Board Game Cafe Makes Play for New Audience at Closed Village Chess Shop

By Kayla Epstein on November 18, 2013 6:39am 

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Chess has returned to the shuttered Village Chess Shop.

The Uncommons, which bills itself as New York's first board game café, recently opened at 230 Thompson St., bringing knights and rooks back to the chess destination's former home — along with plenty of Monopoly money, dice and Uno cards.

The café will celebrate its grand opening on Tuesday, officially launching its collection of more than 200 board games for patrons to play and purchase, as well as coffee and snacks to get gamers through an arduous round of Settlers of Catan.

Owner Greg May, 32, a self-described "serial entrepreneur" and editor of reviews website TrulyNet, said he got the idea for The Uncommons after finding most bars too loud and dark to play board games.

“Board games have been undergoing a renaissance,” he said. “Manhattan — especially this area with all its students — seemed like it could really use some support for gamers to play.”

May hopes to target students and young professionals who want to hang out with friends — and may not be able to drink legally.

For $5 per person, customers can rent and play an unlimited amount of games for the entire day. Need to pause your epic game of Risk to go to class? Come back with your receipt that day and continue playing until you rule the world, or until closing time, whichever comes first.

The Uncommons quietly opened its doors on Oct. 24 to create some buzz, and May’s target customers have already been streaming in, he said.

Willem Devries, 19, heard about the café online and me there on a recent afternoon to meet with Katie Jenks, a 21-year-old NYU student.

“It gives us something to do,” Devries said. He added that he hadn’t played a board game in months, but he had fun playing Uno with Jenks.

Customers can also leave a message on a bulletin board requesting a meetup for a game. “Dungeons and Dragons skirmish, with miniatures” reads one. They can also visit the café's website and organize future gaming sessions at the café with friends or strangers.

Park Sangji, a 37-year-old student from Korea, stopped by recently with his English tutor, Jim Anderson, for a game of chess.

“Neither of us have played in years,” Anderson said during a break from playing. “It’s kind of neat.”

Some of the old-timers from the Village Chess Shop, which closed last year, have even returned to visit, barista Christopher Pugh said, and an all-girls chess club meets there every Wednesday, teaching the game to a younger generation.

“We want to continue the legacy of chess in this space," May said.

The Uncommons will serve free coffee and hold a raffle on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The café will be open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight, and offer students a 10 percent discount.

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