Game On: 'Room and Boards' Gaming Cafe Comes to Meridian 

click to enlarge boardgames_123rf.jpg

123RF

Board games are experiencing a renaissance—that is, if they ever went out of style. On meetup.com alone there are nearly 4,500 groups and clubs dedicated to playing tabletop games worldwide, with a total of over 2.6 million members. The same website lists 11 groups in Boise, and counting unlisted school clubs and private meetings, that mushrooms to many more. Giving those avid gamers a place to congregate was what pushed Scott Pepper to start work on Room and Boards, a game-focused cafe set to open this summer in Meridian. Well, that, and his own passion for board games.

"[Board game cafes] are all over the country, all over the world," said Pepper, who co-owns the concept with his wife, Clara. "When I came to Boise about three years ago, I met a lot of people from the board game community who were really cool and really nice. There are a lot of board game stores, which is really neat, and a lot of board gamers. So I was like, 'Man, how come there isn't a board game cafe here?'"

click to enlarge COURTESY ROOM AND BOARDS
  • Courtesy Room and Boards
Soon there will be. Room and Boards will open at 12958 W. Fairview Ave., Ste. 102, on Saturday, June 1 (which happens to be International Tabletop Day). Pepper said it will be a cozy spot inspired by the ubiquitous firelit pubs of fantasy novels, with a wall displaying over 400 games that guests can borrow and play in-house. Securing a table costs $5 per person, but once you're gaming, there's no time limit, and staff will be on hand to sling espresso, beer, wine and a menu of paninis, hot dogs, salads, and meat and cheese plates. Some ingredient for the latter will be sourced from the Great Harvest Bread and Choice Cuts stores nearby. Pepper said the kitchen was a last-minute addition to make sure the cafe could serve minors, and is being funded in part through Kickstarter.

Though the space, a gym in its last life, is still being renovated, Pepper said reception to the idea has been overwhelmingly positive, with some gaming groups already talking about moving their meetings to the cafe. And while a 400-game library could seem overwhelming for someone who isn't neck-deep in board game culture, Pepper has put his tech experience as a project manager at a software company (still his full-time job) to use creating a tool on Room and Board's website that will help match players with games they might like.

"You put in how many people you're going to have, how long you have, how much experience you have, whether you like science fiction, fantasy, whatever, and it says 'Here's a game you might be interested in,'" he said, noting that while he handles the cafe's digital side, his wife, a nurse by trade but a skilled carpenter, is doing the hands-on work of building the game display and tables.

Room and Boards has partnered with Pheonix Fire Games to fill its library, and Pepper said players who fall in love with one of the in-house options will be able to order their own set to take home. Just ask at the counter and Room and Boards will call up Pheonix Fire so that on your next visit, it's there waiting.

The cafe will be open Tuesday-Sunday, with hours tentatively set at 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday. On Fridays it will open at 4 p.m., but Pepper said the closing time will be flexible, and if a group is mid-game when the hour comes, they certainly won't be kicked out. 
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