Board games are evolving. A good case in point is Chronicles of Crime. It has many familiar board game elements. Players work together to achieve a common goal, and there’s a central board and cards that represent suspects. Then there’s the VR headset that immerses you into the crime scene.
I had never heard of it until I stopped by Game Theory, a board game lounge on South Main Street, the grand opening of which is Saturday, July 27. I put on the headset, composed of a tablet and two lenses. From what I could make out, I was in a museum. Game Theory co-owners Patrick Lai and Erika Ramos were my guides.
“What do you see?” Lai asked.
“Broken glass near a sign of an Egyptian scarab and a hammer,” I replied.
The timer soon went off, and we went about sifting through the clues. Lai and Ramos used their smartphones to scan QR codes on the cards. The scans allow players to interview crime experts as well as suspects. We had time only for a quick preview, but I could see how Chronicles of Crime could soon gain a following among local gamers.
Lai and Ramos are self-described board game fanatics. Game Theory’s business model is based on what they see as the ideal gaming experience. Over the past few years, the married couple has visited several similar businesses across the United States and Canada, observing what worked and what didn’t. Game Theory customers will have access to more than 500 unique board games. The lounge has a full-service bar and kitchen that will serve an array of meat pies, pickled veggies, and other noshes that can be eaten with one free hand — yes, this is one of the many small details that Lai and Ramos have worked out.
Games can be rented via $5 all-day passes. There is no limit on time or the number of games that can be played. Rather than having Game Theory’s “Game Guides” bombard customers with food and drink orders, each table has a device with several buttons attached to it. There’s a button for food, drinks, game assistance, and the check, a model that Ramos says is popular in Japan. The Game Guides have been trained to explain games in a few succinct steps. Distilling complex games down into several simple pieces of advice was important, Lai told me, so customers can try new games with as gentle a learning curve as possible.
Stocking board games in an establishment that serves food and drinks is nothing new, Lai said. What will set Game Theory apart will be the careful training of the Game Guides and the overall learning-based ethos of the lounge. Lai and Ramos are glad to stock stalwarts like Connect Four and Jenga, but they also plan on encouraging visitors to try newer and more involved games as well. Game Theory will also have theme nights when gamers of all experience levels can gather to try one particular game. (Yes, Dungeons & Dragons will be an option.)
The food and drinks are not an afterthought. As we chatted, the Game Guides brought me three signature cocktails and two dishes from the kitchen. Adam Hoang, former bartender at The Joule in Dallas, oversees the adult drinks menu. I tried a delicious and creamy version of Thai Tea (apple brandy, gold rum, coconut cream, and tea) along with an Old Fashioned called Break the Ice. The classic cocktail arrived with a thin sugar-based lid and a small wooden hammer. A large plastic pouch with a straw (like a Capri Sun) rounded out the memorable offerings I sipped that day.
Lai set many mouths watering when he announced that Game Theory’s menu would focus on ethnic meat pies. The one I tried that day did not disappoint. The Philly Cheesesteak was a baseball-sized pastry that was filled with large chunks of tender meat, a cream sauce, and cheese. The buttery and flaky bread held together well, and the fillings were condensed enough to not fall out.
Games have a storied history of driving culinary innovations. John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, is credited with inventing the sandwich so he could eat without having to leave his gaming table. Lai’s meat pies, like many of the innovations at Game Theory, are intended to ensure that visitors have a game-friendly experience from beginning to end.
804 S Main St, Ste 110,
Fort Worth. $5.