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Product Lab - February 2010

We review seven new products, including Woodland Scenics Scenerey Clinic, Mayfair Games' Steam, and Reaper Miniatures' The Dark Maiden model.
Published: January 14, 2010

Woodland Scenics clinic helps retail sales


Product: First off, this isn't something to sell - it's something to help you sell.

You know clinics and classes can help bring traffic into your store, but where do you start?

Woodland Scenics has come out with its Scenery Clinic, a box full of all the stuff you need to teach a class on the basics of this skill; one that's useful in a variety of hobbies.

The box contains enough materials to teach the class to six people. There are six bases made of foam covered with plaster cloth that are basically hills with a rocky outcropping, plus grass, bushes, tree armatures with bases, glue, rock-colored washes, and containers and spray bottles.

Perhaps most importantly, there's also a DVD that gives easy, step-by-step instructions not only on how to build the scenery, but also on running the class. There's also a printed set of instructions that includes sales tips.

Topping the kit off is a promotional poster for your class as well as 24 color handouts to give to interested customers.

Performance: Even if you've never done scenery before, you can demonstrate how. A quick viewing of the DVD gives you all you need to know about laying groundcover, making trees, painting rocks and finishing a scene.

The materials inside are bulk versions of tried-and-true Woodland Scenics products, so you know they'll work as intended and look great.

The great part about scenery is it's really hard to do it wrong.

Generally, if it doesn't look quite right, you haven't put enough material on.

The only things you need to provide for the class are a sharp tool, like a nail, to plant the tree; masking tape; newspaper; paper towels; a plastic bucket for discarding excess paint; scissors; a permanent marker; rinse water; and a trash can.

Marketing: If you think classes like this will be of interest only to model railroaders, think again. Modelers can use these scenery techniques to make dioramas; table-top gamers will also be interested in learning how to bring their playing surfaces to life. You might even try out the clinic with your staff to get them more familiar with the products and how they're used.

Getting these hobbyists into your store and teaching them how to do scenery for themselves not only increases the likelihood of selling scenery products, but also other products related to their hobbies, too.
Additionally, classes help you build customers for life. Even if you charge $5 per person to attend the class, it's still an attractive proposition.

One more thing: orders of two or more kits get free shipping.

Reviewed by Hal Miller

VITAL STATS
Product: Scenery Clinic
Maker: Woodland Scenics
Stock No.: LK958
MSRP: $30
Availability: Woodland Scenics

BOTTOM LINE
  • Helps you sell products

  • Contains all you need for a class

  • Useful for many hobbies


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    Retailer Review: "Steam" from Mayfair Games is complex but rewarding


    Product: Steam is an "all in the box" modular game. The box contains a sturdy, 6-part fold-out game board. Either side can be used, as the only difference is the map. All other vital parts of the game board are identical. Depending on how many players you have, one side is better than the other.

    As for the playing pieces, there are several wooden tokens: small cubes represent goods to be shipped; larger round tokens represent victory points, income, completed links, and locomotive level. Also included is a turn marker, dozens of hexagonal track tiles, and action and city growth tiles to indicate that a city has been resupplied with goods.

    On the positive side, the multiple pieces make for good variety in game play. No two games will be the same, due to different track and goods layouts. As always, Mayfair's game pieces are of the highest quality, and the game itself is challenging.

    However, setting it up is a complicated affair, with lots of small pieces, and the rules are complex. Players should expect to spend a few hours learning the game.

    Gameplay: Steam puts each player in charge of their own start-up railroad company. Each player must acquire capital from the bank, lay track, overcome obstacles, upgrade locomotives and deliver goods.

    Players must accomplish all of this while competing with rival companies that are all fighting for the best delivery routes. Shipping product means money in the company coffers.

    But the money must be continually spent to lay new track, complete links, upgrade locomotives and create new cities: the never-ending cycle of commerce! All of this is set in the Golden Era of steam-powered locomotives.

