EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The trading-card game Magic: The Gathering captured the imagination of Steve Davis almost 30 years ago and has held him captive ever since.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Davis, 47, of Galloway Township, spent some time working from home, but he also spent a period during the last 11 months unemployed.
With Davis’ extra time, he visited Nerdvana Tabletop Games in the English Creek Shopping Center, and based on a recommendation from one of the store’s co-owners, purchased the Splendor Marvel board game.
Davis plays Splendor at home with his wife, but he also plays traditional card games with her, such as rummy.
“I bought Splendor specifically because of the pandemic,” said Davis, who added it can be played with just one other person while other games need at least two other competitors. “It’s more of a distraction with everything going on in the world right now.”
Last spring, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner told CNBC that his company was experiencing strong demand during the pandemic. At Nerdvana, game sales have almost doubled during the pandemic, Heiler said.
Families stuck at home have had a renewed interest in playing games, and that’s benefiting Hasbro and other game sellers. Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering, reported a 21% jump in gaming sales as the result of homebound people looking for ways to occupy their time, CNN Business reported.
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Three years ago, Emily Sauerwald, 20, of Northfield, started playing the fantasy tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. She also began playing the Pandemic Legacy board game three months before the pandemic struck.
Sauerwald said she spent more money on games last year than she did in 2019 as she bought the Betrayal Legacy and SeaFall Legacy board games and the Warhammer tabletop miniature game at Nerdvana. She also developed an interest in the Marvel: Crisis Protocol tabletop miniature game, but that was mostly for painting the miniatures.
“Playing Pandemic Legacy felt a little weird” once the real pandemic started, said Sauerwald. “We said, ‘Let’s switch to something else.’”
Nerdvana is set up so people can play board and tabletop games inside the store. From what Sauerwald has seen, people have only felt comfortable during the last two months standing or sitting indoors at a board table and playing a game for hours.
Charlie Heiler, co-owner of Nerdvana, which has been described as a community center built around games, said her store was closed during the statewide stay-at-home order and closure of all nonessential businesses from March 21 to May 15. The store still did home deliveries from Vineland to Cape May when it was closed.
While the store was closed, Heiler, 30, of Cape May Court House, was in a quarantine group that played Dungeons & Dragons together in person.
Upon entering Nerdvana, customers see a map of the United States hanging on the wall to the left. Pins represent all the cities to which Nerdvana has mailed orders, spread across 48 of the 50 states.
Collectors visit websites such as tcgplayer.com to finds cards for games such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering, Heiler said.
People who play board games realize the sense of community the hobby generates at a time when everyone is separated and looking for community, she said.
“I was shocked. I thought we would be dead when we opened up,” Heiler said.
Contact Vincent Jackson: 609-272-7202