Board games beat boredom at coffee shop

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By Kelly Langin, Contributor

Thursday afternoon, I strolled into Spielbound, greeted by a warm, empty café and a slow Modest Mouse song playing softly over the speakers. A chalkboard covered with scribbles of coffee drinks hung on the back wall. I admired the beer tap handles down the bar.
I almost forgot I was inside the country’s largest board game library until I saw three men sitting at a black card table surrounded by red and dark gray bookshelves. They stayed silent as they studied their possible moves in the game. Colored pieces tapped the board with each move.
I signed up for unlimited board game play and ordered a mango smoothie. Alex Strohbehn, 19, of Omaha tried his luck and ordered the Dice Delight, a coffee special that’s a game in itself.
Customers roll two dice to determine the surprise syrup options to flavor the drink. Strohbehn initially rolled a five and a two, giving him a peppermint caramel drink. After a quick redo, he landed a butterscotch white mocha.
Spielbound (pronounced SCHPEEL-bound) opened its doors in September. It was founded by Kaleb Michaud and funded by a Kickstarter campaign. With more than 1,000 games, Spielbound’s library contains the largest board game collection in the United States. None of the games were bought; they were instead donated, either by Michaud or by other people, said Scott O’Dell, Spielbound’s chief operating officer.
“Do you think they have Cards Against Humanity here?” Strohbehn asked as we browsed the red shelves in the library.
The library is divided into categories by genre, including family, strategy, party and war. They even have sections dedicated to local favorites and staff picks. The collection boasted many unfamiliar games and only a few that we were able to point out. Memories accompanied some childhood games, like Yahtzee and Scrabble.
After minutes of looking for a two-person game, Strohbehn pulled out Doodle Jump from the family section. Since we were new to the game, we wasted a lot of time reading the instructions and tinkering with the board’s setup. Finally, another customer and his young son approached us and gave us tips to help us finish the game. Strohbehn asked to play a familiar game next.
“Wow, we’re going back to kindergarten with this one,” Strohbehn said as he pulled out a wooden Mancala board.
After reliving our childhood with Mancala and playing a few rounds of Connect 4, we wanted to try one last game we never heard of. After all, we were surrounded by over 1,000 new possibilities.
As we decided on our final game, a regular suggested we try out Splendor, a medieval-themed strategy game that he donated. He gave us a quick overview of the rules, cutting our preparation time in half.
As we enjoyed Splendor, two Spielbound volunteers taught Dr. Shark to a few customers. Volunteers offer demos on certain nights to educate customers on games they may not have played before.
Spielbound offers a family-friendly atmosphere for a small price. Unlimited board game play for the day is granted at five dollars per person. Membership options are also available.
For college students, the games add a unique spin on a simple coffee date. The library also houses party rooms available for rent, giving students the opportunity to host a board game marathon over a few beers.
Spielbound is located at 3229 Harney St. just south of Midtown Crossing. Their hours vary by day and can be found at spielbound.com.

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