© 2019 by Critical Grind. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Critical Grind Gaming

Nice to meet you!

Dana Here!

Storytime.

I’ve always loved board games but I had no idea there was such a variety of games until only a few years ago. Growing up I would play Clue, Mouse Trap, Mancala, Cribbage, Checkers, Life, Goosebumps Terror in the Graveyard, Phase 10, and Pretty Pretty Princess all day long.


Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard. My first complicated board game. (photo courtesy of boardgamegeek.com)

It wasn’t until 2011 that I found a new game, Settlers of Catan. A couple of our friends invited us over for a game night and I had no idea what to expect. What did they mean we weren’t playing Clue? I didn’t know anything else and Monopoly was always out of the question (I had a bad experience, and no I don’t want to talk about it). So, I learned a new game. It was really frustrating at first. There were so many rules and little things to remember. There was strategy that other people knew and I felt lost and behind. While some people may tell you differently, I’m not an overly competitive person, but I don’t like feeling left behind. So when everyone else seemed to know what was going on and I didn’t, I was ready to not play anymore. And then one of my friends gave me a little more guidance. Beyond just the rules, they told me something that really helped everything fall into place for me. They said, “a little bit like chess, try to think a few plays ahead. Try to anticipate what other people will do, so you can actively plan your next move, but always have a backup plan.” I had been playing each turn as it came to me with a panic of ‘what do I do now?’ and that little nugget of insight helped things just click.


Obviously after that night we bought Settlers of Catan, and the expansions for more players, and all of the other versions of the game. Seafarers and Cities and Knights are our favorites. But it was just the two of us and we wanted to play. So we adapted to rules and made house-rules so we could play this 3-4 player game together. We slowly built our game collection. Not a lot of games, but a few. We’d find games our friends would bring over, or go to a local game store. On our honeymoon, in 2014, we reached a pinnacle moment. We were in Portland, OR and wandered into this lovely haven called Guardian Games. We spend 8 hours there. The staff there was so friendly and helpful. We were looking for more 2 player games and this gentlemen employee helped us find a 2 player deck-builder. He said, start with this small 2 player set and if you like it and want to buy more in the future they have a few larger games that play more people and have more elements to them. He sat down and taught us how to play. I had never experienced that before. This person, working, called into his headset and said, “I’m stepping off the floor to teach a game” and sat down with us. He was attentive, patient, and so helpful. And so we stepped into the world of Ascension. While we currently have 2 of the larger games, and have played at least 3 of the other versions, we still have the 2 player deck we bought at Guardian Games.


Guardian Games in Portland, OR - where wonderful things happen. (photo from their website)

Our gaming became more frequent. Hosting game nights at home was a regular thing. Almost weekly. I loved having people over. I loved introducing people to new games. In 2015, Shaun made friends with someone from work who also enjoyed gaming. He and his girlfriend, now wife <3, told us about this magical place called Gen Con. Gen Con is the longest running tabletop gaming convention. It is 4 days of non-stop gaming in Indianapolis, IN. So of course we had to go. Now, we had been to C2E2, Chicago Comic Entertainment Expo. And I had been to BookCon in Chicago. But nothing really prepared me for Gen Con. The following year we were there. Our new friends introduced us to people who have their own game company, Cosmic Wombat Games, and we worked for them at the convention teaching people to play their games. When we weren’t teaching games, we were learning games, and buying games, and there was a little bit of eating and sleeping, but mostly the games. It was a wonderful first experience. We bought so many games at Gen Con we started hosting more game nights. We had a whole game day, dedicated to playing and teaching the games we bought at Gen Con. Our birthdays turned into gaming events.


Myself and Shaun wearing out Cosmic Wombat Games t-shirts at Gen Con 2016

Now, I have always wanted to own my own business. For the longest time that dream was a coffee shop. For my love of coffee, cozy atmospheres, and meeting new people. Inspired by Central Perk, Luke's Diner, and Karen's Cafe, I've always wanted to provide someone's favorite place to be. But with this developed love of gaming, and introducing people to gaming, I have since changed that dream, slightly. My goal is now to open a Gaming Cafe. Still with the coffee, because I love the coffee. But I want to also be a FLGS, Friendly Local Game Store. I want to have the means and opportunity to teach many people about the enjoyment of games. To have the opportunity to sit down with anyone who wants me to, and introduce them to a new game. There really is a game for everyone.


I have now been coordinating private internal game nights for a small company for about a year. I have still been coordinating game nights for friends. And now, working with Amazing Fantasy Comics, I’m starting to coordinate public game nights at Port Noir Wine & Martini Bar in Lockport, IL. The game events are a great first step for us to eventually get our very own brick and mortar building. We both still have full-time jobs we enjoy.


Myself and Shaun at Gen Con 2017

Shaun and I are a team. We both have our strengths. I am better at the logistics and planning of the events. If it’s a game I’m already pretty fluent in, I can teach a game pretty well but Shaun is better at explaining most games than I am. He can read the rules once or twice and get it. We balance each other very well and we make a great team.

20 views