Six friends crowd around a table, laughing and sipping drinks as they push cardboard tokens around the surface. They could be spending the evening at a bar or stuck in front of the television. Instead, they are enjoying an oddly resurging trend in entertainment: board games. No longer dusty relics relegated to the basement closet, board games are making a comeback.
Over the last decade, the popularity of games such as The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride has introduced the hobby to a new generation and created a new market – board-game cafes. The newest one in the city, The Hexagon Board Game Cafe, like other cafes, features a selection of drinks and snacks, but it’s not the food or decor people are coming to enjoy. “People that come here are often brand new to board games. They aren’t hardcore boardgamers,” says Randy Wong, co-owner of The Hexagon. “We have a lot of people coming to play Risk or Scrabble or [The Game of] Life.”
Wong and co-owner Kellie Ho opened Hexagon in late August as a place to feed their love of board gaming and introduce it to a new audience. “A lot of people don’t realize they enjoy board games until we introduce them to the right game,” says Ho.
It seems to be working, too. The growing appeal of board gaming is all the more obvious when entering The Hexagon or Table Top Café– another board gaming cafe in the city – on a weekend. They are often packed to capacity.
Brian Flowers, owner of Table Top Café, points to the climate in central Alberta as part of the reason board gaming is so popular; people clamour for anything to get away from sub-zero temperatures. But it’s also a chance to get together with your friends.
“Everyone is always on their phones,” says Flowers. “People want to find a way to reconnect. I have the hardcore guys who want to play the latest and greatest thing, and I get some people who have never played The Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride before.”
But is board gaming just a flash in the pan? If the success of board game cafes is an indicator of the hobby’s strength, then there’s a bright future ahead. Table Top owner Flowers wants to open a second location in Edmonton and possibly one in Calgary.