RogerBW's Blog

Boardgame Cafe in London 12 August 2014

I've been to Thirsty Meeples in Oxford quite a bit. Now there's a boardgame café set to open in London.

They're currently (until the end of August) gathering funds via Kickstarter, and I think this is generally a good idea. But I do see a few downsides:

  • It's in De Beauvoir Town, which is a bit of an Underground blank spot: more than a mile on foot from Old Street or Bethnal Green stations. You can get there by Overground or bus, which isn't really good enough if you're used to having Underground service available, and Londoners are; at least last time I was doing it, Overground trains ran rarely enough that I had to check timetables, worry about last trains, and so on. It's on the Regent's Canal, which is a good cycling route during the day, but not so much after dark.

  • It's going to be a little cramped compared with Thirsty Meeples, and there'll be a train running over the top every few minutes. Both this and the previous point can probably be explained by "London prices", but they combine to make an off-putting venue: a slog to get there, and then the risk that it'll be packed out so you should have reserved a table. Not great for casual play.

  • At least in the Kickstarter presentation, they're talking about offering well-known games like draughts, Scrabble, chess, and even the dire Monopoly, on an even basis with the more modern ones. I suspect that there's no audience for paying to play those old games, and relying on them will split the user base (most chess players won't want to cross over and play Carcassonne or Race for the Galaxy, and vice versa). But the management may well feel it's necessary to get more people in to pay the rent.

  • Also, a copy of Scrabble can be had for fifteen or twenty quid, a draughts or chess set for five or ten, and Monopoly for about ten or fifteen; even if you don't have a copy lying around already, paying a fiver per person to play doesn't look appealing. (All right, one could argue that plenty of modern games also come in around the twenty pound mark, but when I'm at a boardgame café I'm likely to play four or five different short games in an evening, not play the same game four or five times.)

  • I don't see any miniatures games listed. The list isn't exhaustive, of course, but it indicates what they're planning to highlight. Just at the moment I'd really expect to see Star Wars X-Wing (it's very popular at Thirsty Meeples, and Eclectic Games in Reading is now having a dedicated X-Wing-and-Netrunner night every week); I'd even go so far as to say that they're not really offering a representative selection of modern games if they don't have it.

I wish them the best of luck and I really do hope they do well. I'm curious to see how they cope with these problems.

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