RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples 6 May 2014 07 May 2014

This boardgame café has recently opened in Oxford, and I went along with some friends to try it out.

The basic idea is that one pays a cover charge, buys food and drink (they have an alcohol licence), and plays games from the shop's selection. Some days booking is needed; others are open to all comers. Over 1,700 games are in the shop's collection, many of them relatively recent but there are a good few classics too.

There's a little guidance as to what one might want to play: the games shelves are labelled with rough categories, and I'm sure the staff would be happy to give advice, but it would probably be a good idea to start with some idea of the sort of game you were in the mood for.

Game shelvesMore game shelves Game categories

Since the other two hadn't previously played Firefly and I was feeling enthusiastic, we gave it a shot. Unfortunately, while the staff had printed out some play references to put in the box with the rules and components, they didn't have the "First Time in the Captain's Chair" downloadable starting scenario, and I didn't trust my memory of it well enough to play it just from that, so we ended up with "King of All Londinium" — which was probably a bit too ambitious for the first time out.

With three players it was just about workable on a small table (of the two larger ones, one was in use and the other was reserved), though we did end up overlapping onto the board a bit.

Firefly board

We all managed the basics reasonably effectively, but one of us had some poor fortune with Misbehave cards and ended up with three warrants (and no Cry Baby, so the Alliance Cruiser took out his cash reserve). I had a fine ship and crew (5 in all skills, immune to breakdowns, range 6, but not much personal equipment, but the third player was just ahead of me to the first goal, and that's where we decided to call it.

We played for probably about three hours, and paid about £8 each for food (a basic selection of sandwiches and snacks), drinks (they had some interesting bottled beers but we stuck to tea), and cover charge; I gather that at weekends one has to pay the cover again every three hours, which seems fair enough. On the downside, there are only two larger-than-standard tables, and it got a bit crowded (and hot) later on in the evening, though the walls of boardgames helped with noise absorption. If I go back I'll probably aim for shorter and smaller games.

I'll still try to get people over to my place for boardgames, but I can see why the concept is appealing. I suspect the money side may be a bit marginal; a conventional restaurant at city centre prices would make a great deal more money.

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