While café culture has never really taken off in the UK, mainly due to our notoriously inconsistent weather, board game café culture is making big strides. While pubs such as the Malt Cross and BrewDog have always had board games in them, and some places even have board game nights, the last couple of years have seen the opening of two dedicated board game cafes in Nottingham. With Ludorati recently celebrating being open for a year, I headed off on a grey, drab Sunday afternoon with a few friends to see if board games have really shed their boring image…
Of course, some people can get ridiculously competitive when doing anything and that can include playing board games. Fortunately, there is such a huge selection of games that the staff were able to point us in the direction of something more co-operative.
After helping us select Forbidden Desert, Damon even sat with us to show us how the game worked and watched us take the first couple of turns to make sure that we knew what we were doing before leaving us to it. The game features a group of adventurers that have crashed in the desert and need to find parts of an ancient flying machine in order to escape.
It's got a nice mechanic that sees the tiles that make up the playing area move around to represent the swirling sandstorm. This also covers the tiles with sand, which has to be removed so that you can dig to find the flying machine parts. Meanwhile, the sun beats down forcing you to use your precious water supplies.
Players take the roles of different characters, with each having a different special action. I was a meteorologist and despite forecasting hot weather in the desert, I ran out of water and died. Despite bravely telling my companions to go on without me, that was against the rules and we'd been defeated by the desert.
We decided to move into something a little less sandy after that and opted for Pandemic, another co-op game. Along with Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, Pandemic is one of the games responsible for the big resurgence of board gaming and its image moving away from the classic games such as Monopoly.
You play the part of a team trying to cure four diseases that have simultaneously broken out across the globe. Again, Damon kindly helped us set up and saw us through the opening couple of turns before leaving us to try and save the world. The game really ebbs and flows, you can think you're doing quite well but then another epidemic hits and panic sets in again.
With more luck that judgement, we managed to cure the fourth disease just in the nick of time – another turn would have seen us run out of Player cards and lose the game. Phew! Talk about cutting it fine.
Finally, we decided to play something that would allow those in our group to indulge their competitive side a little (mentioning no names). We selected King of Tokyo, where the players each select a monster and battle to decide which one rules the city. Essentially a dice game, you have to decide when to re-roll dice and when to make risk/reward decisions about trying to remain in the city. Of course, I eschewed the fighting, stayed under the radar and managed to clock up enough points to win without my monster, The Cyber Bunny, ever having to step foot in Tokyo.
Well that's the board game part looked at, how about the cafe side of things? They had a great choice of some really fantastic cakes as well as a good selection of teas and coffees, and bottled beers from the Dancing Duck and Milestone breweries.
If I have one small quibble, it's the pricing structure. Signs all around the cafe advertise 4 hours of play for just £5 per person. However, upon closer inspection, it turns out to be £5 + VAT. Don't get me wrong, £6 is still great value for four hours’ entertainment but it feels a bit sneaky advertising the price without VAT. I can't imagine that they get a huge number of customers who are able to reclaim their tax on an afternoon of board gaming. On the plus side, you can sign up for a free membership, which gets you 10% off all food and drink and also a discount on any games that you might want to buy.
With good food, good drink and friendly staff, you'll be able to find a game that you enjoy regardless of what you're into. So, get yersen down to Ludorati and see what all the fuss is about.
Ludorati celebrated their first birthday on Sunday 19 March 2017