Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Monday, 26 March 2018

The Game Shelf's Definitive List of UK Board Game Cafes

We love board game cafes! 

I know that the board gaming community can sometimes be split on this issue. We have a big board game collection, we have each other and other friends to play with, so why would we pay money to go to a cafe and play games, as well as probably spending extra money of food and drink?

My main motivation is for visiting cafes that have large board game libraries and have games that I want to try before I by. This means that I'm way more likely to visit a cafe if they list their game collection online. It also means I'm way more likely to play shorter games at cafes that charge a cover charge for a limited length of gaming time, so that I can get the most 'value for money' out of the games I play. 

Besides our 'work' visits where I'm on a mission to try new games, we also use board game cafes as a place to meet friends to catch-up over a few drinks or a snack and we often visit cafes whilst we're traveling around the UK or elsewhere when our board game collection is not at hand. And that's the reason I want to start this list. As we visit more cafes here in the UK I'm going to record some of our thoughts but otherwise I just want to keep this as a list and resource for gamers.

Draughts
(Hackney, London & Waterloo, London)

I believe Draughts was the second board game cafe I visited. There's no denying that it's a popular place to be with a great game selection as well as beers and very tasty food. Draughts is definitely making board gaming cool in East London and at least 50% of people there probably wouldn't call themselves 'gamers' but Guess Who is happily played alongside Caverna or even X-Wing miniatures, next to the UK Playtesting group.


DICE Portsmouth
(Portsmouth)

DICE is hands down one of the best board game cafe experiences we have had. Their space is large, with lots of tables, but it still feels airy and spacious. They say that their game library is a work in progress, but it's already huge - probably at least 600 games - but very focused on gamers. It's perfect for us, but perhaps has less mainstream games that some cafes. They have simple, but good food and a great selection of drinks, including craft beer. Unlike many cafes, Dice has table service, as well as game gurus on hand to help with many of the titles in the library. All of this makes for a really relaxing experience and I only wish that DICE was closer to home!

Thirsty Meeples
(Oxford & Bath)

Thirsty Meeples in Oxford is the first board game cafe we ever visited and I believe it has the biggest library of any cafe in the UK. The library is so big that many of the games are now stored off-site, so be careful if you're looking to play a rare, unpopular gem! Thirsty Meeples has a great atmosphere, good beer and tasty snacks, although you probably couldn't eat an evening meal. We were also lucky to take advantage of their mobile library and game gurus for our wedding! Do get in touch with them if you want to organise a board gaming event!

Chance & Counters
(Bristol & Cardiff)

We've visited the Bristol location of Chance & Counters, which was located at the bottom of the Christmas steps, which I hope means it gets quite a lot of attention. Based on how busy it was on a Sunday lunchtime we can only assume it's very popular. They have a library of around 950 and there were plenty of games for us to choose from even though we only like to play new games at cafes. The menu is simple but tasty and they have craft beer on tap. The staff are also really friendly and very knowledgeable about the games. They're definitely a great location to check out!

FanBoy3
(Manchester)

Although not strictly a cafe, Fan Boy 3 does have a gaming library and you can pay to play at any time of day. They also have a cafe, with drinks and snacks, available at certain popular times. We really like the system they have in place where your game library fee can be used as a discount towards a purchase in the shop.

Dice Saloon
(Brighton)

Dice Saloon is not quite what I think of as a board game cafe, but it does have some snacks available, as well as tables to play at and a games library that you can pay a small charge to use. It also has a significant amount of war gaming happening, but there are board game clubs that run events there too. Aside from this it's also a great board game store.

Loading Bar
(Dalston, London)

I'm hesitant to include Loading Bar on my list of board game cafes because it's primary focus is console gaming. However, we've been there and played board games from their growing collection, which is probably at least 150 games at this point. Lots of other people seem to only visit for board games too. I'm not sure that Loading Bar serves food, but they do make some very exciting video game themed cocktails. It's great location to take some of your geeky or video game friends to introduce some board games to the table. Loading Bar also have a Stratford location which we haven't visited.

