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27 Jun 2016 8:08 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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MichaelCollinsHimself03 Feb 2016 11:57 p.m. PST

In respect of where gaming space could be found/created/hired and how people played this might be illuminating for John to see:
Issue 1 Battlegames Magazine March/April 2006 and the article: "Wargaming: How it all began."

I can send a pdf copy your way Ned.

Maxshadow04 Feb 2016 3:09 a.m. PST

I remember the Tin Soldier store in Melbourne in the seventies. It was a room with figures hanging from the walls. It was my mecca when I travelled to the big smoke.

Fred Cartwright04 Feb 2016 4:33 a.m. PST

Ah the elusive hobby/wargames stores which were in every town if you listen to some people. Never came across one until the 90's when I first went to The Keep which IIRC was in Trowbridge. Model shops were common, but they sold Airfix kits and model railway stuff, along with Humbrol enamel paints, glue etc. When I was a young man the only place you could buy metal wargames figures within a reasonable travelling distance was the Miniature Figurines factory in Southampton. They had a small shop which sold WRG books and rules and you ordered the figures at the counter. If they didn't have them in stock they would cast them while you waited. As an interesting aside it was located in the red light district of Southampton, so if you were spotted by someone you knew near by you could always pretend you were visiting a prostitute instead of the embarassment of admiting you were buying toy soldiers! :-)

Cerdic04 Feb 2016 5:07 a.m. PST

When we were kids in the mid 70s there was a wargames shop in Ryde on the Isle Of Wight.

It was in the basement of a high street shop that sold glass and chinaware. I don't remember any signage about the wargames bit visible from the street, so it must have been a strange sight for the uninitiated to see so many males apparently interested in crockery!

I don't remember their full range but it definitely included Minifigs and microarmour of some sort.

But they DID have a gaming table. Quite a big one, or so it seemed at the time! I can't remember when they opened, but maybe it was before Games Workshop? Obviously it was incredibly advanced stuff for the Isle Of Wight….

BattlerBritain04 Feb 2016 5:35 a.m. PST

Fred C: The Keep is in Devizes just down the road from Trowbridge.

I think they're still going :)

Fred Cartwright04 Feb 2016 5:49 a.m. PST

Thanks Battler, yes of course, it was Devizes. I'm pretty sure the shop is closed, but they still sell stuff on EBay.

phil bagnall04 Feb 2016 8:45 a.m. PST

Fred – yep I remember sidling into the shop on Graham Road too with all the figures up in wall cupboards just inked on bare metal and a very battered copy of the catalogue on the desk if you were lucky. Sad day when it went (they let me in through the shop to buy a few bits in the factory once just before they called it a day)

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 8:46 a.m. PST

In the 1970s when I was a youth, there was a hobby store in the neighboring community where they sold everything from model trains to plastic models, board games to roleplaying games, remote control vehicles, and lot's of supplies for modeling and painting with some miniature figures, but no gaming tables. All my game experience were at home with family. There was no "club" that we knew of locally either.

There was also another simliar store in another nearby town, as well as a toy store that sold 54mm Britains as well. But no gaming done on the premisses of these either.

The two hobyy stores closed years and years ago. The toy store closed only in the last few years, alhtough it had long since sold any 54mm figures.

Ligniere Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 9:35 a.m. PST

In the mid seventies and early eighties when visiting relatives in London, and subsequently studying at college, there were three stores that I would go to.
One was in the Arches behind Charing Cross Station. It was so small it was full with three shoppers – certainly no room for gaming.
The second was near the Imperial War Museum in Kennington. Much larger store, with a basement. This was an Aladdin's cave for miniatures. The basement was full of glass display cases with thousands of painted 25's – but no room for gaming that I remember.
The third was near Victoria station, and was associated with Minifigs. The store didn't have the same emotional appeal as the one in Kennington, as I recall it was fairly spartan and a bit soul less. I remember that there were displays of miniatures in the storefront. I have no idea if there was gaming there – but there may have been room.

I don't remember the name of any of these stores, but all good memories.

gamedad2504 Feb 2016 9:59 a.m. PST

My local store was Harter's Hobby Shop. They carried supplies for knitting and macrame, model railroads and plastic models.

