Let the board games begin

The growing demand for Winnipeg board game cafes and shops

Across the Board has been a spot to play games downtown for the last three years.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

A pair of board game cafés have popped up to meet a growing demand for these kinds of venues in Winnipeg.

The Exchange District and Osborne Village have become home for places such as Across the Board Game Café and After Dark.  These locales have their own twist on board games while offering food and drink services. They’re both well-attended, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

Across The Board set up shop downtown three years ago, while After Dark has just passed its two-year anniversary in Osborne Village.

Across the Board has attracted a regular clientele, and a group of friends from Brandon make their way to the café every month.

One of those friends, Rainer Schira, calls Across the Board the group’s “favourite
board game café in North America,” because their selection of strategy and party games combined with the staff and atmosphere make it a “place worth coming back to.”

Nick Mann, the manager of Across the Board, says the owner has a passion for board games, which he used to create the café.

“One of our owners has been super big into board games his whole life, and after collecting many, he thought of turning the idea into a business venture,” Mann says.

Across the Board has recently eclipsed 1,300 board games in-store and continues to expand its catalogue of games based on customer interest.

“Games such as Cards Against Humanity have been one of our popular social gathering choices,” Mann says.

In Osborne Village, After Dark owner Mike Alfred says  his concept for the game bar was influenced by Across the Board.

“I wanted to run a casual bar and lounge that offered board games as an extra feature, as a way to represent two mediums into one,” he says.

“The change in the way games are designed and developed is more detailed than they used to be, and that is really appealing to the public compared to fifteen years ago,” Alfred says.

“The simple enjoyment of face-to-face interaction is something that people miss, and as such, they want to get back into those types of communication … Being stuck behind a phone or computer has been taking away from that interaction,” Alfred says.

After Dark has also been able to provide “a more casual setting for beginner gamers and couples,” he says. They’re open from
5 p.m. to 4 a.m.

After Dark features up to 500-plus games available on location, and Alfred adds new titles each week to keep things feeling fresh.

Both establishments recommend making reservations either online or by telephone for larger groups of people.

These are just two of the board game hubs that have set up in the city, and they are setting forth a trend of bringing back a classic hobby in different ways. The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe at 898 Westminster Ave. and The Good Will Social Club at 625 Portage Ave. also offer the option for customers to play board games in each venue.

Published in Volume 72, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2017)

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