“Where do you get all these games?”
I get that question a lot from non-gamers or people new to the hobby. After all, while the latest hotness in books and movies can always be found at your local Target, Wal-Mart, Sams, Barnes&Noble, etc. etc. and so on, when you hit up the board game aisle you will find yourself surrounded by kids games, trivia games, and variations of Monopoly. While you might actually score Ticket to Ride or Pandemic at some of these stores and Barnes & Noble has a much more substantial collection, if you’re reading this guide you’re likely looking to expand your collection beyond the basics. And as mentioned in our guide to discovering new games, the FLGS is an excellent way not just to discover new games, but to purchase them for yourself.
What Is FLGS?
If you’re not sure what an FLGS is, you’ve come to the right place. First off, FLGS stands for “Friendly Local Gaming Store.” An FLGS is an actual physical location that is dedicated to selling board games, card games, RPGs, and all manner of tabletop goodness. But truly, the FLGS is much more than just a place to buy games.
While not every FLGS is perfect, in general a local gaming store is run by a few people who love boardgames and want to share that love with the world. Since the hobby gaming scene hasn’t yet saturated the entire world, selling hobby games isn’t exactly the most lucrative career, which hopefully means most FLGS will not be run by half-hearted money-grubbers looking to score on the latest fad. Hopefully it means that the people actually care about the hobby.
Many Friendly Local Gaming stores go beyond stocking the goods, and provide extremely useful services to the average gamer. Many stores are a great place to get your hands on a game before making a purchase, to see and feel a physical item, and often times even get a chance to try out the game. In addition, many stores have events, leagues, tournaments, open gaming nights, and much much more.
How to Find an FLGS
Oooh boy. I wish I had a better answer for this one, and maybe I will down the road. The truth is, even if you have an FLGS nearby you, they can be hard to find. You’re not going to see TV commercials or billboards, and I’d be very surprised to see an ad in a newspaper (maybe local newspapers, but if you live in the town next door…).
People Who Already Know
If you have gaming friends or family members, they might know where the hip-hoppin’ mom-and-pop gaming shop is at. If you’re lucky.
Honestly, your best bet might be Google Maps. Try searching “Board Games Near [your city]” and you are likely to find what’s there. That’s how I discovered Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL when my source for Heroclix at my local mall dried up and went out of business. Which is essentially how I got into the boardgaming hobby – when I found Games Plus, I found shelves and shelves of board games and I knew I had come to the right place. All it took was a simple google search. In fact, in the middle of writing this I did another search and just discovered another gaming store near me I had known nothing about. Not everything is going to be found on Google Maps, and you might have to sort through toy stores or other shops that don’t have the hobby games you’re looking for, but it’s a good place to start.
Here’s a crazy idea; sometimes the Facebook ads work for you. No joke. Gaming stores with limited budgets are wise to invest in the cheaper, targeted marketing Facebook and other social media sites provide. If you have board games listed in your interests, you might see an ad for a store near you that you would otherwise never have discovered. For example, I recently found the Wandering Dragon (perhaps a bit ironic, given our site’s designation) by noticing an ad on my facebook page. It’s a beautiful little store that is very active with game nights and events, and I would never have known it existed except for this. It’s not even listed on Google Maps.
Board Game Geek
Many stores have active BGG accounts to stay involved in the community and get some free promotion. There are FLGS forums and all manner of ways to reach out and ask people you don’t know who live in your area where the good stores are.
How to Utilize your FLGS
Friendly Local Gaming Stores are a great resource; if you’re lucky enough to have one close to you (not everyone is) I highly recommend that you visit often. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your local gaming store.
Find out if your gaming store has open-box games to try, and if they do… try them. Ask the employees for recommendations, get tutorials, and see if you can try out the latest releases. Trying to decide between two games? Play both of them! Trust me; having worked in retail, it’s not exciting to sit around all day at the cash register. Chances are the employees would LOVE to play a game with you. There are few better ways to learn games than to be taught by an experienced player; few better ways to decide on a purchase than to try it out.
