As much as I love board games, I also appreciate how difficult it can be for someone to get started playing them. There are tens of thousands of titles out there, ranging in price from around $20 all the way up to $100 or more. So with a limited budget and nearly unlimited choice, how is someone supposed to figure out what games they love?
Obviously, you can start at a friend’s game night, and some libraries and game stores have tournaments you can attend. And now Rhode Islanders have another option: the Good Game Grill, a board game café that just opened in downtown PVD.
From the first moment you walk into the place, it strikes you how welcoming it feels. It is bright and light like an ice cream parlor, with a staff who seems genuinely happy to be in your company. Framed pictures on the walls show artistic renditions of the some of the very games you might end up playing, and the front of the café features a select group of games for sale, all of which can be sampled just a few steps away.
After paying a nominal fee, my group was ushered on back by GGG’s owner and proprietor Sadie Price, who proceeded to serve as our “game sommelier,” helping us choose titles based on our group preferences, skill level and time limits. Within a few minutes, we had a pile of boxes next to us that we would never be able to get through in one visit.
As you can imagine, a board game café’s success or failure is going to hinge on the games they have on offer. Despite the fact that GGG’s game shelf looked small from the front of the shop, it contained a truly wide selection, from short and quick family-friendly games like Dixit and Codenames (two titles I recommend very highly for families looking to move past Candy Land and Monopoly – motifri.com/boardgames2019) all the way up to strategy-dense multi-hour campaigns. Simply put, it is pretty much inconceivable that someone wouldn’t find something worth checking out.
For our party that evening, we started with Mysterium, a game that had come highly recommended to me, but I’d never been exposed to before. When I saw it on the shelf, it was the perfect opportunity for me to see if it was as good as advertised (it was), without having to buy it first.
After our first game, it was time to eat. GGG does not feature the most comprehensive menu in the world (the choices consisted mostly of a few entrees – both meat and vegetarian — a few appetizers and some drinks), but simply put, when you go to a board game café, cuisine is not the first priority. Food needs to be fast and filling, and if it tastes good, that’s a bonus. At our table that night, we had some burgers and fries, as well as some chicken fingers for good measure. Based on the fact that all of our baskets were emptied (not to mention the fact that my son ordered a second cheeseburger the second he finished his first), I can safely say that the menu is just what it needs to be.
Finally, we settled in for our second and final game of the night. Price had offered to sit down and introduce one of their favorites to us, but we instead opted for another title that we had heard of but never tested before. (Betrayal at House on the Hill, if you’re curious). This game is advertised as a one-hour game, but it became clear right away that it would take at least twice that, if not more. We were forced to leave before we finished, but this was due to it being a school night, not to any pressure for us to vacate the premises.
It turns out, this open and welcoming atmosphere is extremely intentional. As a member of the queer community who has spent most of their adult life in and around board games, Price said that they had been made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in the past, and so they wanted to be sure to create an atmosphere for gaming that was completely open and inclusive. This can be seen in every tiny detail of the space, from the colors on the walls to the gender-neutral bathrooms, which all add up to a place where truly anyone can come, for an hour or a day, and feel like this place is for them.
So whether you’re a college student missing your at-home game collection, a board game rookie looking for a new experience or a seasoned gamer ready to broaden your horizon, go play a game at Good Game Grill.
Good Game Grill, 53 Weybosset St, PVD; goodgamegrill.com