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 reflects on the value he finds at industry events such as the Alliance Open House.

It is 4 a.m. Sunday morning at the Alliance Open House and, since I currently find sleep a distant memory, now seems like a good time to think about why I like attending industry trade shows like GTS and distributor open houses.  I always enjoy attending trade shows and distributor events for three reasons:

  1.  I get the opportunity to see lots of games, mainly new but also some older titles that fell below or off my radar in the past year.  For example, Blank, from Hub Games.  This came out over a year ago and I played and liked it at last year’s Open House but for some reason, probably all the other games there, I never got around to ordering one.  I remember trying to remember the name of the game but it kept slipping my mind when ordering time came.  This year, with a copy in my bag and notes in my notebook, an order will be written.  For those of you not familiar with the game, it is a fast-playing combination of Fluxx and Uno, while following the rules on the rule cards as they get played and discarded.  A twist is that following the game customization trend popularized by the Legacy-style game (did you know there is a $100 Legacy version of Clank releasing later this year?), the winner of the game gets to write out a new rule for that particular deck on a blank card.  That rule can be straightforward, such as, "Next player skips their turn," or silly, "Players must say Moo when they play a card," but they become a legal card in that deck.  Without the Open House, I likely would never have seen that game nor remembered to order it.  I also got to see Amigo Games’ line of kids games, many of which, like the Haba line, are playable by pre-school kids and have attractive MSRPs of $20 or less.
  2.  I get the opportunity to see lots of other game retailers and industry professionals.  Yes, I "talk" with them online through Facebook and other social media, but I am certainly not going to spend an hour talking with GTM reviewer John Kaulfield or Zombie Planet (and Eden Studios) owner George Vasilakos, online.  Sitting down and talking with someone face to face generally allows the conversation to move in all sorts of interesting and helpful directions.  Attending Friday and Saturday’s retailer panels gave me some insights into how other retailers run their operations and a couple (at least) of ideas to mull over and see if they would fit into my store model.  Web seminars are OK, but something about sitting in the audience at a live presentation focuses your attention more.
  3.  I get to talk with (and listen to) publishers and distributors (in this case only one distributor, after all, it is the Alliance Open House) and get some insight into why they make the decisions that they do.  I also get the chance to let them know how I see things from my end of the channel and, sometimes, we both walk away with a better understanding, and appreciation, of the constraints under which the other operates.

Trade shows are pretty much done for the year but there may be one more distributor event this fall.  I do not keep as close a track of them as I should. If there is one near you and you have the time to attend it, do so.  Next week, a few trends I noticed in the industry at this weekend’s event.

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