This article, if you want to call it that, is going to be one of the least useful things I’ve written. I feel compelled to write it however, not just as a method by which to stretch my writing muscles after so much downtime caused by real life obligations but because I’ve been incredibly bothered by a couple of posts committing what I feel to be a cardinal sin.
You don’t point out problems without providing a solution, or at least a path outlined to eventually arrive at a solution. To do otherwise is whinging at best, and fear-mongering at worst. So when I read Bobby Sapphire’s (TheHyperloops) article here, and shortly thereafter read Pearl Yeti’s article here, both about the issues surrounding ongoing player support I was somewhat bothered. They are good articles, and put forth exactly spot on criticisms, but they merely hinted at solutions rather than provide directly actionable methodology.
Then I remembered that my primary use-case for twitter is to roast FFG, and the weight of hypocrisy started bearing down. So this is a very generically directed article aiming at correcting all that and though not written as such, should serve as an open letter to FFG Organized Play. If my wildest dreams have a possibility of coming true on this, they are free to completely take anything written and present it as their own. This is unlikely, hence the probable futility of writing it in the first place. C’est la vie.
The real, measurable, problem facing destiny is not one of prize support, game balance, release uncertainty, ill-defined rules interactions, or lack of tournament organization. They are all contributing concerns, but the real problem is summed up in three words and a hypen. Declining Player-base. Correcting this problem and all of those contributing factors and any other passing concerns hinges on four facts.
A.) Companies exist to make money
B.) Employee time costs money
C.) If fixing a problem costs more than the revenue generated by a solution, it won’t happen
D.) The less people a problem effects, the less revenue is gained by solving it
As I am fond of saying, no-one knows your meta better than you. No-one can propose a solution that works in your area, or my area, they have to be much more general. I interpret that scope requirement as a need to give specific areas the tools to meet their individual needs.
By way of example, I would love to have giant community run events as proposed by Bobby Sapphire, but I recognize that those events will interest a large number of people, but only actually apply to a small subset of them (namely the fortunate people with both the time and money to attend). There would be upstream benefits like streaming and free advertising, but those are nebulous at best.
So any solution needs to apply to the maximum number of people possible, to notably include FFG whose primary motivation is again, dollar bills.
The one location where you can reach the highest number of existing players, increase the player-base, generate additional revenue for FFG, and appeal to every different motivation that applies to any player is the local game store. To be more specific, it is at the events that any given local game store runs on a regular schedule.
As we all know, we have quarterly prize kits. They are wholly insufficient. Quarterly means that a very active store could conceivably run through 12 of them. This is disappointing to everyone.
1.) Collectors don’t actually have that many things to collect. In a game without foil cards, the alt-arts contained within these kits are acquired quickly and since they are recycled so much there isn’t much “bling” value or room for the collectors to show off.
2.) Value-driven players get no value. Because there are so many of each of these in circulation, they are dirt cheap.
3.) Social/Casual players get left out. When there isn’t any inherent incentive for a Collector or Value-driven player to come out to a weekly tournament then that obviously leaves fewer people at the store for people to simply hang out with.
4.) Competition Driven players also get left out. With less people showing up at the store, the purely competitive players have to do a cost/benefit analysis on time and money spent that will usually end up not favoring FFG or their local player-base. Opinions on TTS aside, it exists, it isn’t going away, and it’s time and money costs are far below going to a local store.
So lets revamp the Quarterly Kits.
Introducing Monthly Kits, Limited Kits, and the Quarterly Championship
Monthly Kit Contents:
Every Month, FFG should put out a low production cost kit designed to entice everyone in one form or another. Of absolute top priority is that everything in the kit should be from the most recent set release. This adds nothing to the cost of the kit, keeps the contents relevant for the maximum amount of time, and enhances the excitement of the new set. The contents of the kit would include the folowing.
A.) Sixteen alternate-art faction neutral commons. Sixteen of them makes it pretty much an attendance award and puts something in everyone’s hands. The power level of the card doesn’t really matter but the card should be neutral and the color should be rotated around to hit as many players as possible, some of whom do only play certain factions or colors.
B.) Eight alternate-art uncommon cards. Again, rotate the colors around but notably in this case you want to make these format staples. Making them staples makes people want as many of them as possible, and only putting eight of them in a kit means most people will have to attend at least two events to even get a playset.
C.) Four alternate-art rare non-character cards. These should be pushed towards the theme of the set. These cards are going to be cards everyone wants, but making them Top 4 awards keeps them fully in reach for the vast majority of players to win, and again, motivations of a playset will pull people back for more than one event.
D.) Two alternate-art characters. There isn’t a need for people to want more than one of these for personal use, but because they are ideally decent characters they will be in high demand both for competition, and on the secondary market. Iconic characters push the brand, sell boxes, and get people involved. There is a reason this is under the Star Wars licence after all. Non-uniques can work, but aren’t the best choice since they will only be available for four weeks. At the same time, you don’t want them super bonkers, so as to provide the Spot Gloss team with good room to maneuver.
By doing a kit like this monthly, there is going to be a third of the total amount of these cards in circulation as opposed to the current quarterly kits. This both drives secondary value up, and pushes people in the stores more often because each kit will go out of circulation after four months. That’s what I call a win/win.
The nice thing here for FFG is that this is all cardboard. The most expensive part is the art, and in the vast majority of cases, simply making it full-bleed ala Flank and Lightsaber Pull is perfectly good enough. The money was already spent, just fire up the printer and sell the kits.
