Episode 42: Yo! Hemp Chicken

42: Yo! Hemp Chicken

Release Date: November 12, 2007

Running Time: 101 min.

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ep 42

Baby needs a new pair of shoes. We build a casino empire in Vegas Showdown and climb the long ladder from Hemp Chicken to Dragon in the modern card classic Tichu.

News & Notes: Mayfair Games Price Floor, Kingsburg
The List: Tichu, Vegas Showdown
Name That Game: Win Archaeology from Adventureland Games & Vegas Showdown from Time Well Spent
Backshelf Spotlight:
Pueblo, Craps
Truckloads of Goober:
Game Sommelier:
Five games for a library to get people interested in games
Mail Bag:
Sommelier response, Nomic, game length, Das Spiel for Dave

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Game News & Notes

Mayfair Games Price Floor Spiel Forum | BGG Forum

Emboldened by a Supreme Court decision handed down earlier this year, Mayfair Games, publisher of Settlers of Catan and many others, has informed its distributors and retailers that it will no longer allow businesses to sell its games for less than 20% below MSRP. We have a small discussion here on our forums but there is a wider (and meaner) roundtable over at Board Game Geek.

Kingsburg BGG Entry | Official Site (in Spanish)

In Kingsburg players are Lords sent from the King to administrate frontier territories. The game takes place over five years, a total of 20 turns. In every year there are 3 production seasons for collecting resources, building structures, and training troops. Every fourth turn is the winter, in which all the players must fight an invading army. Each player must face the invaders, so this is not a cooperative game.


The List

Tichu BGG entry | Official Site (in German)

Tichu is a partnership game where the primary goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand faster than your opponents. Tricks are played using the ladder style mechanic made popular by the classic Chinese game Zheng Shangyou, and Zheng Fen and reinterpreted by many Western variants inlcluding Big Two, Great Dalmuti, Frank's Zoo, Asshole, Gang of Four and many others.

Vegas Showdown BGG entry | Official Site

You and a few of your millionaire friends have invested in a plot of land in the heart of Las Vegas. Each of you has one year to plan and build a luxury hotel/casino on the site. Just to make things interesting, you've put a little wager on your venture -- when the doors open, the builder of the most famous hotel/casino wins ownership of the entire block!


Backshelf Spotlight

Mystery Connection Contest
Can you find a connection between these two games? We find a mystery connection each episode and challenge you, the listener, to hunt for it! Post your guesses to the Forum . Find the connection and you could win a pair of coveted custom Spiel Dice!

spiel dice

Congratulations to RedV our winner for episode 41!

Pueblo BGG Entry

Pueblo - the ultimate building challenge! Work with the other players to create a mighty home for the Chieftain, stone by stone. You are a craftsman but you can not let the Chieftain see your trademark stones, or you will be penalised. The longer you play, the more difficult this task becomes! Take on your opponents and become the Chieftain's Master Builder.

Craps BGG Entry | Wiki

A game popular in casinos, back alleys, and military barracks all over the world. A player rolls two dice. On this first roll, the "come-out roll", they win on a 7 or 11, or lose on a 2, 3, or 12. If they roll another number, it becomes their "point"; they continue to roll until they either roll that number again (in which case they win) or roll a 7 (in which case they lose). The wagering system varies depending on where you play and whether you have a casino-style layout.

Truckloads of Goober

Klondike BGG Entry

Pan for gold... LITERALLY with your plate and wooden nuggets, plus a wooden raccoon!


Game Sommelier

The Challenge: (submitted by Heyoka James) Find five games for a library to display and demonstrate to get others interested in games

Dave's List

Stephen's Vote

Tamsk Thumbs Up
Khet Thumbs Up
Blokus Thumbs Up
Niagara Thumb Sideways
Winner's Circle Thumbs Up
Heroscape Thumbs Up

Next Challenge: Find five game expansions that make the basic game better PLUS find 2 expansions that ruin the original

Mail Bag

Davebo (David Gullet) responds with his thumbs to Stephen's Halloween games for a David and his kids.

