Board Game Bonding
Story and photos By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long Fiddlehead
Imagine the coolest birthday party ever with thousands of games, great eats, creative cocktails and copious coffee drinks. That’s what it’s like all the time at Boards and Brews on Elm Street in Manchester.
The café is the first of its kind in the state. It has a full-service restaurant, full-service cocktail and coffee bar and literally thousands of board games available to anyone who walks through the door.
“Our goal is to offer an alternative to traditional bars in downtown Manchester and create a haven for passionate board gamers, as well as a place for more casual gamers who can come play a game and learn more about the hobby,” said Keating Tufts, who co-founded Boards and Brews with Dave Casinghino a year ago.
The partners raised the money for the venture with a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign. The investment seems to have paid off. The place is packed pretty much all the time.
On one recent Saturday there were families navigating classic games of Mousetrap and Monopoly, as well as serious gamer groups engaging in an intense game of Twilight Imperion, “The game of galactic conquest.”
“It’s great to see people put their phones down and actually talk to each other, particularly when it’s a family. We get a lot of families on weekend days,” said manager David Eddy
Recently, the York family of Manchester was in a deep dive into Clue with hot pretzels and a square dish of what the café calls Connect Four – a choice of four fun foods – in this case, M&Ms, animal crackers, Swedish Fish and Cheez-Its.
This was the first visit to Boards and Brews for Travis, his wife, Danielle and their daughters, Madeleine, 12, and Lily, 11, but judging by the fact they spent a good part of a Saturday afternoon at the establishment, sampling lots of games and lots of game-themed menu items, it probably won’t be the last.
“It’s great,” said Danielle. “We’re spending time together and having a lot of fun.”
The café is decorated with vintage toys like Mr. Potato Head and a bright yellow Pikachu, as well as shelf upon shelf of board games.
There are more than 1,700 games on display and an additional 500 in storage in the basements, many of which are listed in the game library on the café’s website.
The games are stored on shelves throughout the café, and there are color-coded labels to indicate whether they are suitable for two, three, four or more players. There are classic games like Monopoly, Life and Mousetrap; trivia games like Trivial Pursuit and Oodles; children’s games like Cheeky Monkey and Birds of a Feather; strategy games like Battle of Westeros and Fields of Arles; and word games like Scrabble, Razzle and Buzz Word.
There’s even a section labeled “hardcore,” which includes Assault on Palace Grimaldi and, of course, several editions of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. Tufts is a huge “A Game of Thrones” fan and hand made a large wooden version of the game board, which hangs in what everyone calls The Queen Mary Room, named after a nautical painting found in the room during renovations. It’s a private game room festooned with “A Game of Thrones” flags with a long conference table and chairs, which can be reserved for private parties.
Most of the games are from Tuft’s personal collection, but some are donated by local families and gamers, and those games have a plaque inside recognizing the donor’s generosity.
And of course, attention is paid to the granddaddy of all modern board game obsessions – Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, Monday nights at Board and Brews are Dungeon and Dragons nights with different themes each week, like the recent “Night at the Museum” Monday.
“We have a good many D and D players. The dungeon masters get free food and drink because it’s a lot of work,” said Eddy.
There’s a flat fee of $5 to play as many board games as you like, and all games are borrowed on the honor system – no one signs a game in or out.
A little scared to try something new? No worries; everyone from the owner to the wait staff and chef/gamer Todd Nadreau is more than willing to help customers figure out the rules of any game.
Chef Nadreau is proud of the Boards and Brews menu. It includes lots of snacking offerings for marathon game playing like the Mousetrap Charcuterie Board, with a rotating selection of premium meats and cheeses, Nachos Alhambra and Battlechips.
Nadreau also takes pride in his homemade soups, sandwiches, dinners and desserts, using locally sourced products and a lot of imagination.
Same can be said for the bar, which whips up drinks like the Smoke & Dagger, made with mezcal, tequila, ancho chili liqueur, lime, house-spiced red wine syrup and angostura; and the Apples to Apples – chamomile-infused rye, pineapple, lime, cinnamon syrup and muddled Fuji apple.
And a little caffeine may be needed to stay on your toes during an intense round of Scattergories. The café has a full signature coffee and tea menu including the Fields of Arles coffee with caramel, and lavender; Blood Rage coffee with chili powder, caramel and ginger; and the Professor Plum – spiced plum, loose-leaf tea.
For more information, visit boardsandbrewsnh.com.