The board game industry has developed a number of fantastic resources in the past decade in order to promote gaming, help newcomers, and expand accessibility and inclusion to all. There are virtual tabletops like Tabletopia; live, interactive play through on Twitch; reviews, previews, and overviews from all sorts of points of view; and even library board game programs. But one constant remains; somewhere that offers events, guidance, community support, game libraries, and tons of extras. I speak, of course, of your Friendly Local Game Store.
I’ll preface this with a small caveat. As a Gay Woman in Gaming (TM) I am fully aware that there may be some stores local to you that resemble a cave troll’s lair. We’ll relegate those to the waste bin where they belong and speak instead of the awesome, welcoming stores. Your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) offers more than just a place to buy the latest hotness or that classic EVERYONE needs in their library. Let’s chat about a few of the phenomenal services they offer the community.
For starters, most stores have some sort of game library. This storehouse of game-y goodness is a massive boon both for gamers that need to watch their pennies or don’t want to waste time buying, playing, and returning (if possible) something they didn’t like. Being able to simply back a Kickstarter or buy online implies that one has the disposable cash and time to buy something that might not be a good fit. Some stores even have a take-home program and many even offer demos of games in order to help customers figure out if something really works for their home library or game group. FLGS’s offer the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’.
Additionally, your FLGS boasts a staff of employees that are generally pretty knowledgeable about their stock. Need a recommendation? Not sure about the recommended ages/level? Want a quick overview of gameplay or an opinion? The employees of your FLGS are usually quick to help, and can either answer or find someone that can. Sure, perhaps you can do a little online sleuthing, but few things replace someone knowledgeable and helpful who is happy to answer any question you might have, no matter how small or particular to your individual situation.
Many FLGS are offering services to the community outside of games to buy and space to play. Stores like Mox Boarding House in Seattle and Labyrinth Puzzles and Games in DC both have outstanding community service programs that include events like food drives, retirement home playdates, after-school programs, LGBTQ+ support, and more. These FLGSs become a hub for local community growth, safe spaces for kids to hang out, fun & entertainment for older folks or those in tough situations, and an excellent way to welcome new people to our hobby.
Finally, most FLGS offer a table or two for local meetups and in-store events (and no one is looking forward more than I to seeing in-person events happen again). Stores like Fair Game in the Chicago suburbs offer demos to try a new game, tournaments for your favorite collectible card game, organized role-playing adventures, minis painting nights, and playtesting for designer’s groups. Or even just space to meet for apartment dwellers, new players or folks that don’t feel like vacuuming for game night. Game events can serve a number of purposes but overwhelmingly this serves as an important way to bring players together and introduce new folks to our hobby.
There’s even more inside your local FLGS—a good relationship with your favorite publishers (great for snagging those promos or getting replacement bits for the rule book your dog ate), board game cafes that offer libations and tidbits to enjoy while you play, and offering accessories galore, bits and bobs to bling out your game that you might not be aware of. During this last year, many stores offered curbside service, expanded to ship, and even offered patrons at-home use of their game libraries to make staying at home a little easier.
So *maybe* that big retailer offers a game a little cheaper. But maybe that extra $3 is better used to support a mainstay of the community that continues to help our hobby grow and become more accessible for everyone. Let’s look at the long game: continue to frequent places that make games magical for kids, create spaces for adults to meet up and have fun with their friends, save us time (and money) with their knowledge and resources, and are improving our entire local community. Friendly Local Game Stores are a backbone of a healthy gaming community, and they deserve your support.
(Got a FLGS you’d like to shout out or another reason you love your FLGS? Be sure to drop it in the comments below!)