Gaming wise, they carried Avalon Hill, Star Fleet Battles, and D&D/AD&D, including miniatures.

gamedad2504 Feb 2016 10:04 a.m. PST

Games, Crafts, Hobbies and Stuff in Overland, Missouri carried Avalon Hill games, a large assortment of miniatures and rules for historical wargames, including WRG. Battletech rules and minis.

They also had gaming tables in the basement.

A real game's haven.

They were actually featured on a card in a collectible card game maybe the Illuminati card game?

KenofYork04 Feb 2016 10:38 a.m. PST

First time I ever discovered war gaming was by accident in a department store while school clothes shopping. Found a copy of Battle of the Bulge, maybe 1974?

In the late 70's I would spend what money I had at Allied Hobbies. A store in the Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA is where I got started buying TSR's Divine Right and Avalon Hill's new Squad Leader game. No table space but had some nice things for me to look at.

First proper store with gaming tables was Paradise Hobbies outside of Fort Hood, TX sometime around 1985. They played 15mm historic games and some first edition Warhammer. Nice shop.

After I returned to York, PA I found the Comic Store West. That is where I gamed for some time and spent too much money on GW minis. There is still a large group that gathers there, so 30 years is a good run.

Nikator04 Feb 2016 12:11 p.m. PST

I had been buying AH boardgames at a bookstore in downtown Buffalo NY (Ulbrich's) for a few years when the first games-only shop I ever heard of opened. It was called The Articles of War and was on Delaware Avenue. IIRC this was in 1974 or so. There was a game table in the shop, and I played board wargames, DnD (ran a campaign for a summer) and some WRG 4th edition Ancients. Both of these places have long since closed, sadly.

NedZed04 Feb 2016 1:44 p.m. PST

"I can send a pdf copy your way Ned."

Mike, thanks, I'd appreciate it. We are all interested in historical wargaming, and in my dotage I am finding it entertaining to read about the history of historical wargaming itself as well. My knowledge of wargame retailers came from reading the advertisements in the wargaming magazines I subscribed to in the '60s and '70s such as Featherstone's Wargamer's Newsletter, The Avalon Hill Newsletter, Dick Bryant's The Courier, Strategy & Tactcs by Christopher Wagner (later by Dunnigan), Hal Thinglum's MWAN, Pat Condray's The Armchair General, Wally Simon's PW Review, McCoy's Wargamer's Digest, WD's The Nugget… I may be forgetting some here.
By the way, Freddie, the Concord, CA store was owned by Chris Kurdakowski [sic?]. He wrote a set of modern tank rules called, I think, "Engage and Destroy" which might have been published by Chaosium (the same company which published my Vive L'Empereur!" rules). I think he used a periscope in that gamete obtain the POV for each tank.
I met him on a flight back to California from an Origins convention in Pennsylvania (?). We had both purchased, and played together on the plane, the brand-new new rules which had just come out and were sold at the convention called Ace of Aces. Those rules were composed of booklets with drawings of WWI fighters in them on each page. Each player had a booklet for his own plane. By choosing a particular page number which depicted a specific maneuver for each player, then comparing the resulting POV drawing in each booklet, each player had a drawing which showed where they were in the sky compared to the other plane. I always considered that game to be one of the most elegant wargame products I ever saw.
Readers of The Courier might remember this by Dan Beattie:

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 2:04 p.m. PST

December 1979, I was living in LA. I had just been laid off from my job in the animation industry so I went to a theater to see Zulu Dawn on the big screen (one of perhaps a dozen in the weekday matinee audience) and then drove to the Last Grenadier in Burbank where I saw my first painted 25mm historical miniatures game taking place on their table. I bought two Ospeys: The Zulu War and the Indian Mutiny, which I still own and refer to.

cavalry4704 Feb 2016 2:21 p.m. PST

In London in the 1970's I first came across Hinchliffe figures in Hamley's Sport & leisure shop on Wigmore street an old Late Victorian Department store that they took over, lovely display cases of painted figures by I think Peter Guilder. They sold blister packs of 8 figures or a gun and 4 figures as a series called calendar craft. they had a nice set of simple rules A4 size and about 20 pages long Humbrol did uniform painting charts of the figures. The store was unsustainable too much overheads and not enough revenue, not on the main thoroughfare.

