Pandemic Party Profile: Spielbound
by Ruth Leacock and Stacie Haneline, 24 November 2014

Traps and mice, pigs in a box, dice, and cards holding the fate of the world. Welcome to the magic of game playing at Spielbound, where there’s a whole lot of fun going on.

Spielbound Board Game Café is a national first: a non-profit cafe with a mission to educate, engage, and create community through board games. Spiel is pronounced “shpeel” and means “fun, play and games.” Patrons of all ages fill the three-month-old establishment. Trouncing all assumptions of entering an intense geek hangout, the atmosphere is light. Steamed cocoa, coffee, and wine accompany rounds of play.

For Spielbound’s CEO, Kaleb Michaud, it’s about “Digital pushback, getting people together for face-to-face interaction, away from computers and TV screens.” A veteran at holding game events and tournaments, Michaud, 40, moved from California to Omaha in 2007. When he’s not leading a non-profit arthritis research company, he’s teaching at University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). 

Michaud plans to involve UNMC doctors and caregivers in their upcoming December 14th Global Pandemic Party to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders. "It's a great cause and the PERFECT game to raise awareness about Ebola and Doctors Without Borders," says Andrew Williams, Spielbound’s general manager. 

The folks at Spielbound are clearly excited about the event-in-the-making. Marcus Ross is the on-site librarian for the cafe's 2,500 board game collection. He has a soft spot for Pandemic and describes it as “a fantastic, cooperative board game.”  And Williams is thinking event possibilities: a drawing every hour, T-shirts, raffling an autographed Pandemic game, donating part of the entrance fee... He’s on a roll.

The public will be invited – folks like Renee and Tracy who are at an animated table playing Mousetrap.  “It’s hard to pull people together. Going to Spielbound is our girls’ afternoon out. I get a beer, she gets caffeine, and [their daughter] got to choose the game, and we all get conversation.” 

Spielbound Volunteers demonstrate a new board game each day. Scott, playing Betrayal at House on the Hill with family, appreciates the 1,200 games customers can choose from. “Games are expensive to buy sight unseen. Here I can try them out.

I observe serious, quiet gamers playing Space Mission and Ghin Black Market and recall a comment Ross made earlier. “Games provide introverts with a structured way to be with people.” He should know; Ross is an introvert. He and his colleagues at an insurance company are planning a Spielbound outing. Games provide a built in ice breaker.  

Megan and her young daughter are playing Pass the Pigs. A young couple with a sleeping infant take another turn at Ticket to Ride. Brenden is one of two guys playing Empire Legends. He’s smiling br
oadly. He’s a board game enthusiast, new to Omaha, yet totally in his element. He describes the staff as “super helpful.”

“Board games themselves are helpful,” says Michaud. “They do more than entertain. Studies have shown board games to be more protective against Alzheimer’s than reading, diet, or exercise. The hypothesis is game playing uses several parts of the brain at once to pull together hand-eye coordination, analytical strategy and social interaction.” He’d like to hear from anyone interested in using their games as part of a retirement community center’s activities.

The next time you’re nostalgic for the interactive board games of youth, you can pop in and create new memories. They’ve got the games – and the games even have all the pieces.

And be sure to swing by for their Pandemic Party on December 14th!

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Pandemic Party
December 14
Starting at 12:00 noon

Spielbound (Omaha)
3229 Harney St.
Omaha, NE 68131

(402) 763-8444

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Party Details:

Omaha, NE

December 14
12pm to 10pm

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Spielbound will be raffling off a signed copy of Pandemic at the event.