Club scene: The rise of the UK's board game culture

The UK's board gaming culture is more popular than ever, with clubs an cafes opening across the country. ToyNews explores how the mainstream has embraced the geek culture.
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A revolution is at hand. From the hipster colonies of the cities, to the High Streets of sleepy towns, geeks and gamers are celebrating the rise of the UK board gaming scene.

Already boasting a thriving underground culture, tabletop gaming is finally breaking the mainstream, building a social presence with dedicated clubs and cafés springing up across the country.

And board game manufacturers are already seeing the positives.

Spin Master has only been in the games market for three years, and in that time it has seen an increased demand each year.

“The UK games market grew five per cent in 2013,” Spin Master’s marketing manager, Emma Eden tells ToyNews. “With the biggest growth coming from family games, followed by kids’.”

While everyone loves a game of Buckaroo, it isn’t just the family friendly titles taking the limelight, with wider audiences gaining greater access to some of the most obscure and specialist titles.

Today, a charged game of Cards Against Humanity can find itself more at home in the local boozer than Oliver Reed.

“Board game culture is definitely growing,” Ben Hogg marketing manager at Esdevium Games explains. “It is seen as a more acceptable and enjoyable past time for adults and families.

“Specialist games have grown from a very niche industry to a wonderful hotbed of creativity with wider appeal, and it’s been a driving force for much of our growth.”

Holly Ringsell, owner of Chelmsford’s Dark Side Comics, specialises in tabletop games and ‘geek culture’, and believes this wider appeal marks a serious shift in attitude.

“Geek culture is definitely more accepted these days,” she explains.“There is no longer such a negative stigma attached, and board gamers are getting younger, too.”

The tabletop scene is also growing its café and bar presence.

This September, London will welcome a new board game café in the form of Draughts, boasting over 500 titles, spanning eveything from Guess Who? to an eight-hour tactic game.

Draughts co-founder Toby Hamand believes that now is the perfect time to be opening a board game café.

“This is definitely reaction to growing demand,” he tells ToyNews. “Oxford got [a board game cafe] last year, and London has an even bigger gaming scene. And it’s growing every year.”

Hamand is not alone. ?Six months ago, Lesley Singleton launched Board Game Club, a nomadic style event that moves from bar to bar each month.

“We learned quickly that fast-paced, open-and-play, sociable games, trumped the more intense strategy games every time,” Singleton explains.

“Our guests don’t want to sit for hours, playing a Tolkein- challenging game, when they can have more intensive fun with varied titles.”

Despite the surge in popularity of the board game café culture, Grublin Games’ founder Henry Jasper believes that traditional stores remain at the heart of the movement.

“You play games with other people, and it is the stores that focus on creating this sense of community that really champion the board game culture," he said. "I expect to see stores increasing their accessibility in a similar way to cafés. I don't mean they should become cafes, but more could be done to making our game stores as welcoming and approachable as possible.”

Esdevium’s Hogg adds: “We’d love to see more?toy shops embrace board games in this way. Whatever the level of expertise or interest, we can provide recommendations as well as tools and advice to help create a community.

“We would love to see more [in-store board games clubs] start-up. The word of mouth generated is so important. They increase the reach of the games and give positive reactions which leads to greater demand.”

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