One thing you might have realised by now is that I am obsessed with tabletop gaming! From Catan to D&D to plain old Monopoly, I can think of few better ways to spend an evening. I and my partner have built up quite the collection of board games, but as there are only two of us we don’t get as much time to play as we will like. I’d love to get out into London and play a game or two, have a few drinks and make friends along the way. Not to be all hipster about it, but back when I lived in Lincoln and was playing a lot of Risk with my friends, I was always trying to convince them to take the board to a local bar and play there. There’s just something different about playing out of the house, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one with this idea judging by the popularity of gaming bars and cafes in recent years. Especially in London where the space in people’s homes is limited. Here are five London gaming bars I want to try this year:
Loading Bar was the first bar of this type that came onto my radar. Many years before I moved to London I actually visited it’s old Soho location and although the small size of the premises did prove difficult, the supply of games and fittingly named cocktails had some real potential. Now several years on there are two Loading Bar locations in venues that offer the much-needed space. If you want a chilled gaming night without any of the pretences, this one is for you. The Dalston address, which I visited recently, offers a typical bar scenario upstairs, and a quieter basement for you to really get down and dirty with your games.
Best for: A relaxed unpretentious atmosphere
Draught’s is basically the up-market, slightly more hipster version of Loading Bar. With over 600 games to choose from you aren’t going to be worrying about lack of choice, and the bar and games are all kept in pretty pristine condition. There is a decent bar menu in case you need some mid-game snacking and ‘gaming guru’s’ on hand but unlike some of the other bars, there is an entrance fee here.
Best for: Range of games
The Beer Hive
While the focus here is more on promoting small breweries than actual gaming, they do have a very popular board game night every fortnight for you to sink your teeth into while you try a few pints. This is London’s first cooperative brewery, so you can expect to find drinks here you are unlikely to find elsewhere. While not necessarily the most homely looking of bars, you will definitely be part of a unique experience here.
Best for: Beer selection
The Vauxhall Griffin
What the Vauxhall Griffin lacks in game time (the ‘games at the Griffin’ event currently only runs once a month) it makes up for in warmth of atmosphere. It’s one that I’ve been meaning to attend for several months and as one of the few independent pubs remaining in Vauxhall, it’s an evening worth supporting. You can play one of their large selection of board games, or bring your own to play. It’s an atmosphere that encourages people to play outside of their own circle and meet new people, but fear not if you want to play with your friends, just drop in any night of the weekend grab a game from the shelf.
Best for: Warm welcome and traditional pub atmosphere.
Admittedly more of a ‘games cafe’ instead of a ‘games bar’ (but you can still get alcohol so it totally counts) the Library Pot offers a great mix of games from traditional, to D&D, to modern, to card games and a lot more. A £5 cover charge will cover your stay no matter how long you are there, and there is plenty of events to help you learn new games. I’ve also heard a rumour there’s a ball pit in the basement!
Best for: A relaxed day of gaming with no feeling of being rushed.
Have you tried any London gaming bars? I’d love to hear any recommendations?