Saturday, May 30, 2009

Boardgaming in NWA

My wife's in Chicago through Sunday, which means I'm spending a lot more of my time at Castle House Games. I don't know if I'm just more sensitive to it now that I have less time to waste hanging around in game stores, or if it was different at BDG, but there seems to be an awful lot of talking about gaming, and not a whole lot of actually playing games going on at the game store, even thought there's plenty of available gaming space.

When I go into Castle House there's almost never a game being played unless there's a scheduled event going on. If I've got more than a few minutes, I always try to get one going, but my success rate is around 50%. When I do get people to play a game they always say something like "wow, it's good to get a game played, that was fun!" It's like it's a novel idea to actually play a game in a game store.

Fortunately, I have been able to get some gaming going the past couple of days. Thursday it was several games of Pandemic in a row as we struggled to finally pull off a win against the game. We started with a two player game and added a third player after our first or second attempt. After five plays we finally won one, and called it a day when I was unable to persuade anyone to play a game of Dominion.

The game itself was fun. I had played it solo before, and playing it with a group didn't offer any surprising new insight. It's a fun game that I can see pulling out again. The cooperative nature is also a good way to meet new gamers as no one has to worry about whether or not to crush a newbie, or what level of trash talk is acceptable.

Yesterday I went to the store expecting to play a game of LotR, but one table was full of hirst arts molding supplies, and the other had a game of 40K set up on it (I have a little mini rant on that game that I'll go into at the end). Fortunately, I wasn't actually that psyched for a game of LotR, and I noticed that the store owner had opened a copy of Small World for the store, so I suggested that we play it instead.

As we set it up we attracted a third player who was wondering what we were doing. This is actually pretty common. If I can get one other player interested in a game, then I almost always get another player or two who will join in. The trick is getting that first player.

The game was slow going at first as we got used to the rules, but was fun overall. I definitely want to get another game in, not least because I think I have a better grasp of the strategy involved after coming in dead last.

From a retailer perspective, my experience with Small World shows the potential danger of having too many store copies of games. I like Small World. I would normally buy a copy of Small World, and before playing it I was debating whether to buy it at Castle House or order it from BDG. The problem is that I will most likely only ever play it at Castle House, and now they already have an open copy available for play. Why, other than supporting the FLGS, would I now buy a copy?

As a gamer, I really like their policy of opening store copies of interesting games, but I've tried to caution the owner a couple times about being more selective in this policy. For example, he has an open copy of Agricola. Now, it is the highest rated game on BGG, having unseated the long time champion Puerto Rico, but it's also a rather hardcore eurogame that sells for over $80. I think I'm the only hardcore eurogamer in the area, and I'm not going to buy it anytime soon because I know my odds of getting someone to play it with me are close to nill, plus I now have an open copy at the store I can use if I do find an opponent, so I don't think he's going to get much of a return on that particular investment.

Now, I could see having an open copy at BDG, because there are several hardcore board gamers there who I could see buying a copy after giving it a spin, but that just isn't the case here. It's one of those examples of every store having a different set of conditions that it has to operate under.

One solution might be to restrict the use of the store copies to demo games and not allow them for casual play, or to divide them up into two groups: one available for casual play, and one only available for demos. That would let the owner and employees get familiar with some of the games, and show how nice they are, without providing a disincentive towards buying them.

OK, now for my mini-rant on the 40K game. When I walked into the store I saw a couple of regulars playing a 750 point game of 40K, but I wasn't too worried, we still had about an hour until my opponent would be off work and I figured we'd have time to get in a game of LotR after they finished if the owner didn't want to clear his hirst arts stuff off the other table.

I proceeded to spend my time talking and shopping until the owner was ready to do something. Then we came back to find the 40K game setup in mid-game with no one at the table. One of the players was standing off to the side and we asked him what was up, and he said that his opponent was taking a WoW break. Now, there was a lot of card gaming going on as it was Magic night, and I thought he was talking about the WoW CCG, which would have been bad enough, but then I look across the room and see the other player sitting at his laptop playing the actual MMOG!

You don't start a game on the only available miniatures table only to stop halfway through to go play a computer game! It's not just rude to your opponent, but to everyone else that might want to use the table. We let him know in no uncertain terms that he either needed to get his butt back to the table to finish the game or else clear his army off the table, and I think they went ahead and finished the game. I'm not sure, because it was at this point that we decided to play a board game instead, and while the 40K game was right next to us I really didn't pay much attention to it.

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