Play Is The Thing At The Board Room Cafe

Hartford Courant

In just two years, Tenzin Masselli has built a loyal congregation in his quaint board game cafe on Main Street in Middletown.

Still, the Board Room's doors are open for many more to join the gaming community, Masselli says.

"Our goal is to make sure that you can play the kind of games that you want to play," he says.

Guests can play any of the hundreds of games available for $5 all day. The cafe also serves snacks and light meals, as well as various drinks and smoothies, and will add "meatier" options soon, Masselli says.

The Board Room's presence as the first board game cafe in Connecticut has made it easier for locals to connect with others with similar interests. The cafe hosts nights themed around popular games such as "Magic the Gathering," but there are also "Try-a-Game Tuesdays" and Saturday tournaments that welcome less-seasoned gamers.

Guests can play popular games including "Connect Four," "Apples to Apples," "Monopoly" and "Risk." "Betrayal at House on the Hill," meanwhile, is one of Masselli's newer favorites.

Troy Matterfis, who formed a group to play "Dungeons & Dragons" more than a year ago, has been one of the main beneficiaries of the cafe. Before connecting with players in Middletown, Matterfis says he would travel to either Norwalk or New Britain to play the game.

"I didn't know anybody [at the Board Room]. I told Tenzin, and we started advertising," Matterfis says.

About 20 to 30 people now regularly participate in the Board Room's "D&D Nights" on Wednesdays with "new people showing up all the time," says Masselli.

Matterfis said he has seen his group become more tight-knit over the past year.

"Some people have been here for the whole year-plus and others have been here for seven or eight months," he says. "We know each other's character and our preferences by now, so the game runs pretty smoothly."

For Adam Brothers and newcomer Lorraine Gabriel, the ability to explore games and find a new activity is a positive.

"It's nice to have a place to meet new people and find new people to play with," Brothers says. "It's also nice to find an alternative to the typical going out to eat or catching a movie."

Brothers says he discovered the Board Room "by total accident." Like others, he noticed the store passing by it on Main Street.

"I just walked past it and said, 'There wasn't a board game store there before,'" Brothers says.

Along with the games, Brothers also finds the food a reason to return.

"I come for the mac and cheese," he says.

In addition to mac and cheese, the Board Room serves panini, chicken tenders, hot and iced coffee, hot chocolate, berry and mango smoothies, and more. The food ranges from $5 to $7.50, while drinks start at $2 and smoothies are $5.50. Snacks like pretzels and potato chips, meanwhile, start as low as $1.

Masselli, who sometimes participates in games with guests along with the rest of the staff, says the environment is one of the most vital aspects of the cafe.

"As a business owner, I'm learning that community building is the most important thing, especially for a place like this," Masselli says. "What that means is really good customer service, being as friendly and welcoming as possible and just making sure that anybody who comes in can feel like they're at home."

Hawkwood Games, another board game cafe, is set to open in Milford in early to mid-September.

THE BOARD ROOM CAFE, 514 Main St., Middletown, is open Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 11 p.m.; Saturday noon to midnight; and Sundays noon to 8 p.m. Game fee is $5 a day., 860-788-7824.

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