When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that local games stores still exist. Online shopping is cheaper and quicker. You can quickly go over to BoardGameGeek.com and find everything you need to know about every board game ever made. Brick and mortar stores have way more overhead costs than an online store and they face the mother of all disadvantages, they have to charge sales tax.
We want as many people in the hobby buying board games and sharing game nights with their friends, so we don’t really care where you purchase the game. It’s great that we have a variety of options to choose from when shopping, and not everyone has a retail store close to them.
There is one major reason why you should consider buying from a retail store though.
If you need a gaming community and a game night location, then shop from your local game store.
Local game stores are great for having a place to play any time in the week with willing gamers. If you can’t start your own game night because no one is interested or if no one has signed up for games in your MeetUp group or Facebook group, a retail store might be the only place you have to go play games. If you do go, be fair and buy your games from the store. That’s the unspoken, unwritten, informal contract you have when you play regularly at a store.
Now when you visit your local game store, you need to understand four things.
1) The store can look shady
Some of the stores we’ve been to look like you’re walking into some kind of fantasy dungeon. They’re dark, not so clean, smelly and have tons of weird posters all over the wall. Many of these stores sell comics and other sorts of unrelated merchandise. It may not be family friendly stuff. This doesn’t mean they may not be open to you gaming there, or aren’t friendly, but it just may not be the environment you want for a game night. Check out the store before you set anything up. Look for them online or on Facebook and try to find pictures of the place. This way you won’t waste a trip.
2) Sometimes the store isn’t friendly
I’ve walked through a local store and was totally ignored by the owner. I was willing to drop a good $75 bucks to buy a game I wanted, but I never got a greeting, and barely even an acknowledgement. There was no request to help find what I needed among all the comics, the magic cards, the miniatures and odd assortment of board games. Needless to say, I walked out after two minutes. Some of these stores oddly just don’t seem to care about getting new business. They may only be focused on the few games that are their big money makers or the ones that bring in the hordes of tournament goers, and if you don’t play those games they won’t care about you. The players can also be like that, with some prioritizing their gaming hobby over showering. Sad, but true. It’s probably the biggest reason why there are so few left. When a store is facing fierce competition from online places like Amazon, the only thing they have left is service, and if they don’t have that, they won’t be a store for long. Avoid these stores, don’t even bother.
3) You will pay almost double
Local game stores will charge you full retail price. This can be almost double what you find on Amazon. But they have to. Running a store takes a lot of overhead. Even with the higher prices, a game store might only make two or three dollars off your $50 board game. Smart game stores know this and will work to provide that valuable service that will keep you coming back for more. Which brings us to point four.
4) Friendly local game stores exist
There are great game stores out there. They may be hard to find, may not be in your city, but they are there. So don’t let a few bad experiences color your perspective on all game stores. We personally love the experience Team Covenant provides in Tulsa. They only sell the games they love and support. It doesn’t have the largest selection, but focuses on demoing and service. Other stores have better selection and great play environments as well, you just have to find them.
So prepare for the worst, but if you’re lucky, you might have a gem in your city.
Have you found any great stores that you want to share with us? Let us know in the comments.