Ten Thoughts for Ten Years (PART 2)

Jay HeadshotIn PART ONE I discussed how the ten-year mark gives one an opportunity to reflect on how we got here, where we are, and where we are headed.

6. It’s all fun and games
The best part of my job is that I get to sell fun in a box.  It’s all about getting the right kind of fun to each person.  Events, demo games, open copies, competitions, online reviews and content, are all things done specifically to help each person find the right kind of fun for them.  Just like teaching, each person responds differently to these methods of reaching them.  Some people respond to competition, and hosting elaborate events and tournaments is what will get them most excited.  Others are casual occasional players, who are looking for something unthreatening and easy, something they can convince their non-gamer friends to play.

We are at our best when we are providing opportunities for all kinds of people to fall in love with the right kind of game for them.

It’s also very important to separate my own opinions on games, from what I know others will enjoy.  I may personally think that Catan is a bit slow, that the trading is a bit clunky, and that randomness takes over more than I would like – but I also know that it is an amazing gate-way game.  It’s something a good chunk of the public is familiar with, or has heard of.  It’s developed a solid place in the history of games, and is an excellent game to get people playing, because it hooks them on the hobby. It’s a straight up Hall of Famer, no matter how much I personally want to play it these days.  I will pitch Catan all day long to the right kind of person, and be confident that they’ll go home and love it, and that there is a more than good chance that they’ll come back looking for recommendations: that’s when I can pitch some of my personal favs.

Gamers all have opinions, strong ones.  This game is crap, that company sucks, anyone that doesn’t like ____ is a moron.  But the truth is that this is a big industry, and EVERYONE in the world should be able to find something they can enjoy in it.  It’s my job to help them find it.

7. It’s not all fun and games
Owning and operating a game store is a surprisingly complex endeavor.  As far as businesses go there are more moving parts than I can count.  I have had to become at least competent at handling business things like payroll, taxes, bank-stuff, paperwork of all sorts.  Also I have to establish systems for trade ins, sales and organization of singles, customer rewards, managing store credit, returns, online sales.  I have employees to manage, hire, train.  I have events to coordinate, volunteers to wrangle, prizes to manage, feedback to take, adjustments to make.  I have to sift through the hundreds (yes hundreds) of new products that are released each and every month, research trends, build rapport with distributors, orders to place, customer order to manage, product to receive, walls to merchandise, signs to make.  I have a play space with terrain to make (and fix), customer trash to pick up, floors to vaccuum, and games to sort.  And that’s before we open our doors for the day to the public.

There are a lot of balls to keep in the air that’s for sure.  But it keeps us busy.  It also always gives us something to work on, because there is no way we keep all those balls in the air at the same time consistently. Which is why…

8. Customer feedback is liquid gold
No matter how much I love to hear that people enjoyed themselves, and love our store, I will always make time to address people with constructive criticism.  Sometimes after an event, or shopping experience people leave unsatisfied.  I hate it but it’s true.  Usually these people just silently sit thinking that we let them down, or that our event was kind of meh, or even worse that they’ll never come back – and I never even know about it.

On other occasions people let us know their disappointment.  Sometimes they let me know in person, or they email us, and often they vent a bit on Facebook.  Now I do prefer the direct approach, because it’s a bit painful seeing your efforts diagnosed and critiqued online.  However the FB method has it’s own merits because you get to see beyond one person’s opinion.  Quickly you discover if this is a universal complaint, or a one-time screw up.

As much as moments of it are painful, I love getting feedback, even when critical.  At least this way I can exercise  some diplomacy, ask some questions, and get to the bottom of it.  At least this gives me a chance to fix the problem.  I even get the opportunity to get a second chance from those vowing never to return.

I am always grateful for those brave enough to give me the chance to address their concerns.  Especially because…

9. Reviews are important to my business
Whether on Facebook, Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, or elsewhere reviews are an important step towards customer acquisition.  My business needs positive reviews to attract new customers.  And I need new customers to stay in business.  That’s not to say that reviews are the glue that holds my business together, but it is an important tool to have.

