Friday, April 15, 2005

Surprise in the Toy Shop

I turn to look in the toy shop in the mall. There are no doors; each day they just fold up the glass accordion doors until the entrance to the shop becomes the entire side of the store.

I don't usually stop in these stores - they are filled with cheap plastic crap, markers, rubber balls, toothpick kits, baby items. But every once in a while I go in just to see what's new in the game shelves. Who knows what might be there? The old stuff is always there: "Monopol", "Straeggo", and other Hebrew versions of Battleship, Clue, Pachisi, Twister, Snakes and Ladders, etc... Lots of really crappy cards games, all of which are something like Go fish with animals.

Last time I stopped in, about six months ago, I found a few new things.

For one, Haim Shafir had put out a new game which is a copy of Take 6. Like his wildly popular Taki, which is a slightly modified version of Uno (although, he says he got it from crazy 8's, like Uno did), and Race (practically a carbon copy of Mille Borne), this version is basically a carbon copy of Take 6. I didn't check, but hopefully he credits the original designers. I met him; he's a pretty nice guy, and he does have some original games - not my type, but you can't argue with sales and success. I lent him my copy of Settlers of Catan, which he said he enjoyed very much.

For another, I found copies of Blokus, a game that is actually interesting.

Anyway, today the shop has in front of it a bright display with stacks of Monopoly, original edition, Monopoly "Wonders of the World" edition, and Classic Rummikub, Israel's great claim to game design fame. Kodkod seems to be the only major game production company in Israel of any note, sort of the Ravensberger of Israel. They put out tons of stupid games, many versions of Rummikub, and a few actually interesting original games, such as DisX and Blanko (the former is an abstract strategy game which I have played against the computer (Google it), and the latter is some sort of word game with tiles like Scrabble).

Well, with a board game display out front, maybe there is something new inside. So I went in to see.

I found the usual stuff. Lots of Israeli model kits, cheap games, "games" with Barbie and Lion King themes, etc... And then ... oh my god, it can't be. Yes it is. A full version, with Hebrew box and instructions, but English components, of TransAmerica by Winning Moves. For $30, which is on par with the rest of the games (that's what the American version of Monopoly sells for (the Hebrew one sells for about $15)).

I stood up and shouted, WOO HOO! I pulled the guy over from the next aisle and told him this is what he wants to get. See? It's new and it's good! What are you holding? Put that back and get this!

But I'm shopping for my 3 year old, he said, edging away from me.

Don't worry, he'll grow into it. Just don't let him stick the pieces up his nose. And anyway, this is for you! You'll like it and play it yourself.

Oh, I don't play games, he says, turning and running to find his wife.

Wait! You should! I yell. Games are for grown ups! Hey you, I said turning to the woman walking by me. Buy this game! I yell after her as she runs away from me out of the toy shop.

Well, at least we're moving into the 1990's. Give us 10 more years and we'll get there.


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