No More Boundaries

This week we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs as a group of workers at a failing chain bookstore in an outdoor mall outside New York City. We are prankster Blythe the barista and fill-in storyteller, garrulous Dwight the gift wrapper, slacker Pete the shelver, and bitter Sonja the poetry specialist. We arrive on New Year’s Day and wait for the manager to open up and chat about our Eves. Blythe arrives with green hair, having stayed home to dye it as part of her training to be a hairdresser. Dwight is wearing a three-piece suit and tells us about the party at a billionaires mansion. Pete spent the evening whooping it up in Times Square with his surfer buddies. And Sonja complains about how she and her friends were removed from a boat house party where they had every right to be.

In the first part of the year, our corporate overlords decide that we need to add sporting equipment to our stock. Dwight and Sonja end up wrapping a set of golf clubs for a customer who insists that each one be wrapped individually and isn’t pleased with our book themed paper. In the lounge, Pete is chilling with Blythe and Dwight when Sonja comes in complaining about the basketballs in the poetry section, but before going back out there, Blythe dyes Pete’s hair in the sink. Blythe aids Sonja in selling a bicycle to a customer, even though neither of them know anything about bikes. On a smoke break with Pete and Dwight, Blythe suggests they go together to Hawaii if the store closes down, and all consider their futures.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Over the long summer, the company offers an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to the employee who sells the most membership cards. While Pete is trying to sell a card to a customer, Blythe keeps needling the customer and gets him to write the check to her in exchange for her employee discount. Pete offers to meet the customer out back to sell him some weed. In the lounge, Dwight hears from Sonja rumors about the store: the manager Tall Dave may be leaving, and the higher ups may be catching onto Pete’s side business out the back. In a big smoke break out back, everyone is out of cigs after Tall Dave has been replaced by a real ball-buster who is making us all miserable. Blythe convinces us to sabotage the membership card contest to ensure the company has to shell out to send a winner some distance to get to New York.

For the end of the year, corporate starts a partnership to sell Taco Bell in the café, which excites Pete to no end and depresses the rest of us. Blythe decides to incorporate an anti-Taco Bell message into story time and brainstorms ideas with Sonja, who suggests a taco house in Hansel & Gretel or telling the kids about Willy Wonka & the Chalupa Factory. On a smoke break, we all discuss whether that Hawaii idea is real, and everyone promises to support Sonja with Dwight tending bar, Blythe styling hair, and Pete running the store. If we could steal a bunch of books before we leave, it might make opening our own easier.

At the end of the year, the store finally closes, our final workday New Year’s Eve. That night Pete holds a pity party with his surfer friends and Sonja joins in, uncertain what to do with herself. Blythe is packing for Hawaii, prepping the stolen books for shipment, and wondering whose coming with her. Dwight decides to live blog the celebrations in Time Square, hoping to outdo the professional announcers and get noticed.

No Casino Boundaries

Tonight we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs in a bookstore inside the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. We arrive in the morning for New Year’s Day and commiserate about our evenings. Aspiring model and store cashier Nick had gone to a swanky party. Former soccer pro and store gift wrapper Raul had stayed in watching a replay of an old Man U-Chelsea match. Ivanna, the store’s storyteller and a would-be YouTuber, had stayed home with her family. Secret revolutionary and cashier Beatrix had spent the evening monitoring the police scanner. And receiving clerk and weight-lifter Xander had gone to a working class party with the other gym rats.

We start the year off learning that corporate wants us to push a membership card program with the national winners for best sales winning an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas for an awards ceremony. In preparing the store for sales, Xander pumps boxes of books over his head helping a store shelver to create book displays above the shelves. Beatrix spends her breaks complaining about the capitalist inanity of the program, but Ivanna convinces her that they should promote a Book Con to improve sales. Raul convinces Nick and Xander to create a viral video of them wrapping books as a way of promoting the memberships. Nick and Beatrix keep escalating their sales techniques with one shopper who is looking to get a Harry Potter book for his daughter and eventually sells him 10 cards for less than the price of one. And Ivanna can stop chattering about how beautiful Nick is while they put up displays for Book Con together.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Corporate’s next big idea is to cut down on expenses as they start charging employees for using electricity and toilet paper and clamping down on bathroom breaks. Beatrix starts off complaining with Ivanna and Raul about the new rules, but Raul shrugs it off by suggesting they use his wrapping paper or pages from old paperbacks instead. Nick goes out to the loading dock and takes a workout break with Xander, and they share their concern for the well-being of everyone under these new rules. Ivanna catches Raul taking her lunch again after a smoke break and, after much debate, agree to split and share the meal prep, with Ivanna taking the first month and Raul the next. Raul next goes to talk to Xander honestly about how upset he was when Xander wrestled him to the floor because he’s still rehabbing his knee and hoping to return to the pitch.

Before Raul has to cook any meals for Ivanna, the store closes down and everyone goes their own way. Before we do, Beatrix confesses her secret desire to become a modern-day Robin Hood and bring down the capitalist swine who run the casinos. Ivanna ends up on unemployment, crying at home. Raul returns to soccer as best he can. Nick decides he needs to improve his legs if he wants to make it as a model and joins a gym for some legwork. And Xander sneaks off with a couple of boxes of books that he sells for money to throw a beer party on New Year’s Eve.