    Marketing: If you have hardcore boardgame customers looking for a challenge, they're your target audience for Steam. The average customer just walking in off the street is probably going to be intimidated by both the gameplay and the involved set-up.

    This is a game that needs to be displayed to be appreciated. The box is rather plain, and isn't going to reach out and grab a perusing customer's attention.

    If you have space to set it up, Steam's detailed board and cards, as well as its wooden pieces, are impressive and will make shoppers stop and take a look. Yes, it will take up a lot of table space, but we believe that if you take the time to display it, Steam will sell.

    And to be fair, while the price of the game is a little on the expensive side for regular consumers, avid boardgamers will be more than pleased with how well it's made for its price point.

    Reviewed by the staff at The Hobby Shop, Wilson, N.C.

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Steam: Rails to Riches
    Maker: Mayfair Games
    Stock No.: MFG4551
    MSRP: $55
    Availability: ACD, Aladdin, Alliance, Brown Box, Centurion Hobby Distributor, Diamond Comics Distributor, GTS Distribution, Mad Al, Premier Hobby Distribution, R&M, Southern Hobby Supply

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Very challenging

  • Not for casual boardgamers

  • Demo will attract attention


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    The Dark Maiden resin model from Reaper Miniatures


    Product: The Dark Maiden is Reaper Miniature's first foray into the realm of large-scale resin models. The Maiden stands nearly 12 inches tall and comes in four parts for easy assembly and painting.

    Included with the figure are also metal replacements for the resin arms, just in case there is warpage, particularly in the swords that the figure wields.

    The kit is safely packed in styrofoam and a large, rather plain box.

    Assembly: As you would expect from a figure with only four parts, assembly was simplicity itself. No written instructions were provided; none were needed. For those who might find themselves wondering if they're putting the model together correctly, there's a small assembly diagram on the side of the box.

    In my experience, there were only two minor, obvious, expected and easily correctable flaws in the model. First, the figure had a couple of small bubble holes in the resin casting itself, but with a dab of super glue on the chin and in the hair, these flaws were quickly fixed.

    Thankfully, Reaper remedied the second flaw - somewhat flimsy arms - by providing a set of white-metal arms, which I opted to use, since one of the resin swords was warped.

    Marketing: The main attraction of this particular figure is its fantastical subject and dramatic pose. This may be an easier sell to clientele interested in fantasy, sci-fi or superheroes than it will be to your standard modeler. However, that doesn't mean that the model won't sell.

    First, don't rely on the box to make your sale. Its design isn't as good as it could be. It looks like a common white packing box with three images of the Dark Maiden pasted on the sides. To the good, the pictures are large and clear, and show the figure finished three different ways.

    Many shops are disinclined to unpack a product and display it. This is one model that you may have to. Even unpainted, the model is impressive and will attract attention.

    Second, the Dark Maiden would make an outstanding first resin model. The details are quite crisp, and the model's size provides plenty of room to make mistakes that can be cleaned up later.

    At the same time, if you have customers who are already interested in large-scale fantasy or sci-fi figures, the Dark Maiden could be hopped up by experienced modelers using pigments and oil paints. Its design even lends the model to airbrushing.

    Depending upon your customer's skill level and ambition, make sure to offer a selection of paint: acrylics are probably the safest bet with novices. Since Reaper is a fantasy miniatures company first and foremost, it also has a line of Master Series paints that offers a wide variety of colors that would be appropriate to the Dark Maiden.

    Other acrylics you might carry with appropriate colors are Acrylicos Vallejo or Citadel paints from Games Workshop.

    Suggest using 7-minute epoxy to assemble the Dark Maiden. Using epoxy will ensure a strong bond that super glue cannot. It also provides some working time to make sure that the model's parts are positioned correctly.

