Cardiff is an outstanding place to be a gamer. Although it isn’t home to any major gaming events in the die hard calendar (yet!), it hosts two exceptional games shops, both of which provide the kind of service that should shame you, if you live or work nearby and persist in purchasing your games from Amazon.
Rules of Play
Rules of Play (RoP) is an unassuming little shop in the Castle Arcade in Cardiff. One of those places it might be easy to miss, among the fashionable cafes and weird boutiques.
However, it is not cluttered, and actually quite inviting. There are none of the intimidating tables with sweaty young men hunched over bizarre dioramas, a la Games Workshop. What there is are staff who are keen to please, able to recommend games to meet the needs of Grand Ma wanting a game for her relatives, and the hardened MTG and CCG nut alike. Quite an achievement, and RoP is probably one of the best games shops I have ever frequented.
While normally there is a cellar for game play, with regular events for diverse games, currently the playing space is relocated due to seasonal flooding. However, RoP also run two game events a month:
- The second Sunday of every month at Chapter, a family-friendly event usually starting at 5pm with a selection of games to loan out to interested players (although die hards with their own games are often there earlier). On that, the RoP staff are all excellent tutors in games, and will have you up and running quite quickly.
- The last Monday of every month at The Gate in Roath from 7pm, which is more for seasoned gamers.
I’ll cover their events in more detail in coming months, but it is safe to say that the staff are both knowledgeable and accessible to both novice and expert alike.
Firestorm Games (aka StormFire) are less easy to come across, being the “wrong” side of the tracks, if only a convenient walk from Cardiff Central Train Station.
The shop itself, is about the same size as RoP, but in two smaller sections; one being predominantly Games Workshop (GW) products, the other being a range of board games and accessories for War Games, etc. It’s quite compact, but nice to see things on display for a company that does most of its selling through the Internet. However, the real jewel in Firestorm’s Tardis-like interior is the fully licensed (!) massive play space, affectionately known as “The Battlefields”. Click the panoramic image below to fully grasp this!
This huge, well-resourced area, with a cafe, bar, figure painting area, and even an arcade cabinet, must be seen to be believed. While it is clear that War Games are the dominant game type here – there is a huge array of dioramas and peripherals, so you only really need to bring your army to play massive campaigns, and Firestorm even offer lockable storage for regulars – there are regular events for CCG, and board game play.
The staff charge a fixed fee for access to the Battlefields (currently a one off £3.60, but periodic membership is also available), but when I attended recently, there were a range of games on hand, as well as those brought by the regulars, and there was an atmosphere of “Let’s make sure everyone gets a game!” from the staff, who could be seen arranging groups of players to guarantee that people wouldn’t have to wait to be entertained. Even I got roped into a quick game of
“Evil Baby Orphanage” despite not intending to stay for long. It just reinforced the great atmosphere that Firestorm provides for the young adult gamer. While I don’t think that this store is as accommodating for families – the licensed bar on the premises necessitates some control over who can play on site – it is good to know that the two shops complement each other perfectly. Both Rules of Play and Firestorm are worth a visit, if you are ever in the Welsh capitol. Next time, I will cover RoP in more detail, especially the regular Sunday and Monday events, but in the mean time, here are some other shots from Firestorm’s Battlefields: