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 remembers two important game industry figures who passed away recently.

The gaming industry lost a couple of long time mainstays with the unexpected passings this week of Bill Jaffe and James Mathe.  Jaffe, who passed away in his sleep on June 8, had been part of a number of companies in the gaming industry working with Lou Zocchi during the nascent days of distribution in the industry, before moving with Zocchi Distribution when it was purchased, and over the past 20 years, working with companies such as 1A and most recently, as far as I know, Mr. B’s Games.  Besides having a warm and welcoming personality and a love of boardgames and historic wargames, Jaffe notably had an encyclopedic memory for stock numbers and could upon request, during his time with Zocchi, give the stock number for any TSR item, whether in stock or not.  I last saw Bill at an Alliance Open House a year or so ago and he was, as enthusiastic as ever, talking about the new games coming out from Mr. B’s Games.  Farewell Bill, I, and many others, will miss you.

I never met James Mathe until later in his career in the industry, only encountering him in his position as the owner of Minion Games and an articulate spokesman for the benefits (and difficulties) of using Kickstarter to fund boardgame production, as well as on game design, publishing and running a game store.  Mathe could speak with expertise on all of these topics as he had founded the Game Universe game store,, Minion Games and sat on the board of directors of (now part of DriveThruRPG.  He also created and continued to run the Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice group and commented in numerous other industry-related Facebook groups. Mathe’s website has dozens of posts offering advice on various aspects of the game industry such this By the Numbers post looking at the terms used in business and a quick look at the numbers the average new game publisher could expect to encounter:

  • 1% = the number of packages/games you should expect to get damaged. lost, or have flaws for reshipping
  • 1% = the number of backers you can expect from a large broad mailing list
  • 5-6% = the royalty of Gross Revenue a game designer can be expected to receive (2-3% MSRP)
  • 5x = the minimum multiplier of your production cost (plus shipping to your warehouse) you use to figure out MSRP

People who knew Mathe much better than and who worked with him in one or another of his various roles (e.g., Jamey Phillip , Michael Webb and Chuck Weldon) all posted lengthy reminiscences of working with him at various times during his career as retailer, publisher and consultant.

Much like Bill Jaffe, I primarily ran into James at trade shows, and remember sitting down with him and a few other publishers and retailer at a trade show a few  years ago (I do not remember if it was Alliance or the GAMA Trade Show) and discussing the state of the industry for 2-3 hours.  I remember being impressed at how wide and deep his knowledge of the industry was.  His passing is a great loss to his family, friends and the gaming industry.

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