Above, Eric Kajder gets a crash course in the rules and strategy of Dominion from Jason Nagel on the left and Jacob Weldon on the right.

by Jeremy Benson

Jason Nagel shuffles his deck. He draws his hand and studies the stacks of cards laid out before him, before finally making his decision.

He sets a card down on the table. "Militia."

Jacob Weldon groans, discarding a pair of Treasures, while Eric Kajder grins and flashes his Moat card, protecting his hand from the wrath of Nagel's ruthless Militia.

"And with that, I'll buy a Smithy." Nagel adds his new Smithy to the collection. "Your turn."

The trio sit around a white plastic folding table, playing Dominion, a card game in which players must strategically build a deck to earn Treasure, which in turn can buy victory points. Dominion has won many prestigious gaming awards since its release in 2008, and keeps residence on a host of top ten lists—characteristics shared by most of the games available to purchase—and test—at the Board Room Game Center in Freeland.

"I'm pretty close to selling everything I want to sell," says Aaron Quesnel, owner-operator and self-proclaimed gaming geek. Indeed, Quesnel has personally approved the majority of his inventory. The Board Room carries any game you can't find anywhere else, and then some—from popular roll-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and its close companion Pathfinder, to the militaristic miniatures of WarHammer and Warmachine. Even the cooperative, economics-based “Eurogames” have a place on the Board, like the cult favorite Settlers of Catan, or Powergrid, a game that asks its players to design a system of cables and powerplants.

("It's amazing how close the rules and gameplay are to real life," says Quesnel about Powergrid.)

Quesnel opened the store in April, after an unsuccessful search for a base set for the miniature turn-based wargame, Heroscape. Sure, he says, he could have purchased the item online—however, because there was no local brick-and-mortar storefront offering such niche merchandise, there was also no place through which to find or create a strong gaming community.

"There was no centralized place to play," says Quesnel, who admits, too, that part of opening the store was to give himself, and like-minded customers and friends, a space to fully enjoy the gaming hobby, a place that wouldn't interfere with family member's space. "Sometimes significant others won't let your friends come over to play."

The Board Room Game Center is not only a rare dispensary for a vast selection of award-winning games; it also hosts gaming nights, which are quickly attracting a following of regular attendees. On Wednesday nights, Club Catan welcomes seasoned players and newcomers alike to settle the island of Catan, or to test other games, like the territorial puzzle game Carcassonne. Friday Night Fights make use of the spacious textured tables Quesnel and company have custom built for WarHammer and other miniatures. Saturdays are open play, and from time to time the Center facilitates tournaments: the "WarHammer Ard Boyz Tournament" for instance, begins tomorrow, Saturday August 28, at 11 a.m. Last Sunday the store held a Munchkin tournament—competitors fought "Pukachus" and "Floating Noses" in order to win the prize, a Munchkin T-shirt.

Upcoming on October 16, the Board Room is holding the Dungeon Delve, a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon crawl open to teams and individuals. No experience is necessary, although the importance of imagination is stressed.

Quesnel looks forward to the events, and hopes to schedule more and more of them. "I like when the place is full and everyone's playing games." Gamers may purchase refreshments during those long, arduous journeys through dungeons. In such situations, the Game Center—which already stays open later than most retail stores—will keep its registers open until the wee hours of the morning, as long as it takes for the dust to settle and the victors to march forth.

Kajder takes his Buy, and before he has discarded his hand completely, Weldon begins his Action: he plays a Smithy on top of a Market on top of a Village on top of a Market. With each additional combination, the smiles on Nagel and Kajder's faces fade into nervous grins. Weldon moves into his Buy phase. "So, I have one, three, six, seven, and one more Gold makes nine." He reaches, obviously, for a six-point Province, before buying up the final Moat, thus ending the game and clinching the victory, all in one foul swoop.

The Board Room Game Center is located at 7251 Midland Rd, Freeland, Michigan 48623; call them at (989) 295-0522, or visit them on Facebook.

© Jeremy Benson, 2010