Worlds Apart Games a hidden gem in Amherst

By Jeff Mitchell

It would be hard to ignore the flyers plastered in bathroom stalls and stairwells advertising for Worlds Apart Games. For some it might fade into the scenery, but for others the intrigue might be enough to merit investigation.

If you have finally grown tired of playing video games by yourself in your dorm room and want to interact with real people in order to better enjoy competition, this local establishment might be the perfect blend for those who want to play their favorite games in the inviting atmosphere of peers.

This store is nestled in between the fire station and High Horse at 48 North Pleasant Street #B2. It‘s easy to miss; the only indicator for the store is a sign pointing down a flight of stairs into the basement setting of Worlds Apart Games.

The interior of the store is a humble departure from some of the more frequently visited establishments on North Pleasant. Patrons sit in the dimly lit, minimally decorated store talking, rolling dice and laughing in folding chairs on a typical weekday afternoon.

Lining the shelves are all sorts of unexpected board games, certainly not the typical Monopoly or Twister fare. Many of these games the average person may never have played or even heard of. Fortunately, a line of tables fill the back of the store for demo testing, where you can play a library of over 100 games before you purchase them. Even on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, you can see a couple of friends clustered around one of the tables.

Another way Worlds sets itself apart is by existing as a game collective rather than a typical retail storefront. General Manager Kiernan Gulick-Sherrill explained, “[The store] is run the same as a food co-op. People work for membership or buy in with dues … every member has a say in the store decisions.” These dues cover membership for two months, one year, lifetime and eternal (which, as the web brochure helpfully tells us, is “Perfect for time lords, zombies, Planeswalkers and others for whom death is merely inconvenient), which range from $20 to $200. Volunteers can cover store hours, help with setup, marketing or anything else the store needs. As a co-op, Worlds Apart Games is not-for-profit, and any money that would be profit goes back into events. Kiernan said, “The more money we make, the better News Year’s Eve party we have.”

Worlds Apart Games originated out of Phoenix Games in Sunderland. Gulick-Sherrill said, “Regulars at the store bought out the inventory and opened a collectively volunteer run store.” In regards to the new location, Gulick-Sherril said, “We are within walking distance of two colleges and on bus routes … Sunderland was a poor location.”

Worlds Apart Games also acts as an alternative social scene for people to connect and socialize in a setting that matches their interests. Gulick- Sherril said, “It is a space for people who don’t want to go out to a bar. We have events every day of the week.”

For the holiday season, the top sellers were Dominion, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. Dominion is a strategy card game, while Settlers of Catan is a civilization-building board game series, and Ticket to Ride is a board game series based around collecting train cars and routes to connect to cities.

Not all games are this structured. For those who appreciate humorous flair, there is the card game “We Didn’t Playtest This At All,” which has almost no rules and games can end instantly or continue for about 10 minutes. This zany twist of a game is cheap, too, at only $10.

Worlds Apart has hosted events with UMass’ Game Hobbyists League and the Excalibur Club at Hampshire College. The UMass GHL meets every Wednesday night and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays in the Campus Center. Worlds Apart Games also hosts “Friday Night Magic” every Friday night from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Some people might run to a big box store expecting a larger variety of games, it turns out they would be mistaken. Gulick-Sherrill said that many board games they have are not featured at Walmart and other larger stores. Gulick-Sherrill believes gamers should purchase from Worlds Apart rather than online competitors, such as Amazon because it would “support local business and economy” and “support a place to play these games.”

Gulick-Sherrill also works as a full-time computer technician; his role as general manager at the gaming collective is entirely voluntary.

This nine-year-old business has high expectations for the future with a growing fan base.

“Every year the numbers of volunteers and local regulars are expanding,” said Gulick-Sherril. With a volunteer work force and a general manager that plays the games that he sells, Worlds Apart Games has a distinctly local feel blended with a devotion to having people play together.

Jeff Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]