Parents back to school Guide for Trading Card Games

Or how to send your kid off to school with their beloved trading cards and get both back happy and whole…

Private Note to (fellow) Parents: Ok…now that school is back in session, a few parent to parent bits of advice about collectible card games during the school year.  

First…what are TCG’s (Trading card games)?  Imagine making a game with baseball cards, where the what’s on the card can affect the game.  The games are played by putting together decks of cards to battle each other.

What is good about the games (from a parent standpoint?) If you strip down the fantasy elements and pictures, what you get is math, logic, motivated reading and a chance to get the kids face to face, not face to screen.   They are also great motivators for getting homework, chores and other needed carrots to counterbalance our sticks. See our other post, the Guide to Trading Card Games, for the full skinny.  But the rest of this is specifically to help us parents in understanding the deal, and getting ahead of potential issues that might come up.    (You may notice that we don’t include Yugioh in our list of these games. Yugioh is a very popular game, but we do not encourage kids to play it, and in fact have banned it at D20 Games, something we did not do lightly.)

  1. source chzbgr.com

    Trading Issues: 80% of issues between kids that come up with kids at school regarding cards have to do with what end up being unfair (either intentional or unintentional) trades between the kids. Some of these cards can be worth real money, and nothing makes a kid feel worse then discovering that an older or more experience player took advantage of them.  As we say to the kids: there is no piece of paper that is worth a friend.

    We have three specific bits of advice for the kids regarding this:

    • Trade-backs are ALWAYS ok.. Make sure that your kid understands to always make the agreement that it is ok to trade back cards within a week or so, provided that the cards are still in the same shape, This way, if they go back home and find out that it was a bad deal, like they got pressured, or if they just want their cards back, they can do it.
    • Check prices if you aren’t sure;  For Magic cards, we use Channelfireball.com for our pricing (though we do $1 min for rares and .50 for other cards). Or for Pokemon (and if you aren’t sure) you can always look on eBay. (BTW..always look at Sold listings, not regular.  You can see what people really buy things for.)  For Pokemon, we use the Sold listings on Ebay.
    • If bad trades happen, remember the feeling, and be a good guy: No matter what you do, there will come a point where there is a rotten trade that will make your kid feel just horrible.  Believe it or not, this is a key (and good) moment for them to have under your care. They have the choice next time to take advantage of someone like they were taken advantage of, or to make sure to never make someone else feel the way they felt.
  2. Avoiding Stolen stuff at school:  Kids will want to bring in their cards to both play with other kids and to show off their good cards.  Inevitably, when they aren’t looking, something will disappear, and much badness and sadness will ensue. A few ways to avoid this are the following.
    • Names in deck boxes….make sure to put enough info not only on the outside,but on the inside to make sure the decks can get back to you guys. (The outside tends to rub off)
    • Card sleeves…These cost about $4 and not only protect the cards (and keep decks from disappearing into the big mush of cards back home) but keep kids cards from getting mixed up with the person they are playing with. It also provides quick identification if a card starts walking away.
    • Side-Loading Binders:  Lots of kids bring their good cards in the same box as their deck. What happens is that while they are playing a game, someone comes over to look at their trades, and while the kid is distracted, a card or two gains feet.   Bringing in a small binder for the trades/show off cards is a better idea. We strongly advise getting binders that have what are called side-loading pages.  Rather then putting in the cards in slots in the top, and having the turn it over, dump out problem, these go in from the sides in a way that doesn’t fall out.  More importantly it is kind of tricky to get the cards out, making it MUCH more obvious if someone is being a little light fingered.  Remember, just as with the deck boxes, make sure there is enough info somewhere inside the binder to get them back to you.
  3. Keeping Score:  A huge number of silly fights happen between kids because they try and keep the score for the games in their heads. At some point, inevitably, you will get the “but you are at 6!  No, I’m at 13 argument that leaves each kid thinking the other is a lying jerk. Paper, Dice or even some special deckboxes with score wheels built in are a great solution to this.
  4. Losing is just fine: Reminding kids that every time they lose, they learn something new is great.  Kids will often get so tied up with the social value of winning that they get tempted to cheat, not really putting together how much worse the rep they will get for cheating.
  5. Packs are great homework/housework motivators.  Kids that are playing Pokemon or Magic are always seriously motivated by getting to open a new pack.  While my own kids may hear me with the “wah-wah” sound of a Peanuts parent, for other people, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20, a bully pulpit if there ever was one.  Give me a nod and I’m happy to back-up whatever you are working on.  Tying a pack a week to getting the homework done is a great way to do some positive motivation.  (We’re working on something more official as time goes on…keep tuned)

Guide to Tabletop Games# 2 Deck Building Games


If games like Magic and Pokemon (Trading Card Games) are games where you build a deck to go and play each other, deck builders are games where you start with tiny decks, and part of playing the game is competing to acquire the cards to make your deck better. Most people who like the trading card games end up really liking deck building games, though they may not realize it.  The other big difference with deck building games is that while there are usually expansions, there isn’t the collectible card component so when you buy the game, you are usually all set.

