Self-proclaimed geek Jason Dean loves board games.
The South African expat spends hours with his friends playing Magic: The Gathering, the Game of Thrones and Five Tribes.
Previously, enthusiasts like Dean used to enjoy such games at events hosted in people’s homes around Qatar.
But when a lack of space became a problem, he and his Qatari business partner decided to open Cheeky Camel, the country’s first hobby gaming store.
The two men, who work in oil and gas by day, now gather at the shop with other professionals at night to play their favorite games.
Located on Ibn Mahmoud St. near the Jaidah Flyover, the tiny corner store opened in October 2015 and has been steadily wooing customers.
The Cheeky Camel’s bottom floor serves as a retail section of action figures, board games and card games, while the top floor is a communal section with tables that groups can rent out and spend the whole day playing various games.
Gaming in all forms has been catching on in Qatar. In recent years, new businesses such as The Gaming Lounge and anime and manga toy shop Hobby Chan have opened to warm welcomes.
According to Cheeky Camel’s owners, one of the store’s main purposes is to serve as a second home to gamers.
The venue also provides an alternative form of entertainment, which in Qatar, is limited to the movies, malls and restaurants, Dean said.
Elias Khalil, one of the store’s regular players, credited gaming with helping him find his “primary group of friends” when he first came to Qatar.
While the store does order specific games on demand, it doesn’t host Monopoly nights or epic Risk battles.
Instead, board game styles include Ameritrash, which are based off of movies and TV shows, and Euro games that require strategic thinking and logic.
Gateway and dice games such as Marvel and DC-themed ones, Dungeons and Dragons and Pokemon cards also feature heavily.
“It’s super geeky,” said Dean, the store’s coordinator.
So far, people from 18 different nationalities have attended events at the store and utilized its gaming tables, he added.
Cheeky Camel’s owners said they are trying to offer their wares at lower prices than elsewhere around town.
Renting a table for a day can cost anywhere from QR20 to QR80, depending on the type of game, and customers are welcome to play any of the board games stocked in the upstairs library.
A Funko POP figure that usually costs QR109 in other stores is sold for QR75 at Cheeky Camel.
“Why would I price something at a rate that I’m not happy to pay? That’s our main thing,” Dean explained.
“We want to stay very community focused, we don’t want to be known as just a retail store. We don’t want anyone to feel rushed. Have fun, order food, support the other businesses around us,” he added.