    There are magazines and books dedicated to modeling figures that can be helpful to modelers. One such periodical is Figure International, published by Andrea Miniatures and distributed in North America by Otium Intellegens USA (call 877-544-9960 for more information). Each issue is instructive, providing practical painting advice, tutorials and color mixes.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    VITAL STATS
    Product: The Dark Maiden, Shipwreck Angel resin model kit
    Maker: Reaper Miniatures
    Stock No.: 30012
    MSRP: $129.99
    Availability: E-mail ron@reaperminis.com for more information

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Large statue, great detail

  • Watch for warpage of resin parts

  • Great for beginners and experts


  • See other large-scale figure reviews here.

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    Stock Car Thunder HO-scale slot car set from Life-Like


    Product: Life-Like's Stock Car Thunder (see 4 Lane Thunder review) set is a good mix of a lot of things: a track with enough features to keep the racing exciting; cars in popular liveries; and easy to set up.

    The very attractive and compact box holds 23 feet of track that assembles into a 60- by 49-inch layout. Also included are two stock cars, in paint schemes for the 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the 24 of Jeff Gordon. Controllers, a wall power adapter, guard rails and decorative flags round out the components.

    Performance: I liked the box; it has a handle on it that makes it easy to carry and if opened properly, provides a good place to store the equipment.

    Setting up the track is literally a snap, as all sections have center connections that lock together and metal tabs transmitting the power between sections. Add the guard rails and flags, and it's race time!

    The thing I've always loved about HO slots is their low center of gravity and how they seem to stick to the track with less finesse than their larger counterparts. That makes them attractive to new and younger racers who might not have the dexterity yet to "drive" on the bigger-scale tracks.

    The tabs that make the track so easy to assemble are also the set's weak point. You have to be very careful not to flex the assembled track or the plastic tabs will snap. Disassembling the set can also cause them to break.

    Marketing: For the reason stated above, it's a good idea to keep extra track in stock; customers are also going to want to add to what they have as their experience level increases.

    The box the set comes in itself has a thin profile, so you can stock more of them on the shelf. Another good thing to keep in stock is other Life-Like HO NASCAR car offerings.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Stock Car Thunder Set
    Maker: Life-Like
    Scale: HO
    Stock number: 433-9114
    MSRP: $109.98
    Availability: Wm. K. Walthers

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Easy assembly, plenty of features

  • Track connections are fragile

  • Earnhardt, Gordon cars popular


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    Small World from Days of Wonder


    Product: At first glance, Small World looks like a fantasy version of the classic world-conquering game Risk, but it's much more fun and plays a lot faster. Although the game includes one die, it is definitely not a dice game. Instead of relying on luck and strategy cards, the game stays true to its theme by challenging players with the combination of a small, tight board, and a never ending supply of unique races.

    Gameplay: As its name suggests, Small World tasks the players with expanding a kingdom in a land where there simply isn't enough space for everyone. Due to the lack of space, no one race can take over the entire map. This sets up the game's key strategic elements: knowing when to press onward with the race and continue conquering, versus recognizing a race out of the usefulness and needs to go into decline.

    Like all good Euro-style games, Small World puts all of the important decisions directly into the player's hands. Players choose the race they will use as they conquer the map and they choose the starting point for their races and trends onto the board. Thanks to a simple combat system, players generally know how far their attacks will take them each turn.

    Because each race only gives a player a certain number of tokens for taking over land areas, the players' other important decision involves when to abandon their current race. This involves putting your race into decline, and selecting a new race for taking over the rest of the world. It turns out to be one of the game's strongest elements, and one that enhances the game's replayability.

    The way that the game handles the races and their associated special abilities is icing on an already wonderful cake. The game includes classic fantasy races, like elves, giants, Amazons, and such. In a delightful and whimsical twist, the game also includes a large stack of special ability cards. At the beginning of each game, players mix up the races and randomly pair them with special abilities. This leads to some hilarious combinations, such as flying giants, merchant skeletons, and seafaring trolls.

    Marketing: Small World will appeal to families, traditional game lovers, and even the hard-core European game aficionados. It has every element you need for a fun, classic, highly replayable game.

