Down here in the south, it gets hot. I mean — HOT. I always suspect the reason that board gaming is so much bigger in other parts of the country is because we have beautiful weather almost year round — but summer can be pretty brutal in the afternoons.
So what does your game group do to beat the heat?
Why, just head to the beautiful shores lining the Gulf of Mexico, of course.
Ah, beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama — for many in Louisiana, it is a second home. Gorgeous powder white sand, light breezes blowing onto your balcony, and warm nights with excellent music down at The Hangout. Can it be any better?
Of course it can, because this blog is all about Board Gaming in the Deep South. So if your game group is out and about in the Gulf Shores / Orange Beach / Perdido beach complex, and are itching for some gaming, do not fret. You can always spice up your vacation with a trip to a local game store.
On a recent trip, we visited two local game stores, one of which is a little more geared to our hobby than the other one is.
First up, Mini War Game in Fairhope, Alabama. Just a thirty minute ride northwest of the Tanger Outlet Mall in Foley, and about a 45 minute drive from the beach, Fairhope is one of those Main Street type communities. There are lots of little shops lining the small streets, and couples with small children walk hand in hand as twilight turns a romantic dark shade on the oak tree lined paths.
On one of those side streets is a beautiful little store just chock full of gaming goodness. We arrived there just before closing, so we did not have a chance to game there. But the friendly owner and some munchkins were all set up playing Magic the Gathering (a common theme in today’s blog post). Every single wall was lined either with board games or war games or trading card games. There was lots of bright lights shining down on clean tables, and the owner encouraged us to come back on Tuesday for their hobby board game night. We had just enough time to purchase a small expansion for our brand new 10th Anniversary edition of Ticket to Ride — Alvin & Dexter.
The selection is not as large as some of the other stores we have visited around the world, but the store is well lit, the people are friendly, and it would be a nice place to pick up a new game and maybe make some new friends. It is also an excellent place to
hide play while your significant other is attacking the outlet mall for hours (the mall in Foley is one of the largest outlet malls in the country.) On your next vacation to the Gulf of Mexico, we recommend a quick visit to Mini War Games
NEXT UP, The Black Gate in Foley. Just a short drive north up the road from the Tanger Mall (notice that everything in Gulf Shores seems to be related to how far you are from the Outlet mall), lies a non-descript building on a non-descript highway. Frankly, we were not sure we had actually arrived, Siri/Gigi not withstanding. But, when we saw the sign for X-Wing and Magic, we knew we had arrived.
Inside we found your typical Magic The Gathering / tabletop / Warhammer hang out. Big bright spaces, lots of pre-teens playing games, and lots and lots of empty tables. Well, when we say empty, we mean “ready for play” because many of these tables already have impressive sets made for Warhammer. Now realize that here at The Gumbo, we don’t play Warhammer, but Jamie from The Secret Cabal waxes poetically about its beauty, so we think we recognized many of the boxes and terrain.
We certainly do not begrudge anyone who has a dream, especially if it is about getting youth to play creative games instead of hanging out on the street. But, The Black Gate may not exactly be what our regular readers are looking for in a game store. If you are looking for a nice selection of board games, friendly knowledgeable staff eager to help you Spice up your next game night with the latest releases or an old classic, and/or lots of board game friendly events…..well, maybe you should stick to your FLGS back home. The Black Gate is very good at what it is there for — a place for families to play Magic:The Gathering or Warhammer type games, and a place where if you and your friends brought your own games, you would have plenty of space to play and in fact may even draw a crowd to see your game.
We did not see much stock if any board games (it looked like just one small shelf with a few games.) They advertised X-Wing but there was nothing there but a broken display box. There was a good selection of Citadel painting supplies, and lots and lots of Magic singles.
We will say that the staff was VERY friendly. Two young gentlemen met us at the door, and talked to us about the game store set up and the events they host. (They do have a weekly board game night, where everyone pitches in a little bit to buy a game, and then they play it and the winner gets the game — or “donates” it to the small but potentially growing board game library.)
Frankly, The Black Gate was not a board game store at all, but it does not appear to be trying to be one. It is a friendly neighborhood board game hang out, and there is certainly nothing wrong with those kind of places. In face, if the weather turns sour on our next trip to the beach, the Black Gate’s Friday Night Magic game night might be something my sons would be interested in just to while away the time (we are not serious Magic players here, either, but enjoy the occasional game).
In summary, visit The Black Gate if you are looking for clean, wide open space with lots of plastic tables and metal chairs, and the expected game and snack dispensing area in the back.
So, the next time you and your game group (or just your family) are down on the Gulf of Mexico, and the weather is keeping you off of the golf courses, or the parasailing, or the mini golf, then head over to one of these two stores. Visit either one for friendly gaming spaces and lots of summer time events. Visit Mini War Games if you are in the mood to pick up a game and want to support local owners instead of the unfriendly big box stores lurking near the outlet mall. Visit The Black Gate if you want lots and lots of Magic or Warhammer or other table top games….but don’t visit The Black Gate if you are looking to buy a board game.
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!