Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne reports on the best games from the Alliance Open House.

In Ft. Wayne Indiana this weekend for the Alliance/Diamond Open House and awake at 5 a.m..  This weekend,  several products and promotions really caught my attention.  The first was from NECA/WizKids, detailing their plans for the Batman: No Man's Land six part storyline tournament starting in November and running through next May.  This tournament leaves behind the cosmic orientation of the Infinity Gauntlet, bringing play down to earth with Batman's Utility Belt as the focus of game play, with players receiving a different component of the belt each month and Limited Edition figures keyed to the No Mans Land storyline.  First month is Lockup, then Batgirl, Ultimate Clayface, Poison Ivy (fantastic sculpt, by the way), Killer Croc and finally the Joker and Harley Quinn (of course), with the big prize a model of the Batcave, complete with Alfred bearing medical supplies.

The addition of gangs adds a twist to the tournament.  Each player declares their allegiance to one of the games vying for control of Gotham City during the tournament.  The top four members of the gang controlling most of Gotham at the end of the tournament each receive a Penguin LE figure, meaning that even if you are not one of the top players in each month's game, you still have a good chance of walking away with a cool prize by affiliating with the winning gang.  WizKids' promotion worked though, as the new Batman figures and No Man's Land attracted the most attention in the exhibit hall and came up most often when I asked other attendees what they had seen cool at the show, especially the sample Batmobile and No Man's Land utility belt each store received.

Fantasy Flight Games took second in terms of attention grabbing products with their Star Wars Living Card Game and X-Wing Miniatures Game.  Crowds gathered around the demo tables whenever an opening to play either appeared during open gaming.  The same was true for both Kaijudo and Dungeon Command from Wizards of the Coast.  I counted over a dozen games of Dungeon Command going at one time during the Saturday evening open gaming session.

Miniature games in general attracted a lot of attention, probably because they are so visual. Another one that stood out was Britzkrieg from Zvezda.  This is a WW2 hex-based miniatures system, similar to Tide of Iron or Memoir '44, but with an astounding level of detail in both rules and figures.  But the basic game is pretty easy to understand, and at $70 for the basic game and only $4 for most packs of additional minis, it should be an easy sell to fans of historical miniatures.

A brand extension I have high hopes for is Fluxx: The Board Game from Looney Labs.  Not nearly as random as the various card game versions of Fluxx, the structure imposed by the board actually allows for the use of strategy in your gameplay.  Players will still win by achieving goals, but now, instead of collecting Keeper cards, you claim a goal by occupying the two appropriate goal spaces on the board with your pawns. 

I would be remiss in not mentioning Mayfair Games, who discussed some pretty impressive plans for the next year, including an appearance by newsrams Bob and Angus on the Today Show (but only on the Chicago affiliate program) and an expansion of their demo placemat program, with placemats walking players through the game shipping with all new releases and downloadable from the Mayfair Games Website.  Plus, each store received a copy of Dos Rios, plus a demo placemat, Mayfair Games' way of pointing out that, in a culture that always looks for the new, they produce and promote games that still sell fifteen, even thirty years after the original release.

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