Friday, January 12, 2007

Games in Israeli Toy Stores, or why my country is better than yours

Time for another little update on games in Israeli toy stores, just to make all of you who aren't living in the right countries jealous.

Israel only has one modern game store that I know about, called Freak, in Tel Aviv. Freak carries modern Eurogames, all of which are imported through Silver Stars importing. I'm not such a fan of Freak, but I am a fan of Silver Stars.

Israel's major book chain, Steimatzky's, used to carry Magic cards. They no longer do, but they continue to carry Pokemon, Digimon, and some other occasional random stuff. They get these from Sportel, who imports them. It is rumored that they will be carrying some games from Silver Stars in the near future. There was also an article in the local newspaper recently about Drakon and Silver Stars.

In addition to Sportel importing CCGs, Silver Stars also imports and translates RPGs, mostly D&D, both of which appear to be be big sellers among kids in Israel.

Discounting the above, the rest of Israel's game supply falls into the category that I will simply call the Israeli toy store.

The Israeli toy store might be a large one and carry the title "Toys'R'Us" (about ten or fifteen locations around the country), or might be a small one that also carries stationary, school books, and snacks. Every mall in Israel has one, and individual stores are located every ten blocks or so. There's also a few online ones, such as Baduk.

One might be forgiven for thinking that every one of these stores is part of a huge conglomerate chain, because they all carry the same games, more or less, and the same everything else, for roughly the same prices. What's available in one store is largely available in another store that carries the same class of goods.

Nevertheless, the majority of these stores are actually independent operations, or a small local branch of two or three stores. The reason that they all carry the same goods and that everything is priced the same is that everything imported into Israel is imported under an exclusive import license. I would also say that it's very likely that when a store tries to acquire games from one of these importers, they are required to buy games by the set, e.g. small set of games will include these games, the medium set some additional games, and the large set the entire catalog.

So every Israeli toy store has the basics (see Board Game Geek for information about all games): Monopoly, Monopoly Junior, Monopoly Wonders of the World edition, Monopoly credit card edition, Enchanted Forest, Talisman, Hebrew Scrabble, Stratego, Stratego deluxe, Tactico, Battleship, Clue, Pachisi, a line of Rummikub games and other games by KodKod (Israel's big game producer, also known as Lemada Light Industries), and so on ...

Every Israeli toy store also has a selection of hundreds of craft kits for making little castles, weaving friendship pictures and bracelets, making chocolate molds, etc. cheap kockoffs of Barbies, and so on. Every Israeli toy store has cheap and expensive sets for Backgammon, Chess, Checkers, Tic Tac Toe, Reversi, and so on ...

Every store has a rack of Haim Shafir's games, which includes Taki, Super Taki, and others as well as his knockoffs of 6 Nimmt, Milles Borne, and quiz cards.

Almost every store has nice sets of the following: Abalone, Quarto, Blokus and Travel Blokus, DisX, Batik, Gobblet, and other modern wooden abstract games of the same sort.

But the best part is that a large majority of toy stores in Israel also have a large line of games from Foxmind, Winning Moves, Asmodee, and Ravensburger.

In previous visits, I had seen Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat, TransAmerica, Hive, Ingenious (which they call here MENSA, even though the box says Hiburim (Connections)), and various Sudoku games.

Today's visit was to a small toy store in Wolfson Center in Jerusalem, where I made the discovery of not only the Da Vinci game but Cartagena.

I asked the store owner about it. His name is Gilad, and it turns out that all the Winning Moves games are imported by a business managed by his brother, Alfit Toys. They don't appear to have a website, but you can google some telephone numbers and I received the direct cellphone number for the brother, Meir.

Like many other toy store owners, Gilad was very happy to recommend Ingenious to me, as well as Cartagena and other games by Foxmind and Winning Moves. His store also boasted a prominently displayed boxed version of Go, which appeared to have a wooden board, although only plastic pieces. Prices were not bad at all. Including taxes, Cartagena was $22, Hive about $26, Ingenious about $35, card games roughly $10 to $12, and so on. All came with both English and Hebrew instructions.

And yes, Gilad had heard of Settlers of Catan, as well as Silver Stars.

No, we can't compete with the online and local game stores in America, or the games in the supermarkets in Germany, but we are not so backwards after all.

But what I'm wondering is: if there is a market for these games in Jerusalem, where are all the people playing them? And how soon before Silver Stars really makes big inroads with Settlers of Catan, Citadels, and Twilight Imperium III?


P.S. The Tuscaloo News gives good copy to Erik Arneson and TGOO.

Oldest Backgammon-like game found in Iran. (via neatorama)

Keyboarding - the game to teach keyboarding skills. "Keyboarding Trivia is the best invention for teaching and reinforcing keyboarding skills since the keyboard" ... so ... why ... ? (via send2press)

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