I was then reduced to looking in the yellow pages to find other shops There was a shop in Turnpike lane which did models it was like an old toy shop with airfix models and painted minifig (and Hinchliffe IICR) figures they kept the unpainted figures in plastic draws like people keep screws in.

Next was The Shop in South ken that has been already described I bought the Hinchliffe catalogue there (sold it a couple of years ago at Warfare Bring & buy). The shop had glass cases around the sides with mainly lovely 54mm figure dioramas.

Finally there was a shop under the arches at Charing cross at the far (west end of the tunnel at the top of the steps it was about 8 foot long and triangular shaped Ken Livingstone's twin ran the shop and kept irregular hours he sat in the wide part with a counter leaving a small triangle of about 4fot by 3 foot for the customers max two could fit in. He smoked roll ups and the figures were in white cardboard boxes he had the full Hinchliffe range including 4most.

I hope this helps

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Feb 2016 4:26 a.m. PST

Im keeping quiet I am lol
Gamer was owned and run by Dave Dyer, I was just the staff.
Those where the days before the hobby became a 'business' and before GW went mad and things started being run by accountants and lawyers.
Never that many shops around even in the 'golden days' and certainly non with a playing area that I recall.

BattlerBritain05 Feb 2016 9:58 a.m. PST

Leon – just a big 'thank you' from me and my mates for allowing us to get into a lifelong interest in all things gaming.

Cheers Dood thumbs up

Ligniere Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Feb 2016 10:36 a.m. PST

Our descriptions are pretty close – particularly of the shop near Charing Cross.
I remember being in there one evening after work. It was just me and the owner initially, then a second guy came in – it got cramped, then a third.
This last bloke was in full Viking kit, he had just returned from a reenactment somewhere. He was probably 6'-6" and as round as he was tall. The shop was definitely FULL at that point – not sure how I got out to be honest. The owner asked him how he'd got on, and he answered 'I think I broke my shoulder bone – but I'm okay'

RudyNelson06 Feb 2016 9:54 a.m. PST

I have been in the war gaming store retail business since 1983. I copied my layout from the stores I frequented in the 1970s.
The first store I visited with gaming tables was in Atlanta in 1971.
It had gaming tables which were used for mostly board games.
Several stores such as the Cavalry store at Fort Knox did not have tables.
The Westwall Bunker in copperas cove Texas was more like traditional stores with tables. I started going there in 1977.

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Feb 2016 2:50 p.m. PST

Oh dont blame me! lol
It was a pleasure :) Good times.

Weasel06 Feb 2016 5:25 p.m. PST

Can't say anything about the 70's but late 80's when I got into gaming in Denmark, gaming tables in the store was pretty unusual.

I saw them first in GW focused stores and then it spread more generally

Shadowcat2006 Feb 2016 9:45 p.m. PST

Very early 80's we used to play wargames at Judges Guild in Decatur Ill. They produced a lot of RPG stuff but had a old school building for a HQ with lots of space. Every Saturday I would go up and play Hex games, Rpg, all sorts of board games, and they even had a sand table set up for micro armor.

Beeker07 Feb 2016 8:23 a.m. PST

Keystone Hobbies in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada for me. Started with Tamiya 1/35 model kits then found their Minifig napoleonics and Micro-armour … then D&D.

One games table in the basement in use just about every saturday until mid-80s … then PC based gaming pretty-much brought business to a stop… cancer did in the Santa-Claus of-a-fellow who owned it not too soon after.

Still very fond memories!

NedZed07 Feb 2016 6:38 p.m. PST

I mentioned Larry Duffield's store The GameTable in Campbell,California in an earlier post, but I was not sure which year he opened. I just found this RPG site online at:
Here are two snippets from the page:

"The San Francisco Bay Area also saw some of the earliest Dungeons & Dragons conventions. DunDraCon organized by Bigglestone and Martine for President's Day, early in 1976 was the first. Author Fritz Leiber attended as a guest, and in honor of that Bigglestone, Jacks, and Perrin prepared a Fafhrd and Gray Mouser inspired dungeon called The Ophidian Palace. Later that year over Labor Day weekend DunDraCon was joined by a second major Bay Area convention, Gen Con West (1976-1978). The new con started out in San Jose, moved to San Mateo, then mutated into Pacific Encounters (1979), which became the long-running Pacificon (1980, 1982-1997). A major national convention even came to the Bay Area in 1981, when Pacificon was run as Pacific Origins (1981) back when the Origins convention used to move around the country."

