Tavern Talks: Nicholas Chen

Nicholas Chen working on Tavern of Tales

Welcome to Tavern Talks, where we talk with the very people who make Tavern of Tales what it is. Today we’ll be interviewing CEO of the company, our head honcho, and the man we would literally not have ToT without, Nicholas Chen.

JP: So, Nick, how did you come up with this idea?

N: Well the idea for Tavern of Tales actually started with my senior thesis project in university. I got that idea from just playing games with friends. There were a lot of issues with playing games, and I thought that people could be having more fun.

JP: But why board games in general?

N: Well there’s a lot of video games, video games these days, they’re like board games, but in an easier format. They already come with all these sound effects and animations and gameplay. The biggest difference that I noticed was that with people playing board games, their sole focus was playing the board game. They didn’t care about whatever was going on. My thesis project was focused on this game, Werewolf, or as some people know it, Mafia. My friends, they just cared about stabbing their friends in the back and not really the story of how people died or who the true culprit was. I’d watch people playing the game on YouTube and there’d be a dedicated narrator who took the time to prepare these storylines of these victims, and those were really fun to watch. Me and my friends, we’d play Werewolf all the time, and a common complaint was, “Oh my god! You’re the worst narrator. Can’t you give us a little bit of story?” But that’s a lot of responsibility for someone who’s just trying to casually play the game.

JP: I know that you majored in theater at BU, and there’s a lot of subsections you could have gotten into. Why sound engineering though?

N: So that actually stems all the way back from high school. You know, in high school they have a lot of these clubs, for students to attend after school, and sometime towards the end of my sophomore year I was looking for a new club to join, and two of my friends dragged me to what was called the Tech Club, or the Technical Theater Club, and they dragged me there and never let me go. That just encompassed all of backstage theater. Sometime in my junior year, we had our first performance, and the club was like, “We need someone to do sound. Nick, you’re going to do sound now!” Everyone was like, “Nick’s the sound guy. He’s gonna continue doing the sound.” So it’s not as much that I chose sound, it was just placed upon me and I just stuck with it.

JP: What aspects do you look for when you decide a project?

N: Well, there are so many board games these days, and I’ve come to understand the requirements for our experience, kind of...like, we require a certain number of elements. A famous board game everyone knows is Monopoly, but there are a lot of complications with that game, especially the fact that it can last forever, and we can’t have an experience where you stay at our tavern for like three weeks. Really when we’re screening games we’re looking for games with a consistent amount of gameplay time. Another reason we don’t do a game like Monopoly is because of story. Really, there is no story behind Monopoly, unless you kinda see it as a story of people trying to bankrupt each other and become the leading property owner, and it would take way too much work to put a story into that kind of game. And now people also ask, “Well you did Werewolf, and it had the previous elements, why not that game?” and that’s when I look into gameplay. The problem with Werewolf is that people die. You die in the first round, you can’t play the rest of the game, and that’s like forty minutes or something. And that’s not fun for those people. People like to play games. One of the games we will be releasing when we open, I believe will fix that problem.

JP: So what’s been your favorite board game to work on?

N: Woof. That’s a tough one. Each of these board games has a unique element that I’ve really enjoyed doing. Forbidden Island, I really had a fun time writing the script. And even though I’ve read that thing cover to cover, I still find myself laughing at it. And Above and Below, that was very complex, but then it gets really rich with the storytelling. Eight Minute Empire is just a fun quick thing I enjoyed working on the composition with. Each one is a different experience.

JP: What’s been the hardest aspect of working with board games?

N: Probably just finding board games, finding board games that work with what we do. A lot of people have been asking, “Why don’t you do this board game or this one?” Some board games just don’t fit the requirements we need, and some people want to see their favorite games being done in new ways, and some of them just won’t work, and that’s the most difficult thing to do.

JP: What do you hope for future customers at ToT? Anything specific you want them to feel while playing these games?

N: My goal is for them to have fun and not have stress about dealing with board games, explaining to newcomers how board games work. I just want people to have a stress-free experience. Board games are just a time where you gather some friends and you try to get off a sinking island or something. I also want to create a different kind of immersive experience, because what I saw in my thesis is that people just care about the gameplay too much, they don’t care about the story lines. That tension, when you’re about to die, you don’t feel it, because you’re not in any real danger.

JP: Anything else you want to say to the people?

N: I really hope you all enjoy the board games we have to offer and we will keep on adding new content and more adventures for people to experience. Yeah.