Mar 312013

At times we hear tales told of a fantastic find of an out of print game in a thrift store. Often these are of a single game worthy of collectibility. There are some good stories out there of the pristine Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit find, or the discovery of a complete 1959 Risk. Those stories categorically do not happen to me. Whenever I get an opportunity to rummage through yard sales, root about in thrift stores, or poke around in any accumulation of what others consider junk, I find bupkis. Well, that is until now.

I’ve been on vacation this past week. This time I opted for a mountain road trip; piling the kids in the back seat, securing the Thule to the roof rack, and packing in as much necessities as possible. And by necessities I include games, namely Glory to Rome and Pursuit of Glory. (In hindsight I seem to have wanted a dose of glory on this trip, gratefully it didn’t happen by driving off a cliff in a fireball). I really had this car packed. Clown cars could only aspire to the level of compression I achieved. But it’s worth it, a vacation with your own vehicle has its merits and one of them is the freedom to explore anywhere you darn well please.

During one of our explorations my son spied a store in a small North Carolina town hoisting the ubiquitous “Antiques” signage. The store ended up being closed that day but we walked by the front windows and peered in. Judging by the items on display I saw more “junk” than “antiques”. I really saw nothing of the latter actually and I was relatively certain the contents would not be worth the time spent hunting through them. Never-the-less my son has inherited the bug from me; he was set on returning.

The next day we had a window of free time and it was the one thing he wanted to do. Lunch needed to be found regardless, and the store was not that far from the local eateries. So we indulged, drove back into town and the store was our first stop. “What the heck.” I thought, maybe Ill find something interesting.

What looked like a small establishment from the outside, turned out to be large inside. My hopes sprang anew. Three floors that extended quite a bit back into the block packed with all manner of what some would consider to be collectible stuff and others junk. I saw what I expected as far as “collectibles” go: Lunch boxes, vinyl records, Life magazines, shot glasses, spoons, comics (typical schlock), all the standard detritus of recent history you would expect.

I was hunting for a couple specific genres as I usually do and that includes games as a priority. The store owner had organized items together for ease of browsing, so the first “toy” section I discovered was a dissapointment. The usual Trivial Pursuit games, Monopoly copies, and puzzles (they come in boxes that looks like games so put ‘em right next to ‘em!).

I figured that would be the end of it. But a few minutes later I noticed that the owner had put these “piles of similar stuff” at other locations. I saw another grouping of old magazines, another of old cameras. The family was still exploring so I figured I had better make a complete sweep in case there was another game cache elsewhere.
Another twenty minutes went by and the wife performed a walk by flashing the “we need to get out of here” look. There was still the basement level I hadn’t gotten to. One set of stairs at the front of the store took you down to the dungeons. Or at least that’s what my gamers mind considered it. (Surely there must be treasure in the dungeon!). So I raced down the creaky steps determined to make a quick foray.

Clothing and furniture? That’s what’s here? Blast. Still I was determined to do a complete circuit. I headed on a counter-clockwise course glancing left and right doing my best to not miss anything that looked like toys or game boxes. And then there at the far back corner, a standing shelf with game boxes, lots’ of them. Eureka!

I scanned along the box edges, most of them were lying on the bottoms or on their sides. The usual dross…. until I see a Parker Brothers Conflict! It was in decent shape and I don’t have a copy so I mentally put it on the maybe list. The next box of interest on this shelf was Sub Search! In my youth I had a copy of this game and played it many times over. I really thought the multi-level depth mechanism was neat and it brought a new slant to the tired classic Battleship. In a way its a distant predecessor to Queens Gambit from a structural perspective. For nostalgia sake it would be cool to pick up but storage is always a problem, it’s a big box. And whatever I did buy had to be transported all the way back to Florida in the clown car.


Then I glanced over the top of the book case to the back corner wall. And there was a blinding light….

All I saw were three glowing letters: GDW.


