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 shares his impressions from the recently completed Open House hosted by Alliance Game Distributors.

Just finished driving back from this year’s Alliance Distribution Open House and seven plus hours of driving gave me quite a bit of uninterrupted time to think about the past three days.  Following are four things that struck me about this year’s event.

Growing Importance of MAP.  Another publisher announced this weekend that they would implement a Minimum Advertised Pricing policy this year.  Calliope Games announced a MAP policy which restricts selling their products either 20% below keystone pricing or 20% above.  Calliope Games also indicated the company would employ software to search the web for MAP violations.  Calliope indicated the new policy was not something on which retailers would have to sign off but rather that distributors would and would be expected to only sell the companies’ products to retailers that abided by the new MAP policies.  [Edited September 11 6 p.m. CT to remove reference to Upper Deck, -ed.]

More and More Publishers Demoing Their Games.  The number of small press publishers in the demo room and exhibit hall appeared up from last year and most appeared more active in soliciting retailers to play a game.  Instead of just sitting there waiting for a retailer to ask about a game, a number of publishers had signs up soliciting demo games or were walking around asking passerby if they would like to try out a game.

Acknowledging the Retailer.  This is probably just an ego boost on my part but it was nice to hear several publishers, CMON and Asmodee among them, indicate just how important the retail level of the channel was in the company’s future business strategy.  Of course, during their presentations, every publisher and manufacturer took pains to mention how important the retailer was to their success, but CMON and Asmodee’s comments stood out.  CMON’s especially, because, as the company noted in its presentation, it has not run the most retailer-friendly business model in the past, opting to go direct-to-consumer with its Kickstarter campaigns, and while the company still apparently plans to use Kickstarter funding in its business strategy, it also appears to have taken a more inclusive stance towards the retail (and distribution) levels of the channel.

Importance of Asmodee to Alliance.  There were 12 spots allocated to publisher presentations over the course of Saturday and Sunday.  Of those, three went to Asmodee to discuss various aspects of the exclusive arrangement between Asmodee, its various studios and Alliance.  The only other publisher that came close was Wizards of the Coast, which received one slot to discuss their Dungeons & Dragons and Avalon Hill lines and one slot to look at the upcoming Magic: The Gathering - Ixalan release.  Even long time exclusive partner WizKids only received one presentation slot.

There were some other things that struck me, like the absence of Troll Lord Games, Games Workshop’s new Shadowspire game and the interest in WotC’s new Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, as well as the lack of a presentation by Steve Jackson Games, especially with the upcoming release of the Munchkin Trading Card Game.  More will probably come to mind after a couple of nights of sleep.  Thanks to Alliance Distribution for hosting the event and all of the publishers who made it worthwhile to attend.

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