Choose your Gaming Poison, Part 1

I was talking with a fellow Meetup  member this weekend and he asked me,  “What  is the best store to host an RPG at?” I couldn’t help but smile and nod back to him as I fully understood his frustration. We were sitting  in the middle of a store that was hosting MTG Grand Prix qualifier event and we had to shout at each other just to carry on our conversation over the attendees.

It also made me realize that not everyone knows how to pick the right game store for their events. This can really make or break your game. Not all game stores are created equal and I’m going to show you exactly how to evaluate each for your gaming pleasure.

The first thing you need to identify is  the store’s specialty. This can be really hard to do because some stores might consider themselves the jack of all gaming trades. They will have a myriad of supplies across the store because they’re trying to appeal to every type of gamer. No matter how camouflaged the store is, it’s usually only good at one thing. What does this mean to you? It gives you a time table of when events will be hosted there. This can either bring players to your group or become cumbersome when you’re looking for seating.

  Ask yourself. Does this store have…

ComicsComic stores can be really hard to evaluate as a lot of gaming stores might carry comics and a lot of comic stores might do a bit of gaming business on the side. The staff’s personal knowledge really helps with this evaluation. I recommend going into the store and asking for a particular comic. Most comic store staff members will be able to help you right away. They will lead you over to the section or just get the comic for you. They might also give you suggestions of what you read based on your current comic choice. On the other hand a game store employee might not know what you’re talking about or just point you in the general direction of where the comic might be located. Obviously since they don’t sell many comics they don’t cater to the comic crowd.

MiniaturesStores that specializes in miniatures will have several high top gaming tables, often with landscapes. They will also have buildings, figures, specialized brushes and paints available  for customization of your miniature armies. If you’re having trouble deciding if this is a miniature store or not take a look at the paint they’re selling. If the majority of the paint jars look separated (dye at the bottom, clear at the top) it’s probably not getting much use.

Trading CardsIf any store is carrying TCG singles that probably means they run a Friday Night Magic game. If a store carries a butt load of cards behind a case and each card has multiple copies available for purchase then you’ve found TCG gaming hub!

RPG Books I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons books, since most gaming stores will carry one or two popular brands. What you’re looking for are entire bookshelves devoted to an array of RPG books. You can also take a quick look at the dice they have in stock. An RPG store will have a wide selection of D10’s and D4-20  dice packs, along with some single dice for purchase. Take a good look at the books that they have on the shelves. Stores that keep RPG gamers on site for long periods of time will often wrap their books in cellophane so they can’t be openly read.

Board Game Store– A store with a lot of board games it not always a clear identifier for a board game store. The first step is to check to see if the games on the top shelves have dust on them (or really low shelf you’re looking for the games that are out of the line of sight). You can also identify a board game store by seeing if they have open games available to play test. 

Toys and CollectiblesNot every gamer thinks about hosting a game at a collectible store but that doesn’t mean there isn’t gaming here.  Take a good look around the store and use the indicators listed above to determine their gaming specialty.

Now that you’ve identified what type of store you’re visiting what should you do next?

Read “Choose your Gaming Poison Part 2” to find out which store will fit your gaming needs.

How do you identify a gaming store’s specialty? Leave your comments below!


  1. Insightful, you definitely don’t want to be running an RPG at a shop that specializes in trading card games, way to loud. Most shops that focus on RPG players also sell snacks, they know once you buy the books and dice there isn’t much money to be made anymore so they provide the one thing you need if you are going to spend 4-8 hours in their store, FOOD! (candy/soda).

  2. I do agree that trying to play a RPG while everyone around you is playing a trading card game (especially MtG) can be very noisy and distracting, especially during Friday Nights or during a release party. The best bet (in my opinion) is to talk to store employees and a get a feel for what their nightly schedule is. The place I go to does do MtG Friday and Saturday nights, but groups do run D&D Tuesday and Wednesday nights too.

    Get to know the people who run or own the store, that is the key.

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