A lot of us has been frustrated with chasing after out of print ASL modules at some point in our ASL’ing lives:
Why can’t MMP use Kickstarter?
Why can’t MMP keep everything in print?
Some of us asked publicly and have gotten our answers at some point. At one such occasion, I asked MMP’s Brian Youse for his permission to post his answers on my blog for reference. Here’s what he said ..
I don’t believe we have any intention of kickstarting every, or even many, OOP game we have any time soon. 🙂
Why don’t we use Kickstarter – they take 8-10% the day your met campaign ends and everyone is billed.
A big game like Yanks/FKAC/Rising Sun/BV/etc. guesstimated costs us about 60-80k for the print runs we do, say 60k. Now we need a goal of 66k. Most Kickstarters have stretch goals (someone mentioned dice), add another few thousand. So I’m up to 70k easily as a funding point. How many games hit that dollar figure, when its a well established game (and most KS that are super successful have new minis – seems to us anyways and we’ve been watching for quite some time).
The problem is printers want to be paid in 30 days. A game like BV won’t sell -nearly- 60k in 30 days until some demand is generated. So RS, for example, has to be out of stock for a bit to build up demand.
The third real problem is we’ve had about six die-cutters in our existence. Each time requires the job be re-laid out to a die and that means proofing, because if you grab a layer badly, or something imports wrong, or any one of another issues then you’re missing the front AF or white turret ring. Our goal, of course, is to have things in a pick up the phone and say “print x thousand more” mode. Right now, I think only a few of our modules are like that. The French and the Italians need to be redone from scratch. So its not always -quite- so easy to just say “reprint AOO” – there’s some work involved and that work is just as easily spent on a new game which will sell more copies than a reprint of AOO – thus generating more income to keep doing things like paying employees, paying rent, keeping the shrink-wrapping machines repaired and well maintained, etc.
As someone said above, its a real balancing act on our end (in our opinion) to juggle new product, reprinting old product, determining what people may want next, won’t want next, etc.
It keeps Chas and Perry very busy, and me nagging them for “what’s next to keep enough rent in the bank.”
Kickstarter is very cool. It isn’t the cure-all a lot of people seem to believe it is, however. Again, in our opinion.
BTW – re: die cutting – getting an existing product ready for a new die-cutter is much, much easier than a new project (like Italians/French). We love our guy now, hope he’s in business forever, and doesn’t go nuts on price or product delay – I like our counters as much as any in the hobby, the die-cutting has been dead on balls accurate. Its an industry term. 🙂
BTW2 – while being OOP may seem like a constant state, its really a weird time-warp thing (IMO) because Rising Sun (for example) was in stock for like 3+ to 4 years. Took me by surprise, it -felt- like it was available for about 9 months. Chas had to pick me up off the floor when he said it was 4 years. Its not like some games i’ve seen / heard (Nintendo classic) which sold out in a month and is OOP for a decade.
We get occasional letters to reprint BRT (for example). That game was in stock for maybe 10 years, and we had to GIVE away the last 200 copies for what, maybe 10 or 15 bucks each? Pegasus Bridge was available for probably 15+ years and I know the last handful were sold for maybe 5 bucks at a show.
Its really tough to justify printing something that we had in stock for what seemed like forever and we couldn’t give away.
One more quick example – DAK. Reprint reprint reprint, so we did. Not a very large print run. Sold 500 of them fast. I think we sold most of the rest at a Black Friday sale over a few years for what was probably 20 cents on the dollar. 😦
We intend to reprint core modules. We will reprint starter kit “core” modules. We may reprint choice OCS and GTS. And the rest are way down the priority list…
Hong Kong Wargamer : Thank you Brian!
Brian’s POV is completely understandable, IMO, and mind you they are the biggest dog on the block. I don’t want to jinx BFP’s reprint of B&J/CoS, but early indicators show it may be the first OOP item where a vocal minority yammered for its reprinting, but it turns out the real purchasing numbers may be lacking. Even willing to accept a small loss (!!!) to get it back in print, Chas basically had to say on GS, ‘hey, if all of you who said you wanted this don’t pre-order it now, we probably won’t be able to do it!.
