It’s Friday night on Capitol Hill, and everyone at Raygun Lounge is playing board games. And there’s not a chute or a ladder in sight.
“Let’s start at the absolute beginning. Have you played Monopoly?” Ashley Cook needs a reference point for the complex, heavily involved board games they play here at Raygun. Tonight, the monthly LGBT ladies night, she’s an enthusiastic, informal host for all who enter, whether they came for her meetup or not.
“You don’t just roll dice at people,” continues Cook. “The idea of the board game revolution is that you’re moving to a game that’s based almost entirely on player interaction.”
Which means people interaction. The Raygun Lounge is like a bar built out of dining room tables and sci-fi props: a Yoda figurine in blue sunglasses, giant Doctor Who robots. It’s a gaming convention grafted onto Capitol Hill’s eclectic social scene. Seven years ago, Europeans were the biggest fans of this kind of nonelectronic play; every year since has seen massive growth. At Gamma Ray Games down the block, a shop run by the same owners as Raygun, new, hotly anticipated board games arrive all the time.
Novices start with Settlers of Catan, the hugely famous face of the new Euro style that’s sold 18 million sets since it was first published in 1995. Wired called it the “Monopoly killer,” but it’s remarkably similar—think sheep and settlements, not Park Place and hotels. Catan is so popular it’s become passe, but the old pros will wade back into the kiddie pool to convert a newbie.
And then there’s the chatter you expect of Capitol Hill—a little pop culture, a little political. One player snarks about Benedict Cumberbatch before switching gears to praise Raygun’s trans-friendly ambience. “All of my friends are ones I met here,” he says. “I used my veracious personality and my sort-of dominating social presence to force people to hang out with me.” Cook gives up on handing out the name tags she brought; it’s an unnecessary formality.
The music changes from funk to a riot-grrrl punk, and the din increases. People give “what’s up” nods to each other as they enter, and most wander easily from bar to table, group to group, a far cry from the insular cliques at most Capitol Hill bars. It’s a Cheers where everybody knows your game.
How are you hanging out, Seattle? With Scene in Seattle, we’re starting a regular peek at how the Emerald City socializes.