In this guide we provide full details of all the board game cafes in the UK, including all the new cafes launching in 2016. We show you where to find them and what to expect, so you can be a part of this new board gaming cultural phenomenon.
What is a board game cafe?
There is a new, slightly geeky, sensation sweeping the nation, and that is board game cafes. In an increasingly digitalised, anonymous, automated age, people are seeking relief from the pixels and finding it in a place where they can chill out, have a drink and play some good old-fashioned board games.
Board game cafes are cafes that have board games. Well yeah. But it’s more than that.
They are cafes that have shelves lined with board games ready to be played by their punters, that have experts on hand to advise on game selection and rules, that encourage players to hang out all afternoon discovering weird and wonderful games. They are cafes that are dedicated to board games and to creating an environment where people can meet, socialise and play.
They are a place where people can find meaning in a computerised world through the shared participation in the timeless joy of tabletop games.
Ok maybe that’s taking it a bit too far.
But they are pretty cool.
The rise of the UK board game cafe
Their popularity suggests that today’s cafe-goers think they are pretty cool too. The longest-running cafe in our guide, the Games Hub in Edinburgh, opened in 2012, shortly followed by Thirsty Meeples in Oxford, and a herd of others have enthusiastically followed since, many launched by hugely successful Kickstarter campaigns.
Five of the eleven board game cafes in our list are opening their doors for the first time in 2016 (four of these still awaiting opening night at the time of preparing this guide), showing just how quickly this concept is gathering pace.
Most of the cafes draw their inspiration from the success of Snakes and Lattes, the Toronto-based board game cafe that has set the blueprint for the many others now popping up around the world.
It’s a model that appeals to a wide audience; board game lovers have a trendy venue for their regular games night and get to try out new games before they buy, students have a novel and fun environment to hang out in, families have a place that’s relaxing for the parents and exciting for the kids, and those who just fancy a coffee have an interesting experience to accompany their cappuccino.
“We just thought it would be cool to put board games on a shelf” Ben Castanie, Snakes and Lattes founder.
A new games world
At the centre of it all is the games. The board game scene in the UK is on the rise, with new and innovative games being born by the hour, fuelled by the rise of crowd-funded game design.
All of the cafes in our guide stock a wide range of games, from the latest award-winning games to the classic board games we played as children. Games for children, games for adults, long games, short games, competitive games and co-operative games, for two players or many players.
There is a whole world of tabletop entertainment out there and now you can eat a cake while you discover it.
So how does it work?
To take a sip of the board game cafe experience, all you need is a free day in your calendar plus our definitive board game cafe guide.
Find your nearest cafe in our guide below. Check if you need to book ahead on busy days
Gather a group of friends and suggest a social outing with a difference
Turn up, pay a small cover charge if applicable (check the guide for prices, normally around £3 to £5 each to play all the games you like) and the cafe staff will find you your table.
Order your drinks and food.
Select a game to play! Staff are on hand in the cafes to help if you’re not sure where to start, and will happily give you a quick summary of the rules to get the fun going quickly.
Open the box, and play!
Our definitive guide covers all board game cafes in the UK, the key features and attractions of each, and where to find them. We restrict our list to true board game cafes which are dedicated to board games, and exclude cafes and bars that feature board games amongst other activities.
Do you know of a board game cafe missing from our list? Let us know by getting in touch and we will add it to our guide.
The Board Game Cafes
Our lowdown on each of the UK’s board game cafes, in order from North to South, can be found below.
A friendly home-from-home adored by locals, Settlers is a thriving community of games and comic book lovers, now firmly established since 2014 as a permanent fixture in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. Welcoming all comers with open arms, this cafe asks you if you want to belong.
There is a tempting array of cakes to draw you in from the street, and an intriguing array of games to keep you sitting down all afternoon, including games for sale if you decide you want to take any home.
