Well, not quite. It’s Thursday evening in the Games Workshop on Dublin’s Liffey Street, where a dozen or so maladjusted male teens and twentysomethings are slugging it out on tabletop sci-fi and fantasy games. The games have names like Warhammer, Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft. This shop doesn’t just sell the paraphernalia: the model figurines, the terrains, the glossy character back-stories. It also provides a space in which players can get together, paint their figurines and, well, not get the shit kicked out of them I suppose.
Many have taken time off work to maximise their playing time today.
“These guys here are called Tyranids,” says Richie (21), pointing at one set of troll-like toy soldiers. “They’re this, like, alien race that comes from another galaxy. They basically land on a planet and kill every living thing on it. I don’t just mean plants and animals. They eat the atmosphere. They drink the oceans. There’s nothing left at all when these guys are done.”
“These other guys here, they’re the Space Marines. They’re genetically engineered, so they don’t die of old age. They’re, like, about nine feet tall and five feet wide. And they’re trained from the day they’re born to do battle against the enemies of mankind.”
Six month ago, Richie left a job in the Civil Service to accept a lower paid position here in the Games Workshop. His middle class parents, one imagines, probably had other ambitions for their son. But he just can’t get enough of tabletop gaming.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant job,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything like it to be honest. There’s the collecting aspect, obviously. There’s the whole fantasy side of things too. But, mostly, it’s just about having your mates around and pitting your armies against each other.”
“What could possibly be better?” he asks.
Well, sex, literature, country walks, good food, fine wine, friends, family and the laughter of small children…
But, sure, I’m here. So we might as well have a crack at it.
Richie suggests a game of Lord of the Rings, assuming I’ll be familiar with the characters. (I’m not.) He gets the colours out and grants me licence to decorate my team as I see fit. I paint the figurines green with bright red hoops across their chests. Richie seems confused.
“Is this some GAA thing?” he asks eventually.
“Erm, possibly…” I concede.
Attempting to explain the rules of the game would be an exercise in futility. Sufficed to say, it involves a certain amount of dice-rolling, a certain amount of manual-consulting and a hell of a lot of taking Richie at his word.
In spite of their county allegiance, my men prove surprisingly accurate shots and Richie’s ranks quickly diminish. At every turn, my host provides an accompanying sound effect and commentary. I roll a five.
“A five! Yes, a five! One of your goblins lunges forward, knocks out one of Gandalf’s knees, takes the dagger and plunges it deep into his neck. Blood spurts everywhere… He’s slain! Gandalf is slain!”
The inanimate figurines on the table are motionless. But such is Richie’s enthusiasm, I feel obliged to feint some excitement for their exploits.
Eventually, and much to my bewilderment, I emerge victorious. “Well done, man,” Richie enthuses as I stand up to leave. “Not bad for a beginner. Could you see yourself maybe taking it up as a hobby yourself?” Possibly, I lie. You never know, like.
I walk home, turn on my laptop and sit down to write an account of what has just happened. It’s only then it really dawns on me. I have absolutely no idea.