"There were several other game stores of note. GameTable of Campbell was opened in 1976 by Larry Duffield. D&D entered the store in 1977 when Dave Arneson himself came to run a few games. Gamemaster's of San Francisco was founded around 1978 by Shelton Yee who'd learned to play Dungeons & Dragons at DunDraCon I. Around 1983 Yee would also create Gamemaster Distribution at least the third distribution company in the Bay Area, following Armageddon and Donald Reent's Berkeley Games Distributors. Today he is still coordinating events at Bay Area cons. Older stores like D&J Hobby founded way back in 1971 were also entering the roleplaying sphere."

This confirms that Larry opened in 1976. Larry played all wargames and RPG games as well and carried all genres of figures, games, paints, etc, but historical wargaming was his own main interest initially. (He wrote a set of rules called The Complete Brigadier). He had tables for playing miniature games set up, so it is plausible that his was one of the earliest war-game establishments to have gaming tables, which allowed local miniatures gamers to make contact. Some of the local miniatures players' names I remember seeing there were Bob Bergman who liked Napoleonics, Dave Hinckley who was into modern armor, and Pete Flynn who wrote a clever set of Ancient rules. Merlin Woods bought my 25mm Napoleonic figures when I mover to 15mm. Richard Burnett may have been umpiring SUTC games there, as well.

Larry was interested in having the Origins convention on the West Coast; I was the "Miniatures Game Chairman" for, the '81 Pacific Origins convention and perhaps also the Pacificon which preceded it. (Time dulls the recollection). Charlie Tarbox's "Chariot Races" game was always a popular centerpiece. By the way, at: PDF link I see Larry went on to other war-game pursuit but he also mentions Jack Scruby's place in Visalia, California. That might be another candidate for earliest retail space with a game table. I never visited there, so I can't say for sure.

Since I am traipsing down memory lane, I have to mention Ray Iwasaki, even though he isn't related to the subject of this thread. Attorney Charlie Tarbox (author or coauthor of some of the Empire product line) was one of the movers and shakers in our area for the Empire Napoleonic rules. I believe Freddie Avner and Kip Trexel also ran in that circle. Freddie had a newsletter Sauve Qui Peut about their games or Empire revisions, and Kip came up with some campaign rules. (Freddie, please correct any errors I make in this post). That group had regular large-scale Empire Napoleonic battles.

There was a super nice guy named Ray Iwaskai whose family, I think, was involved flowers or agriculture, and had a lot of greenhouses on the property. These provided so much room that Ray was able to host games, let them stay set up, and even allow players space to conference. I only attended one game with them, but I remember being so impressed at the available space. Ray was a great guy, both at the table and away from it.

BTW, I think Charlie Tarxbox moved to Gettysburg (?) and opened a game holiday hotel or B&B, where people could stay over and participate on the wargame table. So maybe someone on the east coast is familiar with that and if I have that right or not.

custosarmorum Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2016 9:05 p.m. PST

I bought my first wargame at a hobby shop called Bloch's in Allentown, PA, around 1970 (two actually, Waterloo and Jutland by AH). They carried wargames, Airfix figures, and Rocco minitanks in addition to scale models, model trains, RC airplanes, and lots of supplies like glue, paints, flocking, and balsa wood. It was also the place where, through Airfix Magazine, Military Modelling, and later Wargamers' Digest, I got into miniatures gaming. By 1973 I was working there and convinced the owner to start stocking Der Kriegspielers as well -- we even had a display of their entire line and Uncle Duke himself came to the shop. By 1975, the owner started bringing in Minifigs on a special order basis.

While there was no gaming table in the shop, the owner did allow our group (who bought a lot of figures and supplies at the shop) to play on a table he provided in the basement, which functioned as a stock room. That said, we mostly gamed at the members homes (with parental consent).

