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 tackles two topics: the Ravnica Allegiance Pre-Releases and the Controversial President of GAMA.

Well, Winter Storm Gia pushed across the Midwest and Northeast, just in time for the Ravnica Allegiance pre-release weekend.  Despite the snow, most stores I have seen talk about their attendance on social media indicate that attendance has been quite good.  Given that, according to Wizards of the Coast, Guilds of Ravnica proved the best attended season in Magic’s history, good attendance for the Allegiance’s pre-release is really not that surprising.  If Gia had not hit this weekend, Allegiance would probably break records for pre-release attendance.  As it is, our overall attendance on Saturday for the Allegiance pre-release slightly beat that of Saturday for Guilds of Ravnica, though interest in booster boxes and Planeswalker decks here dropped off significantly from last fall.

Despite what WOTC has argued (and I could certainly be wrong since I am basing this on anecdotal rather than data-driven evidence, which WOTC may have), I am not seeing Arena driving Magic players into stores, rather it is word of mouth and their friends doing it.  One person is playing Magic, they talk it up to their friends and that friend gets interested, comes in with them and leaves with a Planeswalker deck or a Deck Builder Toolkit. (By the way WOTC, would you get those back into print?  They are a much better tool for ginning up interest in the game in new and lapsed players than a Planeswalker deck.)

As I mentioned last week, GAMA and its Board of Directors has attracted a lot of attention these past few months, especially for a group that generally has drawn little attention to itself for a number of years. (For the record, I am a longtime member of the GAMA Retail Division and have renewed my membership for this year.)  I hope that the BOD can return to its relative obscurity in the next year.  In order for that to happen, current board president Stephan Brissaud should step down for two reasons:

  1. Actions at Gen Con 2018.  As has been noted before a number of times on ICv2 and other news sites.  Brissaud’s actions at Gen Con caused the GAMA Board of Directors to censure him last fall.  What this means in terms of repercussions to Brissaud is unclear as the only repercussions I have seen have been the resignations of long time board member Mike Webb and Emeritus Board Member Mike Stackpole.  In addition, due to apparent co-ordination problems and delays, the highly regarded Origins Library project, which brought fiction authors to the exhibit floor, a programming track and a published anthology, will not return to Origins this year.
  2. Handling of the Executive Director change.  As has been noted several times on ICv2 and other news sources, the BOD opted not to renew GAMA ED John Ward’s contract and to terminate Deputy Director (and Ward’s wife) Angela Ward.  While I am not a fan of Ward’s termination, I do recognize that the Board of Directors acted well within its purview in not renewing his contract and hope that incoming ED John Stacy performs well and has a long successful tenure.  However, the way in which Ward’s contract was handled, first not-renewed, then a survey of the membership, which showed strong support  for retaining Ward, then the BOD seeking legal help to determine if it needed to consider the results of the survey, indicates  a problem with the Board of Directors in fulfilling its responsibility to both oversee and guide GAMA’s future.

Although a bit close to the GAMA Trade Show, replacing a controversial president would show the Board of Directors is serious about the direction for itself as well as the organization.

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