In a world where online marketing is growing in popularity and power, there’s one piece of the gamer puzzle that has been a cinder block in our hobby for decades – the game store. A lot of times people ask where we get a lot of our games, and though we receive some games from publishers for review, we do go out and buy games on our own. Of course you can find some of these games at places like Target, Toys-R-Us, Barnes & Noble, and Wal-Mart, but selections at those retailers will be limited. They’ll offer light family games for sure, but what if you want something beyond those borders? In order to start your collection proper you’ll need to find your local game store, which is sure to be stocked full of each game you could possibly imagine. The retailers mentioned above are stores, this is correct, but what makes a store an FLGS? That’s what we’ll discover in this guide.
If you’re new to gaming you might be asking yourself, “What does FLGS stand for?” Well don’t worry, you’ve come down the right path, my friend. FLGS stands for Friendly (or Favorite) Local Game Store. A friendly local game store is a physical retailer in your area that sells solely board games, collectible card games, miniatures games, RPGs, and tabletop accessories.
Inside this mystical place you’ll find friendly staff that is eager to talk about and show you all of the above items. These will most likely be tabletop aficionados who want to help share their love of the tabletop hobby with the world. What makes most of these locations even better is that, since tabletop is still a growing and permeating hobby, not many chains run local game stores. That means most of these stores are ran by only a few people who have taken to owning a business themselves. This makes what they’re doing mean even more for the gaming community because, believe it or not, selling tabletop games isn’t the highest-paying career on the planet.
The friendly local game store is much more than a place just to buy games, though.
Quite a few of these establishments take their love above and beyond putting games on their shelves to sell to gamers. The staff working the store loves to show off games to new players, meet new people, and just soak up the community. Friendly local game stores offer a place to play your games, demo new games before you pick them up, and a hub at which new friendships can be forged. What’s more is that the owners often times reach out further to organize events and cater to the gamers in the area in any way they can.
How Can I Find This Place?
Even with times like these, where a multitude of items are one click away, friendly local game stores are somewhat difficult to find. Honestly, one of the best ways to find your local game store is by exploration or word of mouth. Try asking around if there are any game stores in the area. Gamers are always looking to turn new players on to their treasure trove, and get more word out about the establishment. Wandering through your locale can also offer up discoveries. These stores are sometimes stuck in out-of-the-way locations that are easy to maintain, but hard to find. When it comes to the internet, however, there are ways it can be used to your advantage.
I’ve seen a lot of people head to Reddit in search of a game store. Chances are your location has a subreddit, and you can ask around in there for directions. The boardgaming subreddit is full of helpful people who will work to find a store for you as well. It’s a great resource for many things.
Somewhat like Reddit, BoardGameGeek is full of, well, gamers who will help you find what you’re looking for. The site is chock-full of forums just for this sort of thing. A lot of times local game stores will already have accounts set up with the site that you can search for.
Searching on Facebook is quite efficient, you’ll discover. Just by typing in games and your zip code you should be able to start finding some results. This is also a form of word of mouth, as you can post questions to the site asking for a game store in the area. Facebook is also home to millions of groups for gaming, and they’ll definitely point you in the right direction.
You wouldn’t believe it, but Google Maps can be a friend, despite these locations being tucked away. You can always plug in “Board Games [zip code]” and something is bound to come up. This could amount to nothing, but then again it could help you find that one missing gem that’s hidden in your town.
What Can I Do at a FLGS?
There are a lot of things that one can do at a friendly local game store. Your local game store is an amazing ally when it comes to looking for new games, learning about gaming groups, or looking for players to join your game. In addition to all of these things, your local game store can serve as a safe place to escape from your daily routine and find some downtime with friendly faces. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when looking for what to do at your establishment.
Demo/Try New Games
Looking for a new RPG? Wanting to check out that new expansion before you buy it? Your local game store is a perfect place to do just that! Many times these stores will have their own library of games that you can try out, and a lot of times there will be a post-it wall where you can ask to try out new games. Players will also post demo schedules that they’ve worked out with the store owners so that they can bring in their games and teach people how to play. This is perfect place to explore your gaming tastes!
