The dragon burning through the castle mural covering the walls of the Game Empire interior sets the scene for the adventures to come.
The Game Empire store sells collectibles, board games, and video games in their storefront, but that isn’t all this store is known for. Passing the board game aisles, gamers find themselves in a whole new world. An outsider might see about fifteen foldable tables and chairs but gamers see an adventure. They gather in the space to create magic.
“The community is more important than selling stuff,” Game Empire employee Chad McElhiney said. “It’s a lot more of getting in here playing, finding friends, finding opponents. That’s what the strength is over here.”
Starting off as a small vendor at the San Diego Swap Meet in the 1990s, the founders started to get a small following from the locals. After holding weekend tournaments and teaching sessions in local garages, the idea for the store was born.
For the last 10 years Game Empire has been a home to gamers all around. They host different game nights every night of the week from Magic: the Gathering, to Warhammer 40,000 and even a Newbie Night on Tuesdays for players interested in gaming but don’t know where to start.
“Gamers are a unique breed,” McElhiney said. “Having a community that supports what they do and finds commonality allows them to come out.”
The popular game Warhammer 40,000, created by Rick Priestley in 1987, is a miniature tabletop war game in which players take turns attempting to take out their opponents “marines.” They hand paint each figurine, or marine, in the game. The 452 page rulebook explains everything the gamers need to know.
“There’s a lot of video games and things out about this universe. It’s been around since the 80s,” said Nikhil Sinha about Warhammer 40,000. “So I used to play the video games and I was always interested in it but [the tabletop game] is what it’s about.”
After putting together the best army they could, players strategically attack each other in a battle to see who can come out on top. The game, like many tabletop games, can take up to 10 hours to complete a single game and can be played by up to 30 players at a time. Every Tuesday Game Empire hosts Warhammer 40k newbie night.
The Independent Tournament Circuit (ITC) hold an annual tournament called the Las Vegas Open for Warhammer 40k players every February. They also track tournaments throughout the U.S. and the scores are reported on their website which gives players a national ranking.
Game Empire houses tournaments, fun game play, and a safe space for like-minded people to gather. People really come together, bond, and make lifelong friendships in the store which separates it from other places where people buy games such as Amazon or Ebay.