Bars featuring old-school board games have become a big national trend, and Dallas-Fort Worth is set to get a taste. A board-game lounge called Game Theory will open in late 2018 on South Main Street in Fort Worth, with a collection of more than 500 games — from classics like Scrabble and Monopoly to some of the hot new games that are being designed today.
Co-owner Patrick Lai is a former exec with Yum Brands who's opening the concept with his wife, Erika Ramos, brother Tim Lai, and friend Adam Hoang. Patrick was inspired after seeing the massive popularity of similar concepts in Toronto.
"Some of the places there have lines out the door," he says. "I think it makes a lot of sense given the way things are going these days. You see people in restaurants who can't put their phones down. If you go to a board game place, you have to pay attention to what's going on. You have to put down your phone. I think it's a cool trend to encourage engagement between people."
Board games are enjoying a resurgence that has helped revive a toy industry that was previously flagging; more than 5,000 new board games were introduced in the United States in 2016.
"Kids weren't playing with regular toys, they were playing with iPads, but board games have resurrected the industry," Lai says. "These are entrepreneurial people who are creating a ton of new games and get support on KickStarter-type sites. Some are very interactive, and incorporate virtual reality components."
Part of the culture of board games bars like this is a doting staff. "We’ll have people who explain the games and manage your entire experience," Lai says.
Game Theory will have a cafe vibe and will also serve some food, including their flagship item, a meat pie. "What we're doing is similar to an Australian meat pie, but we loved the idea that every culture has an equivalent — like empanadas — where it's light and simple and you can eat it with one hand."
They'll charge a nominal admission fee, somewhere around $5, but also offer a monthly subscription. They're building out the space with an industrial feel — lots of steel and pipe — but also one that incorporates the history of the area.
Fort Worth is their first, but they're already thinking beyond.
"My wife got a job in south Fort Worth, she and I were born and raised here, and we wanted to come back to be closer to family," Lai says. "We chose Fort Worth as our incubator and love our spot with TCU nearby and all the pedestrian traffic, but we hope to expand to Dallas, too."