I have to tell you about an amazing place I discovered in Oxford recently. I don’t know how I’ve not told you about it sooner really, but sometimes life stuff gets in the way. I’ve been a bit slack on the ol’ blog writing lately. I know I’ve had a few ‘guests’ here and have ‘guested’ myself a couple of times of late. I do thoroughly enjoy this, and want to do more of it. But it does distract me from updating you on my adventures! I really must learn to multitask, but maybe it’s a bit late for that!
So anyway during my recent stay at Douglas House in Oxford I visited a games cafe. A cafe full of games. I don’t mean one of these Internet cafes, or a cafe full of teenage gamers, well I do, but this cafe was full of gamers of a different kind. The place is full of board games, the kind of games where you sit around a table with actual people, have actual conversation, look each other in the eye and compete.
Thirsty Meeples is the place. In the centre of Oxford, situated within Gloucester Green, a kind of square surrounded by cafes and shops, which is host to various markets on other days. Today, a late Sunday afternoon, the area was fairly quiet.
Back to Thirsty Meeples, you may be as clueless as I was about the origin of the name. Thirsty, well that’s obvious I guess, it’s a cafe, you can buy drinks. You probably know more about this stuff than me, do you know what a meeple is? I didn’t. A meeple is one of those tiny coloured counters you use to hop around a board game, the thing you use to mark your spot and know who’s where. Traditionally it’s cone shaped with a circular head, the ones in my ‘Frustration’ game as a kid.
Now you’re in the know, let’s go inside.
Double doors make for an easy entrance (or exit!), with just a small lip of about a centimetre I gain access easily.
The walls were literally lined with boxes of board games, like the place was built from games and should you pull one out the building would collapse. Although it appeared like this, I may be overreacting slightly. It was in fact extremely organised, games numbered and shelved by genre and type (if this is how one describes a game).
I won’t lie to you the cafe isn’t overly spacious inside (for wheelers anyway), but the staff were extremely attentive and accommodating, moving chairs and rearranging our table putting it at an angle that allowed both myself and my wheeler friend to access, as well as having seats for our walking comrades. Majority of the tables are of the variety I prefer, with a central leg so that it’s easy to drive up to and slide your knees under.
It’s not a huge venue either, but I liked that, it was cosy and welcoming. Enough space for a few groups of people, with tables large enough to seat teams of around 10, or smaller intimate tables for 2.
We booked, and I’d recommend you do too.
How Thirsty Meeples works is you pay a fee per person for a gaming session. This is currently £6 each for 3 hours worth of gaming joy. This drops to a discounted rate of £5 each if you then purchase food and drink. Let’s be honest I can’t go without food and drink for 3 hours, and what better way to strategise than with a brew and nibbles. So likelihood is you’ll pay £5 plus whatever food and drink you order.
I think that’s a bargain for 3 hours entertainment and the opportunity to play almost any game you can imagine, or can’t imagine in my case as I don’t actually know that much about games! (I’m a dab hand at Cluedo and Monopoly, enjoy a game of Scrabble, but that’s where it ends). Fear not! If you too know nothing about games, or simply want to discover something new, then at hand is your own ‘games-geek’ as I like to call them, (I’m not sure that was his official title), to introduce, teach and referee.
Our games-geek asked what type of games we are into so that he could go fetch some recommendations. We blankly look at each other saying ‘strategy?’.
How these guys and girls can know where 2,500 games live and how to play them I do not know. Yes I said 2,500. At least. Fact. Games-geek told me.
We whittled our suggestions down to one, the first game we played was Odyssey – Wrath of Poseidon.
I still couldn’t really tell you the rules of this game, but think Battleships. Two teams, four ships, one player needs to get these ships home (board centre), the other has to disrupt the sail. You each have a board that the other team cannot see.
Playing the game twice, each team having a turn to play the ‘disrupter’, we finished with 30 minutes of our 3 hour slot to spare (some sausage roll eating, tea drinking, breaks may also of added to our time!). Not wanting to waste a gaming minute we asked our games-geek for some quick play suggestions.
We finished our session with WordARound. A fast playing game where individuals have to win the most cards by being the first person to shout out the word within the coloured ring. You know which coloured ring you need by the colour on the back of the previous card. Sounds simple right? But when you are frantically searching for a word within the circle, the last one you spot is the one within the colour required! More than once were we (me) shouting out all the words we saw bar the one needed!
Unfortunately our time was now up, not that we were told that or pushed out, but it was getting late and this is the kind of place you don’t take advantage of. They are just too friendly for that.
I was partly ready to leave, but at the same time my brain was just warming up. Given a few pots of tea I could definitely spend a whole day here, and shall be returning!