Brian is right, demand must build up beyond a handful of new players who take every opportunity to repeatedly post about the lack of an item in print. On a side note, I think many newcomers show almost a sense of entitlement that is off-putting to others. A very polite and enthusiastic poster recently received from me a pristine set of WoA counters for simply the cost of postage; entirely unsolicited on his part. He simply posted, among other positive posts, that he wished he had the British OOB; not a ‘demand’ that MMP immediately reprint it, or try and tell them how to prioritize their ASL business decisions, or tick off veteran players by calling them smug, self-satisfied fatcats.
Showing a willingness to become a polite, constructive part of the ASL community goes a LONG way towards others helping you out, even when you don’t directly ask for their assistance. Yes, there can be divisiveness in our ranks on occasion, but ASL truly is a community, and not just a game system sold by a faceless, capitalist cabal of MMP/TPP.
I am a new player, having gotten into the game again after 20+ years out – thankfully I kept my entire collection from that period. I am also a bit frustrated that OOP modules are so hard to afford, and I wish MMP would reprint more. I certainly hope I have not come across as entitled! I get why reprinting is problematic for them, and understand totally. As Jackson points out above, the stuff I have has plenty of play left in it, so I might as well get on with that and pick up stuff that comes out as it does.
But it seems that ASL is riding the Boardgame revival wave, however, and that more and more people are getting into the game. I would be interested if MMP has seen an uptick in sales/volume over the last 5 or so years, and if so, by how much compared to 10-15 years ago? I would hate for them to miss out on the boom, as I’m sure that in time the boardgaming renaissance will be replaced by competitive Lawn Darts, or something (although I hope not). And the fact that RS sold out in only 4 years and is now (lamentably) almost impossible to get for less than double it’s original selling price is a good thing when compared to the histories of modules languishing on shelves. A cursory look as various module price histories on BGG will tell you that the last 3-4 years have seen a huge upward trend in prices. Some of this can be explained by supply issues, but certainly increased demand accounts for a large portion of that. It’s a good time for the game, and I think that a bunch of new players asking for modules to come available, while problematic, is certainly a better problem to have than an absence of such.
I appreciate your sentiments. I don’t speak for MMP nor do I pretend to. However from what I have seen, reprints tend to be a decision that is weighted between having big enough of a run that each game is not insanely expensive vs the need to NOT keep inventory (Tax and Liquidity concerns).
Having people calling & paying double the price doesn’t automatically mean there are big enough a body of new players who needs the module.
Anyway, my read of things only. I have been thru the same road not too long ago. Good luck!
Thinking about what you said still. I think more folks are getting into the game because they are getting to the age when they learn to pare things down, plus a lot of them are retiring. On the flip side, we are also seeing a steady influx of young Asian players. A lot of them are dabbling with ASLSK now, perhaps some will come through and stick with ASL for the long term.
It will be good if new ASL stuff will continue to be available, but if they are not, it won’t necessarily kill the hobby. Most of us has more scenarios than we can play for several lifetimes. Heck, folks are still playing Squad Leader and other Avalon Hill games!
You are right, having a flood of new folks looking for modules is a good thing. Unfortunately a number of these seem to be more hung up about buying everything rather than playing!
I think that some people are getting to wound up over the out-of-print nature of ASL. Even if MMP had the time and resources to create a Kickstarter project for each OOP core module at any give time, the company will never be able to meet the continued cries for new publications, be they modest magazines, scenario packs, or HASL modules. There is a finite amount of time in the day, and MMP is a tiny company.
Were MMP to drop everything else in their catalogue tomorrow, and were Brian and Perry to quit their day jobs, the three amigos (i.e. Brian, Chas, and Perry) could not possibly meet the insatiable demands of ASL players (ASLSK or otherwise) for reprints and new material. Kickstarter may provide funding, but it does not do the work. That falls on the shoulders of a small band of ASL enthusiasts.
