Before starting this list, I put down a number of stores I patroned over the years to find the best and my favorites. To qualify, I used the questions: Would I want to go back? Is there a cool story linked to the store? What is so cool about the place?
Honorable Mention: Orc's Nest, London, England
I remember see their ads in old (mid-80s) White Dwarf magazines and thinking this was a place I'd never get to see. However, when I finally went to London (November of 2001), the Orc's Nest was on my list of things to see.
Now far from the large stores of nowadays, this place is literally a hole in the wall a short distance Leicester Square. I walked up the street and passed in front once. Retracing my steps I entered this place. My first impression was of an old place, and I looked at the shelves loaded floor to ceiling with books. With the second half-story and the narrow staircase, it is a blast from the past. As I looked through, I could not shake away the feeling that its musty shelves might contain some lost forgotten treasure, some antique book of lore. Like I had entered a old wizard's shop.
I did not find anything overly special, but then it was during the day and not during a full moon...
5- L'Oeuf Cube, Paris, France
Similar to the Orc's Nest, I learned of L'Oeuf Cube (the Cubic Egg) through their ads in RPG magazines. Every month they would redefine the chainmail bikini (of which I never had issue and actually enjoy those) in a full page spread. Like the Orc's Nest I never thought I'd actually go there, much less patron it. Like the Nest, it is small and cramped, filled to the brim with whatever you may want.
It really became a favorite of mine for its second-hand section at reasonable prices. I'm a sucker for cheap stuff and I've no problem buying used game books (hence my Ebay addiction). One of the greatest thing was that they were open on Sundays and I made a point of heading there every weekend while I was in Paris to see what they had.
Their Web Site (en Français)
4- Le Donjon, Quebec, Qc, Canada
At one point, Le Donjon had four stores, but now only "the original" one remains, tucked under the Bibliotheque Gabrielle Roy in Quebec City. The store was very close to my apartment. I remember going to the opening in Montreal (Donjon-Maisonneuve) and thinking it was a great place. At the time, it was the only store in town that had room for people to play games there! I know! Not only just one creaking table, but size 8x4 tables for people to play. In a city where game stores may had one table that was usual covered with the same Napoleonic game the owner had been playing for years, this was such a welcome change.
Also, they had a second-hand game section (see a trend?) that had some decently-priced material. When I started playing 40k, they also had cheap miniatures, allowing me to quickly build up my army with infantry, dreadnaughts, and other goodies. For a time, they also operated the "CyberDungeon" selling stuff online through Ebay. I bought a fair amount from them when I lived in Europe.
Over the years, I patroned all four locations and was saddened when Ste-Foy and Maisonneuve closed. Writing this, I just learned that the other location in Montreal no longer uses the "Donjon" name. Sigh. Oh well.
What I love about it? The team was very dynamic and ready to work and do a number of things. The guys knew their stuff, they loved and played the games they were selling, something a lot of the store owners in Montreal didn't seem to care about at the time. They wanted nothing to do with us nerds except our money. But Le Donjon was a place I felt I belonged.
Oh! And the best of all? They run a yearly auction where people can sell their used games.
Their Web Site (en Français)
3- Moonlite Comics, Frankfort KY
I will admit that when I first entered Moonlite Comics, I was not overly impressed. It was a comic book store with a little RPG and wargaming. However, it was not long and the gang there ordered stuff for their regulars (of which I quickly became one). Not only that, but the gaming community there is diverse, large and open to a wide spectrum of games, styles, and events. Many play miniatures, RPGs, and CCGs, very open gaming group.
Not only that, but they welcomed me with open arms, and pretty soon I was running and playing in games of this and that. Very cool. With time, the store greatly improved, by changing its layout and running all kinds of events and sales that call to my cheap-daddy-bone! Every time I ordered games, they came on-time and they held them for me until I'd come to pick it up.
My only complaints is that Jay, the previous owner is a Maple Leafs fan (Toronto's evil hockey team) and that is an unforgivable sin.
2- Le Griffon Féérique, Sherbrooke, Qc, Canada
Back in my college days, I went to the city of Sherbrooke, about 100 miles east of Montreal. Surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Appalachian Range, it is a nice town with a relaxed vibe.
Le Griffon fits in perfectly in there. The staff there taught me how to paint miniatures, how to build terrain on the cheap, and it was an all-around great place (esp their current store location). When I was President of the RPG club, I arranged a number of special sales through the store. Christian, the owner, was always super helpful. We arranged a number of events, including a Magic tournament, ran large-scale games, had a city-wide BloodBowl league (where the finalist of their league and our faced each other). Really a great place to be.
I haven't been in many years, but I have no reason to doubt that it remains as great a place as ever.
Their Web Site (en Français)
1- Gamers Haven, Colorado Springs, CO
I will admit that the rest of the list was tough to rate, but the Haven was at the top of the list. This was the "easy choice".
Gamer's Haven in Colorado Springs in a store that caters to "everything", from historicals to wargaming to RPGs. There are a few CCGs going on at time as well. One thing about the Haven is that the staff (Troy, Rob,Ed) know and play games as well. I was lucky enough to run them through the Masks of Nyarlathotep and a lot of laughable moments still exists. They only needed one last chapter to complete the whole thing.
While at GH, we played a lot of historical games, and I definitely miss that here. The community played a LOT of things. And any idea, from the wacky to the well-defined is allowed to go. I had a few wacky ones myself and they went with it.
One of the things that propelled GH to the top of the list, are their opening hours. The Haven is open at hours where gamers want and can run games, allowing us to play there most evenings until 10pm. This allowed gaming from 6-10pm most evenings.
The Haven's auctions were extremely fun to attend. Not only were they well-stocked with games, but the goal was for people to trade in their stuff. I lucked out myself on a lot of products, building whole armies for fraction of the cost. Sure, they weren't new, but an unpainted mini is... well an unpainted mini!
A big thanks for all the memories and kudos to Rob and Troy for running what I consider the best game store in the world. You guys really rock, and I wish you contemplated moving to the Nashville area!