Jeremy German wanted us to know about Nomic , a family of games that also share the open ended rules mechanics like Fluxx.

Wallace Freidel II sent in some great thoughts about Twilight Imperium and some more general musings on game length. I hope he'll post them to the forums soon!

Christof von Zadel loved the Halloween intros and found the perfect gift for Dave: Das Spiel .


Michael Leibig caught an error in my (Stephen's) rundown of the rules for craps. That's what I get for trying to distill the rules down to three or four sentences! Thanks Michael. Here's the correction:

Once a person establishes a point, then he must roll that number before he rolls a 7 in order to win. However, if he rolls that number before rolling a seven, then his original bet is paid off and then the puck flips back over to the "Off" and the rules for the "Off" state are in force. If the puck is in the "On" state, and he rolls something other than his point number and a seven, then the bet is unresolved. He must keep rolling until he makes his point or rolls a seven.

I'm sure there are some other goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!


The discussion around Mayfair price fixing is an interesting one - especially when viewed from this side of the pond (UK) where games are exhorbitantly expensive whether they come from B&M or online.

Out internet retailers are yet to offer the kind of discounts that you see in the US so we end up paying through the nose whatever.

For me every gaming-

To part I don't get is why someone like Boulder Games has decided to stop selling Mayfair games because of this. Mayfair's policy is an enormous boon to the online retailers. As I read it, the online retailers can still buy the game at the same price as before, but now they get to sell it for more. Furthermore, they don't have to get into any price wars with the discounting when the selling price is fixed. You say you'll buy fewer games from them now? That's great for the online retailers! If they only sell you three games instead of four, they're making at least the same profit as before and they've done it more easily.

Personally, I'd rather see more money going into my FLGS anyway. They provide me a place to play. Isn't that worth something? I heard an interview on another podcast from a store owner who was a little peeved when he would spend a great deal of time opening store copies of games and teaching them, only to have to listen to the pleased players announce that they were excited to go get the game online so they could save a few bucks. Hey, if you live in some remote place without a FLGS then more power to you at the internet stores, but if you're frequenting a local store and you haven't even considered buying from them, shame on you!

I agree. It doesn't make much sense to cut Mayfair out of your business if you are an online retailer. On paper, Mayfair seems to want to make the case that their survival depends almost solely on brick and mortar stores and this move is meant to somehow bolster them. But as you said, this move actually increases the profit margins of those online businesses that adhere to their price floor.

I think the average game buyer doesn't see this epic struggle between brick and mortar and online stores. Each business has a niche that can be filled and each business can do things differently to serve their market. I don't keep a ledger and split my dollars 50-50 between brick and mortar or online shops, but I do spend money in both kinds of businesses. Local game stores have more pressure to become part of the community and foster game players closer to home. Their locale is more limited so they have a vested interest in bringing people physically into the store. Online businesses have a similar kind of pressure because they are one among many and can easily get lost in an ocean of choices available across the web. In a way, they must find a way to bring people through their virtual doors and they differ only in the methods use to acheive this same goal.

I enjoy local game stores and certainly do not want to see them disappear on the whole, but I also know there are many of ways to promote the hobby and this means things are changing for everyone. Some businesses will adapt and some won't. But I see these changes as a huge positive not a threat to end gaming as we know it.

Gaming has never been more popular than it is now. There are more companies making games and more people playing than ever. I think there are enough slices of the pie to go around for online and local stores to survive and thrive. That doesn't guarantee success for anyone, to be sure. Seems like Mayfair tried to create Store Wars and then establish peace for everyone in our time. In the end, I think the greater game buying/making market will have its say and businesses in both categories will continue to trundle along.

Excellent point about designers, Simon! I have been thinking on this issue from the designer's perspective in the last few days. If I were a designer I don't know that I would want to be associated with this kind of decision. If the designer is paid a royalty on the quantity of games sold, a decision to go with Mayfair could cost him/her dearly, since less games may be sold to each merchants or whole stores may cease to sell a particular Mayfair game due to the price floor. From a designer's point of view, the more games in circulation the better, and not purely from a mercenary point of view. As varied as the responses have been to this topic, though, there may be some angle we are not considering. Any designers out there care to weigh in?

