Across the Board

Across the Board looks at gaming in public spaces around the world. In countries all over the globe people gather to play games in pubs, community centers, cafes, churches, and all manner of other meeting places. This series will describe some of those places and the people who gather to play games there in an attempt to encourage others to emulate them.

Games in Pubs, London and Essex

Article by Annie Shillabeer (
August 3, 1996

Playing games in pubs, something the British do a lot. A lot of clubs are held in pubs, they provide us with a base, refreshment and food. What more can be needed? There is the slight problem I have found in that a small percent of club attendees feel you are obliged to buy a drink, when you may not, in fact, be in need of one. Hardly a major problem, anyway there are two solutions: 1 - you buy a drink 2 - you don't buy a drink.

I attend two clubs, both of which are held in pubs, one in London and the other in Essex. The one I attend in London is held in a separate room above the pub. It's a great club and goes by the name of The Small Furry Swiggers. I meet my friends, play games and socialise, as well, all for a mere 2 pounds table fee. It's in central London, easily accessable for many members. Some attend weekly, others not as often, myself included.

I would like to attend more, but can't always face the journey. What a wimp! (Actually, it's all the fault of British Rail and their antiquated rail system. Try and travel a relativity small distance of 30 miles by train after 11.00pm. Impossible. It normally involves at least one late train, a set of rail works, two train changes and a coach journey. My record time for this journey was an incredible 3 hours!) I do occasionally drive in, but it's nice to have a beer whilst in the pub. Perhaps next time I should try skating the journey?

A lot of commuters in London, after a hard day at the office, come straight to the club and relax by playing a game over a meal. Most of us eat at the club. It's the sheep syndrome for me: you see one tasty looking chicken Kiev arrive and, before you know it, you've ordered one as well.

We play mainly shorter games of an hour or so. A lot of them are German. Games are supplied by Paul Evans, who runs the club along with Theo Clarke. We also bring along any games we feel like playing. Paul has a fantastic games library and will supply most games at the drop of a hat. He also supplies a lot of games magazines for us to look at, which are helpful. It's a well run games club with a dedicated following.

I have to say though, that the club male attendees have an awful affliction in that the female members get called 'Girlies'. Argggg! They ought to be thankful (?) that they have so many female gamers in their midst. We are creeping up in numbers and the males are getting worried, and so they should be...

The second club I visit occasionally, The Wednesday Night Games Club, is in Chelmsford, Essex. Its a lot smaller than the London club, with a regular attendance of 4-6 and meets twice a month. My gripe here, and I suspect this will not just be my gripe, is the smoke! People in pubs smoke and, I guess to make up for the fact there are so few public places that they can smoke, they seem to smoke in triplicate!! I don't attend this club much because, in addition to work demands, it's an evening of heaven and hell: games heaven, smoke hell. The club has no table fee and the folks who do attend are a good bunch. Its just unfortunate that there are a couple of smokers amongst them. So this is a big downer for gaming in pubs. Its not a wonderful feeling to go home stinking like a cigarette.

A positive point about meeting in a pub is that ordinary mortals get to see board games played and they are so intrigued that they rush over and, hey presto, you have another gamer!!

Well, that would be the ideal. The reality is you get a lot of funny looks, most of them sympathetic ones. I have tried to get on-lookers to join in, alas to no avail. I did meet someone in a night club years ago and his eyes lit up when I said my hobbies were playing games!! So I guess recruiting in pubs isn't such a good idea really! Ah well.

I would call it a successful evening when you have played one or a selection of games and enjoyed them. Of course, winning also helps the evening seem a success! An advantage of attending a club on a regular basis is that you can arrange in advance if you wish to play a longer game. This is a particular bonus for people who only get to play games at the club and enjoy a longer game. Personally I prefer a few shorter games throughout the evening. I play games on a regular basis and so am able to satisfy my thirst for longer games at other times.

My experience is only limited to two clubs and I dare say that each pub and club has something different to offer. Perhaps it's time for me to find out?

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell