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It's Always Game Night in Rutland

A growing industry finds community in downtown Rutland

Story by Lauren Fabien | March 1, 2019

Many things that were popular in the 1970s have made a comeback today: fur coats, platform shoes, vinyl records, and Fleetwood Mac tours. The 1970s were a time for innovations like cell phones, digital cameras, and the Atari, all that have clearly changed and improved over the years resulting in the very iPhone you're probably reading this on.  

In January of 1974, Dungeons and Dragons became the first commercial roleplaying game to go on the market, and all printed copies sold out within the first year. This type of tabletop board game that became popular over 40 years ago is still being played by millennials today, but the variety of game choices is now vastly more diverse.

Tony Vandenberg, owner of Black Moon Games in Rutland, VT stands in front of popular tabletop games at his store.

Tony Vandenberg, owner of Black Moon Games in Rutland, VT stands in front of popular tabletop games at his store.

Tabletop gaming comes in many forms such as board games, card games, dice games, miniatures, wargames or tile-based games. Just like the video game industry, tabletop games provide genres for all types of interests. Over the last few years, the tabletop gaming industry has grown more popular as people log off the screens for the in person experience. Board game cafes have started to make an appearance all over the US, becoming popular destinations for social gatherings. Each year, thousands of people travel to gaming conventions like Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indana, where there are gaming events, tournaments, and dealer hauls where people can get the newest games on the market.

This type of industry has never been available in the Rutland area until three years ago, when Black Moon Games made its debut on Evelyn Street in 2016.

With table space for events, tournaments, and game play, the store opens its doors to the community during the week - offering its table space at no charge. You can try the demo shelf games or bring in your own game to play. Black Moon Games aims to have at least one event per day, which are all listed on their calendar that can be easily accessed on their website. For example, Wednesdays are designated board game nights.

Black Moon’s owner, Tony Vandenberg, moved to Lebanon, NH from Nebraska nearly 11 years ago. Tony grew up playing the type of games he now offers in his store and decided to turn his passion into a business in 2014. After a few years of success he started looking to expand and realized there was at least a 45 minute bubble around Rutland where no tabletop gaming store existed - many Rutlanders traveled over an hour to New Hampshire to participate in events and purchase games or merchandise.

“The downtown area is really cool and there’s been a lot of strides to bring it up and improve over the last few years. That’s what I’m really excited about, we’re here kinda on the ground floor as downtown is just starting to blossom, and it’s really great to get in and be part of that,” said Vandenberg.

At Black Moon Games, it is almost impossible to not be able to find a game that fits your preferences. The store has a good spread of skill levels offering family games, games you can play with your kids, all the way up to the hardcore strategy games that take 8 hours to play.

“We try to have it all so that no matter what you’re into, we have something,” said Vandenberg. A variety of games for sale in the store can also be rented, where customers can take it home and play it, then get store credit towards that game if they decide to purchase. This unique offer provides the ability for potential customers to find a game that best fits their interests.

A view of Black Moon Games’ large selection of merchandise in Downtown Rutland.

A view of Black Moon Games’ large selection of merchandise in Downtown Rutland.

Vandenberg prides himself in the fact that his store is distinguished from online stores and business in the gaming industry because there is an in person service offered from his staff, who provide information and input on the type of games that would best fit a customers interest.

“We have parents come in saying they’re looking for a game to play with their kids and here at the store we help you find something. We can talk you through it, show you something off the board game shelf, and provide that in-person service so you can find something that works for you,” Vandenberg said.

In a time where online gaming thrives and there is a lack of face-to-face contact, Vandenberg's store offers a valuable form of gaming that brings back the social aspect that’s been missing. Hobby board games offer the ability to unplug from technology and make you actually sit at a table and socialize with other people, and nationwide people are opting out of their video game sessions on the couch to join the tabletop gaming community.  

Vandenberg’s store has brought the popular growing industry of tabletop gaming to Rutland, providing our community with the gaming space not offered before. Vandenberg loves knowing that he provides a space for people to gather, and that there are hundreds of people who think of his store when they play his board games.

“You know, I’ve seen dozens of people meet new friends, and I’ve seen relationships start where people have all met here in the store playing in events. It’s my favorite knowing that my business and I are central to people having fun,” Vandenberg said.

Vandenberg commutes back and forth between his Rutland and Lebanon stores, but at Black Moon Games there will always be friendly faces there to help answer any questions.

To learn more about the games and merchandise offered at the store visit their website at black-moon-games.com, or visit the retail store located on 9 Evelyn Street.

Looking for something new to play? Here are some of Vandenberg’s top picks:

Games for Families

  • King of Tokyo: a fun giant monster smash up with very easy to grasp dice-rolling mechanic.

  • Takenoko: Light and cute bamboo growing game with an adorable panda figure.

  • Sushi Go: A set collecting game with cute sushi art that is very easy to pick up.

Games for Different Skill Levels

  • Carcassonne (Beginner): A light game of map building with tiles, akin to "competitive puzzle building" that can be played in  about 30 minutes.

  • Twilight Imperium (Hardcore): A sprawling game of space empires requiring long-term strategy and an investment of several hours.

Games for College Students:

  • Cards Against Humanity: An adult Mad-Libs style card game that encourages inappropriate answers.

  • Codenames: Teams of spies and spymasters try to identify their agents in the field with a single word and number.

  • Werewolf: A game of bluffing and trying to identify the bad guy that can play large numbers of players.

Games for Young Adults

  • Keyforge: A popular new collectible card game where every game is unique and requires no deck building.

  • Smash-Up: A card game where players make decks by shuffling together decks of 2 crazy factions like dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, etc.

  • Star Wars Legion: A Star Wars miniatures game that lets players collect and paint their favorite characters.