December 4, 2023

Reporting from GAMA Expo – Day 2

Brant Guillory, 25 April 2023

Day 2 of the GAMA Expo brought out a glaring issue: no one is sure what to do with the media folks…

On the first day, there was a “welcome” session for media people with some basic intro and expectations, and then the opportunity to sit in on a few professional seminars, around the luncheon, and the media first look session.  But on the second day, a lot of that structure evaporated.  The morning was filled with premier presentations from the the publishers to the retailers, and the media were strictly told we were not allowed in those sessions.  The exhibit hall didn’t open until 2pm.  We had a lot of free time and not a lot of ways to fill it.  Jim Dietz and I took about 90 minutes to hang out and chat by the coffee bar.

How do you fix this for the future?
Create a full schedule for media folks that includes the “must-do” items, a bunch of “ought-to-do” things, and then fill in the other spaces with “go do these unless something else pops up” but then at least we have a fall-back plan of something to go do in the absence of alternatives.  Moreover, if you’re sitting down to create that draft schedule and realize there’s a giant hole in it where there are literally -zero- options for the media folks, perhaps we could look at adjusting something to help fill that gap.

Once the exhibit hall opened, though, there was plenty to do.

On its surface, the exhibit hall at GAMA Expo looks a lot like the one at Origins or GenCon, with a ton of booths with all kinds of publishers and manufacturers showing off their latest products.  But as you get closer to those booths, the differences start to emerge.
First, they are not stocked with dozens of copies of games for sale, but rather a wide array of different products, and only 1-2 copies of each, almost always out of shrinkwrap.  These aren’t copies of games intended to be sold to attendees, but for those attendees to inspect, inquire about, and (ideally) place wholesale orders for their stores.
That brings us to big difference #2: wholesale price sheets.  The vendors aren’t talking about single games, but cases of them.  They’re offering free shipping to stores with minimum $1000 orders, and product display packaging.  If you had any doubts at all that you were floating in a different ocean, looking at the prices instantly fixed that for you.
Finally, the last big difference was one communicated to us at our media welcome session yesterday: ask before taking any pictures.  Certain products are embargoed, or being solicited to stores before being announced to the public, and no one wants a stray photo getting out that spoils a big reveal or a product leaking out early that results in a bunch of Pinkertons making wildly illegal threats toward you.

Toward that last point, everything in these photo galleries was explicitly cleared with the people in their booths, so there’s nothing here that was embargoed or protected.  Everyone gave me the thumbs-up for these photos and pretty much all of them expressed appreciation that we asked.

for any gallery, click images to enlarge

We don’t find a lot of wargames in the exhibit hall, but Ares Games are also the US distributor for NUTS! Publishing1 and had some of their games here, plus others that Ares are publishing (Quartermaster General series) or distributing (Fighters of the Pacific), in addition to the other Ares staples.  More importantly, the folks at Ares expressed an interest in possibly teaming up for some events at future conventions involving their wargames that aren’t Wings/Sails of Glory.


There are very few companies out there with better product / packaging design the guys at 1985 Games.  Their RPG accessories are note-perfect blasts from the past, from the VHS-packaged dice sets to the typography on their accessory covers.  What’s remarkable is that the guy responsible for this artistic genius looks like he was born in ’98.


Monster Adventure Terrain offers a bunch of modular pieces for their very colorful terrain.  Think of it as “Legos on the tabletop” where you’ve got all sorts of snap-on pieces that can be added to their terrain bases.  Also nice are all their different pre-painted minis that give you not just mass packs of bad guys, but also all those civilian bystanders that are missing from most adventure minis tabletops.


Q Workshop, a dice foundry, are notable for their licensed/themed dice, and I’ve been commanded by Bayonette to get her some Harry Potter dice.  They are based in Poland, and don’t make it to many US-based events, but this one and GenCon are must-hits for them.


The Steve Jackson Games guys are always great to chat with.  On the table, they had copies of their upcoming re-release of WizWar and the Groo game2, plus Car Wars expansions, and more.


Renegade Game Studios shocked the wargaming world with their announcements of their licensing deals with Hasbro for some classic Avalon Hill titles.  We’re hoping for a one-on-one sit-down with them while we’re here to get some details, but for now, let’s just appreciate how fantastic this new Diplomacy map and wooden markers looks.


And of course…

Look, we’ll admit to being total Black Oak Workshop fanboys, going back almost 10 years now.  The dice are awesome and the people are awesomer.  Craig is one of our favorite people in the hobby gaming space, and it’s always a delight to just have a chat with the guy.  Coming up this year?  An imminent Kickstarter for more Advent-ure calendars, some new dice motifs (pictured here) and a bunch of in-store product display & packaging tools for retailers that look really damn good.


And if you tuned in Tuesday night, you got to see Jim Dietz join us for one of the least-polished live broadcasts in history of any trade show, ever


As noted before, GAMA has paid for a big chunk of this trip for us to come to Reno and cover the show.  We mention that out of respect for the audience so that you know what we’re doing here, but it’s not like we’ve really changed the tone of voice or approach to coverage we have here, just the kinds of activities we’re covering.  We’re going to bring you some more from the exhibit hall today, including some off-the-beaten-path stuff that we might not have otherwise stopped at.


Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and saddling up with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
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  1. based in France
  2. for those of us that remember the classic comic book and yes we’re that old what’s it to you

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

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