With the grand opening of Alpha Games near Bury St Edmunds tomorrow I had the pleasure of going to meet the guys and have a look round. Putting my best Paxman hat on I asked Danny, the owner, a few questions;
I’m sure most gamers have caught themselves day-dreaming about opening a store. What sparked you into taking the steps to make the dream a reality?
Well, there’s two ways to answer that! One is based on the dream – wanting to work around the people you like and the things you love doing – whilst the other is about the crass realities and business side of things. I’m hoping, personally, to be able to work in the gaming sector to collapse the work/life divide. If there’s a chance to spend your days doing things you enjoy, why settle for less? Obviously it’s got to be realistic though, and the resurgence in the board game industry and table-top gaming in recent years has given me the confidence to do it now. Fingers crossed!
You seem to have picked a location pretty much bang in the middle of East Anglia as opposed to in a larger town or city. You must be confident your shop will make people travel at least a little way?
I am confident that people will travel to us, yes. The population of East Anglia is really spread out, so people routinely travel 30-45 minutes to do a lot of their hobbies. As long as we can offer something to them in return for that effort, I think they’ll see the value in Alpha Games and understand why we are based where we are. Quite simply, we cannot afford the combined rent & rates that town centre locations demand – particularly for the space required for a gaming centre. Sure, we could just have a shop, but where’s the fun in that? We want somewhere to play!
Are there plans to run events and tournaments to pull people in?
Definitely. Constantly! We’ve got regular plans for a number of recurring tournaments for popular game systems and will support them as best we can. We’ll also have more casual gaming nights on a regular basis too. We’ve started promoting some of those already via Facebook, but we also want to adapt to the needs of our regular customers. If there’s something we don’t currently do, or could do better, then let us know! If it’s feasible to put an event on, we will do. Already we’ve taken requests for a regular board game night, a Game of Thrones LCG tournament, a tournament for Tanks! and an event for Blood Bowl – all of which we’ve been glad to accommodate already.
What games and figures are you personally loving at the moment and which games and supplies are you going to be devoting your shelf space to?
To begin, we will have an extensive selection of Games Workshop products, XWing, Bolt Action, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Army Painter, Vallejo Model Air, Tanks!, Gale Force Nine, Star Wars Armada and some board games too….with up to 20% off the RRP. Personally, I’m loving the revitalised Blood Bowl, dabbling in X-Wing (because my mates are forcing me to!) and considering a full-scale plunge into Bolt Action. The good wife will surely kill me if I do though! As for miniatures, I’ve been painting up a Blood Bowl team and resisting the temptation every time GW releases something new…because the quality of the sculpts in the last couple of years has been nothing short of phenomenal!
You’re obviously a talented painter and you have plans to bring in other ‘tutor’ figures. Will you be continuing with such sessions on the hobby front? (Danny’s Dreadnought was recently featured in White Dwarf and is an award winning painter of Games Workshops products).
Thanks! That’s very nice of you to say so. I’m a teacher by profession, and the thought of delivering painting classes is something that excites me greatly. I’ve recently started giving private tuition and have even taught groups of aspiring youngsters. In this regard, you can expect a lot from Alpha Games! I’ll be putting on regular painting courses and will have some of the biggest names in miniature painting tutoring from the store. It goes without saying, too, that I’m on hand to give painting and product advice as and when people need it. Be warned though – I can talk about painting 24/7!
Can we (punters) rent table space? Will there be terrain? Can we hire board games and just hang out?
Rent? No! Just turn up and play! We understand that it takes an effort from our customers to come to the store, so we offer free gaming tables in return. All we ask is that you support the store in any way you can and that you consider the other customers too. Yes, we will have terrain, but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer. If demand for the tables requires it, we will implement a booking system soon to ensure there’s no disappointment for travelling customers. For now, please feel free to call the store and ask if tables are free…we can always reserve them until you get there! We will have a few board games in store that can be used and will rotate them as regularly as we can. Just ask myself or Matt and we’ll be happy to lend them to you without charge.
Are there plans to get a ‘club’ night going at all or would you prefer something else, for example a 40K night?
We’ll be open late on Thursdays and Fridays, as well as those days we run events on. As for a specific theme to those nights it will depend on demand and what the local gaming community wants to see! Hopefully we will have a Bolt Action club, 40K/GW night, card game night, etc. Right now, the only specific night we’ve got designated is the Monday night Alpha Board Gamers, but let us know what you’d like to see!
With MtG being so popular will you be selling it and if so you’ll surely have to run FNM and pre-release events?
Yes, yes and, errr, yes! We will stock MTG as soon as we can (there will probably be some boosters of the newest set available from the opening day) and we’d love to get a FNM scene going with pre-release events too. Watch this space, where MTG and other card games are concerned!
Last one I can think of: will you be doing online sales?
Yes. The online market is something we have to capture a slice of in order to keep going successfully. As we speak, I’ve just seen the 95% completed site and it looks glorious, even if I do say so myself! For local gamers, the site will allow you to reserve products to be collected in store, place pre-orders, buy event tickets and serve a variety of other purposes too.
It’s always great to see new stores opening up, especially when they’re obviously so invested in so many aspects of the hobby. Matt and Danny are both nice guys with good senses of humour and it’s pretty clear that they’re in it for the love of games. There’s enough room to accommodate 4 large (6’x4′) boards or quite a few smaller ones plus a smaller room that’s ideal for RPGs and card/board gaming but with room for expansion if it all goes well. So it seems good to me.
I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of the community that they are hoping will gather in Stanton! The store is nicely laid out with a good selection of 40K, AoS, Bolt Action and various Star Wars games so far but with plans to increase the range to match what’s being played in store so grab your gear and head down this weekend for a few games, I hope to see you there (it’s here by the way – Unit 7 Shepherds Grove (West), Stanton, IP31 2AR!) -Mark