Have You Ever Visited a Board Game Cafe?

Last week I wrote about my first cat cafe experience. Then the next day I went to an entirely different kind of cafe: a board game cafe.

Board game cafes–places where you can get all the regular fixins’ of a cafe or bar alongside the main feature, board games–have been around for a while, but St. Louis hasn’t had one. Until now.

A few months ago, Pieces successfully funded on Kickstarter. They found a fantastic location in Soulard right next to the farmers market, and they just opened a few weeks ago.

I showed up with a group of people on Friday night a few minutes after 6:00. There were a lot of people already there, but not so many that we had to wait for a table.

I have to say: From the minute I walked in, it was a pretty magical experience. It’s one of those things where it’s not one element or another: It’s the sum of the parts. Here are a few of those parts:

  • The food and drinks are quite good. There’s a full array of big and little dishes for vegetarians and meat eaters, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. I had the lumpia, a hot chocolate, and a very manly drink called Candy Land.
  • Over the course of the several hours we were there, no less than 5 staff members had meaningful interactions with us. Some stopped by to take orders or say hi while others recommended some games to us and offered to teach them. They were so warm and welcoming. As someone in the game industry, that’s a big deal, because they’re providing the best possible gateway for non-gamers to become gamers.
  • There were so many people at Pieces on Friday. It was packed. Yet the floorplan and high ceilings are designed so the crowds never felt overwhelming. I loved scanning the room and seeing such a broad array of games being played–long games, short games, complex games, simple games, large-group games, 2-player games, etc.

I’m really proud that a place like this exists in St. Louis, and I hope you get the chance to try it.

Have you ever been to a board game cafe?


10 Responses to “Have You Ever Visited a Board Game Cafe?”

  1. Sean says:

    I try to go to mine weekly. They have a great staff, its a small space, but still have a table or two where you can play Captain Sonar if you want. It has a small selection of beer, wine, sandwiches and snacks. But the most important part is where they have a friendly knowledgeable staff where if someone comes off the street and wants to play a game, they can recommend a game, get them set up, and answer any questions they may have.

    One of my goals at my new job later in the year is to visit a different cafe or board game store in every new town I am in.

  2. Cakes n Ladders opened in Auckland in 2015. Owners James and Emma seem to be making a go of it. It’s up the road from two universities, so I think that helps. They too ran a Kickstarter campaign to get it off the ground. We held a launch party there for our Cat Capers game. https://www.cakesnladders.co.nz/

    In Wellington there is Caffeinated Dragon, opened in 2014 and well-located in the center city across the street from the main library. https://www.facebook.com/CaffeinatedDragon/

    As a small publisher who can’t afford advertising, I’m grateful for the exposure our games get at places like this (and others like King of Cards in Auckland and Cerberus in Wellington that have space for gaming even if they don’t do food).

  3. We’ll be opening ours in Croydon soon – https://www.theludoquist.com . In discovery mode, I’ve been to a lot of cafes, and there is a huge variety – focus on figures, on food, on coffee, staff will teach or not, ball pits (really)! The most exciting thing is that the cafes are generally *not* full of ‘gamers’, but normal people who want to game.

  4. We have a couple in the Columbus area. Kingmakers is the most well known one. They’re friendly and taught me a lot of games when I got started in the hobby. A little more close to home was Boards and Beans which is currently on hiatus until they can find a permanent location. They were just alright, and maybe it was because they were freshly open, but it could have used a bit more work. I thought about offering my years of customer service experience to help get things set up. One more that I went to before is the Rook OTR in Cincinnati. That is a nice looking place. I love the feel of it. They also have a designer night once a month were unpublished games get tested in the upstairs corner of the place. They’re also a restaurant which was nicer than just the drinks and snacks of a lot of cafes I’ve been to.

  5. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    Jamey,

    I had the pleasure of visiting Snakes & Lattes while visiting Toronto back in November. While there, my girlfriend and I had a chance to meet and chat (for over 90 minutes), the owner, Ben. It’s a wonderful place (there are actually two locations) and the staff could not have been more helpful. In time, it seems as though Ben is looking south of the border and I mentioned my knowledge of the D.C. area, as well as Philadelphia and Baltimore. With the loss of several FLGS locations during he past few years, folks interested in acquiring board games have turned, sadly, but understandably, to Amazon. But, what a difference a successful Board Game Cafe would make in posh Dupont Circle or downtown Philly…we’ll see.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  6. […] I wrote about my first experience at a local board game cafe, Pieces. During my last visit, I noticed something new on the […]

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