Review: Thirsty Meeples Board Game Café

If you like board games then I’m preaching to the converted; there’s the perfect café for you that’s just opened in Gloucester Green. Stop reading now and go. I, however, am not sure whether there’s room for many new games in my life, or even if I have the time to play the ones for which I do know the rules. Don’t get me wrong, organised fun in the form of cardboard-mounted amusements can sometimes be just that – fun. I love the the odd Christmas Cluedo, or even occasionally pursuing a quest for world domination in that notorious home-wrecker – Risk. It’s just that rarely, I imagine, would one think ‘it’s such a shame there’s no café specifically open for the playing of board games’. My local coffee shop has Jenga, Connect Four and Yahtzee stuck up on a shelf in the corner, where they usually remain.

Concept-based issues aside, I’m sure the café appeals to a certain demographic, even if it is not my own. When I went to check it out Meeples was actually totally empty, but that’s probably not unrelated to the fact that it was 11 o’clock on a Monday morning. The interior is a cosy cross between a library and a restaurant. Look closer at the shelves and you will see just a cross-section of the 400 games they have on offer to play or buy (cheaper than the RRP). 99% of the titles on their website I haven’t even heard of. There’s a £3.50 cover charge to pay on arrival, before you even order any food (which doesn’t scream good value, especially when a sandwich will set you back £4). It’s not the place to go for a couple of hours to curl up in the quiet and read a book. That said, you are encouraged to ‘STAY AND PLAY AS MANY GAMES AS YOU LIKE, FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIKE!’; I suppose if you have an entire day free to devote to this then it starts to look more appealing, especially as it’s open until midnight. If you plan on playing Monopoly then you’ll probably need that long.

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Having such a panoply of easily accessible and ready to use board games also means you don’t have to agonise over what to fill the last space in the car with when you come up for term; because, let’s face it, your 101 Encyclopedia of Games boxset is always going to lose out in any episode of ‘Do You Think We Can Fit Anything Else In?’. Their website claims it’s a good place to just turn up and find other game fans to play with. If you can’t agree on which game to choose or even what to order don’t panic. Within the café there are ‘Game Gurus’ who will ‘help find the right game for you’: who knew board games were so personality-specific? You can even roll Thirsty Meeples Menu Cubes – dice designed to choose your food and drink for you.

Thirsty Meeples claims to be Oxford’s first and only board game café and I wouldn’t bet against them being correct. What remains to be seen is if there is a proliferation of other establishments offering something else other than merely coffee and a cupcake in other cities. One thing’s for sure, it’s more interesting than the Coffee Giants drudgery you get on Cornmarket, where the most you can hope for is a free phone app while you wait half an hour for your drink.