Kapow! Las Vegas Comic Expo Set to Kick Ass (Too)

What: Las Vegas Comic Expo
Where: Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
When: September 28-29, 2014
How Much: $20-45 a Person
Website: http://lasvegascomicexpo.com

The Las Vegas Comic Expo returns this weekend to Las Vegas, hosted at the Riviera Hotel and Casino and runs from September 28 to September 29. The weekend show will pack in some big names and talent including comic book legend Neal Adams (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern-Green Arrow), Joe Benitez (the exceptionally illustrated steampunk-themed Lady Mechanika), and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), and Image Comics co-founder Whilce Portacio among dozens of other comic book writers and artists. Among the celebrity guests, male gamers who grew up in the 1990s will recognize Donna D’errico (Baywatch), while everyone should know the hulking form of Lou Ferrigno. The Excorcist’s Linda Blair has high billing along with True Blood’s Kristin Bauer, but for sci-fi/fantasy fans and gamers alike, who could beat Sylvester McCoy? Sure, he played the seventh Dr. Who, which by itself is platinum in geek culture, but he’s also Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit! It’s not too often that you get a chance to meet someone who has a miniature sculpted in his likeness (though that may change thanks to Mimic Miniatures Personalized Gaming Miniatures Kickstarter).

Tickets are $25 per day per person or $45 for the whole weekend at the door, but if you pre-register tonight (September 25), you can get in for $35 for the weekend or $20 a day. Doors open at 10 AM and close on Saturday at 7PM and 5PM on Sunday, though on Saturday night there will be a Cosplay Contest running from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM, much like San Diego Comic-Con’s Masquerade. But compared to SDCC, the Las Vegas Comic Expo (LVCE) is a much more intimate affair, with an attendance last year of just over 7,000. This year attendance is expected to remain consistent, if not exceed the inaugural year, which featured comic creators like Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. Panels will run throughout Saturday and Sunday this weekend on topics ranging from “Zombies and Pop Culture”, “Women in Comics” to “Fantasy Writers” to “Promote Your Comic Book or Die”. While larger comic conventions have multiple competing panels, at the LVCE attendees will only have to choose from either the Main or Annex panels, so seating may be limited, especially at focused panels spotlighting a celebrity such as Sunday’s “Sylvester McCoy: The Hobbit” and “Kristen Bauer” on Saturday.

Gaming at the Las Vegas Comic Expo

The LVCE isn’t only about comic books, fantasy, science fiction, and popular culture, of course. It will also offer a lot of gaming, including many demos of games to the general public featuring King of Tokyo, Heroclix, X-Wing Miniatures, and Netrunner, which should be easy enough for casual gamers to pick up. On Sunday AEG’s Legend of the 5 Rings card game will be demoed from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM, which sounds like just enough time for a beginner to learn the mechanics of the incredibly complex card game. Roleplaying games will be supported with a strong Pathfinder contingent providing Beginner Box Bashes throughout the day in addition to Pathfinder Society Scenarios Mists of Mwangi, Black Waters, both parts of The City of Strangers, and one of the newest scenarios, PSS 05-04 The Stolen Heir, wherein heroes attempt to rescue a nobleman’s daughter, as well as the high-level PSS 05-05 The Elven Entanglement. For a full list of Pathfinder organized play at the Comic Expo, check out the Warhorn listings.

Gaming Tournaments at the LVCE

Tentacled eye stalk monster Shuma Gorath heroclix figure

Shuma Gorath in All His/Her/Its Glory!

