Game Store Memories

Flashback! My first visit to a game store, local institution Quarterstaff Games, happened some time around the age of twelve. I had asked for a Spelljammer box set for Christmas, having greatly enjoyed the tie-in novels. The Waldenbooks clerk forewarned us I would need special dice, and could get them down the street — why someone that knowledgeable neglected to mention that Spelljammer stuff was an add-on to the basic Dungeons & Dragons game, I’ll never know; confused, I wound up returning the box set for store credit, spending that on — probably — TSR novels.

So down I went to Quarterstaff with my mother, along Church St. through the cold, slush and shopping crowds. It was, at the time, a relatively dim store, partly thanks to the sparse lighting left over from its previous existence as a bar and the dark wooden decor. The counter, once a bar, and trim all around the store, was stained dark. It was, to my mind, very atmospheric, especially with the torches in their sconces and crossed spear and quarterstaff behind the counter.

The store was also ridiculously over-crowded with merchandise. Every available surface space had something on it. I remember in particular the stacks of dragon miniatures piled on a railing enclosing a raised level. At the time, I didn’t get how such intricate, colorful miniatures of dragons, of all things, could be packed into a flat little rectangular box.

Most of the visit is a blur now. I do remember asking the clerk what dice I would need and walking away into December’s early twilight with two of each type of polyhedral die, plus a third d6, in the inner pocket of my winter jacket. Those dice never saw action, sadly. They gathered dust and eventually disappeared.

But that marks the beginning of my relationship with Quarterstaff Games. I remember going back to browse the RPG books, and was particularly fascinated by the Encyclopedia Magica series. Later, when I encountered Magic: The Gathering in middle school, I’d make many repeat visits to the store, racking up enough purchases, with my brother, to earn the 10% discount card. I still remember the afternoon I went there with school friends and watched one of them sift through a newly-purchased starter deck to find an Aladdin’s Lamp as the rare — not that I got the concept of card rarity or how packs were sorted then.

After I got out of Magic, just as the Homelands expansion released, I didn’t go back to Quarterstaff for years, except maybe the occasional visit to admire the bizarre mix of enticing products and clutter, like the fleet of Lego pirate ships that lived in the back room with the Gauntlet arcade machine and Han Solo cardboard cut-out figure.

More than fifteen years later, Quarterstaff Games is still my go-to shop for RPGs and board games, as well as playing board games there most Tuesday nights. Admittedly, part of that is there’s little in the way of choice in Vermont for hobby stores of any stripe, but it’s also because I have history with the place. That counts for something with me.

7 thoughts on “Game Store Memories

  1. I’ve been to Quarterstaff Games a couple of times. I used to go camping in Vermont and I’d do everything I could to get my buddies to drive up to Burlington just to go there! It’s one of the best gaming stores out there!

  2. The dice geek in me is filled with sadness of the idea of those first dice going unused. I still have a few of my first dice, though their edges are so worn they are nigh-unrollable now, and the set’s not complete. I have loads of dice I never rolled, some I bought expecting never to roll them, but one’s very first dice… that just seems sadder somehow.

    • It was an ill advised fit of self-pity. “Boo hoo, I’ll never get to play this game, so I’ll throw the dice away.”

      Some years later, 2003 or so, I bought my second “first set” at Quarterstaff. I still have most of those, excepting the kind that fell prey to that “dice bag osmosis,” where dice of equal faces inadvertently exchange ownership at the table.

  3. The first game store I spent any serious amount of time in was Pendragon in Barre. Long gone now… I also remember picking up a Battletech boxed set at the Comic Book store that used to be in Randolph, I forget the name now, which is also long gone (sensing a pattern).

    I also have a strong recollection for the first time I went to Quarterstaff. It was shortly after I moved to Shelburne, the same night as First Night of that yeare, maybe 93 or 94. I made the trip downtown and found the place and was caught in wonder about the sheer number of Battletech miniatures available. For the several years I lived in the area, Quarterstaff was a regular place to visit. I was mostly playing Magic and Battletech in those days. I do remember that there was a weekly Battletech campaign running there around that time and I came in to play Magic now and again as well.

    Living in Barre, Quarterstaff is a bit out of my way now, but I do make it up now and again and I’m hoping to make a semi-regular habit of the Tuesday night boardgaming. The store has come a long way and changed a lot since my first visit.

    Now we just need to get something decent in my neck of the woods again. 😦

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