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Café offers board games as alternative night out

By Rachel Woodward, March 8 2016 —

When the Snakes and Lattes board game café launched six years ago in Toronto, it inspired similar restaurants across North America and Europe. The idea is simple — you pay a flat or hourly rate to sit in a café with a large library of board games and a full kitchen menu.


Courtesy Nancy Lee

The trend recently came to Calgary when Pips Café opened in Marda Loop and retailer Metal Galaxy converted to a café last year. Now Boxcar, Calgary’s third board game café, is opening soon. Co-founder Nancy Lee says she’s excited to launch the café in the Beltline.

“We are going into a really great neighborhood that is really developing in terms of social presence,” Lee says. “I think a board game café will really add to that neighborhood experience. We are
surrounded by condos and close to the C-Train, which is great.”

As games like The Settlers of Catan and Pandemic gain mainstream popularity, tabletop gaming is becoming more widespread — since 2010, the industry has grown by about 15 per cent each year.

Although the concept of a board game café isn’t completely new, Lee thinks the idea is valuable as a different night out.

“I think a lot of people are looking for an alternative social experience,” she says. “Board games have had a resurgence in the last five years. They are becoming more mainstream and people are picking up on it more. It’s fun — you’re unplugging yourself from your technology, you’re taking yourself away from Netflix and actually interacting with your friends.”

Boxcar is compiling a growing library of board games, with over 300 games currently ready to play. The games were chosen with variety in mind.

“The games we have cater to all demographics,” Lee says. “So we have family games and the classics, we have games that are party games and strategic board games, games that are super popular right now and games coming down the pipeline and are building momentum.”

Gameplay at Boxcar costs $5 for unlimited time or $2.50 an hour during busy periods. The café will boast a broad menu, including Phil and Sebastian coffee, local beers, wines and food.
“We are pretty excited about it, we have been working on it for quite some time so the launch is going to be a huge milestone for us,” Lee says.

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