Kevin Hadley
United States
South Dakota
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While I won't go into all the background of "why", my wife and I recently have been doing some serious research on trying to start a board game brewpub. Food, drinks, and Board games, what would be cooler? Of course, we are not doing this because it sounds cool. We know it is going to be a huge investment and crazy amounts of work. However, we think it is a great service to provide the community: a place to relax, socialize, and be your geeky self.

I know this is not a novel idea, but some specifics we were thinking:

Space to play your own games you bring in (similar to any FLGS)

Games to play that you want to try
I have seen a lot with really high cover charges. I am cheap. I also want to TRY a lot of games. The idea would be either A) free game play with bar purchases or B) $2 per game (independent of # of people or game length).

We would also demand all of our employees (the wife and I at first) to be as helpful as possible regarding teaching games, providing rules clarifications, being knowledgeable about "similar games" and such.

Games for rent
This is something I have never really seen: A "Blockbuster" for board games. The idea would be $5 or whatever to take the game home to rent for two nights. We'd reserve the right to charge for incidentals (missing pieces and the like), but if you want to play a game you'd never own (maybe something SUPER heavy, but SUPER fun or something in the $100 range and you just want to play it that once), that is available.

As a cost-conscious gamer, I have ALWAYS wanted this. I want to play Terra Mystica, for example, but I do not want to pony up the dough and find out I don't like it. Or, I love Through the Ages, but it is such a long game, I only want to play it once a year.

Another example is expansions. Maybe I just want to try the newest expansion for Smash Up!, but I don't want to buy it. I can rent the expansion for my weekly game day at home and find out, "We HAVE to buy THIS one!"

Corporate/company/school events:
In my current position, I have used games as a training tool. Specifically, I have used co-op games as a means to diagnose and improve teamwork. As a casual and self-contained "thing", I use my expertise on teamwork to see how the team members approach problems, plan, adapt to changing circumstances, etc... I have been looking to expand this to critical thinking, communication, creativity, and other professional skills.

Parties:
Self-explanatory, but we'd do all the work in finding good games (especially if whole audience is not even a casual gamer).

Brewery:
I have seen the market for local breweries has grown, but our niche would obviously be BG-related.


In any case, I found some board game stores in the area, so I am trying to assess, what is the market for this? We'd sell board games too, but have the OTHER things. Also, we probably would not have Magic or Warhammer. (or at least not at a serious level).

In short, please provide comments below. Are we crazy, do you have suggestions, would you be our first customer, etc...

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'Bernard Wingrave'
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There are a few spots online about renting boardgames. I just did a quick search and found one LGS that does it:
https://tikitikigames.com/board-game-rentals/

The other spots I found are services that are not up and running yet.
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Dan
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http://www.boardgamerentals.co.nz/ rents board games in New Zealand. You might get some ideas there.

I don't live in the area. Good luck!
 
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Paul Wilson
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Heroic Goods and Games in South Minneapolis had (last time I checked) a renting option for 10% of the cost of the game per day. The rental price can then be applied to purchasing the game if you like it.
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Kevin Hadley
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Thanks, all.

 
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Matt Ramsey

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I'd love to check it out (also I have some friends in Fargo and Bismarck and I could recommend to them that they check it out too), but I live in Dickinson so I wouldn't be a regular customer.

Couple thoughts, in no real order:

1. Depending upon how strong the "brew" part of your business is I think this is an awesome idea. I am not a drinker however and I don't go to bars even to "hang out" and not drink--nor do my aforementioned friends. I think if the bar part was in the back, or somehow separated off, it would be more family friendly. I have no market data but I think with the population in ND you'd want to be as family friendly as possible to be able to do decent business.
Perhaps in places like Minneapolis you can focus on more of an adult-centered board game bar/pub but I'm not sure if the customer base is there in Fargo, Bismarck, GF. That's just a guess though.
BTW: The mere presence of drinks wouldn't bother me--it's just how prominent things are. Like if you walk in and there is a giant presentation of alcohol bottles and neon signs, etc. it'd be a hard pass for myself and a lot of people I know.

