First tabletop gaming store in Abu Dhabi opens at Reem Island mall
ABU DHABI // Gamers who enjoy crawling through dungeons, settling medieval towns or rolling dice to avoid the next pandemic have finally found a home in Abu Dhabi with the opening of the Back To Games shop at Boutik Mall on Reem Island.
The community of tabletop gamers – the name used to describe board games, card games, miniatures or any other game played on a tabletop – has been growing significantly in the UAE, and particularly in Abu Dhabi.
Tareq Al Atrach, a resident who works in oil and gas, got into tabletops in 2011, when the gaming community he met up with in the capital consisted of four people.
“Now we have more than 400 members and they’re branching off into different communities, but it’s nice to know we have a place now,” he said.
Before the opening of Back to Games, different communities would meet up at random cafes around the country, something that Mr Al Atrach said they would continue to do.
“I think there’s an element of geek chic that came with the revival of the superhero movies and kind of pushed it into the mainstream and that allowed people to get into fantasy, sci-fi and the subculture associated with it,” Mr Al Atrach said.
The number of people going to Gen Con, the world’s largest tabletop-game convention, has also reflected its growing popularity as almost 60,000 people went to this year’s convention, up from 30,000 in 1994.
“Tabletop gaming is entering its golden era,” said Mark Azzam, the Etihad captain who opened Back To Games, “and this is not your Monopoly and Risk. This is beyond and it’s growing.”
However, the owner of the specialty gaming store, which opened yesterday, was still surprised to find people lined up outside almost an hour before it opened, so they could get in the doors first.
Mike Labny, an American Etihad pilot who has been gaming for almost 30 years, held a gaming session of Pathfinder, a role-playing game, in the store on its opening day.
“This turnout shows that there was a need for a gaming store in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“Up until Mark opened up, if I needed anything it would either be Amazon or a drive to Dubai to go to Kinokuniya, which isn’t really a specialty store.”
He said that having a specialty store in the UAE shows how much the community has grown and marks a sign that it will continue to do so.
Mr Labny said that a shop like Back to Games gives enthusiasts a chance to come and play games with people who they’ve never met before, without even paying to do so.
“This is my dream, this is the reason I wanted to do this,” said Mr Azzam, looking on as 40 people were packed into the store. “Gaming brings people together, and that’s the essence of it.”
Updated: November 20, 2015 04:00 AM