The first dedicated gaming store I can remember came to town in 1977 and was called Conflicts. They carried a selection of miniatures, mostly fantasy, and all sorts of board games, both military and more general including chess sets, etc. They had about half a dozen tables in the back including one marked with a grid. They encouraged all types of games at the tables ranging from RPGs, APBA football and baseball leagues, and historical games. There were mostly put on by our group and included 15mm Ancients and Napoleonic games as well as 1/2400 ship games on a number of occasions. Sadly the place was poorly managed and they moved after a couple or three years and closed not long afterwards. I also went to the Compleat Strategist in King of Prussia to shop but I don't recall any game tables.

Clays Russians10 Feb 2016 8:49 p.m. PST

Boardwalk in Cincinnati, still open, used to stock strip 15mil mini figs and 25mm mini figs. And every board game ever made. Magazines and books as well. First walked into the place in 1973. ITS STILL THERE!

bobm195911 Feb 2016 1:03 p.m. PST

Leeds had a reasonable number of shops selling metal wargame figures in the 70's…even when that wasn't their main line of trade.
Cavill's in Armley sold Hinchliffe downstairs and model railways upstairs
Merrion Street in the city centre had a shop mixing "gifts" with 54mm figs and Lamming Napoleonic 25's
Headingley had a full scale wargames emporium (boardgames and more than one manufacturer of figures!); it was taken over by two members of Leeds Wargames Club in 1979.
Chapletown had a small wargames only shop where I bought my first 1/300 tanks and SPI games, it was sold and moved across the road to larger premises where toy cars and other "collectibles" were added.
Crossgates had a model shop that allegedly had some wargames stuff…..but I never went there.
Not far way in Bradford there was the Train Shop Supermarket where upstairs was all wargames stuff. the shop was bang in the middle of the red light district so walking there from the city centre was a real adventure at 14 years old….
NONE of these shops had anywhere to play a game.

Christopher Salander Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2016 3:50 p.m. PST

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Toy World in West Covina (So. Calif.) carried Avalon Hill games and Airfix figures. In the 70s in Sacramento, Cal. at least two different game shops carried AH games, and Highland Hobbies in North Highlands carried metal figures in small amounts, as well as The Armchair General and Airfix magazine. There was a hobby store in the Arden Mall that carried 54mm display figures, such as Imrie Risley and Historex. George Liberace and I were part of an effort then to form the Sacramento Model Soldier Society. The one wargame group I knew of played Napoleonics in 20mm using CLS. One member was a teacher and let us into a classroom where we pushed the tables together. Another member was a British WWII vet and another ran a pool hall. I started a board wargame club at my high school. I made the pilgrimage to Visalia to visit Mr. Scruby. In college in the late 70s, members of the SCA played Chainmail with 25mm medievals in the laundry room of my apt. complex. (It had a large laundry-folding table.) Then it was off to Silicon Valley in 1981 and the GameTable in Campbell.


In Portugal the hobby was present in a few shop in the 70 ies and 80ies we had a History (in general) magazine that had an artice in the last 2-3 pages with rules and pictures,mostly using Airfix and Rocco Minitanks models.
Also it is important to mention many wargames were also palyed inside military barracks or officers rooms,either as hobby or part of a study on some specific events.

4th Cuirassier24 May 2016 5:41 a.m. PST

I remember that shop in Charing Cross too or was it Temple? There is a newsagent there now. Can't remember what it was called.

The first hobby shop I ever went into was in Harrow on the Hill. I was mainly into model kits at that age but the shop moved to bigger premises elsewhere in Harrow and it was where I bought my first Hincliffe 25mm Nappies. I started subscribing to Military Modeling and thereby discovered another tiny shop called Cavaliers in St Albans, which also sold Hinchliffes. I went to that Wigmore Street Hamleys shop too but they never seemed to sell a lot, although they were good for the Calder Ceaft blister packs.

Tradition disappeared from Shepherd Markey some years ago, as did Under Two Flags from St Christopher's Place.

There used to be a wargaming shop in Dunstable or pehaps Bedford called the Guardroom.

