On a recent Saturday, minutes before six o'clock, Muse Comics was bustling. To the left of the entrance, more than a dozen people were huddled at tables playing tournament matches of Magic: The Gathering. One table, though, sat empty.
At six o'clock on the dot, Alan Marr walked in with a tan backpack full of board and card games that he designed himself. He made his way to the empty table, unzipped his bag and pulled out two copies each of his two games: ARC and Relics of Etheria. Marr has spent six years working on these titles, which he released under the brand-name Pint Size Games, and his attention to detail shows. These games look professional, with high quality game pieces and a sprawling game board depicting a map of Etheria, the world in which Relics takes place. As he describes the concept of ARC, a resource-gathering sci-fi card game, participants in the surrounding Magic tournament wander over to handle the pieces and learn the ins and outs of Marr's worlds.
Marr, now 30, says he's played games since high school. He started out running a complex role-playing game of his own design during high school, with players from all over his hometown of Woodbridge, Virginia. Since moving to Missoula in 2012, he's found the perfect testing ground for his self-made fantasy worlds. Last Saturday, at Muse, Marr was holding a final demonstration of his games in Missoula as he got ready to move back home for graduate school.
Despite his East Coast upbringing, Pint Size Games, which he owns and operates by himself, oozes Missoula. Marr says the name's inspiration came from his appreciation for Missoula's brewery scene, in which he hosted board-game nights at local watering holes.
"The good thing that beer does, in my opinion, is bringing people together," Marr says. "People socialize around beer, and while you're drinking a beer, why not play a board game?"
Marr perfected Relics by relentlessly testing new versions with friends and family. Over the past six years, he's altered the game's rules, art and play style through continuous trial and error, sometimes to the chagrin of his testers. Nevertheless, Marr's brother, Andy, a 32-year-old sales representative based in Virginia, says he still finds himself impressed with his brother's work. He says the hours Alan has poured into his games are manifest in the playing.
Marr's imminent move back to Virginia means expanding his network of supporters. He currently sells his work through The Game Crafter, an online service that prints DIY board games on-demand. He says he hopes to lower the games' prices, which are set by Game Crafter, to reach a wider audience. (Relics of Etheria retails for $49.99, and ARC for $14.99.) A third Pint Size title is in the planning phase. Marr isn't ready to describe that one yet.