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> New RPG Store concept, Since some think FLGS is a dinosaur
tisoz
post Dec 19 2006, 10:04 AM
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I have had this fantasy/concept for over a decade, since shortly after I started playing Shadowrun and got sucked into RPGs. Everyone I have mentioned it to has shot it down, but after reading about how the FLGS sucks and is becoming obsolete, I wonder if this is a viable solution. If not, how would you design the perfect game store while hoping to keep it profitable?

What would the ideal game shop be like? How would it turn a profit? Should it be something different from what has been tried in the past?

Most Game stores I have seen have either been devoted to several types of games (rpg, board, ccg, wargame, puzzles, etc.) or more like book stores or comic book shops. People mentioned that stores like Borders or Barnes and Noble are doing a nice business. They sometimes seem like reading rooms or coffee shops from what I have seen.

I wondered if the idea of a rpg store that offered booths or rooms and sold snacks/drinks/food would be profitable. Maybe going so far as to serve all the food items through vending machines. Probably have a pay copier, too for character sheets and stuff. Vending machines would cut down on the staffing and should avoid health inspectors as opposed to actually running a small kitchen. It would in some ways be akin to a second run movie house where moviegoers get in for $1 admission but wind up shelling out close to $10 for popcorn and a drink. It would also resemble the coffee area of the Barnes and Noble, people may not be spending money for every book or magazine they read, but they are paying for refreshments.

One could probably get a discount rate with a pizza place and let them psuedo cater while you play middle man to your clientel. Other food types could possibly work. Or simply stock cafeteria type vending machines serving a variety of food.

In the college town I am in, I thought one of the big, old former residences near campus, or between campus and downtown, that have the proper zoning would be good. Then the rooms/dividers are already in place. A room could be dressed to reflect a certain type of rpg that would get played in that room, helping set a mood.

Problems: people sneaking in outside refreshments, overflow noise from other games, new concept. Could put in some cameras for surveillance which could also help prevent vandalism. Sound proof the rooms as best as possible.

If this gets some positive response, I may even share some of the wilder ideas.
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knasser
post Dec 19 2006, 11:50 AM
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I think that it is viable in principle. I've also considered this to be the way that FLGS need to go, though I've no current desire to run one. I once tried to set up a café though, so I know a little about that business in the UK.

Immediate feedback on what you posted:

I don't know if separate rooms are needed. I think this would be viable without and it would remove the need for supervision. It also lets people see that there are others here and playing and that's a good thing. If it's integral to your design though, it can still work. If the equipment is good (space, decent table, chairs, etc.) then people might well pay for it. If you're doing things like providing dice, books, whatever, make sure that you get them back and do it in a non-body cavity searching way. I.e. have made up boxes of dice, perspex perhaps, so that you can hand it over and see that you get it back full. Sort of like cues in a pool hall.

I don't know what the health regulations are like in the USA. Probably a huge pain in the arse. But at least in the UK, for a small café, it isn't too awful. Contracting food out is a good idea, but having a small kitchen on site can also be very good. After all, you can do a lot with a small oven and grill and it lets you cater to a few people who might stop by just for a snack if you have an area where people can just sit and chat. Failing that, you can go quite a way with just a fridge and an espresso machine (learn to use it properly). With just that, you've covered cakes, coffee, sandwiches, donuts (your american, yes?), juice, ice cream in summer. It's a start. Layout for the equipment is small and it's about cash flow, not start-up costs.

It depends how broad you want your remit to be. In running a business it's largely about cash flow. A business can be up to its eyes in debt and be doing better than a business that is in the black but has too low a turn over to sustain itself. You will really need to check out what your costs will be in any given period (rent etc.) and then work out what you need to bring in to sustain that + the level of profit you want. Then you'll be able to translate this into how often you can rent rooms and sell goods, etc and you'll have a good idea of whether or not it's viable. If the sums say that you need to rent out thirty rooms a day, you know it isn't. If the sums say three a week, it is. I know that I'm stating the obvious to you, but if you haven't done this sort of costing yet, then everything is just guesswork.

I, personally, would not be overly concerned with noise. To some extent, a background buzz of people and gamers helps the atmosphere. Location is critical. You need to find somewhere for this where people will want to go / already be.