They're all gone now but I suppose it is swings and roundabouts. In the 1970s there were far more shops you could go an rummage in, but there was far less product and generally it was lower quality than now. In the plastic kit industry you gte Tamiya, Airfix etc sellinbg exactly the same product now as 40 years ago. But in wargaming materiel terms that's very unusual. Buying the figures of 40 years ago for a brand new army today would be quite eccentric because there's no need.

Ottoathome24 May 2016 6:11 a.m. PST

Polks Hobbies in New York was the acme store for miniatures in the world. It was as I remember four stories of hobbies of everything from wooden model ship kits to boats, cars, plastic kits and toys of all types (really good ones too not the cheap crap they make in China for kids today). Many of these were already collectors items. They sold Britains and SAE boxed sets, board games, Avalon Hill games. This is in 1960. They had to tables for gaming. There was a toy store in the Port Authority as well that sold a much more limited line, but still Avalon Hill games and S.A.E's Again no gaming tables.

In my early years of gaming which changed in 1970, I saw no gaming tables. In the early 70's the Complete Strategist in New York which dealt almost entirely in SPI and Avalon Hill games had a few tables, and a satellite store in Montclair had tables o play at in the basement. That was held by all as a new innovation.

The idea behind holding games in stores was to provide services and venues for games, and to showthem publically in the hopes of gaining increased clientele. The problem with them is that they quickly turned into a baby-sitting service.

RudyNelson24 May 2016 5:26 p.m. PST

The first few hobby stores that I visited were warehouses for manufacturers. Phoenix Games (The Great Redoubt) and battleline games (WSIM). Both were in the Atlanta area. This was in 1971 and I bought my first war-games to sale using my family's gift shop business license.

There were play-test areas but no open gaming.

pbishop1225 May 2016 6:45 a.m. PST

When I was stationed in the UK in the 70's and 80's, I recall a shop in Bedford. Cluttered and dusty, but an excellent selection of books, rules and figures. I wandered in there often. And another I used to pass on my was between St. Neots and Milton Keynes. Guardroom? I bought my first Front Rank there.

My first foray into gaming however, was a small shop in Pontypridd Wales, 1977. I bought the Airfix boardgame Waterloo. Hard plastic relic. I took it back to Greece, painted it up using Haythornwaite Uniforms of Waterloo. An Air Force buddy and I played it a zillion times. I still have the game.

PVT64125 May 2016 7:57 a.m. PST

My first store was Dwayne's Toyland in Schenectady NY early to mid 70's. No gaming areas, but you could buy just about anything: toys, model rockets, slot cars Lionel trains and much, much more.It's where I bought most of my 1/700 scale ship models, Avalon Hill Games & all of my Heritage Lord of the Rings Figures.

Bob Runnicles26 May 2016 9:04 a.m. PST

My first exposure to the hobby was at The Model Shop in Harrow, one of those all-purpose hobby stores that also sold trains, rc cars and planes, plastic kits and of course gaming. My best buddy Simon was the guy that handled the gaming side of things, he brought in everything from minis to rpgs to boardgames. No table space though and the store has long since closed down. He sold so much GW product at one point that his 'reward' was they opened their own store down the street, then not long after called to ask him why he wasn't ordering as much!

I also used to buy gaming stuff from Leisure Games in Finchley; last time I was there they had no gaming space either but that was a while ago now. They are still going strong though I think.

Also frequented several stores in London every so often including the late, lamented Virgin Games on Oxford Street (they started off having a non-computer gaming area in the basement of one store as I recall, then they moved to a larger store and the traditional gaming area moved to an upper floor. Also Orc's Nest and of course I went to GW at Dalling Road more than once – back in those days they were a lot more fun and carried a range of stuff.

attilathepun4726 May 2016 4:07 p.m. PST

From all the recollections posted so far, it seems that the vast majority of wargamers got their first exposure through hobby stores, which only sold wargames and miniatures incidentally. However, I do know of one store from the mid-1970's that was devoted exclusively to wargames and related supplies, and which did have tables for onsite gaming. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name, but it was located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It handled both boardgames and miniatures, fantasy as well as historical, plus paints, brushes, glue, dice, etc. That is where I purchased my first Napoleonic miniatures: Der Kriegspielers Napoleonique Line, which were undersized 25mm (I understand most of the line was really pirated from British Hinton-Hunt figures).

