Boda Borg to Open in Malden This Summer
Bostonians have a few tasks to add to their to-do lists for this summer: break out of prison, escape from a haunted house, win a trivia game show, and maybe become a Quest Master.
Swedish reality gaming company Boda Borg will open its first North American location in Malden this July, where all of these things can be done in one day. The former Sparks Department Store location is being gutted to build a multi-level “questing” center with 18 different challenges. Questing is comparable to playing a video game in real life, but instead of controls, you crawl, climb, and use your body and mind to complete challenges.
A team of three to five people can begin a quest, which contains between two and five challenges. Each challenge plays out in its own room, and players can only access the next room if they complete the challenge before it. If players fail a challenge, they must restart from the initial room. (Some of the most difficult challenges can take more than 20 tries!) A successful quest ends in an unlocked stamp box, where players are able to stamp their cards to show that they’ve completed all challenges.
Quest Masters are players who complete all 18 quests in one visit.
“I really only know one team of Quest Masters,” said Chad Ellis, owner of Boda Borg Boston. “A family of gymnasts completed all of the quests in about three and a half hours.”
While Quest Masters are rare, there will be a designated Quest Master Hall of Fame in the 30,000-square-foot space, in addition to an all-you-can-eat taco bar for quick and easy refueling.
“Our quests are different from other live-action games because most other games tell you what you need to do,” said Ellis. “Here, you have to figure it out yourself.”
Ellis explained that a person can complete all of the quests usually by the sixth or seventh visit. He plans to change some of the quests annually, and wants to expand to 25 total quests within the next five years.
“I’m a huge geek,” said Ellis, who’s an avid Magic: The Gathering player and owner of a small game publishing company in Brookline. Ellis is also a graduate of Harvard Business School, which is how Boda Borg CEO and HBS alum David Spigner sought him out as a potential business partner. After testing out questing in Sweden, Ellis was hooked, and convinced Spigner that Boston was the perfect location for the first non-European Boda Borg.
Ellis hired three local builders and construction workers to spearhead the Quest building, which is now underway. They’ve recently returned from questing at Boda Borgs overseas, spending eight days testing their wits and physical fitness to better understand how to construct a Boda Borg back home.
Keith Schifano, one of the Boda Borg Boston builders, said he was immediately “sucked in” to questing.
“We were questing all day up until 12 and 1 in the morning. We slept three or four hours and did it again because we were so excited,” said the Malden native.
Taking trips to Sweden to play games isn’t a regular part of the job for the trio.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Schifano. “I’ve been in this line of work for over 20 years, and I’ve never done something like this.”
Schifano explained that he felt pretty sore upon his return to the States, in part because of black quests. Quests differ in levels of physical activity, and are ranked into three categories: green, red, and black. Green quests require some level of dexterity and are handicap accessible. Red quests include some non-strenuous physical activity, such as crawling through a tunnel. Black quests require significant physical fitness, and could include climbing across a rock wall.
The black quests are notorious among Boda Borg Boston’s employees—even Ellis hasn’t completed some of the toughest black quests. “I’m in fairly good shape, and I’m even doing some strength training!” he said.
Boda Borg markets to questers ages 8 to 108, and will offer a conference space for meetings and birthday parties. Tickets will start at $18 for a two-hour questing day, and $28 for an all-day pass.
90 Pleasant St., Malden, bodaborg.com.