The best board gaming venues in Cardiff

Students of Cardiff, the search is over! “Tell us where to find good board games in our local city,” you cried. “Fill our schedules with fun and food so that we never have to do any work!”

You asked, and we delivered – the only cure to your boredom is a healthy dose of board games.

As it happens, we know the best places to be, (almost) every day of the week! You can play board games, hang out with friends, meet new people, eat the best food Cardiff has to offer, and become the social butterfly you always dreamed of being. Result!

This blog post was co-written with Rules of Play, Cardiff’s premier board game emporium and my friendly local gaming store. As well as keeping me hooked on the hobby with their impressive range of games, they also host a number of gaming events throughout the city.

Monday: Urban Tap House

5-10pm, £3 entry

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If you want to start your week with a dedicated evening of board games, craft beer, and some of the best-tasting burgers in Cardiff, head to Urban Tap House on Mondays between 5-10pm!

Rules of Play have been running their weekly Cardiff #BoardGameBar there since October 2014, and it’s an amazing student hang-out place for board games in Cardiff, with art-and-graffiti-covered walls and more fairy lights than you could imagine.

They’ve celebrated Christmas there (twice!) with hundreds of guests, and drank more pints than they’d care to admit to… Did I mention the burgers are made by the gods themselves? Those games ain’t too bad either.

Find out more

 

Tuesday: Glyndwr Hall, Penarth

7-10:30pm, £15 annual membership (first three sessions free)

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Photo by Ross Broadstock. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Looking for something a little more hardcore? The Penarth & District Wargaming Society just might be for you.

This long-running group has been dedicated to tabletop miniature wargaming since 1978 and is still going strong. They cover everything from the Roman invasion of Britain all the way up to World War II.

If recreating epic battles from the American Civil War or World War I is your thing, then the PDWS is the place for you. They also cater for Warhammer and Warhammer 40K players, so don’t fret if you’re more of a fantasy or sci-fi fan. Pay them a visit during their weekday sessions, have a chat and get stuck in!

Find out more

Wednesday: Tramshed

7-10pm, free

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Found yourself on the other side of Cardiff on a Wednesday night? Swing by one of Rules of Play’s newest partner venues, Tramshed! You’ll find them playing games in The Waiting Room, where you can drop by for a drink, a bowl of chips, and a game with friends.

The venue is a diamond just across the River Taff, hosting regular comedy nights, music gigs, food festivals, and the odd ‘crystal ball and psychic’ sesh for good measure. Great for students looking for a chilled out vibe in Cardiff, who wouldn’t say no to a game while they’re chatting.

Find out more

Wednesday: Ernest Willows Wetherspoons

8-11pm, free

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Can’t make it all the way to Tramshed? Not to worry.

You’ll find the Cardiff Boardgaming, Roleplaying and Wargaming League (or Cardiff BRAWL if you like to save time) at the Ernest Willows with a host of board games in tow.

If you’re new to the hobby and thinking of testing the water, Cardiff BRAWL’s friendly members will be on-hand to bring you over to the Dark Side (likely with cookies).

Cardiff BRAWL is the student union’s gaming society, so you’ll likely see them around campus from time to time. They also host all-day gaming sessions each month at the SU – so you’ll both beer and board games on your doorstep!

More info

Wednesday: Y Mochyn Du

7pm, free

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Feeling a little more ‘Cardiff geek creative’? Got an idea for the next big board game? Every Wednesday, join in with group of testers, designers, and game enthusiasts at Y Mochyn Du, to playtest games and share your passion over drinks!

Get or give feedback, chat about the hobby, and – most importantly – play some games. It doesn’t matter whether you’re old or new; they welcome all types of gamers and play-testers.

Find out more

Friday: Rules of Play FNM

7pm, standard £5 (incl. booster) / draft £12

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Are you a student who plays Magic the Gathering and needs somewhere new to join the MtG action in Cardiff? …Then you came to the right place!

Every week, RoP plays Standard Constructed and also hold a Limited Draft, upstairs in Rules of Play. They hold a gazillion Magic events a year, and have a great community spirit with our players, both seasoned and newbies. Come to the dark side! Muahaha!

