Break out the masks and the Magic cards as in-person tabletop gaming slowly returns

by Nick Gonzales

If you’re the kind of gamer who likes to gather with others to play tabletop and card games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer, or even Pokemon, Spring 2020 was a long season.

Quarantining yourself from anyone who was not in your household put a damper on in-person gaming that not even a Lesser Restoration spell or a Circle of Protection card could fight. Games like D&D and Magic could still be played online, but as almost any person who has used Zoom for anything in the past three months will tell you, it isn’t the same.

Luckily, for those who have been itching to play at a table with other people, venues like Durango’s Guild House Games are slowly reopening to gaming.

Daniel Perez, owner of the store in the Main Mall, said that he has been monitoring what similar game stores are doing around the country — from some in Texas that are hosting games seemingly without any precautions to others that don’t plan to host games again for a year or more. Perez, however, believes that a happy medium can be found in which players can still play games in person while also taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

To that end, he has instituted a number of rules for gaming in the store. These include a “no mask, no gaming” policy (if gamers want to remove their mask, they must leave the building), assigned tables (once someone is at a table, they’ll have to stick with the people at that table for the rest of the night), and a basic standard of hygiene (don’t be gross). The tables — including the chairs, Perez points out — are distanced from each other enough to leave a 6-foot gap, and if needed, Perez is ready to overflow more tables into the mall itself. Hand sanitizer is provided and the store’s surfaces are routinely sanitized, especially immediately before the start of an event.

“We can do this and we can do this right,” he said. “It’s just being respectful to the other players.”

So far, the only specific events Guild House Games is hosting are Commander nights — a relatively casual variant of the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game — on Saturdays at 6 p.m. The game room, however, is open until 5:30 for specific games approved by the store. So far, Perez has allowed people to experiment with D&D and Warhammer, two tabletop games players can play without touching each other’s miniatures and whatnot. For the time being, the vast majority of board games are verboten in the store.

Perez is considering bringing back Pokemon on Mondays — especially because it caters to a different demographic than most of the other games the store hosts. He was able to fill several tables on June 13, the first night Commander was offered.

When it comes to surviving the outbreak economically, Perez said that he noticed some interesting patterns. After the shutdowns hit, Guild House quickly reopened in April, at least for contact-free sales and delivery, and began allowing customers back into the store in May. He noted that total sales were mostly the same during the quarantine as compared to the same months last year. But whereas a greater number of people used to come in and buy one game, this year they were coming in less often, but tend to pick up four or five games, especially after stimulus checks were sent out. He said board games that can’t be played online and puzzles were the top sellers over the last few months.

Now that the game room is reopening, Four Corners-based Planeswalkers have a place to lay down their Magic cards. With any luck, local events for aficionados of other games shouldn’t be far behind.

Nick Gonzales


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