Just Play Games, Man
One of the best things about the friendly local game store is that it provides space to play games! Do you live in a one bedroom apartment? If so, chances are that you don’t have enough room to play that giant Arkham Horror game without moving your furniture around. Your FLGS most likely has plenty of room to play, and most of the time the staff will play your game with you! Not planning on bringing a game? No problem! Check out the store’s library of games, pull one off the shelf, and give it a go!
Finding New Allies to Play With
Since all sorts of gamers will be flocking to this awesome establishment, the FLGS is perfect for finding new players for your game. I’ve successfully found plenty of players for Pathfinder and some of the other games I’ve got through posting to my FLGS’ post-it board. Whether you need to get some people to test out a new game, or if you’re looking to run an adventure and need another companion, the FLGS serves as the perfect hub to find mercs for hire. What’s even better is that they join in for free!
A lot of times your local game store will host events for your favorite games. Organized Play is picking up for a lot of games, and through events and tournaments you can pick up some exclusives for your game. Players will volunteer to be event organizers, and if you want to start organizing events for your game, make sure you volunteer yourself! There will most likely be a schedule posted for what games are played on what days, and this is the way to get some friendly competition going!
I love Warmachine and Hordes, and though I’ve gotten plenty of experience with painting the models, there’s still plenty for me to learn. Something that’s really great is that my local game store hosts workshops every so often for model painting. I can sign up for the class, and with a small fee I get access to a free miniature that I can take home after I paint it, paint brushes, and more. Whether you want to learn how to be a better GM, paint models, or get tips on perfecting your strategy for X-Wing, chances are your local game store can host a workshop for whatever it is you’re looking for. It’s a great place to learn and hone your skills. More importantly you’ll see you’re not alone in your efforts!
Buy Some Games and Accessories
While a friendly local game store is here for more than selling games, this is one of the most important things a shop can do. Through buying games you support the store’s staff and supply. It also helps to fund that awesome open play space, as well as any other boons your store owners offer you. At my local game store we have plenty of room to play, as well as snacks and water when we need it. In order to help ensure none of that goes away, buying things is important. Store owners and staff go out of their way to help the community, and the best way to show your support is to spend money and keep the store going!
Though these local game stores offer a heartwarming and appealing atmosphere, there are rules that should be followed when you frequent the establishment. These rules are basic gamer etiquette that is melded with respectful behavior to ensure you always have a great time at your location.
One of the first things that’s important to remember is to not be a d-bag. No, I’m not talking about your dice bag, kiddos. I’m talking about something worse. Basically, don’t be a pest. Make sure to be mindful of others and always respect other players. Don’t flip the table, walk away from games, or throw a fit when things don’t go your way. Do your best to live by the golden rule, and help provide an environment that’s positive for everyone.
Next, don’t trash talk other stores or players. Also, don’t complain about games or accessories the store may not have at the moment. You can let your disdain be known, but try to see if the store can order what you’re looking for. Also, don’t trash games that other players are playing. If you don’t like certain games, keep that opinion to yourself. One thing we don’t want is anyone making gamers feel bad for playing the games they like. They took the time and courage to come out to play in the open, so that earns respect.
Be encouraging. Offer your help to the store with demos or Organized Play. Suggest the store to friends and family, and make sure it receives the love it deserves! Offer to help teach games or answer questions when other players have them.
Perhaps the most important rule to abide by is this one: don’t abuse the store. One of the worst things you could do is use the store for its services and buy your product online somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s important to find deals sometimes, but in the same moment it’s important to gauge how much you get for paying that extra $10 for your game at your local store. Just do what you can, and try to spend your money at your local game store to keep them up and running.
Your Own Little Hobbit Hole
I don’t know where I’d be today if not for the relationships forged at my friendly local game store. I’m friends with the owners of both stores in my area, and am lucky to have two stores in the first place. It’s amazing to be able to play in an open space and meet new gamers. What’s even better is sharing in this hobby that I absolutely love. So if you’re a gamer and looking for somewhere to procure new games, engage in friendly gaming, and build friendships, your local game store is the place to do it. I hope you find your store and support it in every way you can!