The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Critical Hit makes space for tabletop gamers

Iowa City’s core tabletop games store has been providing a communal spot for players of all interests and experience levels to meet, play, and enjoy their hobbies.
Ava Neumaier
Patrons of Critical Hit Games play a board game during a Magic: The Gathering event on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. The local community meets almost every night for events, leagues and tournaments hosted by Critical Hit Games.

Walking down the stairs to Critical Hit Games’ basement game room feels like entering another world. Surrounded by games, merchandise and decorations of all kinds, anyone’s first step into the store immediately recognizes the variety of interests it serves.

Critical Hit Games, located at 115 S. Linn St., has been an Iowa City tabletop store since 2005 and, from its conception, it has provided a space that fans of all facets of gaming can call their own.

“Our four big pillars are card games, miniature gaming, board games, and roleplaying games,” the store’s owner Chance Kirchhof said. “We reflect the interests of our community.”

Kirchhof has co-owned Critical Hit Games with Wayne Hoover since 2015. It has always been his goal to provide a place for players to gather and collaborate, serving the same purpose game stores did when he was younger.

Several long tables take up a majority of Critical Hit Games’ basement space, indicative of their emphasis on being a spot to play just as much as buy.

“There are several hobby and game stores around, but they primarily just sell. This place has always had gaming tables,” regular customer Michael Gannon said.

A large appeal of tabletop gaming comes from its social aspect. Having a space to play games also means meeting new people to play those games with.

“It’s a hobby overall. But it’s also a social experience because you’re actually playing with a person,” Gannon said.

The basement location of Critical Hit Games harkens back to classic memories of tabletop gaming for both Kirchhof and Gannon.

“A lot of [the stores in my youth] were in basements too. We were very lucky to get this space here downtown,” Kirchhof said.

Even if a town doesn’t have a dedicated gaming shop, there are usually other means to participate in the hobby separately. Having a dedicated area makes finding groups of like-minded hobbyists much easier, though.

While finding these groups can be challenging for some, Critical Hit Games makes sure groups are beginner-friendly.

“We have reservations every night, some groups have been playing here for over 10 years,” Kirchhof said. “One of the main requirements of getting a reservation here is that you’re always welcoming to new players.”

Heading up the Warhammer players, Gannon remembers being a newcomer to the tabletop gaming scene. As the leader of the group, he now makes sure it is always welcoming to curious players.“If you want to learn how to play the game, just ask,” Kirchhof said.

Iowa City poses a unique challenge for the game store. Every year, new students arrive wanting to explore new hobbies, and the store tries to cater to them.

“We have a well-balanced staff so we can meet the needs of a well-balanced community,” Kirchhoff said.

From antique toys and arcade cabinets to video games and collectibles, everyone’s interests are present at Critical Hit Games.

Providing a space for new and old players alike and making sure all corners of the community are represented in the store is key to the success of Critical Hit Games, Kirchhof said.

“It’s all about growing the community,” Kirchhof said.

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About the Contributors
Charlie Hickman
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.
Ava Neumaier
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.