Dive into the world of game bars

You could not miss the trend of game bars. However, if you need a little memory refresh, I am here for you. The title speaks for itself, we are talking about bars where people can play board games, lots of board games (no one will force you to play Monopoly). Each bar has hundreds of games available to their customers. To play, easy as pie: you either have to drink in the bar or pay a fixed hourly charge.  You will be able to meet experienced players who come regularly as well as beginners who come to discover the friendly atmosphere of these playing areas.  

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A meeting place for enthusiasts and beginners 

Game bars are meeting places for players from all walks of life who wish to share their passion around a table. These bars have developed in the recent years to the point of being very important in the recreational field, along with game associations and festivals. Just like crowdfunding allowed independent authors to start a great journey, these bars gave players the opportunity to gather and live moments of sharing and exchange. Today there are around 90 bars in France (No less!). The strength of game bars is that they do not target passionate players only. Many different profiles get together in these places, whether they are families or groups of friends, they all meet to have a good time or to try out newly launched games. 

As far as I am concerned, I am not a regular of these places, I am discovering the incredible universe of board games as my internship at LudoTech goes by. But the time has come for me, now that the lock down is behind us, to discover the special atmosphere of game bars. 

Around 7pm, at the heart of Paris, traditional bars are starting to see their customers flowing and taking their seats. Tonight, it is another atmosphere that I am about to live. I know I am going to play board games, but I don’t know what to expect in terms of atmosphere yet. 

The bar chosen for this occasion is The Good Game, a bar very close to the streets full of life of Strasbourg Saint-Denis. Yet the bar is located in a surprisingly calm alley. Founded in 2018, the bar has a very welcoming decoration similar to a large vintage living room. The drinks are served in some big old pots of jam, strengthening the family spirit of this place (another advantage of this container: limiting the damage on the games in case of a spilled cup thanks to the lid). 

Once at the bar, the doors open and reveal many players seated around a table, the atmosphere is not oppressive, but joyful. Happiness can be felt immediately after stepping in the establishment, burst of laughter are heard from the back of the room. In front of me stands a big board game library. I don’t think I ever saw that many in one place. Each game is sorted by category. Then comes the time to choose which game will distract us. You should know that The Good Game has more than 750 board games, you now understand the issue. It was without counting on the intervention of the barman who, like a savior, comes to offer us his help. After telling him about our expectations and our desires, he suggested us to try Skull & Roses to start with a quick game. 

The Good Game Paris © All rights reserved

Skull, roses, castaways and happy players 

You should know that in France, the trend of game bars is not that old. This concept comes straight from Korea, then became popular in Quebec to eventually land in France at the end of the 90s. However, the enthusiasm provoked by these establishments only took off a few years ago.  

After explaining the rules and ordering a few refreshing drinks along with a charcuterie and cheese platter (nice overview of the French terroir), we were ready to start our game of Skull & Roses, a bluff game which consists in making bets on the cards put down by your opponents, while trying to trick them. I quickly noticed that the atmosphere of a game bar is quite different from a classic bar: there is no need to be a big fan of board games to get into the play spirit. Each round is interspersed with talks and laughs. Competition arises as soon as the first cards are put down on the table. 

After the first frictions during Skulls & Roses, it is time to cooperate. After asking the bartender for advice and deliberating with the rest of the team, we decided to go for Hellapagos, a game that mixes strategy and cooperation, the goal being to escape from an island all together. What more could you ask for to strengthen team spirit? 

The Good Game Paris © All rights reserved

The whole team play along and roll up their sleeves to escape from this lost island. While some people are looking for wood to build a raft, others bring some food. The strategy to adopt quickly turns into a debate worthy of a political one, and several players have found unsuspected leadership talents to get us out of this island. This board game allows us to get directly into a universe, it sets the foundations, and our imagination does the rest of the work. This way, we ended up leaving the island, without two of our compatriots gone too soon, sacrificed or victim of plots (cooperation has its limits). After 3 hours of intense playing (and a few broken friendships), it was time for us to  leave behind these adventures we have immerged ourselves in.  

Despite the designation of “bar”, game bars have a significantly different atmosphere from the traditional bars. Indeed, the entertainment has an essential position in the spirit of this place. We are not going there to primarily drink and chat; we are going there to have fun and enjoy the moment with our friends. This has a primordial importance in the vibe of the place, time goes by extremely fast there. 

When I arrived at LudoTech, a game bar night was supposed to be my integration to the team. Unfortunately, a Chinese pangolin or bat decided otherwise. This evening, although it was 4 months later, allowed me to enjoy the playful spirit, which echoed in the mentality of the LudoTech team that frequently visit these places. There is no doubt, the arrival of OLEM in the game bars in the near future will fit into this spirit and will offer a new experience to these players, yearning for innovation. 

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Written by Clément R. on 2020/07/31, translated by Sandrine Maude. 

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