There are frequent game events that are well attended by local enthusiasts (see the Facebook page for details), and a good selection of comic books to accompany the games, but you don’t need to be a game or comic fan to enjoy Settlers. Cafe-goers with a limited initial interest in board games receive such a friendly welcome (no booking needed) that they can’t resist staying for a little longer, and decide to give a new board game a try at no extra charge based on the staff’s enthusiastic recommendations. A few hours later they are hooked on the board game bug, and realise they have already become a Settler.
Address: 40 Castle Street, ML3 6BU Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
Owner: Shaheen Savarnejad
Phone: 01698 768978
When the Games Hub opened its doors in the heart of Edinburgh on 3rd August 2012 it earned the significant accolade of becoming the first board game cafe in the UK. Three and a half years later and it is still going strong, with a core local fan base and a down-to-earth friendliness that pulls intrigued passers-by through its welcoming doors.
Games Hub offers a tasty selection of sandwiches and cakes from its well-stocked cafe, and an array of facilities for board game fans. It boasts 1000 square feet of gaming rooms for game play or private hire, lined with shelves packed with a wide range of board games and card games for all ages. The on-site shop includes discounted board games and card games, from the classic board games to the newest titles.
There is no need to book, and all are welcome including children, keen gamers and game novices alike. For a £2.50 charge per person you can stay and play as many games as you desire for up to 10 hours, or 12 hours on weekends, which should be long enough for even the lengthiest of game marathons!
The cafe runs regular game events for popular games, and is constantly adding new titles to its board game library. Check the Facebook page for the latest news, and if you’re in the area, why not drop in and see what is happening at the Hub.
Owner: Shaz Aris
Phone: 0131 237 2310
Edinburgh’s second board game cafe opened in 2015 and is just a short walk across town from the Games Hub, so why not turn your board game day out into a cafe crawl!
The staff at Tabletop cafe will give you a warm welcome and will happily show you round their game collection. The cafe caters to game fans with a miniature wargame area and a regular calendar of game events (see the Facebook page), and offers a relaxing and friendly stop-in for casual cafe-goers too.
Tabletop serves a tasty selection of toasted sandwiches and snacks, coffee and locally sourced tea, plus an ever-changing array of cakes and pastries.
If you want to play games while enjoying your refreshments, for a charge of £3 you can play as much as you like for the rest of the day. If you try a game you like, they are nearly all available to buy, and if you want a game not in stock the staff will happily track down a copy for you to enjoy on your next visit.
Tea@Hart is Hartlepool’s first tea room and tabletop games shop. Inside this cosy cafe you will find a friendly welcome, delicious home-made cakes, over twenty types of tea, and a huge selection of board games.
Tea@Hart has many games available for purchase in store, plus a games library of over 150 games which are available for customers to play for no extra charge when they visit the tea room throughout the day, or for a £1 fee on one of the games evenings. You can peruse the games library list online here: www.athart.co.uk/library.pdf
So when are the games evenings?
- Alternate Wednesdays 6-10pm 18+ gaming/ 7-10pm RPG
- Thursdays: 3-5:30pm Family Games Afternoon – 1/2 price food & drink for under 12s.
- Fridays 6-11pm Friday Night Magic
- Saturdays 6-11pm Saturday Night Games
- Sundays 4-10pm Sunday Games – check the Facebook page for special events and tournaments which often take place on Sundays
Tea rooms have never been this much fun! Why not pop in for a cuppa?
Dice and Donuts
In the heart of Preston’s city centre, Dice and Donuts is bringing the board game cafe craze to Lancashire.
The cafe opened in 2015 following successful rounds of fundraising from both the local council and a popular Kickstarter campaign, and the games are now in full swing.
The philosophy of Dice and Donuts (headed by local entrepreneur Millie Lavelle, who can be found podcasting under the title of Geek On Radio) is to share the fun of modern board-gaming with the world, whether they are regular players or cafe-goers curious about the laughter emerging from the doors of this colourful new venue.