Besides the demos of board, card, and roleplaying games, the LVCE will also incorporate a number of tournaments. On Saturday afternoon Patrick Booth will be running an entry-level Ascension tournament, followed by a DC Deckbuilder Tournament on Sunday. The winner of Ascension will take home a voucher for the newly-released Darkness Unleashed expansion, with the DC Deckbuilder winner receiving a voucher for the as-of-yet-unreleased DC2, which will release in December. Both come courtesy of Avatar Comics and Games. New players to Ascension can try out the game before the tournament, during the earlier demo sessions, and simply need to pony up the $5 to participate in the tournament, with all cards and counters supplied by Avatar. Las Vegas’s largest dedicated gaming store, Little Shop of Magic, will be running Magic: The Gathering tournaments on Saturday and Sunday based on Friday’s release of the much-anticipated Theros expansion with prize support coming from the store. Meanwhile Maximum Comics will provide prize support and run HeroClix tournaments on each day, as well as Marvel Legendary and Star Wars LCG tournaments. Prizes for Heroclix include such convention exclusive figures as Shuma Gorath (from Dr. Strange) and the Trinity of Sin (from DC Comics’ recent Trinity War), which have attracted the notice of some of the top contenders at the recent Heroclix World Championships, which were held in August at Gen Con, according to Dustin Hall. Hall, the LVCE Games Director, has already received notice of players traveling from Utah and California to compete. For an overview of prize support and tournament entry fees, please refer to the LVCE’s gaming page. As for miniature games such as Warhammer 40K or Warmachine/Hordes convention games organizer Dustin Hall says that there are plans to address that portion of the gaming community next year.

And Plenty of Cosplay

Besides Saturday evening’s Cosplay Contest, there will be many cosplay-themed panels and cosplayers in evidence at the LVCE. Cosplay queen Jacqueline Goehner is just one of many female cosplayers who will be sitting in on panels like “Cosplay 101”, “Kids Cosplay”, and “Business of Cosplay”. Goehner will be debuting her Starfire costume which will – based on her Witchblade costume worn at previous conventions – leave little to the imagination. While Starfire is an orange-skinned super heroine famous from DC’s Teen Titans, Goehner will also be cosplaying as Midna the Twilight Princess from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which should see her a bit more clothed. Goehner’s panel participation will include one on wig making and styling, another on making a body cast, and another on the process of making a Witchblade costume. Besides her Starfire and Midna costumes, Goehner also plans on cosplaying Wonder Woman and has plans for a fourth costume, but admits that she probably will not finish it in time for the convention.

Scantily clad cosplayer in Witchblade costume named Jackie Goehner

Goehner as Witchblade and Herself: At LVCE She Will Unveil Her Starfire and Midna Costumes

Blonde hair and a trident mark a cosplayer playing as Aquawoman at Phoenix Comic Con

Brieanna Brock as Aqua Woman at Phoenix Comic-Con

Also going as her favorite character of Wonder Woman will be Brieanna Brock, but she will be playing as the Red Son version of the character. In the Red Son universe created by Mark Millar, Superman is raised by Soviets instead of the Kents in Kansas. The Wonder Woman of that universe is much grimmer in appearance. Not to worry, the second character Brock will be playing is Leila from Code Geass, who will add a bit of color in with her costume. Brock’s Red Son Wonder Woman will be bolstered by a Red Son Power Girl and several other Red Son-inspired DC characters. Brock will be busy at the LVCE leading the Cosplaying 101 panel and helping the other panelists as the cosplay director. Brock has recently branched out past the superhero genre into the twin worlds of anime and manga which is what led her from only having read Death Note to exploring the world of Code Geass. As she says of her choice of Leila, “I love powerful characters that are portrayed as leaders and also value a team.” Both of the costumes are brand new for Brieanna Brock, who loves the challenge that a new costume provides. Speaking of her Red Son Wonder Woman Brock says “it was definitely a challenge and after being finished I feel proud to bring that inspiration to life. Showing it off is fun too, it’s a perfect opportunity to educate others about the character, the series, and cosplaying in general.”

In the female-dominated world that is cosplay, there are pockets of masculinity, which will be represented at the Las Vegas Comic Expo by the 501st Neon Garrison of Stormtroopers who will be featured in their own panel on Saturday.

