North Texas Daily

Boardgame restaurant continues to foster community a year after opening

Boardgame restaurant continues to foster community a year after opening

Boardgame restaurant continues to foster community a year after opening
September 02
11:00 2023

Just across from the Denton courthouse, D20 Tavern hosts Denton’s board game enthusiasts with local craft beers and nearly 300 games neatly packed in a wide bookcase. One year after the board game bar opened its doors, D20 Tavern has continued to engage with the Denton community through its gaming events. 

D20 Tavern opened in June 2022, but it was nearly five years in the making. The idea of a board game bar started as an inside joke between its married co-owners Mark and Melissa Michnevitz after playing Magic! at a comic book store and finding it inconvenient to search elsewhere for a drink between tournament rounds.

Mark and Melissa imagined D20 Tavern as a combination of two of their passions – board games and beer. Eventually, the bar became less of a joke and developed into a legitimate business proposition.

Just as the Michnevitz were about to finalize their loans, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dissipating any chances of receiving financial support. Still, Mark and Melissa did not let the pandemic and its subsequent global economic downturn deter them.

“We really kind of just felt like we had something really fun,” Mark said. “Especially when we found the spot in Denton, that’s when we were really like, ‘This is gonna really slap, this is a good idea.’” 

On most Sunday nights, it is common to find dozens of patrons crowded around the bar, waiting to order a drink. The main attraction those days lies just beyond a flight of creaky stairs leading to the “dungeon,” the board game bar’s affectionately nicknamed basement.

There, Mark and resident game master Blake Cefoldo host a session of Blood on The Clocktower, a murder mystery role-playing game complete with demons, poisoners and spies. As dramatic orchestral music plays in the background, Mark relays the game’s rules. Newcomers look on intently, but the game’s seasoned veterans chuckle as they recount their previous sessions, holding glass cups of beer. 

Now, there are often more aspiring participants than available seats, but that was not always the case. When Mark first brought Blood on the Clocktower to D20 Tavern, Cefoldo took it upon himself to host sessions and serve as the game’s storyteller.

Cefoldo had never played Blood on the Clocktower before, but was always a fan of similar social deduction games like Mafia, Werewolf and Town of Salem. Eager to play the game, he studied the rule book and watched several videos on his own time outside of work.

“It was definitely not the easiest thing to jump into, but I just loved it,” Cefoldo said. “I loved everything about it. I love the art. I love the idea behind it. So I just kind of took it all in and went crazy.”

Turnout was initially weak, forcing Cefoldo to constantly ask around the tavern for willing players to meet the game’s minimum requirement of five players. After months of hosting sessions, Cefoldo saw the number of participants nearly triple, with some members traveling from Dallas and Frisco to play in his sessions. 

Now, there are Blood on the Clocktower sessions on Wednesdays and Mondays, hosted by patrons rather than employees. 

“When I was first starting games, I wanted everything to be perfect,” said Claire Cooper, university alumna and patron storyteller. “Nowadays, especially because I ended up running a lot with people who know me because they come a lot or we see each other on Sundays or Wednesdays, [there’s] a lot less pressure.”

Cooper started frequenting D20 Tavern to participate in Blood on the Clocktower sessions in September 2022. Though she had never heard of or played the game before, she was drawn in by the interactive and social nature of the sessions. Eventually, she started hosting her own sessions at D20 Tavern on Wednesday nights, with support from Mark himself.

“I really enjoy it because it helps me or lets me feel like I’ve contributed to or built something,” Cooper said. “I’m happy […] just being able to attract more people to the game and this place, and just have more people to hang out with and play the game with.”

Featured Image: D20 Tavern at W. Oak Street is filled with customers playing board games and drinking on Aug. 26, 2023. Brendan McDonald

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Hana Musa

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