Gather and game

Victoria is about to get a unique addition to its downtown core in the form of a board game café.

Jack Pinder, owner of Interactivity Games and Stuff, is about to open Interactivity Board Game Café, with the help of his friend Bill Heaton. It will be the first board game café in Victoria. Pinder closed his previous 700-square-foot store, located at 667 Fort St., at the end of August and is planning to have the new 27 000-square-foot board game café open mid September, in the Churchill building at 723 Yates St.

Heaton says, “Jack had the idea about eight or nine years ago. He searched a few locations, but things never turned up or worked out for him.” Although the idea was long-standing for Pinder, neither he nor Heaton had seen their concept actually done in real life, until they became aware of the now-famous Snakes and Lattes board game café in Toronto.

Heaton reintroduced the idea to Pinder, and the plan started up again. “I basically had decided I was going to do it, and I came down to talk to Jack, because I had known him for like five or six years. And I was like ‘Jack, I want to do this, but I don’t want to go behind your back and take all your business,’ and he was like ‘Oh, that’s a good idea,’” Heaton says. “Within a month we were partners.”

Heaton has seen a rise in popularity of board games, in particular the more complex games such as Settlers of Catan, which came out in 1995. Heaton says it’s the best selling game in the world. “I think in around the early 2000s when the Internet really became prevalent people started to find out about these games. It’s been a gradual increase. It’s not been like a steep curve of popularity; it’s just been every year more and more and more people have been playing it.” He believes this increased popularity is about people wanting to interact with each other on a more personal level in an age of video games.

The idea of board games as an activity at cafés is not a new concept to Victoria. However, in the past, it has often been enthusiastic groups bringing their own games to locations such as QV Café & Bakery on Government Street, rather than a café dedicated to board games. Heaton is aware of this trend. “I think Victoria is definitely the kind of town that wants that kind of thing. There’s lot of people who work in government, there’s a lot of people who work in high-tech industries and stuff like that. It’s not a huge party town outside of the university, and so people look for other things to do.”

Interactivity Board Game Café will charge $5 per person for access to over 800 games and expansion packs to play in the café. Games will cater to all ages and abilities and will include classics such as Trivial Pursuit and Guess Who? For those unfamiliar with some of the newer games and who may be a little apprehensive to give them a try, staff will be there to help. “We’ll ask if there’s anything they want to play. And if they know what to play, we’ll get it to them. If they’re not sure, we’ll try and direct them to what kind of game they want to play . . . Then we’ll explain how to play. We’ll sit with them for the first round and help them play the first round and then leave them to play.” Heaton says after teaching groups how to play, the staff will still be available for any questions.

The café itself will serve sandwiches and other fare—“There will be some salads, share plates. There’ll be paninis. Things like candy. Lots of share stuff, like candies and chips. There’ll be coffees, obviously; teas, hot chocolates.” Heaton adds, “We’re hoping to eventually get a liquor licence.”

Not only will people be able to purchase food and drinks to eat at the café, they will also be able to purchase the very games they are playing. Heaton believes the café will increase people’s exposure to board games and increase the likelihood that they’ll buy them after becoming familiar with them.

Since many of the games can take a lot of time to play, Heaton says the café will not take reservations, except for large groups. If the café is full on a group’s arrival, patrons may put their names on a list to receive a text once a table is free.  In case some potential gamers want to come alone, Heaton says the café will hold open-gaming nights on Thursdays and Sundays; these events will likely focus on strategy games.

After the business’s long development period, Heaton says, “Come down. We’ve been waiting so long. Please come down. It will be awesome fun. We’re really excited. As I say, it’s been Jack’s dream for years to do this. I think he just needed someone with a bit of young blood to help him do it.”

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