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Falls Church tabletop gaming shop to close this weekend after 45 years

Just off Broad Street in Falls Church, hordes of the verminous Skaven and humans of The Empire fight tooth and nail over a damned city.

On other nights, newcomers can be found learning Magic: The Gathering tricks from wizened masters. Since the 1980s, local adventurers have rallied to go on quests in Dungeons and Dragons and more obscure tabletop games.

After this weekend, the battles and revelry inside The Compleat Strategist (103 East Broad Street) will go silent for good, as the tabletop gaming store shuts down to make way for a Whole Foods-anchored mixed-use development.

The store is closing for good on Saturday (Jan. 23), with all goods now going for 80% off. Much of the inventory is already depleted, but there are still treasures buried among the codexes and outdated rulebooks for those who know what to look for.

The Compleat Strategist manager Adam Fukumitsu says the store has gotten many well wishes since the closure was announced late last month. A lot of patrons have asked how has business been, expecting the store must have been seeing difficulties, but Fukumitsu said that isn’t the case.

“Business has been rocking for two years,” Fukumitsu said. “It was a ghost town last March, but it started coming back by May.”

According to Fukumitsu, after a month or two of quarantine, tabletop gaming saw a surge as locals looked for new activities to keep them sane through lockdown. Board games saw a boost in popularity, and online gaming sites like Roll20 boosted the sale of physical books for players.

“On top of that, D&D came back like a rocket starting in 2015,” Fukumitsu said. “Now, everybody has a D&D group.”

The store opened as Strategy and Fantasy World in 1977 and was bought by the New York-based, family-owned The Compleat Strategist in the 1980s. Fukumitsu has worked at the store since 2013, becoming a manager in 2015.

He says the store being pushed out by redevelopment wasn’t exactly a surprise.

“It was a train we’ve seen coming for a decade now,” Fukumitsu said. “We first heard of it in 2011, but there’ve been weird delays over the years…In 2019 we heard it was going forward and there was a lot of weird push and pull.”

Fukumitsu said at one point the property was eyed for development by Todd Hitt before the real estate scion was arrested and found guilty of being involved in a real estate Ponzi scheme.

In addition to hosting the sale, The Compleat Strategist is commemorating its impending closure with tabletop battles. As more retail moves to digital storefronts, Fukumitsu says the sense of community that gamers can find at brick-and-mortar stores will be difficult to replace.

“The community has been figuring out where they go now,” Fukumitsu said.

Now, he says local gaming groups have plans to go around to peoples’ homes, and one player has talked about getting access to a company-owned warehouse to play.

“We’re getting hit at both ends by Amazon,” Fukumitsu joked. “They’re both eating our lunch in sales and now kicking us off the property…but less online is that play space. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Marc Forbes started visiting the store as a gaming enthusiast before he became an employee in 2016.

“My entire social life was tied up in this place,” Forbes said. “We’re going to try to keep that going after it closes, but it’s going to be harder… I’m really going to miss this place.”

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