The U.C.: The Board Game Renaissance in Utah County

The digital age hasn’t knocked traditional gaming out of play.


Good Move Cafe already has more the 600 board and card games. (Photo by Rebecca Lane/UV360)

In a world run by apps, screens and online gaming, one form of old-fashioned fun is making a comeback. The “board game renaissance” is sweeping the nation — and Utah County. Throughout the world’s history, board games (or its ancestors: rock and leaf games) have been popular forms of entertainment. Still a $9.6 billion industry, board games sales have increased in the past 10 years. Surprised? Millennials are the main influencers in this non-digital way to keep score. Technology lacks the face-to-face interaction that board games provide. Some games are based on strategy, many contain an element of chance, and some are purely based on luck. But all games bring people together for connection and memory-making.

The Places

Whether you host your own party, meet new people or go out with a group of friends, there are plenty of places to play board games.

Provo Towne Center

If you’re looking for a group of people who share your love for board games, check out the Utah County Board Gamers Association. They meet every Thursday night at Provo Towne Center to play games and socialize.

The Good Move Cafe

On Center Street in Provo, the Good Move Cafe is inspired by board game cafes in Europe. With more than 700 board games to choose from, Good Move Cafe is the perfect spot to bring your group of friends to have a good time eating and playing.

The Rules

Be Honest

No one likes a cheater.

Not Bored Games

Board games are a great way to have fun with friends and to get to know new people. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking non-digital games aren’t hip enough.

Not Everyone Can Win

Be a good sport. Accept the fact that you can’t win every game. (Your mother is still right about this!)

Be Respectful

While the game is going, be respectful of your fellow gamers. No one likes a complainer or someone who takes their wins with too much pride.

Age limit

Different games have age suggestions. Be sure to look at that before inviting younger children to play. Sometimes the games can be too complicated or have content unfit for children.

Pick A Good Fit

If you are good with words, pick a game like Scrabble to test your abilities. But if your vocabulary doesn’t have a lot of variety, it’s best to go with a game that fits your other interests and skills. And if you don’t know what kind of games you’re good at, start with one based on luck.

Expand Your Horizons

Playing the same game over and over again and beating your opponents has its place, but when you’re done being Uncle Rico, try a new game with an even playing field for all the newbies at the table.

The To-Dos

Whether you’re a board game enthusiast or are looking for a board game to play for one night, the most important tips for picking a game are to understand the crowd, the instructions and the setting. 

If you know your group doesn’t particularly like board games (we’re looking at you, Uncle Ronald), be sure to pick one that is simple and fun! Save the four-hour games for another time.

Pick a game you can figure out. If you already know how to play it, bonus! But, if you haven’t played it before, be sure to read the instructions yourself before everyone sits down to play the game.

It’s important to understand the setting of your shindig. If you’re trying to play at a party with lots of people and loud music, play a game that doesn’t involve a lot of rules. But, if there are only a few people in a quiet room, break out a more complicated game and prepare to strategize.

The Players

Shawn Moon
Favorite Board: Game Scrabble
The Good Move Cafe

Shawn Moon started The Good Move Cafe with his dad, Dave Moon, after deciding they wanted to bring people together. Dave has always loved board games, and the Moon family has played them since Shawn was little. Dave was aware of popular board game cafes in Europe, and he learned about the increased popularity of them in the United States. Shawn and Dave both agreed Utah was the perfect place for a board game cafe. Now, with more than 700 board games and delicious menu items to choose from, The Good Move Cafe has become an icon of entertainment in downtown Provo.

“USA Today and other big publications have done stories on the board game renaissance,” Shawn says. “Board games are coming back. It’s a growing industry because people feel like they are over-digitized. Board games enable people to reconnect.”

Mark Tyler
Favorite Board Game: Martin Wallace’s Brass
The Utah County Board Gamers Association

Mark Tyler, a member of the Utah County Board Gamers Association since its beginning, has collected more than 700 board and card games. Mark attends the Utah County Board Gamers Association meetings every Thursday night at The Puzzler in the Provo Towne Center Mall with about 10-15 other people.

“I developed a love for board games as a young child,” Mark says. “Some of my earliest memories include playing HiHo Cherry-O and Operation. I never lost the joy that comes from opening the shrinkwrap of a new game, punching out the pieces, reading the rules and teaching the game to others. I am also thrilled to constantly find new games suitable to my interests and skill level.”

Jordan Bird
Favorite Board: GameScythe
The Game Grid

Jordan Bird, owner of the Game Grid in Lehi, is passionate about bringing the community together and letting people enjoy board games. The Game Grid creates many events to advocate for this sense of inclusion. Throughout the month, The Game Grid hosts Pokemon, Star Wars, Magic: The Gathering, and open game night activities. The store also allows players to rent board games so they can try them out with friends and family.

“One key differentiating factor is that board games offer a sense of community and inclusiveness,” Jordan says. “Companies have made digital card games and apps. But everytime a new one comes out, players miss the connection and the social interaction. Board games give you direct social interaction, and we miss that when playing online.”

In 2018, we’ll explore subcultures of Utah Valley in “The UC,” including the Players, the Rules, the Terms and the Places. Submit suggestions to

McKenzie Stauffer

Kenzie is an intern for Bennett Communications. She graduated from Utah Valley University in December 2017. If you're looking for Kenzie, you'll most likely find her burning food in the kitchen, or listening to Chris Browns latest album.

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