Despite the lack of game stores in Turlock, there are game stores in Modesto and Tracy. Utopia Games and Collectibles in Modesto may provide gamers with a closer outlet for their interests but some may look to Tracy and Blackrowan Games for their gaming fix. Blackrowan Games looks to establish a community in gaming while providing the closest Free RPG Day festivities.
Free RPG (Roleplaying Game) Day is an event that aims to provide “high quality gaming event opportunities to game stores around the world” and takes place every October.
Blackrowan Games is owned and operated by Christine and Noel Mabry who have lived in Tracy for 15 years.
“I worked locally and [Noel] worked from home,” said Christine Mabry. “And then, we decided we had too many games in our personal collection and we needed to open a game store.”
The store name and logo is a personal story for the Mabrys.
“Rowan was our dog. She was almost 19 [years old] when she passed and was the greatest dog ever,” said Christine Mabry. “Noel plays his video games under the name Blackrowan and so we always knew we wanted to name a business after the dog.”
The store even features dog related items like dog cookies, “dog butt hooks” to hang jackets on, and other nods to dogs. The Mabrys also make sure to get dog games for the store.
“This is the second time we have done Free RPG Day,” said Noel Mabry. “The first time happened to be during lockdown. It was right after we were just able to open for retail.”
The event did not get to happen in person that first time but they were able to come in to pick up the Free RPG Day adventures.
“We were really excited for this year,” said Noel Mabry. “Of those, five fired off which was really good. I think the day went really well.”
These types of events are the things that the Mabrys like to host in the store.
“Free RPG Day is a program coordinated by a company that works with different RPG developers to put together kits,” said Christine Mabry. “It is a lot like Free Comic Book Day but instead of passing out free comic books, we pass out free RPGs.”
“And have roleplaying game sessions,” added Noel Mabry.
“The idea is that you make it welcome for anyone,” said Christine Mabry. “We had veteran [players] and new players. We had a [game master] come down from Sacramento to run a game and another came from Pleasant Hill.”
She mentioned that one of the Game Masters in attendance was a tabletop and board game reviewer from Turlock known as Logan Chops Reviews.
“On a regular basis, we have lots of people from the Modesto and Turlock area for events,” said Christine Mabry.
There was also a Stanislaus State student who stopped by Free RPG Day.
“I came in for Free RPG Day, “ said Andrew Haugland, Senior in Communications Studies at Stanislaus State. “I found a Starfinder adventure to possibly run.”
Haugland was also the first customer of Blackrowan games when they opened two years ago this past September 24th. His connection to the store is more than just being the first.
“I am not here all that often but I still feel like one of the guys,” said Haugland. “I show up and they are friendly. They know my name. My brother comes here and they ask how he is doing. Stuff like that.”
He learned about the opening of Blackrowan Games from a friend.
“I learned from a friend that we were getting a new RPG store that was replacing that old bike store Downtown Tracy,” said Haugland.
He told his friend, “I think it will be really nice. We haven’t had a gaming type store since Kings Comic and Games over by Tracy High.”
On that first day, Haugland decided to buy 13th Age and World Wide Wrestling. These are both roleplaying games that are available at Blackrowan Games but were not games played during the Free RPG Day.
During the Free RPG Day festivities, players were able to take part in adventures from games like The Inn in the Forest, Starfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, Root: The RPG, and Epic Encounters.
Blackrowan Games has various upcoming events both in-store and on location.
“We do conventions and we are really excited about Board Game Extravaganza in Modesto,” said Christine Mabry. “We do a lot of traveling to the Bay Area for conventions so it is really nice to have a convention in the Central Valley.”
Board Game Extravaganza is a board and tabletop gaming event that will happen in Modesto November 20 at Modesto Centre Plaza. The Mabrys will have a booth at the event to sell games as well as demo and teach games to those interested in learning new games.
The events calendar for the store shows other events including Digimon Thursday nights as well as Pokemon League, Paint Nights are also on Thursday nights for those that want to learn to paint miniatures, Friday Night Magic, Dungeons and Dragons games on Saturday nights, Starfinder Society on the 3rd Saturdays, and Warhammer Kill Team on Sundays. The store has also started carrying disc golf items.
“I think we fill a specific need in the valley,” said Noel Mabry. “I think you will find a lot of the game stores closeby are very niche. They specialize in card games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon or they are like Warhammer in Modesto that is a Games Workshop store. That is all they do.”
“We are more of a full range game store. We provide lots of room to play [games]. A lot of game stores are not able to get big stores to [provide space for gaming]. We are fortunate that we can provide space,” said Noel Mabry.
The Mabrys pride themselves on their customer service and want to create a community for gaming in the area.
“We greet everyone who comes in,” said Christine Mabry. “We find out if it is there first time here. We do a 30 second store tour to let them know where everything is. We try to connect with them through our social media or have them join our discord to find other players that play the same things they do.”
“We try to personally invite them to events in the store,” Christine Mabry added.
The Mabrys talked about their Google reviews which focus on how nice the owners and staff are.
“The point and really our mission is: Games to bring family, friends and community together,” said Christine Mabry. “We think of ourselves as a gathering place but we do it through games.”