No more are the days that you hide your nerdy board games in the closet. They’re officially cool to play and Tea + Victory Board Game Café, 2030 E. T.C. Jester, has a grand selection to choose from.
The team behind the board game café are co-owners Vanessa Briceño and Jason Bush, who upon returning to Houston after Briceño finished her master’s in game design in 2015, realized there seemingly was a board game in every city but Houston. After pondering the idea of opening their own board game haven for a year and a half, they made the jump.
They started out doing pop-ups at local breweries with a hundred of their personal board games. Eventually, that number doubled due to how well the pop-ups were attended. But filling up a whole café is more unpredictable. Luckily, they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
“We were surprised that it would be consistently busy every weekend. Like, I knew when we opened there would be [interest], but the fact that it’s kept on rolling is kind of neat,” said Bush.
A part of the success is the accessibly of the space. No dark nerd dungeon to be found, but instead a place anyone would feel comfortable walking into and hanging out.
“When we were designing the space with the help of our designer, it was really important to us that the space feel bright and welcoming,” said Briceño.
On any given Friday or Saturday night, the café is packed. At times people are waiting for a table to become available.
“it’s really nice to get together with your friends and do something that isn’t the same thing you’ve always been doing, which is like meeting at a bar or going to a restaurant,” said Briceño, “One of the comments that we get consistently from customers is how nice it is to come in a see that no one is on their phone. Everyone’s talking to each other, making eye contact, and laughing.”
“So, I think there is in society, in general, maybe a recognition that face to face interaction is lacking and it’s finding ways to promote that,” said Briceño.
There are the staple games of childhood like Monopoly, Sorry, and Connect Four, but since the late 90s more are more interesting board games have been released. Everyone has their own taste, but social deduction games are a favorite at Tea + Victory.
“Those are the ones were everyone usually plays a role. It’s usually a good guy [verses] bad guy role,” said Bush, “So, it’s kind of a mix between a bluffing game and a role game. For example, Secret Hitler. You have liberals, fascist and Hitler and liberals are trying to find out who the fascists are and kill Hitler. Anyway, it always devolves into hilarity. With a large party of eight it’s just a lot of yelling and screaming, ‘I know you’re a fascist, I know you’re Hitler’.”
Families come in all the time and play the classics like Operation with their kids, but even adults often gravitate toward the game that reminds them of their childhood—and one they already know how to play, like Battleship.
“I will say I am surprised at how much people are not playing Cards Against Humanity…we don’t see it brought out to the table, which is great because there are other games to play,” said Briceño.
For newcomers Bush recommends NMBR 9, which can be taught in five minutes and is easy to learn. It’s a Tetris style puzzle game that’s competitive. Anything that’s quick to pick up, easy to learn, and a lot of fun are good parameters to stay in if you’re just dipping your feet into the board game world.
“We have a copy of Twilight Imperium, which is this huge box and it’s on its fourth edition now,” said Briceño, “It typically takes about 6-8 hours to play, so it’s not really a game that we encourage people to play, but it would just be embarrassing not to have it on the shelf.”
Café goers are usually up to try any of the games but reading directions can take a long time and offer only confusion. So, Tea + Victory have trained staff to help recommend games and to teach how to play them.
They offer delicious foods too, from finger foods to fish and chips and kid friendly snacks.
“We want everybody to be welcome and you don’t have to play games. If you want to come camp out with your laptop during the weekday, please come. Or if you want to just come in for lunch, we are a café also, so we definitely want to encourage the neighborhood to use it like that,” said Meghan Rega, a partner in Tea + Victory.
There are multiple boxes of the same games, especially popular ones like Catan and Ticket to Ride, which are both fun and relatively easy. So, grab a game with some friends and put the phone away for a while.