2. In theory I love the idea of game rentals. My FLGS in Dickinson, before it closed recently (I have thoughts on why that was if you are interested) was toying with the idea of doing rentals. The owner was talking about the 10% of MSRP with the option to buy the game (minus the rental cost) if you liked it. My friends and family were pretty excited about it when I told them they were thinking about doing that.
However, as Tom and Eric recently discussed on the Dice Tower podcast, there are some definite red flags for you (as the owner) to consider.
I'm sure you've thought about them but just for example: in case of damaged/missing pieces what is your policy going to be? Are you going to have someone do inventory after every game is returned? Is the customer going to want to do an inventory upon receipt to ensure that the inventory you did was accurate? How easy or hard is it going to be to get replacement parts?
Tom talked like it was a terrible idea but I'm not so sure.
I know that, personally, I take very good care of my games and I'd do the same for a rental. If I (or my child) did damage or lose something I'd be willing to pay for it (or the whole game if I had to).
But not everyone is like that.

3. I think this is a great dream/goal. I sometimes daydream about how if money was no object for me I'd like to have a place like you are describing (sans the alcohol). I really hope this works out for you!
 
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Umberto Colapicchioni
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mattramsey wrote:
However, as Tom and Eric recently discussed on the Dice Tower podcast, there are some definite red flags for you (as the owner) to consider.


There might be other issues as well, one of which is licensing. Are you aware the DVD you (used) to rent at Blockbuster is not exactly the same as the one you can purchase for your own use ? The rental product has an higher price, to cover for rental licensing.

Before starting a boardgame renting business, it might be best to ask the publishers first. Some might be ok with this, and give you some kind of written permission, but not all of them might.
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Erik Syvertsen
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What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?
 
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Pete Lane
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paradoxes wrote:
What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?


Fantasy Flight Games Center has a huge free game library and food/wine/deserts/local beer on tap. They usually open a new copy of that game for play if possible. Of course they likely make most of their money of food sales and space rental to more than cover the inconvenience.
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Erik Syvertsen
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Yeah, that doesn't really apply to this situation, clearly he's not going to be able to open a new game for every customer.
 
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Derek H
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paradoxes wrote:
What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?

As they say "don't drink & game"!
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Steve C
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paradoxes wrote:
What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?

A business owner would need to factor this into their upkeep costs. Either by simply opening a new game and putting that game into the library (instead of the shelf), or by setting a monetary penalty to the customer (probably not full price, but something) and factoring in the negative PR from such a thing. And yes, there will be negative PR from asking someone who ruined something to compensate you for it, unfortunately.

It would be really, really hard to have a place that has board games and drinks and yet requires that the two be separated.
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Ess Why
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Guardian Games in Portland, OR has a separate room (must be 21 to get in) that has a bar.

While never having examined the complex economics of opening a brick and mortar game store, I think diversifying your income stream (ie having a bar) would seem to be a positive in terms of generating a profit.
 
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Brian Schlichting
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gamesbook wrote:
paradoxes wrote:
What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?

As they say "don't drink & game"!


I’m not sure I’ve met “they”.
 
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Matt Ramsey

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PopeBrain wrote:
gamesbook wrote:
paradoxes wrote:
What happens when patrons ruin a game by spilling beer all over it?

As they say "don't drink & game"!


I’m not sure I’ve met “they”.


Then we will have to introduce you to them next time you are in town.
 
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Kevin Milton
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Minneapolis suburbian checking in. I love the idea of the rentals to take home, but seems to me like it wouldn't be worthwhile for you. It would remove the game from your library so people coming in couldn't play it, you'd have to have an employee fully catalog the game coming in and going out, you'd have to have a credit card on file in case they didn't return it and you needed to charge them for the game. It just looks like more hassel than it would be worth for a $5 rental fee. More than that and it wouldn't be worth renting in the first place probably. Better off just having people test it in-store and not let them take it home.

Additionally, as someone that isn't into craft beers, it'd be nice to see something to draw me in still. Not sure what you'd want to do to set yourself apart in that regard, but check out the competition (there's lots in our metro) and see what's missing.

Lastly, I am located down in the southern metro and there isn't much in our neck of the woods. Waconia Brewery has a popular game meetup and FFG is a pretty big destination of course but they're both 40 minutes away from this side of the cities, or more depending on traffic. Level Up games has a couple of great locations that are popular as well but are 25-30 minutes out and don't serve food so aren't quite as strong a competitor.

You'd want to for sure look into market size down here, but I'd love to see something like this in the central southern metro, maybe in Burnsville or something.
 
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Pete Lane
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BGProfessor wrote:
Also, we probably would not have Magic or Warhammer. (or at least not at a serious level).