True to its name, doughnuts aplenty can be found inside, along with the roll of many dice. Events and competitions feature frequently on the cafe calendar (see the Facebook page), including game design classes for those who who fancy trying their hand at making their own games.
Passers-by who drop in will find a friendly welcome, food and drink sourced from local suppliers, including a variety of bottled beers, ales and ciders, and a stack of games to play as much as they like for £3 a head. If you’re not sure what you want to play, the Dice and Donuts staff will be eager to find you a game that you may have never heard of, but will give a delicious flavour of just how quirky and surprising the world of board games has become.
Address: 6 Butler Street, PR1 8BN Preston, Lancashire
Dice and Donuts Facebook page
Owner: Millie Lavelle
Phone: 01772 824969
The Dice Cup
Following yet another successful board game cafe Kickstarter campaign (the nation is ravenous for some board game action right now) the Dice Cup opened its doors in Nottingham in January 2016.
With 500 games ranging from the classic family favourites to the latest award winning games, the Dice Cup is ready to welcome you for an afternoon, or evening, of tabletop fun. The full games list can be perused online, and if you’re not sure what to play staff will happily match you up with a game when you arrive.
Serving local coffee and delicious cakes, the Dice Cup is a great spot to chill out in Nottingham city centre. For £5 per person you can play as many games as you like for up to 4 hours, and for regular visitors the Dice Cup has a membership scheme for you to pay an upfront fee and reduce the cover charge (or remove it altogether as part of the “Super Friends” membership). There is no need to book, and if you want to stay for a longer session there are deals for extended visits,
Watch out for new games being added to the library and some great events, including social group nights with reduced cover charges, and workshops for children with special educational needs, all of which are advertised on the cafe Facebook page.
Pulling out all the stops to complete the tabletop experience, the Dice Cup are using specialist board-gaming tables built by Geeknson. If you fancy one of these for your own living room, from March the Dice Cup will be a live showroom for Geeknson tables for those who want to take their home games night to a whole new level.
The Dice Cup also had the brilliant idea of setting up a YouTube channel to which their team have already added some great how-to board game videos giving a quick overview of some of their games, which are well worth a watch to find out about some games you may never have heard of. If you like the look of one, head down to the cafe to give it a try!
Interview with owner Matt Pritchard:
What first inspired you to open a board game cafe?
We have been active in the Nottingham board game community for over 10 years and seen it grow to the state it is now with multiple groups meeting in function rooms and basements around town. We wanted to give gamers a dedicated place to play, with the space and tables to meet their needs.
What are your goals over the next year for the cafe?
In 2016 we want to introduce lots of new board game players to the joy of our hobby and passion and use our position and board games to improve the lives of the people of Nottingham and beyond. We particularly want to work with charities to facilitate the social cohesion that board games promote.
What is the biggest challenge facing the cafe?
Our biggest challenge is balancing my creative vision with our finances.
Why do you think board game cafes are so popular right now?
The board game industry has been creating a fantastic range of new games encompassing lots of different ways to play. A game no longer has to be a few hours of sitting around a table waiting patiently for your turn to come around so you can roll some dice and move a few spaces. Games these days can be fast-paced, co-operative, story-based, immersive, strategic, interactive, dexterous, humorous, and/or social amongst other descriptions. Board game cafes are a great way for people to discover all the wonders of modern board gaming and enjoy spending time with other people, whether they be old friends or brand new ones.
Telephone: 0115 947 6116
Nottingham may well be set to challenge Edinburgh for the honour of being the board game cafe homeland, as hot on the heels of the Dice Cup comes a new fantastic board game cafe, the Ludorati Cafe.
The cafe is spacious and trendy, with a well thought out layout designed uniquely for a board game cafe experience. There is a cafe area with round tables for the snackers and sippers, a dedicated board game area for the players with custom tables for the optimal board game experience and “The Cube”, a room dedicated to special events and VIP gaming. Overlooking it all is the Wall where the impressive library of 750 games is available to browse.
