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Bringing Game Night to Downtown Jonesboro
by Audrey Hanes, photography by Kayla Broadway

A new board game venue in Downtown Jonesboro is giving locals a place to play and offering a new experience for visitors who come downtown for dinner, shopping and entertainment.

The Fainting Goat Board Room launched on Main Street in November. Owners Rodney and Audrey Poff hope that the new venue, an eclectic, retro space with a cozy feel and hundreds of board games, will bring a fun experience to an area they love.

The Poffs said that the idea of The Fainting Goat came about after they realized something was missing from the downtown experience for those who work, eat and shop in the area.

“We love Downtown Jonesboro, and we enjoy visiting other downtowns when we go places,” said Audrey. “After relocating Occasions Publishing Group to downtown a few years ago, we realized that although we have some amazing restaurants and businesses here, there isn’t much to do downtown besides eat and drink. We just want to provide a fun experience that brings more people downtown and gives them a reason to stay a little longer.”

Once Rodney and Audrey realized what kind of a space they wanted to bring to the downtown area, they began visiting similar venues and looking for games to fill it with.

“We have been visiting board game cafes and venues for a few years as we traveled to other states,” said Audrey. “We loved the concept of providing a space where people can meet to play games with friends and family and started collecting games about two years ago.
“… We have a lot of vintage games, as well as new games. People get excited when they see a game they loved playing as a child, but they also enjoy being introduced to new games.”

For $5, people can stop by and play games from the venue’s extensive collection. From classic favorites like Clue and Chess to newer games like Hearing Things and Cards Against Humanity and even childhood favorites like Mall Madness and Operation, The Fainting Goat has something for everyone.

“We have a collection that includes both vintage games and games that are new to the market,” said Rodney. “One of the oldest in our game library is a basketball board game from the 1950s. We also have several vintage board games like Risk and Stratego from the 1960s. One of our favorite new games is Lift It, a group building game that challenges players to create structures with a crane using their hands or their heads. Escape Room games in a box are becoming popular, and we have several strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island and Code Names.”

As for where The Fainting Goat got its name, Rodney says they wanted to tie in a little history and make a connection with Arkansas State University. In September 2014, A-State Head Football Coach Blake Anderson called a trick play when the Red Wolves played Miami. During the play, known as “The Fainting Goat,” A-State’s Booker Mays pretended to faint to create a distraction during a fake punt. The play didn’t work, but it did receive national attention.

“It was one of the most memorable football plays I’ve ever seen,” said Audrey. “Everyone watching was confused about what they just saw. It just stuck with me over the years. I like a little theatrics in my football.”

The Poffs say they were looking to channel a time when things were simpler and people could come together and enjoy one another’s company over something like a game of Clue.

“When we were growing up, people had friends over more often,” said Rodney. “Our parents would have people over to play board games, card games (and) dominoes, and most of the time the kids were in another room doing the same thing. We wanted to offer a similar experience for today’s generation.”

The Fainting Goat is also available for private parties and events. Since opening in November, the venue has played host to an art show, birthday parties and several Christmas parties in December.

“We are working on some fun ideas for game tournaments, as well as team building events for corporate and nonprofit groups,” said Audrey. “In 2019, we also plan to partner with downtown restaurants to offer game day lunches. … It’s a cozy space with a retro feel that can serve as a third space for the community – a place where people can meet to socialize other than home or work.”

Although the game room does not have a commercial kitchen, the Poffs keep a collection of menus from nearby restaurants for patrons who want to order food for pickup. Prepackaged snacks for individuals (chips, candy, soft drinks, etc.) and table snacks that customers can purchase to share with their group, such as a box of Little Debbies, a package of Chips Ahoy cookies or a box of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, are also available.

So far, the community has received The Fainting Goat with open arms, although many aren’t quite sure what a board game room is at first.

“We’ve received very positive feedback from guests who have come in to check it out or to play games, but we also have a lot of people who look in the window but don’t come in because they aren’t familiar with the concept,” said Audrey. “Everyone is welcome. You don’t have to be a game master to play games here. We have had families with children, and we have had groups with guests who were in their 80s. We recommend that children be school-aged and those under age 13 must be accompanied by an adult.”

“It’s fun to watch people come in and have fun playing games,” added Rodney. “It’s a reminder of simpler times. We get to watch them laugh hysterically with each other. It’s contagious. Days after they leave, they are still talking about it.”

The Fainting Goat Board Room, located at 314 Main St., Suite A, is currently open Friday from 6-10 p.m. and Saturday from 2-10 p.m. with plans to expand its hours in 2019. For more information and for an up-to-date list of games, find The Fainting Goat Board Room on Facebook or Instagram or call (870) 897-GAME. Call or message for information about private rentals.