Find your fun with our guide to the best places to play board games
Cafés with board games aren’t a new idea. But London has experienced a new wave of dedicated venues in recent years. And it’s not just cafés, either. We’re also talking board game pubs and bars that stock full encyclopedic volumes of your favourite and soon-to-be favourite games.
When you think about it, the board game café, bar, or pub is a no-brainer. Want to get together with your mates in a fun atmosphere with good food and booze on tap? Er… yes, please.
It’s a mystery why no one thought of it years ago. And I don’t mean an unsolvable mystery like, what really happened to Walt Disney? Or, why do people love Nando’s so much?? But as in it’s so glaringly obvious, we wish we’d done it!
But, then again, if we were to regret every missed opportunity over the years, like when I swapped all my Pokémon cards for a KitKat Senses bar in 2008 (thanks a lot, Girls Aloud), we’d never get up in the morning. Lucky we can forget our worries with an immersive gaming and drinking experience instead! Cheers!
So let’s dive into our list of the best board game cafes London has to offer, shall we?!
Draughts, Hackney & Waterloo
Where it all started. Draughts is the genesis of the gaming geek’s café with board games, card games and more. When it opened in a Hackney railway arch in 2014, it was the first of its kind in London.
Now located in a Grade II listed building on Kingsland Road, Draughts has over 800 games. You can easily lose hours to strategic classics like Pandemic or Terraforming Mars. But equally, you and your mates can binge on a string of party games like The Chameleon or Sushi Go: Party.
Different games for different needs.
Plus you can do all of this while sipping on a craft ale or devouring a mezze board. The Waterloo location opened in 2018. You’ve guessed it, under another railway arch. But it’s a much loftier location, resulting in a slightly less intense yet equally satisfying experience.
They offer the same array of games, but their food menu includes possibly the best vegan fish and chips in London. You heard it here first.
To play: £5
When: (Hackney) Tuesday & Wednesday, 4 pm-11 pm; Thursday, 4 pm-11.30 pm; Friday, 12 pm-11.30 pm; Saturday, 10 am-11.30 pm; Sunday, 10 am-11 pm. (Waterloo) Monday 12 pm-midnight; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight; Friday, 11 am-1 am; Saturday, 10 am-1 am; Sunday 10 am-midnight.
Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-11 pm; Friday-Saturday, 10 am-12 am
Where: (Hackney) 41 Kingsland High St., E8 2JS; (Waterloo) Arch 16, Leake St., SE1 7NN
Loading Bar, Dalston
Loading Bar recently moved to its new location on Stoke Newington High Street in Dalston. And it looks brand new. Like Draughts, it fits into the board game cafe/bar/restaurant bracket. They’ve got plenty of great food and drinks on offer to compliment your gaming experience.
They’ve got a solid collection of favourites, such as Santorini and Bananagrams - they’ve even got an N64 with Goldeneye and Mario Kart. And they’ve got a knowledgeable and affable crew on hand to teach you how to play or just chat about games, which adds to the welcoming atmosphere.
Loading Bar also has a Brighton location. So if you’re lucky enough to live on the south coast, you too can sample some of the great things these guys are doing.
To play: free if you buy food or drinks
When: Wednesday-Friday, 4 pm-11 pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12 pm-11 pm
Where: (London) 129 Stoke Newington High St., N16 0PH; (Brighton) Unit 11, Lower Promenade, Madeira Drive, BN2 1ET
The Earl Derby, Kilburn
Kilburn’s The Earl Derby is a board game pub, pure and simple. It’s a renovated affair that’s nailed it in terms of retaining the classic pub decor while levelling up in other areas. Good food: tick. Sunday roasts: tick. Decent drink selection: tick. Family-friendly atmosphere: tick. Board games: tick.
Come for the hospitality, stay for the board game classics.
It’s an open and airy venue where you’ll feel just as comfortable hunkering down over a lengthy game of strategy as you will a raucous game of Jenga!
The Earl Derby is definitely worth checking out. When the website says, “The banter flows as freely as the drinks,” you know you’re in for a good time.
To play: free if you buy food or drinks
When: Monday-Sunday, 12 pm-11 pm
Where: 155 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7HU
Tanuki Gaming, Deptford
Tanuki is a passion project run by Dom and Alan, two friends who met through gaming. A shop, events space and café, this venue has a distinctly Japanese theme, thanks to its namesake, the “playful and jolly Japanese raccoon-dog”.
This theme permeates the menu, too, with such offerings as yakitori and karaage.
These guys are adding to their impressive inventory of games all the time, but you can expect to have a pretty good time over games like Bang!, Love Letter, Secret Hitler and Spyfall, all while enjoying a particularly refreshing craft beer, wine, or if it’s not yet 5 pm, a soft drink.
There’s always a fantastic experience to be had in a venue like Tanuki Gaming. The attention to detail really shows the passion Dom and Adam have for gaming. And that kind of energy is infectious; it’ll definitely level up your gaming experience.
To play: £5 p/p payable on arrival
When: Monday-Thursday, 4 pm-10 pm; Friday, 4 pm-11 pm; Saturday, 10 am-11 pm; Sunday, 10 am-10 pm
Where: 139-145 Deptford High St., SE8 3NU
Bad Moon Café, Southwark
Mirroring the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Bad Moon Rising”, Bad Moon Café’s popularity has risen massively over the last few years. We’re not sure if the owners are CCR fans, but this café with board games, barista coffee, beers and baked goods hosts an incredible selection, with a more than obvious nod towards Warhammer.
Their gaming tables are purposefully adapted for Warhammer and games like Age of Sigmar, with high-quality gaming mats and custom-built terrain.
These guys aren’t messing around.
But even if Games Workshop isn’t your thing, Bad Moon Café’s got such popular games as Catan, Codenames, Colour Brain and Coup (they’ve also got plenty of games that don’t begin with c, FYI).
To play: £5 p/p bookable gaming tables during specified timeslots on weekdays and weekends
When: Fridays & Saturdays, 12 pm-11 pm; Sundays, 12 pm-9.30 pm
Where: 159A Great Dover St., SE1 4GZ
The Library Pot, Richmond
This hidden gem in leafy Richmond offers a more rustic experience when compared with some of the more established ventures. But when you consider The Library Pot is the result of couple Emily and Rob taking their home-hosted games nights to a new location, it makes sense that it looks like someone’s front room.
In what was formerly the Blue Anchor pub, The Library Pot has over 500 games to suit all manner of tastes. And the same should be said about their menu that features pan-Asian curries, burgers and hot dogs.
You’ll also likely notice a lot of cat games - Calico, Tem-purr-a, Cat’Astrophe (all the c’s again) - and that’s because the owners are cat lovers. So if you’re big on felines, you’ll be right at home here.
I’ve saved the best till last, though. Because The Library Pot has an adults-only ball pit! That’s right. You can frolic away among the balls, safe in the knowledge there’s not a drop of urine anywhere.
To play: £2 p/h after the first 2 hours on weekdays, £5 on weekends
When: Monday-Saturday, 12 pm-11 pm; Sunday, 12 pm-9 pm
Where: 86 Kew Road, Richmond, TW9 2PQ