When you ask Jessica Maurice and Nick Shier to name their favourite board game, they hesitate.
"Everyone always asks us that," Maurice, 27, laughs. "There are too many to choose from."
It might seem like a strange question, but for the couple who is weeks away from opening Hamilton's first board game café — Gameopolis — it's the kind of thing people want to know. Still, they say their favourite game changes too often to pin down.
Their love of board games inspired the couple to create a place in Hamilton where other game enthusiasts can get together and play.
"We've always played board games. It sort of was a foundation of our youth," Shier, a 29-year-old computer programmer, says.
"(But) we never really had the space to do it properly. We'd always be cramped around weird little coffee tables with not enough chairs. It just got to the point where we realized we could just provide the space for people to come and share board games."
The concept was easy to imagine: customers would pay a $5 cover and have access to hundreds of games for as long as they cared to stay. Local food, coffee and drinks would turn the café into a home away from home where gamers could get together with friends and switch off for a few hours.
After pondering the idea for a few months, it started to sound less and less crazy, the couple says. By the time they secured their King Street East location in January, they were well on their way to making their dream a reality. As word spread of their plans, they quickly garnered plenty of positive feedback from the community, the duo says.
Buying games through online classifieds, thrift shops and wholesalers, they've already amassed over 400 titles for their inventory. Their goal is to have 500 games by the time to shop opens next month. From Act One to Zombies!!! 8: Jailbreak, they say they'll have something to suit anyone's interests.
They've even found some rare gems: one special edition Lord of the Rings Risk game the pair picked up for a few dollars at Goodwill sells for over $200 online as a collectors' item. They resisted the temptation of selling it in preference of having a rare game for their customers.
"It totally was one of those 'no, we can't do it. We can't do it. We can't do it,' moments. Although, it would help buy more games," Maurice laughs.
Board game cafés are slowly growing in popularity, there are already similar sites in Toronto, Ottawa, London and Waterloo. But the pair says they want their 1,200-square-foot hangout to have a uniquely Hamilton feel.
For one, they've been collaborating with other downtown businesses to keep that community vibe. Their café will sell treats from local bakery Cake and Loaf and they just firmed up a deal to sell beverages from Red Hill Coffee Trade as well. When they secure a liquor license, they plan to serve local craft beers, they say.
They're also aiming to host events for the community from tournaments to singles nights and charity fundraisers.
"Someone mentioned a really cool idea of doing a Hungry, Hungry Hippos tournament for donations for the food bank, which we're really excited about," Maurice says.
The bottom line for this fun-loving pair is to create a space that they themselves would be impressed with.
"It's really local and other businesses are involved. It's not like we're going to have Coke," Shier says. "It's something that's really important to us."