Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flashbacks from the old FLGS

The other day I had the opportunity to make one of my rare (apparently bi-annual) visits to my old Friendly Local Game Store – Sci-Fi City on the east side of Orlando. Back when I was a young goober, they were my source for wargames. They also carried almost all of the ‘wargaming’ miniature lines. But not so much any more.

As I’ve probably written before, they’ve really cut back on the old-school gaming stuff. Most wargaming minis are gone. They carry the relatively new-fangled World War II Flames of War miniatures, but I noticed this trip that they’re not stocking as much as they used to. FoW is pricey, so maybe sales are tanking. Pride of place still goes to their Games Workshop minis, but they also stock tons of fantasy minis and lots of the ‘hot’ lines of almost-a-wargame type miniatures (Warmachine, Hordes, AT-43).

As with most game stores these days, I’m sure they do a lot of business in the various Collectible Card Games and Collectible Miniatures Games. But I’m a wargamer, so that that’s what I look for.

The Big Box ‘lite’ wargames – Memoir 44, Tide of Iron, Axis & Allies, Battlelore – get a lot of space, along with all of the popular new lots-of-plastic-minis-in-the-box crossover games like Dust, World of Warcraft (the boardgame), Twilight Imperium and whatnot. Those all have retail prices in the $60-plus range, by the way.

Last time I was there, ‘regular’ wargames still occupied about 80 percent of one aisle. This trip it was all compressed into about 15 percent, max. Oddly, they still carry nearly a full line of Osprey-style reference books (mostly used by miniaturists). But all that’s left is a few of the top titles from GMT, a few games from Avalanche and some titles from Decision. It looks to me like they may not be re-stocking the APL stuff.

Sad, in a way, I guess. But those games can’t really compete with all of the ‘lite’ wargames that are being produced with zillions of shiny plastic bits in every box. Tide of Iron, for example, is a really impressive package. And, truthfully, it probably is a better playing wargame than SPI’s old “Tank!”, which was my introduction to the hobby over 30 years ago. Not the feeling of ‘hard’ simulation data in the box, but definitely a lot more bling and good play value.

So what am I bitching about? I dunno, dammit. When I was a boy, we didn’t have those fancy double-sided geomorphic mounted boards and those minis and color rules and cards and crap. We had a hexgrid on paper and some cardboard chits all printed in three colors, with a rules folder and a Si-Move pad. And we were thankful.

Of course, we didn’t pay $80 for a game, either. But when you consider a largely disposable video game cartridge sells for around $60 these days, not so bad I suppose.

$7 in 1974 money would be how much today? OK, I found an inflation calculator and answered that myself. $32.33. I think $7 is what I paid for “Tank!” at a bookstore in the Altamonte Mall in 1974.

Hey, now there’s a flashback for you.

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