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 the recent WizKids hire.

In last week's discussion of the changes in distributor exclusive lines, I mistakenly stated that Looney Labs’ product lines are carried by two distributors, ACD and Alliance, omitting their third distributor GTS Distribution, which Looney Labs added about six months ago.  After Looney Labs notified me and ICv2 of the omission, a corrected version of the column posted about 90 minutes later but, in case you missed the correction, I did want to make sure you knew Alliance Distribution, ACD and GTS Distribution all carry Looney Labs products.  As I also mentioned last week, I would not be particularly surprised to hear of Looney Labs expanding its distributor choices to include Southern Hobby and Peachtree Distribution within the next two years.  What does this mean to you if you are a game player?  Really not much.  While distribution is vitally important to manufacturers, distributors and retailers, it matters very little to the ultimate consumer, except that wider distribution makes games easier to find.

I was happy to read the announcement that Zev Shlasinger, formerly of Z-Man Games until last month, has now signed on with WizKids Games as head of the company's board game division.  I have known Shlasinger for almost 20 years now though his ownership of Z-Man Game and he is very good at identifying, publishing and promoting good board and card games.  He formed Z-Man to relaunch the Shadowfist trading card game, one of the early TCGs that drew upon themes from Chinese martial arts movies, then released what was for me the much more successful line of B-Movie Card Games, starting with Grave Robbers from Outer Space, which parodied the horror films of the 1950s and 1980s, and branching out into other genres such as Western, fantasy, pirate, blaxspolitation, Asian cinema and Christmas.  Though not commonly seen in stores in recent years, a decade or so ago, the B-Movie Card Game was a ubiquitous offering in game stores and I saw many a game of them played at gaming conventions throughout the Midwest.

Z-Man Games' biggest hits, releasing several years after the B-Movie Card Game peaked, were Agricola and Pandemic, both posting respectably steady sales for several years until the advent of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop web series, which featured Pandemic in one episode, giving it the "Wheaton Bump," quadrupling, at least for us, sales of the game and allowing Z-Man to create a Catan-esque line of expansions for Pandemic.  The success of other games such as Tragedy Looper and The Walking Dead (based on the comics, not the television series; Cryptozoic Entertainment has the rights to that and puts out its only line of TV series based games) likely attracted the attention of Quebec-based game publisher/distributor Filosofia, which bought Z-Man in 2011.  Shlasinger remained the "face" of Z-Man games until departing for WizKids in mid-January, as announced in the press release.  My guess is, based upon his track record, Shlasinger will receive quite a bit of autonomy as the head of board games at WizKids.  Like several other companies that started in one part of the gaming field and migrated to board games (Fantasy Flight Games and Gale Force 9 come to mind), I imagine WizKids has looked at the booming board game segment of the industry and, while the company has had some success in the area, I imagine it feels that with someone with Shlasinger's expertise heading the division, it could achieve Fantasy Flight Games levels in terms of board game sales.

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