Is the Board-Game Cafe the Future of Gaming?
Mobile gaming may be forecasted to make around $22 billion this year, but a growing number of gamers are finding their way back to pre-digital forms of entertainment. No longer feeling confined to the basement, these proud geeks have found a new home: the board-game cafe.
Sure, a lot of bars and coffee shops host a game night or keep a deck of Trivial Pursuit cards on-hand. The board-game cafe, however, is an entirely new kind of meeting place where friends and strangers can play a round of Scrabble or take on newer games like Pandemic or Cards Against Humanity.
For a deeper look, we turned to Greg May, owner of The Uncommons, a bright, sunlit Manhattan cafe that houses nearly 700 games. May was gracious enough to share his thoughts on the recent rise of the board-game cafe, as well as some of the dos and don’ts of in-store gaming.
On the State of Board Games
“There's definitely been a huge resurgence in board games. It's a big industry now and growing rapidly, thanks partially to the popularity of general ‘geek culture,’ along with a lot of new games that really offer compelling experiences. Cooperative games like Pandemic allow you to work together, which can be a great alternative to family fights.”
On the Typical Crowd at a Board-Game Cafe
“Sometimes, we see folks come in at 10 a.m. on Monday to spend the day with us, and tourists come by to shop even at midnight on Friday … Our crowd is really diverse—plenty of college students, but also lots of folks on first dates, indie game designers, and families.”
On How First-Timers Should Behave
“Just like at home or with friends, be reasonable and try not to be too competitive. Rules are open to interpretation, and the goal is to have a good time, not end up flipping over the tables.”
On the Best Board Games for Newbies
“We definitely suggest that folks check out the modern classics: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion. From there, games like Munchkin and Fluxx are fun and chaotic; dexterity games like Jungle Speed bring something new to the table; and strategy buffs tired of Risk should certainly try Twilight Struggle, which is the number-one ranked board game of all time on BoardGameGeek.com.”
On the Best Board Games for Couples
“We always recommend Hive for two players. Of course, classics like Connect 4, Battleship, Scrabble, and Bananagrams are also big hits.”
On Who to Ask If You Need the Rules Explained
“As a rule, gamers love teaching new games. Some games, though, require detailed or lengthy explanations. In general, if folks are already playing, it's fine to ask about the game but not for help learning it. If you don't know a game but want to join, the procedure is simple: ask!”
On Bringing Your Own Games to the Cafe
“To avoid getting pieces mixed up, we suggest checking our library to see if we have a game before bringing it. But we're always happy when folks bring games that we don't have.”
On the Importance of Board Games in the Modern World
“The important thing is to have an analog experience, face-to-face, in the same room and across a table. Put down the phone and have an easy topic for conversation.”
Of course, all of this boils down to one simple rule: just have fun. And remember that games are meant to draw people together, so don’t take it too personally if you lose a round.
Photo courtesy of The Uncommons