Portland is a city of makers, doers and, of course, gamers. Whether you’re more of a Go Fish aficionado, Choose Your Own Adventure chaser, Dungeons and Dragons slayer, or, perhaps, a still-aspiring gamer, you’ll find a perfect match at these Portland game shops. Take your shopping experience to the next level at these stores and bars, which boast open invitations to gather and game in-house. From casual open-play hours to competitive tournaments, opportunities to discover new games (and friends) abound.
Gaming Vocab Speed Run
If you’re new to gaming, all you need to know is that games come in broad categories. “Tabletop games” is an umbrella catchall term for those typically played around a table. You can ask for specific games based on what tools they use: board games, card games, dice games, game miniatures, etc. Another popular phrase you may hear is “RPG,” which stands for “role-playing game,” in which players enact or embody the characters they’re playing with. RPGs can be a method of play for video games, board games and more, so a single game can fall into several categories. But don’t let the lingo scare you away; the Portland gaming community is friendly and happy to help new players.
The Portland Game Store
The cozy Portland Game Store on North Killingsworth Street prides itself on crafting a welcoming atmosphere and a stellar selection of games, boasting the largest lineup of Magic: The Gathering products and board games in North Portland. Although the store almost closed its doors during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a dedicated patron used his life savings to buy PGS and ensure the exceptional gathering place continued. This zeal for community is apparent in the generous open-play hours, during which gamers can pick from the extensive in-house game library or bring in their own games — all free of charge — Monday through Friday, from noon–5 p.m. Check their calendar for frequent recurring events and tournaments. If you’re in on a Saturday, check out their painting primer, which provides free paints, miniatures and lessons in the craft of board game figurine customization. Four rotating taps of draft beers, canned cocktails and other beverages, plus munchies on munchies are sure to keep you sustained through all the action.
Where Find Board Game Bars and Stores
Red Castle Games
Strolling through the spacious Red Castle Games in Foster-Powell might feel like fantasy, but thankfully it’s real life. Peruse well-stocked pine shelves filled with today’s most popular games, jigsaw puzzles, dice in every color and denomination imaginable, and even some spiffy store swag. In addition to a robust calendar of recurring events such as Digimon Tournament Mondays and Warhammer Sundays, you can rent a sleek room and/or a Dungeon Master for a private night of fun, or borrow a game from their rental library for just a few dollars. Open daily, the Cafe at Red Castle offers fuel — caffeinated, fried and adult. This Portland board game bar can appease palates of all ages.
Mox Boarding House
Transport yourself into a gaming experience that oozes opulence at Mox Boarding House, an expansive retail shop and restaurant in a self-described “Parisian-inspired” atmosphere. Pick from over 200 games to play while you nosh on a rotating menu with many dietary-friendly options and sip cocktails (including zero-proof options) at long, communal tables, or snag a private room rental for a unique, whimsical space for you and your pals. The elevated excursion at this Portland board game bar comes with a price point to match, but it’s a memorable outing worth dressing up for. Tip for newbies: Worried about parking? Use the nearby parking garage, accessed through Southwest Morrison Street between the Mox building and Providence Park, and ask a Mox employee to validate your slip for up to 90 minutes on the house.
Puddletown Games & Puzzles
Splashing onto the scene in the summer of 2021, Puddletown Games & Puzzles is already beloved in the Beaumont neighborhood and beyond. Enter the brick building to discover all that this charming Black- and veteran-owned spot has to offer. It’s the perfect place to peruse and play in a homey, inclusive setting featuring high ceilings, baroque rugs, friendly faces and amazing natural light. A great assortment of games like Pokémon cards, indie RPGs, lawn games and more can suit every need. Stay updated on weekly events via social media, such as Adult Casual Commander on Wednesdays, Board Games on Thursdays, and Magic: The Gathering for Teens on Fridays. With every inch of the shop preserved for precious inventory, don’t forget to BYO snacks — and perhaps consider bringing enough to share with all the new friends you’ll make!
Last but not least, we’d be remiss to not mention Guardian Games, one of Portland’s largest retail stores and long-time favorites. Visitors, beware: With over 10,000 square feet (929 sq m) of space, be prepared to get lost in this enormous, well-kept space that feels like a warehouse filled with every goodie you could imagine. It even has a bar with rotating craft beers and snacks! Among its best features, Guardian Games stocks an extensive used game selection — good for the environment and your wallet — and a spectacular in-store display of locally created games like Dungeon Degenerates and Formation for the ultimate Portland souvenir. Stop by any night of the week for live events and to check out the 450+ game demo library.
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