    It supports 2 to 5 players by including four different boards: one for each specific number of players. This prevents the classic problem of a game that works well for a five-player game, but doesn't work with just two or three players.

    Thanks to the always-changing race and special ability combinations, every game is completely unique. Strategies that worked perfectly the last time you had the Tritons won't necessarily work this time because the race has a new special ability -- plus you might be looking at a different map!

    Days of Wonder delivers the game in beautiful style, with enchanting graphics and good gameplay explanations. Someone just pulling off the game off of the shelf and reading the box will get a good idea of both how the game works and its wry humor.

    You can easily pitch the game to potential customers thanks to its loose similarity to Risk. If they love Risk, tell them that it's a fun and much faster game that more of their friends will play. If they hate Risk, point out the game's humor perspective and the idea that its strategy doesn't rely on those cursed dice.

    Reviewed by John Kaufeld

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Small World
    Publisher: Days of Wonder
    Stock No: 7901
    MSRP: $50
    Availability: Alliance Game Distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Strong, fun strategy game with a sense of humor

  • Different boards and race/special ability combos offer wonderful replayability

  • Similarities to the classic Risk game make it easy to explain


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    Small World mini-expansions are a huge addition


    Product: How do you make a strong game even better? Add some inexpensive expansions!

    That's what the folks at Days of Wonder what did with their award-winning Small World game. Each of the two new mini-expansions adds a small twist to the game systems, while making the strongest parts of the game even stronger. And they do it at a great low price.

    One of Small World's key elements centers around the races and the special abilities players can use. The constant mixture of races and special abilities keeps every game fun and interesting by changing players strategies. For retailers, it also leaves a natural opening for new expansions, since you can always add new races and special abilities.

    Gameplay: The Grande Dames of Small World gives players access to three new female races, each with its own unique power. The Gypsies earn extra victory points for leaving areas they previously conquered. When the Priestesses go into decline, they form a single ivory tower pile in one of the regions they occupied, and give bonus points for every priestess in the tower. Finally, the White Ladies become immune to all powers and conquests when they go into decline, guaranteeing several turns of bonus points. The set also adds two fun special powers, Historian and Peace Loving, which mix up things nicely.

    In the other expansion, Cursed!, the designers included two classic fantasy races and five marvelous special powers. On the race side, players now get access to Goblins and Kobolds. Goblins love conquering races already in decline, while Kobolds show up in hordes, but need help every time they conquer a region. The five special powers in this set really mix things up.

    Marketing: By using a mini-expansion concept, Days of Wonder kept the prices low. Each expansion retails for $10, making them very affordable products. Any player who owns the main game will want to add these to his collection. The new gameplay elements and consistently clever artwork make them easy sales.

    The low price point also makes some nice items for bundled sales. Combining the base game with one or both expansions will help stores get new players interested.

    The expansions create an interesting problem that retailers can salt. Because of the way that days of wonder packs the original game, there is no room in the box for any of the expansion pieces. Players have to remove the inside tray to open up more space in the box. If your store sells small plastic storage bags, this gives you a high margin add-on product to go with the expansions. Players need about 30 small plastic bags to store all of the game's tokens and markers. Those plastic bags also give you a nice tool to combat online discount sales. If a customer asks you to price match an online seller, you can offer the plastic bags for free as an extra bonus value.

    Your customers may ask you about a third expansion, Leaders of Small World. This promotional expansion was originally given away at Spiel in Essen, Germany. It's now available only through Board Game Geek. It is not available directly to retailers at a discount.

    Reviewed by John Kaufeld

    VITAL STATS
    Product: Small World mini-expansions Grand Dames of Small World (No. 7902) and Cursed! (No. 7903)
    Maker: Days of Wonder
    MSRP: $10 each
    Availability: Alliance Game Distributors

    BOTTOM LINE
  • Two strong expansions that every player will want

  • Low price point makes an easy sale

  • Boost your profits (and please your customers) by offering storage bag kits


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