Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Friendly Local Game Stores

I'm a big fan of supporting local game stores.  Always have been, always will be. They've always been the center of my gaming life.

But I don't suggest blindly just going to whatever store happens to be closest.  Find a store where you're comfortable. And, of course, make sure that the store suits your needs.

I'm very lucky.  Living in the Seattle area, there are a number of good game stores. I've visited most of them, and I've very rarely been disappointed.

For me, I need a game store with a good board game selection. Ideally, the store will either have a decent RPG selection, too, but that's secondary.  If they can order games, that's usually good enough for me.

Phoenix Games in Mukilteo suits most of my needs (and has the added advantage of being close). I've also bonded well with Uncle's Games (which has multiple locations).

Recently, however, I was reminded why I like these two stores so well. You see, a new game store opened close enough to my office that I can visit on my lunch break and still have time to eat lunch.  So I went to scope it out (which I do every time I find out about a new game store). And I was unimpressed.

When I walked in, there were three people in the store. Two of them were chatting at the counter, and the third was lounging against the counter, listening to the conversation.  It was a couple of minutes before I was greeted, and the greeting was lukewarm.

Their selection also left me underwhelmed.

I am of the opinion that a game store should have a few copies of Monopoly. Maybe a variant or two. Copies of Sorry or Aggravation are also good ideas, even if they can't compete with Target's pricing on the mass-market games - these games help non-gamers accept the legitimacy of the game store. Yes, I'm serious.

This store? It had at least thirty different Monopoly versions. And three versions of Jenga and four different Yahtzee versions.  And some chess sets, helpfully labeled, "Do Not Play With The Chess Sets."  They had some more modern games, but the selection underwhelmed. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and a smattering of expansions for the games, and a small handful of other games - all of which were either popular mass-market games or are extremely popular on BoardGameGeek.

Their RPG selection was also odd ... they had a full shelf of Wizards of the Coast-produced 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons books (which went out of print in 2007). And a smattering of other RPG supplements (and an odd shortage of core books).

I didn't see any demo copies. That doesn't mean they weren't there, mind you. But I don't think they were.  You see, the tables in the back had a little sign on them. "Tables are for scheduled demos and events only."  And the chairs were all up on the tables.

Demos and events are the lifeblood of a game store.  Phoenix Games has a different event nearly every day of the week. So does Uncle's. But when there's not an event (or when a scheduled event isn't using all the available table space), the tables are available for open play.

All in all, the experience was unwelcoming.

I wasn't sure if it was just my own prejudices affecting my perception, however, so I sent my wife in to check it out. Her perceptions almost perfectly mimicked my own.

If it were the only game store in town, I might frequent it. Maybe. But I'd probably still be hosting game night in my apartment. And I'd buy a lot more games online than I do now.

Which is to say: I don't blame people for buying online. Sometimes there just isn't another viable option.

But I still suggest buying local if at all possible.


  1. Anonymous10:08 AM

    Have you checked out the new Card Kingdom/Cafe Mox combo in Ballard? Pretty nice...

  2. Not yet - I have a buddy who is trying to sell it to me, too.

    Maybe after GenCon and PAX, when I have a free weekend or two ...

  3. Blue Highway Games - Queen Anne is one of the best stores I have ever been to in terms of gaming space, staffing, and selection. Gary's has more games (operating on the 'order one copy of everything' approach), but BHG has a growing library with all sorts of goodies, from PR and Settlers to Quarriors, Asara, London, and Star Trek: Expeditions.