On first hearing the words “Brooklyn board game community” strung together, I had to do a double take. Excuse me, what? “There actually is one,” said Mike Sanderson, owner of Brooklyn’s newest board game cafe.
Believe it or not, Rivals isn’t the only game in town. The Uncommons, a cafe in Greenwich Village, and The Brooklyn Strategist in Carroll Gardens have already successfully implemented the same idea in their respective neighborhoods. But Sanderson says he’s hoping to fill the void in North Brooklyn.
A Flatbush native living in Greenpoint, Sanderson and his wife, Kim Hackett, opened Rivals in nearby East Williamsburg just over two weeks ago.
Once it snags a license, the cafe will serve beer and wine only, including options like PBR for cheap drinking and craft beer for more refined palates. For now, it’s sticking to snacks and sandwiches — including a chicken and waffle panini.
During our visit on Friday, Sanderson immediately recognized my utter and complete ignorance when it comes to anything that qualifies as a board game save for chess, which I refuse to play anyway because I would never put myself in a position to lose at anything ever. He must have taken me for a poor sport or something — which, whatever, I’m definitely not — because he picked out a rather non-competitive kids’ game as an example of what Rivals has to offer.
“The health department tried to cite me for this,” he laughed as he picked an egg carton off the shelf. Sanders explained that Eiertanz, or Dancing Eggs, is one of his favorite games. “Kids love it, and I do too, I guess because I’m still a kid.”
The selection is incredibly diverse. Sanderson informed us about the two major classifications for adult games, Euro-games and American-made games. Germany is a major producer of the Euro-style games.
“It’s kind of like wine,” he said. “The German games tend to be heavily strategy-based. There’s not a lot of luck involved and no die.” On the other side of the Atlantic are where “Ameri-trash” games are made. This type of game emphasizes thematics and luck over strategy. “There are vocal proponents on each side,” Sanderson explained. Apparently gamers usually tend to go one way or the other.
“And yes, I have played all the games at least once,” Sanderson said. “Although one nearly broke my brain.”
On October 25, Sanders said, the cafe will have its “grandest opening yet” — a full day of free tutorials, raffles, and game giveaways. Plus, guests can play games for free as the gaming fee will be dropped. Following Rivals’ official opening party the cafe will start having more events on the regular, such as gateway classes designed to help beginners with some of the more complex games as well as simple games. “We’ll have no-stress tournaments at the end too,” Sanderson said.
Guests can either choose to pay one hour or a full day of unlimited gaming. The fee is smaller if you meet a food and drink minimum. Adults pay $10 for a full day and $5 for one hour. Teens pay just $5 for a full day and $2.50 for an hour of playtime. Prices for kids are rock bottom. Kids can play all day for just $2 or $1 an hour.
Rivals is located at 686 Grand Street, nr. Manhattan Ave. in East Williamsburg and is open for gaming Tuesday through Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.