The standard mechanic in the game is to have a set of cards that are used to buy stuff(usually better cards that you then add to your deck)  and another that are used to defeat stuff (usually to gain you points).  A typical starting deck for these games is between 10-12, with have drawn and played each turn.  As soon as you acquire a new card, it goes into your discard pile, and when you’ve used all the cards you have, that pile is shuffled up and becomes your new deck.  The more cool stuff you acquire, the better your deck becomes. Another common feature of the games is that there tend to be factions of cards that help each other out, oh, and the really great cards tend to cost a lot more.  It is almost always a strategic struggle between decking to add cards that give you more of the getting stuff power vs. the attacking power.

The first major deck building game was the medieval themed Dominion back in 2008




Other great deck building games include the Ascension series as well as the Marvel Legendary Deckbulder series.

Star Realms

The most recent (and store favorite) add to the game is Star Realms, which changes the attack stuff mechanic, to attack, well, the other players…very, very, very fun.

From Wired Review of Ascension

Guide to Tabletop Games: #1 TCG/CCG (Trading Card Games)–Magic/Pokemon/Yugioh etc…

Hey guys…I’ll keep adding to this as time goes on, but I get asked a lot (particularly by parents) about what games like Magic and Pokemon really are.  Here’s a shot at doing geek to English translation.

Magic, Yugioh, and Pokemon are what are known as trading card games(TCG) or collectible card games(CCG).   Basically imagine a game made up of collectible baseball cards, where the ability of the card actually comes into play in the game.  Their big innovation was in creating a game where the cards that are added to the game can have rules or abilities on them that add to the game rules.  Magic was the first game of this type and was created by Richard Garfield over 20 years ago in 1993. There have been billions of the cards printed and there currently over 12 million Magic players. When you strip the game down, it is a lot of math, logic and strategy, and tends to attract a fairly intelligent player base. There is even a college scholarship for magic players. 😉

The games are in their simplest form like the old card game War, where players put down two cards and the higher one wins.  Each player has a starting amount of life (or in the case of Pokemon, a fixed number of “prize cards” that the players get to collect when they knock out an opponents Pokemon), and they cast cards in attack, defense and response to try and get the other player to zero.

What is interesting about the game is that ability for cards themselves add and modify the rules of the game, creating an evolving set of game play where it is figuring out the cool combinations of different cards that is the most fun part of the game.  Once they get past the pre-made starter decks, it’s all about learning the cards and trying to come up with new ideas for decks and seeing how well they do against other players.. (So yes, its normal for the kids to get excited about the new sets of cards as they come out, as each set adds new possibilities that they can puzzle out.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the parents point of view, the positive aspects of the games are encouraging reading, math, and logic skills.  It is also good for creating opportunities to learn fair play, though that benefits a lot from our guidance.  Some of the rarest cards can end up being valuable ($100 or more), so talk to your kids about keeping them safe at school, as well as being both careful and fair in their trading with others.  Keeping their cards in sleeves and in a deck box with their name on it will both keep the value of the cards intact and make it less likely for their cards to get mixed up with other kids by accident.
Common Questions

  • Big difference between Magic, Yugioh and Pokémon: The way things get into play…Magic uses land that gets reused every turn to put different cards in play, Pokémon has energy that attaches to the Pokémon and let them do what they need to do, and Yugioh lets the player give up some of their smaller creatures to get bigger ones, called tributing .  Magic also lends itself to limited play like Drafts and Sealed events where everyone starts out even with new packs of cards and builds decks on the spot.
  • Do adults play these games too? Yep…there are lots of adults that play each of the games.We get most adults on the magic side, but quite a bit on the and Pokémon as well. For those who play, we see a lot of very nice connecting time with the kids.

For Parents:

Anything for parents to worry about? As a dad of a couple of 13 year olds and an 10 year old, here is my honest answer.  There are terrific things about the games, (math, reading, logic, learning to play fair with other people, and in general not having their faces stuck into screens.  However, there are a couple of things to that get brought to the surface by having access to things at a younger age that may be of value that provides so really important teachable moments for parents if they are aware of them.

  • Trading Fair: This is one of the first time that kids will get their hands on portable items that might be worth some money. It can bring out some strong desires that lead to some experiences with theft or making unfair deals on both sides.  When this happens, and it likely will, it is a key parenting opportunity to make sure that they understand how that feels and become determined to never make anyone else feel bad, rather then deciding, “well, I got taken advantage of, I’ll do the same thing to the next person I trade with.
    Ben’s Advice—Make sure that they always agree to trade backs being ok (within a week or so and provided the cards are still in as good shape as when they were traded.)  The standard thing that I say to kids is “there is no piece of paper that is worth losing a friend over.
  • One More Pack, just one more Pack… It’s super fun to open the packs…they could be anything until they are opened and the fun of opening and discovering a golden ticket of a card is a great feeling.  But when the desire to open the packs completely eclipses the fun of playing the game or even sharing the cards with their friends, it can expose something that we, as parents, don’t usually get to see until much later (and usually when they are in the never listen to us phase.) If they keep wanting to trade all their good cards for a chance to open another pack, that is an impulse very akin to gambling, and one where I’ll have a chat with the kids to make sure they are more interested in playing the games  that is an early version of being susceptible to gambling. Though both of these are a little scary, they are a great chance to get to work through these things at an age where the kids may still actually listen. 😉 On the other hand, the math, logic, reading and general sense of using their brains, combined with staying engaged with other people rather then computer or video screens makes it a great thing for kids to get into.



