Swedish import Boda Borg will bring ‘questing’ to Boston area

Boda Borg is a chain of indoor "questing" facilities. (Photo courtesy of the company.)
Boda Borg is a chain of indoor "questing" facilities. (Photo courtesy of the company.)

Ready to go questing?

Brookline entrepreneur Chad Ellis is planning to open an indoor “questing” center this summer, importing a concept from Sweden called Boda Borg, which blends obstacle courses with puzzle-solving. Some of the quests are so challenging, says Ellis, that only one percent of visitors can complete them — and that’s usually after a few attempts.

Boda Borg has been around since 1995, but all the locations built so far are in Sweden or Ireland. Boda Borg Boston will be the first such center to open in the United States. It will actually be in Malden, occupying about 30,000 square feet in a building that once housed Sparks department store, which closed in 2014 after 105 years.

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Each quest consists of a series of rooms, and at the end of a quest, Ellis explains, “there’s a box that unlocks when you’ve been successful, and you can stamp your card showing you’ve completed that quest.” While there are guides in the central areas, Ellis says, “you’re on your own in each room. A guide may give you a hint, but they’re not there with you, and you’re not told the rules. You have to figure them out.”

The quests are designed for groups of three or more. (See the video below.)

The Boda Borg concept, Ellis says, is designed to appeal to families, groups of college students, and companies holding team-building events. There are three different levels of physical difficulty to the quests, from green (easiest) to black (toughest.) Quests can involve hanging on a ledge by your fingertips, decoding symbols, escaping from a simulated prison cell, or pretending to be spiders navigating complicated webs made of rope. (Ellis is at left in the photo, standing outside the future location of Boda Borg with Stefan Kemi, who operates a Boda Borg in Sweden.)

A two-hour admission ticket will cost $18, and for $28 you can stay all day, Ellis says.

Ellis runs a small publisher of board and card games called Your Move Games; he got introduced to the Boda Borg concept through the Harvard Business School alumni network, and went to see some of the Swedish locations in 2013.

The only outside investor in Boda Borg Boston is Matt DuPlessie, the founder and chief executive of 5 Wits, a Norwood operator of “reality gaming” attractions. (5 Wits has locations at Patriot Place in Foxborough and in Syracuse, N.Y.) Ellis said 5 Wits’s themed adventures “are more like living inside a movie, and I describe Boda Borg more like playing a video game. You can die, and then have to start all over.”

Mayor Gary Christenson of Malden said the Boda Borg center will help fill a void on the city’s main street, just blocks from City Hall. “We have a lot of restaurants in Malden, but people come and say, ‘Great dinner — what else is there to do?’ This provides something for them to do before or after dinner.”

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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