Marmot Predicts an Early Spring

After we publicized Stormy Marmot’s Groundhog Day prediction in 2014, Stormy kept us on his distribution list for weather predictions.

Stormy Marmot

Stormy Marmot predicts an early spring. Picture courtesy of Marmot Adventures.

While last year’s prediction was for a long winter, for 2015 Stormy is predicting an early spring. As retailers who don’t carry winter clothing, we are perfectly happy to hear that winter will see an early end. More sunshine and more warmth is good for pretty much everyone except the winter Olympics.

Looking at the news feeds, it looks like the groundhogs across the country are fairly evenly split when it comes to how much winter is left. Weathermen tell us that technically, because Groundhog Day, is a cross-quarter day, there is unconditionally six weeks of astronomical winter left for the northern hemisphere, but this is independent of warm and cold phases in the climate.

Climatologists are predicting 2015 to be an El Niño year, meaning warming of the ocean waters, resulting in warmer and dryer weather for the year.

Historical statistics show that groundhogs are about 40% accurate in their predictions. Weathermen make the right call about 75% of the time. This of course reminds us that as retailers we are deeply focused on economic forecasts and traditionally the economists are only right when using a rear-view mirror.

We would be amiss not to mention that you can order a marmot or a groundhog from us and start your own weather prediction service.

Thank you for your prediction, Stormy! We’re hoping that good weather flows your way!

Small Business Saturday

As a small retailer we are always left to wonder how we compare to the rest of the country.  How are our sales compared to similar stores?  How are our sales compared to the regional average?  Are we doing as well as the entire country?  Are we managing to stay ahead of the big chains that can crush us if they simply roll over?  Or are we falling behind in any of our critical categories?  In a way being a small retailer is akin to “Keeping up with the Joneses”.

With National Games Week effectively over, a question that we received was how do the games we sell stack up against the list that we published.  That’s a great question!  And the answer is that we’re nowhere near being average.  It seems that a lot of our sales are far more specialized and that’s probably a reflection of the many quirky and eccentric customers that we have the pleasure of serving.

Here’s our list of best selling games. While there are some striking similarities, there are also some significant differences and the order, without a doubt, is very different.

Rank

Game

1

Dice

2

HeroScape

3

Settlers of Catan

4

Monopoly

5

Apples to Apples

6

Ticket to Ride

7

Tantrix

8

GURPS

9

Dwarven Forge

10

Uno

11

Chess

12

Chekit

13

Arkham Horror

14

Power Grid

15

Carcassonne

16

Railroad Tycoon

17

Munchkin

18

Trivial Pursuit

19

Cranium

20

Politicards

Our goal is to serve the needs of our customers.  Often we will will go on a hunt to find the right vendors to deliver the products our customers are looking for.  After all, we are here specifically for our customers.  Thank you for shopping with us on Small Business Saturday and on all other days of the year!

Other Great Games

After discussing the top five games, the question which remains is what are the other great games that Beaumont Enterprise, List Challenges, Ranker and The Richest had on their lists?

That’s a fair question and we are happy to share our research.  The four surveys generated a total of 32 games that were in the top 20 category.  Obviously simply combining the lists isn’t very scientific, but it gives some really good results for the top ten games and a descent ranking for the next ten.  And the remainder are potentially questionable in their overall ranking, but clearly high up on the list for a lot of people.

Here are the complete results:

Place

Average Rank

Game

1

1.0

Chess

2

3.0

Monopoly

3

3.5

Scrabble

4

5.0

Settlers of Catan

5

5.8

Clue

6

6.0

Risk

7

6.7

Checkers

8

7.0

Life

8

7.0

Ticket to Ride

10

8.0

Chutes and Ladders

10

8.0

Othello

10

8.0

Uno

13

10.0

Chinese Checkers

14

10.5

Apples to Apples

14

10.5

Trivial Pursuit

16

10.7

Battleship

17

11.5

Dominion

18

11.7

Backgammon

19

12.0

Go

20

13.0

Mancala

20

13.0

Puerto Rico

20

13.0

Yahtzee

23

15.0

Axis and Allies

24

15.5

Stratego

25

15.7

Pictionary

26

16.0

Sorry!

27

17.0

Connect 4

27

17.0

Pandemic

29

17.5

Carcassonne

30

18.5

Agricola

31

19.0

Scattegories

32

20.0

Cranium

Really, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these games!  Break out your favorite today and give it a spin while there’s still a little bit of National Games Week left to enjoy!

National Games Week Countdown – #1 Chess

Chess

A basic chess set.