At first, I didn't know what to think about the Mayfair price "fixing", but after reading Eric Martin's editorial "Predatory, Irrational, or Patently Detrimental", I have found myself thinking more and more that Mayfair has made a good move.

First of all, they have not removed the "advantage" that online stores still have. As you pointed out, with the 20% discount and free shipping, an online store is still going to sell games cheaper than B&M stores. What it does is to simply reduce the margin of advantage a little to make the B&M stores more competitive. I mean, if you don't have a FLGS near you or just don't participate in events as a nearby store, you'll still buy pretty much everything online anyway (regardless of getting 10-15% less of a discount). But now, for those who may be waffling between supporting the FLGS and getting that crazy online deal, it just makes it a fairer fight.

Second, I have to totally disagree with your assessment about this move helping the smaller game companies. If you've heard good things about a certain Mayfair game, can you honestly say that having to spend $6-8 more is really going to stop you from buying it? What having to spend that $6-8 more will do is to keep you from splurging and getting that one extra game that you haven't heard as much about because it's from one of these smaller publishers. People will probably focus more on the games they know about (from Mayfair, FF, RGG, and then all those that get a lot of press on BGG and Boardgame News), and take less "risks" with the less popular games. So, if anything, I see this "thinning the herd" a little of all the multitude of games.

Finally (and most importantly), the thing that changed my mind on the subject is that all these deep-discount retailers have already tarnished the image of the "value" of these fine games we play. Essentially, a significant portion of those most dedicated to this hobby have said that while these games are good, they are not good enough to pay full price for them. With this being the case, how could we expect others considering entry into the hobby to think that the games are "worth the price"? It comes down to a perception of quality and worth, and personally I think that these games that cosume so much of my time and interest (and that you Spiel guys enjoy enough to spend countless effort producing a podcast about) might actually be worth their asking price.

Interesting commentary, but I'll respectfully disagree.

1. I don't think Mayfair's move makes local game stores more competitive with online businesses even if you have a local game store nearby. As Dave pointed out, if a consumer can buy the same game online for 20% off with free shipping and full price in a local store, there really is no added incentive provided by Mayfair to buy from the local store. I think online retailers and game related web sites have helped grow the game biz in ways that far outstrip the influence of local game stores. Mayfair's attempt to "level the playing field" and regulate how others sell their products seems to ignore this. The playing field has changed fundamentally with the rise of internet commerce. Local game stores must find new ways of doing business to compete and survive. They can offer services and experiences that online ones cannot. Price floors on a few select titles won't make local game stores compete better with online merchants in this manner.

2. Some can call it being cheap; i'll call it being a savvy consumer, but with the amazing number of games available today, if I'm eyeing two games and I'm equally excited about both of them, I'll choose in many cases to make my game dollar go as far as it can. On a single title, that $8 might not seem like a lot but over 2,3,4 games that adds up to another whole game I might have. And with so many great small press games coming into the market, the space for attention and play time is even greater than before. I don't see Mayfair's brand name being so poweful that players will automatically buy their games at higher prices, especially when others (especially small presses) won't adopt the same strategy. I might give a small press game or two a shot when I know I can buy an extra title with the savings over time from chosing games that aren't Mayfair's. I certainly don't always look at the price as the determining factor when deciding which games to purchase, but Mayfair has put this issue front and center by saying literally you must value our games more than others. If that is the benchmark they wish to be judged by, they are well within their rights, but I also reserve the right to decide whether or not the game is worth the additional investment.

3. Value is something that is negotiated between the producer, the retailer, and the consumer. In this case, Mayfair is trying to dictate those terms in a way that doesn't allow retailers and consumers a full seat at the table. You either agree with Mayfair's value under these new terms or you're out of the game. I'll stress again, they are well within their rights to do this. Retailers and consumers, though, are well within their rights to place a different value on their products. Each decision to purchase or not to purchase is an exercise in this kind of negotiation and evaluation. Put simply, I don't think the publisher of a game is the sole factor behind determining a game's value. And I do not think a retailer or consumer who wants a say in this process values the game less than the publisher. They simply have a diffferent set of factors that help them arrive at a value they consider worthwhile. I guess what I am saying is value cannot be dictated; it must be negotiated.

