Say you’re interested in getting into Magic: The Gathering. You go to Target and browse the card game section and… have no clue where to begin. There are starter packs, but do you really need all of those? What’s the difference between a deck and a booster pack? Or maybe you’ve played through the latest Legend of Zelda and want to learn more about the series. You drive to the local GameStop and the furthest back they have is for the GBA- but you’re looking for something older. What do you do?
If these (admittedly hypothetical) scenarios apply to you, don’t fear. Pittsburgh and the surrounding area has ways of giving you the retro, tabletop, and overall nerd equipment you need- namely, in the form of independently owned gaming and comic shops.
Take Rick’s Games, started by Rick Serafini in 2010. He sells games dating back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Only logical, as the NES is his biggest seller. He attends many conventions and events, including Pittsburgh Retro Gaming. Serafini is willing to go out-of-state, however, to get as many customers the games they want.
River City Games is very similar. Unlike Serafini, though, owner Mike relies strictly on conventions, both around the Pittsburgh area and beyond: the company has no physical building as of yet. They’re only three years into business, but Mike is doing well, making a large fraction off the ever-popular NES. River City Games also prides itself on being legit, as homebrews aren’t sold.
In Uniontown, one can find Game Vault, a utopia of gaming from the Atari to the PlayStation 4. They also offer tabletop gaming, such as Magic: The Gathering. I spoke with Josh, who explained to me their biggest sellers were, ironically, more recent systems: Xbox One, PS4, and the Xbox 360. While they used to include comic books in their inventory, they have recently stopped getting monthly issues and only have a limited backlog collection.
For those looking for some paper superheroes, New Dimension Comics (with various locations throughout Pittsburgh) is a must-visit. There are no video games to be found, true, but board and tabletop games are well stocked. You can also find figures, model sets, plush, t-shirts, and a respectable library of manga to purchase. But the word “comics” is in their name for a reason: from the latest issues to forgotten classics, everything from DC to Marvel and all the stories in between can be found (if you’re willing to look).
More tabletop goodness can be found in Munhall at Nether Void Games. This recently opened establishment offers everything from Yu-Gi-Oh! to Warhammer 40000, and even offers a selection of retro video games. They also sell miniatures and board games and hold raffles and tournaments fairly regularly. Manager Ron is well-loved by shoppers and is always eager to lend a hand- or an ear.
Lastly, Mr. Nice Guy Games in Monroeville offers up tabletop and card games and hosts nightly events. Fancy joining the Pokémon League? Stop in on Tuesdays. Skip family game night and enjoy Board Game Night on Mondays. Tournaments hosted by Mr. Nice Guy Games also feature a special reward for winners: a giant cookie, just for them.
There are, of course, other ways of purchasing nerdy joy in Pittsburgh. The Exchange brand of stores have many locations and sell comics, games, movies, music, and collectibles. Garage sales are also a good bet. But if you’re looking to get your geek on, eBay is no longer the only option.