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Gamers unplug for Tabletop Day

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Published:   |   Updated: April 9, 2014 at 04:00 PM

PORT RICHEY ­— With an elbow on the table and one hand propping up her head, 9-year-old Angelina “Lina” Coats leaned across the table, puzzled, and wrinkled her nose.

“What do I do now?” she asked Erich Schaafstall after he played a “Steal a Level” card against her character.

“Now you do nothing,” Spud told her. “I steal a level from you so you go back to level 1 and now I’m at level 2.”

Lina pouted. “I don’t like you.”

“Welcome to Munchkin, honey.”

Munchkin, a parody dungeon crawl card game “with none of that stupid role-playing stuff,” was one of four games that players competed in during last Saturday’s international Tabletop Day tournament at Gulf View Square’s Yancy Street Comics store. Tabletop Day is an annual gamer holiday created in 2013 by geek celebrities Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day to encourage folks to unplug and play games together.

Wheaton, who became famous for his role as Wesley Crusher in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” is a tabletop gaming advocate with his own Web series called Tabletop, which features a new card game or board game every episode. The show has helped mainstream tabletop gaming into popular culture and now tabletop gaming events are held in game shops, comic book stores, libraries and community centers around the world.

Tabletop Day is meant to bring people together to play their favorite games and learn about the endless variety of games that are available, each with its own theme, rules and strategy. There’s a game for every interest.

“I played four different games today, all of which I’ve never played before, so it’s a really neat way to see all the new games out there,” said Mike Coats, Lina’s father and a regular at Yancy Street Comics.

Last year’s inaugural TableTop Day was a huge success with 3,123 gaming events in 64 countries worldwide, including every state and province in North America and every continent on the planet. Even researchers in Antarctica were playing.

This was the first year that Yancy St. Comics, with its new gaming department, has participated in the event.

Yancy Street Gaming Manager Dave Growney, who runs the gaming department with his wife, Janece, said tabletop games provide a better social interaction between players than videogames are capable of.

“You’re actually talking to a person face to face, not over a television screen,” Growney said.

Andrew D’Angelo, 10, agreed. “You actually get to go in and talk to people and make new friends.”

Folks started showing up at noon Saturday and chose from stacks of games provided by the store and brought in by other players. Choices ranged from the Adventure Time Card Wars game and Munchkin’s equally silly cousin, “Chez Geek,” to larger board games like “Castle Panic” and “Star Trek Catan.” Players pitched in $5 each to participate in the four-game tournament. For the next several hours, bouts of light-hearted teasing, loud guffaws and finger-pointing broke out among the competing players while they battled for prizes of store credit and free games.

The tournament wrapped up shortly after 9 p.m., and points were counted to determine the winning player based on their placement during each game. In the end, Dawn Allen took home the figurative “Trophy of Awesome.”

“I love the idea of Tabletop Day,” Allen said. “The reason I’ve liked games that you sit at a table for, since I was a kid, is that it brings everyone together. It’s also helpful mentally.”

Outside of special events like Tabletop Day, Yancy Street Comics has a regular gaming schedule. Mondays and Fridays are usually reserved for the Collectible Card Game “Magic: The Gathering” while Wednesdays are for the role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons.” Tuesdays and Thursdays are open gaming nights and Saturdays often feature “Heroclix” tournaments.

For more about gaming events at Yancy Street Comics, call the store at (727) 817-0888 or visit Yancy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/yancy .streetgaming.

You can follow Daylina Miller on Twitter at @DaylinaMiller.

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