Much of this comes back to the concepts behind MSRP, I think. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price is a suggested retail price. At least here in the States, most businesses sell for prices considerably under MSRP because MSRP is set at a rate high enough to allow discounts determined by the sellers, not dictated by the producer. Mayfair is going to make the same amount from the sale whether the retailer can negotiate with his/her customers a price they both consider fair. And I do not beleive this dance that retailers and consumers play threatens to destroy the game industry. Mayfair can set new rules and claim they are in the best interest of the hobby as a whole, but I don't buy the logic behind those statements. Personally, I don't think all the consequences of this decision will turn out to their benefit.

This episode is missing from the episode list

Thanks, Robin.

I always manage to forget something. This week, it was the episode list. Thanks for catching the goof! The list is now up to date.

Stephen, just a few more thoughts about game pricing in response to your comments:

1) I totally and completely agree that a B&M store cannot ever be completely competitive with an online retailer on price. But what I like is that this "price floor" makes those of us who want to and do support our FLGS because of everything else they offer that online stores can't compete with (offering gaming space, a chance to demo games, developing real-person relationships, having a place to hang out, etc.) feel a little less "stupid" for paying MSRP for games. And just maybe, it will also push a few other people towards buying a little more from their FLGS's as well to help support them, too.

2) Maybe you make your game-buying decisions differently than I do, because pretty much the only thing that influences me to buy a game is the game's reputation and whether or not I think I'll like it. Sure, if there are two games that share the same attraction for me, I will probably choose the cheaper one, but if I'm excited about a game I'll probably pick it up regardless of the price. Essentially, I'm saying that Mayfair will continue to sell games (regardless of how much discount they allow) as long as they make good games.

3) And don't forget that Mayfair has not removed anyone's ability to offer a discount; they just limited how deep the discount could be. What they are banking on is that limiting discounts will improve the perceived value of their products, which will therefore improve the strength of the industry, and result in overall growth not only for Mayfair but for the hobby in general.

Will it work? Only time will tell. But (as you said), I wouldn't count on Mayfair being the only one giving it a shot for very much longer.

Interesting question about how and what influences us to buy games. Vive la difference! I try not to let a game's ratings or rep greatly influence my decision. I'll read flavor text and short breakdowns of the rules, and sneak a peak at the components to get a sense of the game. If this excites me, I'll put it somewhere on my mental "List" If the idea of the game is particularly compelling to me, then I'll probably take the leap at some point for sure. So many games, though, fall in the muddy middle and that's where price becomes a factor to me. I'd rather cast my net wide and stetch my game dollar even at the risk of ignoring conventional wisdom on some titles. If I was guided solely by ratings and advance reputation I would have passed up many games I now enjoy.

Difficult topic ... In my case, the closest B&M store I have is more than 50 miles away, and I do make the trip every now and then, but I can't really benefit from a lot of the B&M-sponsored activities, i.e. of really feeling part of a B&M-supported gaming community.

On the other hand, my local gaming group, as well as my family and friends are really my gaming community, and most of us buy online. We would not be able to play as many different games as we play if we had to:

1) plan a shopping "expedition" to the "city" (tolls, parking, etc),

2) pay MSRP for the games we like (this particular store rarely discounts anything)

Limiting the ability of online stores to discount games, will directly translate into us buying fewer games. I can assure you something, my group will continue to have fun, there are just too many games out there, that it is really impossible to sit around a table and not have a "best" option for our group to play.

Now, how would the rest of the participants in this story benefit from this ? Not sure, as said in other commments, I see online stores ordering fewer games, etc. Think about the game designers ? Their work will be less recognized.

Everytime you "disturb" the dynamics of a free market (i.e. basic supply and demand laws) something/someone has to give. I guess we will find out how it goes in the next chapters of this story.


