Back in January, we listed some of the best geek events that Denver had to offer in 2018, and that got us to thinking: Where can we nerds go in between those events? Aside from our gaming tables and our Xboxes and PlayStations and our cosplay fan sites and our Marvel movies and our libraries full of original art and superhero statuary and comics and books, books, books? Where do we get all that stuff? And where do we get all those wonderful toys, anyway?
The answer, of course, is everywhere. The geeks have clearly inherited the earth at this point, or at least the zeitgeist. But specifically, here in the Denver metro area: Where do nerds go to spend their silver pieces? These ten spots might not be a complete list, but if you own a Comic Price Guide or a Crown Royal bag of dice? You’ve either been to these locations…or owe it to yourself to deposit your quarter and hit the "start" button.
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Time Warp Comics
3105 28th Street
Let’s start with something that isn’t even in Denver but utterly worth the drive up Highway 36. Wayne Winsett’s Time Warp Comics has been around since 1984, filling the hearts, minds and collections of folks hungry for heroism, comic-book style. Best of all, Time Warp has been a stalwart steward for the nerd community for decades, providing people with a local comic-shop culture that pays its customers back with loyalty, customer service and one of the best Free Comic Book Day celebrations around.
614 East 13th Avenue
Kilgore Books is only part of what is charmingly dubbed “the Mighty Kilgore Empire.” There’s a publishing arm based in Maryland, but this is all about Denver’s own retail shop, offering the best in used books and indie comics. It’s a wonderland of welcome weirdness, and that’s why we here at Westword named it the “Best Store on 13th Avenue” back in 2014 — and, mind you, 13th Avenue offers up some stiff competition, including right next door, where Wax Trax offers up vintage vinyl. It’s as true today as it was back in 2014: If you want to find something cool, Kilgore is the place to go.
1925 Blake Street
717 East Colfax Avenue
If you were alive in the coin-op heyday of the 1980s and ’90s, then this is what you wanted your basement to look like when you grew up. All the classic quarter-eaters are resident at either location of The 1up, with pinball aplenty and even Skee-Ball, for those of you who didn’t get enough of that at Chuck E. Cheese back in the day. It’s a celebration of all things you loved in the arcades you grew up in, only without the day-glo carpet and the dude who makes change — you know, the one who needs a better shampoo and looks like he keeps snakes in his basement.
Black and Read
7821 Wadsworth Boulevard
Black and Read is sort of a throwback to the old used-book-record-and-game stores of the past — the kinds of stores that fell out of favor once eBay started draining the closets, attics and storage units of our nation. Thankfully, Black and Read is still alive and kicking, offering fantasy novels, old gaming manuals, classic albums and that inescapable and intoxicating scent of old stacked books. And speaking of stacked: The store sometimes has so much inventory that it’s arranged in little literary towers on the floor. This cup overfloweth with goodness.
Total Escape Games
6831 West 120th Avenue
Sometimes you just need a place to buy some games. Or some dice. Or some miniatures. Or the paint to detail that belt buckle that’s supposed to be bronze, damn it, not brass. Bronze. Oh, and a table where you can do it with your friends. And then play a game at that same table, and use that miniature with the bronze belt buckle and roll some dice and kill some bad guys and take their stuff. Because that’s what you do at a quintessential gaming store — a place like Total Escape, run by gamers for gamers.
The Lair (and Great Hall) of Abraxas
12004/12006 Melody Drive, Westminster
In an unassuming strip mall off 120th Avenue sits the Lair of Abraxas — and here be dragons. And games and gaming tables. And tea and e-hookah. And then right across the entryway is a great mead hall, complete with fireplace (and a dragon’s head mounted above it). And more just-plain-fantasy-realm goodness than you can hold in the biggest goblet in the realms. Drink some Viking Blod, meet some friends, play Dungeons and Dragons…or a game of Payday or Settlers of Cataan or Munchkin (or any of the other dozens upon dozens of games they have on hand and ready to lend free of charge), and say “By Crom!” when you roll double sixes or pull a good card. Or just want to exclaim “By Crom!” because it’s fun. And because of the Viking Blod.
Mile High Comics
4600 Jason Street (and various locations around Denver)
Mile High Comics might be the juggernaut of the industry, but you can’t argue with longevity. Owner Chuck Rozanski bought the fabled Edgar Church Collection back in 1977, which propelled him into the national spotlight (for comics, anyway), and his Mile High Comics ads were standards in the Bronze Age of comic books, where he advertised back issues for prices that are heartbreakingly reasonable by today’s collector standards. Mile High might not be the cheapest place in town to buy comics (though the shop's online sales are sometimes pretty great), but if you’re looking for something specific? Odds are good they have a scratch for that four-color itch.
1874 South Broadway
What would you have if your mom (and everyone else’s mom) hadn’t thrown away all the cool stuff you owned when you were a kid in the 1980s? You’d have this store, which is more like a time machine than a retail establishment. (Though they do sell things, because, you know, life.) Star Wars action figures? Check. GI Joe? Yo. Strawberry Shortcake? Sure, unless the Purple Pieman found her first. Check it out and see why we’ve written about it before. (Because it’s still awesome.) The Fifty Two '80s totally rad website is worth a visit, too. Stay gold, Fifty Two ’80s.
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At one time gaming was a pretty insular thing, relegated to basements on weekends or the library after school, kept on the quiet side, away from the prying eyes of parents and peers and the pious (this, of course, was back when some considered Dungeons and Dragons to be Satanic. Oh, Black Leaf and Elfstar…we hardly knew ye.) Enchanted Grounds now has two Denver metro locations to change all that and usher gaming into the world of lattes and muffins and smoothies and sandwiches. These shops are still working to perfect those icosahedron scones.
The Wizard’s Chest
Since 1983, The Wizard’s Chest has been entertaining Denver in magical ways. Now ensconced on Broadway in a much larger space than its Cherry Creek genesis, the store is still just as weird and wonderful as ever. There are still costumes, games, toys and, of course, the wizard himself, Winchester Slatebeard, still wearing his purple robes and reminding everyone that, dude, if you can get them past the first few levels, magic-users are by far the most powerful. And also, that there’s still magic left in the world. Which is, after all, what all nerds know at heart.