(April Fools) Big Changes at D20..Played out…

April 5th…yes there is Date Night Magic tonight.

Update….Happy April Fool’s Day…;-)—A joke…relax…just a joke…really… 😉

It is with very mixed feelings that I need to announce some big changes for D20.  After almost three years of working to make things work as a game store, I’ve needed to face some very difficult realities and admit that we’re just not making it financially.  The community has been great, and I’ve really come to love the people who have come to make us a home.  But at some point, I realized that all we were doing was playing games,  Thank you all so much for your patronage and kindness, and I hope that many of you will continue to do business with us in our new venture.

The New D20

After looking at what works well in this area and thinking carefully about what this community really needs, we’ll be reopening D20 in two weeks in it’s new incarnation as a Nail Salon.  We’re hoping to bring the same care and attention that we’ve brought to picking only great games, to selecting the best in nail colors and really soft, big poofy chairs.  We’ll be open for business exactly two weeks after April 1st. After coming in for one session, we’re hoping you’ll feel that we “nailed it”. 😉


My Uncle Richie Died Sunday…Need to do something good in his memory…

My uncle Richie was a good guy.  Not just because of what he meant to me, but in the big picture, doing major good in the world sort of way.  The last thing he did, before needing to retire because of his cancer a month ago, was to be the head of Illinois Department of Child and Family Services…basically the head guy in the state for looking out for making sure that kids are taken care of when things go wrong for them.  He cared deeply for kids, and fought with everything he could to make sure, more than anything else, that they could feel safe.  It seems like such an obvious thing for most of us, but without it in a kids world, nothing is right. And with it, there is virtually nothing that kids can’t face.


For me, he was an easy laugh and a safe feeling of warmth whenever I would see him.  That was, after I forgave him for the great race track incident.  (Where a 3-4 year old’s sense of unfairness kicked up to, and stuck at a ten when his uncle brought me a super cool electric race set that was clearly to old for him to play with, and proceeded to set it up with his dad and play with it in front of me, while I sat there like a jr. Nascar spectator, howling with desire to get in their and grab the wheel).

It seems that the best way I have to deal with great sadness is to try and put back in more goodness back into the world, as a fierce embrace of those sad feelings.  With Richie, who cared so much about kids, I’m going to do it by doing what is in my wheelhouse…getting people some joy through games.  For the next couple of days, if you buy something to give to toys for tots or any other group of kids/adults, I’ll put something good into the bucket from me.  And if you buy two, I’ll give you a third to go into the charity bin.  I don’t mean this as a promotion…just a challenge so we can both do something good.  If not, just give or do something that will bring some sense of peace to some kid who is trying to make it through a dark day.  I’m doing it for me, but I hope Richie would have liked it.

No more Adult Yugioh Tournaments or play at D20?!? Why…

Important announcement:
No more Adult Yugioh @ D20

 We sincerely apologize to the majorly of Yugioh players who are lovely and respectful people that the continued tone set by the rest have forced  us to this  decision, but the persistent problems created by bad apples in the group (language, aggression, unfair trading, shoplifting) have reached a point to force us to decide to ban all adult Yugioh play at the store.  We will continue to allow kid play only on Saturday from 1-4 for now and evaluate this as time goes on.

Why Yugioh and not any of the other games?  This has been puzzling us as well.  While we have had a few incidents with other groups, about 95% of the issues at the store have come from the Yugioh days.  This has been an issues with many of the other stores in the area, about half of which (such as Games of Berkeley  have come to the same choice. While the majority of people who play any game are lovely, there were enough people who set the tone of the group in the wrong direction that in spite of a year and a half of gentle to more serious talks, and banning of several people, we were unable to get the group as a whole to understand that we are very serious about the store as family friendly and a “Safe” zone.

  • No swearing, aggressive or threatening comments
  • No anti-gay, racist, sexist or sexual inappropriate comments
  • No intimidating or shaming others

We have been successful at creating that in every other community, but a year+ of working  between gentle and firm with the adult  Yugioh community has been ultimately incompatible with what we are trying to have as the safe comfortable store we are working to create.  A few weeks ago we installed some new security cameras and discovered a large amount of shoplifting happening within that group, much of it being observed by other members of the group.  

Can Yugioh players come for other events or days?

