fees are needed to pay for the prize support and or cover the costs associated with the event. For a Malifaux event I would cap it at $5. Prize support should hinge on the actual turnout for the event. Maybe the organizer makes a cool trophy, terrain piece or something to give away. I think far to many stores just offer store credit, which means you have to get enough players to cover the full cost of what you're giving away. Ideally the game company would offer an event package with cool pins, coins, or other swag that could be purchased for $25-$30. That then gives you an easy button for prize support. If they don't, then be creative; take some time and make something cool or ask someone else to. I've been working on making "best in faction" pins, when they are done I'll post pics.

• Advertise. Posting on one forum does not count. There are numerous yahoo groups, game clubs and other sites that you should be posting on. Make some flyers and distribute them. Work with event organizers at other stores to cross promote your event. Just because the stores may be competitors doesn't mean your events have to compete. A healthy player base and good turn-out will result in better sales for all parties involved. Post pictures of prior successful events, a good photo will generate more interest. Google Image search brings this site a ton of extra hits each week. If you have good photos people share them and drive traffic which will equate to more interest in your events.

• Terrain. If you use the same crappy terrain that a store has for general use, your event doesn't feel special. Even it if means just making one new board or terrain piece, doing something special makes the event more then just another day at the store. If you have system specific terrain then just bring it out for events. When you do there is more interest from bystanders as well as players.

• Plan ahead. Do some research. Malifaux in particular is a very rich game that offers tons of possibilities when it comes to game size, type and events. Those possibilities make the game fun for players and keep things fresh, but can make life hell for the organizer. You have to make sure people play on a relatively even field, this means they should be getting the same or similar missions, play in a variety of locations that have similar events. If you go with a straight VP system and allow players to flip for events some players will flip Mysterious Effigies and have access to 4 more VPs that could swing the field. Is that what you intend, if so how much player backlash with you get? What happens to the player that flips slaughter or recon. all day long? Since there isn't an official format you need to work all of this out ahead of time. I would suggest meeting with other event organizers in you area to work out a standard system, that way if there are complaints they can be addressed and corrected so the same misunderstandings don't continue to happen.

One thing I've been considering is a system that links three strategies together. The players flip a card or draw from a hat to get their "story" prior to the event starting. They then have 20 minutes to build three lists, chose three schemes and submit them to the organizer for registration. Once they are paired against an opponent they may chose a second scheme and announce one or both if they wish to. The winner is determined by total VP's and scores event points as follow 3 win, 2 tie, 1 loss; VPs are recorded for tiebreakers. Locations and special events are determined prior to the event starting and remain fixed throughout. This gives players enough variety while maintaining a constant throughout the event. The "story" allows event organizers to control the missions while sticking with the idea of character driven combat. Ideally the strategies would follow a flow that allows the player to write a narrative about what happens. For example Recon., Treasure Hunt, Assassinate: the master is looking for something, they find it then an opposing master threatens to take the prize. Simple things like this add to the enjoyment level for all players and make for better battle reports to share on the web.

• Confirm the date. If you're going to be running an event make sure your player base can make it. If half of your players are going out of town for a Con. probably shouldn't run an event the same weekend. Check to  see what could interfere with players availability. If a big portion of your players are students, see when exams are; if you have a bunch of single dads check to see what weekends they don't have their kids; sports fans don't conflict with major games. If you want to have a good turn-out, plan around things that may deter people from coming. Nothing is worse then spending time and money planning an event, and getting a small turn-out because half your player base is at a huge convention or the local team is in the play-offs and your players are avid fans. 

• Registration. Start a sign-up sheet and keep it public and limit the spots available. Gamers will flock if it seems like an event will be fun and they may not be able to get a spot. You can always add more later if need be. If you get to a week before the event and only have a few players signed up, then you need to make a push to get more players. Contact your player base directly to see if they know it's going on. Stores that keep track of purchases and email accounts have the upper hand here. Take a look at your database to see who has purchased product for that system within the last 2-3 months and email them an invite (if your store doesn't track that info, you should). If that doesn't work warn the players already signed up that the event may be canceled due to lack of interest. If they really want to play they'll find more people. If you don't have a minimum sign-up by a few days before the event, cancel it. If players have a real interest in playing and you've done everything you can to accommodate their needs, then they should return the favor by registering. You may get some negative backlash, but it's better then running a mediocre event and having it taint what you can do in the future.

I think by following some of the steps detailed above event organizers will be able to see a better return on the time they invest in running events for their players.