Friday, January 01, 2010

When Dreams Come True

Just back from visiting in-laws in Hawaii for the holidays. Who knew that they'd fill an aircraft leaving Honolulu at 11:55pm on New Year's Eve?

Anyway, I have to share this because it's just so cool.

I have a lot of recurring dreams. Some are pretty stock items, like the one where I'm back in college/high school/grad school and it's finals week and I realize that there's a class I forgot to take or blew off and that I'm not going to graduate as a result. I started having that one when I was 22 and about to graduate from college for the first time. Fortunately, as time has gone on, I've gone from this being a stress/panic dream to a "who the frak cares?" dream.

Another recurring dream that comes up about once every four or five months is the "found a game store that had a ton of games I'd never heard of" dream. Sadly, I almost always wake up before I actually *buy* anything from this store, but I always kind of look forward to them. One of the features of this dream is that there are some really extreme games in it, whether it's boxes that measure 4' (yes, feet) by 3' by 2" (yes, that's 2 inches), to games with dinosaurs with various weaponry strapped to them, represented on cardboard chits by silhouettes. Yes, it's that detailed. The dream is always at a different store, and there are always different games. Everyone I've told about this dream thinks I'm crazy, even gamers, who say they've never had the dream.

Rewind to 2001. We are visiting in Hawaii, and we have a rental car that three different people are using. I look up a game store located not too far from where we're staying, near Aloha Stadium (near the airport in Honolulu). I have about 90 minutes to go check it out, but because of construction and the fact that this is Hawaii, the state that built an *interstate* freeway that took 20 years because they started from two different ends and didn't actually *meet* in the middle, I had about 5 minutes at the store once I got there. It looked like a pretty cool store with a lot of wargames, but I just didn't have time to look, didn't have a cell phone to call home and see if I could extend my deadline, and figured we'd be back.

2003. We're back. The store isn't. Crap. A little research on ConSimWorld tells me that the store went out of business not long after I was there. Crap.

2009. We're back again, and I figure that maybe there's *another* store now. After all, there are military bases all over the place, and this place was pretty close to Pearl Harbor. A search on Google Maps shows a bunch of video game places, and one place with a fairly promising name, not too far from where that first store had been. It's pretty close to Christmas, though, so no time to go until after the holiday.

Then I get busy, as we decide it's time to upgrade my father-in-law's aging television (which we bought as a present for him in 1997. Really). We order a new 42" TV and Blu-Ray player from Best Buy and pick it up on the 26th, but the store clearly makes it's profit selling extravagantly priced cabling. 10' Ethernet cables for $60? Forget it.

On the 27th, my wife has a bunch of friends over, and one of them suggests checking Home Depot over near Ala Moana (plus we have to go there to get an HD-capable cable box anyway). We get a much cheaper cable, and are heading home. My father-in-law tells me to turn on Kalihi Blvd to get back to the freeway, and I think that this sounds familiar. As if every freakin' street in Hawaii doesn't sound like someone is trying to talk through a jaw that's wired shut. We pull over onto a street to see if the game store is in the area, and in fact I'm two blocks away. It's open, a tiny shop in an industrial area, and my father-in-law generously allows me to stop by "for a minute".

We walk in, and I ask the owner if he has any wargames. He mentions Axis and Allies, and my hopes sink. Then he takes me into the back where there are piles and piles and piles and piles and piles of wargames, many of which I've never seen.

I wet my pants immediately.

Two hours later, we leave. One day later, I come back because the box he gave me still has room for more games, conveniently the ones I put back in a feeble attempt to show some self-control. I end up shipping the box full of games (about 14, of which three come back in my luggage after I jettison most of the clothing I brought) via UPS. They will arrive at my house on Tuesday.

As a side note, the owner tells me that it used to be an even better selection, but four years ago a couple of lawyers from Michigan (really) came in and bought out his supply of OCS titles. Had I found a copy of Hube's Pocket, I may have had an aneurysm on the spot.

