Recently the topic of demo tables came up in a closed retail group that is hosted by, I think, the largest dollar publisher in our industry. Wizards of the Coast may not be all about the Magic: The Gathering, but it's most of what retailers sell that carries their logo. WotC (used colloquially from now on in that format) has some decent board games on the market, like Betrayal at House on the Hill, and of course was kind enough to provide us with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which was a huge improvement over 4th Edition (not exactly a tough bar to clear though).
So, a representative from WotC asked retailers how we choose the games on our demo tables, and I promptly thanked him for helping me with my next blog post. I believe demo tables are vitally important to the selling of board games, both as a tool to engage customers in a specific product, and as a tool to teach customers that we know and enjoy our products.
So, let's talk about how these games ended up on my demo tables.
Your Game Doesn't Suck
This may seem painfully obvious, but that's step one to getting onto a demo table. We don't demo games that we don't believe in, because if I'm trying to show the customer a game I don't enjoy that will come across pretty quickly. I don't have much of a poker face, what you see is what you get.
It may sound obvious, but if you want your game on a demo table make sure it doesn't suck. I am not, by any stretch, saying that Betrayal at Baldur's Gate sucks, because I've never played it. Chances are very good I never will, because the theme just doesn't appeal to me, but I'll happily sell it. :)
Most of what reaches my demo tables are AAA releases, stuff I'm sure about, and I bought enough of it to put it on a demo table and watch it move. Sometimes, the item on a demo table is a little niche, but it'll do well in my store simply because I love it, and excitement is contagious.
Now that your game doesn't suck to play, let's also make sure it doesn't suck to look at. It's important that the games on a demo table look good on a demo table. Looking good doesn't have to mean "complicated" or "13,218 pieces". You can look good and be simple in table appearance.