All Things Printed & Recorded: Board Games Take A Turn

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For November, we’ve got all the pieces in place for a look at the history of board games.


2650 BCE  The Royal Game of Ur is played in Mesopotamia.playing checkers
1300 BCE  Two-player strategy game Ludus latrunculorum is played throughout the Roman Empire.
1822  The first American-made board game, Travellers Tour Through the United States, debuts.
1935  Monopoly is released. It would go on to become the biggest selling board game in US history.
1995  European strategy game The Settlers of Catan is released. It has since been translated into 30 languages and called “the board game of our time.”


  • The Checkered Game of Life, released in 1860 by lithographer Milton Bradley, is known as America’s first popular parlor game and is the basis for the modern-day Game of Life.
  • Checkers, known as draughts in the UK, has been played in one form or another for centuries, having evolved from the early Middle Eastern game Alquerque.
  • The boot, thimble and wheelbarrow are among the Monopoly pieces to be discontinued in recent years.
  • The ancient Egyptian game Senet, which somewhat resembles Backgammon, dates to 3100 BCE and can be seen in this painting from the tomb of Queen Nefertari.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book The Oxford History of Board Games, David Parlett
book The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board & Table Games, Margaret Hofer
book The Master of Go, Kawabata
book It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, Tristan Donovan
book The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, Mary Pilon
book The Player of Games, Iain Banks
book The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers, from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit, Philip Orbanes
slate_film-512 Searching for Bobby Fischer (movie)
slate_film-512 Clue (movie)
slate_film-512 Word Wars (movie)
slate_film-512 Jumanji (movie)

Not Your Parents’ Monopoly: The New Generation of Board Games

When you think about board games, what comes to mind?  Games like Scrabble, Life, Clue, and if you had a hankering for games that take all day, maybe Risk?  Perhaps they were things you played as a kid on family nights, but today you would prefer to watch paint dry rather than sit through a three hour slog of Monopoly all while desperately hoping you’ll land on your greedy nephew’s Boardwalk hotel so you can declare bankruptcy and go do something – anything – else.

But what if I told you board game popularity is on the rise again?  In the last year alone sales grew by 28% in the US, and board games are a multi-billion dollar business worldwide.  What’s driving this growth?  Well, primarily a new, better generation of board games.  These new games drive enjoyment for all players throughout the entirety of the game.  Problems that make games less fun, such as the runaway winner problem in Monopoly, or the problem in Life that the game is mostly resolved by who gets more lucky spins, are generally problems of the past.  Imagine a game featuring even more depth of strategy and decision making than Risk but only taking an hour to play; the newer generation accomplishes this.

Not only are these games demonstrably better designed and more fun, but they also promote something our digital life just cannot duplicate: Real. Humans. Interacting.  This interaction promotes pro-social behavior.  Unlike online video games where particularly toxic behaviors can be hidden behind an anonymous username, board games require you to actually not be a jerk, unless you want to be confined to solitaire games forever.

At Half Price Books, we have embraced this new generation of games, and our selection features some of the most popular games available, all at 20% off their MSRP.  Here’s just a few of what we have to offer and why you must play them:

Catan is widely thought of as THE starting point for the revival of the board game industry.  Your role in the game is to build up settlements and cities on the newly discovered island of Catan and try to be the first to score ten points.   A relatively simple game that plays 2-4 players in about an hour, it features hallmarks of modern gaming like resource management, building structures and area map control, as well as a few classic mechanics like dice rolling and card trading.  If you want to see the roots of modern gaming and get a taste of what is out there, pick this one up. Or, if you have younger children, check out Catan Jr.
Catan Continue reading

It’s Geek Week (like every other week at HPB)

If you’re looking to express your geeky side with pride—and why shouldn’t you?—Half Price Books is the place. Our stores seem to have a never-ending supply of games, comics, action figures and other items designed to help you geek out.

Here are just a few highlights we’ve learned about that are currently in our stores around the country. “A Geek Week Sneak Peek,” I guess you could call it. If you are interested in any of them, contact The Buy Guy.

Lee---X-Men-1-(2)[1]X-Men #1 King-Size Special
Signed by Stan Lee!
Has a little bit of rubbing and wear to the bottom of the spine, but no other damage or signs of wear.
At our Mentor, Ohio store: $100 Continue reading

Video Games of Yore

Half Price Books has lots of dedicated video game-buying customers, so we want to salute them with a stroll through some collectible games from ancient history (the 90s). The Buy Guy isn’t much of a video gamer—I must admit I’ve never actually played one. So I’ve recruited a resident gamer, Customer Care Specialist Jeremy, to offer some comments on some of the video game gems that have turned up recently in our stores. Put that controller down and help us out here, Jeremy!

OK, Buy Guy! Let’s start with a classic that is being offered by our Highland Park store in the Chicago area: Mega Man 4 (1991)


System: NES. Original packaging, black NES game sleeve, and instructions included. $40.

