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London's First Board Game Café: Draughts

Sip a coffee or pint and get lost in over 500 games

by Cajsa Carlson
on 28 November 2014
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London is full of old railway arches, most of which were traditionally used for storage, but lately many of them have become homes to restaurants, cafés, bakeries and bars. The latest addition to the arches below the East London Overground railway in Haggerston is Draughts, London’s first board game café. For £5 guests get to stay as long as they want and play the games of their choice—and with over 500 games to choose from, it’s no wonder many of them stay all day. Founder Toby Hamand left his job a year ago to start the partially Kickstarter-funded café, which has a cosy, subterranean look that suits long game-playing sessions. CH spoke with the gamer to get the lowdown on his five favorite games at the moment.

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Hanabi

“Hanabi is a Japanese card game, named after the word for firework, and it’s a cooperative game. There’s no winner. You either all win and beat the game, or all lose. Hanabi has a point system, so you get a certain number of points as a team, and to win the game you almost have to get a perfect score, which is nearly impossible. It’s very simple, you just have to play your cards in a certain order, but the challenge is that you hold your hand backwards, so you can’t see it, but everyone else can. It’s a really fun game and especially good to play with people who aren’t that familiar with boardgames or card games, because it’s so easy.”

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Settlers of Catan

“This was the first game I played that got me into more advanced boardgames, and a lot of people do consider it a 'gateway game.' It’s a game that you play after Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk. In Settlers of Catan, you have a level of choice and strategy, rather than just rolling a dice."

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Diplomacy

“Diplomacy is quite a complex game. It takes a long time and uses discussion as a game mechanic, so you actually have to convince someone that you’re on their team. It’s almost taking you outside of the game environment. A lot of people fall out over it, because the aim of the game is to make alliances and then break them at the perfect opportunity for the most profit. It’s lying, basically.”

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Dead of Winter

“Dead of Winter is quite a new game from a Canadian publisher and it’s set in a harsh, Canadian winter during a zombie apocalypse. Each player controls a certain number of people and you have to run an outpost and scavenge for resources, and there’s various catastrophes that happen. The game has an incredible mechanic called 'Crossroads.' What happens is that when someone’s taken a turn, the person to the left draws a card and silently reads it. The cards are only read out loud if certain events take place in the game. It makes the game feel almost role-playing-y and you get really into it. Another thing about Dead of Winter is that it’s a cooperative game, but there may be a traitor amongst you, which adds a level of tension to it.”

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Riff Raff

“Riff Raff is one of the games that have been taken off the shelves the most at Draught. It’s a sort of balancing game, with a cardboard tower and a mast that wobbles, and then you have to balance certain items at certain points and you get more points the harder it is to balance. That seems to be played almost constantly here.”

Draughts is open Tuesday to Sunday at 337 Acton Mews, Haggerston E8 4EA in East London.

Images by Cajsa Carlson

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