My first board game cafe: Ludorati Cafe in Nottingham

On Saturday my boyfriend Alex and I opted for a day trip to Nottingham, as the weather promised grey and intense drizzle. The plan for the day involved visiting geeky shops, charity shops and Nottingham’s premier board game cafe, Ludorati! I’ve wanted to check out board game cafes ever since I heard of the opening of the UK’s first in Oxford (Thirsty Meeples). So when a friend mentioned there was one in Nottingham (one of our local-ish cities) we HAD to go!  

So after adding a new faux leather jacket, pretty lace detail hoody and tassel jumper to my wardrobe (city charity shop shopping is the best), checking out Forbidden Planet (soo many Funky Pop figures) and Page 45 (filled with stunning art and comic books), and yummy lunch at Tamatanga we headed to what would be the highlight of the day, the cafe! 

The Ancient World

It was a brilliant space, large open plan filled with big square tables that could fit pretty much any tabletop board game, even though we just had a 2 person table. It was bright (a necessity for being able to see your games as most cafes and pubs opt for too dark mood lighting) and colourful with a bit of a sci-fi feel to it. The amazing glassed cube Escape Room certainly added to this theme. I liked that they also had a small ‘normal’ cafe area for passers by who could drop in for a traditional board game such as chess or scrabble. 

If you want to play tabletop board games with the proper tables however, you have to pay for the table. I liked that they had tv screens showing Will Wheaton’s Tabletop. It was satisfying to see them playing Fury of Dracula which we tried out only a week ago. But the best bit about Ludorati was obviously the ‘wall’ of games! They have about 800 games lined up in alphabetical order. The cafe also includes a board game store which I was slightly disappointed by as they didn’t have much choice but the prices were good not miles above online prices like many board game shops. They also have an online store which I’m keen to check out as I’ve been looking for a good place to buy games that isn’t Amazon. 

We had thought we could probably just turn up, but on checking the night before I discovered incidentally that it was their anniversary weekend so they recommended booking in advance. I was able to easily book by email on Saturday morning though before we left the house. A good decision as it was soon packed out in the afternoon after we arrived. It costs £5.00 each to book a table for 4 hours or £1.60 per person per hour. 

The cafe is primarily about the board games but they did have a few sandwiches and offer of pizza to sustain you whilst playing. The variety of drinks on offer are good though, their hot chocolate was heavenly!  The staff were super happy and friendly and even helped teach you how to play games or offered recommendations if you weren’t sure where to start.

The Escape Room

After struggling to choose a game to play (just so many to choose from!!), and losing out to Forbidden Desert as someone grabbed it beneath my eyes,  Alex opted for The Ancient World, which we had never heard of. It has stunning artwork and involves warrior tribes and mythical monsters so we were sold! It was a worker placement city building game with the added touch of fighting titans and collecting tribe banners. 

It felt a bit like a much simpler Agricola though still took us a while to learn how to play. It was pretty simple once we got our head round it though. We ended up drawing on victory points but as I had more money I won! But Alex then beat me at several games of Sushi Go!, a short silly fun card game. The card counting and maths didn’t really suit me! 

It was a brilliant 4 hours spent playing games in a beautiful comfortable place with an amazing atmosphere. I loved seeing fellow tabletop fans playing some of my favourite games all around us! You could see the joy of playing board games in everyone’s happy faces. The Escape Room looked like a lot of fun too. It was nice to go out somewhere new to play new games too instead of staying home on a rainy day. Check out their website here and book your own session!

Also, another highlight was receiving anniversary mug freebies and the membership card is definitely going to be my most prized card in my purse! 

Have you ever been to a board game cafe? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

7 Wonders: Duel Board Game Review

 

As we both love board games, Alex and I wanted to find some good two player games so we can still play when it’s just us. Of course there are lots of games that can have 2 or more players and none of our games really get neglected at home, however sometimes they just don’t quite work as well when there’s just two. Machi Koro being an example. Alex got researching and found 7 Wonders: Duel ranked highly on BoardGameGeek and we both loved the sound of it. So here’s what I thought of the game.

duel

Overview

The aim of the game is to win in one of three ways; either developing science, a civilian victory or through military might. Building the 7 wonders (yes the 7 ancient wonders of the world such as the pyramids) helps you achieve this but you don’t need them all completed to win.

To win through scientific supremacy you must get 7 science/arts tokens (which to us seems nearly impossible to do). To win through victory points is quite simple, collect as many victory points as you can though there are various ways to do this. To win through military might you need to move the war token (through collecting the right cards and wonders) across the board to the opponent’s side.

Strategy

I loved the dynamic of balancing the three different ways of winning the game. You have to keep an eye out for new opportunities whilst also being aware of the long game. In our first game I was caught unaware by attacks meaning I quickly fell ruin to military might. But I won the second through quietly building up lots of blue cards with high victory points which left with a very high score! It’s the sort of game we always end up discussing in detail after we’ve played, comparing tactics and pointing out where we went wrong!

