After having a great time during my last visit to a board game cafe (full report here), I was invited to new board game cafe with a larger group of people. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out a cool venue, but also get to try some new games that play well with 5+ people.
Entering the Cafe
Compared to the prior location, this “cafe” was more of a bar. The venue itself was slightly below ground and a bit hard to find from the street. I wasn’t too familiar with the area but we also went a little earlier as the group said that it tends to fill up fast.
The layout was basically a basement filled with a bar, chairs/tables, and the wall of games. Not too glamorous (not that it needs to be) but definitely not as cozy or welcoming as the previous spot.
There were also less tables and chairs overall, although we did arrive early enough that seating was never a problem. They did have a policy that your entire group had to be present in order to actually be seated at one of the larger tables. Since we had stragglers we had to sit at one table and then move when the rest of the group showed up.
There was a $5 charge per person in the group to play. Unlike the other location, this charge was due upfront and was in addition to any food or drink you purchased. The bar had more choices of beer, with the snacks roughly the same (pretzels, candy, etc).
Notably, they did not sell any items (the last location had Magic cards and other games). While not a big deal, you also had to open a tab and they didn’t really accept cash (not that I was using cash anyway). In addition, I could not get any cell phone service since it was in a basement (or bunker it felt like), which was mildly frustrating when coordinating with the others who had not yet arrived.
Playing the Games
The game selection was yet another wall of games roughly organized by amount of players. The selection was noticeably smaller than the other cafe.
I would say the titles tended to tilt more towards party games moreso than more niche or heaver designer board games. I’d say its probably a reflection of the clientele vs the other location, but it was slightly disappointing given that it’d be nice to have access to try some more in depth titles.
All the games we played had all the components and were in fairly decent shape. We had a slightly fluctuating group size during the various arrivals and departures, but had between 4 and 7 the entire time.
Games We Played
Unlike my last experience, we had a larger group this time, and therefore a lot more games were in the range of possibility. I will note that it became much more difficult to find a suitable game when we bumped up from 5 players to 6. I don’t know if 5 is some kind of magic number of players, but it definitely felt like it.
We had a range of experience levels but given the larger group, we tilted toward lighter games. I had once again tried to scope out some interesting games beforehand, and learn the rules so we could quickly get going.
King of Tokyo
I was somewhat familiar with King of Tokyo and when someone had initially brought over Clue, I knew I needed to suggest something that had some accessible flash. Luckily, a couple players also recognized that this game was created by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic The Gathering.
King of Tokyo is a competitive king of the hill style game were you are trying to get to 20 victory points before the others, or else be the last monster standing. Each player chooses a monster as their own, with each roughly equating to famous monsters in media (variant on Godzilla, King Kong, etc). The monsters don’t have any special abilities, so they are just for looks.
Each player takes a turn rolling dice in a Yahtzee fashion. Certain rolls give you health, others get you “power” (the currency to buy upgrades) while some give you attack or victory points. You get three rolls, holding back as many dice as you want per roll in order to get combos or reroll undesirable results.
Power can be spent for upgrades denoted by cards placed beside the basic Tokyo board. These grant both instant and permanent effects. For example, I bought Wings, which allowed me to spend two power any time I was hit with an attack to avoid the damage. Some upgrades are synergistic or promote a certain style of play.
You gain victory points through rolling multiples of certain numbers on the dice, but also by taking Tokyo. Taking Tokyo means you move your standee token onto the board. Being inside Tokyo means all attack rolls rolled by the players are automatically directed at you. However, should you survive the onslaught, you get victory points as you continue to stay inside Tokyo (hence the king of the hill reference).
Being unfamiliar with the upgrades, and not having ever played with 6, it was tough to decide on a strategy that would work best. I personally did not ever end up in Tokyo as I waited on some upgrades and did not roll the right attack dice to enter Tokyo.
The game ended up being a hit. I think the competitiveness, plus the accessibility in the upgrades and theme, made it something a little different for everyone. Everyone was in it till the end (one player was eliminated close to the end) so it was quite close. Definitely a good starter game.
