Local game stores are becoming a thing of the past. There are a few where I live in Salem, Oregon, but honestly they are not that great. Some of gone to just fantasy game stores, which has little interest for me. Another seems to be in that downward spiral with declining stock, and it seems to have last been cleaned in the Bush era. I can order most of what I want online, but there is just something valuable about actually seeming a product in person. Also there are products I have never heard of that you often find (and want) in a brick and mortar store.
My friend Mark lives in Portland and recommended that I should go to a place called Guardian Games. I had decided that I needed to go there, even if it would require a 50 minute drive to get there. I knew that my wife and children would not be that excited about going, so I thought I would have to go it alone. I have another gaming friend, Shane, who lives nearby. I have known Shane since my Tucson days. If I remember correctly, Shane and I have been playing games together since about 1982 or 1983 (yes we are old guys). Shane lives in Oregon, but works in Tucson, so we don’t often have the time for games, instead we just get together for dinner and beers. Shane is back in Oregon and wanted to get together, so I suggested a trip to Guardian Games if he was interested. Shane said he was, so we went up to Portland yesterday to go to Guardian Games.
Guardian Games had a slick webpage (http://www.ggportland.com/), which was a good sign. It was fairly easy to get to the store via I-5. We did have to fight a lot of horrible Portland traffic (the next mayor of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation really need a plan to deal with Portland’s poorly thought out traffic network!). and made it to the store. Guardian Games has adequate parking, but I suspect that on a Friday or Saturday night parking might be a problem.
Our drive was clearly worth it as Guardian Games is a really amazing store. First, it is huge, not your typical dreary little game store. Secondly, it was clean, something that many game stores seem to lack these days. The staff were friendly and helpful, but not pushy or gamer-weird. There were several sections of the store that really interested me. Guardian Games has a very extensive board game section with both Eurogames and wargames. They had a number of older second-hand wargames that interested me. The miniature section was also very extensive. They had a good selection of the Wings of War games and miniatures (which I would like to get into), the typical fantasy miniatures, a good selection of the Star Wars games, a huge selection of Flames of War miniatures (I don’t play Flames of War, but I use the miniatures to play Nuts!), and a lot of other miniature games that looked interesting to Shane and myself (like Dystopian Wars –http://www.spartangames.co.uk/products/dystopian-world/dystopian-wars). Additionally, they had a fair selection of Vallejo paints. I limited myself to about $100 in spending, but I could have spent $500, and not regretted a single purchase.
So quality brick and mortar game stores are not dead. There are just fewer of them, but Guardian Games is clearly worth the trip.