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So Retro It’s Ahead of Its Time

Mary D'Orvilliers
Mary D'Orvilliers

“You will not get bored at the Board Room,” says Mary D’Orvilliers, a May ’18 graduate who spent school breaks and occasional weekends managing a board game café in her hometown, Middletown, Connecticut.

A board game café is just what it sounds like – a café stocked with Monopoly, Sorry, and the like, where patrons are encouraged to put down their cell phones, set aside their laptops, and sit down across a table from actual people and enjoy some old-fashioned entertainment.

D’Orvilliers, who was looking for summer work, was hired by the Board Room’s owner when he first opened the café two years ago. Her job was to stand by the door and greet customers. Now, as a manager, she creates schedules and weekly and monthly events for the café. In those two years, she says, the business has really taken off.

The Board Room is lined with shelving that holds more than 500 games. For $5, customers can have access to any game from open until close, even if they leave the café and return. The Board Room also has a designated area full of books available to read and a kitchen offering food and drinks.

The café attracts mostly people in their 20s and 30s but the ages range. School kids tend to show up during school vacations. A gaming café is a fun place to go for people who want to try something new, D’Orvilliers says: “It’s a different activity that’s not going to the movies or going roller skating. It’s very inexpensive but can last the entire day.”

In a time when people tend to connect and to play games virtually, a board game café is a way to reconnect with the actual world. “Everyone is so attached to the technology of having games on their phone, so if you come with a bunch of your friends and get to play games, you forget about your phone because you’re so into talking to an actual person and playing a physical game in front of you,” she says.

She tends to recommend games that are easy to learn and addictive. “My favorite two- to eight-person game is called Tsuro, in which you build a path and you have keep your pawn in the middle while your opponents are trying to keep their pawns in the middle, and if they crash into each other you’re out. So it’s all thinking about where you’re going and what your strategy is,” D’Orvilliers says.

D’Orvilliers, a secondary education and Spanish major who did her student teaching in a Spanish classroom at Keene Middle School last semester, says that whether she’s at the Board Room or in a classroom, she’s always using her teaching skills. “When I’m talking to people about their likes and dislikes and trying to see if they’re interested in a game or event, I’m definitely trying to use the communication skills I use with kids,” she says. “Teaching how to play a board game is the same as trying to teach something in another language.”

Grace Pecci ’18

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