Since the original query asked for visual description, this place was in a fairly modern one-story retail building with plate-glass windows which provided plenty of light. It was relatively uncluttered and spacious enough to hold two sizeable gaming tables, which were in use while the shop was open. I recall one group playing some fantasy type game (probably Dungeons and Dragons, which never interested me at all). There was also a group of Napoleonic gamers using the original edition of "Empire." I personally never gamed there, but I observed a couple Empire games, and concluded it was too slow moving for my tastes. The owner of the business was himself a Napoleonic gamer, which probably explains much. I don't know if the shop survived very long. If it did, it was probably because of the locale. Virginia Beach is south of Hampton Roads, and while there is no single big city, there are several small cities close together, collectively making a population of several hundred thousand (as of about 1980). More importantly, there was a large population of active-duty and retired military personnel within 30 miles or so of the shop because of the presence of Fort Eustis, Fort Monroe, Langley Air Force Base, Norfolk Navy Base, Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, a Marine Corps amphibious base, and a substantial Coast Guard facility.

In 1980 I moved to Astoria, Oregon, which is a small town, but which did boast a hobby shop (Len's Hobby Shop), which stocked a lot of military miniatures because the owner was a gamer and compulsive collector himself. It was quite small in space, but Len did organize offsite Napoleonic games in a building the town parks and recreation department rented out to groups for meetings. Unfortunately the shop did not last long because of the Len's early death.

Another place which catered to wargamers, and which survived for decades was Bridgetowne Hobbies in Portland, Oregon. It stocked a lot of books, display models, and toys, but at one time it also had a lot of wargaming figures on hand. I never saw a game on the premises, but I would not be surprised if it did have onsite gaming during its early years. Unfortunately, Bridgetown closed within the last few months.

In closing, I must say that I think video gaming and the Internet have a lot to answer for, but time marches on regardless of our desires. I hope this helps.

John Tyson26 May 2016 10:32 p.m. PST

I went into my first wargaming store in the late 1970's. It was Jack Scruby's store "The Soldier Factory" in Cambria, California. Jack Scruby was a well known leader in miniature wargaming at the time. The store was small, but I was awed and knew I wanted to get into miniature wargaming. Mr. Scruby was in the store but he seemed to be in a bad mood, so we didn't have much of a conversation.

Did anybody else know Jack Scruby?

God bless,
John T.

snurl126 May 2016 11:46 p.m. PST

In the early '70s near Lancaster PA, toy soldiers and war-games were sold in hobby shops. Usually in between the model kits and train stuff. There was always a selection of Airfix figures and a shelf full of Avalon-Hill games. Micro armor and confederals came along later. Then D&D hit and figure companies I never heard of came out of the woodwork. Space expanded to display more and more figures.

I didn't see any dedicated gaming space until they started to do it at The Comic Store, then at a new Gaming venue in the early '90s called Game Masters. (now gone)

Drusilla199828 May 2016 7:22 a.m. PST

In 1979, I was told about a group of gamers, who played miniatures in a hobby store, in Bayonne, NJ. Up to that time, I had been only playing boardgames, mostly Avalon Hill and i couldn't fathom what gaming with miniatures could be like.

I walked into the store on this particular Saturday, having been told that the group was refighting the Battle of Quatre Bras, which up until this time, was a dot on the Waterloo game map.

As soon as I saw the table, 8' x 8', with beautifully sculpted terrain and 25mm figures. I was hooked and have never looked back.

The store, closed about a year later, due to breakins and valuable memorabilia being stolen. Gaming on the premises was standard, but I never realized how rare that was, at the time.

Sir Able Brush30 May 2016 7:05 a.m. PST

In the late 1970's I was lucky enough to have two shops on my way to schools that sound 25mm lead figures. Neither had a gaming table. One was a very tiny model shop on School Rd in Moseley in Birmingham. he had a large display of a britiish square at Waterloo with French Cav surrounding it – all painted Hinchcliffe. The other was a newsagent in York Rd Kings Heath – which stocked a few figures behind the counter.

The first place I saw 25mm Hinchliffe figures was a newsagents in High Wycombe – he used to paint figures when the shop was quiet.. Aged about 6 I'd just sirt and watch him.

