By Dan Morgridge

It’s spring cleaning time, and that means you need to clean out your closet. For most, that’s just going to be a box of shorts, some photo albums, that hideous portrait your aunt drew of you, and a pair of neon-encrusted rollerblades older than most high-schoolers. But to a select group of nerds (reformed or otherwise), the closet can be a dangerous place. What’s this? An old copy of the Dungeons and Dragons manual? An unopened booster box of 6th Edition Magic: the Gathering cards? Warhammer figurines? Suddenly there you are, a bona fide grown-up-person, contemplating hunting down that old comics shop to see if you can find someone to play with that isn’t younger than those rollerblades.

Hyde Park’s U of C population prides itself on nerdery, and of course they’ve got their own game shop to accommodate it. While it’s primary operation is as a comics shop, the store has also been working in D&D nights, Magic: the Gathering tournaments, and Yu-Gi-Oh Tournaments as well. The shop even has it’s own mascot – the Ed Roth-esque “Edgar” gives the shop a definitely kooky feel, letting gamers know that this ain’t no HobbyTown.

Galactic Force is a gaming store aimed at encouraging new Magic: the Gathering players – offering nights focused on the popular “Commander” variant, a group of regulars are always there to play and teach, and they host a popular Friday Night Magic event every week. If you remember the exact cost of a Shivan Dragon and are ready to get back into MtG full-force, this is the place for you.

If your game of choice involves more six-sided dice than 20’s, there’s a good chance that Cat & Mouse is your store of choice. Boasting a gigantic array of specialty games in a tiny store, the owners have curated a select roster of board games, jigsaws, yo-yos, logic puzzles, and more. And best of all – if you don’t have any idea what a board game named “Killer Bunnies” is about (actually, pretty self-explanatory), the shop has demo versions of each game available to open and try before you buy.

Mason Johnson's awesome dice, mostly bought at Games Plus (credit: Mason Johnson)

A hidden gem in the burbs, Games Plus has an impossibly large warehouse of games new and old. Now having been in operation for thirty years, the store not only offers the latest in collectible card games, miniatures, and board games, but also relics from any number of bygone eras in gaming. 80’s Battletech player? There’s a night for it. Historical miniatures? There’s a night for it. Heroclix? Why not! It might be a Metra ride away, but old-schoolers won’t find a better array of classic gaming opportunities.

Chicagoland Games (The Dice Dojo, as it’s known), is one of the most gamer-friendly shops in the country. 8 Game tables, 450 demo games, leagues for several different games, and an Open Board Game Night. And if you’re one of those people who really likes painting little orcs and elves for the sole purpose of pushing them smugly across at an opponent, then baby, you’re in luck; it’s one of the few places outside of a basement with a dedicated Warhammer table.

Dan Morgridge is a writer from Chicago who doesn’t play any of these games, of course. Unless you do.