The usual date night for my boyfriend and me consists of grabbing some fast food and booking it to Knight Watch Games, where we eat and play tabletop games. It’s a great place for the two of us to spend quality time together doing what we love.
Entering Knight Watch Games, a gaming store on San Antonio’s Northside, is like stepping into a grand, fantasy castle mead hall, but if that’s not your style, toward the back of the shop is a room dedicated entirely to Star Wars.
When we go inside, we pick a game that looks interesting, and we find an open spot to sit down and play. Usually, Knight Watch patrons are friendly and sometimes come by to ask what game we are playing and discuss why they like it, too. I’ve found that I enjoy role-playing (RPG) and tabletop games more than watching TV and reading books. There has been a noticeable growth in the tabletop gaming industry as more people try it and become hooked on it.
Knight Watch has many community games that patrons can try out for free. These games include various versions of Risk, Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers, Element, Catan, and Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon, to name only a few.
The store stocks a little bit of everything for the geek in you with a wide selection of games and accessories. If co-owners Paraic and Brenda Mulgrew don’t have what you’re looking for in stock, they will order it for you. In addition to selling tabletop games, Knight Watch also sells weapons and attire for live-action role-playing (LARP) games, including a fine selection of leather armor. Other offerings includes Dungeons and Dragons supplies, such as grid maps, dice, handbooks, guides, and figures.
I sat down with Paraic Mulgrew to talk about the origin and philosophy of Knight Watch Games, located at 16350 Blanco Rd.
Laurel Powers: What would you say Knight Watch is all about?
Paraic Mulgrew: This is going to sound strange, but it’s about solving problems. What I mean by that is when somebody walks into the store, they’re doing it because they have a problem. Usually – nine times out of 10 – that problem is they are looking for a product that they want to play and they don’t have it. So we provide that product through our retail space. Another problem is, they are looking for people to play games with and they don’t have friends or contacts to play with so they come to Knight Watch Games to find these things. … Knight Watch is about building a community that is more than just people buying and playing games. There is a support structure involved. … Knight Watch is about leaving your life troubles at the door and being a kid with other adults.
LP: How did Knight Watch get started?
PM: I was talking with Brenda [his wife] over Skype. I was deployed in Africa and she was in Germany, and we had talked about how the separation was getting old and that the Army life was getting tedious. A lot of other factors went into it, but it was Brenda’s idea. She said, “Why don’t we quit the Army and open up that gaming store?” I didn’t even think that was a topic, and I laughed about it, but she then proceeded for the next 30 minutes to talk about her business background. She used to be an executive assistant for [Bill Miller BBQ], so she’s got ample business experience doing high-level executive work … . It’s actually very simple how a lot of these things seemed to culminate into running a game store. I still don’t see myself as a game store owner – I see myself as a gamer that owns a store. I have to admit, it still hasn’t sunk in.
LP: Does Knight Watch have a motto?
PM: We had a tagline when started the company, and it was “Adventures Await.” It’s this idea that there’s an imagination that we all have when we play games and real life gets in the way. We stop using that imagination, and I think that Knight Watch is supposed to remind people that adventure is out there and real life can be put on hold for a little while.
LP: What kind of events take place here?
PM: Almost every night here at the store we have an open gaming night. The communities around certain games organize their own events. The store doesn’t have to do that for them. A good example is tonight being Tuesday, a lot of gamers will come out and bring their friends and they will play boardgames with an open group anyone can join. They’re very free with tutorials and how-to’s. Thursday is [Star Wars] Armada, Friday is War Hammer and Age of Sigmar, Saturday is a bunch of role-playing games. Saturday is mostly reserved for competitive events for almost every game that we sell: Star Wars being a major one, War Hammer, Bolt Action, Kings of War. The list can get pretty long if I went down it.
LP: Is there a certain age group you catered to when you started? There seems to be a diverse range of age groups – teenagers, adults, and families.
PM: We found that the demographic we were pursuing was the adult gamer who has successfully found stability with their job and family, but they miss the games they used to play as children. So we wanted to be that venue they could come to and have a mature setting in which they could let go and be kids but surrounded by other adults. That was the initial idea. However, because of the accepting environment, families are now showing up. Honestly, we’re not promoting children, because they’re a part of that real-world responsibility that many people in the store are trying to get away from. So it’s going to sound harsh, but we much prefer the adult customer over any customer. However, we won’t turn anyone away. Another thing we consider with demographics is not only age, but gender. We have noticed that females have a difficult time entering a gamer-centric location. They either get treated differently or they are shunned, or they are ogled and treated in a strange way, like you’re an alien. So we are generating an environment where that doesn’t happen.
LP: Do you offer any classes?
PM: We do offer classes. They’re formal in the sense that we open up one of the private rooms, [and] we generate materials on a slideshow about how to play a role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. We also teach painting, for miniatures. We also have the best painter in San Antonio coming one Sunday out of every month. He comes and will coach people on how to paint their particular miniature. We keep an ear out toward the community. If we hear people saying they really would like to learn how to do X, Y, Z, we will rapidly design some kind of class that will teach X, Y, Z.
LP: How do you get people to try new games?
PM: Having a demo wall of games that are free to play is one of the major accelerators for people to learn. Back in the day to learn a game, you had to buy the game. It was a risk to do so – you’re spending the money on something you’re not too sure about. You feel like you just wasted money. A lot of people can research games and see games being played on YouTube or some other website where they can get a good idea of what that game is about before purchasing it. Games are about interacting with other people. That’s why we find the video game generation is slowly turning away from the computers and back towards the tabletop, because they realize the thing they are missing is human interaction. It’s really all about people communicating with other people about the things that they like.