Thursday, 23 August 2012

Here’s to the Guardroom.


An add from WD83 also to be found in Dragon magazine in the 80's.
It’s probably fair to say that most people who collect 80’s miniatures, games using 80’s rules or paint miniatures in an 80’s style was a kid or young adult in the 80’s. So it is probably also fair to say that within our band, given the scarcity of 80’s Games Workshops, that most of us got our Citadel, Grenadier, Ral Patha, Warhammer or D&D fix from local independent stores.

Recently I’ve had real cause to tread paths long neglected and as fate would have it that path lead past The Guardroom in Dunstable home of Axle. What once stood on that spot was for me a slice of gaming culture now gone forever and perhaps one most sorely missed. The dingy, packed to the rafters games shop.

Some time in the mid 80’s my favorite place to buy airfix soldiers and tanks closed and so I found my way to a pokey little shop known as the guard room. There was a small collection of plastic kits but otherwise it was like no model shop I had ever encountered. Behind the door a stand of Osprey books stood, The left wall had cabinets of lead historical miniatures, you had to ask the owner to get the one you wanted out for you. To the right were wooden shelves with brightly coloured books with dragons and such like on and boxed sets of grenadier and citadel miniatures. Around the corner were racks of blister packs, yellow and black for Grenadier that would become my first favorite but also the painted picture packs from citadel. There was also Ral Patha and Metal Magic, Alternative armies. I even bought a pack of Asgard dwarves from there.

The counter ran in front of a wooden door I always imagined opened up onto a treasure trove of Fantasy minis though I guess it was probably just the back room. They specialised in army boxes, way out of my budget, so there were often people much older than myself in there buying brown boxes with white labels on. I thought it was cool and proudly carried my Guardroom Axle carrier bags round town little realizing they were just my badge of geekdom. The place was dark and to a 13 year old me mysterious and exciting, I loved it modern game shops seam to be bright lights, clean furniture and corporate messages. In I believe the late 90’s or early 2000’s it was sold to a chain and eventually it was no more.

So here is to The Guardroom and all the other places just like it. All just a piece of social history now I guess.

12 comments:

  1. Very interesting indeed.

    In the late eighties when I got into fantasy gaming the only place in Exmouth (where I'd recently moved) to buy lead was a small tobacconists called Tucketts, hidden up a side road. Oak panelled and so rather dark inside, the place carried a surprising array of gaming goodies: from numerous Citadel blisters and other miniatures I cannot remember to ICE MERP modules the place was a veritable treasure trove of strangeness. It closed down about a decade ago. I often wish I could go back in there and have a nose around!

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  2. I remember those adverts! We had the Warlord Games Shop in Leigh on Sea near Southend and it was a true place of pilgrimage for us as young gamers. They later opened a second shop in Southend itself but apparently hit hard times and this one didn't last too long. The first shop was bought by Caliver Books and was renamed as such but since they relocated it is more of a storage area these days. We all still call it 'Warlord' though!

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  3. It was the unforgetable time of little shops

    In France, we had those marvellous little shops too in some rare locations...now it's time of big ones in each town plenty of Citadel products

    I remembered a little journey in Canterbury with my school mates (it was in 1992), we were searching after a miniature-RPG shop but didn't find it until we saw West Gate Games behind a big medieval tower...we found the Grail !!! I bought the Terminator Box at very cheap price than in France...it was a kind of magic...there was something special in the air in those little dark shops...hard to find nowadays

    Masp (David)

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  4. It was the unforgetable time of little shops

    In France, we had those marvellous little shops too in some rare locations...now it's time of big ones in each town plenty of Citadel products

    I remembered a little journey in Canterbury with my school mates (it was in 1992), we were searching after a miniature-RPG shop but didn't find it until we saw West Gate Games behind a big medieval tower...we found the Grail !!! I bought the Terminator Box at very cheap price than in France...it was a kind of magic...there was something special in the air in those little dark shops...hard to find nowadays

    Masp (David)

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  5. This is exactly what I was hoping to hear! Somewhere we need to record all these amazing places that used to be.

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  6. Sadly missed, mourned forever more

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  7. I just came across an advert in an old dragon magazine that brought me here in a round about way. I used to hang out in the Gardroom in the late 80's would have been around 13 as well.

    I seem to remember i got my first molds in there to cast my own figures.

    Great shop, dam it brought back some memories, glad i'm not the only one. Funny to think we may well have run into each other in there allmost 30 odd years ago dam now i feel old ;)

    Dave



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    1. Fair bet I guess Dave, were you from Dunstable as well?

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  8. I remember Axle from the White Dwarf adverts well. I once made a pilgrimage to The Guardroom while visiting an aunt and uncle in Luton, and my uncle bought me MASTERS D&D when it had just come out (I already had BASIC, EXPERT and COMPANION and eventually obtained IMMORTALS when it came out too).
    Living in Kent near Canterbury, Westgate Games by the Westgate Towers (mentioned in these comments) was my usual haunt. I got quite a few miniatures there, Citadel, Ral Patha etc. also the Runequest RPG and most of my D&D stuff. There was another wonderful dark and mysterious game shop in Herne Bay, although I forget its name. Westgate Games was brilliant though, because it was above a flea market selling incense and counter-culture merchandise, and you had to go up a set of steep stairs to this other-worldly aladdins cave. Happy times...

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    1. Sounds awesome, such a shame such places don't exist anymore.

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  9. I used to take the bus there from Luton fairly regularly and brought a number of RPGs - many of which I still have.

    I remember the bespeckled proprietor used to wear splendid waistcoats and always had time for a chat. A friend of mine knew him well and said he sold it when he retired and the plan was for the new owners to carry it on but for one reason or another they never did and the area lost another gaming and hobby store.

    Does anyone remember the miniatures store that was on Silver Street in Luton in the late 80s/early 90s?

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  10. Oh Good Grief! The Guard Room was the first gaming shop I ever encountered, back in the 80's when I was still at school and college in Dunstable. I used to love that place.

    Teddy

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