Monday, January 11, 2016

Because we all love getting stuff!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love getting stuff, especially hobby stuff (yes, they are toys, I know - but it sounds better and more adult to call it a hobby rather than playing with toys (or toy soldiers)).

That is one of the appeals of kickstarter projects - you get excited about the campaign and how much it will make - because it means you will get more stuff.  Then months later, a box shows up full of cool new toys.

It turns out, people have discovered that lots of people love to get stuff in the mail - sometimes even without know what it is.  I'm guilty of that - having ordered Mantic's Crazy Box more than once in the past.  Many years ago, I used to order bags of random bits from GW's site - love getting them for conversions (I remember a big sale when the shelves holding the metal bits all got knocked over - you basically got them by the pound (because trying to sort them afterword would have taken forever - and for any business time is money)).

One of the challenges for any business can be recurring revenue - how to get somebody to keep coming back and buying your product month after month.  There have been many business that have used a subscription model to do this - magazines, newspapers, milk delivery.  Ok, I know I'm old but some of these still exist, even if they are severely hurting anymore (no, I haven't heard about milk delivery beyond bad (or dirty) milk man jokes in 40 years).  However the idea of subscription services has been combined with the appeal of getting stuff - and we have what are being called subscription box services - basically instead of a magazine or cable, you subscribe to a box of stuff - and every month you get a new box to open and explore - and hopefully you like the contents.

My wife loves BarkBox, the subscription box service for dogs.  She bought one for her daughters dog, and gets one (to split) for our two dogs every month.  Graze provides healthy snacks, and Loot Crate specialized in geeky stuff in general, including comics and t-shirts (though going to their site it appears they have greatly expanded since I last looked at them - to include one for pets and even some specializing in Star Wars or Call of Duty).

Wouldn't it be awesome if someone would do this for gamers (and I do not mean those people playing video games (in their mother's basement or actual well adjusted normal adults), nor the 'gaming' industry (who stole our term because it sounds much better than gambling, which is what it is).  No table top gamers getting stuff every month.  Plus since this is a 'luxury' hobby, by which I mean it is one for people who have disposable income, and thus there is a market.

I'm not the only one who had this idea.  In fact, I didn't have this idea.  Wayne Brekke had this idea. He wasn't actually the first, but is in the process of launching a subscription box service for gamers - and more specifically RPGs and miniatures.  DungeonCrate is here (well almost).

cool logo
So what is Dungeon Crate?  Well, in their own words

Dungeon Crate was conceived on the idea that role-players needed a subscription box specifically designed for them, a box where every item can be used by the player. There are several “loot boxes” available for gamers and pop culture enthusiasts, but we kept hearing that only a few items pertained to Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or tabletop wargames. The other items tended to sit in their boxes unused.

We at Dungeon Crate are role-players. We love dice, miniatures, counters, tokens, and all the fun accessories that come with the games. So we decided that a loot box that offered these items would be appealing to other like-minded players. We couldn’t find one that fit the bill, so we designed one of our own, and Dungeon Crate was born.

It is a box of RPG / tabletop wargame stuff, delivered to your door, every month.  You don't know what is coming, but it will (hopefully) be not only cool and fun, but useful as well.  What kind of stuff are they talking about?
sample stuff - coins, dice, cast pieces, terrain and more
As I've talked about here, and here, terrain is essential to tabletop war games, and also can make it a bit more fun when using miniatures for RPG's.   While D&D 4th edition seemed to go too far with the use of miniatures and turned the RPG into a tactical miniature game instead of enhancing game play, actually having some 3D terrain to move you party around on just helps to enhance the experience.  Walking into a room, and being able to see the tables and chairs (and even move them when necessary) as well as the guards makes it more immersive.

But not only do RPGs benefit from terrain.  Dungeon crawl games, such as the recently released (and already on it's second printing) Dungeon Saga make use of terrain as an integral part of the game - and being able to actually have 3D terrain vs. printed cardstock is just always better.  Miniature skirmish games quite often use a lot of terrain for cover and to enhance overall game play.

A shelf full of bottles - whether it be in a tavern behind the bar, or in the shack of an alchemist
Did someone say tavern?  Where else does your adventuring party meet?
after a few rounds of drinks you might need to head upstairs
Of course any vampire or liche worth his bones needs a throne to sit on
and Doors.  People love doors.  The dungeon saga kickstarter when nuts about doors..  Such as these cast and painted doors from Knight Watch Games.
 However not only are they looking at items and indoor situations, but they also may have area terrain - which can be used both in an RPG as well as a tabletop miniatures game.  I have seen people building terrain using old AOL CD's as the base - they are plentiful (ok, were.  I do wonder if they are a bit rarer now that people download music and haven't used much dial up internet in many years)

Not every game is fantasy - this could be a WW II bunker or just a colorful wargame obstacle. 
I've seen where some people have started to use actual metal coins to represent their currency.  For fantasy numismatists out there, there are also coins being as merchandising for your favorite franchise, such as Game of Thrones or Conan.
Coins from Shire Post Mint
One of the things that got me into miniature wargaming was the physical feel of modelling, painting and playing with the miniatures.  It is always cool when you can use them for your RPGs (which, like most people, is what I bought my first miniatures (probably 40 years ago (yes, I'm old (GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!))))  However it is often the case that you need a handful of minis for an adventure - and you may never use them again.  Sure you can proxy them with others, but that gets a bit tiresome after a while.  Not only that but you have to store those somewhere.

One solution has been stand up minis - some are printed on cardstock, but Arch Knight Games makes the on clear plastic - so while not quite miniatures, they are a cut above paper tents on the table.

ArcKnight Games Clear plastic flat minis
All of these are sample products - what you will actually get in a box will vary each month, though it should always be cool and useful.  And if these seem to be a little to RPG centric for your tastes - watch this spot because they are just getting started.

Vendors are getting lined up for products including Knight Watch Games, ArcKnight FPM, Worlds of Waynecraft, Chessex and Shire Post Mint with more being added

Pricing includes shipping in the US (international rates are still being worked out).  From $35.50 for a single box, to $400 for a full year subscription ($26 savings, and annual subscribers get some additional free loot!).

Open Enrollment begins on January 13th at 7:00 pm CST here, and you can get on their mailing list there as well. (They are also doing a drawing from all the email address' to win a free three month subscription)

Be aware that each box is, by it's very nature, a limited edition.  While surplus boxes may be available, once they are gone, they're gone for good.  So it is a bit of a gamble.  While they boxes are not returnable, they do intend to make sure all customers are happy.  To quote Crate Master General Bill Harvat:

Once you receive a box it is yours.  We want to make that very clear when someone signs up.  Hopefully the value we put in each box is enough that someone would want it anyway. However.  We do want to make sure that we have the absolute BEST customer service in the industry.  So if there is a missing piece or something turns up broken, or God forbid your crate doesn't arrive.  We're going to do everything in our power to make sure we have the highest satisfaction from our customers possible.  This means communication and execution.  We want our response times to be quick.  And our answers to be helpful.  This is just the beginning and there may be a hiccup or two along the way.  But we are taking the time and putting in the effort to truly listen to the ideas and desires of our customer base.  We want to make sure everyone who receives our boxes has a truly excellent experience and is very happy with what they receive.

Finally, a word from the founders themselves



So check them out.  If you aren't sure if this is for you or not - stayed tuned as I plan to do reviews of the actual, physical goodies.

Because it is all fun and games . . .


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