Gamin' on Ya 

Check out these board games -- before everybody else does

SAT 3/27

Nothing brings people together like a good board game. But like most hip East Bay residents, you and your kid probably take great pride in saying "I knew _________ before it was big!" Fortunately, there are plenty of smalltime game companies around the Bay Area creating excellent products for those of us that refuse to acknowledge the existence of anything known to the general populace of the United States. Dr. Comics and Mr. Games is a fabulous place to sniff out the latest gaming subculture craze. While Dr. Comics keeps Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse serials in stock, Mr. Games is a relative elitist. You're much more likely to discover offerings from Cheap-Ass Games and Steve Jackson than you are to find Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers' latest. Mr. Games is always quick to point out some of the top-notch games he has helped spread around Oakland: Gobblet, Pirate's Cove, Mystery of the Abbey, and The Settlers of Catan. This Saturday, Mr. Games is in the Bay Area spotlight with three locally designed games. Peter Rozien's WildWords is a vocabulary-intensive game that has been described as "what Scrabble should have been." Betty and Donald Deitch's Wall Street Spin is an intense stock market game that teaches as well as entertains. And Michelle Harp and Jason Krupat will be showing off Who? What? Where?, a hectic, Pictionary-type game that has been moving up the ranks in many regional gaming top-ten lists. It starts at 1 p.m. and continues until 4, so come early and you might get your copy of the next big thing autographed. 4014 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. 510-836-1000. -- Alex Handy

SAT 3/27

Croc O' Fun

G'dye Merricans!

Some people just like to be the first ones through the gate whenever anything opens, no matter what. You'll probably see them at 10 o'clock Saturday morning at Paramount's Great America when the theme park opens for the season. But if you and the kids sleep in, don't despair -- Great America is open until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (check for hours after then: PGAThrills.com). The big thing this year is Crocodile Dundee's Boomerang Bay, a network of water slides opening in May. No word on whether the crocs are real. General admission is $29.99 per body. Great America Parkway is between 101 and 237 in Santa Clara. -- Kelly Vance

3/26-4/4

Wee Be Smee

Remember Smee, the befuddled little pirate sidekick of Captain Hook in Peter Pan? He looms large in the latest production of Hillside Players' "Tangled Tales" children's plays, Tangled Tales Three: It's Not Easy Being Smee. In order to defeat Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Smee and the Hookster get into cahoots with an Evil Fairy in the Enchanted Forest. Things sort of get out of hand after that, with Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, and assorted characters thrown into the mix - but it's all for laughs. It's Not Easy Being Smee opens Friday (7 p.m.), then continues for six more performances through April 4 at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets: $7 adults, $4 children under 12, students, and seniors. For reservations or more info: 510-384-6418. -- Kelly Vance

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