The story behind
The Guild Hall

by Tudy, Guild Master @ The Guild Hall

September 24 2019

Back in 2017, an idea was born. Then, in September 2018, The Guild Hall opened its doors. Below is a bit of the story of how that happened.

Most of the time, we tend to get caught in the constant hassle of day-to-day life. But every now and then, we find a chance to take a break from that. This may mean different things to different people. Some might take a walk, listen to some music, go hiking, read a good book, watch a movie, ride a bike, or go out for a drink with friends. Fun times. Hobbies. Meditation. There’s definitely something for everyone.

And then some of us would rather spend that break transforming into astronauts, farmers, pirates, wizards, samurais, soldiers, cats, alchemists, zombies, kings, mobsters, detectives, time-travelers, dragons, chefs, landlords or Vikings. We pick our favorite weapons, whether its colored dice, a deck of cards, or a bunch of wooden pieces on nicely painted cardboards. And then we gain coins, points, or experience by fighting each other or by fighting together. We fly our ships into the great beyond, sail the open seas to discover new lands, build astonishing castles. On other days we cure global plagues, solve mysteries, and fight scary creatures. Yes, I’m talking about the wonderful world of tabletop games: board games, trading/living card games, wargames, and role-playing games.

I got hooked on that world nearly 30 years ago. It’s a passion that followed me ever since. It allowed me to discover fascinating experiences, solve puzzles, make new friends, and explore creative activities, all of that while having lots and lots of fun.

The wonderful world of tabletop

My tabletop adventures began with regular things such as Chess, Scrabble, Checkers, Dominoes, or Backgammon. Then I slowly moved to some rather obscure Romanian communist clones of games like Cluedo (called “Enigma”) or Monopoly (called “Turism”). Over the years I gradually became accustomed to all the marvels of tabletop games. I discovered modern board games, Dungeons & Dragons, card games, and miniature wargaming. Some things I liked more, others, not so much.

Even so, I firmly believe that, in the world of tabletop games, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. You only need to go out and figure out what that “something” is for you. When you look at tabletop games, there’s undoubtedly a lot of game mechanics out there. And while jumping from grid movement to card drafting, from area control to hand management, or from worker placement to pattern recognition is fun in itself – there’s always something that stood out for me in all of this: the social experience.

We live in a digital world. It’s no mystery that the Internet has changed our social landscape, especially impacting the way we communicate. Instead of a phone call, we text. We hide behind screens of many sizes, interacting with what we believe is our social circle. But in fact, we’re doing little more than clicking, tapping, liking, sharing, pinning and swiping. Social anxiety is becoming more prevalent, and many people out there find the need to reconnect with others once again, in a more profound and meaningful way. Face to face, leaving technology aside. And most times, this involves getting away from the computer and out of the house.

The social aspect of tabletop games is definitely one of the top reason that draws me to the tabletop hobby. Playing with friends and hosting quite a few board game nights has helped confirm that, again and again. Also, sitting at the same table for hours on end with people I had just met is a social experience that’s quite hard to substitute. To this day, I still enjoy it a lot whenever I get to turn off my computer, put my mobile phone aside, and spend the evening having fun with my friends in front of pieces of nicely colored cardboard, cards, and cubes.

The need for something more

If you like a specific game mechanic, it doesn’t mean your significant other, your sibling or your coworker will enjoy it too. A significant hurdle for any tabletop games fan is finding the right people to play those games with. So, how do you overcome this challenge?

Well, there’s at least one way to do it. You can start searching for other people who might be into this, or you can simply teach these games to people you know already. There’s a good chance they’ll enjoy it. Basically, it’s all about extending your gaming group. But that’s easier said than done.

For one, not all your friends are board gamers. You may be able to convert some of them, but not all of them. Then, even if they do find boardgames appealing, they may not be into the same mechanics that you like. This means you’ll have a hard time finding something that everyone in your group can play and enjoy. In some rare cases, you might find yourself in the perfect gaming group, enjoying the same games, on a somewhat regular schedule.

So, as one of your first challenges when getting into the tabletop world, you’ll definitely have to go out there and meet new people. Not a comfortable idea, by any measure. This will bring you to the next obvious question: where can I find these people? There’s definitely a bunch of places where that may happen, whether it’s Internet forums, Facebook & Meetup groups, dedicated apps, or even local gaming stores. Out of all those options, I went with the latter.

Oh, the Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS)! One might see it as just a mix of board game shelves, playing cards, gaming tables, wooden pieces, cardboard, and plastic soldiers. Yet, that mix creates a world where infectious laughter, mind-bending tension, hilarious role-play, geeky conversations, and brain-numbing mysteries can coexist. A place where you can instantly sit down and have a fun time with a person you’ve never met before.