The tariff is flexible, visitors can either choose an hourly charge of £1.60 a head, £5 for a four hour block, or £10 per head for the whole day, plus a membership scheme is available for discounted prices. If you like a game that you’re playing in the cafe there is an in-house retail store for you to take it home, plus a fantastic online store with thousands of game titles and the option to pay online and collect the game in-store.
Food and drinks include craft beers and wines for thirsty gamers, and the cafe opens late every day, catering for gaming by day or by night. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for news and events.
Phone: 07920 464002
Chance and Counters
Adding to the board game cafe surge is the arrival of yet another new cafe funded by a hugely popular Kickstarter campaign, and it is Bristol that is set to benefit from the arrival of the brilliantly-named Chance and Counters. Yeah, it took us a few seconds to get it too. Serving snacks, coffees, local ales and ciders, and a plentiful array of games, Chance and Counters will be opening its doors very soon.
The cafe will feature a range of games including modern designer games as well as the classics. For a £4 cover charge cafe-goers will be able to play from the games selection for 4 hours (or thereabouts), and a membership scheme will be available for reduced rates.
With an impressive dedication to the gaming experience, the cafe will be using locally constructed purpose-built gaming tables, with an ingenious design to reduce the risk of beer spillage over the game boards. Keep an eye out for the opening day soon.
One of the first board game cafes to open in the UK, the only board game cafe in Oxford, and the cafe stocking by far the biggest library of games in our list, Thirsty Meeples is a board game mecca. The cafe has over 2000 games for visitors to play, over 800 of which are also available to buy, both online and in-store. The full games list can be browsed online before your trip to whet your appetite.
Thirsty Meeples (a meeple is a board game piece representing the player) is now an established success and as a result is usually bustling with customers. The cafe recommends booking (on 01865 244247) for weekend afternoon trips. Note that a deposit of £4.50 per person is needed to book for groups of six or more, which is refunded off your table bill in the cafe.
A key part of your experience of your Thirsty Meeples experience, and some would say the key defining feature of a purist’s board game cafe, is the Game Gurus. On arrival a friendly Guru will greet you and recommend a game to suit your preferences and size of group, guide you to a table and even help you set up the game and give you a summary of the rules to get you started. Then you can sit back and relax while enjoying the game and the selection of cakes, sandwiches, snacks and drinks.
If you’re having a drink or food from the cafe then for a cover charge of £4.50 per adult or £3.50 per child (12 or under) you can play any game from the library for 3 hours, although in quieter times the staff are relaxed about letting you play longer. If you’re not using the cafe its £6 for adults and £5 for children. The cafe has also introduced an off-peak rate of £2.50 – the “Brunchkin Deal” – if you are playing before 4pm on weekdays.
Thirsty Meeples is a thriving den of board game fans and curious non-board-gamers alike. There are frequent updates about new games and events on the Facebook page so check out what is happening before you go. If you’re organising a party you can use Thirsty Meeples as a venue with a difference (the difference being 2,000 board games!) and the cafe offers a planning service to help you put your event together.
The cafe is open late every night and serves an impressive roster of carefully selected craft beers, so is not only a daytime haunt but also a quirky night out. If you’re in the area, why not pay Thirsty Meeples a visit and find out what the fuss is all about?
Phone: 01865 244247
The creators of Board in Exeter ran a pop-up shop trial of their board game cafe in summer 2015 to test the concept on the local audience, and to their delight found it was a big hit. This cued up a Kickstarter campaign and the grand opening in March 2016.
The cafe serves snacks, coffees and beers, and stocks over 200 games including the latest hits and the old classics (the Board team told us the card game Pit from way back in 1904 is their top pick of the classics). The cover charge is £5, reducing to £4 for students, £3.50 for children, and £3 for those joining the membership scheme, giving access to the games library for as long as you like.