What you don’t see are token sets of any kind, which brings me to…
“Quarterly” Championship Contents:
The ideal way to cap off a meta for a store, the Quarterly Championship should be held in the few weeks leading up to a new set release. A final sendoff if you will. While most people wouldn’t go super far out of their normal stomping grounds to try and win the contents of a monthly kit, the contents of a Quarterly Championship kit should get people excited enough to make the trek in the same ways that Store Championships do, but without any sort of bye cards that would lead to a win-cycle. These tournaments should be friendly, separate from the current competitive structures, but get player-bases mixed up a bit and introduce people to the competitive structure.
The contents of this kit should be entirely faction neutral (with one exception), and push the overall theme or new concepts that the most recent set introduced. It is as much marketing as it is a tournament.
A.) Thirty-two staple uncommons. Large player-bases get a participation prize, and presumably will want to go to another tournament to get the playset, smaller playerbases will have enough to not need to drive four hours for another attempt #RuralProblems.
B.) Sixteen rares. FFG has playtesting data that will point to good selection here. Think Holdout Blaster, but done right before SoR came out. Something that will continuously see play throughout the lifespan of the card. You want them attainable for collectors, sellable for the value-driven players, and just plain blingy for competitive players.
C.) Eight staple Legendaries. Something that pushes the theme of the set is ideal, but definitely a card people will want. Think the Force Speed promos.
D.) Four Flagship Legendary Characters. Drop the bomb on this one. Bring out the Vader, the Luke, the Thrawn, the Lando.
E.) Two token sets. These should be planned out over the block and keep to a specific color theming. White boxes this year? White tokens. That sort of thing. One quarter for shields, damage, and resources.
F.) One playmat. Winning one of these tournaments should be something you can show off, nothing really fits that better than a playmat. It should feature the art from the eight staple legendaries contained in the kit. Think the Force Speed playmat/card combo.
Some of our most competitive readers would think that they don’t care about anything above the Legendary Character prize. That is by design, again to emphasize the community semi-casual nature of these events. They aren’t the appropriate venue for long drawn out rules conversations or arguments. Low pressure and low barrier of entry comes out to a welcoming environment which is one of FFGs core goals.
This would be an expensive kit to produce as compared to pure cardboard, but its only three times a year and the contents make good prize ticket sinks for GQs and Worlds.
Wait a second, did I just say quarterly championships are only three times a year? Yup. Three sets per year, three quarterly championships. Which is why I wouldn’t call them quarterly tournaments, I’d call them the “Insert Set Name” Championship. Branding. Good shit. But that does leave us with some time to fill, given that I already put down three “monthly kits” for each set.
Limited Kit Contents
For the first few weeks of every set, a focus on the Limited formats should be a priority. Sell and ship these to the stores in packs of four along with their order of the new set. One to serve as a possible midnight or day-of release kit for the set, and three others for the first month of release. These need to strike a delicate balance. Make the contents too good and people may not actually buy the Rivals set (or presumably whatever comes along to replace or update the Rivals set). Make them god-awful and you don’t encourage limited play.
A.) Eight cardboard deckboxes. Those cardboard deckboxes are actually really useful for limited play, and for a player who owns absolutely nothing to jump in and play (with a borrowed or purchased on-site Rivals kit) they give someone brand new a basic storage and deck carrying solution. Most people will trash them or give them away but for those people, the appeal of a new set is probably enough of an attendance prize.
B.) Four alternate-art dice cards. This is the compromise to the corporate overlords. Can’t actually use these without owning a Rivals kit, ensures sales, but since pretty much every die in the kit is playable in limited, you can just pick one at random and run with it. Bonus points if its standard/trilogy viable but we aren’t too picky.
C.) Two alternate-art Character cards. Same compromise, but these are much more likely to be limited specific. Collectors will want them for sure.
Keeping things like Hidden Motive out of the kits is good to keep the Galactic Qualifiers and higher level tournament options open, same with the “play the staff” challenges that are common. Assuming FFG does plan on replacing Rivals at some point, there are more than enough dice cards to keep the limited kits flowing for two years worth of set releases (though characters will need to be subbed out for the other dice at some point).
I’m peering back at Way of the Force, just to plug some card names into the slots I’ve identified to see how this would have looked if I had my way. And I think it looks pretty spectacular.
Monthly Kit 1:
Monthly Kit 2:
Monthly Kit 3:
Way Of The Force Championship:
I am hesitant to tie this down to months, so I’m just going to use numbers as placeholders. Wherever FFG would decide to start the cycle would be fine really, it only really triggers on a set release.
Month 1.) “Insert Set Name Here” Championship, and four “Limited Kit 1” for the newest set release.
Month 2.) Monthly Kit 1
Month 3.) Monthly Kit 2
Month 4.) Monthly Kit 3
Month 5.) “Insert Set Name Here” Championship, and four “Limited Kit 2” for the newest set release.
Month 6.) Monthly Kit 1
Month 7.) Monthly Kit 2
Month 8.) Monthly Kit 3
Month 9.) “Insert Set Name Here” Championship, and four “Limited Kit 3” for the newest set release.
Month 10.) Monthly Kit 1
Month 11.) Monthly Kit 2
Month 12.) Monthly Kit 3
I think my idea is good, and I think it would go a very long way to not only maintain the player-base we currently have but to redraw in players who may have left and even gather new ones. With an invigorated playerbase, it would be easier for FFG to justify the expense of all the other nice-to-have things which we have all been clamoring for.
Sadly, and this may just be my pessimistic nature, I don’t think they are particularly interested in doing anything at the moment to kick this off. And much less likely to take advice from one of their biggest critics.
-Good Luck, Have Fun, Roll On
Agent Of Zion