Nov 282010

I got the chance to head down to Labyrinth DC today. It’s a new game store in the DC area, friendly to RPGs but not stocking deep or wide on them just yet (we’ll have to show interest and follow-through with purchases to improve that!), and I wanted a chance to talk with the store owner, Kat. Turns out she’s great, very positive and very motivated to come to know her community and how best to serve them. So definitely take the time to talk to her if you drop by and let her know what would bring you back to the store and spending money there. It’s located in the Capitol Hill area, just one block’s walk from the East Market metro stop, so the rent is high — this store will definitely need some focused community support in order to take off. More on that in a bit.

The store has a few key things going for it which may set it apart from other stores:

  • It’s a super attractive, very open-feeling space despite having a long narrow floorplan with a slight bend in the middle (see the photos below).
  • The front window lets in a lot of light to the front part of the store — and the back of the store ALSO has a big window that lets in daylight to the back half. As a result it’s one of the few game stores that’s managed to pull off the abundant natural light feel, which I think is a huge win for atmosphere. (Endgame in Oakland, CA is the big example of this in my mind.)
  • It has a very family-friendly vibe going. The owner actively encourages folks to bring their kids and let them run around and explore the store.
  • Location: while the parking isn’t great, the fact that this is a very metro-accessible game store smack in the middle of the DC area means that we may now have a convenient, central location to have the occasional mini-con. The store could seat 4 tables of 6 easily as is, with the option to shuffle some shelving around and get another couple tables if need be. Plus, there’s good (if Capitol Hill priced) variety in the nearby walkable food options.

I’m interested in seeing if we can get a few events happening at the store. Taking a cue from the Endgame/Go Play SF Bay “A Taste Of…” events, Tom Cadorette and I may be looking soon into organizing a few “A Taste Of… [fill in an RPG here]” events in the coming months. On the short-list of early candidates, I think, would be Gamma World, Leverage, and Fiasco. In the somewhat longer-term view, we might look at doing a multi-slot all-day thing ala “FateCon” or “HatCon” or what have you, but for right now looking at doing a single-slot, 2pm-6pm thing on a weekend “taste of” events to get our feet under us is likely the right call.

Anyway, enough of my rambling — I’m still processing my visit to the shop and thinking about possibilities — and on to a view of some of the pics I shot while there.

The Storefront

Store owner Kat explains Settlers of Catan to a customer

Front area of the store

The middle bit, at the "bend"

Back of the store, showing the window and the play space, with bonus Tom

The RPG shelf. As noted, not stocked wide or deep -- yet -- but if we can demonstrate demand for the product, Kat is definitely interested in supporting that!

Hal Mangold, Tom Cadorette, Kristin I-Forget-Her-Last-Name (@celeloriel), and Adam Jury


  20 Responses to “A Look at Labyrinth”

  1. Wow, now that is a nice gaming space. Nothing beats playing in natural light.

  2. That’s a really clean, welcoming game space. Like you said, lots of natural light, and I dig the track lighting. I hope they do good business, and I think it’s great you’re looking to help them grow their RPG community.

  3. Gorgeous! I can’t wait to be head down there again and stop in.

  4. I would definitely be up for supporting Leverage events there!

  5. I happened to stop by the store for the first time the same day Fred was there (coincidence, or fate, is fun! See what I did there? 😉 ). I can completely back-up Fred’s review, the store is a nice space with a LOT of potential and Katherine (the owner) is a real friendly. This is the kind of store you want to see succeed and I certainly hope it does; I’ll do my small part to help make that happen!

  6. Very nice, clean store with modern lines. Is Kat a former UF’er? She looks familiar.

  7. After running some A Taste Ofs…, I think that model works if interspersed with other events. The Taste of Smallville only got 4 players, when a Night of Fiasco got 17. Next couple ones I’m going to do for GPSF will be free-for-alls again, like the first couple were.

    – Ryan

    • Y’all are dealing with a bigger space, too. Here, we can reliably count on 4 tables of 5 players + 1 GM each, so if we ended up with only one table (25% occupancy) that’s not necessarily a problem. I do agree we want to do something broader eventually; I’m just suggesting we *start* with something focused.

  8. Nice photos! I’ve spoken to Kat and am a friend of one of her employees, Judy – I think they have a good operation going with a lot of potential, and it isn’t necessarily a “destination” location – they’ll get casual browsers, which is cool. I want to support them, for sure.

    • I half-agree with Jason in that it may not end up being a destination site for RPG’ers, but the half where I disagree is that I think there will be a good mix of events and local gamers such that it will a uniquely interesting place to hang out and do stuff, whether RPG or not, that it will end up having its own rag-tag motley community of ludo-geeks that haunt it. 🙂

    • Will BE, even. Gah. I am the typo king today. Good thing I don’t edit for a living… oh, wait…

  9. Howdy! Thanks so much for the lovely write-up! I’m Judy, I work at Labyrinth, though I was off on Sunday and busy at home typing away on a book manuscript. Sorry I missed you, Fred! I look forward to meeting you the next time you stop by.

    Without a field of reference for game activity in DC, it was hard for us to get a good feel on what kind of RPGs to stock with our initial order. It’s easier to stock for all the families that live on the Hill, and the Euro boardgames are starting to get attention from a lot of media publications, so they’re pretty easy to sell. The more RPG interest we get, the more we’re happy to stock. We’ve had a lot of interest in Fiasco, which has been great – and that let me sell a copy of Jason’s The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach today, as well.

    I’d like to look at running some events to get us on the map as a destination for things RPG-related, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know! We get our orders pretty quickly from our distributors (one of them even delivers the day after we place the order), so let us know what you’re interested in getting. I’m looking at getting the Smallville books, and I’d like to bring on some more Indie titles – email me ( and tell me what you’re interested in.

    We also want to hold play-test events for local game designers, so if you’re interested, email me about that as well!

    (Also, I’m hip-deep in the Dresden Files books, and I reeeeeeeeeally want to play the RPG, should anyone be interested in getting together a weekly game at Labyrinth. Hint, hint.)

    • Judy, as it happens, we’re working on putting together a “A Taste Of Gamma World” event just a few weekends out from now. Kat’s in the loop on that, so you may wanna ping her, there.

      I am at times awful at running “my own” games, so I may not be the guy to tap for the DF interest, but I do agree seeing a regular game at Labyrinth has its charm. 😉

    • Judy, as it so happens, I might actually be able to do a weekly game at Labyrinth of DFRPG — I’ve got a bunch of players looking to schedule sessions, and we’re scattered ALL over the area, but it looks like I might be splitting the group up into manageable parts, and running a game at Labyrinth for you and others would be pretty damn cool, I think.

      I’ll be in touch directly for sure. 🙂

  10. I’m definitely going to have to hop on the Metro with my son and check that out this weekend. The Rockville gamestore alternative leaves much to be desired and is definately not “kid-friendly” unless you are there on a Pokemon torny day. Labyrinth is so close to all the other destinations in DC it makes this worth the trip!

  11. Wow, that’s a pretty nice looking setup. Loads of natural light in gaming stores should happen more often, too often they look like caves packed with bunches of junk. Chattanooga to DC is a bit of a drive, or I’d stop by. Hope the place takes off.

  12. @Fred Yep, we talked about that today! Looking forward to it!

    @Tom I’m really interested in seeing how it plays. Depending on how busy traffic is on whatever particular evening it is I may not be able to play, but I’ll definitely be eavesdropping! 🙂

    • @Judy No worries — you and Chris live close enough to me in Alexandria that I’m sure we can make something happen. 🙂

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