On Wednesday I finally did something I’ve been hoping to do for ages, and got to a board games café with my wonderful friend Debbie! We’ve been talking about this for years now but it’s one of those things we keep putting off, so a few weeks ago we decided that we’d find a time we were both free, book, and commit to actually doing it.
The first difficulty was choosing which one to go to. We’ve always talked about going to Draughts, which we’ve heard so much about, but then found out about The Library Pot in Richmond, which opened a little over a year ago. (Talking to co-owner Emily there on Wednesday, we found that they’d originally been running games in their home and then had finally taken the plunge and moved to actual premises.)
We booked in advance and (despite my legendarily bad directional skills, AND relying on Southern Rail for part of my journey!) managed to make it there just on time. Emily greeted us and was a great person to talk to, making us feel really welcome, giving us the house rules, and talking us through a few of the games that are there. There is an incredible selection of games – 455+ according to their website; if I’d been pushed to guess I think I’d have gone even higher! I also really loved the range, there are recent ones jostling for space with a lot of the old classics, and a great mix of strategy ones that you can sink your teeth into, along with much quicker ones that are perfect for when you’re not feeling up to anything too complicated (I needed a break from thinking hard after Ticket To Ride!) or when you want a change of pace.
After showing us to our table and giving us food and drinks menus, Emily recommended that we start with Dobble, a game comprising of cards with several different symbols on them, where every 2 cards have just one symbol that’s on both. There are 5 games you can play with these cards, and we tried 3 of them. They had two things in common – firstly, you need to spot the matching symbols before your opponent does; secondly, Debbie was much much better than I was. This was a great way to start things off – I was feeling quite tired by the end of work, but this really got me feeling energetic because it was so fast-paced and fun. (I think we played all 3 games in about 25 minutes or so.) I can imagine it being even more fun with more people around!
We asked Emily to recommend something else and she followed up with another great pick, strategy game Kamisado. This one, played with 8 black dragons vs 8 gold dragons on a colourful board, initially seemed like it was going to be super-complicated. However we actually picked it up really quickly and I loved it (I was also less bad at it than Dobble; Debbie only beat me 3-2 playing best of 5!) The game play involves multi coloured dragon towers, with your opponent’s last move deciding which colour tower you can move next. It’s another quick one but definitely made us think hard, and was probably my favourite new discovery of the day, although I really enjoyed everything we played.
Moving onto a card game, we chose Stak Bots which looked intriguing. Again, it’s one that initially seemed like it was going to be fairly complicated but we picked up quite quickly once we actually played through. This one sees you have a ‘stak’ of cards; the top card of which you use to attack your opponent with, as well as a hand from which you can add to the stak or discard. The cards are comprised of robots, of varying strengths and with special abilities in some cases. It was another fun, quick game and again I’d definitely be up for playing this with more people!
We moved on to Ticket to Ride: Nordic edition. This was new to both of us, but Debbie’s a big fan of the Ticket to Ride series in general whereas I’ve played just once before. (Look, I got absolutely THRASHED on this one so I need some excuse to make up for it!) This was perhaps my favourite game of the night, despite being definitely the most taxing on my brain. The other time I played there were about five of us playing (actually more, I think, but split into five pairs) and it was intriguing to see how different it was with just two of us. (For those who haven't played before, you get a set of trains and route cards and you have to use train cards to build links between cities, scoring more points for longer routes and gaining/losing bonus points depending whether you complete your routes.
I couldn’t face another complicated one straight after Ticket to Ride, so we went for Exploding Kittens, which was perfect! You have to take it in turns to take cards from a pile until one of you gets an Exploding Kitten – if you have a Defuse card to counter it with, you get to put it back in anywhere you want. If you don’t, you lose. There’s numerous special cards available and it’s a really fun, quick game.
We finished off with Scoop, which I’ve heard a lot about but never actually played before! For those who haven’t heard of it before, it’s a game from the 1950s where you play as newspaper editors trying to put together a paper with reports and advertisements by collecting cards. When you get enough cards for a story, you have to use the ‘telephone device’ included with the game to see whether your newspaper owner will approve it or not, and any special bonuses you get. I’m tempted to say this was my favourite because I won (and meant I ended the night with the winner’s medal for my profile pic, yay!), although I think some of the others generally worked better for me. Having said that, it’s one I’ve heard a lot about over the years so I’m really glad I got the chance to play it, and it was definitely enjoyable. (And nerve-racking; I got down to my last $200 and every time Debbie had a story had to cross my fingers HARD that she didn’t bankrupt me by getting one of the two things on the phone where your opponents have to give you money!)
There were SO MANY games that we’d love to have played more, but as it was we were there nearly 5 hours – fantastic value for money at £5 a head cover charge. Food and drinks (I had oven chips and a couple of cokes, Debbie had noodles and plum wine) were nice and were reasonably priced; I would definitely recommend this as a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.
Other games we were looking at which I’m hoping we might play next time – Pandemic, Portobello Market, one of the many varieties of Risk available, Zombicide, Nuns on the Run, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Cocoa AGoGo (not sure my chocolate knowledge is good enough for this one, though!)
Have you ever been to a board game café? Do you like playing board games? Leave me a message or tweet me at @yayeahyeah!