The First Las Vegas Comic Expo

Three T-Shirt Designs from Zombie vs. Human I Run With Zombies Zombie Eating Power Up Mushroom and Zombie Unicorn or Zombiecorn

Zombie vs. Human Shirts

In 2012, Ralph Mathieu, owner of Las Vegas’ own Alternate Reality Comics attended and exhibited at the first Las Vegas Comic Expo and spoke highly of the experience as well as his vendor sales. Mathieu is particularly looking forward to seeing writer Gerry Conway at this year’s expo. Conway co-created The Punisher, helped kill off Gwen Stacy, and created the DC character Firestorm, but it’s his Spiderman-Superman crossover which Mathieu holds in particularly high esteem. Alternate Reality Comics is joined by many other Las Vegas local comic book stores in the exhibitors’ hall including Maximum Comics, Avatar Comics and Games, and Comic Oasis. Avatar chief Kristian Norberg said that the previous year was a “success” for his store and ran “fairly well”, paying for the booth rental and then some. Besides selling comics and merchandise to attendees, Norberg was able to take in and enjoy the Artists’ Alley at the 2012 LVCE. Any fears he had of a comic convention fiasco, such as the one Las Vegas witnessed in 2003 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, were allayed by his experience the first year.

And Other Exhibitors

L.A.-based Zombie vs. Human will be exhibiting at the Las Vegas Comic Expo, selling a variety of men’s and women’s T-shirts with zombie themes, all in an effort for customers to be prepared “for the zombie apocalypse”. For proprietor Aaron Berg, the Comic Expo is a chance to be among like-minded company for whom their clothing line requires little to no explanation.

GAMA Trade Show: Customer Service Seminar

Redhead smiling beauty Joann Gain from Jester's Playhouse at the GAMA Trade Show

GTS Speaker Joann Gain from Jester’s Playhouse

Joann Gain, head of the GAMA Retail Division and owner of Jester’s Playhouse, kicked off the GAMA Trade Show on Monday night, March 18 with a seminar on Customer Service. With Amazon and other internet retailers waiting in the wings with lower prices, retail stores must have the best customer service, Gain exhorted. With excellent customer service Gain has sold Jenga for three times as much as mass market retailers. Her simple advice? Treat customers with a friendly attitude. Leave your baggage at home. “Don’t just sell vanilla ice cream,” she advised. Provide customers with the products that mass market retailers cannot. Have a thorough knowledge of your inventory and what’s available; make sure your employees do as well. On this point, a retailer chimed in and shared that he has a Monday training meeting from 8-10 AM for his staff of nine so they can familiarize one another with new products.

While Gain made several other points, the seminar shifted into more of a roundtable with retailers sharing their problems and eliciting solutions from the other 22 retailers in the room. When the topic of customer reviews on sites like Google and Yelp came up, the general consensus was to ignore the negative reviews, but several retailers spoke up and said that they personally respond in a professional manner to negative reviews. Marcus King, head of Troll and Toad’s retail, responds to everything except Yelp. As someone who might know a thing or two about trolls on the internet, he pointed out that “Yelp is a swamp.” and that “Some people will hate you for absolutely no reason.”

Problem Customers

Unfortunately from attending the seminar it would seem that Magic players are hated for some very specific reasons. Joann Gain finally tired of one Magic player who had been a “pain in the butt” for over six years and hasn’t regretted banning him from the Jester’s Playhouse. Another retailer spoke up, describing his partner at his store as “an asshole” and said that his partner hates Magic players and is getting more and more aggressive when booting MTG players out of the store. Keeping it positive, Marcus King suggested “Have you tried to show him what percentage of sales are Magic?” A retailer in the back also keeps it positive in her own way and shared that at her store, she gives employees a paid break when she notices that they are getting too hostile with customers, asking them to take the time to rethink their employment and attitude. John Coviello from Little Shop of Magic revealed that he had to call the police recently to get a patron out of the store for the first time in 19 years. The gamer would not follow directions and became belligerent with store staff, Coviello said, but banning him has been worth it due to an improvement in the store’s atmosphere. Just as in Dave Wallace’s Building a Better Manager seminar, retailers agree that retaining troublesome patrons is seldom worthwhile. Retailers also revealed that NPCs are not necessarily Non Player Characters in game stores, but instead Non-Paying Customers.

