Where has all the cheapass gone?

I don’t refer to , of course, hence the lower-case C above; they’re still in corporate hibernation, safely ensconced in . I refer to the general concept of inexpensive-yet-substantial board games, which would seem pretty ripe for the current financial environment. I mean, why aren’t we swimming in them? Do distributors hate them? Did we all get so used to $80 boxes of plastic that we forgot how to design anything else? Or is there just enough design lag time on a decent game that we won’t see the new envelope-game equivalents until after the economy’s recovered?

I don’t know how wonderful any of the Pair-Of-Dice titles are, but they just flew across my radar at the exact moment I was considering whether $20 games might have better survival characteristics than either $6 or $60 ones. I also don’t know whether they’re really diving into the market or are just quietly sitting on the border between direct-sales self-publisher and “real” publisher. I know they’re making fun use of materials, their stuff is getting decent buzz, and that right now they’re running a deal that definitively puts them in the price range I was thinking about. So… maybe check them out?


  1. God help me for posting this, especially on my vacation, but…

    Essentially, the issue is that small, cheap games can still only exist in prolific numbers as long as there is a major sales leader that supports major sales for the retailer.

    One of the problems with the current market is there is no major sales leader along the lines of Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, or Dungeons & Dragons. None of these do remotely the level of sales they once did; the level of turns on most of these products are only certain enough that they can replenish the current product and buy the new product coming out next month/quarter. And thus, retailers have little free cash to experiment with anything else. And the cash they do have, particularly for boardgames, they spend on larger, big-box, more popular items, which they believe will be more in demand and thus more likely to sell.

    For example, if I as a retailer have $100 to buy boardgames for the next week, amd I going to buy four $50 MSRP games from popular lines, that are most likely to turn within the next month, or would I buy two such games and spend the other $50 taking a chance on five to 10 small, cheap $10 to $20 MSRP games that might sell… or might not?

    In the current market, I can guarantee that a retailer will buy the four big, popular boxed games most likely to turn, as he will not want to be stuck with a shelf full of small boxed games that if he is lucky, he will be able to sell off at cost a few years down the line, after selling only one or two of those at full MSRP…

    Without that cash flow from the big-selling product lines, the retailers just don’t have the ability to experiment with new lines… especially if they only might be better sellers. They need to spend their money buying sure sellers…

  2. I think there are still plenty of cheap games. They’re just all in .pdf format, sold for print-and-play. Why pay shipping and printing costs, when you can use the Internet and your customer’s home printer?

  3. So the core board gamer community has warmed up to print-and-play games to a wider degree than I thought, huh? That does explain it.

    But who’s selling them? My searches are turning up lots of individual designers giving away free PDF board games, but I don’t see any equivalent to RPGNow out there.

  4. RPGNow lists 469 products under “Board/Card Games” at the moment. That’s small compared to their role playing selection, but enough that I browse every month or so.

    As for market penetration, I’ve just got anecdote to rely on. But board gamers do seem to be getting creatively crafty, from Fimo animals for Agricola to custom card boxes for Race for the Galaxy. Printing a simple board and counters is easy compared to some of these projects.

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