Recently I had the mixed blessing of having to go to Mesa, Arizona on a business trip. A mixed blessing in that it was for work (eh), but I made wonderful discovery while I was there (yeah!).
I discovered another True Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS)!
Empire Games in Mesa is a great place....it reminded me in many ways of my FLGS in Huntsville, Alabama. Empire Games has been in operation for 4 years. In fact, they just celebrated their 4 year anniversary a week prior to my visit with a 40k Grand Tournament where they had 48 players attend. The location is also very convenient ....easy to get in and out of the ample parking and onto the main road.
Using the criteria for FLGS worthiness I used in my previous game store review, Empire Games rates very high and is a place I recommend highly and will visit again next time I am in Mesa.
A quick refresher on the rating scheme. For a store to be an FLGS it boils down to a 4 key attributes:
- It has to live up to that first word in the name. Friendly. The staff, the customers, the environment, etc.
- It has to have room to play the games it sells
- It has all the products and extras you will need for your game and has multiple game systems, across multiple genres.
- The "L" for local doesn't have to mean "just around the corner." I take the "local" to mean the store itself is a part of the gaming community(s) it is supporting. Even if you are an out-of-towner and have to travel to the store, they make you feel like you belong to the group.
Okay, what am I going on about. Let's break it down using the FLGS criteria from above:
- It has to live up to that first word in the name. Friendly. You know how it is when you enter a store for the first time....when everyone stares at you and ignores you until you make first contact...and WHOA! Be unto you if you breach some unknown protocol. We have all been there. Well, the exact opposite happened when I visited Empire Games. Truth be told I was a little nervous going in, but as soon as I entered the door I was greeted by the Store manager, Jimmy. He quickly made me feel at home and as a first time visitor gave me a quick tour of the store and playing area, focusing on my areas of interest. There were several customers in the store who were playing games and you could feel the good nature no yelling or tension. The openness of the store also feeds the friendly atmosphere...lots of light and minimal gamer funk ;-) They definitely fit the Friendly bill.
- It has room to play. The store is very open. Product lines the walls, but the open area in the middle is dominated by tables for miniature games. They also have "normal" tables for board gamers/role players. They also have a "Paint Bar" around the cash register island. Here customers can paint up the figs and get painting/modeling tips from Jimmy.
- It has all the products and extras you will need for your game and has multiple game systems, across multiple genres. You name it; they have it. The primary focus is 40k and Warmahordes, but Flames of War, Malifaux, and Infinity have a strong showing. I even saw a group playing GW's Lord of the Rings and Warhammer...something I haven't seen in a long time.
- The "L" for local doesn't have to mean "just around the corner". I take the "local" to mean it is a part of the gaming community(s) it is supporting. Talking with Jimmy, I discovered that the store lives for its gamers. The staff is actively engaged in each of the games it supports. They have the same view on building a community of gamers that my FLGS (The Foundry) has...must be why I felt so comfortable there.
All said and done...these guys have their act together and put the gamer community first in what they do. I actually look forward to my next trip out to Mesa now...knowing that Empire Games is there takes a lot out of the sting of being away from home.
SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.