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Board games build community at this Burlington café

Straddling the Burlington/Winooski border, a quaint brick building is tucked in an alley. A small black and white sign is adorned with dice, cards and a chess piece. This is The Boardroom, Vermont’s only café dedicated to board games.

“We have about 700 games to play,” says Kerry Winger, owner and founder of The Boardroom.

Winger says she wanted a place for people to meet and hang out. She got the idea in 2019 after reading a book about the history of board games.

“And to me that just sounded perfect because people are on their phone too much,” she says. “We don't have Wi-Fi; we have signs that say, ‘No Wi-Fi. Play board games, talk to each other.’”

A shelf full of board games
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The Boardroom’s collection goes far beyond favorites like Monopoly, Clue or cards.

“I think the pandemic definitely pushed board games to the forefront,” Winger says. “I think when that happened, people were looking for stuff to do, and that's when they started getting into board games.”

She says customers range from the curious to diehard fans.

“I’m here every night…I've just been a gamer all my life,” says Dave Goodwin, a regular at The Boardroom.

He’s seen first-hand the evolution of the modern board game from, “things that you could pull out of your closet on a Saturday or Sunday evening with your family” to more varied.

 Dave Goodwin
Vermont Public
Dave Goodwin

He says starting in the early 1970s, game developers began to branch out.

“And you started to see more complex gaming, where mechanics became very important,” Goodwin says. “And now you can classify games that way a lot. It's a deck builder, or it's a resource management, or worker placement, you know, there's all these terms for various mechanics.”

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Winger knows that for some visitors 700 board games can be intimidating, which is why The Boardroom staff are trained to teach specific games.

The café also offers “teach me’s,” open opportunities for people to learn a new game.

“The more games you play, the more games you can learn, because as soon as you learn certain mechanics, that will transfer over to other games,” Winger says. “It's a great way to meet people. I mean, people have made amazing lasting friendships in here, just by gaming.”

Learn more about The Boardroom by watching the video and weigh in with your board game experiences on social media.

Have questions, comments, or tips? Send us a message.

Connor Cyrus joined Vermont Public as host and senior producer in March 2021. He was a morning reporter at WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University), he started his reporting career as an intern at WPTZ, later working for WAGM in Presque Isle, Maine, and WCAX Channel 3, where he covered a broad range of stories from Vermont’s dairy industry to the nurses’ strikes at UVM Medical Center. He’s passionate about journalism’s ability to shed light on complex or difficult topics, as well as giving voice to underrepresented communities.
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