Valmy9230 May 2016 10:41 a.m. PST

21e Regiment,
Picking up on your comment from months ago about Chick Bartlett's…
Do you remember Great Race and Hobby Place on North Cotner (near 56th). I think that was Merle's original store and as you say he bought HobbyTown when Chick retired. Great Race had large slot cars in the back room but also had at least one big gaming table that I played at a couple of times (I didn't get to that part of town very often as I couldn't drive yet.) Call this late 70s or very early 80s.
When he moved Great Race to East Park and renamed it Hobby Town (2 locations for a while) as well the gaming tables went away and then it was many years before any place in Lincoln had tables.

Tom D131 May 2016 5:41 p.m. PST

I worked in the Compleat Strategist for a while in 1978.They did have a back room for games but closed it after 2 guys took a game too seriously and got physical! BTW, it's still there on East 33rd street.

Hafen von Schlockenberg20 Jun 2016 10:17 a.m. PST

Attila, I visited the VA Beach shop you describe once. GF and another friend wanted to go to the beach,so I talked them into dropping me off on the way. I can't recall the name,either.

And I had a similar reaction to the huge Empire game going on,too--the whole time I was there,whenever I looked up from digging through figures,the only movement on the table seemed to be guys flipping through rulebooks. I remember thinking,"there has to be a better way".

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2016 10:55 a.m. PST

There is a huge divide between the growth of wargaming in the UK and the US.

In the UK the drive was by way of clubs, meeting in rented accommodation with a limited time (4 to 6 hours). There were few if any dedicated wargames stores. We got our figures largely by mail order and to a lesser extent at wargames shows that were much less numerous than today. Hobby stores specialised in plastic construction kits, mechano and model railways. UK specialist stores were mostly cramped and you couldn't swing a cat in them. It was really in the late 80's and with GW that you got the rise of the hobby store. I lived on Dalling Road in Hammersmith near to the original GW store and that based on the traditional model rather than the gaming store model.

The US has a different experience. Stores are larger, depending on the area of the country possibly including a basement area for games. Games were viewed by store owners, who may also be gamers, as a means of promoting the hobby and their sales. In twenty years living in the US I've yet to find a wargames club that rents premises on a regular basis for gaming. In the UK one of the clubs I was a member of during the 1970's is still renting the same building.

This is not a one size fits all answer.

attilathepun4720 Jun 2016 2:43 p.m. PST

To von Schlockenberg:

Yes, for me the better way was an early introduction to the TAC 50 Napoleonic game "Valeur et Discipline," which was written by Ben King, who happened to live in the Hampton Roads area. I am sort of surprised that "Empire" is still around, after such a creaky start.

Timbo W20 Jun 2016 4:22 p.m. PST

Wales late 70s to early 80s: Airfix and matchbox kits were fairly ubiquitous, even the village shop stocked a few off and on, most toy-shops also stocked a range.

There were dedicated model shops in the Big City (Cardiff!) these were mostly trains/ rc cars/ kits etc but some carried metal figures, usually Fantasy and some D&D etc odds and ends. I think Queen's Arcade and/or Morgans Arcade in the centre.

For anything more exotic (ie Minifgs) it was a case of sending off by post or going to a show. Armageddon (now Colours) in Reading was the gaming highlight of the year for us. I remember my eyes being out on stalks the first time – so much stuff – so amazingly painted – wow!

mumbasa27 Jun 2016 8:23 p.m. PST

I bought AH Tactics II and AH Gettysburg from Uncle Hank's Toy Store in Westminster, Colorado in 1960. Uncle Hank was Japanese-American while his store worker spoke with a German accent ;)

Mute Bystander28 Jun 2016 3:51 a.m. PST

The Rancho Cordova Library after asked to leave Mather AFB due to too many civilian members (minors also reportedly an issue) though I think maybe Viking Hobby had a small area you could schedule/rent?

Never played at shops on west coast, Los Angeles to Seattle, first game at a shop when moved to Saint Louis, MO.

Personal logo Ed the Two Hour Wargames guy Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Jun 2016 8:26 a.m. PST

The Soldier Factory, Cambria CA, 1973 – Jack Scruby. But he started in the 50s in Tulare CA.


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