Players are welcome to join the other communities of players, but there will be zero tolerance for the attitudes and behaviors that caused this problem.

We will be closed for free play on Sunday and Tuesday, and will restart with different tournament play in s (including Cardfight! and potentially Pokémon, Magic and/or chess and other game tournaments).  Pack purchase will be required to be in the store on those days and there will be no Yugioh play or trading allowed in the store with the exception of those 14 and younger on Saturday’s between 2-4 for now..and hopefully in that group the good behaving kids can keep anyone who heads in the other direction in check so we don’t have to do the same thing for the kids.


Shortly after this was posted, the store was broken into and robbed of aprox $13,000 worth of product.  What became clear in the investigation was that it had been people who had been regulars in the store and those people had been in the group of regular Yugioh players. (Among other things, the only accessories beyond a few binders that were stolen were an entire rack of Yugioh sized white Player’s Choice sleeves.  Anyone who knew the Yugioh community well is nodding their heads in understanding how this is the equivalent of a big spray painted “it was Yugioh players that did this” on the wall.) The confirmation of this came the next Sunday, when I planned to announce to the Yugioh community that we had banned the game entirely from the store.  I was unable to do so because of the 40+players who usually came, none showed up.

We banned Yugioh from the store in 2012, and two things happened.  The tone of the store became, for lack of a better term, more gentle.  And we started becoming profitable for the first time about 3 months later. It turned out, as we became better at tracking the inventory, that there had been much more shoplifting then we every imagined.


D20 Trading Card Gift guide/advice

D20 Holiday Gift Guide-Trading Card Games

This guide is our best, most honest recommendations for gifts for the Magic or Pokemon player in your life; based on interest, experience level/age (and budget).

Parents cheat sheet:

TCG or CCG (Trading Card Games/Collectible Card Games)

Magic, Pokémon, Kaijudo, Cardfight! and Yugioh are all  are what are known as collectible card games.  (Think collecting baseball cards, where you could actually play those better cards in a game.)  The games are in their simplest form like the old card game War, where players put down two cards and the higher one wins.  Each player has a starting amount of life, and they play cards used to attack, defense and respond to try and get the other player to zero (or in the case of Pokémon, to get 6 of the other players Pokémon to get to sleep).  What is interesting about the game is that the cards themselves add and modify the rules of the game, creating an evolving set of game play. (That’s why the kids get excited about the new set of cards as they come out, each set adds new possibilities that they can puzzle out.)

From the parent’s point of view, the aspects of the games that are good are encouraging reading, math, and logic skills.  BTW…ignore the age recommendations on the boxes…Magic is listed as 13+ and Yugioh is 6+…whoever set those levels clearly had no clue about the reality of kids.   Pokémon is the usual game that starts kids playing, and it is very common for them to just enjoy collecting the cards without having a clue how to play it. Don’t worry…very normal. We do a Pokémon League on Saturdays where the kids get points for playing and actually get double points for helping the younger/new players figure it out.  It’s good to eventually get them to learn how to play the game, because that is when they will start reading the card for real and to start working on the math that is part of playing the game.  

It is also good for creating opportunities to learn fair play, though that benefits a lot from our help.  Some of the rarest cards can end up being valuable ($100 or more), so talk to your kids about keeping them safe at school, as well as being both careful and fair in their trading with others.  Keeping their cards in sleeves (usually between $3.5-$5 a pack) and in a deck box with their name on it ($3-5) will both keep the value of the cards intact and make it less likely for their cards to get mixed up with other kids by accident.

Players (kids and others) love opening up the packs, with that anticipation of finding some treasure within.  The individual packs are very fun as stocking suffers or small gifts, but have the possibility of being a disappointing choice as a primary gift, particularly on the Yugioh side where a box of 24 packs only comes with 9 of the “super” and above cards that the players get excited about.  See the list below for better choices.

 The recommendations below are from our staff (and me) and are our best, most honest advice.

Pokémon (age 6-up)

Item Name Cost Description/comment

Just Collecting for fun

Good Bundle boxes $10-20 each These have a number of booster packs and either a full art cool card, little Album or toy figure that matches the cool card.  These are great for little kids…lot of “oh, ahh” per inch and there is at least one great card in each.  For little girls, the Keldeo box will make their heads explode from the sheer cuteness of it. (this from the dad of an 8 year old girl)

New/learning players (6 and up)

Good Pokémon Intro decks $12.99-13.99 When they first start to play, they really need a deck that has been built for them that works together well.  If you want to play with them (which is actually pretty fun), get a second one.  (Dad advice…get a set of sleeves for each deck so when the cards get spilled all over, it’s easier to get them back to be usable.)