Airing the Dirty Laundry: Body Odor

What happens when two dozen retailers come together? They complain about their customers’ body odor! Amazingly game store owners confirmed the gamer stereotype shared in every online discussion about what to bring to a gaming convention: deodorant. It’s such an issue that one game store owner keeps both his and hers spray deodorant (and has to replace them on a regular basis because they are being used). Another owner spoke up and said that she keeps Febreeze around for such cases, while a third owner said that he takes such smelly customers aside, out of anyone’s else’s hearing, and explains the odor problem to them. He reports that these conversations have never been disastrous and that the offending customers get the hint.

Customer Service for Customers’ Transactions

Talk switched back to a less odiferous conundrum: customers buying, selling, and trading within game stores. In general, the consensus seemed to be that most owners ban such transactions, with many of them moving to the parking lot instead. Other stores take a more proactive stance such as Little Shop of Magic. LSoM regularly hosts well-attended flea markets where customers can trade through the store with Little Shop taking three to four percent to cover credit card costs. Sellers receive a gift certificate for store credit for the agreed-upon price of the game or miniatures sold to another customer. At Troll and Toad, Marcus King does something similar, using gift coins instead of gift certificates, specially crafted by Reaper Miniatures. It’s a win-win situation with both retailers and their customers benefitting.

Smiling Joann Gain and Dean Kao at the GAMA Trade Show in Bally's

Relaxing After a Busy GTS 2013: Joann Gain (Jester’s Playhouse) and Dean Kao (Eudemonia)

Interview with John Coviello from Little Shop of Magic

CG: What’s your internet discount matching policy?
LSoM: It’s actually on the website, you can look it up at any time you want. If you’re shopping online and you can find an equally matched item, we’ll price match it for you. We don’t match clearance prices and out of stock items, or eBay prices. If it’s got 7 days to go, I can’t match something when I don’t know what the end result will be.

Store Background, Gaming Background, Success, and Work Ethic

Litlte Shop of Magic owner John Coviello standing in his store.CG: How did you start back in Flagstaff?
LSoM: Pure accident. At the time I’d just gotten out of the Marine Corps, I was going to college, majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Computer Science and I was working for Hasting, a books, music, and video store. It was a chain of 108 stores and I was an assistant manager there and a game buyer. I got a call from one of the distributors, Wargames West Central-
CG: In New Mexico?
LSoM: In New Mexico, Wayne Godfrey, yeah, he eventually sold the store…So I got a call from them, “There’s this new game called Magic. Do you want to try it?” So I literally bought two decks.
CG: And these were just the starter decks, right?
LSoM: These were the Alpha starter decks. We playtested it, we liked it. So Magic exploded. I got tired of it within three weeks. Not my cup of tea in general, CCGs. But I liked the artwork so I collected card sets as they were coming out, so if you’re familiar with Magic you know how prices skyrocketed. So I got to the point where I was looking to sell them at a convention, in either Tucson or Phoenix, to see if we could get rid of our extra cards. We had a great selling weeekend. I decided against doing the typical college thing of dumping it in beer, but approached a friend of ours instead who had a small 300 foot sq. store they were selling comics out of, the Comics Co-Op. This was September of ’94.
CG: Are they still in business?
LSoM: No.
CG: How big is your store now?
LSoM: This is a little over 3,000 sq. feet. We entered an agreement where it was you guys sell comics, we sell games, we split rent. It worked out for them, because they had extra people to man the store, we didn’t have to take on the lease, it kind of skyrocketed from there. We expanded the store twice in that location. We moved the store twice in Flagstaff to get to bigger and bigger locations.
CG: What about before? How did you get interested in games in the first place?
LSoM: I was 8 years old and I walked into a bookstore and they had a series of games from Avalon Hill, the bookshelf games, they had Starship Trooprs and I took that home.
CG: With chits?
LSoM: Yep, cardboard chit counters. If you know Avalon Hill, Avalon Hill and 8 year olds don’t mix well. I went over the game’s rules for like 10 days, but I was determined to find a game I could understand and went back the following week: a counter spinner rack of some of the first licensed D&D miniatures caught my eye, so I bought the Red Box, and dove in. That was the first game I got into, got into. I finally got to play the game [Avalon Hill’s Starship Troopers] when I was 16, it sat on my shelf for 8 years. I started playing D&D with my brother first and my friends, etc. etc.

