The Review of a Local Hobby Shop

Most college students have walked the strip in downtown Bellingham Washington, passing an array of restaurants, food trucks, and countless diners. Bellingham may be a college town, but is there anything to do here besides eat? Excluding the random bowling alley, there are not many activities to do downtown. Sure, there are a few hobby shops, but if you are not on par with all the “nerdoms” out there, are you really welcome? Is Dark Tower Games a welcoming place for new individuals? A fair question, as no one wants to feel out of place. Throughout the week, I decided to hangout at Dark Tower Games, and stayed away from the games I usually played, purposely placing myself in unfamiliar territory.

Before I threw myself at the mercy of the gamers at Dark Tower Games, I read a few reviews on yelp so I knew what to expect. An unhappy customer stated that “the staff [there] will treat you and anyone you bring with you as an inconvenience.” He encouraged the readers to find a new shop for day-to-day play. On the other hand, a happier customer stated that “Chris, Aaron, Tom, and the guys have all been MORE than helpful and patient — answering [their] questions, searching for cards, [giving them] prices, and giving [them] tips.” With only three reviews, and the third review talking about their great shipping policies, I figured I would have to venture on down and be the judge of everything.

For those of you who are not familiar with Dark Tower Games, (DTG), the store is a hobby shop, directly across from the bus station downtown. DTG is best described as a home to countless board games, nerds, and other intense fandoms.

The front of the store, clad in posters

Right as I was about to walk into DTG, my eyes were caught on the numerous posters, cardboard cutouts, and other interesting figures that were on display right by the window. After passing all that eye candy, I walked through the door and was introduced to a maze of tables, all spread out through the front right side of the store. On my left, a wall of bookshelves were filled with an uncountable amount of board games that shifted into mini-figure sets as you got closer to the end of the store. As I navigated through the maze of tables, all covered with beautiful play mats, I was casually greeted by one of the managers. The manager was extremely laid back, and very helpful when walking me through the process of renting out a game. He pointed towards the back of the store, which had even more tables, games, and even scenery pieces set up to be checked out and used in games.

This game stole three hours of my life

As I went toward the back of the store, there were multiple people sitting down playing a game. The game they were all playing, Avalon, revolved heavily around bluffing. First, there is Merlin, the good guy, accompanied by all different knights and solders. Then there are the thugs, who try to ruin the quests for the good guys. All the characters are on cards, which are shuffled and randomly distributed around the table. You pick up the card handed to you, and are not allowed to tell anyone who you are. After receiving your card, everyone closes their eyes, and then the two thugs open their eyes to see who their teammate is. After the thugs know who they are, they stick their thumbs out and close their eyes again. After that, Merlin opens his eyes, and know who the thugs are, then closes his eyes again. There are five quests to embark on; each relying on a different amount of people, the king decides who sets out on these quests, and the thugs can decide to let the quest pass or fail. The king is determined by a little chip with a crown, and after every quest, the chip moves to the next person, and they choose the line up for the next quest. To make things even more complicated, everyone can approve or disapprove of the line up by a democratic vote, and if the line up is failed enough times, the thugs win. If two of the quests are failed, the thugs win, if three of them are successful, the good guys win, unless the thugs guess who Merlin is, then they win.

One of the regulars, Mathew, asked if I wanted to join in. It was a kind notion, but I had no idea how to play, to which he replied: “Oh don’t even worry dude, I’ve played basically every game here that they own and can teach you the basics super quickly!” Although a little persistent, Mathew was an interesting person, high energy for sure, but none-the-less, an interesting person. The game was difficult at first, as I had no idea who was who, and felt suspicious of everyone. Mathew’s plan was to just talk no matter who he was, so no one could tell if he was a good guy or bad guy. By the third round of our game, I quickly picked up on his tactic, and used it myself. I had begun to see right through him, Mathew was overly friendly, which quickly lead to his ruining. Eventually I got him to trust me, and I embarked for the first two quests, which I let pass, then I failed the third and fourth quests, and claimed victory for my fellow thug and I. Initially, I planned on ditching after one game of Avalon, but that one game quickly turned into four games, and as we cycled new players in and out, we were easily entertained until closing.

After telling a friend of mine this, she was rather surprised. To be fair, I was not expecting it to be that nice of a visit either, but when Sam thinks of gamers, the first thing that comes to mind are “people who do not take showers regularly, have bad hygiene, and lack basic social skills.” Although harsh, I cannot deny that at least thirty percent of the people there might fit that description.

To review, this is what happened to me day one: I walked in, got invited to a game, and played it until closing. I made a man trust me, stabbed him in the back, and claimed victory. My first night of not knowing anything was successful, the players were kind enough to play with someone who knew nothing about the game, and the workers did not seem to treat me as an “inconvenience.”

Me being a fly on the wall

After being a fly on the wall for a while, I got use to what this hobby store was like. Every time I went, everyone was friendly enough to keep a conversation going

about his or her game, and then casually returned to it when it was their turn. Eventually, I became a regular at the store, and brought my Warhammer 40k friends along with me. I was relieved that the first review I read on yelp did not happen to me, in fact, the exact opposite happened. Every now and then when I go in to play a game, check out terrain, and set up a battle, the manager will check in on us, and ask us questions about what’s going on. The fact that he was generally interested in the game we were playing spoke volumes to me. He is not just some run of the mill employee, but an actual person!

At first, I was just a random college student, looking for something to do downtown other than eat out all the time. Was Dark Tower Games a welcoming environment toward a new gamer such as myself? After walking into Dark Tower Games, I had nothing but good service, be it signing up to partake in Magic the Gathering tournaments, or casually strolling in to play a random game with complete strangers. The only issue I have with them is the maze of tables. Every time I walk through that, I feel like I am an inconvenience to someone. Tables aside, I am happy to be a gamer down at Dark Tower Games.

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