I hate getting a negative review.  I think most small business owners feel that way.  Which makes negative reviews a great way to get our attention right?

Well…sort of.  You see the problem with giving a place a negative review is that you aren’t all that likely to go back and address it again.  If you have a problem with a business, I would suggest the following: tell them, and give them a chance to fix it, and if they don’t THEN review them negatively.  I can tell you that if you come to me I will absolutely hear you out, and likely will take steps to fix the problem you’ve had.

If you just write a negative review, I will address it too, take similar steps, but your review will almost always remain even after a problem has been fixed, because people rarely re-view their own reviews.  It’s a permanent blotch on my record, one that may not be relevant anymore, one that may not represent the original poster’s current opinions, but certainly continues to hurt my shop.

That being said reviews, both good and bad, are important.  If you have the time, please post a review yourself about BKG – good or bad I will appreciate it.  They create a complete picture of my businesses to others, and it’s my job, and my staff’s job to earn good ones.  Which is why…

10. Good staff are the crown jewels of a game store
Nothing is more important that having good staff.  They represent my store to the public more hours of the week than even I do.  Finding the right kind of people to work for me is tough, because there is a lot to learn, we need reliability and flexibility in hours, we don’t have a huge payroll budget, and they need to have the right personality.

Luckily for us, gamers love the idea of working in a game store, so we have our choice out of a pretty big field of applicants each time.

Unluckily for us, our customers are also important regulars, that we like, and are often friends with.  You need to disappoint a lot of people each time you hire.

We don’t hire often, which I take as a good thing.  It means that we hire good people, and those people stay with us a long time.  I have hired only sixteen people in ten years, most of those worked for over two years with us.  I’ve also always had people in the management level that I could trust, bounce ideas off off, and rely on.  The first years it was Rob, and currently it’s Mike and Tim.  Mike and Tim are opposites in some ways, they project two different sides of my own personality.  Tim likes to think things through, really analyze, and execute over time with all the angles covered.  Mike likes to just get things done, figure it out on the fly, and roll up his sleeves.  They balance me out, and keeping things moving, while also making sure we properly think things out.

I am extremely grateful for the staff that I have had over the years, we wouldn’t be here today without them.  And I am especially grateful for the untold hours of council with Rob, Tim, and Mike.

11. The first ten are only the beginning
We are now in our eleventh year.  So far it’s our best yet.  We have gotten over some financial hurdles, recovered from mistakes, and things are going well right now – but they won’t all be boom years.  What I have learned is that after ten years in business that I love it, and that I can grind my way through the rough spots, and get pack on the fairway.  BKG will continue as long as I remain passionate for it, as long as I feel it’s worth fighting for, and as long as I have great staff, and enthusiastic customers walking through my door.  I can’t wait to begin the next ten.

40K Tournament AUG

Our first tournament for 8th edition was a roaring success with the best attendance in years!  We have cleared a day in August to give 40k free reign in the shop, so we’re hoping this one will be even bigger!

When: Saturday, August 26, 11:00am (Registtration begins at 10am)

Entry Fee: $20.00 // 6 Hero’s Rewards – Includes a pizza lunch

Stronghold Members: Get a Hero’s Reward for participating.

Format: 3 Rounds, 1500 points strait out of the rulebook nothing is banned. no rules tweaks. Forgeworld is allowed.  Just bring your models (painted or otherwise) and your index.  Maximum of 3 Detachments

Prizes: $20.00 per person (minus the cost of lunch) is all put towards the prize pool.  Prizes given for Top three players, best painted and best sportsman.