Belter, Imperium, Double Star, Blood Tree Rebellion, Triplanetary!?!.. Hello 1849 – my golden nugget in Sutter’s stream, welcome my Tutankhamun’s tomb, greetings to my terra cotta army…

So this is how it feels…

If I’d have had a cap on I would have removed it in reverence.

I walked around and saw some Avalon Hill titles, D-Day and Stalingrad. I saw lying to the left two bookcase style boxes and an SPI Invasion America. But my eyes were riveted by the GDW’s. I have copies of Imperium (an original purchase for me) and Blood Tree. A buddy of mine has Double Star. But I’ve hunted for the right copy of Triplanetary for awhile. I picked it up gently. The box was in decent shape for a game of 40 years, actually all of the GDW’s were. They must have come from one owner. I looked at the dangling tag: $50 and the word “FIRM” was handwritten on it. Still, $50 is reasonable for a decent condition Triplanetary. But it wouldn’t be the “big fish”, fantastic bargain find that would really put a bow on this discovery. But still…Triplanetary!

I had my mind set… if I had one to take away it was this. However, when one finds oneself in the Dragon’s treasure room one does have to take in everything, right?

Let’s see those two other titles. Luftwaffe? HA!! And …

Middle Earth?…SPI.

It took me about 15 seconds of recovery before I could ensure that I hadn’t imagined that. “Calm, Steve” I said to myself, “read the inscription… calmly!”

Middle Earth: War of the Ring – Gondor – Sauron.

A holy grail of SPI titles. One which I never thought I would have an opportunity to own, at least not without plunking down major gold. With some trepidation I looked at the tag…would they know what they had? $50! But no “FIRM”! The box was in decent shape with the exception of dirt and some insect damage on one corner. It felt like the right weight but was sealed on all four sides with tape. I’d have to request an examination of the contents….or should I? I grappled with doubt. Why risk it? Why not take the approach of mildly interested buyer and see how low I could get them to go on price? It wasn’t “FIRM” after all. And if it was complete then all the sweeter the opening would be when I got this gem for a pittance.

I decided to leave the Triplanetary, (another day old friend), and I headed to the register. Up the stairs I flew, the crown jewel of Smaug’s horde in hand. I could feel the heat at my back, smell the sulfur of excitement infiltrate my nostrils! I was almost home free!

Breaking my stride, I casually meandered up to the register. My wife was already there in line. She gave the box a glance without a word. As always practicality is my dear beloved’s virtue; in her hands were two soaps. Thankfully, one of us is practical. The couple in front of us was taking their time with their purchase. Mentally humming to myself I stole a peek at what these poor mortals were buying when this hobbit was making off with the One Ring. A P.38 “Luger” holster. Hmm, not bad. I wonder if he has a Luger I thought to myself. Well, I know what he doesn’t have. THIS!

Now the “Luger” couple was paying by check. Check?! Do those even exist anymore? Finally, they made off with their purchases. The clerk was a middle age woman, and from the look of her, not a push over. I was hoping for the bespectacled old lady who would kindly give me my game for a dollar with a sweet “have fun sonny” and send me on my way. But this one had that look of grizzled shrewdness. My wife places the soap on the counter. I give it a few seconds and then nonchalantly place the game down with a “What can you do for me on this?”,

Immediately: “Nothing.”

I knew it! Shelob!

And then..

“I can’t do anything for those marked firm but all other games are fifty percent off.”

She examines the dangling tag and sees no “FIRM”.

“Oh, this one is twenty five dollars then.”

Doing everything I can to contain my triumph I reply, “OK, thanks. I’ll take it.”

This was my turn. I have looked longingly in the past at the SPI “War of the Ring” box set and simply couldn’t pay the asking price on those rare occasions I would see one within reasonable grasp. But the triple set? Never even dreamed.

To bring this tale to conclusion, I am happy to report dear readers, that indeed once I got back to our secluded cabin and gently removed the tape, the game was complete. The counters were partially punched and judging from the the ordering of the contents including the original SPI advertising insert still in situ, that was all that was ever done to the game. Never played. Looked at once and put away for thirty odd years until someone crept up and slipped away with her.