MANCHESTER, NH – Coming soon to the downtown area, a new business concept that promises to be all fun and games: Boards & Brews board game café.
Co-founded by Manchester-natives Keating Tufts and David Casinghino, the two young entrepreneurs hope to bring their mutual passion – tabletop gaming – to 941 Elm Street in January 2018.
The idea is simple. For a single $5 game fee, they provide more than 600 board games of all varieties to play – similar to playing pool at a bar – in a family-friendly environment. They will also offer coffee, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and food.
Boards & Brews will also feature events, ranging from open gaming nights to tournaments, game release parties, private events and more.
A Boards & Brews Kickstarter launched Dec. 6 to help fund the business with a goal of $15,000 to complete renovations on their space, which includes adding an ADA compliant wheelchair ramp and draft lines for beer.
Watch Boards & Brews Kickstarter video above.
Donating to the Kickstarter can grant you perks at Boards & Brews, including free coffee, T-shirts, membership to the café (avoiding the game fee), and your name inscribed on the “Kickstarter Backer Wall,” among many others.
Board game cafés are a relatively new concept, and Tufts says he was inspired to open his own after visiting the board game café Snakes and Lattes, in Toronto.
It’s a way to expand common interests between unrelated people, says Tufts. Table-top gaming creates a fun space for people to connect, set aside any differences, and get away from their daily struggles.
“When you play a board game, none of that stuff matters. You guys are all equal, all playing by the same rules, and you’re there for 30 minutes to an hour, just playing the same thing and trying to outsmart each other. And that’s the beauty of it,” says Tufts.
Tufts, who studied organizational leadership at SNHU, began tabletop gaming a few years ago as a way to connect with friends and meet new people. Tufts is a former social worker, and says he was even able to utilize tabletop gaming as a tool to connect with his clients.
“I was a homecare provider, and I used board games as a way to kind of get the guys involved with social exercises. My friends would come over and we’d play board games with individuals who normally wouldn’t interact with people, other than those who are in their specific community. That’s how I started collecting games, and trying to find good games that would basically be fun for all types of people,” says Tufts.
Casinghino studied business and computer science at Boston College. Since graduating, he’s worked at a few startups in Manchester, including the recently defunct customer loyalty business Adored, and more recently, former Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock’s new network security company, Minim.
As far as whether they plan to include video games in Boards & Brews mix, the two say they like the idea of having retro video games involved, and they “definitely appreciate the old-school games,” but want to dedicate most of their space to board games, at least initially.
“I love playing video games, but the best part about board games is it’s an excuse for people to get together, spend time together and hang out,” says Casinghino.
“The game industry is definitely getting more integrated with phones and apps and stuff like that, but the original idea with this café was to get people to kind of put their phones down for a minute and spend time face-to-face,” says Tufts.
Tufts and Casinghino are both Class of 2008 Central High graduates, and have taken an interest in diversifying downtown nightlife. A common judgement of Elm Street is that it’s saturated with bars and restaurants, with not much else for young people to do.
The pair agrees with the sentiment. “We grew up here, and that’s why we’re doing this – there’s bars and that’s it,” says Tufts.
Casinghino sees a big connection between lack of variety for activities and culture, and Manchester’s dwindling millennial population. “We think Elm Street really needs this. It needs something that isn’t just going out to the bar and drinking,” says Casinghino.
Tufts and Casinghino are confident that Manchester is the right spot to open New Hampshire’s first board game café, and that the tabletop gaming community is ready to take-off.
“[Manchester is] the right demographic, it’s the perfect size – we’re a medium-sized city,” says Casinghino. “We have the universities, and the mill yard with all the tech companies.”
“Tabletop gaming has sort of exploded, there’s so many options,” continues Casinghino. “There’s hundreds of new games coming out, it’s incredibly diverse, people love playing new games, and there’s a huge gradient of experience levels and depth of games.”
The two say that it’ll be the perfect place for a beginner to ease into tabletop games, with dedicated employees for teaching rules and organizing, as well as being a welcome spot for experienced players.
“We’re trying to create a space that is a go-to place for gamers to come and feel at home, but our goal is to expand the hobby, bring more people in, and teach games to people who normally wouldn’t play. Just broaden their horizons,” says Casinghino.