by Amy Crocker

Today at 3:30 the grand re-opening of Just Awesome, devoted to classic and new board games, goes down.. The store first opened in Noe Valley in December 2008 and moved to its current West Portal spot in October. The bigger location allows the store to carry more varied games designed for both children and adults. The store also has open tables for game-testing everything from "Munchkin" to "Settlers of Catan" to top-selling "Dominion."

Just Awesome owner Erik Mantsch hopes that by allowing customers to play games before purchase, they will be more willing to break out of the Monopoly-Clue-Risk rut.

"Say you need gift, you could get him ‘Sorry’ or you could get ‘Order Up’ the pizza delivery game," Mantsch said, pulling a bright red and yellow box from the shelf. In "Order Up," one must deliver the right toppings to the right houses and collect the tip before the other players.

Mantsch saw the positive influence of social games while serving in the Air Force in 2004. For downtime, most soldiers would play on their phones or read alone in the corner. Mantsch found Yahtzee in a recreation tent and soon had everyone laughing together and excitedly cheering over the dice. While overseas, he also learned "Thalatha" from an Iraqi boy. Played with six stones, the game is like tic-tac-toe but it can’t end in a tie. Upon returning to the states, Mantsch designed and now sells a portable "Thalatha" (which means "three" in Arabic).

Just Awesome hosts adult board game nights every Thursday at 7 p.m.
320 West Portal Avenue (at 14th Avenue)
Sunday-Thursday: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Friday - Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM