Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 10 essentials to a great gaming store.

-- By Ghoul

I recently watched the Dice Tower's top 10 essential things for a good gaming store.  You can watch the same video here:

The panel, consisting of Tom Vasal, Zee Garcia and Sam Healey, discuss the essential components in a successful gaming store.  Many of their personal choices were shared by the other two.  I compiled their combined thoughts and listed them below.  I will discuss the value of each of these and illustrate how Knight Watch Games plans on capitalizing on them.

1. Good Lighting.   All three panelist agreed that having good lighting allows for customers to enjoy their games.  The problems of glare and sickly yellow lighting was noted as huge turn-offs.  The dreaded flickering light was also stated as a immediate shop fail.  Not only does good lighting allow for game play, it sets a tone in the store of openness.  The products on the shelves can be displayed and the customers can be seen.

Knight Watch Games plans to have a mixture of ambient lighting and spot lighting.  The ambient light will come from fixtures disguised as torches throwing light towards the ceiling and off the walls. We wanted the light to simulate the warm glow from flames, but we worry that customers wont like the more subdued lighting.  Florescent overhead lighting doesn't seem to enhance the ambiance we are aiming for.   To counteract the soft warm light of the torches in the store, the tables will have multiple chandeliers hanging over them.  While it will look like the chandelier is just holding candles, within the ring of candles there will be a high-powered spot lamp aimed down at the table, which will illuminate the play area, but leave the rest of the area subdued.

2. Comfortable Chairs.  Again, all three panelists agrees that the chairs in a store either promote the gaming experience or they severely detract from it.  The chairs need to be sturdy and accept a wide-range of body types.  Gamers will be sitting in the chairs for hours so they must be comfortable enough.

Knight Watch Games plans on having at least three types of seating available, depending on which table the customer is sitting.   At the "lower-caste" tables, there will be benches that can accommodate three players at a time.   The benches will have cushions.

The "higher-caste" tables will have individual stools that are sturdy, cushioned and large enough for a single customer.

Lastly, at the "Nobles" table there will be chairs that are wide enough for anyone, strong but regal. The chairs will have a high back and a cushioned seat.

3. "Modernization" Tom Vasal heavily recommends that a store be "modernized" By this he means that a store should have a contemporary cash register, inventory system and effective AC/Heater.

KWG is planning on using a tablet to facilitate the Point of Sale system.  It will automatically update the inventory and well as produce a paper receit for customer records.  We will also be using the online store to help facilitate sales.  Customers will be able to order an item online and pick it up at the shop with no problem.  We are also using an online registration system to allow players to register for tournaments ahead of time.

4. Snacks.   It is agreed that gamers love eating while playing games.  While Cheetos and Mt Dew seem to be the quintessential snack, the gaming community (and society at large) is veering towards healthier alternatives.

KWG is going to provides things to eat through a company called "Healthy Vending".   They offer tasty alternative to the typical chips and candy.  Brenda is a big proponent of eating healthy and wants to pass this onto our customers.  It is an additional benefit that the healthy foods will have less grease to get onto the games.

5. Demos  According to the Dice Tower, customers want to see and handle games before they buy them.  It is expected that stores have games that can be play-tested before the commitment of buying. Not only do customers want to see the contents of the game box, they want to see the game mechanics in action, so store owners need to be prepared to demo games to potential customers.

Knight Watch Games already has over $2000 worth of games slotted for open play at the store.  These include Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, Imperial Assault, Armada, Magic:TG, Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder.  We plan to add many more games as time passes.

6. Distinct/professional employee appearance.  It has been stated that customers want to know who is a worker in the store and who is a customer.  When customers have questions, need assistance, or want to talk with an employee, they should not have to guess who that actually is.  It seems some stores have their employees mix in with the players and fail to perform the customer service role.

Both Brenda and myself have a clear understanding of what it means to be store owners.  It does NOT mean that we get to play more games and hang out with friends.  We know it means that we are offering a service to customers and need to be available to assist those customers at any time.  To make that easier, Brenda and I will be wearing either our Knight Watch Games store t-shirts or an ensemble that could only be called a costume.  Both of us are going to go out of our way to greet customers and say farewell when they leave.  We see Knight Watch Games as our home and we are your host.

7. Well-stocked product.  One of the major benefits of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is the immediate gratification of getting the product right when you pay for it.  Its rather disappointing to go shopping for something in a game store only to be told that it is not in stock.

If a customer asks for a game we do not have in stock, we will make every effort to get a copy for you right away.

8. Well-behaved customers.  Hardly anyone can honestly say that they enjoy being in a gaming store that has loud, obnoxious, and rude players.  Gaming is an activity that is supposed to be fun. Shopping is supposed to be fun.

KWG has a code of conduct that we will enforce within our walls.  We want Knight Watch Games to be an accepting, friendly and fun place to hang out.  We will correct any behaviors we deem getting in the way of that goal.  Of course, we will do it privately and with due respect, but we will not tolerate customers that don't follow the rules.

9. Plenty of space to play. The store should have plenty room for anyone to play that doesn't impede a customer's shopping. The gaming area should allow players to comfortably set up the game and its accessories without encroching on other player's space. Gamers tend to be on the larger side and they shouldn't feel like a sardine when playing at a store.

Knight Watch Games is looking to lease at least 1800 sq feet, with a majority of that being play area. Long wooden play tables will easily seat 30 players.  Special game board inserts will be designed to augment the table to allow for larger play areas for games like X-Wing, D&D, or Warhammer. The benches and chairs are designed for comfort, space, and function.  We want people to be comfortable.

10. Clean Store.  This is the most emphasized component of a successful gaming shop.  Customers want the store to be uncluttered and clean.  The checkout counter should be free from product and allow customers to put their merchandise on it.  Even more important, the bathrooms should be cleaned.  Often.

KWG vows to keep the store as clean as possible. Having two dogs in the store will be a challenge with the dog hair, but we will minimize this as best we can.  The bathroom will be clean and clutter free.  After all, this is our home, and we want it to be yours too.  We'll make sure it is fit for guests.

What other elements of a game store are essential?  If you can think of something, let us know and we tell you what plans Knight Watch Games has in that regard.

We look forward to serving you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


-- by Lotus

"Where have you traveled? "

This is the number one question posed to military families while stationed in Europe. Because it is so easy to visit numerous different countries, Americans experience a sense of profound wanderlust.  Social media is rife with touristy snapshots of mini-trips to Paris or Rome. American military families are capturing memories that they will have for a lifetime.

Paraic and I have had our share of adventures while stationed in Germany, but if someone were to ask me about my favorite place, I’d have to say Lokki’s.  In the little village of Oberusal, there is a hobby shop named Lokki oHg. A Finnish couple own the store, which provides a peculiar variety of services…Friday Night Magic, computer repair, and a bed & breakfast.  From the instant you walk in the door, you sense you are in someone’s home.  Bernd and Liisa (along with their owl, hawk and two dogs, who all roam freely) have transformed their quaint Bavarian style residence into a unique and charming environment. Paraic and I were instantly inspired.  It was during those weekly FNM events at Lokki’s that the concept of Knight Watch Games was born.

Paraic has returned from his deployment to Africa and we are spending all of our energy on designing a business plan for our upcoming game store, Knight Watch Games.  At first, we wanted to create a version of Lokki’s by purchasing a building that would serve as both home and retail space with our pups, Mishra and Urza, serving as the store’s welcome wolves.  How cool would it be to wake up in the morning and walk downstairs to work?  The plan was solid and the financial figures calculated, but lenders don’t care as much about an idea or how much passion one possesses, as they do about getting paid.  So, the store-in-residence idea has been scaled down to a traditional retail hobby shop, but when you walk into Knight Watch Games, you’ll know you are home.

Picture this: Mishra and Urza are snoozing on their beds in the corner, when the chime of the front door bell indicates a guest.  Often too lazy to greet you, they re-position themselves and fall right back into deep sleep.  Even though you just parked in a large paved lot and strolled past several major retailers before you entered, the immediate sights, sounds, and smells transport you to a medieval great hall. 

Dark timbers on the walls hold sconces of torches that light the room in warm hues. Wrought iron chandeliers sway from the timber beams spanning the ceiling. The wooden floors echo your footfalls as you walk in. Paraic is casually arranging books when he turns to greet you. Though you cannot see her, you know Brenda is here because you can smell fresh coffee brewing. 

The room is full of long, dark worn tables, complete with benches where familiar faces look up to smile, then continue playing their games. As you move further into the room, a large leather chair tempts you to sit. You settle in and while you wait for FNM to begin, soft music playing the background transports you to an age of chivalry, magic and mystery.  You realize you are very much at home.