Well said, Bruno.

Even if there is some fallout in the marketplace, fun certainly can't be held hostage by any of this business junk!

Really does feel like this is a golden era for games of all sorts. So many great choices and I'm glad to see even more new publishers coming into the mix next year.

I'm no lawyer but I have a feeling that this kind of price fixing cannot be done in the UK. I'm sure there are laws to prevent such contracts.

Then again, I've heard talk of Games Workshop imposing restrictions on who they will supply that effectively end up with similar results.

Anyway, I don't by from games from US online sites because the international shipping is ridiculous, even with the current favourable (to the UK) exchange rate.

That's interesting, since it seems like Mayfair is using a simliar strategy to one Games Workshop has used here in the states for years. I would have thought that UK law would accomodate this practice, but perhaps GW doesn't do business in the same manner at home.

The "official links" for Pueblo and Klondike in the show notes point to the Anathema and All Wound Up games sites respectively.

As far as the Mayfair thing goes. I'm not a fan of it, but it's not really going to affect my buying habits. I typically only make 1-3 online purchases a year, and it is always for some oddball import, so I rarely get a discount anyway. Everything else I buy is from a FLGS, or at a convention. I get no discount from my FLGS, so no matter there. And with exclusivity contracts and everything, even con deals are drying up, so I just end up not buying as many games as I want at cons and support my stores.

I have removed the offending links. Thanks.

I think its cool that game nuts like us have so many great ways to help support and grow the hobby, including great local stores like yours, scooter.

First, let me say I just recently started listening to your show and really like it. I like that you pick a few games each episode and talk about them indepth.

On this podcast you gave a run-down on Vegas Showdown. I just wanted to correct one rule you went over and that is on the placing of the room tiles. You indicated blue must go on blue, yellow on yellow and green anywhere (at least I think you said Green anywhere.) This is not correct.

You can place blue tiles or yellow tiles anywhere as long as you have a valid path back to the appropriate entrance (blue to blue side, yellow to yellow side.) Green can go anywhere(you do have to connect to one of the two entrances.) What you forego by placing a blue in the yellow area or yellow in blue is the end game bonus of having the respective area filled with tiles of the appropriate color or green tiles only.

When I first played the game I played/taught it incorrectly mainly because the example in the rulebook doesn't show any blue tiles placed in yellow or vice versa.

You can see the thread on BGG where the designer clarifies this rule here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/86425.

Oh, and keep up the great work!

Welcome aboard, Samuraicat! And thanks for setting us straight.

I think this issue actually came up when we were playing, too.

Don't you just love it when the examples in the rules make the situation more confusing? I'm struggling to think of a specific title off the top of my head, but it is not uncommon for an example to fly in the face of the printed rules. Happens more often than it should.

Spiel on!


Stephen and Dave,

You guys "claim" to not like Twilight Imperium, but it is really the game of your dreams. I'll explain...

Game Sommelier - Twilight Imperium almost REQUIRES its expansion, Shattered Empires. Lots of fixes for most of the problems you mentioned last podcast. I would also put Descent + the first expansion on the list.

Game Sommelier - Let's see you play a QUIET game of Winner's Circle! Seriously! Every game I've ever played is full of all kinds of hollerin' and yelling! That's the fun part! I would NOT try this in a library.

Mail Bag - Twilight Imperium could be considered to have open-ended victory conditions too. Remember all that voting?

See? You really like Twilight Imperium, you just don't know it!

David "Gooberhound" Siskin
Los Angeles, CA

PS -- Just thought I'd take yet another poke at Mayfair for their price fixing policy. There are plenty of other game companies for me to buy from. I think it is awful what they are doing and I plan to oppose it.

You arguments are compelling, David, but short of blunt force trauma and a closed head wound, I'm not sure reason alone will get me back to the table any time soon. Give me a decade, then we can talk. :)

Thanks for your thoughts on Mayfair, too. As I said in the episode, I think their decision will push the market (ie the game buying public) to look at other titles from other publishers. That doesn't have to be hostile or active opposition, just consumers voting with their wallets.