Board game cafés
pop up across
BY ELLEN RYAN
SATURDAY AFTERNOON is hopping at
Edmonton’s Board N Brew Café, with a
cross-section of the Rossdale neighbourhood crowding in. There’s a birthday party
on one side, with several kids and parents
enjoying Apples to Apples alongside apple
pie. Nearby, four intense older gents are
divvying resources in Agricola. A pair on a
date are checking out the two-player games
section of the café.
Board games? Isn’t that old-school?
Yes, and they’re back. Across Canada, cafés
have popped up to bring people together
for fun, food, drink and camaraderie.
Board N Brew, where all four business
partners are Costco members, charges ;; a
person for unlimited use of its ;,;;;-game
library, which is divided by type: party/
social; cooperative; light, medium and
heavy strategy; and the aforementioned
two-player. “There’s a perfect game for any
kind of crowd,” says co-owner Marius Ly.
Board games have seen a major surge
in the past two decades because of better
design, says Michael Chung, who owns
Toronto’s For the Win Board Game Café.
Today’s games are shorter and more interactive, and it’s rare that anyone gets eliminated. Many modern games are called
“Euro-games,” because they originated in
Europe or share the characteristics of
more strategy than luck and more inclusiveness than con;ict.
“People are trying to break away from
technology and reconnect with real social
experiences,” says Chung, a Costco member. As elsewhere, sta; can suggest a game
according to your preferences and time
available, then teach you how to play.
At Board N Brew, where ;; to ;; per
cent of guests are fairly new to the hobby
and as many as one-third are families with
children, games range from classics like
Candy Land and Jenga to the more
recent—and very popular—Ticket to Ride,
Settlers of Catan and Codenames.
Jason Smith and his wife, Katie, enjoy
playing Lost Cities and Patchwork, two-
player favourites, at the Board Room Game
Café in Halifax. “There’s always a new
game to try out there,” he says. “Plus a
relaxed atmosphere, not noisy like a bar.
It’s a great place to interact with people you
go with or people you meet.”
Further draws for some cafés are
events like game demonstrations, tourna-
ments and trivia or role-playing nights.
Board Room owner and Costco member
Kris Moulton has had more than ;;; par-
ticipants for some trivia nights.
More than a game
A big part of the fun—and of the economic equation for these cafés—is food
and drink. Fare ranges from pub grub to
full restaurant menus with nods to local
specialties and tastes.
For the Win o;ers two smoked-meat
sandwiches and ;; bubble teas; Montreal’s
Le Colonel Moutarde Salon de Jeux, a
Costco member, has specialty pizzas;
Snakes & Lattes’ College Street location in
Toronto has a full weekend brunch. Ludica
Pizzeria & Game Room in Vancouver
doesn’t charge for its ;;;-plus games, but
all guests must eat.
Interactivity Board Game Café in Victoria is famous for its dozens of house-made ice creams and milkshakes, from
tangerine to maple to salted caramel, and
you’ll ;nd s’mores at Le Colonel Moutarde.
Most cafés’ munchies are less fancy: bo wls
of candy, popcorn and such.
Many cafés in Canada have a full liquor
licence and o;er specialty cocktails as well
as wines, beers and spirits. All of the Board
Room’s beers and wines are Canadian, mostly in-province. (Jason Smith
appreciates that the suds change every
couple of weeks. “Keeps things fresh,” he
says.) Board N Brew features beers from
three Edmonton breweries.
Summing up the attraction of board
game cafés generally, Moulton calls them
“an alternative to the typical bar scene.
You can interact with your friends in a
low-pressure way, and the variety of games
allows a di;erent experience every time
Ellen Ryan (@ERyan Writer) plays board
games in Rockville, Maryland.
F E Fun and
For the Win Board Game Café in Toronto
Le Colonel Moutarde
AR TS & ENTERTAINMEN T
Look for a variety of classic board games at
your local warehouse and on Costco.ca.