Seasonal Flavors: Is There a Place for Them in the Board Game World? (Business Brilliance #16)

14 November 2019 | 16 Comments

A few days ago I stopped by Kaldi’s, a local cafe, for some drinks and lunch. I have a favorite kale and pineapple smoothie at Kaldi’s, but something else caught my eye on their “seasonal flavors” board: a pumpkin frozen coffee.

I couldn’t resist! And it wasn’t just because the drink is only available for a short time (I explore daily specials in a previous post). Rather, I think it’s also because (a) the special matched the types of things I associate with the current season and (b) the special had a familiarity to it, most likely because the same special appeared at this time last year too.

Kaldi’s is far from alone in offering seasonal specials. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte is famous for the same reason, and I also recently tried a seasonal flavor at my favorite local cupcakery (The Cup). So, a lot of food and drinks. Could the same premise apply to board games?

To reiterate, the key ingredients to a seasonal special are:

  • available for a limited time (but not exclusive to this year)
  • associated thematically with the current season
  • appear annually at the same time to provide the comfort of familiarity

The closest thing I can think of that Stonemaier currently does is our metal mechs for Scythe. Last year I released the individually numbered first printing in October; they quickly sold out. I didn’t make more until the following year for release around the same time. This meets the first and third conditions of a seasonal special, but it wasn’t linked thematically to autumn in any way.

Here’s a different idea: What if Euphoria–my game about running a cheery dystopian city–had alternate art boards reflecting each of the 4 seasons? Each of the boards would be printed in a limited quantity for sale during the corresponding season. If you miss out on a specific board this year, you know you’ll have another chance next year (which could be a good reason for you to subscribe to our e-newsletter).

As I write that, one aspect of it that I like is that it doesn’t create an endless opportunity for promos; rather, there’s a self-imposed, finite limit that collectors might appreciate.

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig could have a few seasonally themed room tiles. Though I almost feel like the seasonal elements shouldn’t be randomized–they should be something that you actively choose to be on the table from the beginning of the game in the current season. Scythe factions or Tapestry civilizations could work in this way.

I’m looking at this through the lens of our games, but there are a ton of other games out there to which seasonal specials could apply.* Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? What’s your favorite seasonal special that you purchase every year?

*One challenge worth mentioning is that board games are universal, but seasons are not. I was just in New Zealand, where it’s currently springtime; in St. Louis, it’s late autumn.

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16 Comments on “Seasonal Flavors: Is There a Place for Them in the Board Game World? (Business Brilliance #16)

  1. For one of my favourite games, Flamme Rouge, fans annually create new race routes to correspond to the major races of that year, like the Tour de France. From what I understand a special set of cards for these Tour de France stages were produced and distributed in France and I would love to have them

  2. Seasonal themed player mats for Wingspan for Fall and Winter would be wonderful, or you could do, like you said, boards for Euphoria and each year for a new game – Viticulture/Scythe, over the years, as well. For Scythe, alternate character minis, maybe one per year would be amazing.

  3. I think so. Gate Keeper Games releases Christmas Dice each year, and released Halloween themed dice this past October.

    It’s a fun thing to get to celebrate our favorite holidays with our favorite hobby.

  4. It gives me an idea for a game though….you are a busy homemaker, and it is the holidays coming up….resource management, cash food gifts, deadlines, events, unforeseen events, etc….can you get it all done? i see it as a lighter game that pokes fun at expectations, and would sort of tell a story of how your holiday went…like your tableau or deck or whatever would make a narrative…well we had a burnt roast and Uncle Al got drunk (who would have guessed) but I got the tree up and I had a gift for everyone. Special expansion: my kids birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas (the level up, harder version). I am half kidding, but half not…there seems like there could be a tension relieving aspect to it…the con would be say focusing on Thanksgiving to Christmas is where I am thinking, but that might not fully resonate with everyone…so could it be extrapolated to aliens having their holiday season with the same problems, but with funny food, gifts etc?

    The whole time is ripe for resource management though, that is the core idea. Juggle time and money and expectations….

    I think on a previous thread I had pitched a game or marketing idea, cant recall, but a game that becomes a holiday tradition, that people play every year, I think that would be very interesting, and fit SM….lots of players, easy to bring people in, wide ages…might be more party oriented than SM usually does…but I could see room for tradition…a birthday game? You play it every year and can make memories with it, within the game system? It could be more mulitpurpose…played on any birthday? But with a way to document and memorialize the good times in a passport type book?

    taking this idea further….some sort of light game to be played at a wedding that becomes a keepsake for the couple? combine legacy type aspects, with memories and some sort of documentation….think along the lines of the portable cameras some couples put out to get candid shots….something for participation, to break ice, to kill time, to create an end product….

    these dont really answer your question per se, but some riffs you might find a seed of something in.

  5. I like the seasonal game mutators (there’s a different game tweak every day) for the Apocrypha card game that are available through the companion app. Being an app, it would be relatively easy to geographically localize content though thematically it doesn’t make a lot of sense for this particular game as the game locations are all in North America. They’ve also put together scenario setups for each month of the year that are very thematic. Both of these things really keep the game feeling particularly relevant to whenever you happen to be playing.

  6. There have been successful “seasonal” varieties of games appear in the marketplace from ti,e to time. This year we had a small push for horror themed games announced at Origins and GenCon and built their market presence too synch up with Halloween.

    A really good example of these variant editions of games and or components is the Welcome To… series of games.

    King of Tokyo has done Halloween theme, as has Ticket to Ride. Many of these examples were full on rethemes of the games with an introduction of some related rule tweaks.

    The Brettspiel calendar has introduced promos for some games that were seasonal. Guilds of London had a guild tile promo for the Guild of Snowmen.

    I believe there is a market for these uniquely themed games and game components. They could be a profitable line extension if integrated with an original print run or reprint of a popular game.

    However, if a uniquely themed game or component was not timed correctly it would be a risk and may promote a loss of goodwill to fans of the game that could carryover to the publisher.

    How disappointed would someone be if they did not receive their Polar Express version of Ticket to Ride for Christmas due to production delays or lack of supply during thee critical holiday sales season.

  7. I think it’s a very interesting idea, i can see it applicable for Scythe, for the main board as well as for every detail of the factions.

    Have to agree on challenges though. Maybe If you release different seasonal themed games for different parts of the world in limited quantities, do you think that will work?

  8. Seasonal bird packs for Wingspan seem like they would be fun fit here. And easy to just shuffle in if you want o use them. Or seasonally-themed habitat boards with new art for those that just want an aesthetic change.

    I love how some of the alternate layouts for “Welcome To…” are seasonally themed (Halloween, Christmas, etc.).

  9. I think the obvious candidate for this is to create special Summer and Winter visitor promo cards for Viticulture, perhaps to release alongside whatever game or expansion Stonemaier releases closest to that season that year. Even a single card each season could be a fun little bonus.

    1. Perhaps a seasonal event card could work too. An event that would apply to the whole table maybe. Winter Olympics or something. And each player may have the option of competing or cooperating to capitalise.

  10. For many years, as an avid reader, I bought the latest entry in the Shanara Series by writer Terry Brooks which came out, unsurprisingly every year around St Patrick’s Day.

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