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Games: Just the place for players

SOME years ago, at the main British games show, I was amused to overhear the respective buyers from Hamleys, of Regent Street in London, and F A O Schwarz, of Fifth Avenue, New York, each earnestly claiming to represent the largest toyshop in the world.

When it comes to games, however, those in the know tend to go to Just Games, just off Piccadilly. The concept began in 1972 as a use for some ground-floor retail space in an office building. But what started as a shop selling traditional games and puzzles soon became the source of expertise on the latest trends - from war and role-playing games in the 1970s to chess and bridge computers in the 1980s.

The big advantage of the Just Games people is that they are enthusiastic games players, with a wide knowledge of products. Games are stocked not on the strength of their advertising budget, or whether the boxes sit nicely on their shelves, but on the quality of the game within.

Mark Green, tbe manager and chief games guru, travels to the main European shows in search of challenging and enjoyable games. If necessary, the Just Games folk will translate the rules themselves.

As they also trawl through the US shows, and bring back the best offerings, their range of quality games has few equals in Britain.

And they are kind to inventors] Kindness can mean saying, 'Forget it.' Many inventors still have a roof overhead because they have taken their brainchild along to Just Games - only to be given chapter and verse on a similar game previously brought out by another company, which flopped.

Or the reverse. It was back in 1982 when I invented my first game - Continuo. Clutching my hand-made prototype, my first port of call was Just Games. Mark Green played through it with me, then simply produced his order book and wrote: 'Continuo - as soon as possible, please.'

Laughing at the look on my face as he handed it to me, he said: 'It's so simple. I can't believe that no one's thought of this before.'

Just Games, 71 Brewer Street, London W1R 3FB (071-734 6124).