March 3, 2024

Reporting from GAMA Expo – Day 1

Brant Guillory, 24 April 2023

GAMA Expo is the primary trade show run by the Game Manufacturer’s Association. This is the last of several years they’ve been in Reno, NV and starting next year they shift to both Louisville, KY and to earlier in the year. Travel to Expo necessitated a waaaay-too-early-flight to get connected to Reno, but a nice view on the way in.

ViewFromPlane

The resort / casino / event center where we’re staying is well-appointed, but it’s clear there’s some updating needed to the decor.  That said, there’s a pretty snazzy video game arcade in here with a sit-down Space Invaders game, a Star Wars flight simulator, and a big-ass Minecraft game, all around a double-row of some classic arcade cabinets.

 

click images to enlarge

While something like Origins is very consumer- and customer-oriented, this one is all business. There are peer-to-peer seminars from retailers where new store owners can learn how to improve their operations from industry veterans. There are publishers talking about project management, or how to write more comprehensible rulebooks1. There are learning sessions on licensing agreements, recruiting & retaining your workforce, how to set up and run organized gameplay at a store, and how to take a project from design all the way through distribution.

Truthfully, it’s waaaaay more than one person can grapple with, no matter how well-intentioned. Until Hermione Granger’s time-turner becomes a real thing, you’re stuck picking and choosing, and that’s outside of the obligations you have as a hosted member of the media with events set up specifically with you in mind. (By way of explanation, “hosted media” means that GAMA picked up a good chunk of the cost of our attendance, so there are certain things we are expected to cover, since, y’know, that’s why they brought us here.)

A few key events are common across the entire Expo, however, and one of those was the Power Retailer awards. The retail division of GAMA is almost its own mini-association within GAMA (they even have their own separate BoD) and present awards for retailers in four categories: Overall Store Design, Innovation in Games (Retail), Outstanding Contribution to the Games Industry (Retail), and Business of the Year (Retail). These are nominated by customers around the hobby, and this year included submissions for stores in the US, Canada, England, and Norway. You can see the pictures of the winners from the luncheon.

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This afternoon’s key session I joined was “Game Publishing Project Management for Aloof Visionaries and the Easily Sidetracked” led by industry veteran Jeff Tidball.

session MONWhat was most interesting was how much of his advice and pitfalls apply universally across all project management, and not just to the games industry. Interestingly, there was a heavy focus on the “people” component of project management – how to treat them, how to inspire them, and how to solicit & incorporate feedback from them – moreso than any specific technical tools or techniques. The section on estimating, and how bad people are at it, was illuminating. The one downside in the entire presentation was the warning that project tracking tools have to be appropriate to the project, and the people, because the best tracking tool in the world is useless if it doesn’t get used.

 

There was a media-specific “first look” session for the assembled journalists to get an advance look at the upcoming games from different companies here. Notably, there’s not a single wargame company in the room, and probably none that are even wargame-adjacent. There’s a lot of great games here, but not a lot of them that fit in our core as the Regiment of Strategy Gaming. Note, that’s not a sign that we’re expanding our scope, but rather a clarion call that the wargamers need to start showing up. It’s not that we’re going to magically convert hundreds of non-wargamers into grognards. But you’re missing out on an opportunity to get your games in front of someone who would be absolutely smitten with them if they even knew the games existed.

So what was actually out there on the tables for that First Look session? I ran out of time before I got to all the tables I wanted to visit, but here’s some of what I saw.

1stLookPano
there were several dozen publishers and manufacturers in this ballroom

 

Snapship Tactics puts actual rules around all of those Lego spaceship battles you had growing up.  Shot off someone’s left engine?  Take it off their ship!  There are actual stands to hold the ships aloft during the game.

 

The always-delightful Danni Loe showed off several of Hachette’s upcoming games, with Sky Team being of particular interest.  It’s a co-op dice-placement flight “simulator” of a pilot and co-pilot trying to land a plane together, where the dice are used for roll, pitch, speed, flaps, landing gear, and tower calls.

 

Loke Battlemats are here from the UK, with a variety of different products around their standard 5’/sq grids.  For 2024, they’re offering a calendar that includes a map each month, plus a QR code for a corresponding encounter on that map.  They also offer “tookits” that include about 20 total maps, plus standalone drop-in encounters that’ll use 1-2 each, and a full adventure that ties all of them together, plus a bunch of monster cards for quick stats during the game.

 

Green Ronin had their recent books, plus the one-sheet info on their new licensing deal with the Valiant comics universe.

 

Finally, the assembled media got a jump on the rest of the game industry in that we were the first ones to see this year’s Origins Awards Nominees.  Winners will obviously be announced at Origins in June.

