Restaurant Review: Empire Board Game Library
 Alibi V.24 No.23 • June 4-10, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Play With Your Food

Empire Board Game Library offers coffee and Catan

I put down my cappuccino and took stock of the situation. My wife was in danger of being buried beneath a sandstorm; the desert sun was mercilessly beating down, and I was running out of water. Fortunately, I had a pneumatic sand blaster that would take care of my wife’s sandstorm problem, and once she was freed, she would happily share her canteen with me.

Cheese danish
Cheese danish from Swiss Alps Bakery

It was then that the lemon bar arrived. Taking a forkful, my wife said, “This is delicious.”

A good board game becomes a world unto itself, and Forbidden Desert, the cooperative strategy game my wife and I were playing through, is a good board game. A coffee shop with a few well-worn games isn’t exactly novel, but the game we had in front of us was a far cry from the chess-set-missing-three-pawns that you usually find in such places. For one thing, it was crisp and clean; for another, it came with a detailed index of each piece that should be included in the set, meaning that we were spared the hunt for missing components; and even better, it was something we’d never played before or, for that matter, heard of.

Forbidden Desert, which took us about 10 minutes to set up and figure out, is just one of the dozens of intriguing games available to customers at Empire Board Game Library, a new coffee shop/communal game space in Nob Hill. Among the selection, there are familiar titles like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan, as well as more esoteric games like Fortress America and Galaxy Trucker. For $3 per person per hour, you can take any of them off the shelf and give them a whirl.

Even better, this isn’t some dingy nerd den with stained carpet and falling ceiling tiles. This is a bright, spacious café that blends right in with its Nob Hill neighbors. The staff is friendly and eager to help you with food and drink, as well as selecting a game appropriate for the time you want to spend, the amount of instructions you want to digest and whether you’re feeling competitive or, as in our case, cooperative. They also mosey through the space keeping a watchful eye open for anyone who seems to be struggling with the rules, ready to explain the finer points and guide newbies in the right direction.

As we sat at our table, adventuring through the desert in search of an ancient artifact, people at other tables were engaged in a surprisingly wide array of game experiences. Next to us, a couple worked to establish rail lines through Europe; near the entrance, a cadre of college-ageg kids, men and women laughingly tried to keep a teetering, Calder-esque structure balanced as they added more wonky parts, Jenga-style. Others played dominoes and card games. In fact, the only unifying factor these games presented was that the people playing them seemed to be having a good time.

Yes, in addition to the gaming, the café offers food and drink. The menu details a selection of the usual coffee/espresso drinks, hot or iced, as well as some soft drinks and Red Bull-type energy drinks. My cappuccino was perfectly fine; my wife’s latte was ... well, a latte. Food-wise, there are sandwiches—roast beef, turkey and salami, all of which come with potato chips—and baked goods from the Swiss Alps Bakery, like my wife’s lemon bar. And they were also fine and delivered to the table by our waiter. But look, who goes to the skating rink for the pizza, you know what I mean?

In other words, this isn’t a café that has board games; this is a board game library that happens to serve espresso. And, I thought as I played the card to free my wife’s pawn from the impending sandstorm, it’s just as well. Who has time to think about your meal while you’re this close to dying of thirst in the desert?

Empire Board Game Library

3503 Central NE
232-4263 (GAME)
empiregamelibrary.com

Hours: 11am to 11pm, Tuesday through Thursday
11am to Midnight, Friday and Saturday
Noon to 11pm, Sunday
Closed Monday
Vibe: Fun for the whole family
Extras: Games, weekly themed game nights

The Alibi recommends: Lemon bar, cappuccino, Forbidden Desert