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 looks at retailers that are abusing the HeroClix Storyline OP program.
Thanks to Dave Cook of Zipwhaa for his letter last week pointing out that the company had Heebie Jeebies in development long before Cards Against Humanity hit the market (see "Dave Cook of Zipwhaa Inc. on 'Heebie Jeebies'").  He's right; I did not ask him when the game went into development.  However, neither will my customers.  What they will see is games coming out from Zipwhaa, Lion Rampant, Green Ronin and Twilight Creations, among others, all using similar mechanics to CAH.  I liked Heebie Jeebies and, unlike CAH, the company has a track record of selling through distribution, making it easier for me to stock, so here's hoping it hits the market and customers see it as a fun game.
That was not the "Shortsighted Retailers" section of the column I referred to in the title, this is.  For those of you who may have missed mentions of it in past issues (for want of a better term) of ICv2, WizKids recently launched its second Storyline tournament utilizing tournament-specific boosters (see "'DC HeroClix: War of Light'").  Much like last year's Fear Itself series of tournaments, stores purchase a limited quantity of bricks of boosters specifically related to that Storyline event.  WizKids also sells stores tournament kits containing a core item such as Batman’s utility belt or this tournament's Green Lantern Corps Power Battery, along with ancillary figures that attach to the core item and can enhance gameplay.
The set of figures contained in the Storyline boosters is fairly small, about 40 figures total, and only available in the Fear Itself or War of Light boosters.  Theoretically, these figures will not appear in any of WizKids upcoming releases.  This makes them fairly desirable among HeroClix players, causing them to come to stores running Storyline tournaments.  Granted, the boosters run more than the typical WizKids booster pack and stores do have to pay for the tournament kits, but no one makes them participate and WizKids does not tell stores how much they can charge for entry into their tournaments (I'm looking at you Konami).  WizKids changes what some store owners feel is too high a price for the kits but buying into the Storyline tournaments is not a requirement for remaining a HeroClix tournament store.  Got all that?
However, clearly marked on a big white label stuck to the outside of each brick of War of Light boosters is "For Authorized Use Under License Agreement.  Not For Resale."  See, when stores sign up to host a series of Storyline tournaments, they sign a licensing agreement with WizKids.  Key among that agreement is that stores agree to use the boosters in the Storyline tournaments, not sell them independently of the tournaments.  Some stores don't like that restriction, it appears.  By my count, there were thirty-two auctions on eBay for bricks of the boosters, several with the "Not for Resale" sticker clearly visible in the photo, prior to the boosters shipping.  Asking prices ranged from $300 to $400, though they had all either sold on closed by the time I checked them on Thursday.  Another half dozen are up as I write this though, with sellers again asking between $300 and $400.  An email sent to WizKids indicated the company is aware of them and is investigating.
I like this program.  I want to see it continue, even though it is work for both us and WizKids.  My players like it and I like the sales it generates.  Nobody makes stores participate in it.  I don't want to see it ended or extensively changed because of the actions of a few retailers that see short term dollars over the long term benefits of the program.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of