The Library Pot
(Richmond, London)

I would describe The Library Pot as an eclectic venue in Richmond. It has a game library of around 500 games and a very homely atmosphere. They run lots of gaming events including introductions to some classic games, as well as meetups and some new game launches. It also has a ball pool downstairs, if that's what you're into.

The Ludoquist 
(Croydon)

The Ludoquist opened during Autumn 2017 in Croydon. With a collection of over 1200 games, great coffee, beer and cocktails, as well as a good lunchtime and evening menu, it's become a very popular venue at evenings and weekends. It brings in both a family crowd and seasoned gamers and caters for both with the games and great games gurus to teach you games or recommend something you might like from the shelves.
Opening Night at The Ludoquist
Board in the City
(Southampton)

Board in the City is run as a community interest company which invests heavily in public outreach with schools, the elderly and similar groups. They have a big space and a good games collection, as well as being able to cater for war-gaming in some of their separate spaces.

Cakes and Ladders
(London - NOW CLOSED)

Cakes and Ladders is a board game cafe on a vintage London bus! Whilst table space is pretty limited and you might not want to try and big games and perhaps might not even want to play a game with four players unless you're extremely good friends, it's amazing how many games they've crammed into their library around the drivers seat! The food is great, the staff are friendly and they have a great selection of local beer, since the venue operates as a bar at night time. Playing at Cakes and Ladders is definitely a board game cafe experience you shouldn't miss!

D20
(Watford)

D20 has an unassuming frontage, but inside it's like a cave of board game wonders that just keeps on going. With family games in the front and more strategy games in the back, we could probably game there a good few months and still be finding new games that we want to try. The menu is one of the extensive we've seen at any cafe and it was nice to find something different to eat whilst still being board game friendly. If you're looking for a large and varied collection, then D20 is totally a cafe to check out.

Goodtime Games
(Manchester)

Goodtime Games is a small, friendly cafe in West Disbury, on the outskirts of Manchester. They have a small number of tables and a respectably sized board game library for you to pick from. Even with the number of games we have played, there were some new games for us to try. The gaming cover charge is a little pricey, but I guess it has to be if you don't have many tables. They also have a good vegan menu, but if you fancy your own alcoholic beverage then it's BYOB with a corkage charge.

(Wakefield)

The People's Meeple recently relocated from Huddersfield to Wakefield. We last visited them in Huddersfield, where they seemed to do a surprising amount of normal cafe trade. When we visited on a weekday, we were the only customers playing games and everyone else seemed to be fond of the full English breakfast! The library was a good size with a good variety of games on offer and, even as avid gamer we had plenty to choose from.

(Colchester)

Dice and a Slice was near impossible to find, with very little signage outside. Inside, it's got a slightly weird vibe, kind of like the community centre cafe decided to add board games. Having said that, they've added A LOT of board games and the library and shop are very well stocked. The price for gaming is also very reasonable, with a single price to game all day and the food is good too. 

Slice & Dice
(Bolton, Greater Manchester)

We haven't visited Slice & Dice, but we almost did once. We gave them a quick call before we made the journey, to ask about their setup and board game library. We were told they had a library of 10 games, so we decided not to make the journey. Maybe Slice & Dice is more of a venue for gaming with pizza, rather than a traditional board game cafe? Please let us know if you have visited.

Geek Retreat
(Everywhere!)

Geek Retreat are a growing franchise and the locations listed here might not be exhaustive. We visited the location in Bury and were certainly pretty disappointed with the game selection in the store - being very focused on trading card game and Warhammer, with very few board games to speak of. The gaming space seems OK and there are snacks and drinks on offer.

(Tonbridge)

(Cardiff and Swindon)

Having visited the Swindon store recently, it is really a store only, with a table for wargaming. I understand the Cardiff location does have a cafe and a board game library.

(Prestwich)

Buzzin' Meeples does not advertise as a board game cafe, but as a board game venue. Their food and drink selection is limited to very good value drinks and snacks, but otherwise it's very much a cafe. The library is a fantastic size, and full of the latest releases at time of writing (November 2022). There are only 8 or so tables, but three of those are in themed rooms downstairs. This venue has a really friendly feel, with the owner available to teach games, and dedicated learn and play events that seem like a really good idea.