I was completely new to Timeline, but someone else owned the game so knew how to quickly explain the rules. Each player has five cards with a picture of a historical event on one side and the actual date in time on the other. The goal is to place each card in your hand in the right point on the ever-growing timeline.
You start with only a few cards on the timeline, but as players successfully place their cards, the margins of error get smaller and smaller. Sure, you might get extreme outliers like The First Appearance of Bees that obviously predates many of the events, but many times its obscure inventions you cant quite place — like the invention of the straight razor.
It was a fun game in both trying to play your own cards, but also in seeing other players completely whiff on their placements. The premise is so basic and easy its extremely quick to set up and start playing with any group at any skill level.
However, the game would quickly go stale after only one or two plays. We saw most of the deck in playing the first game with a group of 6. Once you’ve seen the years on the back of the card, the guessing part is gone, and therefore the game loses its appeal. I know there are several expansions to this game, and they would definitely be needed for repeated use.
Recently, I have come to really enjoy Carcassonne. I don’t own the game myself, but have friends that do, so this was another opportunity to quickly acclimate others to the rules and get the game going. At this point we had lost one participant, and thus could play with five.
Carcassonne is a perfect gateway game to the heavier side of board gaming (at least that I have found). The goal is to get the most points, a simple goal, and you do so by placing meeples (little wooden shaped people) on various tiles. Placing the meeple generates points when the feature (road, city, or abbey) is completed when a tile is placed.
Each player draws a random tile from the bag, then can choose to place a meeple on that tiles feature so long as another meeple isn’t already on that feature several tiles down. There are more advanced rules that allow you to play the super long game with farmers.
All the meeple placing adds a great strategic element to counterbalance the random variability of the tile draws. However, the times where direct conflict begins, typically in meeple-ing over cities, is where a lot of interesting interaction occurs. In addition, given that the score is kept on an ongoing basis on the main board, therefore you can tell your position relative to others at most points.
Overall Carcassonne is a solid all-around game that I would highly suggest to anyone at any skill level. While the theme might not jump off the board like some other games, the basics are there to make it fun to play again and again.
I had not actually previously played Telestrations, but I have played the online Drawphone which adapts the basic concept to an online, mobile version which I actually prefer. Nonetheless, Telestrations is a great party game.
At this point we had several additions to the group and others were getting tired and/or had been imbibing for awhile, hence the move to some more straightforward party-style games.
The way we play it, we don’t use the stock words and just write in ideas. And we also don’t keep any kind of score. The point is generally to cause hilarity, which the game does excel at.
Each player writes a word on a notepad. They pass the notepad to the player on their left and then that player attempts to draw a picture of the word. They then pass the notepad on and the next player, only viewing the picture, attempts to guess what it is in words. The next player then draws that new guess, and so on, until you start with something like “apple” and it turns into “world war II” or some other nonsense. Add vulgarity and inside jokes and you get a good thing going.
No strategy and no deep thinking required, Telestrations worked great after the more involved games of the night.
Wits and Wagers
As the final game of the night, we went with another party favorite in Wits and Wagers. The goal is get the most poker chips by the end of the last round, and said poker chips are attained through both guessing answers and collecting bets (hence the name).
A question is posed each round, and each player writes what they believe to be the right answer. Everyone lays out their answers in front of everyone and then each player places their two tokens on the answer they think is correct. You get one poker chip for being the closest answer (most are too hard to get exact) and then one poker chip for each token that is on the closet answer. Therefore, you are often not betting on your own answer unless you’re confident.
Wits and Wagers does a good job of being easy to pick up and learn, but it lacks my most important quality in a party game — creating some genuine laughs. Because the game has a competitive goal that requires being “right,” it misses the mark in incentivizing creativity or humor.
Wits and Wagers works in a more sterile setting, perhaps with a group that you aren’t as familiar with. It just didn’t resound with what I was looking for in what it offered.
Overall, its been a great experience in scouting out these new game spots and getting exposure to a great variety of board games. Not to mention its been a great way to socialize and expose some of my friends to gaming that would otherwise not do so.
Have you played any of these games? Have you tried out any board game cafes? How do you feel about either? Comment below!