I wanted to talk today about the differing environments of a few FLGS (friendly local gaming stores) I have experienced over the last year. Before coming to this area, I hadn’t been in a FLGS since the early 2000’s. Here in Baltimore, I found an abundance of options.
The first store I frequented was Games Workshop in White Marsh. Now contrary to what you hear all the time about GW shops, this place was fantastic. It was a multiman store, a dying breed in GW’s current store model. This meant that no one was getting burned out that much and the store had good hours 7 days a week.
Being a GW store, the selection was awesome. We could easily order things out of stock and get them in quickly. New releases always were available (except tau if I remember correctly, there were supply issues with everyone). The black shirts weren’t pushy, in fact they were a vital part of our gaming/friend group. And the tables were great with a wealth of terrain.
The only complaint I had was that it was by far the smallest store I had seen. They were able to cram three full-sized tables, a demo table, and a painting station into the space. But it would quickly become crowded. Don’t even dream of having a personal bubble in there somedays.
When white marsh closed down, we went out in search of a new store to meet up on Saturday’s. We ended up mostly settling at Titan Games and Hobbies. This store presented us with a different set of pros and cons.
The pros first. There was an abundance of space there. About 10 full-sized gaming tables and about twenty tables for card games, board games, and hobbying. That hobbying area was a bit hit or miss. Somedays there was plenty of space, other days there wasn’t. The had plenty of decent terrain to go with the tables. The staff was friendly.
The selection was quite a bit less than shopping in a gw store. Understandable for a FLGS. They aren’t going to carry two boxes of everything because they can’t sell two boxes of everything. On the flip side, since it was an independent retailer, they had third-party products. This is where I fell in love with the army painter primers.
The cons finally. It was quite the drive for a few of us, nearly 40 minutes. Now granted, other members of our group had a long drive to white marsh, so it was just our turn to drive so to speak. Probably the biggest con though was the gamers already established there.
Don’t get me wrong, they didn’t harass us or anything. There were no open hostilities. The gaming group for 40k that was established there was a very competitive group as we came to learn. Our group has a bit of a competitive streak now and then, but ultimately we play to have fun and relax. Our two gaming groups never really intermingled like the primarch and I had hoped.
This ultimately led us down the path of looking once again for a new gaming location. Local to several of us was Critical Hit Games. It once again had its own set of pros and cons over titan.
This time, I will start with the con’s. The space is smaller, only 3 full-sized gaming tables (although more can be setup to a total of 6 likely) and a card gaming area that also doubles as a hobby space. Depending on the event that is happening, there can be plenty of space to spread out, or it can be quit cramped. It’s selection is also smaller than titan (you can always have a model ordered for you though).
The pros though outweigh the cons in my mind. The terrain is very nice. They discount most GW items (usually around 10 percent off). They offer a rewards program. Believe it or not, that discount is huge to me. See, I feel it is an unspoken obligation for us gamers to spend some of our hobby dollar at these stores we play at. If the store doesn’t make money, then it wont stay open, so we lose our gaming space. We all can find GW models on sale online. If I don’t have to choose between saving a little online or supporting a brick and mortar store, great!
The store owner is friendly and willing to be flexible with our schedule. He lets us run narrative events. He is often looking for feedback in the type of events to run for us. There is even talks of starting a little battle scroll system. Sort of a way to track in game achievements for 40k.
Lastly, and this is probably the reason I keep going back. The community. The wargamming community is small. Mainly the half dozen or so legion members that meet up on Saturdays. We are slowly growing, happy to pick up a game with anyone that comes in. Most importantly though, we are having fun again. We don’t care so much about winning and loosing. We are becoming more focused on the hobby or trying out new things. We are getting our gaming souls back after that time we all spent in “40k is broken” land.
This may sound like an ad for crit, and honestly, it is a little. I hope that if you are local to the bel air area and read this, maybe you come down one Saturday afternoon and play a game. More appropriately though, I want you to think about where you game. If you are happy with your FLGS, then stay there. If you aren’t, branch out. You just may find a community that more suits your taste. If you want a hard more competitive crowd, there are places out there. If you want a little more light hearten gaming scene, they are out there two. The point is, be happy and enjoy your game, there are FLGS out there that can help you do that.