It turns out that this was the same guy, and for the most part the *same games* that I'd seen eight years before. Apparently he'd burned out on retail and quit for a while, then reopened the new store in 2005. This place was crazy. I didn't even get into the stock of S&T magazines he had, too much time trying to sort through the hundreds of games he had. And there were tons of models and movie memorabilia as well. In fact, I had to sign the credit card slip on the register itself because there was no flat surface that didn't have something on it.

I should also mention that there were even more euros laying around, many of which I'd never heard of. I decided to focus on the wargames.

I literally spent the entire time digging through piles of games, then saying, "oooooo"! Repeat. Frequently.

So what did I score? Copies of Central America and the 3rd ed Gulf Strike from Victory Games. Europa Universalis and Hispanola from Azure Wish. Bastogne or Bust from Terran games, which Randy Heller called the "best Bulge game out there by far". Edelweiss from Clash of Arms, on the Caucasus campaign of '42. Operation Mercury, an early GMT title. Hunters from the Sky and Leros from the TCS series. Duel for Kharkov from CoSim, a company I'd never heard of with *German* text on the box! And a couple more things as well.

Did I mention that every one of these games was unpunched? The boxes may not have been in the best shape, but everything that was supposed to be in the box was and in pristine condition. You cannot imagine how cool it was to open up Central America and smell that late-80's VG smell.

While the rest of the trip had it's ups and downs (particularly the battle-zone like ambience when you have a bunch of people who are *really* determined to celebrate Chinese New Year with firecrackers the size of AMC Gremlins - on an hourly basis from about Halloween on, and I'm not making this up - by the time we left I was surprised the windows weren't being blown out by the concussive charges going off every two or three minutes), and I may have finally reached a point with the TSA where I simply am not going to tolerate the crap air travellers have to go through just so that that particular agency can claim that the next attack wasn't *their* fault, but this NYE will live in my memory as "that" year when "that" dream came true in a big way.

Happy New Year to all, and may your (good) dreams come true as well.


Mike Sundborg said...

I grew up in HI and make periodic trips home. My quest was to find that hidden away Shangra-la of a board war game store! Care to give out its location?

great story...i can relate to the small windows of time allowed for a search

Dug said...

I'm a bit ashamed to say that I purposely left out the name of the store on the assumption that I wanted to keep it to myself. I blame the jet lag.

In the spirit of the New Year, I share the name of the store. I found it very quickly using Google Maps, so you should be able to as well. The store is Armchair Adventures, and it's located west of the Ala Moana area and east of the Honolulu Airport a couple of blocks east of Kahili Ave and south of Dillingham.

I make the plea that if you are interested in putting things on eBay that you not buy from this store. Both he and I deplore the cult of collecting for the sake of collecting and the economic craziness that results. This is a niche hobby and these games deserve to be loved and played, not commoditized.

He is also not set up (as far as I can tell) to act as a mail order business, so the only way to know what is in inventory is to actually go to the store (which should limit the above problem) or ask for a small list of specific games. Also keep in mind that shipping from HI is prohibitive - a box of 15 games cost nearly $45 to ship 2nd day air via UPS, and the next choice was parcel post which would take 3-4 weeks.There is also no website associated with the store that I'm aware of.

However, if you're in Honolulu, I recommend you go and visit the store if you have time. The owner was great, spending time with both my wife and father-in-law while I dug through the collection.

I hope you get a chance to visit next time you're back, Mike. Be sure to take a big suitcase, though!

Mike Sundborg said...

Thanks Dug!

I purchase games on ebay but have never sold any. I have re-established my passion with board wargames and recently have a great collection (that rarely get played but are totally cherished). I got started with a small game store in Honolulu in the 70's called "The Legionaire" located next to Ala Moana....I wonder if it is the same guy!

I will send my brother for a recon (my family lives in Kaneohe...I am in the Army stationed at Ft Bragg, NC).

Mike (

Mike Sundborg said...

I finally made a trip to Hawaii last week and was able to check out The Armchair Adventurer. It was awesome to dig through the unorganized stacks of games I haven't seen since I was a kid. I was an original customer of his original stores in the 70's and 80's.
PS: I had to buy another suitcase!