Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois.  This week Thorne raises concerns of too many boardgame releases.

Boardgame releases today remind me of black & white comics during the 80's, the trading card game deluge of the mid 90s and, more recently, all the 3.0 and Open Game License compatible role playing supplements and modules released after D&D 3.0 launched.

After the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles struck gold in black and white format during the mid 80's, we saw Radioactive Adolescent Black Belt Hamsters, Aristocratic Time Traveling Extraterrestrial Thieves and so forth, until the racks filled with piles of two-color, three-adjective and a noun comic books.  None but the Turtles still get published with any regularity.  After Magic: The Gathering hit it big in 1993, eight TCGs hit the market in 1994 and almost 40 fought for market share in 1995.  Of those 49, only about 3, counting Magic, still have a significant player base.  After D&D 3.0 released, over 150 OGL compatible products sought my shelf space in the first couple of months.  Of the publishers that rode the OGL wave, I can count on my fingers the number still publishing products that hit the shelves with anything resembling a consistent schedule.

So, as Yogi Berra put it, "This is like deja vu all over again" with the number of boardgames I’m seeing solicited.  When I received an email from a distributor with fourteen boardgame releases scheduled for December, I thought "OK, that’s a bit high but there should be two or three good ones in there."  Fourteen new boardgames, not that large of a quantity, but these are all from one publisher, Rio Grande Games.  A week or so later, another email from a distributor hit the inbox, announcing another half dozen releases from Rio Grande in December and January.  There are three new ones from Avalanche Press, three from Indie Board and Game Press, and according to a hasty count of listings in Game Trade Monthly, 32 more from assorted publishers.  That's 52+ boardgames announced for December and I've probably missed a few.  Granted, a number of these are expansions but still, there’s only so much demand out there.

Boardgames, at least the strategy heavy and Euro-style games that comprise the majority of these releases, still do not attract the attention and dollars of the American public to the level that they do in Europe.  This year’s Origins Game Fair attracted about 10,700 unique attendees while GenCon Indy pulled a hair over 30,000.  Germany’s Essen Game Fair, meanwhile, draws about 150,000 players, with most American boardgame publishers viewing it as mandatory to put in an appearance there.  Few European publishers, that I’ve seen, feel the same about making an appearance at American game fairs, preferring to rely upon the American publishers who license or otherwise distribute some of the approximately 600 annual releases at Essen in the US.

Our store, and others, sells more boardgames than we did 5 years ago and the market has certainly expanded.  Last time I checked, we stock approximately 400 boardgame titles and expansions, which still makes us a piker compared to some stores and is only a fraction of what is available.  Given the projected number of games coming out in the near future, I’m fearful of seeing the same sort of glut that hit the market in the TCG, comic and OGL categories mentioned earlier and worried a lot of companies will go out of business when we see the inevitable shakeout in the industry.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely  those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of