Many FLGSs have events, such as scheduled time to play specific games, “leagues” for certain games, miniatures/wargame nights, and so on. If they have an event for a game you like, sign up! It’s a great way to meet new gamers with similar interests. You might find a new gaming group, or find someone to expand your own group. You might get a chance to play a game you love that your regular old friends don’t have a taste for. Ask the employees about events, look for postings in the store, and don’t forget to ask about signing up beforehand.
Open Gaming Nights
Many stores have open gaming nights where people can come and play what they want for hours and hours. It’s a great way again, to get those games your regular gaming group doesn’t have a taste for, or to try out new games and learn from experienced players.
It can be easy to get a game started if you know people and are comfortable with the environment; but if you’re a new player, new gamer, or just new to the store, it can be nervewracking to get started. I recommend bringing at least 1 friend; that way you will always have at least 1 person to play a game with. While it would be nice if it wasn’t this way, I’ve noticed that gamers tend to be introverted, shy, or really focused on the games they’re playing, making it more challenging for an outsider to get in and get going. If you’re outgoing, that will certainly help you; if not, you may end up waiting around awkwardly for a group of people to be ready to start a new game.
If you lack the confidence and/or outgoing nature needed to jump in with a group of strangers or to try and rally a few people to start a game of your choice, you might consider mentioning to a store employee or manager that you’re interested in attending an open game night. You can use the opportunity to ask the important questions, such as exact times things start, or to get a feel for how the nights usually run, and if the people in charge are aware that a newbie is coming, they will hopefully be more conscious of your presence and offer help to get you started and make you feel welcome. No guarantees, but it’s a decent bet.
The Most Important Thing: Buy Games
It won’t take you too long at all to realize than in general, board games at an FLGS are going to cost more than if you order them on Amazon, or from some of the On-line game stores available. While the online resources for cheaper games are excellent, remember that they do not offer the above services. You can’t go into an Amazon store to try out new games; you can’t participate in regular gaming nights at a place that lacks physical location. If you use the other services your FLGS provides, you should support them by buying games.
Let me be clear; if you do not have an FLGS or do not live close enough to an FLGS to attend its’ game nights and events, you don’t need to go out of your way to buy the more expensive games on their shelves. If you do attend open gaming nights or sign up for events, you should be aware that you are getting free services, and the way these services are paid for (because the money comes from somewhere) is the sale of games. The extra money you’ll pay is totally worth it for those services. Don’t be that guy or girl who goes to an FLGS to try out games and then heads home to order them from Amazon. These little guys help keep the hobby alive, and they do a lot of work for you, the customer. Pass along your hard-earned cash.
One thing to keep in mind is accessories; it’s often necessary to get extra dice or card sleeves or other accessories, and these things are often pretty close to the same price in physical stores and online, so it doesn’t hurt to pick up a few of those at your store just to show some support.
Things Not To Do
These things should be obvious, but for the sake of the store owners I feel I should mention them here.
First of all, as mentioned above, don’t use all the FLGS services and then buy elsewhere. If you don’t visit your FLGS frequently or have the opportunity to attend open gaming nights or whatever, go ahead, buy from Amazon. But if you use the things only an FLGS can provide, buy their stuff. Keep them in business.
Secondly, don’t be a jerk. You may not think you’re being a jerk, but keep in mind these open gaming nights and helpful employees are not your regular group of friends nor are they your servants. Be respectful; be conservative with jokes and teasing. Don’t ragequit games or complain when things go badly for you. Be patient. Try to contribute to a positive gaming environment.
Don’t complain about magic and/or pokemon and/or any other popular game you don’t like. Seriously, many game stores stay afloat selling the pop stuff. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried (and succeeded) at running your own game store.
If you’re lucky enough to live near an FLGS, I hope you’ll take the time to visit it, take part in their events and game nights, and support the store with your patronage. If not, well… I hope that one opens up near you very soon.