Ten Thoughts for Ten Years (PART 1)

Jay Headshot


That was a hectic few months.  For those that haven’t been following along, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary last month.  I basically used the occasion as an excuse to do all the things that I was meaning to do.  We updated our Stronghold Membership program (it needed it), we rearranged our store, we brought in 10 new product lines, we had sales, draws, an auction, and all kinds of other hype and celebration.  It was a lot of work, so much so that I barely had time to pause and actually take in the fact that Black Knight Games is ten.  A decade old!  As I took some time away with my family this week I finally got to reflect on our place here and now, how we got here, and where we are going.  I have assembled ten thoughts for ten years, here are the first five:

1. Turns out the gaming business is actually a business
One thing that has become apparent to me is that compared to most industries, the games industry is full of amateurs.  Whether it’s the retail side, or the manufacturing side, most people get in to the business because they love games – not because they are great at business.  Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent business people in the industry, there are, but even most of them probably started off in over their heads.  I sure was.  I was only 24 when I opened Black Knight Games.  I certainly planned, I certainly did my best, and I certainly worked my ass off, but I was absolutely a noob when it came to the finer points of business.

I learned my lessons the hard way mostly, through failures.  I got in situations with my taxes, overextended myself, made mistakes with inventory, and didn’t even always handle the scheduling and running of events well all the time (something I felt was my forté going in).  Some of these mistakes were minor, some nearly sunk us.  But, ten years later I can confidently say…that I’m still a noob.  I still haven’t a perfect vision of how to run a profitable business, but I am starting to figure some things out, and even better – I now know where to go to figure a lot of things out…

2. Games Stores DON’T have to be enemies
It is absolutely true that when I first opened I viewed other stores as threats.  I think a lot of people assume that game stores are arch-rivals, and certainly in some places they are.  But in the ten years that I have run Black Knight Games I have learned that other stores can be a healthy resource, they can even be allies.  I have a fairly good relationship with other stores in the area, and a great relationship with some.

Enric owns a MTG-specialist shop down the road, literally one block from us.  His singles selection is great, it’s better than ours.  He was open first, and despite our proximity, here we both are.  It turns out that there is room in this town for the both of us.  The reason is this: in a niche business like ours when you have multiple shops that offer something of value you grow the gaming community.  It doesn’t really matter what my market share percentage is when the pie is growing.  I don’t have to see others fail to succeed.  And it helps that we’ve never resorted to aggressive tactics – we don’t undercut each other, we don’t trash-talk each other, we don’t intentionally schedule at the same time.  In fact we’ve always been friendly, we’ve even coordinated in the past to avoid double-booking.  I hope his business continues to succeed, because I think he fills some gaps that keeps our community strong.

The same goes for other shops in the area.  We’ve got two great board game cafés in town (Mancala Monk & Gameopolis), growing the local community every day by getting more people to try games in an easily accessible environment.  I’ve got Logan over at Dungeon Comics, who is a solid game store owner, and is someone that I have worked with a few times and it always a good guy to talk with.  Beyond the Hamilton area I’ve dealt with the owners of X Planet, The Dragon, Game Chamber, and others on many occasions – even running inter-store leagues and championships with them.

By focusing on how we can build a bigger and better gaming community we make room for us all.

3. I’m NOT the first to be here
I’ll never forget the first time I sat in a GenCon Trade Day seminar, the room was full of other game store owners from all across North America.  I had NEVER really had a lot of communication with other game store owners at the time, and it felt weird to be in a room with so many people that shared my exact profession.  These people all cared about how to get MTG players in their store, how the new FFG terms would affect them, and what the best way to store terrain was.  Cool.

Since then the world has really opened up for Game Store Owners.  What used to be a somewhat lonely career path has really grown over the past five years or so.  There is a wide network of Game Store Owners who run seminars at GAMA and GenCon.  It was incredible discovering a whole world of people who I could actually learn from.  Now there are many message boards and Facebook groups filled with game store owners sharing ideas, looking for advice, showing off successes, and practicing their (our) favorite pastime: complaining.

