About a month ago, while I was visiting Portland, OR, my friend Russ invited me to a game night at Cloud Cap Games, a well-stocked local game shop that can be rented out for parties. It was hard choosing which games to play, but in the end I had a blast playing Reverse Charades7 Wonders, and Word on the Street. The staff at Cloud Cap are awesome (and demonstrated a great deal of patience as we tried to understand the somewhat complicated rules of 7 Wonders), and the shop itself is like a candy store for your brain!

James Brady is the owner of Cloud Cap, and he generously agreed to answer my questions about the shop, what makes a good game night, and how to use games to get out of a bad mood.

Everybody’s Invited!: Why did you open Cloud Cap Games? What was the inspiration?

James Brady: I opened Cloud Cap because I love games and game stores, but I did not like any of the game stores in the Portland area. I have fond memories of a few different game/toy stores in the neighborhoods where I grew up. The game stores in Portland are very good at what they do, which is cater to customers whose primary hobby is playing games. Unfortunately this creates stores that scare off more casual gamer players and families. I wanted a game store that felt like a toy store, with comfortable play space and a focus on games for a wide variety of interests and ages. [Editor's note: This is exactly what I loved about the store!]

EI!: When you host groups of people in your play space, you provide a selection of games to choose from. What’s the thought process that goes into selecting that group of games? What advice would you give to someone who is planning a game night?

JB: Choosing games for different groups is never easy. Age is of course our first consideration. After that, play time, complexity, and player interaction are major factors. Shorter games with significant player interaction and limited choices are best for most groups. For groups that prefer games with more complexity, we consider the number of options a player might have on a given turn, and try to match that with the group’s level of game play experience. Some games provide lots of choices and can be a bit overwhelming for many.

As far as advice to someone planning a game night, I guess I would advise to start by first identifying whether the group is at all interested in playing strategy games. If even one person is not interested in strategy games, attempting to play one could ruin the evening for that person. In this case I recommend playing some party games (like Apples to ApplesDixit, or Telestrations) or some short card games, especially ones with a sense of humor (like Guillotine or Killer Bunnies). For a group that is interested in strategy games, I recommend getting a sense of the types of games they have played before and choosing a game to play based on that. Pay very close attention to the game duration, more than 90 minutes is not enjoyable for many.

EI!: You specialize in board games, card games, and puzzles. How do you feel about video games?

JB: I really enjoy video games, but I also feel that they can be dangerous for some. They provide a level of stimulation unmatched by any other form of entertainment, they are very passive, and they provide no valuable social interaction. Having said that, they are a blast to play. But given the choice, I’d rather play a tabletop game with friends than stare at a screen all night.

EI!: What has been most surprising to you about running Cloud Cap?

JB: I think the most surprising thing about running the shop is the immediate and overwhelming positive response. The community has been extremely supportive and we have actually had to pace our growth. Despite the novelty of our products, many are willing to give them a try, many more than we expected at this point.

EI!: What’s the best game for getting out of a bad mood? Best game to play while taking a break from studying? Best first date game?

JB: Hmmm, currently the best game for getting out of a bad mood is probably Telestrations because it can create some hilarious situations, especially when people try to crash the game. For taking a break from studying, Dominion is hard to beat, its plays quick and requires a good amount of thought to pull off a win, just enough concentration to get your mind off the studies, but not so much as to be exhausting. For a first date, I would highly recommend Yikerz, which is a fairly new game for us, but its a fast physical game using magnets that easily creates laughs and screams.