Friday, January 06, 2006

Vacation Surprises

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I've been out of town for the last few weeks with little access to the internet. I would like to thank Ava Jarvis and Iain Cheyne for covering for me during my absence. The family and I enjoyed a nice Christmas vacation with our families in the lower '48. Although my wife and kids try to visit their grandparents at least yearly, it was my first trip outside of Alaska in 3 years (not counting a single jaunt over to the burlesque and gambling Mecca of the far-north; Dawson City, Yukon Territory).

I checked out a couple of the game stores I used to frequent back in my college days, and made a couple great finds.

Although I liked strategy games back in my younger days, I wasn't a game whore like I am now. No, far from it. I didn't discover the wide world of German games until I was 30. Until I discovered Boardgamegeek I thought Tactics II was the be-all, end-all of war games, Monopoly wasn't too bad, Talisman was the ultimate "insider game", and Advanced Civ was the pinnacle of gaming.

One store I used to frequent had 2038, Samarkand and a plethora of original Avalon Hill titles, including a couple Advanced Squad Leader modules in stock, in original shrink, with their original price tags. I picked up 2038 and Samarkand for a little bit of nothing. Those games were all probably sitting there when I frequented the store in my college days. I sent out a couple e-mails asking if anyone wanted the ASL modules, but none of my friends were interested. I would have picked them up for myself, but I had already spent too much on games because of this surprise...

World Games of Montana.

World Games of Montana. Yes. No joke. If you live within a couple hundred miles of Missoula you need to stop in. It is the best boardgame store I have ever seen.

The store carries some puzzles, and some games with mass market appeal, but there were no miniatures, no comic books, no CCGs, no RPGs, no baseball cards and no video games. The staff was very knowledgeable about modern strategy games, and was very friendly. They interrupted their game of Torres to teach me and my kids to play Gulo Gulo.

I said, "The staff was playing Torres". That has to be a good sign. And in case you missed my inference, they have numerous games open and ready to play, so you can try before you buy.

Daniel and Annie were pleasant, knowledgeable gamers, I was very pleased to make their acquaintance. Matt actually writes boardgame reviews for the local rag, The Missoulian, under the name Smatt. He also contributes to Knucklebones magazine, does a daily puzzle blog entitled simply, The Puzzler, and posts his game reviews on another blog, Traditional Game Reviews.

I bought entirely too many games, including some kids games for Christmas. I restricted myself to games that I know my local game store hasn't been able to get into stock. I could only pack 4 or 5 games in my luggage, so with the games I bought from a couple other stores, and the games I brought down with me, I had to ship most of them back to Alaska via the Postal Service.

But the surprises didn't end there.

Somehow the issue of games came up and my father-in-law (a non-gamer) mentioned that he used to be pretty good at chess back in the day. I shamelessly used that information to talk him into a game of YINSH. He picked it right up. We played a couple games and he did very well.

At one point in our first game I was down one ring to none. He was able to keep some serious pressure on me for a dozen consecutive moves. I couldn't do anything but play defensively, lest I went down 2 rings to none. He moved me from one tight spot to the next with ease, and that was just his learning game.

I also introduced my brother to Battle Line, Puerto Rico, Australia (a game I picked up at World Games of Montana), and a couple other German games. He really liked Battle Line, a game we were both just learning, and did well at numerous other games. I don't think I converted him to the dark-side, I doubt he will be starting a game club anytime soon. I'll have to try again in another three years.

Until next time,
World Games of Montana.
Remember it.


P.S. And let the treasure hunt begin for the store still carrying original ASL modules.


gamesgrandpa said...

Sounds like you had a great vacation. Thanks for the puzzle blog address. I see he has had puzzles published in Games Magazine, and if those were of the same type as he posts in his blog, they are the kind that I look for in Games Magazine.

I received Australia for Christmas, but it may be a while before we try it out (since I also acquired nine other new games at the same time). I will be interested to hear what you think of it.

Melissa said...

It's heartening, to me, that we both went on holidays & both found good game stores. That has to mean that the hobby's growing, doesn't it?

Fraser said...

ASL stuff with original price tags? I haven't played ASL in twenty years and own none of it yet that sounds tempting. Oh I am such a game geek.