A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Boosters: Talk about DUMB Daniel!

Consider this both a minor rant and an explanation about how such blind buy bits are silly.

I have photos for many interesting reviews and unboxings but I have been lazy.

Plus Carlin the Bishop needs to be leveled up because Michele the Elf Sorceress is too fragile for level 10 in Wizardry Tale of the Forsaken Land.

(One run on Level 8 and Carlin goes from 1-10 and can now be promoted to a Bishop.  10 more levels of grinding plus many runs to the spell component store and he will be way better than any silly Elf mage girl.  Because he is GEORGE FREAKING CARLIN.  Heck he is still 4-5 levels lower than Michele since this pic was taken and he has nearly 80 more HP.  And can cast Priest AND Sorcerer spells.)

Now for those of you who don't know, random boosters, or "Blind Buy" packaging is beneficial for the manufacturer and the retailer who doesn't have to worry about multiple SKUs (Store Keeping Units) of product that may or may not sell, and can in fact cause extra sales as customers chase that one magic Rare or Super Rare that the product may have, ending up with multiples of items that probably wouldn't sell that much on their own.

And in some cases its sort of a Christmas package every time you open one of these packs up.  The feeling of "What's in this one?" can be silly addictive.

Yet in the end its a screwjob on us, the consumer.  Like those Lego and Mega Blocks minifigure packages.  I REALLY want the Lego Vampire.  But I am NOT gonna take the risk on 4 dollar a pack baggies in the hope of getting him.  (A 1 inch tall Lego minifig for 4 bucks?  BLOW ME.  That's a rip off!  Now 2 bucks?  I'd buy that action like I am Harold AND Kumar and the bags contain some "green".)  Now the Mega Bloks ones are much cheaper at 2.50 a pack.  Yet I keep getting the same damned Rare figure, the Pink Hayabusa Halo Samurai dude.  And some poor kid is gonna be hoping for one and my dumb luck means he keeps getting some lame Common rated figure.  And I am stuck with a bunch of pink samurai in powered armor.  Which is only something you want if you are an RPGnet or Scans Daily poster.  

And this is what happens.  In some cases (like the Mega Blocks Halo figures) the AMOUNT of goodies you get almost make up for looking for that one bit you want by sheer value compared to buying the same product if it was open buy.  Yet you have other cases such as Magic where the Super Rare equivalents are all but NEEDED for certain decks especially if you play competitively or you buy singles where a SINGLE IN PRINT TRADING CARD THAT COSTS PENNIES TO MAKE GOES FOR 20-100 DOLLARS OR MORE BECAUSE THEY MAGICALLY MADE LESS OF IT.

This is a hose job and a companies' way of telling you, their loyal customers that you can go "hug" yourself.

Now some games sort of have run with this for years like Magic, the collectible miniatures games that all have pretty much bombed out, and so on.  

Sadly, its starting to infect RPGs and Boardgames too.

Today we will be investigating this F A S.  (Wargame Dork tries to avoid R rated language so you can just guess for yourself what the letters stand for.)

Plus it covers some information on games I plan on reviewing fully later on anyhow.

First off is D&D Gamma World.  See in Gamma World they came up with this card based gimmick for mutant powers and "Omega Tech" which is basically Magic Items in a fantasy RPG.

The game comes with 40 card decks of these powers and magic items.  In gameplay the players draw from these decks when they find gear or random crazy events happen which change their mutant power for this fight.  

(While this is kind of weird it does sort of fit Gamma World's GONZO AS HELL setting and feel, it can be houseruled to be a little less random.)

However, players can build their own custom mini decks with card stacking limits to do more what they want and be less random.

So your players can buy multiple packs of these cards all randomly set out of the 120 available, with the nice foil packaging helping create ever bigger landfills of garbage and getting people to spend more money on RPG products as opposed to just buying a single rulesbook or box set and being done!


And that's what you get.  A logo back and a trading card of text.

But what makes this worse?


They aren't even foil or have pretty pictures on them!  

Its a SCAM.  

Oh, and online these 4 dollar packs cost 3 bucks.  A 16 card pack of Magic the Gathering with foils and super rares and other fanciness?  2.75 from the same store.  Yeah.  Same company and its not even competitive with the same product type!

And its probably the biggest thing keeping many people from investing in Gamma World.  Many folks have said they don't even like the preset 40 card decks in the main box.  This just makes things worse.  It even means some players can have an edge on the game over others by dropping silly amounts of money.

Thankfully the only place I know who has the boosters so far hasn't seemed to sell a single pack.  Sadly, it probably won't teach WOTC anything.  And it could possibly kill Gamma World again. 

What's sad is the whole card deal could have been dropped for abilities and items in a book with a random roll.  But instead its a new dumb way to create landfill clogging foil wrappers and throws off game balance.

