One day Wally Hnatiw came out of the University Theater on Bloor and saw a store he’d never seen before. On the second floor across the street was a store called Mr. Gameways’ Ark. This was the 70s and he’d never seen a store only for games. When it moved around the corner on Yonge St. into an old three story postal station from 1906, he become intimately associated with it.
There were four main game stores in the early 80s. Three of them hated each others guts. The Worldhouse with Alex Von Thorn got along with everybody. Down the street from Mr. Gameways’ Ark (MGA) at The Four Horsemen, not too much love. At The Battered Dwarf (the Dwarf) with John Dunn at Parliament & Carlton, same thing. Those three stores were in a triangle of dislike. They’d hire each others employees and generally talk smack about each other to customers. When MGA went bankrupt, the crew from The Four Horsemen were buying stock at fifty percent off to sell from their own store. They were out of business a month later.
Wally and his wife Karen Jenkner ran a company called Dungeon Parties Inc. They rented DMs to parties for $20. They kept $10. One of the most bloodthirsty groups ever for Wally was a party of ten year old girls, who were thrilled to pile on and try to beat to death a dwarf, whose soul function at the very beginning of the game was to give directions.
He was also a guiding member of the Full Spectrum Gaming Club (FSGC) on the third floor of MGA. It was co-run with Ron Papin, who was a part of a scene of drama when Wally went to one of the owners of the MGA to ask for his 100 votes. The issue was whether the players fees should be split between MGA and the FSGC or MGA and Ron Papin.
There were regulars at the FSGC. One was “Gameways Eugene” who might get angry at losing at Rail Barron, tear up the cards, realized he’d been a jerk, and go into the store to buy the owner a new copy. Other more conventional members were Eric McGillicuddy, Doug Richards, George Duff, and Ron Green. The Dwarf had a club too with one member named Duncan Kaye. The FSGC had space for “monster games” on the third floor right beside the scale replica, car battery powered bridge of the NCC-1701-A USS Enterprise that people came to see. (And which was a holdover from the first Star Trek convention Toronto ever had in 1976 at the Royal York Hotel.) The monster games would be something akin to SPI’s War In The East, the size of a ping pong table, and could go on for months.
In an earlier post I said I’d found The Toronto Fantasy Games Club in 1983 at Harbourfront. It was run by the Dwarf on Wednesdays at 6pm. On the weekends Wally ran another game club at Harbourfront in The Loft on the second floor. The first time had 120 people. The next week there were 60. This lead to Wally creating D&D Summer Camp at Harbourfront once a summer for two weeks, when he was on vacation and could find the time. They had lead figure painting workshops and guest author speakers. This is what Cory Doctorow was talking about in his Boing Boing post I cited earlier. The event coordinator, Liz Rainsbury, wanted the kids to take some exercise and so provided a soccer ball for dodgeball. None of the kids wanted to exercise. Exercise bad! The idea was dropped.
A few years of this and the realization that Hexacon ’82 was not going to be Hexacon ’83 or Hexacon ’84, he decided to start an event called Pandemonium. He and his wife ran it for two years and then handed it over to The General Staff.
The first Pandemonium was in the Rabina Hall at St. Clair & Oakwood. The next and subsequent events were at Ryerson. I remember going to it in 1994. Pandemonium ’84 was on the coldest day in January. This entry from the events page of White Dwarf magazine Nov. 1984 describes the second outing:
Pandemonium ’84. The Toronto games convention Pandemonium ’84 has given birth! Son of Pandemonium, in downtown Toronto on January 19, 1985, will feature tournaments, an auction, a fun-gaming area and dealers, demonstrations and a miniature painting/diorama contest (several categories). $5 plus $1 per tournament entered. For information call Dungeon Parties Inc.
At Wally’s house he has scads of games and magazines he may be interested in parting with, but I’ll save that for another post. So there you have it. A thumbnail sketch of gaming in Toronto at its height of popularity between 1980 and 1983.