A better way to look at this is to focus on what is available at any given moment. With the exception of Beyond Valor and the ASL Rule Book, there is nothing stopping new or returning players from playing heaps of scenarios while they wait for something to be reprinted (or for a bargain on the second-hand market). With occasional exceptions, MMP has done a good job of making the first 52 maps readily available for purchase separately. Granted overlays can be an issue, but there are still plenty of scenarios featuring Russian/partisan and German forces that do not require overlays. WIth Yanks II in print, the range of possible scenarios that can be played with only two core modules has increased significantly. (Don’t overlook the soon-to-be-out-of-print Hakkaa Päälle. http://asl-battleschool.blogspot.ca/2015/07/hakkaa-paalle-rotten-to-core.html)
For those not content to game Russian-German/Finnish or American-German engagements, Starter Kit 2/3/EP offer a meze of tastes for a fraction of the cost of Armies of Oblivion, or For King and Country. Check out what ASLSK can offer here: http://asl-battleschool.blogspot.ca/2014/09/from-start-to-finnish-aslsk-at-ten.html
You are right. When folks moan about not having this and that and how much they can’t play in the local chat group, there are always a couple of us who’d remind the person(s) that they have barely played what they already have. Having said this I understand what they are going through. That “urge”, so to speak, when there are modules out there that you don’t have.
I am willing to bet there are players out there right now who made a “conscious” decision to NOT get Hakkaa Paalle, who will undoubtedly bemoan the fact that they “missed out” when it goes out of print. I heard exactly that about Rising Sun. Good thing Witchbottles told me early on to “time shift” a little and get whatever’s in print. Other than that, constant playing distracted me from focusing on acquisitions.
Yeah, I’ve definitely shifted to the “Buy it while it’s out” faction, at least for MMP stuff. I’m acutely conscious of the fact that I am likely missing out on some great TPP stuff, but I figure I’ll get the base modules out of the way first, and then worry about BFP and LFT and so on. My pocketbook is only so big.
It’s funny. I got into ASL in 1991, after reading a couple of articles in the General. The fact that the FLGS I worked at got a used batch with the ASLRB and modules 1-6. At the same time, I grabbed Red Barricades and Code of Bushido, which had just come out. I think my buddy and I played The Guards Counterattack once, then we jumped right into RB CG III, which we had great fun playing horribly about three times over the next couple of years before I got away from playing. The point is that in the intervening period GH and CdG came out, and I easily could have bought Hollow Legions. But I didn’t, because RB was all I needed; I was deliriously happy playing the CG, and never even looked at scenarios. I did pick up KGP I, but found the slope rules too much to wrap my head around, so we played RB again instead. It was all I needed.
Now fast forward 25 years, and I discover the online ASL community, and VASL. I find a VASL mentor, and realize how badly wrong I was playing the game before – it was essentially ASLSK before that was a thing. And my mentor has introduced me to scenarios, and cautioned me that I am in no way ready to play a CG against an anywhere near competent opponent. So now I am learning to appreciate scenarios. And every core module I don’t have is a group of scenarios I can’t play! That’s why I want the modules, for the many scenarios that I can’t play at all ftf, or without cribbing Chapter H notes off an opponent. Do I have enough to get by for a long time? Yes. Do I want to be able to play BoF1, or DB134? Also yes!
But I will be patient, and play scenarios that I have, and hope MMP re-releases things that are OOP, or that someone takes pity on me and sells me a copy of something at a price that won’t lead to my divorce. Either way, I’ve lots to keep me ASLing for a long time to come.
Well sir – welcome back to the hobby! I dropped Squad Leader before ASL came out and discovered ASL via rediscovering the Squad Leader community. I had to get anything from scratch.
If you ever come around to it – my first TPP purchase are BFP Crucible of Steel & BFP Blood & Jungle. Some of the best things I ever bought really.
Oh . .you mentioned DB134 .. you realize you can get the entire “stack” of Dispatches from the Bunker from Vic Provost right? All PDF so you save on postage.
Again, welcome back and all the best!!
Maybe they can consider to change the selling model of ASL core system, not in modules of nationalities, but in sets of gaming parts.
As an example, the whole core system can be separated as following parts:
ii) Counter pack of one single major nationality, or several minor, with their corresponding chapter H;
iii) Mapboard bundle or single mapboard (they have started with this part);
iv) Overlay bundles;
and finally, for scenarios, maybe they can put the “core” scenarios into one big Scenario Book, or Scenario Selections, maybe reorganized as: “Beginning Level” (or “Infantry theme”), “Intermediate Level” (or “Gun & Tank theme”) and “Veteran Level” (or “Large map/army” theme).
Just some wide imagination;~P
This is what I was thinking. If I hear him correctly, it seems the expensive part of putting these sets together is the counter cutting and the problem with the sets is the specificity of them. Not everybody wants to fight the entire battle of Tarawa.
Looking at Tarawa: in the package you get:
Contents (MMP edition):
2 22″x31″ maps
4 countersheets (3 units, 1 status)
Blood Reef Chapter Divider
Chapter T Rules: T1-T21
The rules and scenarios could be electronic download and get the user to print them. Counters can be sold by nationality as you said and if a player wants to play this scenario he might just need to buy a couple extra countersheets of Americans and Japanese. Then the only thing they would have to have printed and in stock specific to this scenario is the maps.
I have to thank them for the work they’ve done keeping this game system alive and he makes good points in the article. If they can’t make money we lose our dealer.
Thanks for posting this in an easy-to-access spot.
It’s a good place to refer ASL players pining for the days of Avalon Hill and its stockpile of Yanks that took decades to sell out.
@ Big Kansas,
Agree wholeheartedly with your point that a small crowd of cheerleaders sometimes sways producers in ways that hurt not only the producers, but also the wider ASL community. For the hobby to continue to flourish, ASL publishers have to exercise restraint in choosing what to (re)print, and when.
As to your second point, new and returning players stand to gain more by accepting the reality of our niche hobby, and focussing instead on forging friendships. SASL excepted, it takes two to play ASL. I haven’t owned a copy of Hollow Legions or Croix de Guerre in years. But this hasn’t prevented me from playing scenarios “requiring” ownership of either module. I also made do with American counters from ASLSK until MMP republished (a much improved) Yanks.
Join the hobby, and start playing now. The “collecting” part is an ongoing process. It should never detract from one’s enjoyment of the hobby. At bottom, ASL is about creating memorable moments with friends and fellow travellers.
Thanks for pulling this together, Jack.
Regarding Rising Sun, it certainly sold out faster than I expected. I was shocked to see it out of print, particularly since I’d seen a number of old timers say they had no interest in repurchasing what they already owned. It was in stock for just a little more than 3 years, from September 2013 to November 2016. Technically I guess it could be argued that it was available for purchase for closer to 4 years if one factors in the 7 months it was on preorder.
It’s a good reminder to play what you have and preorder everything you can.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen new players post on Facebook or the forums asking for advice on what to buy, and then bemoaning their fate when they fail to take the advice and it’s gone out of print.
I kickstarter is a way for the community to give funding to a project. I got the impression from the article that MMP did not quite understand how they worked. It would help them fund the production of the inventory they can not afford. Unlike a preorder it does not entitle the payee to the project it simply gets the project made so the contributor can then buy it. Yes there are costs but nothing close to what is gained. It has been used quite successfully in the tech industry for a number of years.
Everything said seems to be solved by Kickstarter. So what, they take 10%; it’s money you didn’t have anyway and advertising costs are a standard business expense.
Set the goal at the dollar amount needed to:
– pay KS
– hire, proof and produce top quality counters
– create necessary artwork
– pay for distribution
– etc., etc., etc.
– produce acceptable profit
– factor in a product overrun for anticipated future sales, i.e. 12 months (highly profitable, since all costs were paid by the goal amount (including storage costs of overrun).
Either the campaign funds or it doesn’t. If it funds, then where is the complaint? If it doesn’t, then the fanbase was unable to bring the product to print and will have to wait.
Seems like MMP’s plan should be the backup plan, rather than the primary one, for bringing OOP or even new products to market.
All of the issues Brian raised are always issues, regardless of how a product is funded.
My guess is that MMP likes doing their own “kickstarting”, meaning putting a product out there and waiting for pre-orders to reach the “goal”. Therefore, they need 10% less than if done on KS.
If that’s true, then all those other “reasons” for not using KS are not relevant. Just say, “We raise our own funding and it works for us.”
Still, why not try a KS campaign for one product and see if it outperforms their own fund raising platform’s projections. Or, do an OOP campaign, set the appropriate goal and see what happens.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say…