If you know Avalon Hill, Avalon Hill and 8 year olds don’t mix well.

CG: Are you more of a DM or a player?
LSoM: I was always the DM. At the time I was living in Italy and coming to the States in the summer. Back in the 80s you couldn’t find anything for D&D in Italian. Everything was in English. So I had to read the books and DM. [John explains that he was born in New York, but grew up in Italy.]
CG: You speak Italian fluently?
LSoM: Yes. And I’ve lost most of my French and I used to speak that very well too.
CG: Do you still play Magic: TG at all?
LSoM: No. I haven’t played Magic for years. Absolutely nothing wrong with the game. I like miniatures. I like more tactile experiences than just cards.
CG: What do you think of the 3 expansions a year? Should there be more? Less?
LSoM:It seems to be more than that. The core set breaks that pattern. There’s one that comes out in May, the core set in July,… so you have effectively have 4 expansions a year. What do I think about them? It seems that the die hards keep up with that pace. Magic has been growing a lot and staying steady, so I imagine that it’s the right pace.
CG:How is Las Vegas different from Flagstaff in terms of gaming?
LSoM:I’m not going to say variety. I would say just the sheer playerbase is bigger. And Vegas, maybe it is because of the larger amount of players, but it’s a lot more political and fragmented.
CG: In terms of who’s playing where?
LSoM: Not necessarily, but rivalries, my game is better than yours, that situation. I think some people are more into gaming for the ego boost that it gives them than the gaming experience itself. So and so is the guy that I follow… I play what he plays.
CG: Living in Las Vegas, I know Little Shop is very brick and mortar, but is a decent part of your business in internet sales?A wall of miniatures and wargames rules in Little Shop of Magic in Las Vegas.
LSoM: We do both, yeah. We’ve been able to successfully marry the two. Brick and mortar in 1994 and the internet store in 1996. The reality of it is that the majority of my expenses come from my brick and mortar, however the reason why I never went exclusively online is that there’d be no hobby in 20-30 years. The problem with internet sales is that they cater to a vested audience, people already engaged in the hobby, and they do very little to promote the hobby to a brand new audience. As much as we think Magic is huge or Settles or Cataan, it’s still a tiny, tiny segment of the population. Part of the job of a good brick and mortar store is constantly bringing people into the fold and expanding our industry.
CG: How do you do that?
LSoM: Organized play, providing a friendly atmosphere and a professional atmosphere. Basically treating our store like a store and not a club house.
CG: Yeah, one of the questions I was going to ask was how you explain your success and longevity.
LSoM: Honestly that’s the big thing. Treating the business like a business. It’s unfortunate that those are the harsh realities of our business. It is a business. We have to pay our rent every motnh, our employees every week. A lot of people who get into this line of work, do so because it is their hobby. The problem is that once you’re in this line of work, it’s not a hobby, it’s your job.
CG: How many hours do YOU work each week?
LSoM: It’s better now, but typically 40-60, make that 50-60 actually.
CG: How many hours are you open each week?
LSoM: [John does some calculations] …78 hours.

