On a recent summer night, a few friends and I gathered around an outdoor table at Ballard’s Mox Boarding House. A server brought drinks and food, and one of us, who moonlights as an indie board game developer, headed over to Mox’s lending library to pick a couple titles. One, called Tsuro: The Game of the Path, has players lay down tiles, which connect different paths. The idea is to keep your own piece on these paths for as long as possible, while sending your opponents’ off. It’s elegant—easy to learn, challenging to master—and a little existential.
Later, when researching this package of stories on local games, I discovered Tsuro is published by Redmond’s Calliope Games. In this area, that’s actually not such a surprising gaming experience. Classics like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon maintain local ties, while an indie scene continues to grow.
Below are five places to buy, and often play, games in Seattle, along with a local tabletop pick from each store.
This Queen Anne shop focuses on board and card games for all ages. Visitors can snag something to play from the free library and try it out at the store’s tables.
► Pick: “Cascadia is quick to learn and play and will have mainstream appeal, but also has puzzly elements that will keep things interesting for those who like a challenge. It is a tile-laying game that asks players to build terrain and populate it with animals in a variety of patterns.”
A bar, a pinball sanctuary, a tabletop game shop—these conjoined Capitol Hill businesses let you find the game you need, then play it at one of the long tables.
► Pick: “Our favorite locally designed tabletop game of the moment is Yukon Salon by local designer David Fooden. It’s a beautifully drawn game with a fun theme; you play a salon owner in the Yukon specializing in hairstyles for bears of both the human and animal varieties.”
West Seattle’s store and cafe (with ice cream, burgers, beer) contains all sorts of games, but you’ll consistently find groups playing Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer, and Pokémon.
► Pick: The West Seattle creator of this “classic card game spinoff” Argute swings by Meeple’s from time to time. The game blends cribbage with card games like hearts and spades: “It’s very popular.”
This Ballard store and restaurant lets you borrow games from its ample library (or buy them), then settle in to play at one of the long tables, with drinks and a full menu.
► Pick: Abandon All Artichokes, a game from local game designer (and former Mox employee) Emma Larkins, is “a fun game for most ages and a great introduction to the deck-building genre. The cards are adorable, it’s super fast to learn but still has lots of opportunities for players to make strategic decisions which affect their deck, and their opponents’.”
This gathering space and collectibles shop opened in February 2020 in the Chinatown–International District. It focuses predominantly on Pokémon cards, toys, and tournaments, but you’ll also find some Digimon, MetaZoo, and Magic: The Gathering.
► Pick: “Pokémon’s [U.S.] headquarters is located in Bellevue, so as far as local games go I think it’s as local as it gets…. It’s a great game. And it spans kind of all ages. So even me and my son, we got into it when he was five and a half, six years old. It’s been five years. And it might be a lifetime game for him. I have people who are 40, 50 years old coming in buying Pokémon.”