As Christmas approaches, one tends to feel a strange sense of impending doom. Dragging yourself through Westfield to find an disproportionately thoughtful gift for an uncle who thinks you are still 11 years old. The idea of having to spend time with family members (I know) can singlehandedly bring on a bout of influenza.
For me, there is one thing I dread above all else: a family board game. This scenario involves a toxic mix of repressed resentment, competition and small pieces of plastic. Such a state of affairs makes engaging in any kind of board game a challenge. Yes, even Scrabble.
Luckily, as with so many things in this life, East London has the answer: Draughts.
Draughts is, perhaps unsurprisingly London’s first board game cafe/bar. Tucked underneath an old railway arch in Haggerston, just east of Shoreditch, the place itself feels cosy and warm. There is an atmosphere bordering on camaraderie in the room, produced by people simply having fun with the company they love. It is perhaps the antithesis of the Christmas board game experience.
You can drink tea, coffee, and even alcohol. Their food is also unbelievably good. We sampled their vegan, gluten free brownies (purely for journalistic purposes of course) and found them to be a rather wonderful addition to the experience.
The cafe’s website claims that it owns in excess of 600 games. Now I for one am not going to hold them to account for this claim, but I am willing to take their word for it. There are only so many hours in the day! It is certainly true that the variety of games available is truly astonishing. These range from standard party fare games (we enjoyed Cranium and Jenga, despite some deliberate wobbling of tables during the latter; I shall name no names), to more hardcore strategy based games.
It is this variety that is at the heart of Draughts’ appeal. This is a place where hipsters and young trendies mingle with less conventionally cool characters. Some, however crude it may sound, did look like ‘would-be’ IT Crowd folks. But that is what makes this place so great. It is entirely unpretentious. People come for an hour or two of good, honest fun and return again for these very same reasons. I have been twice in as many weeks already!
There is even the chance to buy some games for yourself. Draughts appears to know exactly what is popular, and these games are wrapped up in tidy boxes, glittering like new vinyl. One game that appears to be something of a sensation is called: Ticket to Ride. As far as I can tell, it involves a train, and that is pretty much it.
(If any CUB readers happen to know anything about this game, and why it is so great, feel free to comment on this article below. I would be very grateful).
All in all, Draughts is a unique little spot, and one worth visiting. You can get there via the Overground from Whitechapel or Shadwell. Go on a Sunday. I promise that you will not be board (that is the last pun I swear).