Board game parlor hopes to build community via shared experiences in OTR

Growing up, game night was a common occurrence for Zach Leopold’s family. They played games like Aggravation and Sorry!, and as Zach got older he started collecting games.
“I’ve always been a board game geek, ever since I was a kid,” he says. “I was the kid who would clear the board in a rage when my brother wiped out my armies during a game of Risk.”  
His love of board games has led him to start a board game parlor, The Rook, with his father Jim in Over-the-Rhine. They’re doing much of the renovation work themselves at 1115 Vine St. (a few doors from Ensemble Theatre) and plan to create a space where people of all ages can come and play games.
“We’ve been waiting for the right location for the concept and decided early last year that OTR was ‘here to stay,’” Leopold says. “The neighborhood gets high volumes of the kinds of people we believe will most enjoy The Rook. And the community and consumers in OTR seem to embrace unique concepts because of the diversity of the people and the fact that they’re engaged in their community.”
The Leopolds are hoping to build on the existing community atmosphere in OTR. Board games give people the opportunity to gather and share in a fun experience, and The Rook will offer just that.
“Everything about your experience at The Rook is about getting friends around a table to do something you love, from the food to the drinks to the games,” Leopold says. “And most everyone loves board games, whether for nostalgic reasons, competitive reasons, social reasons or because they’re just really fun.”
Over the past 10 years, the board game industry has evolved and grown, he says. Games like Catan, Pandemic and King of Tokyo are now popular among young adults and are gateway games to the thousands of fun strategy games on the market.
The Rook will offer these types of games and more. Leopold plans to offer 1,000 different games, with well-loved classics like Candyland, Clue and Monopoly as well as newer strategy games, giant games, trivia games, dice games, card games and party games. There will be multiple copies of popular games, with about 600 different titles in the game library. “Game geeks” will be available to recommend games to a group as well as explain them.
The 4,000-square-foot space will occupy two floors in the building. There will be 25 game tables and a 30-person private party space that will also serve as a community game table during peak hours.
The Rook will also be a restaurant and bar. The menu is still in the works, but Leopold plans to offer between 8-12 local craft beers as well as a selection of wines and a cocktail menu with classics and originals. For food, the menu will have something for everyone, with sandwiches, soups, hummus platters, salads and a “game night” section with classic game night snacks to share.
The Leopolds plan to open by May 1 and will be open 11 a.m.-1 a.m. daily, with later hours possible on the weekends.

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.  
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