Difficulty

It looks intimidating when you see the variety of cards and pick up the substantial booklet of instructions. Attempting to read the instructions made it worse. But as soon as you actually lay down the cards and board and start playing the game it quickly falls into place and makes sense. We picked it up completely by the end of the first game (and the instructions suggest which Wonder cards to begin with to make it simpler). The difficulty of the game itself is not high but it is challenging enough to keep you enticed and your brain thinking. We’ve both won an equal amount of times which is quite rare, another reason it’s a game I’m happy to come back to again and again.

Presentation

The artwork is truly stunning, I found myself choosing Wonders on their prettyness (yes I know it’s not a real word!) rather than their bonuses at times! I felt the cards were presented well making it easy to quickly understand how many resources they represent and the design to stack them up added to this. I liked that the resource cards were small too, so they could be laid out easily.

Players

It’s so refreshing to play a game that is specifically designed for two players. I think this is likely one of the reasons it ranks so highly on BoardGameGeek because, as far as I’m aware, there are few games out there that work really well for just the two player.

With 7 Wonders: Duel it really feels like they focused completely on the 2 player experience, as it would suggest. It still retains the challenge, strategy and variation of group games whilst having the mechanics for only two players. Many games when played with two players I find become too easy or too one-sided. But this is not the case with Duel, so bravo!

Final Rating

I have to give this 10/10 as I simply cannot fault it. Apart from maybe each game doesn’t quite last long enough! I’m enjoying myself and plotting so much I suddenly find myself dismayed to see the third era is already over!  If like us you would like a competitive two player game than can be played tactically, is easy to pick up and play and simply a lot of fun no matter how many times you play, then this is the ideal game for you. Perfect for couples!

Similar to …

If you enjoy Splendor, Saqqara or Dominion I think you’ll love this.

Find out more.

 

Have you played Duel, what did you think? And any recommendations for other great two player games? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Why playing board games is the best

Carcassonne – the city building game

The emergence of board game groups, gaming cafes and multiple mentions in the Guardian document the recent rising popularity of tabletop board games. By chance I was sucked into board gaming several years ago and it opened up a whole new magical world for me. To be an ironic board game hipster, I liked them before it was cool.

And I feel I’ve only just started. I know someone, no word of a lie, who owns 600 board games. I own a lowly 6.

I first started playing ‘hardcore’ board games (none of this Monopoly nonsense thank you) about three years ago. My boyfriend at the time and his friends were big players of the oddly named Carcassonne (yes like the French city). A rather intimidating game to be invited to by your new boyfriend and his friends you’ve just met. Especially as I didn’t really have an understanding then of what tabletop board games were. I associated that name with the Dungeons and Dragons ilk. RPG  (role playing game) an unknown term to me, the amateur nerd. At the time that seemed to be a whole dark level of geeky I could not quite step down. How naive I was then! I now adore RPGs.

Despite the deceiving name and appearance, Carcassone is perhaps the perfect gateway board game to begin with, and it remains my favourite to this day. Later games of Ticket to Ride, Ankh Morpork, Dominion and Lords of Waterdeep soon had me fully converted. More recently, it has become more of a regular hobby due to joining a board game group (one of the best things I’ve ever done) and having a board gamer boyfriend who is still pretty new to the scene. That makes for lots of new games to explore and add to the collection!

The Adventure

I love board games because they are adventures in of themselves. Unlike books and most video games, they can be adventures where you and friends are the true protagonists. Your decisions can have major implications leading to success or downfall. You are not guided by storylines or button mashing but by your own strategy, quick thinking, problem solving and that of others. Of course much can come down to luck and the roll of the dice, which is a key element in many games ensuring each and every play is different and engaging.

The Social Life 

Playing board games is inherently very social. They are interactive by nature whether that be due to attempting to beat others or work together to beat the game. As someone who is often introverted around new people, board games are brilliant icebreaker for me. They allow you to get stuck in, together. It’s the ultimate conversation starter. Bond over working out the rules of a new game, or teach and learn from others. Generally, I’m a go and have adventures with people person and board games literally bring that element to the table. Many of the games we play are better described as party games. For example, working as a group to work out who the spy is in The Resistance or guessing the right words in time as a team in Codenames.

The Challenge

Board games make you use and exercise your brain, often without you even realising. In the new world of short attention spans and scrolling, board games are literally about focusing on the long game. A great way to achieve mindfulness. Instead of binge watching The Walking Dead I can kill zombies in Dead of Winter, manage depleting resources and decide who to exile to ensure survival of the colony.  Instead of tapping mobile screens in FarmVille I can manage different farming methods in Agricola. I struggle immensely with puzzles and have no patience for them. Yet I’ll spend hours labouring over carefully thought out plans in board games which are, essentially, puzzles. Because even if I lose every time (curse you Splendor) I enjoy every experience which changes every time. It’s truly about the taking part. But, of course, if you’re not willing to nearly lose friends over board games, you’re not playing properly!

The Choice

There’s also so much variety. There’s board games to suit all tastes. The board game bible, BoardGameGeek.com, ranks all board games based on reviews and this rank numbers in the thousands. There’s simple and silly games, party games right through to day long complex saga games. I’m not sure anyone can claim to dislike board games when there’s so many to try!

So if you’ve never tried the more adventurous board game (put away the Scrabble) I recommend you give them a try. I’ll be blogging and reviewing some of the board games I love and play on this blog.