Recommend
26 
 Thumb up
 Hide
18 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Game Groups » Europe » England

Subject: Shopping Around - a review of the Gameskeeper (Oxford) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Gareth Davies
United Kingdom
Croydon
London
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
note: this article first appeared on http://rookandrolluk.wordpress.com/

The first of our new feature Shopping Around, which explores where you can buy board games on and offline in the UK, featured Cardiff based website Infinity Games. As I mentioned then, I buy the majority of my games online. Certainly price is a big factor in this. Games, particularly those in bigger boxes, can often be found £10-£15 cheaper than in the shops. But money is not the only issue. My experience of shopping at the few remaining independent stores in London has, generally speaking, not been particularly good. This is due, in part, to unfriendly and unenthusiastic staff who seem barely interested when you spend hundreds of pounds in their store and can’t manage so much as a thank you when you persuade someone else to buy a game. While everyone has off days, it happens too often for it not to be a serious issue, particularly when these shops are competing against the prices available on the internet. I passed the point of being put off the hobby quite some time ago, but when there are so many things discouraging new people from getting involved in board gaming, businesses can ill-afford to give potential customers the wrong impression.

Which is what made my visit to the Gameskeeper, in Oxford, so refreshing. I sought it out during a day trip to the city after hearing good things about the shop from a friend. After walking away from the town centre for about ten minutes I found the store where it has stood in Cowley Road, Oxford, since 1981. “The Gameskeeper – chess, books, games” read the white sign with blue lettering. “My kind of shop,” I thought.


The Gameskeeper has been in Oxford since 1981


I stepped inside. “Hello,” said a lady standing beside the counter. I’ve been in two dozen board game shops over the last two years and that’s the first time I’ve been greeted with hello. Or greeted, for that matter.

On its website the Gameskeeper calls itself a “true specialist games shop” with a range to suite different tastes. Interestingly the shop claims to only sell games which play well. Certainly the shelves to either side of me were stacked full of good games, many of which grace the top 100 on Board Game Geek. I had a look around (trying not to talk myself into buying anything) and then approached the counter and introduced myself, explaining about Rook & Roll and that I wanted to write something about the shop.

I discovered the Gameskeeper is owned by John and Carol Benny, originally from California. After more than thirty years of running it on their own, they recently hired their first member of staff. Carol, who greeted me when I came into the store, was quick to explain her business philosophy. By selling board games she sees herself has a purveyor what she (wonderfully) calls “enhanced social interaction”. The Gameskeeper, she said, stocked only good games not those which are “full of hot air but would sell on hype alone”.

As we spoke it became clear that Carol really knows her stuff. When I plucked a copy of The Big Idea from one of the shelves she was quick to tell my how changes made since the previous edition had made it a better party game. She explained the shop was due for a restock (even though I was already impressed with the range of games on offer) and that she was good at hunting down the more sought after titles like Martin Wallace’s A Few Acres of Snow. It just so happens I’ve been looking for a copy since being sold one in error by Celestial Games when it was actually out of stock. When I told Carol she was straight on the phone to her suppliers in a bid to track it down.


The shop has a good selection of nicely laid out games


It wasn’t just Carol who was friendly and knowledgeable. Her assistant (who I apologise to now for not catching her name) was easy to talk to and was keen to chat about the games she liked and recommend ones I should try. If this sounds pretty simple stuff when it comes to running a shop, it is. But that make it no less refreshing. Clearly those at the Gameskeeper love games, not just selling them. Their personal touch and enthusiasm makes it infinitely more likely that customers will come back rather than just ordering off the web. The fact that Carol wants to sell the games as more than just products, but as a way of bringing people together, is great. It’s the exact message that anyone who runs a store like this should be promoting.

After a really good chat I had another look around, took some photographs and bought Caverns of Bane, the new expansion for Thunderstone Advance. It cost £28.99 and while I could have got it a little cheaper on the net, I was comfortable buying it from the Gameskeeper. Like I said, you shouldn’t go to stores like this expecting to save yourself money. But you should leave with confidence that you bought a product from the sort of business that is, sadly, few and far between. Besides, you’re saving on the shipping and you don’t have to wait for it to arrive.

The Gameskeeper is a nicely presented store with good selection of games, though other than the small section for war games at the back, the order in which it was stacked wasn’t entirely clear. This might make it slightly difficult to find what you want (a minor point given how approachable the staff are). It was also nice to be in a board game shop which didn’t feel cramped or overly humid.

As well as the shop Carol and her husband also sell games by mail order to the UK and overseas. Alongside specialist games the Gameskeeper sells traditional titles. It also has a good variety of role-playing games and a large section for Magic the Gathering fans. The website is nice. I particularly like that games have been divided into a variety of categories, including ‘award winning’, though the news section could do with updating.



Carol Benny and her husband say they only sell good games


I was told by a friend that the Gameskeeper was a “great little shop” because the couple who ran it really knew their stuff. He wasn’t wrong. I enjoyed my visit and will definitely return should I ever find myself in Oxford again.

