There are all kinds of cute cliches about leadership, or being somewhere first.
The early bird gets the worm.
The second mouse gets the cheese.
Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
I could keep going, but they're mostly just bad sayings taught to MBA students so they can sound like they're smart. I believe that in our industry it's very much about the early bird, and throughout the year I look for places I can be out in front of the industry, and for me that means finding good games and riding them hard for as long as possible.
The year is over, so let's look at my best sellers and talk a little bit about them.
(New) Dark Souls: The Board Game
(New) Bunny Kingdom (*) Settlers of Catan Used Board Games Betrayal at House on the Hill
(New) Mountains of Madness (*)
Star Wars Imperial Assault Base Game (New) Ethnos (*)
Star Wars Imperial Assault: Jabba's Realm
(New) Massive Darkness
(New) Pandemic Legacy Season 2 - Yellow
Star Wars Rebellion
(New) Element (*)
Legends of Andor
(New) Fallout: The Board Game
Lords of Waterdeep
(New) Kingdomino (*)
Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails
That's the Top 25 by dollars. Ten of them were new releases in 2017 (marked as New), and six of them spent time on my demo tables this year (marked with *). Five of them did well enough to be evergreen (written in italics) for me, meaning I'll keep them in stock at all times, and if we're short on new releases, and the manufacturer has enough stock, that I'll put them back on a demo table and see if we can't do well with them again.
Some other products that came out in 2017 that I now think of as evergreen, despite their not making this Top 25 list, include Dice Forge and Photosynthesis. Neither saw time on my demo tables but does make my Top 50 by dollars sold. Onitama cracked that Top 50 as well, and will stay on my shelves so that I can share both Onitama and Element with players looking for abstract strategy. Also in my Top 50 was Clans of Caledonia, which will be in the store as often as possible for players of Agricola to try something new.
So what are those products for 2018? What are the products that I'll be spending demo time and resources on, and what are some of the products that I'll be buying to put on a shelf and watch them sell themselves?
January Council of Four (CMON) A 2015 release in Germany, we should see Council of Four in the very early part of 2018 here stateside. This is one of those games where I think demo table space will be critical. I don't think the artwork or the box will cause it to just sell like hotcakes, but I think demo space where you explain the cool intrigue of the game can turn this into a hot product under the right circumstances.
Rising Sun (CMON) A no brainer here. This will fly out of stores from the moment it arrives. It's huge, so demo table space can be challenging, but I think it will sell without that space in most stores.
Keyper (R&D Games) This price point makes me a little nervous, but the Key-series of worker placement games have all been solid movers and I expect this one to gain some traction.
Altiplano (Renegade Game Studios) One of those things that came out at Essen that I was super-excited about, and then I got to put my hands on it at PAX Unplugged and got more excited. Who doesn't love a game with a giant alpaca in it? This is something I'm putting on a demo table and expect to move a ton of.
The Dark Crystal Board Game (ALC Studio) I was not impressed with Labyrinth, so sue me, but the license sold itself, and I expect more of the same here. It won't get demo space, but it will get prominent facing in the new release section.
March Palace of Mad King Ludwig (Bezier) A standalone follow-up to Castles, this new look at the tile-laying genre is at a price point where I don't believe it automatically sells itself, but it will spend time on my demo table and I expect it to do well there.
Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares (Renegade Game Studios) A press your luck dice game with a beautiful components, this is one I'm looking forward to pushing on my demo tables. From a size perspective it should also display beautifully on the Renegade demo tables that many of us got from Alliance this year. The $30 price point makes me think this one has a really high upside.
The Legend of the Cherry Tree (IELLO) This adorable set collection game is probably coming to us late first quarter, maybe early second quarter. It's a price point that I don't love to spend a ton of demo time on ($19.99) but I think this is going to appeal to a wide cross-section of gamers.
Critical Mass (Arcane Wonders) Everybody who has played it seemed to love it, and it's been wandering around purgatory for some time now. I first saw it discussed at GAMA Trade Show 2017. I expect we'll see it sometime in 2018, and I think it will do well on a demo table.
Breaking Bad: The Board Game (Asmodee) This license should just sell itself, whenever we get it.
Terminator (Space Goat) An asymmetrical game with a one versus many feel to it, I'm intrigued by both the license and the feel of playing a game on two different boards (one in 1984 and one in 2029). I think the license will sell this from the new release shelf without giving it demo space. I'm not going super deep here, but I'm planning to sell this.
Remember when I said we were going to talk about leading the trends? Let me just say that there won't be many to lead in the first three months of the new year. The release schedule has a couple of things I think we can ride heavily, but it'll be tough to stock six demo tables with new exciting products based on the currently known information.
If you're looking at your demo tables and wondering what to put on them for a couple weeks, I'd recommend trying those games that did well without demo space and see if you can't make them into giant hits.