Retail Duds

CG: What are some of the real retail duds of the last 3-5 years?
LSoM: That’s very subjective, I’m going to start with prefacing it with if I can’t sell it, it doesn’t mean someone else can’t. I’ve seen shifts in a matter of miles between what sells and what doesn’t. Let’s say I don’t sell Heroclix well, it doesn’t mean that a comic book store won’t sell it well, so I can give you MY duds. One that I passed up on and I’m very glad I did is called Redaki, it’s based on a Japanese cartoon. I passed on it for a number of reasons. One, it was already competing in a crowded field. Two the product released before the cartoon did in the United States. It was a high price point for a low number of cards. And sort of the final straw for me, was the very low margin point. It wasn’t anywhere near the standard of our industry.
CG: Was that a gaff on the part of the company that made it?
LSoM: No. They chose to use this lenticular card format, that has this kind of really cool 3D animation. That was part of the mechanics of the game, that you put them on top of each other and you could actually see the attack. It’s like a holograph. 4-5 cards for $5.
CG: What are some other ones?
LSoM: Another one that I unfortunately didn’t see was, let me go see, let me look at the product, because I have a couple left. Arcane Legions
CG: Ah.
LSoM: Yep. So on paper the concept was good. It was a bridge game: in other words, it was a way to bring non-miniature gamers on board as miniature gamers. Unfortunately it didn’t catch on with non-miniature gamers or miniature gamers either. The miniatures weren’t cool enough to attract existing miniature gamers. and the mechanics weren’t enough to capture non-miniature gamers.
CG: So you made that choice as a buyer, I don’t want to stock that.
LSoM: I make that choice everyday. This is something that we get, and we get one from each of the distributors. [John leafs through a copy of GTM, Game Trade Magazine.]
CG: Oh, like Alliance.
LSoM: Every day I probably get 15-20 emails for product solicitations.
CG: Those are sales staff approaching you?
LSoM: Yes. It can come from a manufacturer level, a distributor level, lately it’s even been from people who are starting from Kickstarter.
CG: They’re asking you to put money in?
LSoM: Yes.
CG: Have you?
LSoM: Nope.
CG: Are you aware of any that have succeeded with Kickstarter?
LSoM: Yeah. Did you get your thing published? Sure, are you making money hand over fist, not that I’ve seen.

Area 51 Miniatures

Grey Alien miniatures from Area 51 Miniatures perched atop a Martian mesa.CG: Now what about your Area 51 Miniatures?
LSoM: It met my expectations. I knew going into it, that I’d not become the next Games Workshop nor did I plan to do so. I just wanted to try my hand at being a manufacturer. In that respect it was successful, I’ve recouped my costs, it was fun to do. And now we are in the profit phase, where I don’t have to put any money into it. Every time we sell a miniature we make a profit.
CG: Who uses them?
LSoM: They’re generic for any system you want to use. We were approached by Ed [Teixera], the TwoHourWargames guy, we told him go ahead, he has a set of sci-fi rules. And also Monomer Games, a local company, has a PDF to use them in their Zombie a-Go-Go game.
CG: Any further plans with that?
LSoM: Not particularly, again it was a project that started off with a bunch of friends. Unlike me, they’re not directly involved in the industry as their source of income. They do the sculpting, I do the marketing. So if time comes up we’ll release more models, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Board Game Rental Program

CG: What is your board game rental program and where’d the idea come from?
LSoM: The board game rental program kind of came from trying to figure out how to best use our demo copies of games. The basic fundamental problem with it is we can’t, at a moment’s notice, run a demo. We have to process mail order transactions, that’s our receiving crew usually, find items for people, pay bills, etc., etc. We can’t at a moment’s notice, run a demo.The problem is that when we schedule a demo, we can generate excitement for a game, then the demo copy serves its purposes. We can’t physically afford to have staff manning demo copies.

The other problem is that when you look at board games, they have an average price point of 40-50 dollars, that’s fairly typical, so while we can give a recommendation to a customer, he is ultimately the best judge of whether he’s going to like that game or not. So the rental program let’s you check it and if you love it, we’ll take that rental purchase and apply it to the game. So it’s literally a test drive program. Basically the customer doesn’t have to take my word for it, he can try it himself, great, he likes it. Liking or not liking something is very subjective. I can tell you why I like a game, and you can agree with me that you like bidding mechanics which that game has, but if you don’t like bidding mechanics, you will hate it.
CG: How long are the rentals for?
LSoM: We charge by day. Ultimately speaking, yeah, make a decision, otherwise you bought yourself that game.

