compleat1.jpgI travel around a fair bit and occasionally like to make a point of visiting game stores that I think our readers might find interesting (though Endgame of Oakland remains one of my favorite visits – and a pretty good writeup if I say so myself). So it came to be that I found myself in New York standing about a block away from the Empire State Building in front of a shabby tenement with games in the window and a simple sign above the door: the Compleat Strategist.

compleat2.jpgWhat is the Compleat Strategist? It’s a chain of four stores (the main one is in NYC), spread about the US that also sports a mail-order game business. And what a game business it is. The store focuses on board games, war games and role playing games and the selection is without parallel. Let me be clear here – no pictures can really do justice to the expanse of gaming materials in this very small space. From your feet to well above your head rests an assortment of games you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. I found everything from mainstream boardgames to obscure indy RPGs to games that are are well out of print (my particular score was a copy of Mutants and Masterminds: Iron Age that I’ve been looking all over for). Simply put, this is the best selection of games that I’ve ever seen – bar none.

With all of that said, this isn’t one of my favorite shops – being in the middle of midtown NYC can be a bit inconvenient unless you’re staying in the touristy areas or you’re adept with the public transit system (which is excellent – don’t even try to take a cab here near rush hour). The store itself is fairly rundown – the floors sag and the space itself is very small – if someone is walking down your aisle, prepare to get close and personal. The organizational scheme of the store is loosely split into RPGs, then board games and then wargames – though how things were organized from there seemed a bit chaotic (and I suspect it’s a bit challenging for the staff as well – my copy of Iron Age isn’t listed as available at the store, but there it was…). There’s some basic gaming space if you know where to find it (side door near the wargames), but there weren’t a lot of people there when I went by. The staff seemed very friendly to regulars, but wasn’t particularly into chatting with an out of towner. I suspect that the main focus of the store is their mail order business (since I got an invoice in addition to my receipt when I checked out!).

Will I go back? Absolutely – it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find this broad a selection of games anywhere else, but I’ll be looking for other places to actually play games and meet gamers.