Saturday, April 16, 2016

(Review) Tactical Advantage - Edwardsville, Pennsylvania

I made mention before Christmas of a new game store opening up across the river from where I work.  Five months and four visits since and I have enough to review it.

Location:  Tactical Advantage is located in the Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville, PA.  While the front of the strip mall facing Wyoming Avenue/US 11 is cramped and crazy, the long section of the shopping center running parallel with the side street is less congested and with better parking.   There are plenty of places to eat nearby (as gamers are wont to do).  Only issue might be for out of the area gamers driving in, as the entirety of the Wyoming Valley has a Byzantine system of highway exits.  Get on US 11, head towards Kingston/Edwardsville and you should make it.

The shop itself is very, very clean, with multiple tables available.  Except for one visit that was quite early, there were plenty of players were already in the midst of multiple games. 

Stock:  This has been my main issue, and has forced me to make multiple trips.  When I originally walked through the doors in December, the store was well in it's admitted infancy, and stock is always a dangerous proposition, depending on clientele and budgets.  But in my three further trips through  the beginning of April, I saw a little improvement.

Tactical Advantage suffers from the exact opposite issue that Pastimes had.  Whereas Pastimes had a load of inventory that has not moved in a long time, Tactical Advantage has no inventory to play with.  Recently, I saw a Facebook picture from them that essentially said "We got ourselves a whole fleet of X-Wing.  Nab them now before they FLY off the shelves," followed by similar pictures of Magic and GW orders.

Problem was, by the time I swung by on Tuesday, the product was gone, and there was little to entice a walk-in customer until Friday afternoon.

If you want basic and recent Games Workshop, X-Wing, and D&D 5th Edition, then they should have it.    Unless, of course, it's Tuesday.  If you get in early enough on a Monday or Tuesday, it looks pretty solid that a special order would arrive by the end of the week

The back of the store, where the sales floor is located, is half empty, with the back wall completely bare.

RPGs:   D&D Fifth Edition.  A few games of that (and 4th) are offered throughout the week.

Minis:  Games Workshop, Star Wars X-Wing, and Blood Bowl have very active communities and the first two have stock to support them.  The GW paint rack just arrived fully stocked.

Board Games:  The board game wall is stocked with some standards, but not many.  There was an interesting Wild West board game I noticed once, but for $90+, I'd rather see more copies of games in the Catan/Ticket to Ride category. 

Open Gaming:  This is Tactical Advantages greatest strength.  Magic tourneys in multiple formats, board game nights, different D&D 5th Edition campaigns, and a Blood Bowl League. All appear to be friendly and well attended.

Staff:  Another point of contention.  While the owner seemed genuinely friendly to see me, my choice of games didn't correspond with his ordering preferences, so outside of offering a quick turnaround time on special orders, my choices for role-playing and miniatures were met a dose of condescending condemnation that may or may not have been in a joking manner.  Hopefully he's nicer to the Games Workshop moms.  

The second employee I encountered was the quintessential neckbeard gamer.  I was always offered assistance, and I declined future conversation, but as an ambassador to the store, I have a few worries as a gamer, much less a mundane parent looking for something cool for my kid.

So, after four trips, what do I currently rate Tactical Advantage on the Gaming with the Gnomies, 5-Gnome scale?

Sadly One and a half gnomes. 

If you simply want a place to play the games mentioned above on the weekends and pick up some new product, please, by all means go and have a good time. You will enjoy yourself.   In fact, it's the focus of their brand new TV ad.  Unfortunately, with my years of scouring the wilderness for game shops, I've walked into a number of similar places, only to walk out each in two or three minutes. 

None of these shops are still in existence today.   A few core players graduated, moved, got married, and there's zero cushion to help pay the bills while the next group is cultivated.

I'm not talking about stocking the shelves with more product than Amazon offers.  I'm simply suggesting enough inventory to encourage browsing and sales.  Trust me, I've done inventory on a half-million dollars of inventory (not including Magic singles), the store doesn't need that much stock, but it certainly needs more.

Just like most stores I enter, I'm never part of the demographic, but I hope my concerns are proven wrong with future visits.

Tactical Advantage is located at 4 Gateway Shopping Center, Kingston (Edwardsville), PA.  Check them out on Facebook. 

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