I'd also suggest major work in publicity and building business. If you can pack the place out from time to time, that is extremely good for getting people using it at other times and dispelling any atmosphere of failure or unpopularity. Game nights with prizes for example. If you're talking about making any real money off this, then the odd Shadowrun hardback or comic set is not a big cost.

Heh. You've got me thinking about my old café now, too. Cost it up, share your ideas and seriously, see if it's viable. You'll only know when you have some numbers with $'s preceeding them.

Any use?

-K.
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tisoz
post Dec 19 2006, 12:52 PM
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When I played Shadowrun in the FLGS and there was another table playing in the same room, the noise was distracting. We wound up having to talk louder, which I'm sure caused the same problem for the other table and they in turn got louder. That is the only reason I see for booths or seperate rooms. Plus, when I started thinking of some of the available, reasonably priced rental space, these huge prior residences came to mind. For many businesses, the rooms are a hindrance.

I never thought about renting out game books and/or supplies, but that does seem like an excellent idea. Kind of like renting bowling shoes.

I was not planning on charging admission. I think even a dollar cover charge would discourage people from trying the place. I was thinking of hiring the cutest girls I could get. Geeks are suckers for a pretty face. ;) Paying the girls, paying any help, looks like the major cost. (Maybe I could install a pole and let them dance for tips, it works at other clubs! :D ) Or let them dress like the women in the Shadowrun illustrations.

Some of the people I pitched the idea to owned their own pizza places. They were the ones telling the health regs horror stories, and just pointing out some of the requirements like baseboard requirements, all food preperation surfaces pretty much needing to be stainless steel. These hassles coupled with the high labor costs for a cook and server made the vending machine route seem like a good idea.

Maybe use the vending machines to help partition off the individual game areas? Then the gamers don't even need to leave the table to spend money.

I think a place could be run with an overhead of $3000/month. Then there are the variable costs, like labor and the product that is being sold. $3000/month is $100/day. Just one person on duty during a 16 hour day (10 or 11 am to 2 or 3 am) between a few people covering various hours is going to run a minimum of $10/hour or $160/day. So that puts it to $260/day. Figure about 100% mark-up on the refreshments, so $520/day needs to be spent. ($520 in sales would cost $260 in product.) That comes to $32.50/hr. being spent.

I'm guessing the busiest time is going to be 4pm to midnight, only 8 hours, so those hours better hope to generate at least $60/hr. If people are coming in and actually eating dinner, this should not be a big problem and the business is a huge success. If not, then there needs to be 30 to 60 people gaming and spending a dollar or two an hour. If a can of soda from the vending machine is 50 cents (I feel that is more than fair from a vending machine), then that and a snack is a $1, and better hope they go through at least that an hour.

That whole plan is based on the lowest cost provider. It could go the other way and be an exclusive type club with the highest service and best product. Memberships could be sold to cover at least the overhead. Would definitely take some marketing to create the desire. But then the gamers would have "their" club. It seems far fetched in a way, but then I think about how much trouble people go to trying to be different and not fit in. It would be a club of outcasts and misfits, revelling in their ostricism. ;)

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knasser
post Dec 19 2006, 01:20 PM
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I see. So it's actually a combined gaming shop and strip joint. I take it some of these rooms are going to be chargable at different rates, then. *head on desk*

This is sounding a bit better. You have some numbers in there. When you said that a soda is $0.50 so that + a snack is $1, I take it you mean that this is your markup on the items? You might be able to get around some of the health regulations if the food isn't actually prepared on site - i.e. snadwiches, cake, whatever just kept in the fridge. But I don't know anything about US law here.

In the UK there are additional costs in hiring someone above and beyond their salary. I presume there will be in the USA as well, but I don't know.

So anyway, it might be doable. You need to accept there will be dead nights and factor that in. I would tally it all up, make enquiries about actual costs for rental, furnishings, etc and determine a few different case scenarios. If you're taking this to a bank, you'll need some reassuring figures such as the number of gamers about, the existence of successful FLGS in similar areas / demographics elsewhere. Anything that shows it will work.

Definitely look at events and ways that you can get lots of people coming some times, whether its prize competitions, local speakers or anything. Once you've committed to renting a space and buying what you need, you've already taken the jump. Anything beyond that may or may not be profitable but it's not an additional risk and is therefore worth doing.

As a personal aside, I would be turned off by any marketing that said: 'Hey - this is the place to be for outcasts.'

