Chimera CCG (the CCG doesn’t just stand for Collectible Card Game, but Comics, Collectibles and Games) is situated in Beeston in Nottingham, near the University. Originally sited at Ripley, before expanding to Beeston, Chimera’s owners, Andy and Heather Leach, eventually relocated “lock stock and ammo crate” to the current location, due to a more friendly environment, more affordable rates and a better ability to support its local community; including much more accessible free parking. Although it isn’t a typical “footfall” location, Andy confirmed, you have to seek Chimera out rather than accidentally discover it, as would occur if they were in a more central city location. The joy is that people do. Seek it out that is. Chimera has a loyal and growing community of players and customers, which I must confess (in the interests of transparency) includes my nephew, who introduced me to the store during a recent family visit.
On visiting the shop, one of the players I walked in with announces that it has changed a lot since last time she was in; the playing space and a large part of this quite spacious shop are reconfigurable, with some displays being movable to allow up to 70+ game players to be accommodated easily. Having said that, Chimera also run larger events at nearby locations, including hotels, etc, when greater numbers need to be supported for events. These competitions and tournaments are just an additional part of the service that Chimera provides to deserve it’s fan base. Andy is quite philosophical about the threat of the Internet. A Dork Tower cartoon, decorating the fridge near the counter, says it all. Without active support, the FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) will never compete. Andy comments on the cartoon, “You get what you (don’t) pay for.”
He recognises that some customers will walk in, compare prices with the Internet and walk out intent to order on-line. What they don’t see, which is evident from the dozen or so players behind us, who occasionally come up to interrupt our interview with requests for snacks and drinks, is that Andy is here on a Sunday afternoon, having given up family time to provide facilities for them to play. He comments on the long hours, primarily due to the extended opening times to accommodate people playing games. Chimera does charge for some tournaments at the shop, but solely on the basis of all the revenue being returned as themed prizes for the events. Today, there is a Yu-Gi-Oh competition that a dozen competitors have paid £5 to take part in, but all that money will be ploughed into the prize that some lucky (skilful?) participant will walk away with. So, no obvious profit there, but a lot of happy players.
A few others, including my nephew and his girlfriend, are playing a non-tournament competition of UFS, with no charge. Andy’s shop was open anyway, but they all traipse up and buy food, knowing that this implicit support helps keep their ‘club’ open. Andy says he rarely sees customers bringing in their own food and drink, but that he is sanguine about it, even though he does see the community self-policing; people who do walk in with items that are for sale at the shop are reminded by fellow customers that they could have bought it there. So, the community clearly recognises and values the FLGS effect. For game shops to survive, they need to embrace this idea of service. Chimera does that well.
Chimera knows its customers well, and is slowly expanding its stock to improve its service to several distinct groups of purchasers. This growth is, like with many successful retail outlets, cash flow driven. Andy comes from a relevant background, and knows the obstacles and threats; he originally helped Virgin Game Stores get set up – I regularly wandered through the aisles of the Cardiff Virgin Store years ago, which is where I first bought my original Magic the Gathering (MTG) starter set (Still mint in box!) – but saw that the franchise failed because managers and buyers didn’t understand anything other than their own personal interests. That combined with mixing music, videos, etc, diluted what expertise there was, which led Andy to the realisation that such large ventures were unlikely to succeed. So, the principle customer, evidenced by the company name, was those interested in Collectable Card Games. Chimera has slowly built up stock of individual cards, something that few brick and mortar stores do, to better serve that market.
Comics, specifically from pre-order and subscriptions, but with a back catalogue of older titles, forms the second segment of Andy’s strategy to provide products that are wanted. Like being able to see and feel the quality of the MTG cards – much safer than purchasing blind off the internet, where many counterfeit and fraudulent copies abound – having the actual item in your hand, enables an informed purchase: Is it mint, dog-eared, or falling apart? Of course, this comes at a cost. Running a shop has bigger overheads. However, that is the price for personal service, even though many of the items for sale seem in line with costs elsewhere. The X-Wing Miniatures Game and extensions I spy to the right of the counter are, for example, about the same price as I see everywhere else, including on the Internet. They tempt me to make a purchase…
Board games are the third and newest addition to Chimera’s stock. While Andy says he doesn’t sell as many of these as CCGs and Comics, he recognises that they are a much needed addition to the store. Chimera does literally mean “a fabulous beast made up of many parts” after all. I ask him what is favourite game is, to which his eyes grow misty when he confesses Dungeons and Dragons is, and always has been, his favourite. Heather, his wife and partner in the business is a wizard at card games, such as Gloom and Fluxx, and also has a pedigree in the Games Industry, having worked for Alternative Armies, before working to run the shop and their family; maybe that is where the idea for the name came from, given one of their products is a fine Chimera figure…
ChimeraCCG is, then, a family business, not just a FLGS. And the Leach family also have plans for second hand games to be offered to customers, although Andy is aware that this is not without its problems; ensuring that all components are present and in good order is just the first obstacle. So, all in all a most pleasant experience, discovering that this FLGS is not as mythical as its name implies. Next time I am in Nottingham, I’ll hope to review the two other stores offering board, card and RPG games – Vague Connections and Mondo Comico – but they will be hard pressed to beat such an excellent example of a genuinely friendly local game store. To get a fuller idea of the size and scope of the ChimeraCCG store, click the image below.