A Different Kind of Board Room
A Mid-City bookstore's inside-the-box thinking has created a whole new revenue stream.
Put down the screens, joysticks and controllers — board games are back, big time. U.S. sales grew 28 percent last year alone.
A new generation of gamers has revived the industry with innovative games and a culture club of participants around the world, and one local bookstore is tapping in.
Tubby & Coo’s bookstore in Mid-City recently launched a new program of board gaming. Owner Candice Huber is jumping on the trend to bring a social side to game playing in New Orleans.
“Board game cafés have been popping up all over the country, and they’re becoming very popular,” she said. “I’ve visited quite a few of them, and I thought it was an excellent model. We don’t have anything like that here in New Orleans. Although I don’t have a café, I did have an extra room.’”
Huber decided to put all of her personal games, along with the store’s demo games, into the bookstore’s extra room and turn it into Tubby & Coo’s Board Game Club. The room boasts over 250 different games.
Kickstarter is a Game Changer
While the top sellers include some classics distributed by well-known manufacturers like Hasbro, a steady increase of independently produced board games, many via Kickstarter campaigns, are on the rise.
Games are currently the biggest crowd-funding segment on the fundraising site, with many new offerings geared toward group play in a social setting, such as a bar or café. Prices range from $5 to $50.
Top 5 Most Funded Kickstarter Tabletop Games To-Date:
Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 — $12,393,139
Exploding Kittens — $8,782,571
The 7th Continent — $7,072,757
Zombicide: Green Horde — $5,004,614
Dark Souls™ The Board Game — $4,939,914
Known as a bookstore that specializes in popular geek culture, Tubby & Coo’s has long featured an array of books, games and accessories for lovers of popular titles like Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. The new board game club is actually part of a full program of gaming options the store has launched that includes a board game exchange program, board game testing program for designers and a game rental service.
Huber said the move seemed like a natural evolution for her business.
“The board game industry is remarkably like the book publishing industry,” she said. “There are so many different genres and subgenres, with fans who get really involved in their favorite.”
While the mass market stars of years past (think Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble) are seeing modest increases, independent games are skyrocketing in popularity, tapping into a new generation of free-thinking adult millennial players looking for something beyond a PlayStation. Sales of board games grew from $9.3 billion in 2013 to $9.6 billion in 2016, according to a report from Euromonitor International.
Top Classic Games of All Time
The Settlers of Catan
Ticket to Ride
The trend is on par with millennials moving away from online gaming and traditional network television viewing in favor of content on demand. Board games are drawing this demographic in by offering an interactive, face-to-face alternative to online and set scheduled activities. Instead, they’re offered a familiar setting they can pop in to and out of when their time allows, and still be able to enjoy a gaming experience.
Huber said she understands the appeal and feels it herself.
“I love the social aspect of board games,” she said. “As an introverted nerd, I love staying at home and talking to friends online, but with board games, it actually gets me out of the house and interacting with other people.”
She said she loves the power of games to bring people together.
“You get to sit at the table across from people who are different from you, who may come from a different background or have different viewpoints, and all play the same game and have fun,” she added. “There’s nothing quite like the tabletop gaming experience.”
The Tubby & Coo’s Board Game Club offers all-day gaming for $5 per person in the store’s dedicated gaming room, or an annual membership for $25. Memberships include five free days of gaming per year, two free guest passes, 12 free game rentals per year, one free snack and drink per week and discounted special event tickets.
“We just recently launched, and we already have 16 members and growing,” said Huber. “There are no official rules for membership. We just ask that people respect each other and the space.”
While many current board gamers are part of the millennial generation, a new wave of younger enthusiasts are catching on; a fact that Tubby & Coo’s embraces.
“There are no age restrictions [for membership]. We even have a whole section of games for kids. We also label our games to show which ones are kid-friendly. You can learn a lot from board games — from economics and managing resources to social/emotional learning.”
If you’d rather play from home, the store also offers a rental program open to both members and non-members. Board games may be rented for $1 per day for up to 7 days, with a two-day minimum rental. An exchange program also offers store credit in exchange for gently used games.
“Some games are expensive so this allows folks to try them out and make sure they like them before dropping a bunch of money,” Huber said. “Of course, if you can’t afford a game, you can always come to the store and play.”
Popular 2017 Independent Games
King of Tokyo
Ticket to Ride
Betrayal at House
on the Hill
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
Lords of Waterdeep
For pioneering member Adam Kramer, Tubby & Coo’s Board Game Club provides a way to connect with other gaming enthusiasts in a fun, casual environment.
“I have been a fan of board gaming my whole life and got back into the hobby as an adult in college with Settlers of Catan,” he said. “When Tubby & Coo’s opened, I knew they had a board game section so I went in to buy one for a friend’s birthday and learned they had a weekly Sunday night gaming group. I started going and quickly began to realize just how many amazing games there were out there. I became addicted.”
Kramer said he enjoys the wide variety of games available at Tubby & Coo’s, as well as the growing group of friends he has made in the club.
“There are silly, short party games, super complex Euro games, confrontational war games, and everything in between so that almost anyone can find something they like, along with people who share similar interests. I became a member so that I can continue to get exposed to new games, meet new people, and have a great time at least once a week with my fellow board gamer friends,” he said.
Huber is currently working on a partnership with several businesses across Mid-City to find additional creative ways to offer gaming opportunities.
“We’ve contacted several Mid-City businesses to plan pop-ups, and we’re working on it,” she said. “There are quite a few interested businesses, so we’re trying to work out scheduling. We’ll be announcing more on this soon, so stay tuned.”
Tubby & Coo’s
631 N. Carrollton Ave.