Or, at least, that’s what I expect of any FLGS. And that’s precisely what I didn’t easily find, wherever I went. I’ve visited tens of board game stores & clubs over the years while traveling through many different countries. Some of them felt cramped, others were poorly lit, some of them had rude staff, others were simply scruffy. And during all that time, I found very few board game stores where there wasn’t something “missing” or out of place.

Whenever I get to a city I’ve never been in before, I often check out the local board game stores and spend some time looking at a few things. Things like how the staff treats you and talks to you about your passions and interests, how the local gaming groups interact and behave, how the store is laid out in terms of lighting, shelves, cleanliness, and how cozy and welcome each of those spaces made me feel. Because of that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the handful or so FLGS-es where I couldn’t really find anything missing. In those places, the atmosphere, the games, and the local community all blend together in an unforgettable experience.

Unfortunately, back then, my hometown wasn’t one of those places. While there were a few FLGS attempts in Cluj-Napoca over the years, they all felt lacking, each in its own way. After having seen how things can be done better, I felt a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find that excellent FLGS close to home. And, after talking to fellow tabletop fans, I knew for sure that others shared the same disappointment.

Thus, nearly two years ago, after many discussions with friends and careful consideration, and after finding a great partner and team, we started off on a quest to create a place where we, as tabletop games fans, would enjoy our hobby. Moving from a simple idea to putting the team together, coming up with a vision, finding and renovating a location, assembling furniture, finding suppliers, ordering merchandise, and finally setting everything up – all this covered the better part of an entire year.

It took hundreds of hours of effort put in by a handful of people, even before opening day. But in the end, on September 24th, 2018, The Guild Hall opened its doors! It was born out of the passion of a group of friends for board gaming and their lack of options to enjoy their hobby in one single place. We decided to create the place for tabletop & board games aficionados. And I say “we,” since I definitely couldn’t have done it alone, and I owe a lot to the fantastic team behind this initiative. Without them, this place couldn’t have been and couldn’t still be possible.

One year later

Today marks one year since we opened. It’s been an exciting ride, with a lot of highs and lows. It’s undoubtedly been an empowering experience which allowed everyone on our team to grow and have fun. Ever since we started, we’ve built and developed The Guild Hall around a set of defined values, which we make sure are what you find whenever you visit us. Community, real-play, equality, friendship, and geek chic fun are some of the things that bring us back here every day. We hope to make The Guild Hall that place where common sense, mutual respect, passion, and fun are the norm, and tabletop players of all kinds are welcome.

That is why wargaming, role-playing games, board games, TCGs & LCGs all found their own spot at The Guild Hall, within their respective communities. People meet regularly and enjoy their favorite hobby, and our weekly calendar is filled with regular events & competitions.

But we haven’t stopped there! Since The Guild Hall sort of became a “home away from home” for many, we’ve listened to feedback and opened up our space for other exciting and geeky things as well. Workdays are where we also operate as a co-work space, where freelancers can enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea while working on their current projects. The past year has also been one of experimenting and new experiences. We’ve been lucky to be able to host many different events. From tailoring classes, through lettering courses, technical and artistic community meetups, environmental and social debates, company Christmas parties, educational workshops in data security, political discussions, board game launches, competitions of all kinds, and even make-up workshops – all our guests picked a cozy and geeky spot among shelves of board games and half-painted wargaming terrain for their events.

So, looking back at the past year, we certainly feel we’ve made The Guild Hall into the place we wanted it to be:

  • The place where we celebrate friendship, geekdom, and the tabletop hobby.
  • The place for effortless and fun-filled social interaction between friends and friends to be.
  • The place where we all sit around the table on equal footing.
  • The place where we embark on countless adventures and work together to succeed.
  • The place where we can be competitive in the most positive way.
  • The place where we get to be someone different every day if we choose so.
  • The place for interaction, relaxation, socialization, control, play, and fun.
  • The place where we can participate in events, tournaments, and competitions.
  • The place where board gamers will find all the latest games and updates from this fantastic world.
  • The place where you can hang out, work remotely, and learn to love the game in your own rhythm.
  • The place where you can meet like-minded people who share the same passion for tabletop games as you.
  • The place where you grow your hobby into whatever you want it to be.

One year later, we certainly feel we are a community. Still in its infancy, but growing nonetheless. Whether you are a hardcore hobbyist gamer, a gamer in the making, a geeky freelancer, or you’re just in need for a cozy space in a central location for your workshops and events, our doors are open to you. We dare you to step into our world! But know this: you risk coming back again, again and again. Will you take that step?