A giant title for what will be, for me, a small change. I’ve been hanging out at the Park Royal Games Workshop for close to 15 or 16 years, I’d like to spend a few minutes reminiscing and I’d welcome you to join me. This will get lengthy, because I don’t write “short”.
I first went to that location when it was a Malt Shop. You know those frosted malts you get in the little cup with the little wooden spoon? Similar to those, but imagine that it’s soft-serve instead. My Dad and brother and I used to go down there and buy a malt each as a special treat and then go and watch the chess players move their giant wooden pieces around down below the balcony.
My first experience with the hobby was in grade 7, a friend brought the 4th Ed Fantasy Bestiary to school. I studied the hell out of that thing, and then one day he warned me not to “get to into it”. Whoops! I think he thought I was going to be like those D&D guys with the rituals and the pig and the blood (just kidding D&D guys, you know I love you!) I went down to the Gastown store and bought the core set and an undead book and played the game very badly against my brother. I didn’t have any understanding of the rules at this point, so it was a very bad game that never ended (counting turns ever occured to us). I put the game away in the closet and rarely played it.
I first started in the hobby for real when I changed friend groups in grade 8. My new friends were super nerdy, and I fit in much better than those friends from elementary school. We played Necromunda, beat each other up with foam-covered sticks and got into general nerdery. One day the Malt Shop closed , and a new store went in. The first staff of the PR GW were jerks. I remember Thor (probably still a jerk, but I’m much bigger now and more able to understand “joking” ) and the thin manager at the time. We hung out a bit, played Gothic (lost miserably at Gothic…) and some 40k and Necro with my school friends. Most of my friends except for Rob lost interest in the game a little later.
The First Golden Age of PRGW – every Thursday and Friday night a few adults, and a few more kids would arrive to play. We played primarily 1000 point games, because you could have 3 of them in a single evening. I played Ork & Goblins at this point. I think that this is where the store started being cool. I think that the adults provided a damping factor on the extreme nerdiness of the kids (including myself), making it a fun, chill place to hang out. I remember Ken in particular, because later in life I did construction work with him, worked on his crazy terrain/board building projects and generally had a great time. I still see him from time to time, but only at the local skate park.
Rob started working at the store, and the manager was that French Canadian guy who screwed up a few years later. Another friend, Gavin, was playing chess regularly with the Chess People, so we always had quorem for a night at the pub. Every Friday, I’d go to the store, have a few 1000 point games and then Rob would get off work and we and my other school friends would walk over to the Milestones for a Fishbowl Belini, a Californian Burger with Fries and Watercrest Dip. Rob quit, but I continued hanging out. I liked, and still do like, the idea of having a scheduled place to go and play. You know that if you go to GW on a Thursday or Friday, someone will be there to have a game. That’s a comforting thing, even now in my 30s and my ability to call up friends to play board games with me at almost any time I’d like. Rob passed on while I was in university, due to complications from cancer and he left me his Night Goblin army. I didn’t have a lot of money for new models, and I continued on with the paint scheme that he had started – bright purple. I’m known for that army now and for my army general David Bowie – I had a guy walk up to me one day out of the blue at Science World in 2011 and remember me and that army.
I worked at the store for a year. I was hired by Owen, who is presently the Regional Manager for BC or something similar. I didn’t play very often, but I loved hanging out with everyone. I loved that job – no where else do you get to talk with excited people about something that you’re excited about and get paid for it. I hated Mega Battle Sundays, but I loved giving painting lessons. Two things I remember from this time.
- The best conversation with a customer I’d ever had, who ended up being a shop-lifter. I was devastated that someone could lie to me so badly. And;
- Owen performing wrestling moves on the empty cardboard boxes from stock day.
When I quit, I made a resolution to continue going back on Thursday nights – something that no other ex-employee had ever done at that point.
I remember Garrett when he started working there. We’ll call him the Second Golden Age of PRGW. He was a charismatic character, and everyone loved him. We had lots of people playing Fantasy – so many that we organized the first Border Princes campaign. We also played a massive Blood Bowl campaign, which still sticks in my mind as the most fun I’ve had playing any GW game ever. Garrett is the reason that I play Lizardmen today. We played BB, and I wanted to do a LM team but couldn’t afford the models. Years later, I remembered my love of the team and decided to do an army, remembering his army and his colours and tried to copy that a bit.
Somewhere in here is the Dark Age of PRGW. Most of the kids got older and busy with school, the adults all left with their kids and Patrick and I played a lot of games against each other every week. There was no one else. I’m not exaggerating. When we didn’t show up, the store was empty. This went on for a few months, maybe a year. I still feel pretty good that we kept going on while everyone else stopped. I feel like we built up the seed of what the store is today – because if you want a community, you have to show up.
I don’t remember how that changed, but slowly the community grew again. This is the Third and Current Golden Age of PRGW. Once again you can go down to the store and know that you’ll get a game in. Lots of fun people hanging out, lots of laughter and dice and great conversions and conversations. The kids have grown up, gone to school, got jobs and are old enough to drink and make bawdy jokes. After gaming, we go to the Tap House pub in the Village for a burger and a beer. This community is so well put together that one of our members, Jamie, decided that he wanted more organization. We’ve organized into a gaming club, with a regular gaming day, played another Border Princes campaign, gone to tournaments, printed up shirts and have an awesome slogan CHOP!! I really look forward to where this is going, because I love community.
My life has moved on a bit since I started, but I’m still at the store once or twice a month and I know that when I leave at the end of a night of gaming I’ll feel better than when I entered. Gaming is such a huge part of my life and how I feel. You get to put work and relationships, money and stress all away while you’re at the table and move some models around and roll some dice and think about a fantasy/sci-fi world for a bit. You can be an artist, building amazing things out of nothing and then applying brilliant colours to them. And you have the connectedness that comes with community, and the feeling that people miss you when you aren’t around.
And now we enter the Long Night of the Eternal Dark Age. On August 26th PRGW will close and no new memories will be created. I’m not as sad about that as I might have once been. Mainly because of CHOP – if it wasn’t building up, there would be nothing left. But now, I’m looking forward to finding a new place to call home, with my friends and gaming clubmates. I’m looking forward to the push out the nest that this will bring. It is still a sad time, because no matter where we end up, it will never be the same again. (nothing ever is).
I’d love to hear about other peoples memories of the store and the people! Please write a comment if you have a story!
Thanks for reading! I love you all!