Fans of tabletop games will have a new playground when Boarding School Games opens its doors Saturday in western Las Vegas.
Furnished with lounge chairs and couches along with larger tables, the space, located at 3655 S. Durango Drive, is designed to mimic a home environment, where people often first play board games, co-owner Emily Labéjof said.
“It’s all about the play space,” said Labéjof, who owns the store with boyfriend, Matt Smiciklas. “We wanted to create an environment where people would be comfortable playing for hours with friends and family.”
The two frequented other board gaming businesses in the Las Vegas Valley, and when they first considered opening their own store a year ago, Smiciklas said he wanted to provide a space where his friends could play and where newcomers could learn about board games.
That’s when they came up with the concept of Boarding School Games. “I couldn’t possibly have time to play all these, so we said, ‘Let’s let other people come in. Let’s teach them what it is that we’re passionate about,’” Smiciklas said.
Inside, the store is stocked with more than 500 games from Smiciklas’ own collection that customers will be able to play for free beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.
A resident of Las Vegas for 13 years, Smiciklas said he met many of his friends through the local gaming community and estimates as many as 5,000 to 10,000 valley residents are avid board gamers.
While facing competition with video games, the board gaming industry is enjoying a renaissance because of the connections players forge through the games, Labéjof said. Making friends after school can be difficult, Smiciklas added, saying he hopes that the store’s community-oriented atmosphere can foster new relationships.
“I think people are looking to put down their phone, and they want to reconnect with people,” Labéjof said.
The variety of board games is continually growing, Labéjof said, and the store features all kinds, from classics such as Monopoly to newer, app-based games.
In keeping with the school theme, easier games are located in the elementary section near the front of the store and more advanced and strategic games can be found in the high school section in the back. When someone comes into the store, the customer will be shown options for the kind of game that best fits their skill level and allotted time, Smiciklas said.
The store also offers three special play options. Class Is In Session events will feature one game that both veteran and novice board gamers are invited to learn. A private gaming room — called Detention — is available for up to six players and equipped with a chalkboard wall to keep score.
The entire space also can be rented to companies and larger groups of up to 40 people with the Recess option.
With no fee for entry or play, the owners plan to sell board games through a website to fund the store.
People also can come into the store and order a board game to be picked up or sent directly to them, Labéjof said.
“We want to get to know people by name,” Smiciklas said. “Since it’s not a cash register-driven business, we have to interact with people to make a sale.”
The store’s regular hours will begin in the late afternoon or evening — 6 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on weekends — and players will be encouraged to stay until they finish their game, even if that means Labéjof and Smiciklas are there until 2 a.m. On this opening weekend, customers can start playing games at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’ll probably be sitting and playing with you if you’re here until 2 in the morning, or I’m going to try!” Smiciklas said.
Board gaming renaissance
Board games have evolved greatly to include not just classics such as Clue and Monopoly but newer games featuring intense strategy, world-building and app technology.
Expansion into the digital market as well as the popularity of board game store fronts has contributed to the growth. In the U.S., more than 5,000 board game cafes were opened in 2016, the report said.