On our recent cycling holiday (read about it here, here, here, here and here) I mentioned that we spent a few hours in Thirsty Meeples, a board game café in Oxford. What a great concept, play board games and drink craft beer. It costs £5 per person for a three hour session, although this rises to £7 if you don’t buy any food or drink. This might seem expensive, but there are plenty of staff and soo many games to play.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself. What exactly is a meeple? A meeple is the name for a counter used in a game, for example the dog or iron in Monopoly are both meeples. Simple.
The café in Oxford had over 1,000 games on shelves around the café, sorted by genre; strategy, light strategy, two player, classic, etc. The staff were also great. Cheerful and there to suggest games or help out if you’re struggling with the rules of a game that you’re playing.
On the Friday Helen picked out Odin’s Ravens; a two player game where the aim is to fly your raven from one end of a row of cards to the other and back, while your opponent tries to do the same, but in the opposite direction. Obviously there are other cards that you can play to make it harder for your opponent or easier for yourself. A simple idea and a game that doesn’t take too long. We liked it so much that we bought a copy for ourselves, so be warned, if you come round Helen will probably challenge you.
We then asked one of the Game Gurus for a recommendation, who handed us a merchant trading game called Splendor. I was quite enjoying it but I could see that Helen wasn’t really getting into it, and as we were near to the end of our three hour reservation, we called it quits for the night.
The next night we were back. I picked out a strong dark Icelandic craft beer while Helen picked out a game. She came back with Carcassonne, a walled castle game. I had forgotten my glasses so I was struggling to read the rules, but we persevered. After 30 minutes, maybe 45, we had placed a whole load of pieces on the board, but we still weren’t too sure what we were doing, so Helen decided to call the game off and find another.
We picked Akrotiri, a two-player boat and island game. Again we struggled for a bit. Helen was ready to quit on this game as well but I suggested that we shouldn’t give up too soon. Instead we grabbed one of the Game Gurus again for a bit of help. He hadn’t played the game for a few years, but he soon refreshed his memory and got us on the right path. I’m glad that we persevered because it turned out to be a really great game with hidden depths and a combination of skill and luck. When we finished playing we added up our scores to find that Helen had absolutely destroyed me. This is another game that we will probably buy in the future. Oh, and Helen celebrated her win with a White Russian.
The photo below of Helen laughing is because she had tried to take a photo, but had put her phone down when one of the staff looked over. I told her that it wasn’t a secret nuclear base and that she was probably allowed to take photos.
Lancaster would be an ideal city for a board game café, although you might need to start a bit smaller with maybe 200 games and gradually build up. Both nights that we were there the place was full and with a wide range of ages. There were plenty of student types, but also children and oldies. If you’re ever in Oxford I can thoroughly recommend spending a few hours at Thirsty Meeples.