Patriot Games, A History of Gaming in Sheffield
We are a tabletop gaming centre located in Sheffield, U.K. We very much consider ourselves a Friendly Local Games Store. Our ethos and our aim is to get people to Play Together.
You might already know us, but, something you might be less aware of is the path we took to get where we are today.
A Long and Winding Road
Patriot started out in 1994 as a market stall in Sheffield’s iconic and now demolished Castle Market.
There we made our first steps as a comic stall. Back then we were known as Patriot Comics. Situated in the lower ground floor opposite the famous underwear stall. Patriot Comics grew happily and with the introduction of a little known card game – Magic the Gathering – we began to include games into our offering.
After the games industry was shaken up by Magic, other collectible card games began to emerge and it was not long until AEG released their first foray into the market with a game called The Legend of the Five Rings.
It is fair to say that a love affair with L5R had begun. Our first Organised Play events included L5R tournaments that were run in a local pub, and weekly card and game nights soon followed.
I personally played L5R for pretty much its entire 25 year run and still take every opportunity to wax lyrical about to anyone that cares to listen.
Build it and they will come
In 1996 it was time for a move from the market into a shop, and the opportunity to have space to run Organised Play in store. We moved into 4 Lady's Bridge and began to expand our gaming range in earnest. The range grew and the gamers came with it. Back then there were far fewer games stores around and it was hard to find one locally, we had become a comic and games store.
In 2000 when D&D 3E launched things began to get interesting for us and by 2002 after our comics expert left us, we decided to go all in on being a games store. We changed our name formally to Patriot Games and incorporated as a Ltd company.
Build it bigger and better.
Slowly but surely, we were making our space better and better for instore gaming until in 2006 we had completely outgrown our space and so we moved 500 feet to 1&2 Lady's Bridge where we would spend the next 9 years as what was at the time considered to be a “large” Organised Play store.
In truth the space was about 1100 square feet, but the standard of the time was not for games stores to have large gaming spaces. I still remember the day when we got a review that described us a “great little shop” that was when we knew the industry was changing, but I am ahead of myself; Games stores did get a bit of a fright circa 2004 when World of Warcraft first got established.
There was a huge crossover and many stores saw regular players vanish for months on end. This was one of the main reasons that we added gaming pcs to our instore play offering when we moved into 1&2.
That would soon change as gaming and geekdom hit the mainstream. Shows like the Big Bang Theory were bringing our world into the consciousness of the masses and it began to show. By then – around 2008 – D&D had launched its 4th edition and even though 4th is still a much-maligned edition, it outsold 3rd & 3.5 by quite a margin.
By now card games had hit their stride and our Organised play offering was massive. We had already started to run major events and had started to look into printing our own playmats.
In 2014 we ran the World Championships for Legend of the Five Rings in Sheffield City Hall, a dream come true for me.
Soon after, aware that we were pushing the physical limits of our space we started the search for the next upgrade, and after much looking , in 2015 we moved into 36-42 Union Street, a lovely space that was 2400 square feet and was set to be our home for the next ten years.
As I look back at things, it was always our aim, once we made the move to being a games store, to become a hub for gamers. A place to meet other gamers and to play. Union Street let us do that to a standard that was not only satisfying for me, but was also appreciated by gamers and, as it turned out, by Wizards of the Coast. WotC, makers of Magic the Gathering and D&D among other things, were starting a scheme called WPN Premium and we became the first UK store to achieve the Premium status.
Things were great. The store was thriving and we were able to support thousands of gamers. We regularly ran premier events, national championships and Pro tour qualifiers (and all the variations that followed).
Our team had grown to 11 people and Custom Patriot, our printing arm, had become so busy we needed to upgrade the press and move the whole operation out to a premises of its own. We won a whole bunch of awards and got a lot of press and everything was going swimmingly.
In late 2019 our landlord sold up to a developer who served us with notice of redevelopment. The only thing that they could do to forcibly break our lease. Sheffield was undergoing the start of some major urban renewal under the “Heart of the City II” project. A scheme by the local council to recreate Sheffield by basically knocking most of it down and building new.
Then in 2020 as we all know, Covid happened.
Lockdown for all, Furlough for many.
Looking for a new premises in lockdown, it turned out, was not an easy thing. But forced to be out of our lovely Union Street shop before we had managed to lock in a new place meant that we needed to move to a “temporary” premises.
So in 2020 we moved temporarily – intended to be 6 months – to 33 King Street, where we actually spent the next 2 years.
Squeezed back into a 1000 square foot space again we did what we could to make it a decent place, and once it was safe enough, we hired out space to run as much of our Organised Play as we could.
King Street is in the Castlegate area of Sheffield, which is where the market that we started out in had been. Funny how the world turns sometimes. Sadly, Castlegate was not the place it used to be. Much run down since the market went – the focus of the council seemingly moved across town with the new market building – it was not a location that was good for a game store. But , thankfully our customer and player base was there to look out for us and keep us going through what was a tough time for everyone.
A Brave New World
In late Autumn 2021 we finally started work on what would be our new premises. A quite dramatic change from the Union Street store, this new place would take us a little away from being a “high street” store and more into the dedicated hub that we love being. The city centre was struggling and the decision to move just off the main shopping route was easier than I thought it would be.
Finally on the last day of April 2022 we opened our doors for the first time at 97 Mary Street in our 11500 square feet space.
We are massively proud of what we have achieved and are really happy to be able to have a great space for gamers to come and play, to meet, hang-out and drink coffee. Every day the gamer part of me smiles when I arrive at work to think that we have made it to where we are from where we started.
If you have not been to the store, please do, come and say hi and play some games or just hang out.
We’d love to see you.
Play More, Play Together