I noticed something about both hobby shops that contrast to others I have seen around the country in my travels. These shops seem to be thriving largely because of the focus on the younger crowd, especially late high school and early college. Now, my view is probably skewed due to when I came into the shops (early weekday), but thinking back to the hobby shops of the past, these are certainly the crowds that were usually there and patronizing them.
It is nice to think that we old codgers, with our increased disposable income, account for more dollars in support of the shops, but I don't think that is true at all. The younger generation, although they may have fewer dollars to spend, seemingly spend a greater percentage of what they have.
Ah well, on to the review.
Imperial Outpost Games
Imperial Outpost Games in Glendale, AZ (north side of Phoenix) has expanded into the adjacent storefront since the last time I was there, so the gaming space has more than doubled. Lots of tables, looks like quite a bit of store terrain, and a fair amount of activity.
Miniatures stock consists of Games Workshop (Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40K), Privateer Press (Warmachine), Battlefront (Flames of War), and a few other minor elements (Dystopian Wars, Malifaux, etc.). There were no 'traditional historical miniatures' for sale (e.g. ancients, Napoleonics, ACW, etc.), nor rules of that sort.
What they did have that was of interest was a pretty good selection of board games of the 'traditional historical gaming' nature, like GMT Games titles. I almost bought Combat Commander once again. Maybe next time.
Their GW selection seems pretty extensive, taking up quite a bit of shelf space, but as I was rummaging through the stock, I noticed that a lot of boxed sets had a fair layer of dust on the top, indicating either a very dusty store or the stock not moving. (I was looking at some Empire Knights for WHFB, as it happened.)
The Warmachine/Hordes selection was also very nice, with probably the second-largest amount of shelf space (devoted to miniatures). Flames of War came in a distant third.
The store also has the typical paints, sculpting tools, flock/terrain, Magic the Gathering cards, RPGs, etc. for sale there. The unusual items were a stock of foam (not too unusual considering the proximity of Battlefoam to this business) and resin scenic bases.
A Yahoo group for the North Phoenix Irregulars, uses this store for a lot of its games.
This shop has a loyalty program which gets you a checkmark on a card for every $10 spent, and when $150 is spent, you can turn the card in for a 20% discount on your next purchase (of any size). Two things to note about this discount:
- According to the staff (over the telephone), the discount can be applied to items you order through them; it is not just on current stock. Note: I have not tried this to ensure it is true; this is just what I was told by an employee who might not be an owner.
- When you cash in a discount card the dollars you spend do not go towards a new loyalty card. So, if you get $250 worth of stuff and use the card to get a $50 discount, you do not get $200 worth of points. (Strange, but hey it is their loyalty program, so they have the right to make whatever rules they want.)
Empire Games is in Mesa, AZ and is also an impressive shop. It looks like it was once a corner store for a Blockbuster Video, so it is a huge space. Lots of gaming tables with merchandise lining the walls. This shops seems more oriented towards Games Workshop, but still has an impressive collection of Privateer Press and Battlefront. In fact, although it had about as much wall space devoted to Flames of War as did Imperial Outpost Games (maybe a little more), Empire Games had far more stock crammed into that space.
Although there were board games and RPGs at Empire Games, they had far fewer.
One item they did have that Imperial Outpost Games did not have: Army Painter Flames of War spray paint. So, I should be able to start knocking out some German armor soon...
If Empire Games has a loyalty program, they don't automatically tell you about it. So, this looks like a standard retail store with straight (i.e. full) pricing.
Empire Games also has a group with a Yahoo forum that hangs out at their shop – the Arizona Desert Rats – and they have a Flames of War forum on Yahoo.
All in all it was worthwhile visiting both shops on my way back home from vacation. I picked up a boatload of river terrain, the Games Workshop gaming mat (which has gotten great reviews and is only $30, before discount), a Panzer IV H to round out my Panzer company, some Afrika Korps dice to go with my tokens (although I don't play Afrika Korps), and some Hs 129B aircraft so that I can finally have some models of my own and stop borrowing Don's.