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Players, Step Into the Game Parlor
By Aalok Mehta
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 4, 2008; Page WE05
Behind an unassuming storefront in Chantilly, obscured from street view by shelves crowded with boxes, books and figures, experts and novices alike gather for a daily ritual. Excited chatter mingles with the sounds of rolling dice and riffling cards as people lead armies of fantastic creatures to victory or transform tiny colonies into massive empires.
This is the Game Parlor. Originally built to feed its owner's hobby, it has become one of the area's most popular places to play games.
The store sells a wide variety of games and related products, but the simple wooden tables dedicated to playing are the big draws.
Some visitors come for regular get-togethers or organized tournaments. Others have armloads of favorite games, hoping to find someone to sit and join them for a round.
You'll find a variety of activities in progress. In one area people play miniatures games (army games with painted figures), including Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, Warmachine/Hordes and Lord of the Rings. In a different section are the role players, engaged in such games as World of Darkness and Dungeons & Dragons. And in another section you'll find collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and board games including Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Power Grid.
It's a welcoming neighborhood hangout: a place to spend an evening, meet old friends and maybe make new ones. The store has even hosted Thanksgiving dinners.
"This is the place where all the gamers come," said Matthew Pascal, a bank teller, during a recent visit. He comes into the store about once a week. "You know everyone will have at least one thing in common."
People have fallen in love at the Game Parlor, says Rob Weigend, who founded the store with his wife, Cindy, in 1991. Weigend has been invited to gamer weddings and meets the children of people who first came to his shop as teenagers.
Weigend used have his own lobbying firm on Capitol Hill. But as an avid game player, he faced a major problem: There was nowhere decent to play. So he hatched a plan for creating -- and financing -- a dedicated playing space.
"I started the store as a second business, not to make money, but to pay for a game room my club could play in," he said.
It caught on, and the store's success eventually led Weigend to leave lobbying. He has expanded the store twice, he says.
The shop has space for 86 players. Sometimes that's not enough, so Weigend's second shop, which opened in Woodbridge in 2002, features a more open design. That store can accommodate 120.
Sylvia Daniel, a blood bank specialist, says she comes by about four times a week, spending more than 20 hours there. Much of that time is spent leading role-players in the store's glass-walled back room.
The appeal, she says, is the game space and the social interaction, knowing that on any given day she can meet people open to trying new things.
"You can bring any game you've ever owned. There're usually people here who'll say, 'Sure, I'll give it a shot,' " she said.
Carl Murphy, a real estate title examiner, is another regular. He has visited the store about twice a week for six years, willing to play anything, though he leans toward war games.
"Most people who come here are good; they like to play games," he said. "They're competitive but didn't come here looking for a Saturday night fight. They just come here for fun."
Though he's busy running the two stores, even Weigend still sometimes gets to do what he really loves: play.
"Just not as much as I'd like," he said.
Game Parlor 13936 Metrotech Dr., Chantilly (in the Sully Place Shopping Center); 14400 Smoketown Rd., Woodbridge (in the Prince William Square Shopping Center) Phone:703-803-3114 (Chantilly) and 703-551-4200 (Woodbridge) Hours: Open daily 10 to 10 Game Parlor 13936 Metrotech Dr., Chantilly (in the Sully Place Shopping Center); 14400 Smoketown Rd., Woodbridge (in the Prince William Square Shopping Center) Phone:703-803-3114 (Chantilly) and 703-551-4200 (Woodbridge) Hours: Open daily 10 to 10