Justin Jacobson ’92
Courtesy Justin Jacobson

At the end of last year, Justin Jacobson ’92 sold his law practice and began working full-time to bring some of his favorite old-school board games back to the shelves (with a modern-day twist).

“It’s a lot more fun, I can’t lie,” he said, laughing. “And it’s funny, I’m actually working 20 times harder now than I was when I had my law firm.”

A dedicated gamer since childhood, Jacobson practiced law in Florida for more than 20 years after graduating from Princeton and attending law school at Duke. He specialized in contract work and debt collection but also made time to represent people working in the gaming industry, including Rob Daviau, who worked at Hasbro for a number of years and helped create board games such as “Clue: Harry Potter Edition,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game,” and the 20th anniversary edition of “Trivial Pursuit.”

One day, Jacobson and Daviau began tossing around the idea of bringing some of their favorite childhood games back into stores, keeping the framework of the game intact while tweaking the gameplay to better connect with 21st-century gamers. At last year’s “Gen Con” board-game conference, Jacobson and Daviau made their idea public and began asking people for suggestions on which games they would like to see restored.

“We got thousands of responses,” Jacobson says. “And that was when we realized, ‘It’s not just us.’ There are actually other people who are really jazzed by this idea.”

Based on the survey responses and their personal preferences, they selected the three flagship games for their new company, Restoration Games: “Stop Thief,” in which players try to catch an invisible thief; “Indulgence,” loosely based on the 1980s classic “Dragonmaster;” and “Downforce,” a car-racing card game.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign in March, Restoration Games moved ahead in full force, with Daviau in charge of restoring and designing the games and Jacobson handling the negotiating and licensing agreements for each game, among other responsibilities.

Because each game is different, there is no formal process to obtain the rights, Jacobson said, adding that it can take anywhere from days to months to negotiate a license. Once they acquire the rights, the real fun begins: redesigning the art, tweaking the gameplay, and in some cases, adding an online component by way of a smartphone app.

“The main thing we do when we approach a game is think about, ‘What is it that everyone loves about this game? What is the soul of the game?’” Jacobson says. “Then we take everything else away and build a solid game product around that.” 

All three board games will be released at this year’s Gen Con Aug. 17 and will be available for purchase on the Restoration Games website in the weeks following. Jacobson anticipates that they will also be available in hobby stores across the country this fall.

“We want all of these new gamers that are getting into the hobby today to be able to see some of these old treasures and experience them like we did, but modernized for our sensibilities today,” he said.