With International Tabletop Day around the corner, we’re counting down the days to the big celebration by highlighting friendly local gaming stores, their owners, and their awesome stories. Be sure to find an ITTD event near you so you can enjoy the festivities in your community.
It was a casual conversation we were having with Craig Lucas, owner of Grapple Games, as we were interviewing him for this feature. When asked what tabletop gaming means to him, Craig how his store has been built around the local community and provides a space for like-minded people to gather in the Bourbonnais, Illinois, area. Then Lucas shared a story of one of his long-time customers and friends, someone he knew before opening the store, and how he suffered a stroke and ended up in the hospital last December.
“When I visited we played Star Realms, a game we enjoy a lot,” he recalled. “It was interesting to watch. I had never been close to anyone who had suffered a stroke. It was difficult for him to hold cards with his left hand.”
Speech and other motor skills were a challenge for his friend after the stroke, but Lucas said he never stopped playing games. “He’s an avid board gamer. I think it really helped in his recovery. Playing games helped keep his mind active and it really benefitted him.”
Three months later, Lucas was there to welcome his friend back to Grapple Games. “He’s back at the store as a regular. I was there when he came back,” he said. “It was pretty cool to see…He’s a customer, but he’s also a friend.”
Originally from Bourbonnais, Lucas moved to Oregon after serving in the military and graduating from college. “My friends and I were into Catan; it was the early days in the U.S. for Catan,” he said. “From there we moved into other games and I became part of a gaming group in Oregon. We gamed weekly, playing a wide variety of games for about 15 years.”
Lucas and his wife returned home to Illinois after the birth of their son. His engineering background led to job opportunities in Chicago, but the hour-long commute didn’t appeal to him.
“Our son was three at the time and I didn’t want to spend that much time on the road,” he said. “That’s when I took a step back and realized that there wasn’t a game store in the county. One thing led to another and here we are, almost four years later.”
Eighty-hour weeks were the norm as Lucas got Grapple Games off the ground, but after things settled down he was able to hire a few full-time employees to help ease the workload. Soon he opened a second store in New Lennox and now both locations host gaming events on most nights of the week, featuring Magic The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, as well as open board gaming nights.
During his off days Lucas tries to run 3-4 times each week, participating in local 5Ks and the occasional 10K. He also enjoys playing disc golf and he manages to play board games as well. “I hope to have time at some point to set up a regular weekly gaming group,” he said. “I tend to play new games in store. I really like Terraforming Mars and Quadropolis is a great game that has flown under the radar.
“And I still like Power Grid. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Ticket to Ride is a still good game, easy to show anybody. Splendor is also well-done,” he said. “The quality of the games continues to improve, which is good for all of us.”
Grapple Games is located at 910 N Convent Street in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Visit their Facebook page for more info.
How has your FLGS helped you in a time of need? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Grapple Games
Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for iSlaytheDragon.com and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.