Knows how to play

Better Dragon Vault or Dragon’s Exalted triple packs $11.99-15.99 These big stocking stuffers have 3 packs and a bonus card.  The Dragon Vault has special smaller packs where all the cards are foil so those are very cool

Intermediate-Advanced Players

Better Pokemon Tins- $19.99-21.99 These latest tin’s contain Ex (really good) versions of some of the best cards as well as a number of booster packs.
Better Ultropro Premium Side loading binders $24-29 These binders load the cards from the sides instead of the tops.  Because of that, the cards don’t fall out and it is much harder for other light fingers to take things out without being noticed
Best Full art Single cards or Ex-Cards or a box of boosters $15-50 for the singles, $110 for the booster box (36 boosters) If you know the cool card they are looking for, we can usually help. Otherwise, get them a gift certificate so they can come in and really trick out their decks.  Or get them a full box of boosters.  While no one really knows what is in each booster, generally each box has a few of the prized full art cards and they WILL be happy.  Let us know if you want these since we don’t always have a lot in stock.

Stocking Stuffers

Single Packs. $ 4 each More fun for new players or kid collectors then advanced players. The more advanced the player the more they will be happy if the pack has good stuff and otherwise it’s a scratcher. Good for stocking stuffers only.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players-They come in units of 50 which is dumb since the decks are 60.  (We try and keep extra sleeves to make up for this…)
Pokémon Binders $4-9 Either smaller 4 card per page or larger 9 card per page binders, always a good choice, particularly for younger players.
Deck boxes $3-5 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite


Magic The Gathering

Background: There is a new set of Magic cards printed every 3 months, with some special sets printed in between.  They are all still part of the same game.

Beginning Players

Good Magic Two Player Battle Pack $10 These are great little sets for new (and experienced) players.  They come with two 2010 booster packs combined with mini-decks that are perfect for a couple of kids (or a kid and a parent) to play with together.
Good Intro Packs $15 60 card pre-made, ready to play decks and a booster pack.  The decks are good for playing with other players, but not good for learning from scratch.
Better Deck Builder’s Toolkit $20 A great mini-collection for new players (and one that kids particularly love).  Contains 125 semi-random cards good for building decks, 4 booster packs from recent Magic sets, 100 basic land cards, deck-builder’s guide and learn to lay guide, and a storage box.
Very cool Holiday Gift Box $20-25 4 Return to Ravnica packs, a special bonus card and the coolest storage box we’ve ever seen.  This is a great goodie for any Magic player.

Beginners and Intermediate Players

Best Fat-Pack $40 Special box with 9 booster-packs, land, life counting die, and most fun for the kids, a full color booklet that shows all the cards in the set as well as having the backstory for the series and some special hints and combinations. (Unfortunately most of these were lost in the theft so we won’t have as many as usual.)

Intermediate Players

Good Draft Gift Certificate $15 Gift certificate for one of our Draft events.  Good for Friday Night Magic or the kid’s Date Night Magic, these events include three packs of cards and an evening playing with the decks built from them.  Lots of fun for kids from 9-14 or for experienced players ready for the big time on Fridays.
Better Izzet vs. Golgari dual decks $30 Two great decks in one package.  We only have a few left
Better Magic Event Decks $20-40 These are interesting collections of competitive cards.  We have these from a number of sets.

Stocking Stuffers/Small Gift ideas

Single Packs. $ 4 each Always fun to open, Return to Ravnica is the latest, M13 is a good staple and there are great cards in the Innistrad set.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players
Deck boxes $3-5 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite
HUGE D20 Life counting dice $8 An oversized 20 sided die used to keep count of life totals.  Available in the 5 different magic colors.
Box of Mini-dice $7-12 These mini-dice are loved by experienced player to use for counters on the cards
Play-mats $16-20 Providing a great surface to play on, these mats come in a number of great designs.


For Yugioh Players

Item Name Cost Description/comment

New/learning players (7 and up)

Good Starter Structure decks $10 each These are ready-to-play decks that are all good for newer players.    “These decks are great for beginners.  Competitive but easy to figure out.”  Structure decks come with instructions for parents to help very new players figure out the rules. (These are single decks, so if you have one more players, or you want to play along with the kids, get a second deck.)Add Yugioh sleeves and a deck box for aprox $7 more.

Knows how to play and looking for a good deck

Better Samurai Warlords structure Decks or similar $7 each or 3 for $18 or $10 to 12 for other decks Six Samurai were one of the best decks around for a while.  To make a competitive deck, buy three so they can take the top cards in each and get 3 (the maximum allowed) in their deck. Good for to win some schoolyard matches.

Intermediate-Advanced Players

Good Special Edition Packs: Order of Chaos, Storm of Ragnarok, and Hidden Arsenal $10 each These boxes contain three packs (normally $4 each), and one of two special cards.  These are great little gifts for more experienced players.
Best Legendary Collection 3 $30 Big box with one super good card and a bunch of special Legendary collection packs

Stocking Stuffers

Single Yugioh Packs. $ 4 each Yugioh packs have many with nothing special in them and a few wonderful ones.  As a result, the $4 has just as good a chance at bringing disappointment as joy for the newest players. Good for stocking stuffers only.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players
Deck boxes $3-5 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite



Turning Bad into something good…D20 Holiday break-in…

So for those who have already heard, it is true that we were broken into Thursday morning by people who were clearly regular customers of the store.  They tried to break into the back and then went around front, crowbarred the door, and went in straight for all of our high value binders, the high value cards in the case that we’d been gathering up for people to get for holiday presents all the old interesting packs we’d collected and most of our stock of Magic and Yugioh boxes.

