Before online video games, board game culture thrived in comic book store backrooms and basements.
Today, games like Dungeons and Dragons or Magic: The Gathering provide an outlet for natural puzzle solving skills, and act as a means for socializing in the physical world.
Fantasy board and card games are not for everyone. In a world that is focused on seconds rather than minutes, spending hours at a table eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and speaking in Elvish can sound like a waste of time.
Similar to the way they bond over food, people also bond over games — think families hovering over their dinner table screaming about Monopoly. If you get past the self-imposed smugness we all hold toward our nerd overlords, you could actually enjoy yourself.
And you should.
Get outside your comfort zone and spend some time at one of these game shops:
Fantasy Flight Games
1975 County Road B2 W., Roseville, MN
A sprawling space that welcomes both the casual and veteran gamer, this is one of the most popular spots in the cities for good reason.
The games are affordable and the shop’s events are huge and well-attended. This is the type of place that is unlikely to scare off newcomers.
Gamer Lyla Allen says it can be hard to get everybody in one place at one time. Still, there’s nothing that can replace playing friends in-person.
“As a Dungeon Master, the worlds I make put my players through trials that are my own,” Allen said. “They’re free from hate and bigotry unless I choose to add it. They’re devoid of hideousness and cruelty unless it’s needed. It’s mine. It’s hard not to feel camaraderie while planning out how to slay a dragon or usurp a tyrant king.”
3920 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN
Don’t let their website fool you — Tower Games isn’t as pristine or advanced as it seems. This is your typical Dungeons and Dragons haunt. It’s a little less clique-y than some of the larger game stores.
Weekly board game nights and days designated for Dungeons and Dragons, Settlers of Catan and Pathfinder make up a bulk of the shop’s calendar.
This operation focuses a little more on the selling of games rather than playing them. Therefore, the staff is extremely knowledgeable and adept at teaching the basics.
Tower Games is known for its Warhammer 40,000 and Warmachine game nights. The new-ish tabletop games are considered modern classics of the genre and matches are hosted every day of the week.
Level Up Games
207 13th Ave. S., South St. Paul, MN
Level Up Games is a much more personal gaming store. The owners are there most of the week and are gamers themselves. Their knowledge is unparalleled.
“We know how [gamers] want to be served and treated,” co-owner Tony Hoaglund said. “We obviously are here so we can survive, but the goal is to create an open and welcome environment for older and newer gamers.”
Much of Level Up Games’ events are focused on role-playing games. Other types are offered as well, and each provides something different for the gamer.
“I like different types of games to stoke my brain,” Hoaglund said. “Puzzle games sharpen my brain. Because I have a stutter, RPGs help strengthen my communication skills. Board games sort of get me out of my natural habitat, which is reading comic books at home.”
Level Up Games stresses a community-driven ethos.
“It’s people communicating the way games are meant to be played: face-to-face,” Hoaglund said. “With the advent of online games and apps, it’s natural to be an introvert. Game events let us be extroverts, even if it’s in a controlled environment for a controlled amount of time.”