Gunks Gaming Guild & Café brings board games and role-playing games to Ulster County for everyone

Amanda McDonald and Rob Gamble will soon open Gunks Gaming Guild & Cafe at 17 Church Street in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

We all know the stereotype of a “gamer”: such a person is expected to be knowledgeable about all things nerdy – to the point that the eyes of non-nerds become glassy – but not involved in any real concerns. and current events, off the calendar with new movie and TV releases. So where do you go when you’re ready to peek into the daylight?

The answer, dear gamer nerds, is a place where people — maybe even a variety of people — gather to play games of the non-athletic kind. It could be a bookstore or comic book store. In the best of all possible worlds, it could be a dedicated gaming cafe. These are usually rarer than mithril, especially in small towns; but residents of New Paltz and the surrounding area have reason to rejoice, as one is coming soon to a center near you.

The Gunks Gaming Guild & Café is currently being readied for customers at 17 Church Street, right next to the entrance to Huckleberry. The soft opening is expected sometime between September 19 and 23, with a rousing Grand Opening in October or November. Opening hours are Tuesday through Thursday 11am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 11pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm.

Formerly home to Café 17, and before that an antique shop and artist workspace, this building is one of the oldest in the village of New Paltz that is not a Huguenot stone house. Therefore, it does not fit into the aesthetic image of the typical gamer hangout. Comic stores often aim for a futuristic Star Wars/Trek vibe, or a Pop Art sensibility with lots of primary colors, or a dark Gothic or steampunk look with skulls or tentacles. This is a space built in the 17th century, most recently renovated with lots of warm woodwork. The old plank floors are so untidy that the new owners had to order self-leveling bases for their gaming tables.

So, what kind of decor do you add to make such a space appealing to F/SF fans? Simple and obvious answer: You’re making it look even more like a hobbit den than it already does. You use recycled barn wood and cutting boards to build counters and shelves. You’ve got a handy relative custom hexagonal game table for Dungeons & Dragons, with built-in cup holders and a lip to keep the 20-sided dice from rolling on the floor. You paint the walls in autumn colors and hang heraldic tapestries with the café logo. You add a cozy couch and a couple of rocking chairs. You turn the literal cupboard under the stairs into a Harry Potter themed nook for kids.

And then, on a wall at the end of the longest space – the Hobbiton Room – you release your barista who also happens to be an artist, Emily Pickering, with instructions to paint an appropriate mural. “I wanted the Ridge and I wanted trees,” said Amanda McDonald, co-owner of Gunks Gaming Guild. What the artist delivers is a panorama of Sky Top, but with Barad-dûr, Sauron’s dark fortress, replacing the well-known Smiley Memorial Tower. To the sides, frolicking among the trees, you’ll see Kodama, the cute little forest ghosts from the classic Studio Ghibli animated film. Princess Mononoke. Have you fallen in love with the place yet?

McDonald and her fiancé/business partner Robert Gamble barely fit the stereotype you have in mind for gamer nerds. They are an attractive, smart, outgoing, articulate young couple who have both worked with children with special needs, Amanda as a teacher and Rob as a personal trainer. She was born in Monroe, where they now both live, and has just completed her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at SUNY New Paltz. He was a track star and avid snowboarder in high school, though he says, “I grew up in a nerdy household.” The couple got engaged in January in Colorado, where a happy visit to a board game cafe persuaded them to start a similar business in the East, rather than investing their energies in planning a wedding right away.

Gamble is also a self-taught barista whose “passion for coffee” fuels the other half of what this cafe will offer: an upscale coffee bar loaded with pastries and bags of beans from artisan roasters with geeky names like Valkyrie and Brandywine, to be processed by high-tech. end equipment imported from Italy, including a La Marzocco espresso machine. Six taps serve craft beers, cider and mead. There’s even a shiny gadget called a pitcher flusher that spews water upwards, like a bidet. The store also has a full kitchen, so the food menu starts with “small bites” and pastries and progresses to a wider range as they settle in.

It took them nine months to get all this gear in place at a time of supply chain trouble, Rob says, but in the meantime they have grown accustomed to the New Paltz community, which they welcome and align well. with their personal world view. Their dream is to make the new company attractive to a diverse audience and not just to hardcore gamers. “It’s an amazing world that we hope to bring everyone into,” Amanda says. Both emphasize inclusion and strongly oppose the gatekeeper attitude that has caused rifts in the gaming community and made it difficult in the past for women and girls and people of color to feel welcome. “It’s a matter of fear,” Rob says. “We hope to deconstruct that here,” Amanda agrees.

To entice customers, they not only have great coffee and tasty snacks, but also a library of over 200 board games already on the shelves, available to rent for $10 on weekends, $5 on weekdays (or anytime for children and students). Role-playing game nights, including D&D and Magic the Gathering, are scheduled regularly, as well as introductory lessons for beginners and character-creation sessions. Trivia nights, murder mystery nights, and Renaissance Faire themed events are also provided.

The “Guild” part of the company name refers to the place that is home to an ongoing Dungeons & Dragons “drop-in, drop-out” campaign, with multiple tiers based on players’ experience level. Players can find groups at a similar level through a Discord calendar. The hope is that even older folks who missed RPGs when they first became popular won’t feel intimidated to give them a try. “You just tell stories with your friends and roll the dice in between,” says Rob.

For more information about the Gunks Gaming Guild and Café, call 845-633-8494, email or visit https://gunksgamingguild.comGunks Gaming Guild on Facebook or @gunksgamingguild on Instagram.