The growing popularity of board game cafes in Norwich


Previously, playing board games was a rainy day activity when all other plans failed.

But after the last two years of lockdowns and restrictions, many of us have had to find different ways to be entertained at home, which has sparked a resurgence of interest in table games.

The world of board games has changed dramatically in recent years, with an explosion of new games far removed from the classics we all know.

And Norwich entrepreneurs are taking note of their growing popularity, with several board game cafes opening around the city.

In 2018, Kieran Meenaghan used a seed loan from the University of East Anglia to launch the Games Table, a tabletop gaming cafe that opened in Anglia Square.

“I wanted to create an inviting space that would help shed a positive light on the tabletop game hobby,” he said.

“I knew firsthand the benefits of table games, they helped me read, write and add, and in my old career in the military, they helped me relax while deployed. “

The Games Table, a tabletop game room that has moved from Magdalen Street to Lower Goat Lane in Norwich. Photo: Danielle Booden
– Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr. Meenaghan moved the business to new premises in Lower Goat Lane in 2020 and now has a team of seven. It has over 350 board games to play in this difficulty range.

“Since we are a place, not just a cafe, we have a store that sells a variety of products. We also serve alcohol, soft drinks and coffee from Symposium Coffee Roasters, another veteran-owned business in the area. When it comes to food, we have a variety of snacks, but our main food comes from our collaboration with local businesses such as Mambo Jambo’s. “

He said the public is now looking for more than just a place to sit and eat or drink.

“Retail and hospitality places increasingly tend to offer an ‘experience,’ he said. “Board game cafes are a perfect fit for this future model.”

One of the first places to defend table games in the city was Athena Games. Jamie Grinstead, along with his mother and brother, opened Athena Games in August 2013. He moved from his original location on Bank Street to St Gregory’s Alley in 2015, occupying the former Kier Hardie Hall, where he has remained ever since. .

Mr. Grinstead, a video game enthusiast, decided to create a welcoming space for people to play table games after taking inspiration from similar places he visited on his travels in Europe.

Athena Games.  PHOTO: EACH

Athena Games opened on St Gregory’s Alley in 2015
– Credit: Archant

Athena Games has become an important part of the Norwich gaming community, regularly hosting events that over 130 people have attended on certain occasions. It offers a range of hot drinks and snacks, and guests are welcome to bring food from other establishments nearby.

He sees no sign of slowing down in the growing popularity of gaming cafes.

“Board games provide this real human connection that you just can’t get from their digital counterpart. Board game cafes are a classic third space. atmosphere. Somewhere that isn’t work or home where you can just be yourself. “

On St Benedict’s Street there is also Slice and Dice, a board game cafe that also offers a menu of freshly cooked herbal dishes for patrons. Owner Samantha Whitehouse first tested the waters of her board game cafe through pop-ups in Norwich.

Following his success, he sought a permanent home. It finally opened on May 17 of this year, after a one-year wait due to delays caused by Covid.

A new board game and cake cafe is coming to St Benedicts Street, pictured by owner Sam Whitehouse.  P

Slice & Dice, on St Benedict’s, has a fantastic plant-based menu and a huge range of board games
– Credit: Archant

It offers a great selection of board games and a menu of vegan food and drink. Cheesy toast, burritos, and vegan breakfasts are all on offer, and its wine, beer, and cocktail selections will also woo guests.

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