It felt pretty horrible to see a year’s worth of work destroyed. But by the end of the day, something very different happened.  People reached out and made us remember that however lost and selfish some may be, that there were many more who made us feel cared for and loved.  Thank you.

A number of folks wanted to do something to support the store in response, and ended up doing something great.  They’ve been buying games from us to donate for groups like Toys for Tots. (To help, we decided that people buy two Yugioh or Magic intro/starter decks to give away, we’ll match with a third one). We tend to like answering bad with good, so if you feel any desire to help the store out after all of this, that is the best way to do it. (For those younger kids or those who money is tight….just go out and do some random act of kindness for someone who needs it.)    When the world does something bad, do something good in response. 😉



Cover Your Assets Review, D20 Games Alameda

Cover Your Assets by Grampa Beck Games..

Ben’s Review:  (Store owner Guy)

Summery:  Deceptively great game in a goofy box.  Great for virtually all player levels, and good social fun.  Best played with 3-6 players.  Extremely easy to learn, but stays fun for a long time.  Play time, 20-30 minutes a round, usually needs two rounds to get to a winner. 

There is no way, looking at the box to have even the vaguest clue how fun this game is.  The first time I saw it was at a special game store owners game night.  All the heavy hitters were there, and one look at the goofy guy in his bowler hat and my nose went up in the air and I walked right past.  After an hour, I realized that all the laughter in the room was coming from that table, so finally I went over.  There were a ton of the game makers there, so I was spending 10-15 minutes just to get the feel of each game.  So imagine my surprise when I  realized I’d been playing the game for an hour and a half.  Since then, we’ve played the game probably over a hundred times in the store.

How to play: The game play is simple, and works for ALL levels of players above 8 or so.  It’s like a stealing version of Gin Rummy.  Each player puts down matching pairs of cards (Jewels, Cars, Homes, Baseball Cards, Cash Under the Mattress) worth a fixed amount of $$ (The Assets), and works to build up a $1,00,000 to win the game. The twist is that there are about 10 of each type of card, and once you put down that $20,000 pair of homes, anyone else who has a single card that matches it can steal it on their turn, (grrr). BUT..if you have another copy in your hand (hand size is always 4 and your redraw to fill your hand whenever it gets below that) you can slap that card down and say “I don’t THINK so, buddy” and than not only do you get to keep your Homes in the family, but you get to add their card, and the card you defended with to that same pile (now worth 4x$20,000).  Yay…you are the happy winner of that raid on your assets—oh damn, they have ANOTHER Homes in their hand to answer your defense, and now the steal is successful.  UNLESS…look in your hand…that $25,000 Silver wild card (or $50,000 Gold), is itching to come out and play, and it stays yours…now a big fat $125,000 pile.  (Why are all the other players looking at my stack with such “gimmie” in their eyes?)  Until it gets to be my turn again, and I can put a different pair crossways on top of it to keep it safe (Covering your Assets…hence the name of the game) everybody else gets their shot at taking it, and they will.  Once a stack is covered, it can’t be gone after until someone else steals off the covering stacks.

Two things:  Because the game is all about stealing, it removes the feeling of  “getting picked on” that can happen with games like Risk and Sorry.  The only group I wouldn’t suggest this game for are kids who really get sore when things get taken from them in games.  You can’t count your chickens in this game, and I’ve often gone from the big pile to stripped down to my card shaped undies, and little kids who are learning to handle that kind of stuff may have problems with that.  (On the other hand, I just played with a 5 year old who had more fun taking stuff away from his dad’s pile then I’ve ever seen.)  Second, the game is virtually impossible to get to the required $1,00,000 in the first round.  That turns out to be a very good feature, because the first time around, people are figuring out the game, and their fortunes, so to speak, are never the same in the second game so by the time the two rounds are done, everyone had had a good time.

Games tend to appeal differently to different types of players and a big part of my job is helping people figure out which of the games they will like.  This is one of the cheapest games I sell, and the only game I feel utterly confident in recommending to everyone (except for the tykes as listed above).  I feel strongly enough about this game that it is the only one in the store that I’ve given an unconditional “fun” guarantee to bring it back.  So far, lots of takers, and zero returners.



The following is a review from an  11 year old player in the store.  Name is being kept private for kid safety reasons.