Find out more

Sunday: Chapter Arts Centre

3pm, free

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Why end the week on a lazy note when you can end it with even more board games? Shrug off that two-day hangover and mingle with some fellow geeks over coffee and cake!

The Sunday Board Games Cardiff group meet up at around midday (there’s no set time – they’re that chill) and focus on social and cooperative games.

When it comes to creative spaces, Chapter Arts Centre in Canton is second-to-none. It’s always buzzing with creative and geeky events – from pop-up theatre performances to Japanese animation festivals. Even if you’re there just for the games, you’ll want to come back again and again.

More info

Thanks again to Rules of Play for collaborating on this post. If you swing by one of their events, tell them I said hi.

Did we miss anything off this list? Is there a gaming event that we didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments!

Kickstarter spotlight: Offworld- a sci-fi film shot in South Wales

Regular readers of Geeks in Wales will know that I’m a bit of a fan of any film or TV series that shoots on location in Wales. There’s a lot that the country has to offer and can double up as a number of locations, both Earthly and other-worldly.

Other-worldly is what director Terry Cooper and producer Adam Neal are aiming to achieve with their sci-fi film Offworld, which will be shot entirely in South Wales.

Offworld follows a group of  astronauts that crash on a planet called Epsilon Edrani B, hundred of miles from the nearest human settlement. The group must overcome starvation, illness and power struggles in order to reach the settlement with their health and sanity intact.

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The film debuted on Kickstarter today, and aims to raise £2,500 by 30 September 2016.

Director Terry Cooper said of the project:

You’d think it’d be impossible to shoot a scifi movie here in the valleys, but anything’s possible with enough like-minded people who share the same vision.

Once the campaign is fully-funded, filming will begin at Parc Penallta, Ystryd Mynach, in April 2017.

Terry and Adam are no strangers to Wales’s geek scene. Terry is the author of the sci-fi series Kangazang! and produced the superhero short The Black Room, which has been accepted for broadcast on Amazon Prime.

Adam is the creator of Skybot Film & Entertainment, which specialises in conventions and cosplay.

Check out the campaign video below, and pledge for the campaign here. You can keep up with their progress on the Official Offworld Facebook page.

 

Kickstarter Spotlight & Interview: TROVE

Geek subscription boxes seem to be everywhere these days. But Swansea-based company Only Tabletop are hoping to bring something a little different to the table.

I caught up with Anthony from Only Tabletop to chat about his board gaming subscription box, TROVE.

Geeks in Wales: In a nutshell, what is Trove?

Only Tabletop: TROVE is a not-for-profit, customisable subscription box for tabletop gaming with a specific focus on niche/indie gaming and supporting indie craftspeople/makers.

Geeks in Wales: Subscription boxes seem to be everywhere these days, especially since the popularity of Loot Crate. What do you think sets Trove apart?

Only Tabletop: I think Trove finds its place in this growing world of subscription boxes in a few unique ways.

The first and foremost of these is the bespoke quality to our boxes – there will never be a standard box. We take preferences from customers so that we can tailor the content to best fit their tastes.

The second key element is the nature of our content. Only Table Top is a retailer of niche and indie games and we believe in supporting small enterprise while introducing new worlds to gamers and this carries on to Trove.

Working directly with an array of artists and makers we aim to bring you games that support small businesses and champion high quality and original ideas.

Finally, I’d say it’s our “not-for-profit” model for Trove. It’s this that allows us to condense so much into the box. This isn’t about money, it’s about games and the fantastic people who create and play them.

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Geeks in Wales: Did you decide from the outset that you were going to support indie designers and publishers rather than the traditional subscription box route of securing licensed products from established publishers, or was this something that came about later?

Only Tabletop: Funny enough this all started with a love for Carcassonne and abject horror at realising that most people we knew had never heard of the game and generally thought of anything beyond Risk as some curious world they would never be exposed to.

It was at this point where we realised that we wanted to make a box that would be half a retail bundle of great niche-yet-established games, and half undiscovered territory.

So yeah, it’s at the very core of Only Table Top and it will always be our model.

Geeks in Wales: The main game that the initial box comes with is Tempus Nautica. Can you give a little more info about the game?

