Portland has so many shops catering to the geeky among us that it feels like you can’t throw a D20 without hitting somewhere that sells comics, video games, or board games. (Do I recommend going outside and throwing a D20 in random directions just to see what you hit? Sure! I also recommend shouting “CRITICAL HIT!” if that D20 nails someone in the eye.) You can’t go wrong with most of these spots, but a few stand out.
More than any other American city I can think of, Portland’s blessed with phenomenal comic shops—hitting Floating World, Bridge City Comics, or Cosmic Monkey Comics is always worth your time. But one of the newer shops in town, Books with Pictures, is unique in that it works hard to be welcoming to everyone—regardless of age, gender, orientation, or whether or not you have strong opinions about that time Aunt May almost married Doctor Octopus. (MAY! YOU COULD DO SO MUCH BETTER, YOU SWEET, SENILE OLD BIDDY!) Thanks to a successful Kickstarter, Books with Pictures recently moved to a great new spot—the former Longfellow’s bookstore on Southeast Division—and with super-friendly and knowledgeable staff, you’re guaranteed to find something perfect for just about anybody. (Unless you’re looking for a wedding gift for Doc Ock. HE DESERVES NOTHING.)
Just off the main drag of St. Johns, the newish Final Form is a fantastic stop for video games and music, with a focus on retro games—you’ll find carts, discs, controllers, and consoles from the NES to the Wii U, and everything in between—along with vinyl you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. (Trying to track down a limited Mondo release, or the soundtrack for Snatcher, Hideo Kojima’s long-forgotten cyberpunk game? Look no further.) Final Form’s a chill, welcome alternative to shitty corporate game stores, and I have yet to duck in and not walk out with something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.
For games with fewer pixels and more meeples, you can’t go wrong with Southeast Foster’s charming Red Castle Games, which carries everything from super-basic card games to ultra-rare Magic cards to the latest modules for Dungeons & Dragons. (They’re also great about stocking the fancy-pants limited-edition D&D hardcovers.) Red Castle also has you covered for dice (you know, for whipping at people and shouting “CRITICAL HIT!”), minis, and board games that range from pick-up-and-play fun for everybody, like Forbidden Island, to prepare-for-days-and-still-be-confused epics, like Scythe. (Hi. Do you actually understand Scythe? Can you explain it to me? Preferably in less than six hours?) A customer loyalty program and—naturally—tables in the back for game sessions only make the place more welcoming. Hell, my D&D group hasn’t met for months, but I still swing by Red Castle to check out what’s new. And generally walk out with something I’ll get hours of enjoyment out of for years to come. I also glare at the Scythe box whenever I’m in there.