With custom games tables, funky modern interior, piles of games and a friendly welcome, Board is a great place to while away the hours. One gamer even chose the cafe as the venue to propose to his girlfriend, slipping a custom-made “Will You Marry Me” card into their game… Board is truly a place where people are brought together.
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for events and updates.
The arrival of Draughts in Hackney as London’s first board game cafe caused a stir through the capital and across the internet, bringing this new culture craze to the attention of many for the first time. A storming Kickstarter campaign launched the cafe in 2014 and no doubt inspired the more recent board game cafe campaigns with the confidence that the public was ready to champion the concept.
Huddled trendily in a railway arch, neon signs glowing against the brickwork while beer bottles chink below, Draughts is re-defining the image of board games. A flood of eager punters are sampling the selection of over 600 games, gazing at the mouth-watering menu, and settling in for a night of tabletop gaming.
Visitors can play any games from the shelves for a £5 cover charge, or £3.50 for children, for up to 4 hours on weekends or unlimited time on weekdays. It’s a good idea to book online before you go, especially on weekends, and check the Facebook page for news and events to see what’s happening (such as design workshops with professional board game designers). Draughts’ Game Gurus will be ready to welcome you and recommend and teach you games as you wish.
The impressive games list features all the games you know and many you don’t, and the full list can be found on the cafe website, together with a unique and useful “Board Game Tube Map” to guide you along the path of board games, to new and exciting destinations!
Bookings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresh from Kickstarter success, Dice Portsmouth will soon be the first and only Board gaming café in the Southsea area of Portsmouth. The cafe team, a group of life-long gamers, have partnered with Games Quest, a huge online board game retailer, and as a result have access to an enormous collection of approximately 1000 board games (although for space saving reasons they won’t all be on site at the same time).
Dice will sell premium quality coffees, teas and food, all sourced from within Hampshire and mostly within Portsmouth itself. The Dice team told us they are looking to appeal to all potential visitors and will have something for everyone, whether singles, couples, families, students, experienced gamers, and even board game designers.
The cover charge will be £5 per head, or £2.50 for under 16s or £3.50 for those joining the membership scheme, to play as many games as you like with no time limit. For families there is a nice saving on top as children under 11 accompanied by a paying adult play for free.
Dice Portsmouth will be a hub of activity including game designer workshops, gaming competitions and even beer tasting in partnership with local breweries. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for the opening date to be announced soon!
Dice website (under construction)
Dice Facebook page
Return to map
Board in the City
Board in the City CIC is a board game cafe with a purpose. The “CIC” stands for Community Interest Company, which means legally not for profit.
The cafe’s managing director, Hayley Binstead, used to run lunchtime board game clubs in schools with her colleague Michelle Dadswell and noticed they had a remarkable effect on the participants’ behaviour. The lunchtime clubs proved so popular that they decided to open a board game cafe, to both support other community outreach programmes and to offer a welcoming, inclusive, dedicated space for gamers of all ages and experience. Now Board in the City CIC is alive and kicking, and as a Community Interest Company at least 65% of its profits go back into the community to support their work with youth groups and schools.
The cafe serves a healthy selection of locally sourced food and drinks including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options. The cover charge of £3 from 4pm or £2 from 9pm gives you access to the tantalising library of over 400 games, and group discounts are available too.
The cafe’s Games Masters are on hand to teach you games and welcome you to the cafe, give you a tour if you would like and recommend games for your group. For those experienced gamers, the cafe has terrain for war games and a private hire room, mostly used for immersive role playing sessions but also as an Escape Room experience!
Get on Board.
Stay connected with the Board Game Cupboard!
There will be lots more content and guides coming soon to the Board Game Cupboard. Fill in your email address below to hear about all the latest updates and receive the free printable PDF version of the board game cafe guide.
Do you like classic board games? Check out our lists of the top classic board games.