Despite being the fourth game in a long-standing series, Mega Man 4 features some notable firsts for fans to enjoy. It’s the first appearance of Mega Man’s Mega Buster, a new default weapon that can be charged for a more powerful blast. A new villain, Dr. Cossack, takes the place of the infamous Dr. Wily from the first three games in the series. Continue reading

10 Holiday Gifts for the Geek in Your Life

As an unofficial spokesperson for the geek community, let me be the first to apologize to anyone who doesn’t share in our particular hobbies or passions. Why? Because I know we can be hard to shop for around the holidays.

We usually know exactly what we want and when everything comes out. We pre-order things months in advance or wait in midnight lines on release day. Sometimes – but not always! – we can be a bit picky. It’s often hard to surprise us.

And who doesn’t want to surprise their nearest and dearest during the holidays with the perfect gift? If you’re still looking for one last present to go under the tree, and if you don’t know what a 20-sided dice is or why it’s important that Han shot first (and trust me, it’s important), then here are ten gift ideas for the special geek(s) in your life that you might find at your neighborhood Half Price Books.

Since The Force Awakens is finally here this week, we’ll start with some Star Wars picks.

1.  X-Wing Miniatures Game – Core Set (The Force Awakens Edition)
X-Wing is not only a great gift for Star Wars fans, it’s a perfect entry point for anyone interested in trying tabletop strategy games. The rules are easy to learn, and this set includes everything players need to recreate the exciting dogfights from the Star Wars movies.

It’s also a great gift for someone who already plays X-Wing, because this set includes new figures and rules inspired by The Force Awakens.

pew pew

2. Star Wars Crochet
To my knowledge, Jabba the Hutt has never been cuter.
Like the previous entry, this is an excellent starter set for your crafty geek. The kit provides patterns for 12 Star Wars characters and the materials to make Yoda and a Stormtrooper. If you crochet yourself, these figures would make wonderful stocking stuffers or ornaments for next year’s Christmas tree.


3. Star Wars Fabrikations
These plush action figures would make an adorable addition to your Star Wars fan’s collection. Figures that may be available at your local store include Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Chewbacca. If you’re having trouble deciding which one to get for your Star Wars fan, here’s my advice: let the Wookiee win.

4. Star Trek Paper Model Kit
Don’t worry, we also have Star Trek fans covered. We have a variety of Star Trek items in our stores this year, but this model kit is my personal recommendation. It includes everything you need to recreate the voyages of the original U.S.S. Enterprise (*). It even includes LED lights and plays the Star Trek theme!

(*) Bad William Shatner impression not included.



5. Munchkin: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
The original Munchkin is a wildly popular, fantasy-themed competitive card game. Munchkin is perfect for the whole family and has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.


Over the years, the makers of Munchkin have released individually-themed sets based on popular movies and characters. This stand-alone boxset, based on the wildly-beloved holiday film, is an ideal choice for both card game and Disney fans alike. It only takes minutes to learn the game’s rules and would make for an excellent family activity during the holidays.

6. Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition Starter Set
It’s hard to imagine that Dungeons and Dragons is over forty years-old now. This classic role-playing game – for many, a geek rite of passage – is as popular as ever. Last year, the entire game was completely overhauled with the aim to appeal to modern audiences.

Despite recent changes, the spirit of the classic game remains intact in this latest edition. This inexpensive beginner’s set is a great gift for anyone who wants to try role-playing games for the first time… or for parents who want to pass down this popular pastime to the next generation.


7. 1001 Video Games to Play Before You Die
This reference book features a wealth of history and trivia about both classic and modern games. It’s a great gift for video game enthusiasts – especially if your particular enthusiast can’t always wait till the holidays for the latest game releases.

They will have a great time seeing how many of these games they played… and how many they have left to go. My total came to 300. I honestly thought that number was going to be higher. You win again, real life.


8. Legend of Zelda Puzzles
No matter how much technology advances, there’s nothing quite like a good puzzle.
Most of our stores currently feature two 550-piece puzzles based on the perennial video game franchise, The Legend of Zelda. Like the previous recommendation, it’s a great outside-the-box choice to surprise your video game fan. It’s also a great family activity to share with them, especially if you don’t enjoy video games yourself.


9. Minecraft Creeper
If your child plays video games at all, they probably play Minecraft. It’s an open-world, fantasy-themed construction game where players can build almost anything they can imagine. Young or old, few games have ever captured people’s imaginations quite like it.

Creepers are one of the most popular icons from this game. Minecraft fans will no doubt enjoy having this figure on their shelves or next to their computers as they work tirelessly on their latest epic creation.


10. Goonies Coffee Mug
Goonies never say die! Many of them also enjoy warm beverages. Enough said.


Jeremy is Customer Service Specialist at HPB Corporate

Another Thanksgiving Tradition — Family Games & Puzzles

It’s THAT week again, and if your table isn’t set and ready to go, I am here to assure you, you still have plenty of time. Dig into the inner reaches of your closets and playrooms and dig up all the fixin’s…for November 18-21 is National Games and Puzzles Week! Oh, you thought I meant that other thing that is happening this week?