Board Games

Social/Light Strategy

  • Castle Panic: Crowns and Quests Expansion ~ Fireside Games
  • Creature Comforts ~ Kids Table Board Gaming
  • Flamecraft ~ Lucky Duck Games
  • Long Shot: The Dice Game ~ Perplext
  • The Finest Fish ~ Last Night Games

Strategy

  • Evergreen ~ Horrible Guild
  • Foundations of Rome ~ Arcane Wonders
  • Hoplomachus: Victorum ~ Chip Theory Games
  • Planet Unknown ~ Adam’s Apple Games
  • Three Sisters ~ 25th Century Games

Thematic

  • Dead Reckoning ~ Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
  • Merchants of the Dark Road ~ Elf Creek Games
  • My Father’s Work ~ Renegade Game Studios
  • Tokyo Sidekick ~ Japanime Games
  • Wonderland War ~ Druid City Games

Card Games

  • Cat in the Box ~ Bezier Games
  • Scout ~ One More Game!
  • Sea Salt & Paper ~ Studio Bombyx
  • Turing Machine ~ Hachette Boardgames
  • Undaunted: Stalingrad ~ Osprey Games

Children’s Game

  • Castle Panic: Second Edition ~ Fireside Games
  • Disney A Goofy Game ~ Funko Games
  • HONK! ~ Sinister Fish Games
  • The Lunch Room Game ~ EAP Toys and Games
  • Turtle Splash ~ Lucky Duck Games

Collectables

  • Flesh and Blood – Uprising ~ Legend Story Studios
  • Magic the Gathering The Brothers War Collection ~ Wizards of the Coast
  • Magic the Gathering Universes Beyond Warhammer ~ Wizards of the Coast
  • Heroclix: Hellfire Gala ~ WizKids
  • Unmatched: Houdini vs the Genie ~ Restoration Games

Miniatures Game

  • Lion Rampant: Second Edition ~ Osprey Games
  • Northgard: Uncharted Lands ~ Hachette Boardgames
  • Omicron Protocol ~ Dead Alive Games
  • Polyversal Sci-Fi Miniatures System ~ Collins Epic Wargames
  • Rapture ~ Gravity Bay

RPG Core

  • Blackbirds ~ Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Bladerunner the Roleplaying Game ~ Free League Publishing
  • Coyote & Crow ~ Coyote & Crow
  • Teatime Adventures ~ Snowbright Studio
  • The One Ring ~ Free League Publishing

RPG Supplements

  • Agents of Dune ~ Modiphius
  • Blade Runner Starter Box ~ Free League Publishing
  • Fallout Starter Box ~ Modiphius
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Enemy Within Volume 5 ~ Cubicle 7 Entertainment
  • Zweihander Starter Box ~ Andrews McMeel Publishing

Accessory

  • Call to Adventure Art Decks ~ Brotherwise Games
  • Deluxe Board Game Train Sets ~ Little Plastic Train Co.
  • Power Rangers Zordon Dice Tower & GM’s Screen ~ Renegade Game Studios
  • The Deck of Many Animated Conditions ~ Hit Point Press
  • The Deck of Many Animated Illusions ~ Hit Point Press

2D Art & Illustration

  • 7 Sinners ~ Mana Project Studios
  • Cowboys with Big Hearts ~ Bully Pulpit Games
  • Cult of the Deep ~ B.A. Games
  • Everyday Heroes – The Hunt ~ Evil Genius Games
  • Galaxy Trucker – Keep on Truckin ~ Czech Games Edition

3D Art

  • Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Super Mutants: Swan ~ Modiphius
  • Frostgrave – Fireheart Elk ~ Osprey Games
  • Omicron Protocol – Jugger the Elephant ~ Dead Alive Games
  • Time Capsules ~ Red Cat Games

Graphic Design

  • Defiant RPG ~ Game Machinery
  • Dulce ~ Indie Game Studios/ Stronghold Games
  • Norse Grimoire ~ Mana Project Studio
  • Pathfinder Savage Worlds Boxed Set ~ Pinnacle Entertainment Group
  • Tome of Chaos ~ R. Talsorian Games, Inc.

Reviews

  • Doctors & Daleks Player Guide ~ TheRatHole.ca
  • Doctor Who The Roleplaying Game ~ TheRatHole.ca
  • Grant’s Greatest Games of November ~ Grant’s Game Recs
  • Mind MGMT Review ~ Board Game Quest
  • The Best of Origins Game Fair from Grants Game Recs ~ Grant’s Game Recs

Now, if you’re thinking “hey, I don’t see a lot of wargames in those lists” then you’re dead on.  There’s about 3.  Total.  But at least you get a look at the list to start your grousing, grumbling, and commiserating ahead of schedule.

 

We’ll have more over the next few days as the Expo continues!


Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and saddling up with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
You can find our regiment’s social media on MastodonFacebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  (We have an Instagram page and we never use it.)
You can support The Armchair Dragoons through our Patreon, also, and find us at a variety of conventions and other events.
Feel free to talk back to us either in our discussion forum, or in the comments below.


IF YOU ENCOUNTER A COUNTER CASTING A HEX IN A HEX
AND YOU COUNTER THE HEX WITH A COUNTER-HEX IN THAT HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER,
AND YOU HAVE TO COUNT HOW MANY HEXES ARE IN THE HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER
ARE YOU PLAYING A HEX-AND-COUNTER WARGAME?

Footnotes

  1. see our recent podcast on this one!

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

View all posts by Brant G →

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