Cover Your A$$ETS

Cover Your Assets is a game slightly like gin rummy but with stealing or Go Fish where you can take from your opponents. The object of the game is to get $1,000,000 dollars’ worth of Assets (cards) by making pairs of cards and putting them on your Stack (a stack of cards.(OMG)) You can also steal cards from your opponents by making groups if you have a card that matches using their top pair or threesome or foursome. The twist is that you can counter or defend cards by playing another match. There are also Gold and Silver cards, which are wild and are worth $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.  It seems to work best for kids of 10 and up, in terms of maturity. It has surprising strategy and depth for a game that’s object is to steal people’s stuff to become a millionaire. This game is no fun for poor sports and hard losers, but is probably for the whole family if Junior is mature enough. This is a very good game with a singular way to win but many ways to achieve victory and many more ways to fail. It is very hard to win and equally easy to win for grizzled veterans of card games as it is for wet-eared novices of card games.  It is for 2-4 players, so it allows for a reasonable amount of unstable alliances. The estimated time is around half an hour to 45 minutes, so it takes fairly long to play.


Its fast and simple gameplay, easy-to-understand rules, complex strategy and depth earn an A+ in game design, although it is not for the whole family. Its estimated average time of gameplay also helped it earn the A+.

New D20 Games 1 year old this August…Birthday Celebrations…

This month will be one year of the new D20 (our beta year).  It was one year ago in July that I went to Games of Berkeley for their Saturday afternoon draft, and started chatting with another player who also happened to be from Alameda, I was grousing about why couldn’t we have drafts at the local store, and he mentioned that D20 was closing up shop.  In fact, they were closing up shop two days later!  Since I’d closed up a start-up I’d been working on about 9 months before that and had been spending most of that time interviewing with people who had been alive for less time then I’d been in my previous profession and was getting pretty tired of being told how I wouldn’t be right because I was overqualified, I’d been trying to figure out what to do next.  A day later I went to find Nate who had been running the store who put me in touch with Susan, the owner (and his mother).  Turns out Nate who’d been running the place

The first pre-opening draft…(a thanks for the help from the boys)

I’d been into the store before, but couldn’t really figure out what was going on, and given the particular video games that were being played in the back, hadn’t felt comfortable like bringing my 10 year olds back there after my first time in.

A Life-changing chance conversation 

One year ago, last July, a chance conversation at another game shop spread the (true) rumor that D20 was planning to close, since Nate, the son of the previous owner and driving force behind running the store was ending his break between high school and college.  Two days later, and as much to my surprise as anyone else , D20 had a new parent, this time a Dad, instead of a mother. 😉   Since I had younger kids, and I knew what kind of place I liked to play in as an adult, I set out to learn how to be a retail guy and to remold D20 to be what I would want to walk in as both a player and a Dad.  After weeks of threading paperwork, cleaning, painting and laying in new tables chairs and restocking (and with the help of a number of angels who came out of the wood-work to help–eternal thanks to Summer, Joey and of

The beloved Mom’s couch in action…

course, Andre) we opened for business one year ago in August.  One of the first things we did was tor scramble to get signs and free cards into sleeves for one of the last big park street festivals of the year.  I’m pretty sure I remember getting everything ready to go just about an hour before closing on the last day, sending a bunch of 10 year olds with boxes of cards with stickers of the stores name stuck on the sleeve to give to anyone they could foist them on.  BTW…a second set of thanks there boys. 😉

Our Beta Year (no Video Games..really??): 

After a fair amount of grousing from some of the old timers about the removal of video and computer games from the store menu, and a lot of significant adjustment to

Product to sell!!

realizing that I was serious about not only language, but about treating each other with respect and playing for fun, people started settling into the new D20. (I’d been to other stores enough to know that if the video games were there, that no way would the kids be able to escape the pull and stay focused on face to face games.  There were enough places to play video games…I wanted this place to be about something different.)  The other big challenge was shifting from being a pretty much verbally anything goes clubhouse environment, to making sure the language was ok.  In particular it was hard for a lot of people because it wasn’t just George Carlin’s seven famous words, but avoiding the standard smack talk (I know that for a bunch of people it’s just a joke, but for others, they suffer quiet feelings of humiliation and discomfort when it goes to far.) Similarly, I’ve been trying to make the store into a SAFE zone, meaning that using terms like “That’s so gay” may seem harmless because it isn’t aimed at a person, but knowing that it is likely that somewhere in the room, there is someone who is struggling with discovering that part of themselves, and that the constant barrage of terms like that used to indicate something bad or stupid, has a real impact, even if it’s not seen or commented on.  Similarly, having the place feel too aggressive or unpleasant makes it uncomfortable for a lot of people who will just silently vote with their feet.

Kid Friendly vs. Adult friendly:

One of our biggest challenges, and areas where we learned from goofing up, was in figuring out the

The Kid-parent event in full swing

kid friendly vs. adult friendly way to do things.  There are language and role model issues that are important to me as a Dad in having my kids in the store.  The adults can really help the kids out if things are set up properly.  On the other hand, Adults who come in to play, are doing so so that they can relax and have fun, and the enthusiasm of some of the kids can translate pretty easily into feeling overwhelming and like something they don’t want to deal with.  The main solution that we’ve come up for this one is to separate a number of the events, that allow some overlap time, but that have the kids in one time slot, with it becoming primarily adult at other times.  Like many TV stations, I’ll loosen up a bit later at night when the kiddlets should be home in bed.  But I also know what getting down on one knee and letting a kid look you in the eye means a that age.   Andre or I will often play the kids, giving them a chance to either take us down, or more importantly, to teach them how to be better along the way.

