The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville: Part 3

The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville: Part Three

by Andy B; photographs and map illustrations by Andy B.

The directors of Nerd Louisville conceived the idea of a “Guide to Louisville Gaming Shops.” The original intent was for this guide to be a single feature article.  As I set out to research the guide, I realized that this project is too big for a single article. There are at least a dozen gaming shops – maybe more. Instead, I will write multiple installments with a final summary at the end.

The purpose of this guide is to help nerds living in, or visiting, Louisville to find the shops that fit their interests – not just in terms of products, but also their preferred age group, playing style, and atmosphere. The intent is to promote all gaming shops in the city, not to rate them or criticize.

The information in this guide was researched in late 2015. This guide will not provide opening and closing times, since they sometimes change. We wouldn’t want you to plan your visit based on this guide if a store changes its hours. For store hours, check each store’s website or Facebook page (links provided).

As noted, this is Part Three of a multi-part series. Check out Part One and Part Two if you missed them.

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For this installment, I toured the agglomeration of gaming shops in the Highlands neighborhood. All three gaming shops are located along a one and a half mile stretch of Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road, one of the most bustling corridors of street life and night life in Louisville packed with bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and retail shops of all types.  Consequently, all of these shops score fabulously in the “nearest drink” category but suck terribly in the “parking” category.    I discovered some big news about one of the shops, revealed below.

Louisville Game Shop

Of all the stores in this guide, I am most familiar with Louisville Game Shop. It is a short walk from my workplace, so I have spent many lunch hours wasting, the owner, Colin’s time.

  • Address: 925 Baxter Ave
  • Website: http://www.thelouisvillegameshop.com/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Louisville-Game-Shop-303121397321/
  • History: Founded in 2004 by Colin
  • Gaming Area: 2 long rows of gaming tables in a back room about 20′ x 30’ that also has spare terrain sections for miniature games and other games and accessories
  • Crowd: 12 gamers in the back room playing Malifeaux, War Machine, and Warhammer 40k on Saturday evening
  • Parking: On Baxter; the best option is to take the back alley from Highland Ave to park in the small parking lot behind Molly Malone’s; if this is full, you may be able to parallel park in front of the store, or along one of the neighborhood streets across Baxter
  • Nearest drink: This gaming shop is literally surrounded by drinking establishments; within one block there are six bars:  Diorio’s Pizza, the Outlook Inn, Flanagan’s, Molly Malone’s, Baxter’s Bar and Grill, and Wick’s Pizza

Louisville Game Shop occupies a structure that was previously an old row home, so you might not notice it unless you see the sign out front. This also gives it the distinction of being the gaming store that most naturally resembles a haunted house. I don’t think Colin has ever decorated to exploit the haunted house vibe but this is definitely the venue to play a horror-themed game. Even the Google street-view picture of the shop looks a little creepy (see below). One might expect the proprietor to be some sort of weird mad-scientist type, but instead Colin is a very friendly, helpful, and apparently sane fellow.

Louisville Game Shop is the perfect venue to play a horror-themed game.

The front room has a large inventory of board games and miniatures, the small middle room is stocked with roleplaying games (including some obscure indie games), and the back room is a large gaming area. The Louisville Game Shop’s strongest niches are board games and miniature wargames, like Warmachine and Warhammer 40k. It also hosts the Dungeons & Dragons: Adventurer’s League on Fridays and most Sunday evenings.

Role of the Die

It is a short mile and a half trip down Bardstown Road from the previous store to reach Role of the Die. At least, it is short if you are riding a bicycle. If driving, you must navigate through the neighborhood to find Bonnycastle, the one-way street on which the storefront sits, and then find a parking place.

However, this is all about to change: Michael, the new owner of Role of the Die, revealed that the store will soon move to a new location, 2902 Bardstown Rd, two miles further south, just before the Gardiner Lane shopping center. He expects to relocate no later than early November.

