Board games intrigued me from an early age. It was probably something to do with all of the parts. Hundreds of tiny coloured pieces, and a grand board to lay them all out on. When it came time actually play, I was occasionally a little lost. It’s not that I didn’t want learn, it was more that I didn’t really have anyone to help me. Aside from the likes of Monopoly and Cluedo, quality board games weren’t particularly easy to access, but two decades on it’s quite the opposite. There are large, successful gaming stores in most towns and cities, and more games than ever being produced. We’re now at a point where unless your sole hobby is traditional gaming (as opposed to video games) - you’ll likely struggle to find time to play all of the games you want, let alone afford them all.
This is where gaming cafes step in. They provide a vibrant, cosmopolitan environment in which you can eat, drink, socialise and game, all under one convenient roof. Whilst they’re not quite as common as full on gaming shops, with the rise of cat cafes and similar, we’re seeing more of these businesses open. Ludorati is one such cafe, located in the heart of Nottingham city centre. Situated below the castle, it offers fantastic, modern facilities for most any of your gaming needs.
Before we talk about the actual gaming, it’s worth taking a quick look at the cafe itself. Ludorati is a genuinely nice place to unwind and eat. Whilst the menu is far from extensive, they do offer a selection of cakes, drinks and sandwiches, and even have a license to serve alcohol. The cafe itself is very clean, including the toilet facilities, and offers a number of classic games like Chess and Scrabble that you can play for free. To the side of the cafe you’ll find the shop, stocking a number of popular and recently released board games for purchase. If you can’t find what you’re after Ludorati can order stock in from their warehouse, in which they have a far larger selection. It’s certainly worth picking up a free membership card whilst you’re there, as not only does it get you a small discount on food and drink, but also a flat 25% discount on all board games.
As you might expect, Ludorati does charge for access to their gaming area. It’s not massively cheap, either. Sessions come charged at an hourly rate of £1.99, or a four-hour block for £6.50. However, when you consider that a single ticket to the cinema could be three times that amount for a film lasting half as long, it doesn’t seem quite as bad. What exactly are you paying for though? Access to your choice of over 750 games and a space to play them in. It’s unlikely that they won’t have the game you want to play, but keep in mind that at peak times, other patrons may be using the game you’re after.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the gaming cafe comes at a price, that being the condition of the board games. Whilst you’ll not often find pieces missing, they are handled by a lot of people, and you can expect to be playing with some relatively well-loved parts. When we played Sheriff Of Nottingham (arguably a must, with the cafe located where the game is set), we found that the little bags were grotty and falling apart. Not a great look. Some games also come with an additional fee. Some of their biggest, and most popular games cost an extra £2.50 to rent on top of the normal entry fees. I’m not a business expert, so I couldn’t tell you if this is a necessary charge or not, but to the standard customer, I can’t help but feel it looks a little cheeky.
Ludorati also offers an “escape room”. There’s no actual theming, simply the clear glass walls of what they refer to as ‘The Cube’. Prices start at £4.99 a person, for a choice between a number of scenarios. I’ve not experienced any of these myself, but it seems fairly popular.
Should you make a visit to Ludorati gaming cafe then? I’d argue that it’s certainly worth trying at least once, but make sure to visit with friends. Know the prices and try your best to visit during an off-peak time, as you’ll have easier access to the games that you want to play. It’ll give you the opportunity to try some new board games, if nothing else.