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 follows up on the shortage in collector supplies and also looks at organized play roll-out post-pandemic.

Received a response to last week’s column on the shortage of card accessories with some additional information on the shortage (see "Rolling for Initiative - Why Plastic Game Accessories Are Scarce").  If you remember, early on during the epidemic, a number of companies that produce paints and similar products for the hobby game industry shifted their manufacturing to produce hand sanitizer in large quantities.  The Army Painter and Crazy Aaron’s immediately come to mind as two companies that did this.  At one time, The Army Painter solicited orders of pocket-sized spray bottles of hand sanitizer, of which my order never arrived, and we still have two gallons of Crazy Aaron’s hand sanitizer in the supply closet.

Anyhow, the point the letter made is that not only did much of the available plastic supply get diverted to making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but the plastic mills got all of their production capacity shifted to making PPE.  Similar to how there are only a few printing plants capable of printing trading card games, there are only a comparatively few plastic mills capable of producing the raw material from which manufacturers make both PPE and card supplies.  With only a few sources for raw plastic, and those sources diverted to producing PPE, it is no surprise that plastic for the products we sell is in short supply.

I would expect to see a shift back in plastic production to more regular channels as the new CDC recommendations take effect.  This production shift will likely lead to an increase in plastic card and comic supplies, at higher prices.  UltraPro has already notified distributors to expect significant price hikes in their product line when the channels of distribution get back to something approximating normal.

With its announcement that North American stores may resume sanctioned in-store play at the end of May, Wizards of the Coast indicates it wants to move game play back to a more normal state (see "Wizards of the Coast Begins the Transition Back to In-Person 'Magic: The Gathering' Play").  However, a lot of stores expressed concern regarding the announcement, especially since WotC made it with comparatively short notice, instead of allowing stores to have more time to transition back into in-store play.  I know of several stores that have converted their in-store gaming space to either additional retail floor space, storage, or a processing area for expanded online sales.  They will have to decide if they wish to convert the space back to in-store play or leave it as modified.

Possibly recognizing this, WotC updated the announcement a week or so later, explicitly stating that stores do not have to run in-store events and will not be penalized in terms of pre-release allocations or other releases for not running them (see "Wizards of the Coast Updates Event Policies").  The freeze on event metrics, which has been in place since Spring of 2020, will remain in force as will allocation numbers.  Stores may request an increase in prerelease allocations, which WotC will decide on a case-by-case basis.

It does not appear other companies are particularly eager to follow WotC’s lead.  The freeze on in-store organized play put into place by Konami and The Pokemon Company remains in effect, though both companies do offer stores the option of running online-only tournaments.  Meanwhile, other publishers appear leery of attending or sponsoring large conventions as Paizo, Asmodee NA and UltraPro have all announced they will not display at this year’s Gen Con (see "Big Companies Continue to Bail on Attending Gen Con Indy 2021").  I think it is probably the right thing to do, but maybe I am overly cautious.

What do you think?  Email with your thoughts.

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