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dog_xinu
post Dec 19 2006, 01:26 PM
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Most gaming stores that I know of around me (in atlanta) has either gaming rooms like you mentioned or gaming areas. Either way, you have to buy your snacks from them. Yeah they arent cheap but this little mark up (20 cents on a soda or whatever) is helping to pay the rent/bills. The stores that have these rooms/area are the ones that realize that the more the gamers hang out in your store the more they will spend. plus it attracts more people to come in. over the last decade or so I have gamed off and on at the stores, the biggest draw back is the timing (when you can play) and it is hard to tell a knuck-head "sorry but you are a little sh*t and go away..." since the store has to stay neutral and defuse everything it just makes it a sticky situation.


having the gaming rooms is not new. but it is a good idea. unless you have something that generates the revenue to pay the bills the store will close. rooms will not generate that much on just them.


dog
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bofh
post Dec 19 2006, 01:46 PM
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As you enter the gaming station, at the right is a FLGS, think of Titan Games. These guys buy out old store inventories and gear from former gamers. To the right of that is a used bookstore. 50 or so bookshelves and 10 to 15 people quietly browsing or sitting in the overstuffed chairs reading. Beyond that is a hallway to the restrooms. At the far left corner is a room that has 2/3'rds of it dedicated to 2' of red, blue, yellow, and other colored balls with kids bouncing around.

On the opposite side is a small indoors theater. What's playing? Indiana Jones is up tonight. In fact Indiana Jones is up all night. The first one started at 3pm followed by The Temple of Doom and then The Last Crusade. They'll be rotating until 2am when the place closes. Tomorrow night Monty Python is up and Friday night is the Star Wars marathon followed by Harry Potter, a Firefly marathon followed by Serenity, and then the entire first season of Stargate SG1.

To the left you see a small Starbucks kiosk (like you see in a Safeway) with several tables at the front window.

Upstairs are conference rooms. Each table is wired and includes a projection screen for gaming purposes, either shared gaming (like LAN parties) or team games. One room is dedicated to LAN gaming with computer stations. Above the FLGS is a game rental place. Video games, board games, RPGs.

Quick and from the top of my head. Don't try to manage it all yourself. Build the place and sub-contract out some of the bits (like the SB and the LAN party portion).

Carl
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nezumi
post Dec 19 2006, 02:08 PM
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I can only speak from my perspective, of course. Here in DC, land prices are exorbinatly high. Since the major selling point of your idea is space for gaming, I think that would be a conflict obviously. I don't know how far people would be willing to drive for a place like this (although a townhouse could be converted to this purpose).

I don't believe in coffee shops. The idea of paying $4 for a non-alcoholic drink irks me. However, coffee shops seem to be doing a brisk trade, based on a very similar concept to yours. I would highly recommend putting in the kitchen in favor of the vending machines, since people are more likely to pay $5 for a single slice of pizza than $3 for something in cellophane wrap. It also adds to the feeling of this being a warm, welcoming place, and the smell and warmth alone will bring people in to sit and enjoy themselves. There's a reason why Barnes & Noble have a starbucks next door, not a set of coke machines. Even a soda, you can charge more for a soda in a glass bottle with a funny name on it than for one in a coke machine.

Your major goal will be two-fold. 1) Making a warm, interesting environment for young students. Free wireless internet access (and possibly even a few 'pay for time' computer booths for those without laptops - hook 'em up with printers for a little kinko print center). Nice decorations, books, games you can play, conversation pieces, a safe place for the kids to whack each other with plastic toys. That alone will cover your basic costs. 2) A private place for gamers to go to - where they can rent rooms and get specialized gaming services (oversized printing, overhead projectors, whiteboards, etc.)

The especially convenient side of this is that #2 applies not only to gamers, but to the business community. My office every year takes an "off-site" which, in view of budget cuts, has been more of an "adjacent site". We book a room at the Marriott and do businessy stuff. However if we booked a room that's better equiped and has better food for a similar price, it would probably be preferred. That could provide your business during the lull hours of 9am-4pm.

