Friday, June 19, 2015

On Good Game Stores

Last week I returned to my home town of Rochester, New York for a few days. I haven't been back for five years, so I was curious about the state of the local game stores there. My old haunt from the '90s was Crazy Egor's Discount Game Warehouse. That was a game store comparable to the Source Comics and Games in the Twin Cities. It carried pretty much everything. Paul, the owner, and his staff loved games and gamers. It was a super friendly FLGS.

In the late '90s, Paul sold the store in Henrietta, and the new owners renamed it Millenium Games. The change was pretty remarkable during my visits in the mid to late 2000s. The new owners sold off a ton of vintage games for bargain basement prices. They began narrowing their selection considerably.

Every time I came in there the place felt odd - like the owners and staff saw the store as just business. There was a begrudging vibe. Asking if a new product had come into their store yet seemed like a weird, offputting question to the staff. They didn't seem to know the product lines and forthcoming products at all. They didn't seem to know that diehard gamers are all obsessives. So when I came to town, I visited there, but never got my hopes up too much that I would find something I'd like.

I was pretty disappointed this trip. While they had Night Witches on their new shelf (which my FLGS hasn't stocked yet), as well as OVA, that was pretty much it for non-Fate indie releases. Even less shelf space was devoted to RPGs than on my visit five years ago. Instead there was a big frisbee section in the store, a lot of board games, and a some comics. Fate books but no Fate dice.

We weren't exactly ignored during our visit but we weren't really greeted either - not to mention not being asked "anything you're looking for, chummer?"

But six or seven years ago a new game store opened in Rochester. It was a friend who collected records who clued me into its existence.  My friend Terry got a kick out of the name: Boldo's Armory. He's not a gamer but he could sense the gamer vibe just from the name.

Boldo's sells armor, RPGs, card games, and Warhammer stuff. A snug store right on Monroe Avenue (a neigborhood combining hip and grunge), Boldo's makes good use of modest space: games on the walls, game tables in the center of the space. Boldo's packs a lot in.

On prior visits I noticed that what they carried wasn't always the newest stuff, but you always got the sense that the people working there were gamers who cared about games. Their tagline is A Better Place For Games, and that really shows from their friendliness and willingness to engage (not stalk, not ignore) visitors.

Finally on this trip, Boldo's pulled ahead in terms of its RPG stock. Lots of vintage stuff still (I saw a copy of Star Frontiers there!) but also some new RPGs that have never hit the Source. I picked up Tremulus, a storytelling game of lovecraftian horror, during my quick visit to the store. If I had stayed longer, I would have purchased more. The owner was friendly, knowledgeable about games, and said he had read the Tremulus rules and thought the game was pretty interesting from a design standpoint.

I can't imagine I'll be getting back to Rochester any time soon, but the next time I do, I'll be heading straight for Boldo's Armory.


  1. It's all about knowing your customers. In Minneapolis, Little Tin and Phoenix knew me, my name, who I am, and what I play. The Source? Knows I come in in often, that there I buy and play board games, but I wonder if they would recall I also play RPGs. FFGC? Hopeless. But my service station lives up to that old moniker - Dan greeted me by name as I walked to get an oil change.

    1. The Source routinely greets me by name when I arrive, which is super-nice. I think it's their policy to get to know their regular customers' names - and, I imagine, their preferences. They sure know I am primarily an RPG guy, and will frequently put new items in my bin, particularly the exotic stuff that they know I like.

  2. I agree with both of you. FFG's people are friendly enough, but they see, in the main, not to be 'gamers'. behind the counter. I've had very mixed moments at The Source; Bob and I go waaay back, but some of the younger guys are pretty baffled by me; my favorite moment was when one of the young guys behind the register point-blank questioned be (in some bafflement and indignation!) why I was buying "Pathfinder" Brand (TM) miniatures if I didn't play the "Pathfinder" Brand(TM) role-playing game. I felt like I should have gotten a note from Bob, or my mother, or something...

    1. We played "Heirs to the Lost World" at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center last night and it was SUCH a good experience. I thought all the staff were friendly, and while the space is loud, a lot of thought went into crafting a environment that is cozy. I noted for the nth time how many women were in the play space - in contrast with the Source's. which is Much More Markedly Male, and how it was much less "starey", even when gamers passed by to see what was happening at our game table.