There’s something different about sitting down to play a board game. Unlike a video game or a movie, a board game with all its little cards and pictures is abstracted. When several people sit around a table with cards stacked in front of them, calculating their next move, they are all transported somewhere different, from haunted houses and mercantile guild halls to the legendary halls of King Arthur’s court.
It’s an experience that several Huntington locals are hoping to bring to Huntington village with the Main St. Board Game Café. Owner Neil Goldberg said he hopes to start construction on the board game parlor and cafe this holiday season.
“I have two kids, 9 and 6 [years old], and they love what their friends love,” he said. “They play video games and they’ll play it until I tell them to stop. I want them to have something where they’re not staring at a screen — where you talk, think, plan and interact with something that has value.”
Goldberg said the cafe will have a selection of close to 300 games on hand. He plans to have
a selection of classics, like the popular Settlers of Catan board game and following series,
where players gather resources in an effort to colonize an island. The owner also wants to introduce narrative-based games like Mysterium, where players take on the role of psychic detectives trying to help a ghost, controlled by another player, in finding the person who murdered them. The shop is prepared to host role-playing game groups playing games like Dungeons & Dragons with an in-house gamemaster.
“We love being on our phones, but to a certain extent we’re all sick of it,” said Didi Feuer, one of the upcoming cafe’s employees. “It’s an easy way to spend time, but at the end there’s something not fulfilling about it. I think people are craving a face-to-face social interaction without screens.”
Board game cafes have been cropping all across New York City, but they have yet to have a presence on Long Island. Goldberg said he started playing board games at a young age. He can still remember playing such classic games as Scotland Yard and Stop Thief!, but eventually forgot much about them as adulthood set in. For more than 20 years, the future cafe owner worked as a producer for New York One’s sports programming. Eventually NY1 canceled its sports broadcasting, but Goldberg was already starting on another tack when a friend of his alerted him to a remake of Stop Thief! on Kickstarter.
“You ever have a rosebud moment?” Goldberg said, referring to the catalytic moment of the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane.” “I’m in my mid-40s and I flashback to being 10 or 12 years old.”
The space will also include a cafe area, where Goldberg expects to sell coffee and other soft drinks. If the new business can secure a license, he hopes to sell wines and craft beers selected from local breweries in the evening.
Goldberg said he expects the board games will be the element that draws in the crowds. The last several years have been kind to the board game industry, according to Goldberg. With the advent of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, new and unique games have had the opportunity to reach out and find support directly from the audience interested in playing them. The new business owner said he wants to bring these games into the limelight and take the stigma away from the industry that the only games available are Monopoly or Scrabble.
“With tabletop board games there is infinite complexity, infinite aesthetics and an infinite number of things one can accomplish.”
— Neil Goldberg
“With tabletop board games there is infinite complexity, infinite aesthetics and an infinite number of things one can accomplish,” Goldberg said.
So far, he has hired a number of experienced people in the gaming industry, including Feuer, who previously worked at the Brooklyn Strategist and another board game cafe in the city. Feuer plans to help run its after-school programs, one group for kids in first and second grades, with another group for third- through fifth-graders. There will also be a Dungeons & Dragons group available for older children.
The after-school programs will be designed to start out with simple games, such as Othello and Azul, before progressively introducing more difficult games and choices players can make more complex. Feuer said tabletop games are unique in how they teach kids basic skill, like reading comprehension, mathematics and deductive skills, in a social environment.
“Everyone’s sitting down and agreeing that right now there’s an island called Catan, and right now our job is to find resources and settle Catan,” Feuer said, “It’s teaching kids they have the capability, that they can show that they did focus for two hours and still have fun.”
Goldberg said he expected to start renovations after the Thanksgiving holiday. The location will be at 307 Main St. in Huntington and, hopefully, open for business in early 2019.