167 – Boards & Brews Cafe – The Family Gamers Podcast
Our guest today is Keating Tufts, owner of Boards & Brews, a board game cafe in Manchester NH.
Keating had been playing “serious” board games for a little while when he saw Snakes & Lattes featured on the Dice Tower’s Board Game Breakfast. Could a board game cafe work in New Hampshire? A year and a half later, Keating started working on making it a reality.
After two years of “Building relationships and educating the community on what was about to join their lovely downtown,” and eight months of renovating the physical space, Boards & Brews finally opened about 18 months ago.
What is a board game cafe?
Keating “I’ve been to about 15 different board game cafes, some inside the US, some in Canada, Thailand, and Singapore… Every cafe is a little different.” Overseas (and in Canada), they all have staff on hand to teach board games.
It’s a cafe, that has a library of board games available. Anywhere from one hundred or so, up to several thousand. “I think the sweet spot is about a thousand.”
There will generally be coffee and light food. Boards & Brews also serves beer, wine, and liquor, so under NH state law they must serve a menu that includes full-size entrees. Most cafes in the US don’t serve hard liquor (because the licensing is more expensive).
In short, a board game cafe is simply a space in the community where you can hang out for a few hours and play games! Most have a cover charge (around $5) for unlimited play or a certain number of hours. Some waive the cover charge as long as you get food.
One of the best parts is that very few people in a board game cafe will be buried in their phones.
Does Boards & Brews do a lot of special events?
Keating loves to have special events (tournaments, etc.) But since they’re open seven days a week, he can’t spare the time and manpower to do them very often. There aren’t a lot of people working in the service industry who are passionate about games and you need that to run a games event.
“You definitely need the right crew around you.”
Keating ends up emceeing and running tournaments for simpler, “classic” games such as Battleship or UNO. Classic games are neat, because you can easily pull in bystanders to join!
Would you recommend a board game cafe to families?
Yes, but Keating feels they appeal best to teenagers. Teenage birthday parties are really popular, and they can be trusted to find games on their own.
Families with younger kids CAN have a lot of fun, but it’s harder for staff to recommend games that younger kids will enjoy with their parents.
Keating feels it’s important that Boards & Brews is accessible to all ages. It’s another reason why they operate as a full restaurant rather than a 21+ bar.
Across all your customers, what is the most popular game at Boards & Brews?
Might be surprising; it’s The Office CLUE. Out of print and hard to find now, but instantly-recognizable branding makes it very popular. (Also popular: Girl Talk Jenga, Family Guy LIFE)
What is the longest game anyone has played in the cafe?
A couple came in and played Lord of the Rings RISK for over six hours. While not technically the longest game (B&B has hosted games of Twilight Imperium, etc.), it certainly felt the longest. “We closed the cafe around them… it’s six hours, you don’t want to just scrap it.”
A similar situation has happened with RISK more than once. They’ve now learned to warn people, especially if it’s less than two hours until closing time.
What’s the birthday party experience like at a board game cafe?
Reservations depend on how many people and what time of day. Kids’ parties are hard, because there’s no kids menu (and more allergies/restrictions).
Don’t put all the adults at an outside table while the kids are in the private room unsupervised! With groups under 14 years old, each additional kid makes it a little harder to teach a game. So adults (parents) need to stay involved.
Kids are generally going to grab the games they’re familiar with: LIFE, Sorry, Monopoly, etc. Teenagers are more likely to be really up for learning something new.
What are some of your favorite games?
Keating’s personal favorite: Captain Sonar. He rarely gets to play it and was very excited to at a recent convention. Also top games: Amerigo
To teach at the cafe: Goodcritters (suitable for kids, and 6-8 people). Cheer Up (“like Cards Against Humanity, but more flavor”). Snake Oil.
Party games fill a very important role. Groups of five or less can generally find a suitable game without much help, but groups of 6-10 will end up splitting into multiple tables if no staff member can show them a really fun party game that the whole group can play.
Find Boards & Brews online:
Thanks for sharing your “lunch break” with us, Keating!
Look at their awesome library database!
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