I would warn that this might be a mistake depending on the other shops in the immediate area. If you're far enough away from a competitor, you absolutely would have a built in customer base from those who feel driving across town is a hassle to play their tournaments, esp for prerelease events which pulls in a lot of casual players who wouldn't necessarily attend regular weekly events. It's really not hard to recruit someone to "run" those events and allow you and your wife to never really have to delve into the game yourselves.
 
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Kevin Hadley
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An update in case anyone is curious.

We decided the alcohol aspect is not worth it (in any market).

Our food menu is going to be simple, but fun:

Hot dogs, nachos, fries, or a salad.

Topped in many styles:
Chili-cheese (chili cheese dog, chili cheese nachos, etc..)
Sonoran style (bacon and peppers)

etc...

Working on logistics, but, no matter how much people say it is not worth it, we are running with the rental aspect.

I use Pandemic to teach engineers how to work in teams. By my estimate, each copy has been played at least 40 times (that is a low ball estimate). They are still in reasonable shape. As such, I am not worried about the wear and tear a game will encounter.

In the cases where pieces go missing, (or whatever), we will handle it just like a hotel/rental car company. You pay enough for incidentals and are reimbursed when the game is returned.

We plan on having different rental plans. For example, you buy a punch card for 10 rentals at $30 (for example). Each time you rent, we punch your card. There will be no time limit, so you can use them within a month or the lifetime of the store.



We have a store name in mind: Gateway Games and Cafe.

We will feature a special section of "gateway games" for those new to the hobby to learn to play: Dominion, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, King of Tokyo, Settlers of Catan, and Pandemic. These six are games that can be purchased at any Target, but provide enough of a sample of designer board games for anyone unfamiliar with the hobby. They are also super low key, so they are easy to teach/learn.

As for "cover charge", the idea is this. You buy food/drink, pick up a game and start playing. You bring your own stuff, totally fine. You are a vegan who wants to try out a game, you pay a small fee as managed by "help" flags. These will be flags you raise to get help setting up a game, learning a game, and putting a game away from our employees. That way, there is no "cover charge".

However, you might as well buy a plate of nachos and pick up your help flag then.

Finally, we are planning a kickstarter campaign for folks who honestly want this to happen to be able to contribute. Initial thoughts on rewards are catered lunches, your name inscribed on the games available to play (so the public knows you made that game possible to play), birthday parties with a specialized board game themed cake (I.e. a catan cake), and so on.

I think that is what I want to share. Thanks for the feedback up to this point.
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Kevin Hadley
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also, we will sell CCG (like Magic), but it won't be the focus. The FLGS here in Rapid City has a focus on Magic. So if there is ever a release event, tournament, etc... the board gamers get sent to the back, literally.

I have always thought that was rude to the loyal board game customer base.
 
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Brian Baier
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Grand Forks has a relatively large gaming population.

There are 2 FLGS locations, each catering to a slightly different subset of the gaming community.

Grand Cities Games is the pioneer, starting about 13 years ago. It hosts weekly Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and other CCG tournaments. They have a solid collection of other tabletop offerings and comic books. It's friendly enough, but has that aura of an insular den of nerdery.

Broken Sentry is only a couple of years old, but has been aggressive in outreach to all interested parties. They have a wide selection of rentals, host a variety of more focused game nights including RPGs, wargames, CCGs, and "family games." They also networked with the local University library to host a monthly game night.

There is also a Game Board Meetup group that gathers at least every 2 weeks at a downtown coffee place (The Ember). The location boasts a large room (which doubles as a church on Sundays) to accommodates multiple tables, typical coffee shop food and beverage offerings, and late hours on weekends. There are probably 20 attendees on average, with new people showing all the time. Being not strictly a board game-related business, it's more likely to pull in randomly interested persons off the street!

As it stands, three competing locations is probably the point of saturation in a town this size. That doesn't rule out any change. My suggestion would be to partner with one of these existing businesses, if any are open to the idea.
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Kevin Hadley
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We took a position in Phoenix, so we will not be coming to your neck of the woods. Thank you for all of your feedback though.
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Nate Scheidler
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Reasonably pertinent, Gigamic will be bringing their Giant Games to the Front Street Taproom in Fargo on 7/1/2018. Front Street has well-established game days that feature a number of heavier titles, and you have to play games that last a minimum of 1 hour to be eligible for their giveaways.
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