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Board games surge in popularity due to pandemic
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Board games surge in popularity due to pandemic

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With people stuck in their households social distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic, tabletop board games are seeing a surge in popularity, said mid-Willamette Valley business owners.

But these aren’t simple old-school staples such as “Monopoly,” “Risk” or “Clue.”

Residents are purchasing more modern games such as “Settlers of Catan” and, believe it or not, “Pandemic,” where players cooperate to try and stop insidious illnesses.

“Recently, I’ve noticed a trend of people coming in and buying three or four games at a time so they’ve got something to do,” said Marc LeRoux, owner of Pegasus Games, 1100 S.W. Third St. in Corvallis.

Matt Ashland, owner of Matt’s Cavalcade of Comics, 2075 N.W. Buchanan Ave. in Corvallis, and the Mattcave, 425 Jackson St. S.E. in Albany, said sales have been “way up” with all sorts of gaming stuff.

“People are just hunkering down,” Ashland added. “We always sell out of ‘Catan.’”

“The variety and complexity of games has exploded,” said Adrienne Fritze of Conundrum House, 460 Madison Ave. Suite 16 in Corvallis.

Conundrum House, which Fritze owns with Mark van der Pol, specializes in mystery games such as “Scotland Yard” and “Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.”

To be sure, tabletop board games were seeing a surge in popularity even before the pandemic.

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“When I started this store in 2001, I carried five board games. The last time I counted, I had over 300,” LeRoux said.

Another example of modern board games’ popularity is that “Catan,” “Ticket to Ride” and other games can be found in many big box stores.

Many modern games with heavily-involved stories have a finite playing life, where if they are won, they can’t be replayed, van der Pol said. After all, it’s hard to solve the same murder twice in a satisfying way.

LeRoux said many new games also tend to have a better-defined ending point. “You know what you have to do from the get-go to win,” he said. This is different from “Monopoly,” which usually ends with someone flipping the board over in frustration, LeRoux added.

“I’m sure ‘Monopoly’ was a good game in 1934, but there’s better stuff now,” he said.

Conundrum House, which opened about two years ago, also writes and performs its own live action role-playing mystery games, which have now moved online. The business rents board games and mystery puzzles to members of its club, as well.

Subscription box mysteries are a new trend in the industry, Fritze and van der Pol said. With this mode of gaming, customers essentially receive a package with a case file with clues on solving the crime and a model of the scene to build.

Modern tabletop board games usually cost around $40 to $50, but some, with detailed miniature pieces or models, can cost far more.

Pegasus Games recently moved to its Southtown Corvallis location after nearly 20 years in downtown Corvallis.

LeRoux said he likes the drive-by traffic on Third Street, which doubles as Highway 99W, and he has more room for inventory, retail and for gamers to gather. “I’ll have some play space here once we can be close to other humans again,” he said.

Card based games such as “Magic: the Gathering” and role-playing games also have seen a surge of popularity, Ashland said. Though residents might not be getting together in person as much to play “Dungeons & Dragons,” they’re going to social media platforms to run game campaigns with friends and family in the mid-valley and elsewhere. 

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter via @KyleOdegard.

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