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Beans in the Belfry

122 West Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716


Monday to Thursday, 8am to 4pm
Friday, 8am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 6pm

Board and card gamers meet at Beans in the Belfry on Third Saturdays, 1pm to 7pm, next date is October 19

By Susan Guynn Special to the News-Post | Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013

BRUNSWICK — A roll of the dice? Borrrring.

A spin of the wheel? A yawner.

Serious gamers don’t want to leave the outcome of a board game to chance or a random roll of the dice. They want to be actively involved in how the game evolves and ends.

Karl Musser hosts a game session once a month at Beans in the Belfry Meeting Place & Cafe in Brunswick, where typically about a dozen teens and adults come to play games with names that would be obscure to most, such as Frag, Carcassonne, Rat Splatter and Save Doctor Lucky.

On this day, Musser and three others were playing a game that just became available in August, Wizard’s Brew.

“It’s a set collection game,” Musser said, meaning the goal is to collect a set of something, in this case colorful disks, through an auction. Other game categories include abstract strategy, adventure, city building, fantasy, medieval, political, trains and war.

“We tend to have boards, cards and lots of little wooden bits,” Musser said. “(Wizard’s Brew) is over when one person gets seven different color disks. There’s 10 colors, but you only need seven.”

The Brunswick group has been meeting for about nine years and is one of about 20 Games Club of Maryland sites around the state where serious gamers or those who want to learn to play non-mainstream games can meet and do just that. In January, Musser will host Games Day at the City Park Building, where he will have about 100 games from his 400-game collection available for people to play.

“We know most of the games are obscure,” Musser said. “A lot of folks have been exposed to games like Monopoly, and a lot of these are more interesting.”

Many are imports from Germany, where board games are more mainstream, said Musser, who has enjoyed playing games since he was a boy. His dad, who was an editor for the Chicago Tribune, also designed games, including Road to the White House, which simulates a political election.

In his spare time, Musser, who is a cartographer, continues to develop some of his late father’s unfinished games. “I don’t know if they will ever see the light of day,” he said.

Brian Carpenter and his wife, Alexis, are serious gamers, too. The couple live in Reston, Va.

“Our license plate says ‘GAMERS,’” Brian Carpenter said. Board and card games are their primary interest, but the couple also plays online and console (Wii, PlayStation) games.

Brian Carpenter was introduced to the nontraditional games at Cornell University through the Cornell Strategic Simulation Society. The club met on Friday nights to play board games, role playing and card games.

“I went to every meeting during my four-plus years of college,” said Brian Carpenter, who is a computer programmer. Whenever he moves to a new area he seeks out local game groups to socialize and make friends.

Alexis Carpenter said she got hooked on games as a 7-year-old when the role-playing game of Dungeons and Dragons was used to develop creative problem solving and teamwork skills in class.

The Carpenters met at TCEP II, a game convention, about 20 years ago. They helped organized TCEP XX, which was held at the end of August in Sterling, Va. “People bring games, there’s about a hundred people, and a big room for gaming,” Brian Carpenter said of the event. There are also statewide and national game conventions/trade shows.

“I like games with interesting decisions throughout the entirety of the game,” he said. “Some (game outcomes) can be boiled down to one or two critical decisions.” Those games, however, are not for him.

Diplomacy, a game which simulates pre-World War I tensions among seven powerful countries, is won or lost based on critical decisions by the players. “The only randomness is who is playing what country. The rest is diplomacy,” Brian Carpenter explained.

Android: Netrunner is a two-player duel-style card game where one player is the corporation and the other the subversive hacker. The corporation seeks to protect its data and the hacker’s goal is to steal it, he explained.

At the August gathering in Brunswick, the Carpenters were playing Lords of Waterdeep, a worker placement game. In this game, there are a certain number of actions required by a worker token to gain victory points.

The couple went over the rules with three other players, including Leslie Barkley of Buckeystown. She’s been attending game events for about five years.

“When I was a kid, Monopoly and all that grabbed me,” she said. “I didn’t know these games existed. They give me intellectual stimulation. I’ll play just about anything.”

Twelve-year-old Isaac Ege, of Brunswick, said he has a large collection of board games at home, but only some will his family play. “I can get my dad to play Catan,” where the goal is to get resources to build towns and cities, he said.

Barkley said she likes worker placement and economic engine games. In economic games, players typically are buying stock in a company. The game typically ends when a player achieves a certain amount of money, she said.

In essence, she said, regardless of whether a game uses points or money, “it’s all victory points.”

Bryan Snyder, of Emmitsburg, hosts the Frederick North group at Wegmans. The group originated as the Monocacy Association of Historical War Gamers. When attendance began to wane about 10 years ago, they joined GCOM and took a new name. He’s been with the group since the mid-1990s.

His interest in games started in high school with Dungeons and Dragons. A friend introduced him to the war games group. Some war games are based on historical events, but a roll of the dice can change history, so to speak, in these games.

“If it were true to history it would be boring because you would know what the outcome would be,” Snyder said. Teachers sometimes use war games, such as Axis and Allies, to help teach history.

He also likes train games, all based on some aspect of railroading, he said, but “I’ll still jump into a good war game.”

Mike Tavenner, of Frederick, hosts a group that meets at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church School on Jefferson Pike.

He was tired of playing the domino game called Mexican Train and found GCOM online. He prefers strategy games that take less than two hours to play.

Some games can take three, six and up to 12 hours to play. Most, Musser said, are designed to be played in an hour or less.

Even Monopoly is a “decent game if you play it correctly,” Tavenner said.

Details:There are four locations in Frederick County where Games Club of Maryland groups meet:– BRUNSWICK: 1 to 7 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month at Beans in the Belfry, West Potomac Street– FREDERICK NORTH: 1 to 6 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month, Wegmans, Wormans Mill Road– FREDERICK: 4 to 9 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month, Frederick Seventh-day Adventist School, Jefferson Pike– MIDDLETOWN: Begins at 3 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month, private residence

For more information or to contact the host at one of the sites, visit