While here in Germany, I have traveled extensively and experienced places many will only ever see in pictures.  Yet, when people ask me "Where have you traveled?" I answer that my best trips were flying TIE Fighters across the galaxy to Alderaan, exploring the town of Two Creek Crossing in the Forgotten Realms, and battling for Zendikar.  I don't begrudge them the looks of confusion I get,  it’s just my personal flavor of wanderlust. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Breaking up is hard to do.

-- by Lotus
Breaking up is hard to do, except when one is following their dreams.

My husband is currently on another deployment, this time Africa.  Thankfully, this is a short one - only six months.   Meanwhile, I am living in our current duty station of Wiesbaden, Germany, trying to learn the language, building a network of friends, and just barely staying sane. 

Yep, he’s ARMY (Hooah) and has been for about 8 years.   I joined the party about 5 years ago when he swept me off my feet in a fairytale-style romance.  At the time, I was enjoying a long career with a local company in San Antonio.  The pay was awesome (the company Mercedes a nice perk) and the downtown apartment was every city girl's dream.  I felt like Carrie in Sex & the City (minus the active sex life).

When we got married, I had to reinvent myself.  As you may know, it is hard for a military spouse to keep a career.  Mention to a potential employer that you’ll be moving to another duty station in a couple of years and they place your impressive resume in the “Not a Chance” pile.  No hard feelings…I was a business manager too.  I get it.

Did I mention my husband is a total geek?  Dungeons and Dragons, first-person shooter games, Magic: The Gathering, and airsoft are just a few of the immersive hobbies that became my world when we got hitched.  Fortunately, my own previous hobbies were minimal due to working long hours, so I welcomed the change…and love every minute of it!  Who knew role-playing games could be so much fun? 

A few years ago, we decided to host a weekly D&D campaign in our home (Ft. Hood at the time.)  Working long hours himself, Paraic decided to pass along his miniature terrain building skills to me.  He taught me how to create stone blocks using silicone molds and plaster, how to build them into miniature replica of castles, taverns, & ruins, how to paint them and even add flocking and weathering touches.  The pieces we created together became the setting for our miniature D&D town of Two Creek Crossing.
Our players loved the terrain so much, Paraic suggested I try selling the pieces online.  A year later, I was operating successful Ebay and ETSY online markets, devoted solely to miniature fantasy terrain.  Every time my ETSY phone app would signal a sale by making a little cash-register chime, I’d get goosebumps.  The satisfaction I experience from creative expression is unlike anything I ever felt holding down an executive position in an office setting. The feedback from my customers motivated me to look for inspiration, create new pieces and continue to expand my business.

It was just about that time that we received orders to Germany.  The idea of living is Europe is much cooler than actually living here.  While we are grateful to have the opportunity to travel and experience the German culture, we find it difficult to get our game on here. ARMY housing is…well, let’s just say that I had a larger apartment than this when I was a 19 year old cashier at Burger Time.  
Not only does the lack of space and the prohibitive business laws prevent me from operating a home-based business, the cramped quarters make it difficult to host games here. We made several efforts to get involved in games at local hobby stores, but the language barrier is a real issue. If you can’t talk trash to your opponent, games become seriously competitive and stressful. So, Magic is out.  D&D is out. Airsoft is illegal here and so we have thrown ourselves in to our newest hobby - Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures games.  Excellent game, but even dogfighting becomes boring after a while (whining ends soon, I promise). 
Paraic’s answer to this is to design an X-Wing campaign, allowing the game play to last for weeks, even months.  He is in Africa now, researching other campaign style games and incorporating some of their rules and ideas into our G.E.E.K campaign – Galactic Epic Escalating Konflict. 

Back to the breaking up part…

Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.  Paraic and I Skype every night from Germany to Africa.  We talk about the GEEK campaign and about life in Germany for me and the pups (we opted out of parenting humans).  Our conversations inevitably go philosophical and the more we talk, the more we realize that we are not happy.  While the ARMY has been good to us, it is keeping us apart too often and holding us back creatively.  So one night, we entertained the idea of separating from the military.  I suggested we use all of our passion, creativity, gaming knowledge, business management experience, and Veteran resources to open our own hobby shop.  It was something we had talked about before in a “wouldn’t it be cool if” sort of way, but that day, it was a viable option on the table.  “Let’s do it”, he said. 

 So, we are breaking up with you ARMY.  It was a successful relationship in that we were good for each other and we can part friends, but life is short and we’d like to return to our own planet now.