The vast majority of the 177+ games played thus far in this project happened at one awesome place: The Family Game Store in Savage Mill (Savage, MD). It was a fantastic place to play and I really miss it. It truly is a family run affair, and it’s a family that really loves games.
I first heard of the store back when I used to play Heroclix and I played one really big tournament there (and didn’t have a great time… mostly because it was a different crowd and vibe from the normal place I played Clix). One day (September 2010) I was at my local Comic Shop (where I also ‘clixed, the very excellent Comics to Astonish) to pick up the Elspeth vs. Tezzeret Duel Deck (because I had recently started playing EDH, and all of the rules changes to Heroclix had made me less into that game). Another guy was flipping through cards and somehow it came up that we were both “EDH Only” Players. He mentioned that there was a group that played every Saturday Night at The Family Game Store. This was Justin. He was the one that got me to go out there to play.
Once I had a free Saturday I went out with a back-pack full of decks (okay, at that time I only had about 10 or so decks). I got there and I couldn’t get up the courage to introduce myself. I stood, somewhat awkwardly, for awhile but there were no invites to play or aknowledgements of my presence. I’m actually really pretty shy and socially awkward in these situations, so I panicked and went home. It had been more than 7 years since I played any games of Magic that didn’t involve at least one friend or family member.
However, the Call of EDH was very strong, and I am a Goddamn Grownup, so I made myself try again the next week. This time there was success. I don’t remember what I played, but the people were really nice (also, it helped that one of the player’s wives was there hanging out, and she was actually the one that asked if I was there to play). At this time FGS didn’t have its own play space, so we used the tables from a small food-court area. It was a good crew.
Eventually FGS moved to a different location in the building that had a storefront on the lower floor and a larger play-space (adjustable to also be one of the proprietor’s art/portrait studio). Unfortunately I wasn’t around to be one of the people that helped them move their inventory from one location.
For awhile I was playing most Saturday Nights and some Wednesdays, but then I met my eventual Wife and Saturdays (and Friday’s — my clix night) became date nights, so I shifted to the Wednesday night group. Playtime was shorter (closing at 9 instead of 12), but it fit into the schedule better (and Saturdays usually ended with people going to Denny’s around 10:30 to keep playing too the wee hours… earlier than I wanted to end, but Denny’s was farther away and later than I wanted to end).
The wednesday night crew changed a bit over time, and overlapped with the Saturday Night crew (until they shifted to another store for their weeknight play). There was Justin, who first invited me out to play, Brian, a great deckbuilder (and super Cube enthusiast) and soon our resident Judge. It was his wife who first actually got me into a game). Jeff was a regular for awhile, and I had probably one of the most fun losses of all time playing against him.There was also a guy named Chris who only had one deck (see On Balthor) that always seemed to win and I never wanted to play with because of it (I soon learned the error of my ways). Then there was Cal, who always had some of the most fun decks I’ve ever had the pleasure to play against. Also he had at least 3 different Karona, The False God decks: an All Foil deck that was just a bunch of janky promo cards and Duel Deck Planeswalkers, a fallen Angel tribal deck (Lucifer), and most recently a Squirrel deck. Matt (who most often played Sisay) was another friend of theirs, and Jose (who only played a UB Grimgrin (sometimes Lazav) deck, and almost always seemed to be short on mana), who rounded out what was the most regular four/fivesome for the last year I played there.
I looked forward to Wednesdays. and I looked forward to seeing my friends. They were the highlight of my week (even when I got stomped), and I got to the point of adjusting my sports coaching, and other life schedules to keep my Wednesdays free. Often times I showed up a sweaty mess after an Ice Hockey Practice. I hated “Back to School Night” at my job not because it was long, and as Librarian, I didn’t have much to do, but because it fell on a Wednesday.
The one thing I regret is that I didn’t spend more Money at FGS. I played there a lot (for free) but only occasionally bought things there. I did play a few Pre-releases there, until I finally came to accept the fact that I just don’t like tournament/judged/for-prizes magic, even the supposedly “fun” events like Pre-releases were stressful for me, and people cared too much. That said, they did run really good Pre-releases there, and the reason I stopped playing them had nothing to do with the quality of the events. I also referred a co-worker to them to buy a bunch of sets of Settlers of Catan to have a classroom set. So, I apologize for not giving them more of my money.
I’ve since moved to Portland and found a new place to play. The venue is really nice, and the people have been mostly pretty welcoming (though I still have awkward trying-to-get-in-on-a-game moments, but I power through), but the speed and style of play are a bit different, and the crowd is bigger and more fluid. It’s not quite meeting my EDH Community needs (yet, but I’m going to give it time, since it’s eventually going to be only 10 minutes from my house).
So I’ll end here with a heartfelt thanks to The Family Game Store, and all of the friends – Chris, Cal, Justin, Brian, Jeff, Matt, Jose, others I’ve surely missed here – that I made there. I miss you guys.