Only Tabletop: It’s set in a universe where time has become a commodity and one that has been mined to exhaustion. You’ll need to take control of one of five characters, from three species with distinct interests, and follow their particular aims to win in this space faring, time manipulating game of adventure, hijinks and combat.

What this makes in a game is a fast-paced game to help you lose your friends. It’s has a D6 roll-and-move system with a degree of customisability that we believe will be challenging enough to engage veteran gamers while being engaging with non-gamers too.

It’s not just for board gamers either, as Tempus Nautica expands in a roleplay system. The Trove box features two quests and the standalone version will also be the launch platform for a squad-based strategy game.

Geeks in Wales: Do you plan on going with a different theme for each box?

Only Tabletop: Yes, each box has a theme which we feel holds the boxes together and gives you a chance to opt out of a box with no fine or fee if you don’t care for this quarter’s theme.

The four themes across 2017 are Steam, Revolt, Science and Horror, all of which we are already having so much fun preparing for.

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Geeks in Wales: If you could give one piece of advice to someone about running a Kickstarter campaign, what would it be?

Only Tabletop: I’d suggest ensuring that you generate as much interest as possible beforehand and are able to break down all the elements of your Kickstarter for people to get a really good idea of what they can expect.

Some key points:-

  • People love pictures and videos. Show them everything you can.
  • Setting a low target can damage customer confidence surprisingly.
  • Make postage free if at all possible.
  • You will be spammed by bots and interested parties – learn to filter as there are some very important messages you might skip over.

This is our first Kickstarter and it’s been a heck of a learning curve. I wouldn’t launch another without a video and a larger social network that’s for sure.

Saying that, we’re stoked to see what happens over the course of the campaign and to package together our first run.

Geeks in Wales: Where can people find more information about Trove?

Only Tabletop: We can be found on Kickstarter and at www.onlytabletop.co.uk, though our site is currently under redevelopment.

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Geeks in Wales: And one for fun: If you decided to dress up in a costume for a convention (and expense wasn’t an issue) what would your dream costume be?

Only Tabletop: Well, I once spent spent a good month building a cardboard ARM commander from Total Annihilation but I reckon my next cosplay is a a custom that’s been in my head for a while. It’s some sort of rough ‘n’ ready galactic ranger, a weird amalgamation of Malcom Reynolds, Boba Fett and Bravestarr.

TROVE aims to raise £500 by September 12, 2016. At the time of writing, they have exceeded their funding goal at £665.

A preview of Escape Reality Cardiff

Cardiff’s latest escape venue Escape Reality is now open. Here’s a quick look at what to expect.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to the launch event for Escape Reality (formally Xscape Reality), with a chance to try out one of their rooms. Armed with my pixel shades and Escape Game Hub Ambassador shirt, I headed off with some of my escape buddies.

Boasting six escape rooms, Escape Reality currently holds the title of Wales’ largest escape venue, though you wouldn’t think it to look at it from the outside.

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Its entrance is subtly nestled between two buildings on St. John Street, like the Welsh equivalent of 12 Grimmauld Place. As you ascend the stairs,though,  you quickly discover that the narrow entrance belies the sprawling complex that contains half a dozen rooms.

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You’re also greeted by a series of prints representing the six rooms: Jungala, Enigmista, The Heist, Misery, Alcatraz and Fibonacci. There’s also a victor’s wall as well as a league table for best escape time.

All of the staff are friendly and helpful, and even if you’re waiting for a game they make sure that you’re enjoying yourself. Also, Escape Reality is the only escape game in Cardiff to have an on-site bar.

Our team of four was given the chance to try out two rooms – we went with Fibonacci (the most difficult room), then we tried our hand at Enigmista.

Both rooms will be reviewed in later posts, but this was our experience playing them both – no spoilers attached, so don’t worry.

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Fibonacci

After our initial safety briefing we were told that we are trapped in an art gallery where the curator has been murdered by a shadowy organisation that’s heavy on symbolism. Think real-life Da Vinci Code and you’re more or less there.

Our time started and we were off, shining torches into every nook and cranny, pulling things off pedestals and tapping in codes. It took us at least 15-20 minutes to get past the first puzzle.

