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FUN IN THE SLAMMER : Trov Tourney Makes a Legit Game Out of Milk Cap Bashing

January 27, 1994|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for the Times Orange County Edition.

Tommy and Susie each have $5.

Tommy goes to the video game parlor, where he spends it on back-to-back games of "Mortal Kombat." In one hour, his money is gone.

Susie hightails it to the corner hobby shop, where she blows the wad on Trovs and "Slamming Kinis." Her money lasts five minutes.

Which child made the better investment? As with most things, the answer depends on whom you ask.

Known in various circles as POGs (which is a registered trademark) , Trovs or milk caps, these silver-dollar-sized cardboard discs are part of a game that is sweeping Orange County schoolyards. And, like any craze, it has supporters and detractors.

According to one distributor's estimate, more than 10,000 6- to 13-year-olds play the game and/or collect the pieces, which are printed on one side with colorful images ranging from sports figures and team logos to comic book heroes and dinosaurs.

To play, children contribute pieces to make a stack of 11 on the ground, then take turns "slamming," or upsetting, the stack with a heavier plastic disc called a "Kini" or "slammer." Rules vary, but generally points are given according to how many pieces land with the unprinted side up; the first player to flip six discs wins the round. Children may also choose to play "for keeps," adding the pieces they win to their collections.

One of the game's most vocal supporters is Bill Hodson, founder of Trov U.S.A. (as in treasure trove or, as he says, "valuable collector items"), a small, Orange-based firm that markets the pieces. Hodson, a former stockbroker, began touting the game last April after learning of its popularity in Hawaii. Hodson said he was confident the game would go over well on the mainland because it can be played by children of widely different ages and abilities.

To boost its popularity locally, Hodson and his associates did a lot of footwork, visiting kids in soccer fields and neighborhood hangouts and handing out endless packs of free Trovs to retailers. (The pieces, which are sold in randomly mixed packages of five for about $1.25, are available largely through hobby shops and trading card stores. Other manufacturers also sell "limited edition" slammers at higher prices.)

This summer, Hodson, 27, began setting up free tournaments at sites across the country, which he says have attracted as many as 300 players. The next one will be Saturday at Parkview shopping center in Irvine and is open to newcomers as well as seasoned players. Competitions will be divided into three age classes: 6 and under; 7- to 11-year-olds and 12 and up. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and play starts at 11:30 a.m.

Whether they win or lose, Hodson maintains that players walk away from the game with some valuable lessons.

"They're learning sportsmanship . . . and they are developing common bonds with other kids," he claimed. "The interaction is rewarding, as opposed to playing Nintendo, where they are so self-absorbed they don't even hear their mom calling them for dinner."

Not everybody has flipped for Trovs, however. At Edward Lawrence's home and business, the game pieces are definitely not welcome.

The owner of Edwards Baseball Cards Plus, a sports card store in Orange, and the father of two children in the prime Trov age group, Lawrence says he has two major objections to the game: He says the craze will be short-lived, and he doesn't believe there are adequate controls to back up claims that some pieces are "limited" and therefore valuable.

"If you use them for fun . . . that's one thing, but when you're telling a 7-year-old to pay out a lot of money for some 'limited' slammer . . . that's ridiculous."

Still, Hodson is steadfast in his support for the game. Next month, if all goes as planned, he hopes to bring together local players with youths in Canada, Guam and the Philippines, all areas he says his firm has supplied with game pieces. It's dubbed the International Trov, Assn., and he said it will serve as a clearinghouse through which players in different locales can trade pieces.

"I see it as kind of a pen-pal situation," Hodson said. "I think (this game) could link up kids worldwide."


Trov U.S.A. Milk Cap Tournament.


Saturday, Jan. 29. Registration begins at 10 a.m., playing starts at 11:30 a.m.


Parkview shopping center, 5317 University Drive, Irvine.


Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Jeffrey Road and drive south (the street becomes University Drive). The center is near the intersection of Jeffrey and Michelson.



Where to call

(714) 282-1357.

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