Need something to do this weekend? Here are five board game joints around town to indulge your inner nerd.
Pizzeria Ludica, 189 Keefer Place
This family-friendly joint is not your ordinary pizza parlour. Sure, you can order everything from Hawaiian to pesto-chicken-and-prosciutto pizza from the menu—but you’d be missing out on its massive board game collection if you only came for its grub.
It boasts over 750 board and card games, all of which can be freely enjoyed while you are chowing down. The impressive wall full of games includes classics like Monopoly and Jenga, as well as newer hits like Exploding Kittens and Spot It. If you don’t see a game that you like, bring in your own favourite—this haunt always accepts donations (if deemed a good fit).
The place offers daily deals that range from lower-priced pizza to cheap beers, but you’ll find it especially crowded on Mondays and Wednesdays thanks to board-game specials. On Monday nights, guests who win a game against their opponent will get a free gelato or sorbetto; Wednesday night game winners (playing in groups of four or more) will win the entrée that they ordered.
Besides pizza, you can also find pasta, salads, and soups, as well as traditional Italian desserts such as affogatos and tiramisu. The drink menu features sleeves, pints, and pitchers of draught, cider; wine; shots; and enough cocktails to fuel a long night playing Risk.
What’s Up? Hot Dog!, 2481 East Hastings Street
With its bright teal walls, ’50s-style diner stools, and eccentric hot dog–related paraphernalia, What’s Up? Hot Dog! is the low-key chill spot you dreamed your unfinished basement could be. (The offbeat Hastings-Sunrise resto even served as one of the backdrops for our Best of Bands shoot in 2015.)
Better than the delightfully weird décor, though, is the food—think fully loaded hamburgers and meat and veggie dogs inspired by mac and cheese, banh mi, and more. And the oodles of fun and games will keep you kicking back long after the meal is over.
There’s Scrabble for the spelling whizzes, Jenga for the traditionalists, and the Game of Life for those looking for a redo on everything that’s gone wrong in their existence. (That is to say, all of us.)
If you need a break from the dice-rolling, word-making, or tower-building—or if that high-stakes round of Yahtzee is bringing out an ugly side you’d prefer to keep suppressed—step up to What’s Up?’s Star Trek– and AC/DC–themed pinball machines, where you can cool your jets before returning to the table.
Bomber Brewing, 1488 Adanac Street
As anyone with kids will tell you, they tend to ruin everything, from the time they are fresh-out-of-the-oven to age 36 years old when they finally move out of the house.
There's pre-diaper-dumper life, when you can toodle down to the local watering hole whenever you feel like it. And then there's the saddled-with-kids decades when drinking is something you're only able to do after 9 p.m.—at which point you've usually fallen asleep in a puddle of your own drool.
But let's say you're brave enough to take the kids out to one of East Van's many craft breweries in a desperate attempt to remember what life used to be like. Sticking them in front of an iPad is easy enough, but it will lead others to think that you're the kind of awful parent who'd rather stare off into space than discuss the meaning of Steven Universe.
Problem solved at Bomber Brewing. Beer is of course the number-one reason to visit the East Side spot on the Adanac Bike path, with varietals on tap including the usual pilsners and IPAs as well as special offerings like Park Life Passion Fruit Ale.
The really great thing about Bomber Brewing, however, is a board-games shelf containing such diversions as Trivial Pursuit, Careers, Foodie Fight, Pictionary, and good old checkers. Got kids who love Monopoly—mostly because it means they get your more-or-less-undivided attention for three hours at a time? Settle in with Brew-opoly, in which you buy or trade beers and increase your net worth by purchasing brewpubs and microbreweries.
The great thing is that instead of judging you for having that fourth pint while out with your offspring, those around you will be left thinking "What a great parent!" After all, admit it: when your dad went out drinking, he usually left you in the car with nothing but a bowl of water and a stack of Archie comic digests.
131 Water Kitchen & Bar, 131 Water Street
When Guilt & Co. scrapped its board-game selection a few years ago, Gastown regulars were at a loss. Where would we get our fix of expertly crafted cocktails while simultaneously kicking ass in round after round of Connect Four now?
Not to worry, dear board-game buffs, as 131 Water—a mere two blocks away from Guilt—has since handily stepped in to fill that void. And with little loss: it turns out Apples to Apples is much more pleasant when you’re not straining to hear your dining partners over a five-piece jazz band performing at full-blast.
With mind- and skill-testing games like Balderdash, Blurt!, and Cranium, 131’s collection is pretty impressive, too. Throw in a well-rounded menu of fish and chips, burgers, and salads-and a list of classic and house cocktails-and consider your evening set.
Storm Crow Tavern, 1305 Commercial Drive
We know what you’re thinking: how terribly obvious. But no list of game-supplying eateries would be complete without the one that started it all. This Commercial Drive hub of geekdom boasts an impressive list of favourites—think Risk, Clue, Scrabble, Twister, and Uno—while obscurities ranging from the Thieves of Baghdad, to Exploding Kitties, and even a ‘70’s era Charlie’s Angels game might require a flip through the player’s manual.
A selection of sizeable tables means there’s plenty of space for four-, five- or six-player games, and nerdy floor-to-ceiling decor like weapons, treasure maps, old movie posters, and makeshift armor make for convenient distractions while your opponent plans their next move.
Even the bar’s menu of shooters gives customers a chance to roll a 20-sided die and play their way to win an upsized shot. Just don’t roll a one, unless you’re up for the Critical Miss: a lovely combination of tequila, Tabasco, horseradish, and Tiamat’s bile. (Whatever that is.)
It’s likely you’ll work up an appetite during longer games like Monopoly and Catan, and while Storm Crow’s menu of cleverly named eats (Romulan Wings of Vengeance, Frodo’s Flatbread, Elkburger Extremis, to name a few) might illicit an eye-roll from friends unfamiliar with the nuances of geek culture, they are sure to satiate after a crippling loss of properties or a stint in jail.