(Nuneaton)

Tanuki Gaming
(Deptford, London)

West End Games
(Glasgow)

(Bury St Edmunds)

Unboxed Gaming Cafe
(Ayr, Scotland)

Common Ground Games
(Stirling)

Bake Battle and Roll
(Doncaster)

Settlers
(Hamilton, Scotland)

The Dice Box
(Leamington Spa)

Games Hub
(Edinburgh)

Noughts and Coffees
(Edinburgh)

Nerdy Coffee Co
(Shrewsbury)

(Basingstoke)

(Newport, Isle of Wight)

The Boardroom
(Todmorden)

(Newark)

Bean Gaming
(Leicester)

Playopolis UK
(Rochester)

Southwark, London

The Mug and Meeple
(Gravesend)

Board
(Exeter)

(Cambridge)

Max Xp Gaming
(Glasgow)

Tea@Hart
(Hartlepool)

Dark Matter
(Durham)

Sugar & Dice
(Liverpool)

Tiny Ricks
(Liverpool)

Critical Hit Games Cafe
(Liverpool)

The Treehouse
(Sheffield)

Meeple Perk
(Newcastle)

Players Paradice
(Milton Keynes)

Game Knight
(Derby)

Meeple Mayhem
(Birmingham)

The Dice Cup
(Nottingham)

Ludorati Cafe
(Nottingham)

Ready Steady Roll
(Bedford)

Playground Coffee House
(Bristol)

Twist
(Plymouth)

(Norwich)

(Norwich)

(Cheltenham)

(Stoke-on-Trent)

(Swansea)

(Cardiff)

(Ilfracombe)

If you know a cafe that isn't on the list or are opening a cafe that you want to be included, then please leave a comment below and we'll add you to the list and even try to come and visit!

14 comments:

  1. How about The Games Den - Leamington Spa https://www.facebook.com/TheGamesDenLeamington/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi,

    I've recently opened a Board Game Cafe in Bedford - www.readysteadyroll.co.uk

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's kind of a dodge, but Reading has Eclectic Games, a board game shop with play space and food and drinks shops either side that they partner with.

    ReplyDelete
  4. We're in the middle of opening a cross between a board game cafe and shop (no actual cafe bit, but snacks and hot & cold drinks are available, plus there are plenty of takeaways within about 50 metres. Taylored Games in Kingsbridge, Devon.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, we're opening a board game cafe called 'Dice & a Slice' in Colchester, Essex in around a month's time, and would love to be included on the list. We have a full list of the board games available on our site: www.diceandaslice.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool, we've followed you on Twitter and will add you to the list once you're open (we don't want to be responsible for sending people to your front door before you're ready!)

      Delete
  6. Hi! Cakes and Ladders will be opening in Wood Green, North London this summer - www.cakesandladders.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  7. We are opening on Monday 10th September and are called Dice and a Slice Ilfracombe. We are in Ilfracombe, which is in north Devon and have plenty of different home baked cakes, plus snacks and limited other food until we have feedback from customers, as to what they would like to see on the menu. Excellent coffee, specialist loose leaf Tea and locally produce cold drinks. Catch up with what we are doing on facebook or diceandasliceilfracombe@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Twist is in Plymouth, not Portsmouth! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi guys,

    Thanks for this list, it's great to see so many Board Game Cafes popping up now!

    We have opened our our Zatu Board Game Cafe in Norwich, please could you add us to the list?

    The Address is:
    Zatu Games, Bowthorpe Main Centre, Unit 15, Norwich, NR5 9HA.

    If you're interested or want to know more please email team@zatu.co.uk or visit our website https://www.board-game.co.uk/.

    ReplyDelete
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  11. Wow! You guys are lucky, there are so many options! We would love to spend a nice afternoon with friends, having a cup of coffee and playing Jenga Giant.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello! I work at JAKKS Pacific game company in the UK. Would any of your game cafes be interested in hosting an event for new Board Games that we have coming out?

    ReplyDelete