The Gameskeeper can be found at 105 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1HU. The store is open 10:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday. It can be contacted on (01865) 721348, by email on shop@gameskeeper.co.uk or alternatively visit the website at www.gameskeeper.co.uk


Hope you enjoyed this review and found it useful. Let me know what you think as I plan to do more like this in the future.
23 
 Thumb up
0.52
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
flag msg tools
badge
Oi! Hands off...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yeah, I love the Gameskeeper, and it is a mandatory diversion every time I visit Oxford. Nice review.

My wife bought her first game there!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Williamson
United Kingdom
London
Greater London
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. Wasn't aware of the Gameskeeper but next time I'm in Oxford I will definitely seek it out.

I for one would very much welcome seeing more of these kinds of articles.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
flag msg tools
badge
Oi! Hands off...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I would gladly write one if somebody opened a games shop in Ross-on-Wye.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gareth Davies
United Kingdom
Croydon
London
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
It has just been my experience. Perhaps I've caught people on a/many bad days. Certainly they aren't anywhere near as approachable or welcoming as the Gameskeeper
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy
United Kingdom
Manchester
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Even though I haven't been in since I was a student in the 90s, It's great to see a feature on The Gameskeeper. John and Carol Benny were very friendly and always knew their stuff... and they gladly took a huge amount of money off me for Magic:The Gathering decks and boosters!!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Roy
United Kingdom
Bath
GB
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ousgg wrote:
I would gladly write one if somebody opened a games shop in Ross-on-Wye.


Where?!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy
United Kingdom
Manchester
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
If you are planning to write a few of these and post them on BGG, may I suggest you create a geeklist with entries that link to each article... It would be a great resource and we could subscribe to the geeklist and know when you'd posted a new shop review.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jacco Versteeg
United Kingdom
Crewe
Cheshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's not big, but it is a lovely little shop. And both Carol and Sera (new assistant) are wonderful and enthusiastic people. We're lucky to have them here.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Watts
United Kingdom
Southwell
Notts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Well, well, well, and another well. I too went to the Gameskeeper when i was a student and had no idea the shop was still going!

I remember it well because i was given a very friendly greeting (despite the shop being packed out at the time) and then some sound advice - i wanted a board game version of D & D which i could play with friends who hated D & D so I picked up a 1st edition of a newly released game called 'Talisman' (1983).

Glad to see that they are still going, good customer relations is essential nowadays for high street shops.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Radford
United Kingdom
Brentwood
Essex
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sounds like I might need a family outing to Oxford before the summer hols end.

"Ooo look honey, a games shop! I didn't know that was here - lets pop in"
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
flag msg tools
badge
Oi! Hands off...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's admirable in the intent, but a difficult one to pull off given that you'd have to drag the family out of 'scenic' Oxford, over the Magdalen bridge and about a mile down the (notably less savoury) Cowley Road first.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Mitchell
United Kingdom
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
A great shop indeed. I had the good fortune to live in Oxford for many years and now , while I have moved from the City, still work there and use it when I can. Carol is charming, helpful and knowledgeable (as the one usually 'on duty' when I call ). I first came across the shop when I had moved to a house on that side of the city some years ago and a Carrom board in the window caught my eye which I lugged home on my bicycle.

As an example of their keenness to help I went in soon after Zombie dice was published , they didn't have it in stock. I explained that I would rather buy from them than via the internet. Carol was originally hesitant about ordering it because as a wholesaler she could only get packs of 6 (I think it was) and she wasn't sure if they would sell. A little while later she called to say she had ordered a pack . I bought one set, played it in our group, immediate hit as a result of which several more sets bought ..so everyone a winner!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Walkley
United Kingdom
Birmingham
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
We went to The Gameskeeper to pick up Blood Bowl Team Manager and Ora et Labora while on our honeymoon in March/April. It was one of the best game shops I have ever been to and Carol was very friendly and welcoming. Great shop.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Keith Ibsen
United Kingdom
Oxford
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have been going into this shop on and off for about 25 years! Always been welcomed (even back when I had little to no money to spend) and enjoyed chatting with people there. If I still lived in Oxford I would be going much more often.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Harper
United Kingdom
Wantage
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for raising the profile of this great shop.

I visited the Gameskeeper last week for the first time in something like a decade and had a lovely chat with Carol who, as you say, certainly knows her stuff, which isn't surprising given how long she has spent in the business. I came out with a small bundle of new games, and would have happily spent much longer chatting and browsing if I didn't have to get back to the car before my parking time was up.

I will definitely be back to spend more money in the nearish future.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Huw Morris
United Kingdom
Oxford
Oxfordshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm there every week or two buying up more boxes of Magic and it's always a pleasure to visit. The friendliness and helpfulness is unmatched. And Sera is always able to cheer me up with her infectious enthusiasm. If only the parking was easier!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.