If you’ve made it to this blog, you’ve probably already seen that Hawkwood Games is a Board Game Café that will be opening this Spring in Milford, CT. But board game cafes aren’t exactly common, so you could rightly have some questions about what one is. Let’s take a moment to talk about board games cafes and what you can expect.
This is actually the first question I get when I talk a lot of people. Do I mean, like Jenga? I do! But I mean quite a bit more. Most of us had at least one game in our house as kids. We played Candy Land, Life, Monopoly, or Scrabble. Those games are still around, and are still VERY fun to play.
Most board game cafes have a library of hundreds of games, and a lot of those are newer games published for the first time in the last ten years. These days there are board game versions of popular movies and TV shows, like Game of Thrones, the walking dead, and Star Wars. If you have a pop culture interest, someone probably has, or is about to, make a board game about it.
You can also find TONS of great indie board games made by small publishers these days, may backed by Kickstarter campaigns to great effect. Breakout hits like Cards Against Humanity got their start in crowd funding and have become household names.
You’ll also find a number of tabletop games being played that aren’t strictly board games. Tabletop RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons are wildly popular, as are card games like Magic: The Gathering and the Pokémon collectible trading card game. I could devote a whole article just to game variations, and I just may, in the future. Hawkwood Games is shooting for a library of 300 games, so you can bet that there will be something for everyone. And while that’s part of the equation, we still have other things to talk about.
That Café part
The average tabletop game these days is going to keep you in a seat for at least 30 minutes. Some games will keep you there for hours. That’s great! Hours of fun. But if you’re a caffeine addict like me, or just someone with basic biological needs, you don’t go hours and hours without having a drink, maybe having a snack or a meal. It’s why Chucky Cheese has pizza, or why most bowling alleys also serve bar food. Board game cafes vary pretty widely in what they offer. Some have full bars, some have fill kitchens. Most simply want to have coffee on hand and some finger food to keep your stomach from rumbling you away from your game of Carcassonne. At Hawkwood games you’ll find things like movie theater popcorn, fresh baked cookies, hummus plates, chips and salsa, and for longer game sessions, maybe a hot panini sandwich.
One thing you’ll want to know before you go to a board game café, though, is that it isn’t a place to grab a coffee and set up with your laptop. Every board game café in the world charges you for your table. It’s just like how a bowling alley charges you for your lane. Table fees are usually pretty small, $5 per person with no time limit seems to be the norm.
What it’s good for
The easy answer is “gaming”, but board game cafes are great event spaces for a wide array of uses.
- It’s a great place to take a date
- Birthday parties
- Company team building events
- Family night
- Fundraising events
- Those times when you want to get together but don’t want to host (i.e. clean)
- Trying out expensive games before you commit to buying them.
- Tournaments for your favorite game
If you ask people who frequent a board game café, though, they’ll likely tell you something like this: It’s about community. Finding a place that can become a part of our home town, part of the fabric of our social lives, has immense personal value. I’m not one of those that would say something like “the digital age is making us more isolated”. There’s a whole debate to be had there, for sure, but I don’t think that’s the case. I do think, though, that there’s something special about spending time with people in person. Sharing food together. Competing or working together in a game. These are fruitful for us in a unique way. If you’re an avid gamer or just someone who played Uno as a kid – I highly recommend grabbing a friend and trying it out.