Entrepreneurs opening board game cafe aren’t playing around

Unplugged Games Cafe features more than 600 board games that people pay a fee to be able to play. (Photos courtesy of Unplugged Games Cafe)

A trio of board game enthusiasts are rolling the dice on a gaming-centric cafe concept in Midlothian.

Unplugged Games Café, which will offer patrons a place to play more than 600 board games, is expected to open today at 1300 Sycamore Square within the Sycamore Square shopping center. The space was formerly home to Awful Arthur’s Seafood Co.

The board game café concept has gathered steam in recent years in Virginia and nationally, and Unplugged would appear to be the first to open in the Richmond area.

Sean Gulla

“We’ll be very much the first people to do this in this area, though there are some other ones in Virginia already,” co-owner Sean Gulla said earlier this week. “We just love games and this is a great opportunity to be able to share that passion and hobby with people who are already into it like we are, but also people who haven’t gotten into board games yet.”

Unplugged charges an $8-per-person fee Friday through Sunday for full access to its board games for the duration of the person’s stay, and $6 per person for access to the games other days of the week.

Unplugged is also a full-service restaurant, with a menu tailored toward food to be eaten while moving game pieces. It can seat 80 to 90 people indoors and another 20 on its patio.

“We have not tried to reinvent dining and we do not have a huge menu of items. It’s very much geared toward sandwiches and a lot of snacks and appetizers that can be shared with your party and some desserts,” Gulla said.

Unplugged’s staff prepare and serve food and also provide rundowns of game rules as needed.

Gulla co-owns the concept with his wife Katey Gulla and friend Mark Roberts.

Katey works full time at Unplugged and runs day-to-day operations. Sean is a Henrico County Public Schools teacher and Roberts works for Best Response Strategies, a local software company. Sean and Roberts both have worked in local restaurants.

A kickstarter campaign to help launch Unplugged received about $9,500 from 72 donors.

Games at the cafe include classics like Sorry, Risk and Monopoly as well as more contemporary favorites like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

“If you created a grid of interest level and skill, we’ve got one somewhere in there that’s a good fit for you,” Gulla said.

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