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 his favorite publisher presentation at GAMA Trade Show.

Travelling back in time a few weeks to revisit the GAMA Trade Show, the presentations I attended by retailers were all pretty good and I pulled some useful ideas out of them.  Of the publisher presentations that I caught, to use a cliché, Fireside Games’ presentation stood head and shoulders above the others.  Why?  While other publishers told me about their new product lines coming out or about their new organized play program that debuted last year or would roll out this year, Fireside Games discussed why their game lines should get space on my store shelves.  In fact, the company’s presentation impressed me enough that I asked Fireside’s Anna-Marie De Witt to send me a copy after the show and, while I do not necessarily agree with all of them, the company does make a good case for stocking its products:

1.  Strong sales history.  The company’s flagship line, Castle Panic and its expansions, have sold thousands of copies since its introduction and while none of its other products, such as Bloodsuckers and Bears! have reached Castle Panic levels in sales, overall the company has a pretty strong product mix.

2.  Favorable price points ($20–40).  In general, Fireside’s games top out at $39.99.  Even the company’s most popular games, the Panic line, have an MSRP of $39.99 and have maintained that price point for almost a decade now, while Bears! and Here Kitty, Kitty fall in the $25 to $30 range.

3.  Alignment with key game store demographic (light strategy gamers, newcomers, families).  Fireside Games products, especially the co-operative ones, are well designed to appeal to families and those looking for a game playable in an hour or less.  New players can understand the rules quickly and get into the game with little experience.

4.  No Kickstarters.  Yes, I have heard the argument regarding using Kickstarter as a marketing device, but I still do not see the top tier game companies in the industry relying on crowdfunding as a revenue source.  There is still a strong argument to be made said for steady cash flow.  Given the number of companies now adopting a retailer level in their crowdfunding campaigns, it appears there is still a place for retailers in the distribution channel.

5.  Focused on role (making and promoting great games).  This rather ties into #4. Focusing on producing the game and outsourcing functions that your company is not set up to handle to other members of the channel (cough, distributors and retailers, cough) seems a better allocation of scarce resources than doing it all.

6.  Aggressive marketing spend and analysis.  Have to take their word on this.  I would like to see more details on promotional spends in their newsletters but the company has partnered with Alliance Distribution to provide posters for Alliance’s light up boards and they do release promotional materials for their games on a regular basis.

7.  Launch kits.  Fireside has produced launch kits for most of their recent releases, encouraging retailers to buy multiple copies in order to get bonuses such as promo items and early releases.

I am going to lump items 8 through 13 into one group since they all relate to promotion but Fireside Games has a very active marketing department for such a small company (and more companies do need store locators, though I wish Fireside Games and other companies with one would adopt Steve Jackson Games model of requiring stores to notify the company annually they are still in business or get removed from the locator).  I have always found Fireside Games very responsive when I contact them for promotional materials and at the GAMA Trade Show, the company premiered a new "How to Play" poster for Castle Panic.

8.  Media kits

9.  In-store collateral (shelf-talkers and posters)

10.  Newsletters

11.  How-to-play videos

12.  Store locator

13.  Direct accounts (as a stop-gap when distribution is out)

De Witt did not mention it in the list but Fireside Games will also provide demo copies of their games. Contact the company for details.  If you sell boardgames, especially catering to families and casual players, Fireside Games should have a spot on your shelves, especially the Castle Panic line.

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