The top rated game wrapping up National Games Week is Chess. It is by far the oldest game on the list and arguably one associated with geeky youngsters with pocket protectors and elderly gentlemen hanging out in the park. It’s hard to make chess sound sexy. Nonetheless, the game has a long and colorful history of culture and politics and technology.

Xiangqi

Xiangqi players by Sigismund von Dobschütz.

Chess traces it direct roots to the Gupta Empire of India in the 3rd century where it was called chaturaṅga. Merchants and traders going to India brought the game back to their own lands in the 6th and 7th centuries. In the east the Chinese evolved the game into xiangqi. In the west the Persians passed the game to the Islamic world where the game was called shatran. By the 10th century chess made it to Russia and in the 11th century it had spread into Western Europe.

Chess was imported into Europe initially for the ornamental pieces used in the game by sailors and traders who knew little about the game. The rules were different depending on the import source of the game and gaps in the rules allowed for local modification.

The original game of chaturaṅga represented a battlefield supported by the four basic divisions of the Indian military – infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots. The king was sometimes a general. The queen was a vizier (advisor or minister). Much of the movement of the pieces was different.

The Chess Game

The Chess Game by Sofonisba Anguissola (1555).

As the game spread throughout Europe, it became clear that not everyone was using the same rules. Standardization of the rules progressed slowly. It was not until the 15th century that the game started taking on the rules that we are familiar with today. The first book to truly describe the game and explain the rules was Luis Ramirez de Lucena’s “Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez”. The race of the chess masters was then on to develop strategy, create opening elements, establish middlegame tactics and finalize endgame stages.

By the 18th century chess was a thinking man’s game. It was a game for sophisticated intelligentsia, the teachers, leaders, clergy and the upper crust of society. It was a game of gentlemen, where a “chess duel” was enough to satisfy honor, equal to a duel of pistols or swords.

As the 19th century dawned, chess became more mainstream. It was played in coffee houses. Books and journals about chess became popular and chess clubs started to form. Chess clubs held tournaments for their members and would travel to other cities to challenge other chess clubs in the game. Tournaments evolved to be a showcase of the best of the best and chess masters became celebrities.

Chess Tournament

Chess Tournament by Mikel Larreategi.

Chess became more than a game. It was a science. There was strategy and planning, understanding the thinking and play style of your opponent, the ability to play a current move while understanding what it would result in five moves later. Chess became math in motion. And it became everyman’s game. There were no barriers to entry and in a chess club or a tournament the mixing of social classes was perfectly acceptable because the game relied on intellectual prowess and foresight and not on social status.

Besides the functional and entertainment value of chess, the game also stood out for the artistry of the board and the pieces. Ornamental chess design has always been held in high regard and many collectors would seek out or commission games or pieces that held special meaning or value to them. Popular culture also took advantage of chess. Sets have been designed with pieces based on historical figures, movie lore and cultural themes.

Star Trek Three-Dimensional Chess

Star Trek Three-Dimensional Chess

Chess has had a lot of innovation in the second half of the 20th century. Star Trek introduced and made popular three dimensional chess. TSR introduces Dragon Chess, also played on a three dimensional board. A number of companies introduced variations on three player and four player chess games.

Expensive Chess

Jewel Royale Chess Set from Boodles, made of gold and platinum and decorated with rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Yours for $9.8 million.

And chess has not been immune to ostentation. Throughout history many sets have been designed with gold and silver, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls. You can easily find a functional chess set for $20 and if you have the cash, you can find one for $20 million to make your insurance agent cringe.

 

Army-Navy Chess

Army-Navy Chess

Scooby-Doo Chess

Scooby-Doo Chess

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more modern take on chess has been computers as opponents. Early chess playing computers date back to the 1970s. Back then memory and CPU power were limited and the computational process simply had not reached the point where it could effectively play a human. Early chess programs were prone to errors and failure and could not “think” more than just a handful of moves ahead. In 1968 international chessmaster David Levy made a bet that no computer will beat him in the next decade. Even though there were takers, no computer beat David Levy and in 1978 he won his bet. But Levy also acknowledged that as technology improves, it will become harder and harder for man to beat machine. As Levy predicted, his Waterloo came in 1989 when IBM’s Deep Thought beat him in an exhibition game. In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

The Defeat of Garry Kasparov

World chess champion Garry Kasparov defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue on May 11, 1997 by Peter Morgan.

