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.
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.
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.
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