There are also a special few who have become role models.  Owners who happen to be very generous with their time, and also own and run exceptional game stores.  Gaming meccas in their own cities.  These individuals have given me something to aspire to, and a road map to get there.

4. Just Keep Swimming
Something that I have realized about myself is that I need to always (ALWAYS) have a goal.  Which means I can never really reach it.  I’ll never be ‘done’ with Black Knight Games, because the second I take the foot off the pedal is when I sink.  It is key to always have something new to be working on, some exciting change.  It gives me something to be excited about.

And change is good.  It keeps things fresh, and the changes we make are usually improvements.

Our tenth anniversary was a big example of this.  It was the excuse I needed to make some changes, and to kick myself in to doing some things I had been thinking about doing for a long time.  But now that it is over I can confidently say that there are more and more things that we are aspiring to do.  If you’ve read this far I feel it’s fair to reward you with a few sneak peaks: currently we are working on dealing in used and vintage video games.  We’re looking to unveil a new community out-reach program to assist teachers and community leaders in creating and running gaming groups in schools and clubs.  We are looking to add even more items to our store-brand ‘Strongbox’ gaming accessories.  And, we are still (yes still) dreaming of getting a liquor license.

5. Gaming with a beer in your hand
That reminds me of a fairly big moment in our history, one that I would like to look back on a bit.

Four and a half years ago we moved to our new location.  Some may remember that we ran an indiegogo fundraiser where customers could get cool swag in exchange for helping us raise some money to make the gaming area awesome.  A little known secret about that was that the indiegogo campaign actually cornered us in to spending twice what it earned us, but still it was a great way to subsidize the cost a bit and include our community in the process.  It was pretty fun too.  The campaign offered stretch goals like TVs, and a Foosball table.  The last stretch-goal that was hit was that we would seriously look in to getting a liquor license which would allow those that were old enough to attend game nights with alcohol.

It was the only stretch goal that we didn’t knock out of the park.  That being said, we absolutely did as we said we would do, and pursued it hard.  It turns out that a big part of getting a liquor license is tied to food.  You are required to be able to offer your patrons food options.  These can’t be snacks, they must be hot-food.  To handle hot-food properly you need a kitchen, which requires space, and lots of equipment…you can see why this didn’t happen right away.  So we spent a couple hundred dollars, and hit a dead end.

Since then though, the thought has never fully left my mind, and I have been looking at ways that we might fulfill this condition.  Perhaps selling frozen food that could be microwaved would count.  Perhaps we could handle a small oven, or panini press.  Perhaps we could meet the conditions by partnering with another business.

Well I am happy to say that the first step towards this ultimate goal is now done.  We are now a registered food establishment, licensed, and paid.  This allows us to do more with food, and drops one barrier.  We still can’t quite do the ‘hot food’ as required because we don’t have a kitchen.  But now we can try some things that I hope will ultimately lead to fulfilling the conditions of the liquor license.  The dream lives on.

Join me shortly for more rambling thoughts in Part 2 shortly

Star Wars Destiny Tournament AUG

When: Saturday, August 19, 12:00pm (Registration begins at 11:00am)

Entry Fee: $10.00, Stronghold Members get a Hero’s Reward

Prizes: We will be supplying a current Star Wars Destiny OP Kits which includes some great promos. We will also provide additional prizes based on the overall attendance, which might take the form of packs or store credit (based on stock levels). Overall we will pitch in $10 per player to the prize pool minus the cost of the OP kit.

Deck Building: Players follow the standard rules for deck-building.  Players are responsible for bringing any dice that go along with their cards.

Tournament Format:

Swiss: 3-4 Swiss Rounds (Depending on Attendance) / 1 Game per Round / Swiss Rounds are 35mins each, Cut to Top 4

Fore full details on the SW Destiny Tournament Guidelines check out the FFG Website.

