Get In The Game is a weekly column by Dan Yarrington, managing partner of Myriad Games in Manchester & Salem, New Hampshire, Treasurer of the Professional Game Store Association, and Editor-in-Chief of  This week, Yarrington shares a valuable sales technique.

Welcome back to Get In The Game, a column that focuses on proactive ways we can improve the games industry.

Dystopian WarsAlien Frontiers.  Who Would Win?  Redakai.

"One of these things is not like the others.  One of these things just doesn’t belong.  Can you guess which thing is not like the others by the time I finish this sentence... er... song."

So which one is it?  What do these titles share in common?  Which one stands out to you?  How will the difference help you sell more games?  Before you continue reading, take a moment to think about that and even jot down your answer.  We’ll come back to this toward the end and you’ll get bonus victory points for participating!

Have you ever noticed that we have a tendency of categorize games?  We have huge, overarching categories like tabletop games, video games, and outdoor games.  We have subcategories within those large categories like board games, trading card games, and miniatures games.  We have thematic subcategories like party games and deckbuilding games.  Why do we put things in categories?  Do you spend too much time trying to decide where things should go?  Is all that effort worth it?

Warhammer 40KMagic: The GatheringApples to ApplesSettlers of CatanDominion.

These are all examples of top games in their categories.  These are mindshare leaders and reference points for the rest of the category.  Try to find a discussion of a new deckbuilding game that doesn’t relate it to Dominion.  Consider how many times you’ve explained a new trading card game using terminology from Magic.  How often have you said, “It’s like Apples to Apples, but...”?

Categorization is a quick and easy way for us to get comfortable with a concept and convey all the underlying information about a game without going through it all again.  When you see that Dystopian Wars is a tabletop miniatures game, that gives you a set of characteristics that go along with the category.  It’s something to be assembled, painted, and played on a large tabletop with terrain.  When you find out that it’s from Spartan Games -- if you’re familiar with their other products -- you can draw comparisons to Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada.  Categories save us time and help us communicate more clearly.  But sometimes they can get in the way.

If someone doesn’t know what Warhammer is, saying "this is like Warhammer" will mean nothing to them and will simply add unnecessary jargon to the conversation, muddying the waters rather than moving things along.  This is why, when recommending games, I begin all discussions by asking the player(s) what types of games they already enjoy.  Who will they be playing with?  How many players?  For how long?  Then I listen.  That’s the important part.  It’s easy to miss.  You’re not asking as a formality so you can then blunder on with your detailed explanation of how the Legend of the Five Rings interactive storyline tournament system is one of the most innovative mechanics in the entire universe of tabletop gaming.  You’re asking so that you can get information to help guide your suggestion.  You’re establishing a frame of reference for the discussion.

Does it matter if Alien Frontiers is a dice-rolling game, an area-control game, and a worker placement game?  Not if I don’t know what those terms mean.  What do each of those descriptors tell us about the game?  Does it matter that it's often compared with Kingsburg?  We use these categories, themes, subcategories, and types as shorthand, but they're only a part of our vocabulary and only useful insofar as they allow us to move forward with the discussion.

Categories and types are useful as tools to help us achieve our goal -- finding the right games for each person.  Here’s where you pull out your answer that you jotted down at the beginning.  Which one of those things is not like the others?  Did you pick who would win because it’s a party game and the other three are decidedly not?  Did you pick Dystopian Wars because it’s the only miniatures game?  Did you pick Alien Frontiers because it’s the only "real" board game?  Did you pick Redakai because it’s the only game that has 3-D layered card technology?  Did you pick one title because you thought it was the worst selling or one because you’d never heard of it?  Why did you categorize these games the way you did?  What comparisons did you make to other titles while you were thinking about it?

These are the exact thought processes we should be going through with each customer.  They're looking at things through the lens of their own unique categories and subcategories.  Look at the aspects and elements of each title, find out how they choose which games they like and which they don't.  Then look through the impressive variety of games on the market today and find one that will be a great match for them.  When you're right, you start a positive reinforcement cycle where the player trusts your judgment based on previous success.

There's no right answer to the question "Which one of these doesn’t belong?," or rather, there are many answers to the question.  At least one of the things in that original list may not belong in the game collection of any given player based on their particular preferences and prejudices.  There are so many aspects of games that determine what appeals to whom.  We're not looking for the one that doesn’t belong.  We're looking for the one that does.

Victory Points:
+10 for reading this column in its entirety
+10 for answering the question posed at the start of the article
+5 for each previous Get In The Game column you’ve read
+15 for submitting your feedback, however vociferous or laudatory through Talk Back

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