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Gritty Goblin Games offers a new home for role-playing gamers in Maple Lawn

Anton Stallick of Columbia, clockwise from left, Shane C of Highland, Robert Brennan of Columbia and Eric Kan of Wheaton play "Magic The Gathering" at the Gritty Goblin Games store in Maple Lawn.
Anton Stallick of Columbia, clockwise from left, Shane C of Highland, Robert Brennan of Columbia and Eric Kan of Wheaton play "Magic The Gathering" at the Gritty Goblin Games store in Maple Lawn. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

When Patty Rinaldi met Mark Armstrong at a game of Dungeons & Dragons, "it was a match made in heaven," she says. Now married and retired from the U.S. Air Force, their work is – literally – play.

The Columbia couple shares their favorite gaming activities at Gritty Goblin Games, which they opened just before Christmas last year in a former menswear shop in Maple Lawn.

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Wood and stone decor account for the “gritty” at the card, box and role-playing game store, while the namesake goblins appear on the store’s “business cards” – colorful poker chips.

“We all need a third place – besides home and work – for socializing,” says Armstrong, who aimed to create a comfortable space with room to play at a reasonable price.

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Gritty Goblin Games welcomes teens and adults, team players and individual competitors, newbies and experts. Sometimes Armstrong can’t tell which is which, he says, citing a third-grader against whom he played Magic: the Gathering, a complex trading card game with a cult following.

“He beat the pants off me three times in a row,” Armstrong says with a chuckle.

Thanks to popular culture, role-playing games have seen renewed interest in recent years. Old favorite Dungeons & Dragons appeared on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” and celebrities like Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson play role-playing games in YouTube videos.

“Geek is now chic,” Armstrong says.

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With the capacity for 48 players, Gritty Goblin hosts free casual game play, along with organized tournaments ($16 on Friday nights and $25 on Saturday nights, including gaming supplies. Reservations are recommended for special activities (Magic: The Gathering can fill the place).

Laurel resident Dan Petty, a longtime gamer and old friend of Armstrong and Rinaldi, visited Gritty Goblin recently to play the horror fiction and sci-fi games Call of Cthulhu and Star Trek Adventures. He planned to return that Friday night with his 13- and 15-year-old sons for a tournament of Magic: The Gathering.

“The best part is that it’s with the same group of friends,” he says.

If you go

Gritty Goblin Games

8080 Maple Lawn Blvd., Suite E, Fulton

240-360-5998

grittygoblingames.com

From the time the readers’ poll launches in August to the issue’s delivery in December, businesses, nonprofits and readers alike are abuzz in anticipation of who might take home the coveted Best of Howard County title.

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