The Fibonacci room doesn’t pull its punches – this was by far the most difficult room I’ve played.

After several hints and solutions (more on the ingenious hint system later), we managed to get into the second part of the game.

As you’d expect from a room inspired by Dan Brown’s novels, the puzzles are fiendish – using a combination of traditional combi-locks, crypticies and ciphers to baffle all but the most experienced escapees.

We managed to break into the final portion of the game with three seconds on the clock, and then we had to stop. We were a tad annoyed with ourselves – this was the most interesting-looking portion of the game and we didn’t get chance to play it!

Dejected, we had our photo taken in the reception area with a variety of theme-appropriate props, and then headed on to Enigmista.

 

Enigmista

Our thanks to the patient staff who let us play a second game – our team were the last ones out at past 11pm, and they were great with us the whole time.

While we were given the safety briefing for Enigmista, I spotted a few shiny objects dangling from one of the game master’s hands.

“I can’t help but notice you have four pairs of handcuffs on you,” I said to him.

“The handcuffs are optional, but they add a little extra challenge at the start of the game,” he replied.

Well, I’m not one to back away from a challenge.

Fast forward two minutes and the four of us are handcuffed to a pipe in a bloodied bathroom while a sinister voice tells us that “they want to play a game” with us.

Sound familiar?

We were off to a flying start. We blitzed through the first few puzzles like nobody’s business, solving a mix of searching and traditional keypad combination puzzles. We started to think we might actually beat this room.

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Nope.

We hit a brick wall in the middle portion of the game and spent longer than we should have on a puzzle because we over-thought the solution.

“What if it’s every other?”

“What if we look at the bit that’s missing?”

“What if we put these ones together?”

Turns out the solution was much simpler than any of that, and we’d inadvertently been giving ourselves the answers while trying to come up with more complex solutions.

We broke into the last portion of the game with 6 minutes on the clock, but the difficulty level kicked up a notch and then some. Our final puzzle had us scratching our heads until our game master called time on us and we had to admit defeat.

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Hint system

It’s safe to say that Escape Reality is the most challenging escape venue in Cardiff. Granted, we chose rooms that had a four- and five-star difficult rating, and our over-confidence (and the celebratory pre-game launch drinks) were our downfall.

Given the difficulty, Escape Reality have a unique hint system I’ve not seen elsewhere in Wales. You’re given an iPad when you enter the room that counts down your time, but it also doubles up as a scanner.

Dotted around the rooms are QR codes that you can scan for clues at certain points in the game. You can choose a hint – which adds a minute to your total time, or a solution, which can add substantially more. This doesn’t cut into your gaming time, though – you still get 60 minutes to escape, but using hints may impact your chances of hitting the leaderboard.

These clues are timelocked too, so you can’t blitz through the game by using solutions for everything. This gives you ample time to try and work things out yourself before you resort to the hint system.

A great addition to Cardiff’s escape scene

We had an absolute blast at Escape Reality. The rooms look great and the staff are enthusiastic and helpful. Though we didn’t escape our rooms, we’re determined to go back and finish what we started.

Escape Reality
6-7 St John St
Cardiff
CF10 1GJ

Games start from £15 per person for a team of six.

Have you played any of the rooms at Escape Reality? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Tibetan-inspired puzzler Mandagon available for free on Steam

Back in June I was at the Wales Games Development Show in Cardiff, where I played the beta of a puzzler called Mandagon from Blind Sky Studios.

It was a very calming, zen-like game that focussed on exploration and discovering the narrative over action or completion for completion’s sake.

Today (August 4), Blind Sky Studios release Mandagon on Steam – and it’s absolutely free.

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In a nutshell, Mandagon is inspired by Tibetan concepts of life, death and sacrifice.

You control a little cube fella and have to traverse the Tibetan Limbo, collecting glyphs that will unlock certain doors.

It’s a fairly short game, taking between 10 and 30 minutes to play, depending on your playstyle.

What you’ll get is a beautiful journey with wonderful pixel graphics and sound.

 

Download Mandagon now for free

 

CREDITS

Tom Kitchen- Concept, Artist
Lee Russell- Programmer
Richard Jackson- Audio
Rachael Brearton- Marketing/PR