  • Address: 1950 Bonnycastle Ave
  • Website: http://roleofthedie.net/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Role-of-the-Die-178709688808097/
  • History: Founded in 2008; purchased by the new owner, Michael, in 2014
  • Gaming Area: 2 permanent tables, and an additional four folding tables available for larger events
  • Crowd: Two gamers hanging out with the owner on a Saturday evening
  • Parking: Good luck! It is on a small one-way street right on the corner of Bardstown Road, so start looking for a place to parallel park at least a block before you get to the store; fortunately, the new location will be much more accessible – in a shopping center with its own small parking lot
  • Nearest drink: Role of the Die is also surrounded by bars; Café 360 is a dive bar immediately across Bonnycastle Avenue; turn the corner on Bardstown Road and there are several more bars in either direction: Cumberland Brews, River City Drafthouse, the Hideaway Saloon, and more; sadly, the new location further down Bardstown does not have the same nightlife: there is a Buckhead Mountain Grill in the Gardiner Lane Shopping Center down the block that is within walking distance, the Krispy Kreme store is right next door, though, so you can at least get a massive sugar high

I used to suspect that Role of the Die must be the front for some sort of criminal enterprise, because how else could a game store survive in such an inaccessible location, surrounded by competitors? Apparently, it has enough loyal comic book subscribers and gamers to sustain it for seven years and counting. Besides, if there is one thing that I have learned from researching this guide, it is that Louisville has a much greater demand for comic and game stores than I would have previously imagined.

Role of the Die’s current location is a small storefront in which most of the wall space is devoted to comic books. This is a store that a Star Trek fan would appreciate: not only does a Trekkie sliding-door sound effect play when you enter (like the Destination, reviewed in Part One), but the store has a life-size Enterprise captain’s chair on display. Games are on the right side of the store, around the two gaming tables. The store is tidy and uncluttered, but relatively small. I plan to visit Role of the Die’s new location after they move to update this description.

Role of the Die fills a clear niche as a hub for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Michael and some of his regulars are devoted 4E players. 4E groups play in the store on multiple nights each week. As Michael points out, Wizards of the Coast continues to print 4E rulebooks and many supplements, and he says that he sells more 4E books than 5E. If you are a fan of 4E, this is the shop for you. Of course, Role of the Die does many other types of nerdy business. Magic: The Gathering is popular, particularly Commander and Draft formats, and the store has an extensive comic book and collectible item inventory. Gamers are welcome to use the tables to play any game, as long as it is a product that the store has in stock or could order.

Book & Music Exchange

There are three Book and Music Exchange (BME) locations in Louisville and one is right around the corner from Role of the Die. I was skeptical whether the Highlands BME would meet this guide’s criteria to be classified as gaming store – namely, that it must provide an area for people to play games in the store. I’m glad that I gave it a try, because I discovered that the Highlands BME has recently increased its emphasis on games. It has increased its inventory of board games and it has a small gaming area that it has been using for scheduled game demos and events.

  • Address: 1616 Bardstown Rd
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BookandMusicBardstown
  • History: When I visited, none of the clerks were sure exactly how long BME has been in business, but it has been in its current location for at least 15 years
  • Gaming Area: One table
  • Crowd: Two gamers hanging out with the owner on a Saturday evening
  • Parking: Unless you get lucky and find a parallel parking spot on Bardstown Road, BME has its own small parking lot off of Duker Avenue, but you must walk around the block to the front door
  • Nearest drink: BME is in the heart of a thriving nightlife district; The Hideaway Saloon is right across the street, and a dozen other bars are in walking distance; for the nerdiest place to drink, walk 5 minutes south on Bardstown Road to “The Bard’s Town,” a Shakespeare-themed bar, restaurant, and small theater; the first time I visited, the bartender told me to stick around for pirate night: “The whole Louisville pirate community turns out,” he told me. The pirate community? I need to check that out some day

BME is familiar to most Louisville gamers as a place to buy new and used gaming books, novels, movies, and console games. For gamers, BME occupies a definite niche as one of the easiest places to trade in used gaming books.  However, the Highlands’ Store has not usually been a gathering place to play games on site. That appears to be changing, as the management is making a distinct effort to emphasize games.  Shelves of new board games are prominently displayed at the checkout counter. The store’s Facebook page advertises frequent game demos and events. There is only one large gaming table. It was unoccupied when I visited, but it seems that gaming groups would be welcome to use the space.

The Definitive Guide to Gaming Stores in Louisville will be a multi-part series of Nerd Louisville articles until all the gaming stores in Louisville are included. If you’d like your store to be featured next, please contact us! Please send corrections to andy@nerdlouisville.org

Andy B