21 August 2006

Growing My Own Gamers #9

There has been a lot of discussion lately on boardgaming podcasts about local game stores. Should you patronize your local game store even when you can get better prices online? People who want to shop online are sometimes made out to be the bad guys in these discussions. The pro-local people forget that there are many of us who don't have a choice.

I believe in supporting local business. However, that can be difficult since I live in the land of the chain store. There is a hobby shop about 30 minutes away with a few games, but they were covered with dust and none of the titles were anything I had seen on BoardGameGeek. Still, I wanted to make sure I had exhausted all my possibilities. I did a search on Google and found a store an hour away from my house. This is not a trek I would be able to make on a regular basis, but I had a chance to be in that area last weekend so I thought I would check it out.

From my reading, I saw that this game store embodied some of the positive and negative aspects of other stores around the country. In their favor, their small selection of games (about 20) were all fairly recent titles that I recognized. Also, they have a large gaming space for people who live in the area; there were some kids playing a CCG while I was there. The downside is that the store was unattractive. Even if the owner couldn't afford to paint or recarpet the floor, I'm sure he could spare a few dollars for a carpet cleaner or even a broom. My sneakers actually stuck to the carpet! The one thing I couldn't complain too much about were the prices. They were equivalent to buying the same game online plus shipping, but factoring in the gas to go all that way made buying "locally" more expensive.

This little expedition satisfied my curiosity. Whenever I shopped online there was always a nagging feeling that I should try harder to find the games locally. Now I can shop online with a clear conscience!

While I was investigating the not-so-local game store, I felt that I had to buy something after begging my BFF Rabbit to drive me out there. My budget was tighter than usual, so I picked up a copy of Fluxx. I was hesitant to get this game because hardcore gamers tend to look down on it. That alone should have been a clue that my kids would love it, and they do. I've played it several times with a few adults and they seem to like it, too.

Fluxx is a game that is difficult to envision until you play through it. The rules sheet that comes with it doesn't help much. That's probably because most of the rules are on the cards themselves. Each person starts with three cards. The game starts with a basic rule: draw one card, then play one card. Once players start laying cards on the table, the rules of the game start shaping up.

There are four kinds of cards: New Rules, Goals, Keepers, and Actions. The Keepers are the cards you collect by putting them on the table in front of you. The Goal cards tell you what you need to collect to win the game, but the goal can be changed at any time by someone replacing it with a new Goal card. The New Rule cards change the basic rules and the changes stay in effect until someone plays a different card to contradict them. The Action cards only work for a single turn and can affect any of the other three types of cards. Basically, what you are aiming for and how you can get there is changing all the time. The game never plays the same way twice.

I was surprised how well DJ picked up the game. His reading skills improved dramatically over the past year, but being able to read and put what you read into practice are two different things. M reads several levels above her grade, yet she will not read for practical reasons. If she is making Rice-A-Roni, she expects me to tell her what to do rather than reading the box for herself. I thought I would have the same problem with DJ and this game. His ability to read the cards quickly and strategize went far beyond my expectations, especially since it was the first time he had played.

Gaming opportunities with adults are going to be scarce over the next few months. School is starting next week, and then the holiday season will be here before we know it. That leaves gaming with the kids. I will be enforcing the "no TV on school nights" rule and I will need something to keep the kids occupied if they finish their homework early. games that make them use their minds should be just the thing. Let's hope that I stick to my resolve and don't go back to vegging out in front of the computer after work.
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