 I know, everyone is thinking about turkey and pie and early morning trips to your favorite retailer for Black Friday deals, but the folks at The Million Minute Family Challenge encourage, nay, beg you to spend a few precious moments playing this week!

If your family growing up was anything like mine, a few minutes of play often ended in intense challenges, plotting, scheming, team-picking and utter ridiculousness with the likes of: all-ages charades, a 42 dominoes tournament, a dining room table-turned jigsaw puzzle station- all non-digital, no technology necessary and memories 100% guaranteed to last a lifetime. Why, it seemed like the food and stress of the holiday was all but forgotten. 


Need some suggestions? Check out some of the great selections in the puzzles and games section at your dear ol’ Half Price Books! Go forth, choose a few games or puzzles you love, old and new, and GET PLAYING!

Are you a jigsaw junkie? Here’s a record of one personal jigsaw journey which keeps me laughing to this day:


So which game or puzzle is your family’s favorite? — Becky

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Bexican75.

Top 40 Video Game Characters

Maybe I am dating myself here, but I was one of the proud owners of the original PONG, where you had to practically sit on your opponent’s lap because both dial controllers were mounted on the console. My, how far we have come. In observance of Video Game Day, I asked our 3,000 HPB bibliomaniacs, “What is your favorite video game character?” Here are the characters that scored the highest. 

(1) Link, Legend of Zelda; (2) Mario, Super Mario Brothers; (3) Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong; (4)  Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (5) Pac-Man, Pac-Man (6) Solid Snake, Metal Gear (7) Samus Aran, Metroid Prime (8) Yoshi , Super Mario Brothers (9)  Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (10) Luigi, Super Mario Brothers 

(11)  John Marstan, Red Dead Redemption (12) Master Chief, Halo (13) Commander John Shepard, Mass Effect (14)  Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy 7 (15) Kratos, God of War (16) Dante, Devil May Cry (17) Mrs. Pac-Man, Pac-Man (18) Nathan Drake, Uncharted (19) Ryu, Ninja Gaiden (20) Dr. Edward Richtofen, Black Ops Zombie Kino der Toten

(21) Sora, Kingdom Hearts (22) Lady Sylvanas, World of Warcraft (23) Terra Branford, Final Fantasy (24) Maleficent, Kingdom Hearts (25) Megaman (26) Ramirez, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (27) Q-bert (28) Elhaym Van Houten, Xenogears (29) Ezio Auditore di Firenze, Assassin’s Creed (30) Darc, Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits

(31)  Dhalsim, Street Fighter (32) Nina, Tekken (33) Thrall, World of Warcraft (34) Kaim, Lost Odyssey (35) Clair Pedfield, Resident Evil (36) Tank Dempsey, Black Ops Zombie Kino der Toten (37) Striker, Bad Dudes (38) Sinistar, Sinistar (39) Wheatley, Portal 2 (40) Miranda Lawson, Mass Effect 2

Bonus answers: “T” and “L” from Tetris, the Spaceship from Space Invaders, and the Ball in PONG.

Do you remember Atari or Intellivision?  Do you remember any of these characters? What are some of your favorites?

Stop in today and check out the video games, consoles, and other accessories at your local Half Price Books. And remember, HPB will buy your used games too!

— Jim

20 Gifts for Dad this Father’s Day

Dads can be tough to shop for sometimes. But to get you inspired for the occasion of picking out a Father’s Day gift, we’ve rounded up some suggestions. Some are sincere. Some are tech-savvy, and others old-school. Some are sentimental, while a few are just plain silly. What will you get for your dad?

1. Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son by Buzz Bissinger

2. Moneyball (2011) on DVD or Blu-Ray starring Brad Pitt

3. Darth Vader and Son by graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown

4. Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever (Audiobook) read by Bill O’Reilly

5. Hype DJ-Style Stereo Headphones (available in-store only)

6. Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It cookbook by Food Network star Guy Fieri

7. Soft-Touch Lined Blank Journal in various colors (available in-store only)

8. Half Price Books Gift Card — Buy it in-store or online! FREE standard shipping for online orders!

9. Lefty: An American Odyssey by Veronona Gomez and Lawrence Goldstone

10. Game of Thrones complete series by George R.R. Martin

11. Hype Swivel Folio Case for Kindle Fire™ e-reader (available in-store only); Kindle not included.

12. Screaming, Flying Monkey (available in-store only)

13. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert A. Caro

14. Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin

15. The Litigators by renowned novelist John Grisham

16. Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for Nintendo Wii or Nintendo DS

17. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) LP by The Beatles

18. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (Find this and other autographed books!)

19. Vietnam in HD (History Channel) on DVD or Blu-Ray directed by Sammy Jackson

20. Axis and Allies classic Milton Bradley board game (available in select stores only)

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 17. Check out these gift ideas or stop in your neighborhood HPB and ask our Bibliomaniacs for help finding a great gift for your dad.

Got a brilliant gift idea for dad? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it in the comments below.

— Meredith