Once upon a time board games were synonymous with boredom; something you only dragged out if the internet was down or if your nan was over on Christmas Day. Not anymore: they’ve had something of a cool makeover in recent years, and as we all get more and more sick of staring at our phones all day long, board games are a great way to connect with friends and let off some steam IRL.
With the opening of Draughts in London in late 2014, board game cafés and bars started popping up all over the capital, making it possible to enjoy a game while getting boozy – just how your nan intended it. Here are some of the best – although we should warn you, tensions can tend to run high over Monopoly.
Where to play board games in London
If the phrase 'Let's play Seven Wonders' means more to you than a Fleetwood Mac-related DJ request then you're going to be pretty darn excited at the prospect of Draughts, a bar and café with more than 800 board games available to play at customers' leisure. Entry is £5 per person, but that buys you unlimited play and, crucially, the help of a 'game guru', who'll offer guidance on which will suit your group best and how the rules work. The library includes everything from Articulate and Cranium to newer (and more complex) classics Carcassonne and Pandemic. Food, craft beer, ale, cider and wine are on sale all day.
You don’t always have to plan your game session ahead of time. London now boasts several board game cafés, but Scenario’s the only one to boast game-themed cocktails. The cosy downstairs has plenty of consoles, but it’s their library of over 100 board games that will have you stuck there for hours.
Beautiful Norfolk Square Gardens, tucked just off the main road in front of Paddington Station boasts formal lawns, floral beds and ornamental shrubs. Also, a giant chess set. Will playing with rooks that come up to your knee help your strategy? Possibly not, but at least you’ll get a bit of fresh air out of it.
The wonderful Clarkshaws brews its beer in this Loughborough Junction co-op, and these monthly events are a chance to challenge your pals to a, well, challenging game while you drink your way through the beers.
This Richmond games café has a selection of 505+ games (at last count) plus a bar serving everything from beers to absinthe. On a weekday the first two hours are free providing you buy one drink an hour, then afterward it costs just £2 per hour to play. At the weekend, it costs £5 per hour.
If you’re a Scrabble pro and a Trivial Pursuit nut but want to delve further into the genre friendly, free monthly meet-up Board Games and Beyond is a good place to start. Enthusiastic host Charlie Fish will talk you through such modern classics as Ticket to Ride (a sort of competitive take on Interrailing) and Carcassone (where players create a Medieval French landscape featuring robbers, monks, knights and more). Check it out on the second Monday of every month.
Or try your hand at one of these
You Londoners with all your freaky habits and hobbies - you can deal with a few more, right? We’ve been lunging from trapezes, manhandling meat and hunting down unusual things to do, to bring you a list of the weirdest pastimes in London. Why go to the same places, visit the same art galleries and hang out in the same bars? Grab your free time and give it a shake.