The problem, ironically, is what to do after say midnight, when the normal coffee shop patrons leave and only the hard core gamers are left. This is, after all, the demographic you're catering to. It gets much more expensive to run the kitchen when no one is buying stuff, and dangerous to leave a bunch of sleep-deprived, caffeine high teenagers alone in a coffee shop overnight (even with cameras). Of course if no one is in at midnight, you just close the doors and lock up. However if someone IS in the house, I suppose that's when you offer them the option of renting a room. You lock up the other rooms, maybe lock up the kitchen and your clerk can sleep in another room or something. I don't know. But it would be advantageous to be able to offer food (and definitely soda) later on. The best I can figure is put a microwave in the room and have them order the food beforehand. Run it like a hotel room. They have two dozen sodas, a cold pizza and a microwave. The next day you tally up the sodas drunk and the pizza consumed and charge it to their credit card.
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tisoz
post Dec 19 2006, 04:17 PM
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It is a lot easier to imagine this being successful as a small pizzaria that encourages gamers to come in and play, than a game shop selling snacks.
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SL James
post Dec 19 2006, 05:01 PM
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QUOTE (tisoz)
One could probably get a discount rate with a pizza place and let them psuedo cater while you play middle man to your clientel. Other food types could possibly work. Or simply stock cafeteria type vending machines serving a variety of food.

I think the worst-case scenario is actually something that happened here, where a comic shop moved to an area with better traffic flow after like twenty years, and had a small cafe in the same space.

The cafe's begun to crowd out the comic book store with people who couldn't care less about comics/games.
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Butterblume
post Dec 19 2006, 06:02 PM
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A dozen years back, stores in germany had to close at 18:30 during the week, 14:00 at saturdays. Not an ideal situation for a game store, even if it had gaming space, since the people with money (aka people with a full day job) mostly didn't get the benefits of the social aspects of game stores.
Actually, since last month stores in my state finally can be open 24/6. But I digress.

When the store closed, we relocated to a nearby gay bar/restaurant, where we were welcome during the week. As long as we remained in the backrooms :D.

They had pretty good food, and a vast assortment of beverages, both alcoholic and not. It had a good atmosphere, and you could, after asking, watch other games or even partake.

Most delivery services around here cater chinese, italian, mexican and greek food, some even exotic stuff. Striking a deal with one of them would probably be good, since they allready have the kitchen and the cooking staff, and you have customers.
Most people I know order food during play anyways. I can't really imagine people spending much on vending machines.
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mfb
post Dec 19 2006, 06:08 PM
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the FLGS in Pittsburgh sorta does that. they do everything, though--miniatures, card games, whatever. they've got a few big rooms upstairs from the shop where games run on Thursdays, i think, until like 10-11. they haven't latched onto the idea of selling snacks/photocopies/etcetera, but since it's in the middle of the tempt-college-kids-to-spend-mom-and-dad's-money district, i'm not sure trying to break in on the snack cartel's racket would be wise.
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nezumi
post Dec 19 2006, 06:43 PM
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QUOTE (Butterblume)
When the store closed, we relocated to a nearby gay bar/restaurant, where we were welcome during the week. As long as we remained in the backrooms :D.

When gamers aren't allowed out of the closet...

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Fortune
post Dec 19 2006, 06:48 PM
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QUOTE (Butterblume)
When the store closed, we relocated to a nearby gay bar/restaurant ... It had a good atmosphere, and you could, after asking, watch other games or even partake.

Gives the idea of LARPing a whole new twist.
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Moon-Hawk
post Dec 19 2006, 06:54 PM
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QUOTE (Butterblume)
When the store closed, we relocated to a nearby gay bar/restaurant, where we were welcome during the week. As long as we remained in the backrooms :D.

I wonder. Were you forced to stay in the back because you weren't gay enough to hang out in the gay bar, or because gaming is just too queer? :D
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mfb
post Dec 19 2006, 07:09 PM
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wouldn't want to scare the squares!
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Butterblume
post Dec 19 2006, 07:33 PM
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I can't get a translation for the german 'Stammtisch'. Verbatim it would be regulars' table, but that doesn't encompass the social angle of what it really is. People meeting regularly in a pub to do something with a theme, like playing skat or doppelkopf, talking about the best ways to breed rabbits (like they need help), bitching about unimportant stuff like who's the boss in the philatelist club, or having the same job, that's all Stammtisch.

Those people are regularly shoved in some backroom or a far corner. They like to be uninterrupted by other people, and that way they don't scare the others customers away.

