• Alexander Aibel

Hex & Community

Updated: Mar 3

Gamers and geeks of Morningside Heights frequent Broadway’s coziest coffee spot.

By Alexander Aibel


Returning to Hex & Company for the ninth time this school year, I nearly sobbed as I glanced at an empty case: The Pokémon Voltage packs had been cleared out. I supposed I had bought an obscene amount over the past couple of weeks, so this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, the search for a rainbow Pikachu continued.


That blustery February afternoon, I was enthusiastically greeted by Emily, known in the store and on her nametag as C-Lion. It's hard to see what’s usually such a vibrant store less populated; I’m used to walking in on Dungeons and Dragons tournaments or Pokémon wars. But that was only the second day after Hex’s reopening—for months, indoor dining sanctions prohibited its sit-down café from operating


My initial plan was just to buy more Pokémon cards, but, while browsing the store, I decided to ask C-Lion about the store’s history and Covid-induced transition from its bustling past. Hex & Co. opened about three years ago, and Kickstarter campaigns have helped the café through some tough financial situations, especially in the past few months. Small-dollar donors choose to pitch in largely because Hex is a community anchor: The store hosts weekly after-school programs for kids, Dungeons & Dragons tournaments, Pathfinder tournaments, and more.


Every time I visit Hex, I marvel at their absurd array of board games—there’s even a Godfather game based on the movie. Hex also has options for disciples of the video, rather than the board. C-Lion pointed out the “fan games” based on popular films and TV shows as an easy grab for unfamiliar customers.


“If you're a fan of Firefly, we have a Firefly game. If you like Game of Thrones, we have a Game of Thrones Game,” C-Lion said, gesturing toward an array of shelved boxes. “Battlestar Galactica, we have two—one of those is rare.”


Illustration by Samia Menon

While Hex boasts an impressive inventory and a comfortable place to partake of it, what seems to bring people back are its employees, cheerily welcoming all of their customers and getting them excited to release their inner geek. Whether you have a question or want to fawn over a particularly obscure and perhaps social-suicidal game without shame, the staff is there for you. C-Lion certainly relishes working at Hex as much as I enjoy visiting. “I get to chat about games and Magic gossip and stuff while I’m on the job,” she said. “We'll play the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, Final Fantasy soundtrack. … It is highly tailored for the people that would want to work here. It’s definitely rewarding for that kind of person.”


Even for the board game novice, a great time awaits at Hex. C-Lion attributes much of its lively atmosphere to the Columbia students who frequent the store. And interactions between students and neighborhood denizens only enhances the community. “It’s also the people, the teachers living around here, the people who live around here, lots of kids. Like I said, we have an after-school program. We do a summer camp,” C-Lion said. Hex recruits quite young.


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