Sunday, 6 May 2012

Playing Chance With The Tape Monkeys

When I go out shopping at the weekend with my wife, I never miss an opportunity to sneak away quietly to tour the charity shops. I don't often find anything of particular interest, and I tend to see the same sorts of games turning up time and time again (such as Carol Vorderman's Sudoku, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, or some piece of crap specially made and packaged for Marks and Spencers to stock the shelves of their "gift" section at Christmas). However, there is always a sense of excitement going into a charity shop - that sense of maybe, just maybe, just this once, if I'm lucky, maybe I will find that mint condition copy of Heroquest which still has the little flames on the candlesticks and a complete set of skulls and rats for the book cases.

Buying board games in a charity shop is really a gamble. No-one has the time to open the box and check all the components are there, and quite often you can't open the box anyway because the damned tape monkeys have been at work. For those of you who have never heard of these mythical creatures, they run around charity shops and car boot sales, using sticky tape to seal up the boxes to board games. They pretend they do it because they don't want any bits of a game to go missing, but really they are vindictive little monsters who cause more harm than good. Their overenthusiasm leads to an inability to gauge the quality of a game, and the tape they use is always the stickiest stuff they can find, which will often lead to some box damage when it is finally removed.

When I see something interesting in a charity shop that the tape monkeys have got to, I will usually buy it anyway. I figure, if I get a complete game I will be a happy man; if I get half a game, I can probably salvage a few bits, and at least I have contributed to charity. It's nice to get a warm fuzzy feeling every now and again.

Twice on my shopping excursion yesterday I was confronted by the work of the tape monkeys, and twice I took a gamble that paid off (with mixed results).

First up, I saw this little beauty sitting on a shelf: Tomb of Doom.

Tomb of Doom box

It was priced at £2 and looked absolutely ridiculous. Of course, I couldn't see in the box because of the monkey tape.

Tomb of Doom box

There were a lot of reasons to pass on the game. For a start, it is battery operated, so it was a double gamble: It might not have been complete, and it might not even have worked. It also didn't look like a game I would play, and my one rule when buying board games is that I will only buy something if I intend to play it.

Long story short: I bought the game against my better judgement.

Rather surprisingly, it is complete (except for the instructions, which aren't really necessary) and it works. It is also, as predicted, utterly ridiculous. If you stick an incorrect key in the treasure chest, the skull laughs, chatters its teeth, and rolls its eyes. Not much of a game, but probably a pretty decent Halloween decoration.

Tomb of Doom

Touring the other charity shops was a complete bust, and I was about to go home when I noticed a box in the window of a charity shop I had never been in before. The logo on the box said A Game of thrones and I hurriedly went inside and snatched the box before the other guy loitering nearby got his grubby mitts on it.

Of course, I was hoping it was the board game of A Game of Thrones which was out of print for a while but was recently rereleased by Fantasy Flight Games. My hope was that someone had upgraded to the new edition, and I could score a cheapo copy. However, what I actually had in my hands was A Game of Thrones The Card Game, also by Fantasy Flight Games. This was the 2009 reissue of the game, when it was changed from a collectable card game into a "living" card game (I'm not going to get into the difference here - maybe I'll do that another time).

A Game of Thrones The Card Game

I had heard good things about the game, so I was no less interested (yes, I don't just collect out of production games, I also collect and play modern games, which is way my house isn't big enough). The game was sealed up with tape, so it was impossible to see what I was getting, and the price was £4.99. I took the risk and bought it.

When I got home I carefully removed the tape without causing any damage. I slowly removed the lid expecting to find a jumble of creased and battered cards, and probably an incomplete set of pieces. I didn't expect this:

A Game of Thrones The Card Game - inside the box

That is the game board, in the original factory wrapper. "Not bad," I think. "Looks like someone has kept the game in good condition." So then I removed the board, and I find this:

A Game of Thrones The Card Game - inside the box

That, my friends, is a full set of unpunched game counters in the original factory wrapper. Of course, by now, I am pretty pleased with myself. Looks like I have bought an unplayed copy of the game for a real bargain price. Removing the sheet of tokens confirms it, as I find four decks of cards in the original shrink wrap.

A Game of Thrones The Card Game - inside the box

This is a red letter day! Today marks one of my best ever charity shop finds. I am absolutely delighted, and would easily have paid more than £4.99 for a game in this kind of condition. I look forward to getting this to the table and I will hopefully add a review here on my blog later on (it will appear under "Reviews" rather than "The Vault" as it is not out of production).

Overall, this was a good day. I took on the tape monkeys, and I won. I gambled, and I triumphed. Ha!

But there's always another day, and the monkeys never rest.

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