Gaming Store Profits

CG: Where do actual profits come from in running a gaming store? Is it special CCG events? Christmas sales?
LSoM: There’s different ways of running it. We, as a general policy for the store, don’t aim to make money for events. The main reason for us to have a gaming area and a floor space is to generate excitement for gaming, not to make money on the game itself. That doesn’t mean that that’s a bad way of doing business; there’s plenty of successful stores that use events as revenue generators. But as far as our store is concerned, we generate revenue when we sell a product.
CG: Well, which sort of products make the most profit?
LSoM: It’s kind of split evenly. I would say that there’s four big broad categories or departments: miniature games, collectible card games, board games (which currently encompasses the deck bulding games, Dominion, the Lord of the Rings one, the Game of Thrones one, you can buy expansions), and finally role playing games.
CG: And where in there do you make the most money?
LSoM: It’s split evenly across the board except roleplaying games are chronically underperforming. That’s been the case for going on 8 or 9 years now.
CG: Is part of that, Barnes and Noble having stuff?
LSoM: No. There are some inherent problems with the ways that RPGs work from a profit point of view. The basic fundamental problem is you have one buyer and five to six players. Usually the DM saddles the majority of the book purchases and the modules and the players buy a set of dice, a pencil, maybe a miniature. Problem number two, however morally you feel about it: the illegal aspect of downloading PDFs. I’m not talking about legitimately doing it, I’m talking about photocopying or doing a torrent rather than purchasing it. And then finally the mindset that I don’t ever want to buy a new book ever again. We see this whenever a new edition of a roleplaying game comes out. It’s been eight years since the last one, but they’re outraged at the idea.
CG: Do you think that GW has conditioned wargamers to just accept it?
LSoM: I don’t know what it is with miniatures, but miniature players are a more steady purchasing group.
CG: Could it be in for a penny in for a pound?
LSoM: I think there’s always something coming out where you can justify to yourself I really want that model. As an example, I haven’t played 40k in a while, but I just bought the new Tyranids because they look awesome. I don’t know if I’ll put them together or get in a game of 40k this year, but I still purchased them. There’s definitely some companies that work the fanboy aspect well. They know how to keep their customers engaged.

“I read the book, because I got the game, because I wanted to know more about the background of the game.”

CG: So what looked cool to you?
LSoM: On Tyranids, I always like the big alien bug cold, unfeeling aspect of them, the hive mind, so I just really like the way those look.
CG: Did you get the Tervigon or whatever it’s called?
LSoM:The Tervigon and the new Hive Tyrant…
CG: So you got both of those.
LSoM: Yep, I skipped a generation, I never did the newer Hive Tyrant, the metal one.
CG: What did you play in Starship Troopers?
LSoM: Yeah, that game wasn’t around for long. I played both sides.
CG: Oh, I meant the Avalon Hill one, not Mongoose’s.
LSoM: Haha, yeah, I played all three sides, because you also had the Skinnies.
CG: Did you read the books?
LSoM: Yeah! Incidentally I read the book, because I got the game, because I wanted to know more about the background of the game.

Other Trends and Games Workshop

CG: What other trends have you noticed in the last ten years in gaming?
LSoM: The big one right now is what we were talking about with constructible deck games. It started with Dominion and now you have a whole subcategory of games, that are basically CCGs without the collectible aspect. On the miniatures side, we’ve seen a lot more variety come out that’s actually able to stick around.
CG: Like Malifaux?Just a fraction of the wide variety of miniatures Little Shop of Magic stocks.
LSoM: Malifaux’s one, Dystopian Wars, Warmachine and Hordes, Flames of War, there was a time around 2002 around 2005 where if it wasn’t GW, nobody was carrying it, nobody was selling it, nobody was playing it.
CG: So you’ve resisted becoming a GW store and carrying the full line and all of that?
LSoM: I am. I am actually a Partner level store. But did I resist it? Yeah, for a long period of time, because of what their impositions are, it wasn’t beneficial for my business, to abide by those guidelines to achieve that Rogue Trader store. Now it’s called a Partner level store, but same position? Yes. To give you an example, when we were in Flagsatff we only had one Ork player, when the new Ork General came out, I could not order two Ork Generals, I’d have to order six or nothing, because that’s how they were packaged in the warehouse.
CG: So you didn’t order or what?
LSoM: Only if the customer really wanted it. So then I’d get stuck with the other five.
CG: And then sell it online…
LSoM: You can’t.
CG: And why’s that?
LSoM: If you’re a Partner level store you agree to not sell their product online. Somebody calls me and wants to order something, fine, But I can’t have an online shopping cart with their products.
CG: How much are you concerned about Games Workshop doing as it has done and maybe is still doing in opening up a store in the area where a lot of its product is being sold?
LSoM: I am not concerned. I understand that that’s how it works. But realistically speaking, the way things work in my store, if people buy something, I stock it, if they don’t buy something, I stop stocking it. I know several retailer friends who have GW stores in their market area, I have one who has three [stores], yet they still sell a lot of GW product. At the basic level, a GW store is just like any other store, I mean in this town, you have five stores carrying GW, a sixth one makes no different in the grander scheme.
CG: I think the sixth matters to some of the other businesses, probably not as much to Little Shop.
LSoM: But that’s not a factor of GW, that’s a factor of that business. Can you blame the competitor for that? When you look at a GW store, what does it have that another store can’t have? The only thing that they have the advantage on me, is I cannot give you the cool Space Wolf keychain. That might be a motivation for someone to go down to the store to get that keychain. As a matter of fact, a regular GW store doesn’t stock the full line of GW items. So, Forgeworld stuff, Collector’s, the online only orders.