No Boundaries University Bookstore

This week, we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs in a Boundaries university bookstore in NYC, a store whose corporate owner may be struggling but our crew of workers continue showing up each day. We are the cocky clean-up man Greg, our drama-queen cashier Ginnie, former student and customer service rep Tyler, and aspiring singer and store shelver Zeta. We start waiting to open the store on the morning of New Year’s Day discussing our evenings. Zeta and Ginnie both come sauntering up to the store straight from their revels dressed to the nines, while Tyler and Greg arrive dressed for work and relate their comparativley sedate evenings.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Early in the new year, the store begins selling vaping canisters and supplies leading Ginnie to post to Instagram about our wares, in particular starting memes with catchy phrases below a picture or gif of Tyler looking hapless. One of her posts is picked up by Cardi B, leading us to try enticing her to appear at the store. Zeta hopes to be discovered when the star arrives, but Tyler approaches Greg about whether there might be a secondary exit he can use to escape the crowds. Greg prepares a grease bucket next to an air vent for him and explains how to follow it outside. On the big day, the event is interrupted by the need for the fire department to retrieve Tyler from the building HVAC system.

All the publicity from the Cardi B event and Tyler’s rescue by the FDNY (he appeared in their calendar) leads corporate to change the store’s image to an urban lifestyle brand: No Boundaries. As new lifestyle merchandise moves in, we have to get more creative and begin piling more and more books into the seldom-used children’s section. Tyler is chagrined by all the notoriety brought on by the rescue, especially since corporate used an image of his topless and greased body from that night in all the stores advertising, so he plots with Zeta to convince Ginnie to post more about the singer than the unwilling poster boy. Meanwhile, Zeta and Greg continue to share their friend’s homemade drug, space juice.

Meanwhile, corporate decides to hand control of the store’s cafe over to Taco Bell, thinking it will appeal more to the new clientele. Greg sets up the deep fryers in the children’s section, since they don’t fit anywhere else, but Zeta is incensed, having promised themselves never to come home smelling of oil. Ginnie can hardly contain herself when a customer comes up to the books register to order a dozen chalupas and refuses to recognize the necessity of visiting the cafe, so Tyler has to smooth things over and gets, embarrassingly, recognized again. Zeta and Ginnie are making progress with the new meme content to promote Z’s voice, but worry about the cease & desist they received from Lady Gaga about the unlicensed sale of her eyelashes on eBay. As the year comes to a close, we learn that the university is kicking Boundaries out of the store since it is no longer able to serve student’s textbook needs, so we plan an online protest campaign, including sit-ins and fundraisers to save the store.

In epilogues flashing forward to our futures, we see Greg testifying in a class-action lawsuit against vaping manufacturers, Zeta managing minor YouTube celebrity status, Ginnie going on a virtual apology tour after bringing on the wrath of the internet by posting the wrong meme, and Tyler, nervously clutching his job application, waiting to beg for a job with the new managers of the university bookstore.

Boundaries Books & Cats

Tonight, we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs in which we played the workers at suburban bookstore trapped in a down-market strip mall between a liquor store and a check cashing place. Boundaries Books was on getting killed on Wall Street but management kept insisting that it would make the changes necessary to be successful, so introduced a number of innovations and promotions to improve sales throughout the year, changes our crew struggled to implement or live with.

When corporate mandated that we begin selling cats alongside books, since book-lovers are also cat-lovers, Santi the 16-year-old shelver spent a lot of time pulling cats off of shelves for customers, despite his fear of heights. And the cats greatly disrupted craft time for Clive, the serious literateur who ran the children’s events at the store, when one child cut a cat’s tail off. And Sigmund Prawn, the aspiring novelist specializing in Sci-Fi Romances, had to deal with an angry customer trying to get refund on a cat they hadn’t even bought at the store.

Then corporate decided to make Riley the barista into the assistant store manager to improve morale and clean up the store’s act, which created all sorts of tension between her and Ray the shipping clerk ten years her senior and longer tenured since he now had to take orders and guff from her on a daily basis.

It all fell apart when corporate rebranded the store around an EDM theme, with loud music blaring throughout the day and DJ names applied to all the workers. Mindy (now DJ Stacks) discovered that her ex-husband, who worked at the liquor store next door and who she had been spying on throughout the year, had begun to sell books because no one could find the peace to read in the new store. By Thanksgiving the store was doomed, and by New Years we were all out of a job.

No Boundaries Scarsdale

Tonight we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs and discovered that the Boundaries Books in Scarsdale was barely hanging on, and our four flawed employees weren’t going to turn it around. None of us—Mike the anti-corporate environmental activist, Cuddles the store’s cheetah mascot, Abbott the faux punk shelver killing time, and Barbara the information-desk hacker—were going to lift a hand to bring the store back from the dead. Corporate tried cutting staff, team-building retreats, selling used electronics, and promoting from within, but it was all for naught. When Stewart the district manager came around in the fourth quarter, we blackmailed him into giving each of us a lifeline (using a sex tape we made of him with the store’s manager), but we still all ended up out of a job when Boundaries closed its doors for good after the Christmas rush.