Been visiting my folks in Sacramento, and because they are relatively new to this city, it means I get to explore things as well (and with a full time babysitter taking care of the daughter!)
Downtown Sacramento and Big Brother Comics
I got explore near downtown Sacramento one day, and after hitting a few thrift stores, I visited Big Brother Comics. Store was great! Huge selection of comics, lots of eye candy around the shop (like an old gumball type machine full of pink muscles!), shelves full of all the current board games, and more than few RPGs (but only of the D&D / Pathfinder / Star Wars varieties). Only one dude was working there at the time, but he was pretty friendly, and knew exactly where to take me to find things. I'm not a big comic guy, but love the occasional graphic novel, and was itching to buy Jason Lutes' Berlin. They also got two rooms of tables in the back dedicated to gaming, and apparently get good card game (a la Magic) and RPG business.
Great Escape Games
After a random farmers market and a slew of additional thrift stores, I headed to Great Escape Games, which is about 10 minutes out of downtown Sac. God DAMN that's a great game store. They specialize in miniatures, board games, and RPGs, and have plenty of each of those. RPGs are my thing, and I was pleasantly surprised by their extensive selection, including some indie stuff, and picked up a copy of Blades in the Dark (the John Harper production for which I missed the Kickstarter).
The store has as much, or quite possibly more space dedicated just to gaming. The back of the shop is full of tables made for miniature warfare, tournaments, a room with 4 tables for RPGs, and another section for pick up games and board games. I saw a couple of D&D games going on, and another table was about to start a session of something Savage Worlds related, but they already were full. I ended up getting into a pickup game of Settlers of Catan with some local friendlies, and got my gaming fix.
I Attack the Darkness (Meetup)
In preparation to game in the area, knowing I'd be here for about two weeks, I reached out to some folks, and joined a few meetups. The most active one that looks like it hits most of the right marks is I Attack The Darkness. They're located in the San Francisco / Bay Area in general, but there appears to be a Sacramento faction of gamers lodged in there. They're also very D&D specific, but I suppose to be expected in most parts.
After my Catan game, I ran into one of the aforementioned D&D GMs, and struck up a conversation. Turns out this was Tamir, one of the organizers of the I Attack the Darkness meetup! I got to meet him and Selena, his partner who originally started the meetup. They originally created it to replace their RPG gaming group, and now a few years later they are nearing on 1,000 members in the meetup.
We did an informal interview so they'd feel comfortable with me GMing under their banner, as they are very much advocates in ensuring a safe table for meetup. This made me even more confident that the group was the right one to be a part of! By that time it was late and the store was closing, so we parted ways.
The Game Room Adventure Cafe
Last time we were here in El Dorado Hills, there was a sign for a game cafe that was to be opening up. Obviously we were excited. The Game Room Adventure Cafe is still in its early days, but you can see the love put into it.
The two owners, Matt and Ben, are both very friendly and motivated. They've built an escape room which is evocative and well designed. Depending on the night, the escape room is either $25 or $30 / person, and that gives you an hour of timed madness.
The space is not very large, but houses a small kitchen which serves some simple hot food and great coffee, two large shelves of the newest board games (and D&D books), a large shelf which is the free-to-play game library, and four very large rectangular tables that can serve well for the space needed to play intense board games and RPGs. These tables could actually be split into 8 large square tables as needed.
Currently they don't charge to enter, except for certain events or when they are full. For example, Tuesday and Thursday nights are D&D Adventure League nights, and they charge $5 entry for those events. That said, they also give you a $5 discount on D&D related purchases after paying that entry, so you can easily recoup the charge by making a purchase.
Escape Room: "The Machine"
On one afternoon, me wife and I scheduled an escape room session at the Game Room Adventure Cafe. We brought my parents (not really looking forward to it) and my daughter (really looking forward to it).
Although I've been to about 4 of these in the past, this one has a really interesting design I haven't seen before. The escape room starts by splitting your party into two separate rooms. You can communicate with each other over the wall, and as you might guess, you sometimes have to work together to figure out how to open the doors, which let you continue into the next room. In the last room, you all work together to try and escape.
The ambiance is great, and the puzzles are on par with other really good escape rooms I've done in the past. If you are a fan of such things, this is a good one! They've also programmed various settings using sophisticated electronics, so have a number of difficulty levels, and plan to introduce other modes (such as room vs. room modes), to extend the lifespan of the room, and helps with replay-ability.
We got through the first rooms and into the next, but then failed there. The daughter found the clue we needed to proceed, but we didn't have enough time. She's begging to go back again!