I’m gonna give you the opposite, that a GW store can be beneficial. It’s inevitable for one to come here if we grow the GW market enough. I’m surprised that there’s not one here already. That being said, what GW stores excel at is recruiting new players. What GW stores don’t do well at is sustaining that playerbase. And that’s where usually Battle Bunkers or independent stores like this one, come into play. You’re not going to find room for 34 players in a GW store, unless you’re in a Battle Bunker, and they’re few and far between and all they can push is GW product.

Being a Dedicated Game Store

CG: I know you shared that space with the comic book shop, but have you ever thought of selling comics too?Little Shop of Magic has a huge selection of Flames of War miniatures and rules.
LSoM: We actually did it for a couple of years when the Comic Co-Op closed shop. A few of their members graduated college, moved on with their lives, etc. We were the only store in Flagstaff providing comics. So for about two years we did comics. Frankly, not my personal interest so I don’t do comics well myself. So when another comic book store opened up in town, we gladly said go get your comics over there. On a personal level, I feel that by being a dedicated game store I can specialize in games and provider a greater depth of service than I would by diversifying my interest. I know some retailers in smaller towns, who literally are a game store, a comic book store, a used video game store, a used music store, etc. etc. I’ve been exclusively games for a long long time and it’s paying the bills, and I’m happy with it. I want to say it was 2000, 20001 when I went completely games.
CG: So it’s because you wouldn’t know enough about the comics because you don’t keep up with them?
LSoM: I do enjoy comics. I love the Walking Dead. But that’s it. I’m done. I’m not a huge superhero fan. I followed Spawn for a while. I don’t have the passion that it would take to be a good comic book store for my customers.
CG: Well, you seem to be able to direct gamers because you know the games so well.
LSoM: I should be able to peg it out for you. If not, I should be able to find it out. I don’t always happen to know about a particular product. Nor can all my associates. We all have our areas of expertise. If we were to talk about historical miniatures, myself or Nile would be your person. Anyone of my associates know who to address the question to or they have the resources to gather that information for you. I have actually been able to have the luxury of being able to go on vacation last year. For 10 days I was unreachable. I have to make sure that these guys can take care of my customers even when they can’t reach me.
CG: Where’d you go?
LSoM: Mexico: Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarte, and a couple of other small places that I can’t remember.
CG: At the same time, I’ve walked through the door a number of times and you’re the only one there.
LSoM: Yeah, sure. For a number of reasons. If the flow of business doesn’t justify extra staff, there’s no point in it, I will be the only person that puts myself in that situation, these guys, there’ll usually be two staff any point in time. And the final reason is, as the business owner, I will sacrifice myself if one of the guys needs the day off, if someone wants to go to a concert, etc. etc.


CG: What can you tell me about the PGSA?
LSoM: Basically it’s a trade organization whose chief goal is to assist gaming industry retailers into improving their bottom line and to provide a more professional environment.
CG: How many members are there?
LSoM: I don’t know right now. It’s somewhere about 100. Last count about 100. It was started a year and half ago.
CG: Do you have a newsletter?
LSoM: No. We do have an informational website that has articles, progamestores.org.
CG: Now is that something that I or anyone else can read?
LSoM: Yeah.
CG: Thanks!