A shame.  Also I probably wouldn't allow the boosters at all.  Unless I was bribed first.  If you are silly enough with money to buy booster packs just to be better in an RPG you can buy my coffee for the entire campaign.  And I loves me coffee.  And its gonna COST you.  Lattes from Dunkin's.  That's right.  The delicious beverage I don't buy because its stupidly expensive and mini mart coffee is usually as tasty is what you would have to do as penance for being both a powergamer and a consumer whore.

Ok.  Now let's move swiftly along to the boardgaming section.

I have discovered this neat new boardgame from Columbia Games called Wizard Kings.  It is part of their block wargame series where you have painted wooden blocks with unit stickers on one side, making for a neat "Fog of War" thing going on.  I got the first edition box with 2 complete armies for 30 dollars.  The current edition gives you 8 blocks and rules for every army for 50 MSRP (40 online).

Well in first edition days if you wanted new armies you got this for 12-15 dollars:

See?  A nice VHS type clamshell case containing the following goodness:

Your faction's army card with unit quick reference and spells on one side, fluff on the other.

And your COMPLETE army, with a carefully thought out and hopefully well playtested array of all your faction units, and 3 appropriate "Chaos Mercenary" units.  28 pretty wood blocks and stickers.  Plus there is room for a few Werebeast Mercenaries, which can be stickered on any of the faction color blocks for either shoring up your faction's weak spots, or possibly turning one faction into a Werebeast only army.    (The vagaries of how you assign and balance the Werecreatures per faction is an annoying bit in either edition.  2nd edition only makes this worse, but we will get to that!)

(Yes that weretiger has exposed nipples.  On the upside it doesn't have exposed bits described in the "Anita Blake" books.  *Shudder*)

So the 1st edition Wizard Kings gave you 28 preassigned blocks for 15 MSRP.  A little over 2 dollars a block.

Now in 2nd edition its only 10 bucks for 21 blocks, and they are all compatible with 1st edition and vice versa outside of a few bits from the 2nd edition rules.   Roughly the same core price, 2 bucks a block!  It also allows for bigger forces for monster games with expansion mapsets.

Cool huh?  


(One upside in spite of my flash obscuration is better art on the box and stickers.  And of course bonus sideboob!)

They keep the same VHS clamshell case, albeit with a generic cover.  While with 7 armies this provides nice organized cases for each, as is the wont of random boosters you need way more than that to comfortably cover things:

(We get blocks colored for every faction!  And a baggie you can use to hold the contents for one HELL of a party, albeit one illegal in most states and countries.)

See that?  You get a whopping TWO random stickers for each of the 7 factions, and 7 stickers you can place on whatever faction you want, possibly breaking the game if you really want your Elves to be super bad asses, or just don't care about any sort of theme whatsoever.  Amazons with a giant werecreature army?  Whatever you want!  DAMN YOU BALANCE AND THEME.  DAMN YOU TO HELL YOU GODDAMNED DIRTY BALANCE AND THEME!

Now as we figure each 1st edition faction box contained 25 faction pure units, and the 2nd ed core set has 8 units per faction this means you need at MINIMUM ignoring rarity and the chaos of assortment 9 boosters to have 26 faction pure blocks per faction.  Even if you just want to play Orcs and get your WAAGH on or Amazons because scantily clad warrior women make you feel funny like that time you climbed the rope in gym class you have to drop close to a 100 bucks when before it was 15 bucks.

Oh sure it might be around the same price if you want to collect every army or have big massive hordes to supplement things but its really sort of hosing.

And that's the problem with blind purchase products.  It damages gameplay balances and punishes the customer, especially one on a budget, giving the people with more money than sense an extreme edge.

Yet in the long run, most people don't have unlimited funds, and losing to the WIN AT ALL COSTS guys just isn't fun, leaving the powergamers to play ever decreasingly small groups as more and more people just give up, and no new players have any desire to even try, eventually killing most games.

Remember, even Magic only survives because of its MASSIVE playerbase and the game variants which tend to bring the "Mr Suitcase" players into check.  (Blocks of legal cards, booster drafts, ect.)

How many other collectible games continue to thrive without such restrictions, or even with?

Really not many.  After Magic you have what?  Yu Gi Oh for the kids, and Heroclix on a weird form of zombie popularity.  Most everything else has either died or gone into the FFG "Living Card Game" sort of fixed release expansions.

The sad fact is though, its such a positive short but fast and easy profit setup for retailers and manufacturers that I doubt it will ever go away, even if otherwise promising games can be damaged irreparably by it.


Arquinsiel said...

Using SCIENCE! I cherrypicked my legoman purchases so I could get me a Spartan. I am not sorry.

If I find out how to cherrypick vampires I'll let you know or send you one. They're only 2.50 here (in real-money-land).

Captain Rufus said...

Yeah. I have only once seen these minifig packs at a price under 4 bucks. And ended up with a man in a Pith Hat, binoculars, and a magnifying glass. (All the better to search for animal species to endanger since one can't always exploit the indigenous population in the name of the White Man's Burden after all!)

I really don't see how a tiny 1 inch tall figure using a mold that's been around for 30 years or so should cost 4 dollars. 3 tops.


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