Augusta Book Exchange
1650 Gordon Highway
Augusta, GA 30906
I nominate the Augusta Book Exchange
, in Augusta, GA. I've been gaming with this store for 20 years, starting back when I was just a kid in the 80s learning to play D&D. For the last 30 years, the Augusta Book Exchange has been the one consistent beacon of gaming and hobbies in our area. It started as a used book exchange (not too obvious, right?) and eventually expanded to bring comics, tabletop rpgs, miniatures and CCG gaming under it's umbrella. It has two locations, one on either side of Augusta, GA, servicing not only the residents of the city and the nearby areas of Aiken, SC and 4 surrounding counties in eastern Georgia, but also the soldiers of our US Armed Forces stationed at Fort Gordon. In fact, they offer a healthy discount to any service member, regardless of branch or affiliation, whether they're active or retired.
They carry pretty much any kind of gaming matter you can think of. If you're into miniatures, you can not only find the minis you want, but also the paints, brushes, green stuff, bases and terrain. If you play CCGs, they maintain some stock from the last several expansions of Magic, L5R and Yugioh, plus singles binders. Seriously, what store keeps Bella Sara cards in stock because a couple customer's little kids like them? The Augusta Book Exchange, that's who. You like board games? No problem, there's a sizable section devoted to sealed boxed sets of most games you'd ever want to play (and some you've never heard of). They also have an enormous selection of RPG sourcebooks for the many systems people like to run. And on the off chance they don't have what you need, they'll track it down for you.
Currently, they offer space for anyone to run pretty much any game they want. There are weekly days set aside for boardgames(things like Catan and Carcassone and everything in between), miniatures (Warhammer, Warmachine, Monsterpocalypse, you name it), CCGs (Friday Night Magic, Legend of the Five Rings, Yugioh) and anything else you can think of. There are typically 6 or 7 roleplaying groups that meet weekly playing everything from D&D (mainly 4E and 3.5 and I think there's actually a group that's still playing 2nd Ed), Legend of the Five Rings, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, and others. They maintain a HUGE gaming area with several large terrain tables for minis and room to spaciously run large CCG events. I, personally, have run 40-person L5R CCG events on a Saturday in the gaming area while 2 other RPG groups were going on with no problem. They stay open till midnight on Mondays and Fridays and until 2am on Saturdays and Sundays. Additionally, they always have a big selection of cold drinks and snacks for the ever hungry gamer and they're within walking distance of mexican, subs, fast food, doughnuts and casual dining restaurants, barely 10 minutes off the interstate.
One of the great things about this place is the unwavering support that the management has for it's players. If you want to try something, they will go all out to help you run an event, demo a game or anything as long as it's feasible. If you are looking for a particular hard to find item, they'll go all out to try to find a distributor that carries it or hunt someone down who can help more. If you're having trouble coordinating events for the game you're managing (L5R and sometimes Magic, in my case) they'll make some calls and try to put the store's support behind the issue. They've also been instrumental in organizing local conventions and events throughout the years, as well as providing an organizational base for our regional gamer's association. They always support the gamer holidays (ie, Worldwide Game Day, Free Comic Book Day, etc) and they do not joke around when they say they run a family-friendly environment. I've seen many an angry gamer asked to leave because they can't control their temper or language, and those who cheat or scam people in trades (especially in the CCG area) are quickly made public as folks not to deal with. In fact, the CCG judges (of which I am one, for the sake of disclosure) tell new players where to find the best trade values for their cards online to minimize rip off opportunities.
They maintain an active online presence with their store forum at http://comics-n-games.com/backlot/index.php
. The store manager, Paul Rogers, has never taken more than a few hours to get back to me on any issue and is quite possibly the nicest person I've ever met. It's funny looking back to when I was a weird, skinny kid coming into the store to buy comics in 7th grade...I didn't realize how important and noteworthy a place like the ABE was to the community and to it's patrons.