Friday, August 15, 2008

Like Fish in a Barrel/Igor H. Stein

Two nights ago I got an unexpected call from gaming pal Eric.

"Hey, how's it going?"

"Pretty good, how are you?"

"Not bad. What's going on?"


"What?" For a second I thought he might be putting some sort of voodoo curse on me.

"Agricola's on Tanga!"


For those who don't know, is a website that runs limited-time-offer sales on various products; some of the stuff they sell is, you might say, "of appeal to only a narrow percentage of the population," but every so often they will throw in a really good deal on a board game to drive traffic to their site. This might sound like a somewhat bizarre business plan, but it makes more sense if you know that Tanga evolved from a game company which went under and was left with lots of unsold stock on its hands.

So, Tanga was selling Agricola for five dollars less than the next-cheapest online price, and Eric wanted to bring the cost down even further by splitting the shipping with another board game enthusiast. This was a matter of no small urgency, however, because Tanga's board game offerings usually sell out quickly, and on top of that there is an Agricola-related mass hysteria currently taking place in the hobby because the game has proven to be extremely popular and and there are not nearly enough copies to go around.

"I have to think about it," I said. I gave it one second's thought. "Okay, let's do it."

Up to that moment I was undecided on whether I wanted to spring for a copy of the game; certainly I thought it would be neat to have, but then on the other hand forty-five dollars is also neat to have. I figured it made the most sense to try to play the game another time with someone else's copy and then decide if I wanted to buy it, even knowing that by the time that happened the first printing would probably be sold out and I might have to wait some number of months to get the game on my own shelf. In the end, however, "sale price" and "limited time offer" trumped cool-headedness and frugality, as it usually does.

Immediately afterwards I was explaining to my wife that Eric and I had scored a coup of sorts. "I guarantee you that there will be a post on boardgamegeek announcing the sale with many exclamation points, and that there will already be a follow-up post announcing that the game has sold out."

"Okay, let's see."

We went over to the computer and sure enough, all was as I described. In addition, there was a very bitter post from someone who had missed out on the deal. From the first announcement to the second there was a span of only fifteen minutes.

All this fuss over a glorified Hungry Hungry Hippos might cause some of the non-gamers out there to wonder if board game enthusiasts are a bit funny in the head. I think I will get little argument when I assert that the answer is yes.

While we're on the subject of Tanga, I'll throw this little doozy at you. Click to view at full size.

To keep the gaming freaks entertained while non-game-related merchandise is up for sale, Tanga has published daily puzzles, and eventually they invited users to submit their own. This was something I cooked up but which was rejected by the editors as being too difficult (even when provided with the explanation of how it works). There is a one-word answer. First person to figure it out wins nothing. Copyright Joe Golaetcetera. Have fun.


Mister Scratch said...

What is that newt doing there?

Joe Gola said...

Yes, what is that newt doing there, so very close to the throne? And what to make of that amphibian attitude of attention, of that—dare I say it—regal bearing? A man with a fanciful imagination might think that it was the newt who stood in command, not the dreamy man with the crown. The King of Wands's head is turned away, as though absent, or perhaps as though he were...listening to instructions?

Best not to dwell on it at length in a public forum.

As far as the puzzle goes, I can only refer you to the implicit advice of Igor H. Stein.