Netrunner Tournament

It has been some time since BKG hosted regular Netrunner tournaments, which is something we intend to remedy.  This August we have the first of many Netrunner tournaments scheduled – check out our Events Page for more details on other upcoming events!  We will have the most recent Netrunner Game Night Kit prepared to add some great prizes to the mix, as well as a SECOND tournament kit thrown in from a previous season for bonus prizes!  So be sure to join us this August and help us begin a new era of regular events at BKG!

When: Saturday, August 12th, 12:00pm (Registration at 11:30am)

Entry Fee: $10.00, Stronghold Members get a FREE Hero’s Reward!

Details: 3-4 Swiss Rounds followed by a Top 4 Cut. Bring one Corp Deck & one Runner Deck with decklists and influence count for each.

Prizes: Two Tournament kits will be added to the prize pool, including the current kit.  Additionally, depending on attendance, we will be putting $10.00 of store credit (minus the cost of just one kit) in to a prize pool.

Kickstart: Song of Ice & Fire Through BKG

CMON continues to impres with their Kickstarter retailer partnership, and we are very excited to once again partner with CMON to bring you what could be their biggest Kickstarter yet: A Song of Ice and Fire Miniatures Game!

Why Would I Do That?

A Song of Ice and Fire brings the incredibly popular Game of Thrones world to the realm of table top miniature games.  Finally you can assemble an army of Lannisters to invade the vale, or call your Stark bannermen to defend the north in an incredible looking, easily accessible, miniatures game.  If you are interested in this exciting release, you can Kickstart it now.  However, by pledging through Black Knight Games instead you get several benefits:

  1. You don’t need to pay shipping!  Normally you would need to pay a separate shipping fee when the item ships, this can often be as much as $50+ Canadian!  Pledging through us means you don’t pay that, nor do you need to remember to check your email to make the payment – or risk missing out!  Note: we do collect sales tax, but this would always be less than the shipping, and you are guaranteed not to owe any duty charges.
  2. Support your FLGS!  One hang up for many people when using Kickstarter is that you are bypassing your Friendly Local Game Store.  By cutting out the FLGSs you aren’t doing anything to keep their doors open to you and the other members of the local gaming community.  But, through this Kickstarter you DO support your FLGS – AND – you support the game you are excited about!
  3. Get the game early, just like if you had Kickstarted it on your own!
  4. Get any of the add-ons you want, just like if you had Kickstarted it on your own!
  5. Gain the flexibility of making a pledge, changes to a pledge, or additions up to a month after the Kickstarter!  As a partner store we are able to modify our order as long as their pledge manager remains open, so pledging with us allows you all kinds of flexibility – even the ability to pledge late!
  6. Do it all for no added cost!  Our agreement with CMON requires us to sell you all pledges and add-ons at exactly the same price as the Kickstarter.  So, you will pay $150 USD (based on that days exchange rate) for any ‘Hand of the King’, and the equivalent for any add-ons!

How Do I Pledge?

Simply come in to BKG, or give us a call, and we will sell you the pledge just like any customer order!

But, I Already Pledged Online – I Didn’t Know This Was An Option!

Kickstarter allows you to cancel Pledges before the cut off date, and CMON is really good about that kind of thing too.  Simply cancel and re-pledge with us!  Either way they’re getting the sale, and this way you gain all the above benefits!  If it’s after the cut off you can message them, explain you want to pledge with a participating partner retailer, and they shouldn’t have an issue with cancelling the pledge.

So get this amazing game, and help out your FLGS in the process!

Check Out the A Song of Ice and Fire Kickstarter HERE

Blood Bowl: BKBBL Season 2

Coaches!  Now is the time to register your team for the second season of the new era of the BKBBL (Black Knight Blood Bowl League)!

When: The BKBBL S2 will begin on August 11th, and will last many weeks

Sign up: Register your team by August 4th, if you wish to participate in this season.

