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 two big stories from the past week.

I had planned to discuss why more stores don’t run all the Organized Play programs that are out there and why they don’t demo as much as the publishers, or the stores, for that matter, would like but two other events hit the news that caught my attention for this week:  1) Topps’ Star Wars Galactic Connexions Trading Disc Game (see "Topps 'Star Wars' Game Won't Go to Hobby") and 2) the sale of the Legend of the Five Rings brand by AEG to Fantasy Flight Games (see "Fantasy Flight Games Acquires 'Legend of the Five Rings'").  The Topps’ story first.

The Galactic Connexions game has all the earmarks of a "You guys make collectable trading cards, right? Here, make us a Star Wars game, get it in the store really fast and give people some reason to collect and keep buying it."  Topps, knowing a good deal when they hear it (I knew a manufacturer who once said that he could put tables of trash in the main aisle of a Walmart and, due to their customer traffic, it would sell), likely jumped at the offer, though their track record with trading card games isn’t that great.  Anyone remember Monsuno?  Came out from Topps in 2012 and died, oh about 2012.

Topps may not be great in trading card games but the collectability of trading cards and the creation of chase items, now at that they are great.  Galactic Connexions comes with common discs, uncommon ones, rare ones, ultra rare ones, ultra ultra rare ones, ultra ultra ultra rarer ones and the rarest of all, the 14K gold Slave Leia disc, plus discs only available at specific stores.  All this while ignoring the basic driver behind collectable games these days, Organized Play and a place to run it.  Walmart has not hosted an Organized Play program for any trading card game since the original Pokemon boom back in the 1990s when Walmart stores actually did host Pokemon tournaments.  In order to keep any trading whatever game viable these days, a company almost has to have an OP program in place.  Not a whisper of one for Galactic Connexions.

Possibly the plan is to reach out to the Local Gaming Store and ask it to host tournaments.  I remember years ago a company launched a trading card game with product only available in the mass market.  The business model was to have the mass market, who buys and moves a lot of product, sell the game to players and the local gaming store got to run the tournaments.  The plan, as the company saw it, was that store-hosted tournaments would draw players in who would pay tournament fees and buy snacks and other products while in the store.  A win-win for everyone, in the eyes of whomever developed this plan. Needless to say, stores did not embrace this idea, figuring their time better spent hosting tournaments and otherwise promoting products they could sell in the store, rather than giving customers a reason to buy more stuff elsewhere.  Yep, that was a winning business plan.

I expect Galactic Connexions to do decently well for Walmart, but not gangbusters, so no OP program put in place at the store and, once the movie hype dies down, so will interest in the game.

Late Friday, AEG sent out a press release announcing the sale of their L5R to the home of acquired gaming brands, Fantasy Flight Games, so that AEG could focus on "other types of games"  such Trains, Thunderstone and Love Letter.  The press release indicated that FFG would reformat the L5R TCG as a Living Card Game, much like Game of Thrones and Warhammer Conquest, with the first release at Gen Con in 2017.

Sales of the L5R TCG have spiraled in recent years, and not in a good direction.  Regional Koteis that used to pull 200+ people in our area now barely pull a couple of dozen.  Unlike Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, which maintained format allowing players to keep using older cards, L5R Storyline tournament play made it very hard for players to use their older cards.  Great for sales, not so much for long-term play.  FFG has shown that it can successful convert a TCG over to a LCG and I expect them to have no less success with L5R, both the TCG and the RPG.

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