That gay bar is not something like the Blue Oyster Bar from Police Academy. Cologne, the city I am talking about, is one of the most gay-friendly towns in the world, besides San Francisco and Berlin. A locale visited mostly by gay isn't that extraordinary. (I liked Moon-Hawks quip the best, btw :D)

Please, let's not forget about the topic. Like some dude said: Whoever saves one FLGS, saves the world entire.
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SL James
post Dec 19 2006, 07:45 PM
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QUOTE (Butterblume @ Dec 19 2006, 12:02 PM)
When the store closed, we relocated to a nearby gay bar/restaurant, where we were welcome during the week. As long as we remained in the backrooms :D.

Filthy gamers.
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KarmaInferno
post Dec 19 2006, 08:32 PM
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Neutral Ground in New York City is much like this.

They maintain the vast majority of the floor pace for gaming, either RPGs or card gaming or whatever. They have a counter and merchandise area off to the side where you can buy supplies or snacks or drinks, and rent table space. Regular events are scheduled every week of varying types.

http://www.neutralground.com/

The noise is a bit of a problem, though - on busy days you can barely hear the guy across the table from you.


-karma
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tisoz
post Dec 19 2006, 11:12 PM
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Thanks for the link. I may contact them to help get some data for a business plan.

It did remind me of promoting the store by holding tournaments and contests.

My food service friends keep shooting the idea down by stating restaurants don't want customers staying for hours on end - it's all about turnover. I would have to agree. It does not seam to be an idea that is going to make anyone rich. But working at something you enjoy and making a decent living is its own reward.

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mfb
post Dec 19 2006, 11:34 PM
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QUOTE (tisoz)
My food service friends keep shooting the idea down by stating restaurants don't want customers staying for hours on end - it's all about turnover.

the other problem is, restaurants are a pretty work-intensive business. for my webdesign business, i've spoken with several restauranteers; none of them have much leisure time at all, and their profit margins seem fairly slim. a hotdog machine and a cheese-warmer for nachos would, in my incredibly well-informed expert opinion, be about as far as you'd want to go in cooking.
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Kagetenshi
post Dec 20 2006, 12:03 AM
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IIRC, a restaurant's take on any given meal averages somewhere around 105%—for every $100 of food, there's $5 of profit. That's drawing from, again IIRC, a huge sample space, so there may be a higher-margin segment you can target, but yeah, restauranting is not something you really make money on the side with.

~J
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Sir_Psycho
post Dec 20 2006, 12:31 AM
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If you're going with food it'd be best to have an espresso machine, heat up pre-bought sausage rolls and pies and have stuff like cakes and bags of chips that you don't have to fiddle with.

You won't make any decent money unless you charge reasonable hourly fees per room/booth.

You'd also have to open your doors to all manner of nerdy pastimes. Warhammer and model kids will hopefully stay at Games Workshop, but you'd need trading card game players and a wide manner of rpg players.

You also need some way to introduce players to other players of the same games so they can meet and form new groups. An already established group has little need for your service, because they can have a cheaper, more comfortable time in the privacy of their homes.
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Tanka
post Dec 20 2006, 01:19 AM
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QUOTE (mfb)
the FLGS in Pittsburgh sorta does that. they do everything, though--miniatures, card games, whatever. they've got a few big rooms upstairs from the shop where games run on Thursdays, i think, until like 10-11. they haven't latched onto the idea of selling snacks/photocopies/etcetera, but since it's in the middle of the tempt-college-kids-to-spend-mom-and-dad's-money district, i'm not sure trying to break in on the snack cartel's racket would be wise.

Pittsburgher, eh? Never knew that...

The place also leaves the room open for other games (that is, if you're talking about Phantom on S. Craig) on other nights, and have a calender up for when which games are taking place.

They've also got a wall for Looking For Players and Looking For Games advertisements. At times they'll throw up a page on some guy looking to buy/sell books, but not too often (mainly only when it's a book they don't/won't carry).
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BookWyrm
post Dec 20 2006, 01:26 AM
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I've been to Neutral Ground. It's a nice place for tabletop & computer gaming, but not much selection on the way of stock. You're best bet is to stick with Compleat Strategist for the gear & NG for the actual play-space. Although Strat does have a back-room that they do allow gaming in on occaision.

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SL James
post Dec 20 2006, 01:38 AM
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QUOTE (Tanka)
They've also got a wall for Looking For Players and Looking For Games advertisements. At times they'll throw up a page on some guy looking to buy/sell books, but not too often (mainly only when it's a book they don't/won't carry).

Yet another reason FLGSes are losing their utility: Craigslist.
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