Los Angeles' first board game cafe
Singapore‘s first board game café (Settlers Café) was established on North Canal Road in 2003 and is still going strong. It’s notable in that it was one of the first such cafés anywhere in the world, and it came very early during the rise of the new wave of board gaming and the emerging prominence of Euro games on the world scene. Settler’s advertises itself as a proponent of board gaming in Singapore and they’ve been behind several board gaming conventions and tournaments in that country.
Started by four friends who shared a passion for board gaming, Settler’s Café contains a five-hundred-plus title library and features a menu which reflects the cultural and ethnic diversity of Singapore, including Halal-friendly ingredients and fusion-tinged food options. The pricing structure is somewhat complex, as they charge per-hour fees, drink fees, meal packages, and higher prices on popular weekend days.
The success of Settlers has spawned a number of other board game cafés in Singapore, including the Decoder’s Café (now only retail), the Pitstop Café, and the intriguingly-named Mind Café which started operations in 2005.
The Mind Café’s site features a description of their logo’s colors and iconography:
“The three main colours, Maroon, Orange and White, were chosen to represent warmth, happiness and humbility while the choice of a cup, given its function, creates a sense of being down to earth. The Mind Café not only takes care of our very own customers, but also aims to look after our own team which brought so thus far. The three bubbles serve to symbolize the dynamicity of the café. We will always be thinking, moving forward and bringing the organization to a higher betterment. “
The Mind Café once had five outlets in Singapore (now down to three) and they recently opened their first location in India. One of their cafés was even the site of a marriage proposal; no word on what board game the happy couple was playing at the time.
The board game cafés in Singapore certainly share one thing in common which is a complicated pricing structure; on top of an hourly price, you may be charged depending on the day of week, which meal package you want, and drinks prices are sometimes determined by the length of your stay. Whatever the price, Singapore’s game café industry has experienced a recent decline, due to the labor-intensive nature of the business, market oversaturation and high rents. As of 2013, Settler’s Café and Mind Café are puttering along as Singapore still enjoys an active board game scene.
Way on the other side of the world in Lyon, France, a truly unique establishment is the “Moi j’m’en fous je triche” (“I don’t give a damn, I cheat”) Café. It’s a nonprofit collective which has amassed over 1200 game titles and the café is run by volunteers. Membership is cheap – 6€ (about US$8), the volunteers can tutor the games and make recommendations, and you can get coffee, organic juices and local beers at the bar.
This is an especially unique establishment in that it was started and maintained by board gamers on a non-profit basis; they do this out of love for board gaming, and their objective is to introduce as many people as possible to the activity.
It’s become known as a great local spot for groups of friends, and anyone who goes stag (or the socially anxious) will be aided by the volunteers who are happy to play matchmaker with other gamers (for gaming, anyway). We find this attitude quite inspirational—board gamers come in all stripes and levels of experience and GameHäus will hopefully be a place where we can provide a good introduction to those new to board gaming, or those who just want to connect with new friends over a game or two.