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 a new release from Alderac Entertainment Group and the return of Kittens in a Blender.

With the release of its Mystic Vale card crafting game last week through its Pro Retailer Program, three weeks before the official wide release at Gen Con, Alderac Entertainment Group is positioning itself as a larger game company with a proclivity for games with innovative game mechanics, first with 2012’s addictive Love Letter, then a series of other games from Korean designers and now Mystic Vale, apparently the first in what AEG bills as its Card Crafting System.  Somewhat similar to deck building games such as Dominion and Legendary, Mystic Vale differs in that players "craft" the cards that they put into play by "harvesting" points that allow them to improve the cards already in their decks.  Whereas the cards in the typical deck building game remain the same with the decks changing each game, in Mystic Vale, not only do the decks a player uses change each game but the cards themselves change as well, making for even more possible variations in each game.

With this game and its Pro Retailer program, AEG also firms up its position as one of the more retailer-friendly companies in the industry.  While it still has some distance to catch industry leader Wizards of the Coast (it is really hard to match the amount of support WOTC provides retailers with its Magic pre-releases, Game Days and other events), giving retailers  participating in the Pre-Retailer  program a three week jump on selling the game prior to its wide release at Gen Con certainly runs counter to some other companies in the industry who release their hot new products at their own booth at conventions several weeks before their retailers see it arrive for their shelves.  So a big Thumbs Up to AEG.  Now if they can do something about making more of the Yeti hats available for their December release...

Another welcome game hit store shelves in the past week.  I, of course, am talking about the long out -of-stock Kittens in a Blender, first released in 2012.  Upon its release, Kittens sold out almost immediately industry-wide, because, after all, we are talking about cute, adorable kittens and blenders.  The juxtaposition of the two attracted the attention of so many gamers that the first print run sold out and the tiny restocks that slipped in (almost unnoticed because they were so small) vanished from store shelves, with copies of the $14.99 game selling for $40 to $50 online.  GTS Distribution bought up the entire print run of the original game, which also kept the game from wider distribution as stores only had one source from which to get it and the expansion More Kittens in a Blender.

According to the Kickstarter campaign page for the reprint of the game, Redshift Games, a new game company, bought the rights to the game from the defunct Closet Nerd Games and raised over $20,000 to reprint Kittens and More Kittens.  The campaign proved successful, enough so that the company did another print run of both games and got them into much wider distribution, as most distributors had stock of the game, at least for a brief period of time.  However, More Kittens snuck in on little kitten feet, as I would not have known a restock of it had arrived if I hadn’t spotted it on Southern Hobby’s shelves during a visit this week.  Very happy to see this back in stock and really hoping Redshirt Games manages to handle operations better than Closet Nerd Games did.

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