Friday Magic Drafts…Not FridayNight Magic, but it’s off brand cousin for a while:

It took a little while for people to realize that we were serious about being here for regular magic

Friday Night Magic
We went from Standard to Core to Advanced level in 6 months. 😉

events like Friday Night Magic (which we couldn’t call it until we had enough approved events to get to “Core” level.)  We put in play the “Play or Pack” guarantee, to make sure that we would start getting enough people in to start running the events on regular basis.  We didn’t have to give away too many packs because it turned out that there were a bunch of people who liked the idea of statying local.  Since than, we’ve run well over 200 events of different types, and signed up hundreds of new players.  Once we had enough people to keep the FNM healthy without the kids, we spun our Date Night Magic events over to Saturdays, to give both the kids and the adults their own space and times.  Within 6 months, we went from having virtually no status with the makers of Magic, to be their most advanced level of qualification, allowing us to host virtually any of the major Magic Events.

Yugioh, A game battle for D20:

When I took over the store, there it came with a very healthy group of Yugioh players.  But I’d also been warned that those Yugioh Sundays could be challenging with some history of issues with

One of our Yugioh Sneek Peeks

language, arguments and theft. Obviously those bad apples make things un-fun for the majority of players, so we took steps to discourage that type of stuff, including installing cameras, putting an alarm on the back door to keep people from running out the back with someone else’s stuff. I then embarked on what turned out to be an epic struggle to get the language and behavior to a point where I would feel comfortable having the younger kids there.  (In general, I’m a pretty non-grumpy guy, but there were days that pushed that limit.)  After coming back from my first national game store owner trade show in January, I was armed with the strange knowledge that the issues I was having in my store, were an echo of the same thing happening in stores, not only just in our part of the world, but as far away as the east coast.  We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, since some of the people I like the most in the store are some of my Yugioh players, and I didn’t really want to do what many other stores have done, ban the game entirely.  The compromise we have for the moment is that I’ve pulled the kids from Sunday to Saturday afternoon, and have designated Tuesday’s and Sunday as the only other times that Yugioh play is ok in the store.  Running this as a test for a while to see how that works.  The other hard thing that I’ve had to do is to ask some folks not to come back for the sake of the store and everyone else who is playing.  Coming from a very strong “Innocent until” proven guilty background, accepting that my role in the store is keeping it safe and fun for everybody (including me) it was difficult for me to embrace the fact that I have final discretion , and that if I think that it is more likely then not that someone did something that I don’t want in the store, than I can do what I think is right.  For those who have stuck it out and who have worked hard to break habits of language.

Enter the Pikachu (btw…the spellchecker wants to change Pikachu to the word “spinich” –not sure what that means but it is brain food for thought.)

About 6 months ago, Henri and crew showed up at the store saying they had heard good things about us and wanted to see if we would like to run a Pokemon league.  After a fairly quick “you betya” we had a thriving and probably our most mixed, most friendly group of players for any game.  Saturday Morning became a time where 13 year-olds would willingly volunteer to help out 7 year olds, when when they weren’t’ playing 25 year-olds.   Our next step is to work on getting sneak peaks and running real Pokemon tournaments.

Board Games-Knowing what we are talking about:

Most recently, we’ve followed up on our long time promise to get a clue about board games.  The store came with a set of games that I had no clue about, and as people slowly came in and picked them up, I worked hard to understand and figure out what we should carry.  My family has kids of very different ages, temperaments and interests, so trying to find something that everyone would like has been an ongoing challenge.   That seemed a pretty good basis to start looking at different games.  From that, we started pulling from the games that people came in to talk about with the greatest enthusiasm.  We’ve been weeding out the dumb ones, and choosing to only carry ones that are a ton of fun, knowing that different kinds of games deliver that for different people.  It’s pretty exciting, and we are having regular board game nights where people can come in and check new things out.  We’re working on renting board games, and are also looking very seriously at trying to bring in games that are designed to help with brain retraining for people with different challenges, (learning, social and medical).  Games are a great spoonful of sugar to help with a bunch of stuff, provided that the games themselves don’t lose track of being good.

What next? Grand Opening???

Believe it or not, we (quite explicitly) haven’t done our official grand opening under new management yet.  Like I said, I’ve been considering this our Beta test year, as I learn how to be a retailer, and how to really take care of this community of people.  In August, we will have a number of special Birthday Events and Sales.  In mid Sept, after the school year starts, we target our offical grand opening and take the beta sign off the wrapper.

One last thing…Thanks to everyone for bring your presence and your business.  We really are a very small shop, and every dollar, every online review and every smile make a big difference.  Thanks.  😉



Scroll to Top