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Rebooting family game night

A local game store in Grand Rapids might have the remedy for your game night blahs.
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Games to Reboot Game Night!

  • Carcassonne - Develop the lands around Carcassonne in a game where no one is eliminated from play. Ages 8+
  • Ticket To Ride - Become a captain of industry and build your own railroad. Dozens of expansions help to keep this game fresh. Ages 8+
  • Oh Gnome You Don't! - Play tricks, set traps, and grab up gems before the other gnomes do as you race through the forest. Ages 13+
  • Arkham Horror - Assemble a crew of investigators and work together to lock away Lovecraftian horrors. In this game, players work together against the game itself to win. Either the game wins, or the players do! Ages 12+
  • Battue: Storm of the Horselords - As the commander of a mounted army you sack the city of Tarsus. With each game, the board changes, as it is composed of differing tiles. Ages 12+
  • Zooloretto - Build your own zoo and attract more visitors than your competitors with exotic animals. Ages 8+
  • Once Upon a Time - A card game in which players use their cards to create a fairytale story. Players discard their story cards as they use them in the story. The winner is the first to use all of their cards in the story and end with the happily ever after card. Ages 8+

/Russ Pontius

/Russ Pontius

"Most people don't realize that 20% or less of the games on the market are represented in stores like Wal-Mart or other mass retailers," estimates Priscilla Collins, co-owner of White Cap Comics. "Just in this store, on these four shelves, there are over 425 board games not sold in any mass market." If anyone would know, it would be Collins and her husband Len; the duo have been in the games industry for twenty years, running White Cap Comics and its sister store, The Outer Limits.

In 2008, the overall board game industry saw a boost in sales to the tune of 23.5%. While the economic recession may have strengthened the board game industry as Americans seek a form of inexpensive entertainment, the boom has also been attributed to the emergence of "new" games in mainstream markets that have been on the shelves at White Cap Comics for over a decade.

“People don’t realize they have options,” Collins says. “I was selling Apples to Apples ten years before Mattel bought it. The guy who made it lives in Holland.” Apples to Apples is not the only game that has found its way to mainstream big box stores. Settlers of Catan, first published by Mayfair Games in 1995, has recently been picked up by stores like Wal-Mart and Target. This award winning, best selling game used to be found solely in the shops of local game stores.

Games like Settlers of Catan going to the big box stores doesn’t spell doom for White Cap Comics, though. “They [Mayfair] still put their expansions in local stores, though. So if people play the game and they like it, if they want the expansions, they’ll still need to come here,” says Collins.

Board games aren’t the only thing White Cap Comics has going for it. The store offers a wide variety of family friendly gaming events six days a week. It doesn’t carry content that isn’t child friendly, and enforcement of anti-bullying, swearing, and smoking policies ensure a child friendly environment. “I’ve had more than one mom thank me for being here.”

Collins believes gaming offers a benefit to families. "Playing games with kids is a great way to educate kids without them knowing it," she says. Scholastic magazine echoes this thought, touting the benefits of a family game night, suggesting that games teach children about social interaction and lessons about winning and losing. Science is weighing in, as well. There is evidence to suggest that preschool age children who have played more games than their peers actually have a better grasp of numbers, and that board games in the classroom could drastically affect the mathematical skills of children, particularly those from low-income households. Another study using the game Mastermind found that college students displayed improved critical thinking after playing.

Americans have been playing the same games for the past century. Classics like Sorry and Monopoly have been on the market since 1934 and 1935, respectively. Clue was released for sale in 1949. Collins believes that White Cap Comics, with its large collection of innovative games, has something unique to offer families looking for a way to connect. "If it weren't for the community here, I wouldn't still be doing this," Collins says, "People need a place like this to come and game together."






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