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 offers up his selections for seminars and panels to attend at GAMA Expo.

Unfortunately, the GAMA Expo falls toward the end of the school year this time so not able to make it again this year.  However, I did get the site book and noted a number of events I would have liked to catch.  Here are my selections:

Punchkins Intro and Why Buy Squishable for your Store?  Squishables and Plush Microbes and anime-related plush have done very well for us over the past couple of years so would really like to see what Squishables have coming up for 2023 and to take a look at the Punchkins line, although I would probably pass on the "poop" plush.  I realize "poop" emojis and similar images are popular but I will pass on them, just as I passed on the "poop" themed games popular a few years ago (see "Poop and the Rise of the Offensive Game").  Most store owners know the value of diversification and I have found plush both profitable and a traffic draw for teenagers and families with young children.

Snap Ship Tactics: Constructible Miniatures Games Launching in 2023.  I fondly remember the Pirates of the Spanish Main collectable ship line of a decade ago.  Although the collectable miniature product mix has collapsed to Dungeons & Dragons blind box miniatures and HeroClix, I would like to look at a new product line entering the market.

WPN Premium: Your Toolkit for Growth.  I still have not felt the pull to make the changes in my store needed to apply for WPN Premium, nor do I feel the benefits offered by Wizards of the Coast for attaining Premium status warrant the work put into pursuing it, but I certainly would listen to their pitch (see "Wizards Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is and Other Trends").  The WPN Premium checklist can be a valuable tool, as having someone else’s viewpoint can certainly prove helpful, and I'd like to hear what they currently see at what must be among the industry’s best stores.

What’s New at Darrington Press and Critical Role.  Critical Role has had an amazing effect on the popularity of RPGs.  It still bemuses me the number of people coming into the store asking about D&D who learned about it through watching Critical Role.  Also, the Tal’dorei Reborn sourcebook is tied with Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for my best selling non-WotC D&D sourcebook of 2022, so I would like to hear what they have to say (especially if the Critical Role cast would make appearances at conventions and stores to promote the product line).

From Design to Distribution Parts 1, 2 & 3.  I teach marketing so any look at the crunchy parts of the games industry, such as manufacturing and logistics, fascinates me.  I still remember the distribution problems the industry saw 2020 through 2022.  I would like to know what steps, if any, publishers have taken to minimize the effects of chokes in the supply chain in the future.

License Agreements and Trademark Masterclass.  Again, speaking as a marketing instructor, one that teaches introductory materials on licensing and trademarking, the opportunity to hear a more detailed discussion would be great.  Why should or shouldn’t a publisher pursue a license?

The above are less than 10% of the seminars offered this week so it will be difficult to pick which to attend.  Since attending the Premier Presentations is required to get the Retailer Appreciation Box, I would bet those would be packed.  Here’s hoping: that #1, other presentations get swamped as well; and #2, that most of the small publishers make it to the GAMA Expo in Louisville.

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Note, we also recommend the ICv2 White Paper at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Sorrento 3 (see "ICv2 at GAMA Expo") – ed.

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