Entry Fee: $15.00 // $10.00 if you own your own pitch & cards // 4 Hero’s Rewards

Format: Our Blood Bowl seasons provide each coach with a weekly opponent.  It is up to the coaches to arrange the best time for them to play.  At the end of the regular season the top teams will be matches in an elimination playoff tree.

Do you have what it takes to be a champion? Do you think you can beat the Gipfel Smokers? If you even considered answering these two question then you need to sign up for BKBBL SEASON 2


MTG: Draft ‘n’ Draft Social

Ever wanted to have a beer with your buddies while drafting Magic: the Gathering? Now you can with Black Knight Games 1st ever Draft ‘n’ Draft Social.  Come on out and bring your friends to a great evening of food, drink, prizes and of course Magic!

Date: August 14th  6:30pm

Entry Fee: $35.00 (*Pre-Register only*)

Where: Stoneroads Bar and Grill 533 Concession St. Hamilton, ON

Format: 3 Round Draft Tournament (Unsanctioned),

Players Get:

  • 3 Booster Packs, 2 Hour of Devastation and 1 Amonkhet to draft with
  • 1 Pint (Guinness, or Mill St. Organic) and Choice of 1 Appetizer (Chicken Strips & Fries, Chili and Nachos, Deep Fried Pickles, Onion Rings)
  • Access to a Special Drink and Meal Menu (Including $5 Tall Boys, $5 Pints of Guinness, $10 Burger & Fries, $10 1 lb Wings)
  • 1 Door Prize Ballot (Stronghold members receive a second ballot)
  • 1 Hero’s Reward for pre-registering by August 12th

Prizes: We will put in 1.5 Packs into the prize pool per participant.  Players that go 2-1 or better will get prizes.

Door Prizes: Each participant will get a chance to win one of the several door prizes!

Cap: There is a player cap of 24, so pre-register now to get on this Magic Monday Madness!

Check out Stoneroads Bar and Grill or Black Knight Games for more!

*Pre-registration is required to confirm sitting and food preparations*   

MTG: Standard Showdown HOU Series

Black Knight Games is happy to announce that we will be running Standard Showdown each Saturday (except Game Day weekend) for the next couple months!

When: Saturday Evenings, beginning at 6:00pm (Registration begins at 5:30pm)

Entry Fee: $8.00 // $7.00 if you are a Stronghold Member // 2 Hero’s Rewards

Format: Standard, 3-4 Rounds based on attendance (usually 4), No Cut

Prizes: 1 Hour of Devastation Booster Pack/Player will be added to a Prize Pool to be split among the top players. Additionally at each event we will give out 9 Standard Showdown packs (Players that go at least x-1 player will each get at least one, and the rest will be passed out randomly among those that attended the previous week (or to anyone on the first week). We will host a bounty at these events like we do for FNM and Modern Wednesdays.  These events do not count towards the FNM Standard standings.

Standard Showdown Packs: The nine packs given out each event are a special 5-Card booster pack that will include two premium cards (1 Foil common/uncommon, and 1 Foil rare/mythic rare from a currently legal Standard set, including Hour of Devastation full-art lands), 1 Hour of Devastation full-art land, and 2 non-foil rare or mythic rare from a currently legal Standard set!

40K: Tournament 8th Edition Kick Off

It’s the first 8th edition tournament so if you’ve never been to a tournament this is a great time to come out!

When: Saturday, July 22, 11:00am (Registtration begins at 10am)

Entry Fee: $20.00 // 6 Hero’s Rewards – Includes a pizza lunch

Stronghold Members: Get a Hero’s Reward for participating.

Format: 3 Rounds, 1250 points strait out of the rulebook nothing is banned. no rules tweaks. Forgeworld is allowed.  Just bring your models (painted or otherwise) and your index.

Prizes: $20.00 per person (minus the cost of lunch) is all put towards the prize pool.  Prizes given for Top three players, best painted and best sportsman.