Like most of us, the Rupinskis grew up playing board games. Pam, Laura and Danielle Rupinski, along with Shawn Blake, are the owners of the new Rook and Rogue Board Game Pub in Bellingham. Pam, who answers to “mom,” says, “We started when they were kids. Playing games was a weekend thing for us.”

Let the knowledgeable staff show you how to game. Photo credit: Kali Klotz-Brooks.

Danielle adds, “We played a lot of games growing up and then started collecting games in the 90s. Shawn and I met and he also had a collection and we just started going bananas. About half of the games here are from our personal collection.” Which is a lot, considering the pub has around a thousand games in their library.

Family run and chock-full of strong female leadership, Rook and Rogue opened downtown this last spring.

Opening up a board game pub in Bellingham just made sense to the Florida natives. The first few months of being open have proven that the town agrees.

Shawn explains, “There are a lot of young people, which is a good demographic in general for gaming as a hobby because it is very economical. You know, get a group of friends together around a table. Even if the game was 40 dollars, that’s weeks of entertainment.”

Danielle Rupinski and Shawn Blake donated their own game collection to Rook and Rogue’s library of over a thousand games. Photo credit: Kali Klotz-Brooks.

Other gaming businesses in town such as The Comics Place, Reset Games and Dark Tower, are great indicators that the gaming culture is already well established in the area. However, Shawn says, “Gaming cafes are a growing trend that didn’t already exist here. We were pretty sure the timing and numbers added up and it would be a working proposition.”

Membership

There are several ways to take advantage of Rook and Rogue’s impressive collection of games. The owners realize that games come in all shapes and sizes, expense and complexity. Because of this there are three different categories of games. The first are the “casual games.”

Shawn explains, “These are available for anyone to come in and play for free. There are 450 plus games in this category. You are going to find a lot of traditional games but some different things as well.”

Rook and Rogue’s fantastic bartenders come up with a new cocktail daily! Photo courtesy: Rook and Rogue Board Game Pub.

Next, you have the “hobby games.” This category is what you turn to when you feel like you are getting the hang of board game basics and are looking for something a little more complex and strategic. These games you can access by paying a $5 monthly fee, or $50 annually. Through annual memberships you also gain the ability to reserve tables. On busy Friday and Saturday nights, this perk is worth the few extra bucks.

“But wait, there is more!” exclaims Danielle. The last category consists of “grail games.”

“Anything that makes a game unusual from its size or complexity or availability lives in that section,” Shawn explains. “They are even bigger, take longer to play, tend to be more expensive, have moving parts, lots of miniatures or hand painted items. We also fold in with that our library of role-playing games.”

This membership costs $10 monthly or $100 annually. Pam puts it this way, “When you get to this point, some of these games are so expensive and you’ve never played it before, why would you go buy a $250 game and find out you don’t like it? For $10 a month you can try every game in this building and then decide what you do and don’t like and want to buy for yourself.”

Rook and Rogue opened at the end of May on W Magnolia St. Photo credit: Kali Klotz-Brooks.

In addition to their vast library of games, Rook and Rogue has a variety of tasty libations and food offerings. Their beers are local and the cocktails all have nerdy names like “Rum Weasley” and “Zombicide” to spark your curiosity. “We have pub food with a higher focus on sharables,” Danielle says. “We are focusing on things that would be okay to play with. But being a gamer, I don’t really care about my game getting messy.”

However, the atmosphere of the restaurant is far from the stereotypical cluttered, basement-game-room vibe you might imagine. With large comfy booths, a high ceiling and striking light fixtures, the space is welcoming to all crowds. “We have adults that come in here and play mousetrap. I am talking grown men in their 30s wearing business suits sitting at the bar drinking manhattans,” Pam giggles.

Also note that the board game pub is indeed open to all ages. “Kids are cute! We have so many kids games,” says Laura. “Start them young.”

When asked about future plans, Laura’s eyes light up. “I would like to see us expand into having private rooms available that are themed and cool … with secret doors!”

Danielle adds, “We want to expand our nerdesphere but we really like all the other local nerd businesses. We aren’t trying to take over the world.”

Meet the owners of Bellingham’s newest pub. Photo credit: Crystal Garcia.

In the meantime, Rook and Rogue plans on incorporating two weekly game nights – a basic game night where anyone can come play and a ladies-only night.

The group is proud to be mostly ladies themselves and have worked with many notable woman to make Rook and Rogue come together. Pam explains, “The best part is that we are in with SaviBank, which is sort of woman-based as well.”

Within their building alone they work alongside DVSAS (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services) and Northwest Yarns. “It’s been wonderful to work with other ladies to get things done,” Danielle says. “We have a lot of great lady connections.”

Visit Rook and Rogue Board Game Pub’s website for hours of operation, membership sign-up and access to their blog. Or visit the pub in person with a few friends! Try one of the fun cocktails and play a new game. With the help of Rook and Rogue’s friendly, informative staff, you’ll consider yourself a “gamer” in no time.

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