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Looking for some fun at home? How about the board game Pandemic?

People in the Chicago area with nothing but time on their hands are flocking to stores to pick up traditional board games, puzzles and hobby kits.

Andrew Wrobel grabs a copy of Pandemic, a cooperative board games he’s been eyeing up for a while now, at Good Games at 1145 W. Webster Ave., Thursday, March 19, 2020.
Andrew Wrobel grabs the board game Pandemic at Good Games, 1145 W. Webster Ave.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

You’ve taken all of the grim news you can handle for the day. So you turn off the TV and settle down with the family around something that conjures a more care-free era: A board game.

What do you choose?

If you’re like a lot of people in the Chicago area, you’re playing Pandemic, the collaborative game that asks players, “Can you save humanity?”

Craig Marney, store manager at Good Games Chicago on West Webster in Lincoln Park, says he’s sold out of the popular board game.

“Everyone has been buying it,” Marney said Thursday. “I just restocked [Wednesday], after we just got bought out completely. There are several different versions and people are just flocking to it.”

The reason, Marney said, is perhaps psychological.

“The wonderful, fantastical nature of board games is that in your imagination, at least, you can take control of the situation,” he said.

The game Pandemic along with a variety of other board games hangs on shelves at Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo at 5550 N. Broadway Ave., Thursday, March 19, 2020.
The game Pandemic among other board games at Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo, 5550 N. Broadway Ave.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Puzzles are also selling well, he said.

“We’ve always sold a reasonable amount of puzzles, just because of where we are — we have a lot of family and young children around here — but it really ramped up over the weekend and the early part of this week,” he said.

And nostalgia has played a part in what people are buying. Monopoly sets are selling well.

“Which is crazy because it often leads to arguments,” Marney said.

Sales have also been brisk at Chicagoland Games: Dice Dojo in Edgewater, even though they have been recently operating on reduced hours.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘traffic,’ because people come in very quickly and buy their stuff,” said store owner Alex Dunning. “We went from a place where people spend all day gathering and playing to a place people come into for five minutes, make a very quick purchase and go home.”

Dunning said it’s been “very, very hard” on customers accustomed to hanging and talking about their shared passion.

“It’s mostly community — it’s finding people who like what you like,” he said. “If you’re a Star Trek guy or a Star Wars guy or you have a strong opinion on [a particular] board game, you can come here and yell about it.”

Dunning said his store has a “very limited” supply of Pandemic in stock.

“There is an element of the macabre,” Dunning said, noting Pandemic is his store’s top-selling game.

But it’s more than that.

“In the Pandemic game, you are the research scientist trying to save the world,” Dunning said. “So you’re not like vicious scientists trying to outdo each other. You’re trying to save everybody. There’s a sense of working together. There’s a sense of making progress.”

Model kits, with hundreds of tiny parts, are also selling well, Dunning said. So are games that might stretch on into the night, for people who have, as Dunning said, “got nothing but time.”