By Jill McKeon
BU News Service
Mission Hill will soon be getting a new bar where friends and board game aficionados can gather for a night of searching for treasure, solving murders or building empires – all while enjoying craft beers and cocktails.
Tavern of Tales, an immersive board game bar, will celebrate its grand opening in Mission Hill on the weekend of Dec. 6.
Nicholas Chen, founder, CEO and a recent Boston University graduate, said he envisions the cafe being like other board game cafes in Boston, but with the excitement and immersive nature of escape rooms. The bar will specialize in a small selection of board games, each with sound effects to enhance the player’s experience.
“In terms of the sound effects, we are trying to take board games and make them more like video games,” Chen said. “When you play Monopoly, you pass go and collect $200. In our experience you would pass go, collect $200 and you’ll hear the sound of money rolling into your bank account.”
The cafe will feature six private gaming rooms for the six different games. Customers can rent the rooms by the hour, as well as a bar area where players can order appetizers and drinks as they play a game of cards.
It ranges from $10 to $14 per person for the first game session and then each additional hour is discounted. There is also a discount if you reserve online or if you have a full group of five players.
When customers rent out a room, they will be assigned a designated staff member to explain the rules and serve as a referee for the game. Games offered include Eight Minute Empire, Forbidden Island and Mysterium. The games are not limited to a specific genre, but most are of the world-building variety and take a few hours to play.
“Our goal is to make sure that people who come in have a fun time and everything we are putting together will hopefully make that as easy as possible,” Chen said.
Chen, who graduated from Boston University in 2017, came up with the idea when he was working on his thesis as a student in the School of Theater majoring in sound design. He has been interested in backstage theater design since high school. As a student in Singapore, he joined his school’s backstage theater crew as part of the tech club.
“One day they needed a guy to do the sound work and they said, ‘Ok, Nick you’re doing sound,’” Chen said. “At the end of that show we were figuring out the roles for the next one and they said ‘Well Nick’s the sound guy so he should do sound,’ and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
David Remedios, the current head of the sound design program, said that the program is the smallest department in the School of Theater. Chen graduated as one of only two sound design students that year.
“Alums of the program work at all levels of theatrical production, from designing at or staffing non-profit theaters, to working at educational institutions and working commercially on Broadway,” Remedios said.
Chen’s entrepreneurial path is a unique one. Instead of following the traditional path, Chen chose to use his expertise to turn his senior thesis into a business. He said his advisors and professors were crucial to making this idea happen.
“I guess I’m lucky to say that the stuff I studied in college directly applies to what I’m doing now,” Chen said. “All of the classes were relevant and a lot of the courses that I thought were useless at the time are helping me a lot now.”
One of his advisors was Ben Emerson, who ran the sound design department for over 20 years and is now the sound supervisor at the Huntington Theater Company. Emerson said Chen’s idea was a unique one for the sound design department.
“A few students have gone into sound design or sound engineering businesses of their own over the years, but I can’t think of any that have pursued this level of entrepreneurial goal,” Emerson said.
He felt that the project was both unusual from the theater perspective and innovative from the gaming perspective, making it an exciting time for the department.