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, Scott Thorne looks at three developments in the gaming industry that struck him the most in 2018.

It is traditional at this time of year to look both forwards and backwards, hence the association of the Roman god Janus with the New Year.  So without further ado, here are three  things that struck me in the past year:

Asmodee.  Asmodee has established itself as the premier boardgaming company in the industry with its only other major publishing competition Wizards of the Coast.  With the exception of Axis and Allies, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Gloomhaven and Iello’s King titles, almost all of the top selling titles come from Asmodee, meaning that I would bet 90%+ of the game stores in the industry have found it necessary to open an account with Alliance Distribution.  Couple that with a dedicated sales staff reaching out to stores, monthly copies of free games, an extensive demo program, some very nice display opportunities and a vastly improved in-stock status (with the exception noted below), and arguably the hottest new product launch of the year with KeyForge, Asmodee has done a fantastic job supporting the retail end of the game industry.  I am still not thrilled about only being able to get their products through Alliance (and some other publishers who followed suit with distributors we don’t use regularly hurt their sales here), and would like to see their Top 40 program cut to Top 20 or customized based on store sales (as what is a Top 40 game in one store is certainly not a Top 40 game in another store), but overall Asmodee impressed me this past year.

KeyForge and Gloomhaven Out of Stocks.  That exception I mentioned last paragraph?  KeyForge was arguably the hottest new release this past year and most stores were out of it pretty quickly, especially the starter sets.  Our Asmodee rep even talked me (and a couple of other stores from what I heard) into cutting our initial orders of starters and taking more booster decks instead.  Granted, Asmodee says they had produced enough starters to satisfy expected demand through at least mid-December but sold out less than a week after release.  I soon saw a number of retailers trying to source KeyForge decks and starters from anywhere and the tiny restocks that appeared quickly vanished like melting snow.  However, at least stores had KeyForge going into the holiday shopping season.  Gloomhaven, still #3 on the BoardGameGeek Hotness list, was nowhere to be found, despite stores placing reorders in early fall with an expectation of stock arriving in late October through mid-November.  My restocks are now trickling in over a week after Christmas or about two weeks later than I could really have used them.

GAMA.  After a summer marked by controversy over the organization’s president breaking its own rules at Origins and pushing past a security staff member, followed by the non-renewal of long time Executive Director John Ward’s contract with the only rationale publicly given to take the organization in a new direction, GAMA announced this week the hiring of a new ED, John Stacy,  previously the Government Relations Consultant and School Board Liaison at The Callender Law Firm, PLLC in Columbus, Ohio.  However, given that the BOD wants to move in a different direction, Stacy has a lot of experience in coordinating large scale events including the Dublin Irish Festival, Columbus VegFest and Columbus Chocolate Festival.  A new direction sure, but GAMA wants to make sure its core funding sources stay strong.

There are other items I could include but I would probably go another couple of pages like the strength of Games Workshop, WOTC continuing to devalue its D&D pricing structure, the increased use of MAP and so forth.  Add yours in the comments or email them to me at  Next week, a look at 2019.

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