Over the last century psychologists invested a lot of energy into the study of chess players. There is a cultural belief that smart people are better at chess and that the super smart are the best at winning games. Multiple studies have shown that while there is a correlation between smart people and chess, there is no correlation between IQ and the ability to win chess games. Likewise, there are many high IQ individuals who simply have no interest in the game. The studies did identify that good chess players tend to be more disciplined, more structured and more analytical. They are more likely to be introverts. And a disproportionate percentage of chess lovers tend to be left-handed.

National Games Week Countdown – #2 Monopoly

If there was ever a board game that went viral, it’s Monopoly, and it’s a game that has deep roots in politics and economy.

Henry George

Political economist Henry George.

Back in the late 1800s political economist Henry George wrote and lectured about land rights and the relationship between rent and poverty – a topic still current today. His philosophy held that a wealthy few could squeeze the economy and the cost of living and push those struggling to make ends meet into poverty. He was opposed to tariffs and supported free trade. And he was a major proponent of secret ballot in elections, which did not come about until the 1890s. In 1879 George published “Progress and Poverty”, which was the first popular economics text in the world, selling over 3 million copies. Franklin D Roosevelt referred to Henry George as “one of the really great thinkers produced by our country” and Albert Einstein wrote that “men like Henry George are rare unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice. Every line is written as if for our generation. The spreading of these works is a really deserving cause, for our generation especially has many and important things to learn from Henry George.” Helen Keller noted in her writings that “Henry George’s philosophy [is] a rare beauty and power of inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human nature.”

The Landlords Game

Elizabeth Magie Phillips’ The Landlords Game.

It is with great inspirational references like these by many prominent members of society that in 1903 Elizabeth Magie Phillips created a game which she hoped could be used as a teaching tool to illustrate Henry George’s single tax theory and how land monopolies negatively impact the economy. The Landlord’s Game was never a great success, although many copies were sold.

Rage of America

In 1936 Monopoly was the Rage of America.

Charles Darrow was a salesman who lost his job following the stock market crash of 1929. In the depression that followed he could not find steady employment. He saw the popularity of The Landlord’s Game among people he knew and decided to redesign the game and market it under the name Monopoly as his personal invention. He sold rights to the game to Parker Brothers in 1935 and the game started to be mass produced at a rate of a million copies per year. It quickly became the best selling board game in America and made Darrow the first game designing millionaire. Adjust for inflation, a million dollars in 1935 is the equivalent of $17.4 million in 2014.

Monopoly was always a strong seller, but did not see much evolution under the ownership of Parker Brothers. In 1991 Parker Brothers was bought by Hasbro and shortly thereafter the game started seeing a multitude of variations. Editions for individual states, cities, schools, companies, movies and more were published with dozens of editions flooding the market every year. A good economist would argue that over saturation of the market is a great way to kill a popular brand, but Hasbro struck a nerve with the pubic. Monopoly was produced to reflect the popular tastes of the time and a hit movie edition was guaranteed to fly off the shelves.

Under Hasbro Monopoly also saw a lot of spin-offs, including card games, computer games and even slot machines. There was a shot lived Monopoly game show. One of the most famous promotions for Monopoly has been the McDonald’s Monopoly Sweepstakes to attract customers by giving them a chance to win prizes. There are also regional, national and world championships for Monopoly where participants earn tens of thousands of dollars for their play.

Around the same time that Parker Brothers started selling Monopoly, Milton Bradley published a redesigned version of The Landlord’s Game under the name of Easy Money. In 1936 Parker Brothers sued Milton Bradley for patent infringement, even though their own version of the game infringed on the patent held by Elizabeth Magie Phillips. Milton Bradley responded by making some basic rule and design changes to the game and marketed it as a “new and improved edition”.

Easy Money never made the same impact as Monopoly, but continued to be a popular game. Ironically, Hasbro purchased Milton Bradley in 1984, finally bringing together the two surviving siblings spun off from The Landlord’s Game.

Brew-Opoly

Brew-Opoly is one of the many esoteric Monopoly variants from Late for the Sky.

In 1984 Late for the Sky Productions started publishing Monopoly-like games under the brand City-in-a-Box and later expanded to include college campus versions and other specialty games that focused on popular lore, fiction, animals and themes.

Make-Your-Own-Opoly

Make-Your-Own-Opoly puts creativity in the hands of the consumer.

In 1998 TDC Games started publishing Make-Your-Own-Opoly, allowing individuals to design their own one of a kind Monopoly versions.

Today Monopoly continues to be one of the cornerstone blockbuster games in the Hasbro portfolio. Millions of copies are sold every year around the world.