Every room in the new Crossroads Tabletop Tavern in downtown Manassas is named after a room in Clue. In the “The Library,” John Hornberger has transformed the downstairs bar into a wall you could spend hours looking at.
There are 1,400 board games for customers to play and other games they can buy at a new restaurant opening at 9412 Main St. at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug 30.
“I feel very much at home here,” Hornberger said. “I feel like a curator; it feels like a museum. It’s an interactive museum.”
Hornberger has been collecting board games for years. The wall of board games is organized by type of board game: there are strategy games, multi-player games, two-player games, and on and on.
“The spirit behind this is not just an outlet for my games, it’s for people to interact with each other,” Hornberger said. “The beauty of games [is] there’s nothing at stake.”
Hornberger grew up with game nights, where family and friends would gather around a board game for entertainment.
“Those were the highlights of my childhood; having everyone over and having a good time,” Hornberger said.
As an adult, he’s hosted game nights and now he wants people to have a place to play favorite games or try news ones. Games are deeply social and they increase emotional intelligence, Hornberger said.
“I see it as an entertainment venue,” he said. “Instead of going to a bar, this is a place where people can truly interact over a game. It can be an in-depth game or just being silly.”
The two-story restaurant has a bar upstairs and more seating space. Anywhere inside the restaurant, customers almost feel like they’re in a board game. There are prints of antique games covering the wall. There are murals straight from games like backgammon, “Betrayal at House on the Hill” — where players are cooperative until someone turns into a monster — and “History of the World.”
The food also has a board game theme. Two lead chefs have been working on menu items, such as the dragon burger or the tumbling tower, which has three levels of spring rolls stacked like Jenga pieces. The spring rolls each have a different flavor: loaded baked potato, jalepeño poppers and Buffalo chicken. There’s also fried mozzarella balls on a skewer inspired by “Pick Up Sticks.”
While there are board games that have universal appeal, Hornberger said “the game chooses the person.”
The restaurant has strategy games like “Diplomacy,” where players try to take control of Europe. The game has been around for decades and it has been breaking up friendships for decades, Hornberger said.
“So you’re cooperating and competing at the same time,” Hornberger said. “It’s totally a backstabbing game.”
Another game, “The Princes of Florence,” which involves attracting artisans to earn points, is one of Hornberger’s favorites.
General Manager Jesse Farmer joked that Hornberger says a lot of games are “one of his favorites.”
Farmer said he encourages people to embrace learning new games without judgment.
“I think everyone should try a game without trying to win, but just to learn,” Farmer said. “People hesitate the first time because they think they’ll lose.”
There are cooperative games or ones where players play against the game. There are word games like Scrabble and large type Scrabble. There also are dexterity games like Jenga.
There are antique games like the card game “Pit,” which came out in 1904. The restaurant also has Mr. Ree, which came out in 1957 and allows players to try and solve a murder.
Hornberger said he has another 800 games at home, mostly antique.
“I’m hoping someone will come up who hasn’t seen [an antique game] since they were a kid,” Hornberger said. “I hope they’ll see it, and it’ll make their day.”
There are religion-themed games like “Jewish Taboo,” “The Bible Man” and “Here I Stand.”
There are sports games, and there are modern warfare games.
“There are so many good ones,” Hornberger said. “Practically every one I look at.”
The restaurant has “party games” like Taboo and Scattergories. There’s also “Telestrations,” a play on the game telephone and the word illustrations — where players alternate drawing and guessing what a drawing is.
There’s a game called “Concept” where players use icons to describe common words that other players try to guess.
The restaurant also has a game called “Photosynthesis,” where players grow their own trees and earn points based on how much sun their trees get.
“It’s my way of making the world a better place; to provide games and somewhere they can play,” Hornberger said.