February 15, 2015 – the day after Valentine’s Day – saw Dyce N’ Dyne opening its doors to the public for the first time. Situated in a cozy corner in Pasig, the steampunk-themed cafe introduced Manila’s millennials to a concept initially unheard of: the game cafe. A year later, OnBoard Game + Gastropub opened in Makati as the first pub of its kind, throwing board games into the mix with its often rowdy crowds.
Game cafes are the product of fusing the traditional restaurant with the synergy of board game culture. They aren’t essentially gaming-centered, either; most of these game cafes carry an ambiance conducive for social interaction. These days, it’s plain to see that the influence of board-game culture has spread far and wide since its rise to popularity. Restaurants like Rosemarie’s and Eat, both situated along Katipunan Avenue, offer card games like Monopoly Deal and Uno to waiting customers. Here, we give a run down of a few gaming cafes perfect for the Katipunan thrill-seeker:
Tucked away neatly in Teacher’s Village in the iconic Maginhawa Street, Laruan Atbp. is one of the more distinctly Filipino game culture-inspired entries on this list. With framed Kikomachine-esque comics adorning the cement walls and a blueprint of pipes travelling up and down the ceiling, it’s difficult not to be awestruck by its minimalist aesthetic. As a testament to its cultural diversity, the café also offers a novelty selection of quirky and eccentric Asian boardgames, such as Takenoko, Machi Koro, and Tokaido. Gamemasters rove around in order to help facilitate the games, easing the overall experience of customers.
Must-tries: Cheese sticks (Php 155), Wintermelon milktea (Php 95)
One of the newer additions to Quezon City’s growing roster of boardgame cafes, Headquarters on Esteban Abada quickly rose to popularity among students due to its close proximity to the Katipunan colleges. What Headquarters lacks in space, it makes up for in attitude: its plain white walls are decorated with scenes straight out of comic books, and this complements its minimalist aesthetic quite well. While their selection of boardgames is still growing, they are still one of the best choices to consider when you’re looking to let off steam after a long week. Just don’t let the tension-laced Uno matches ruin your friendships!
Must-try: Hulk Buster (Milo with espresso, Php 130 for a large)
The Nook Cafe
Every die-hard Potterhead’s paradise, The Nook Café is a wizardry-themed coffee shop that boasts of being one of the few exclusively Harry Potter-dedicated establishments in the metro. Albeit one of the smaller restos in the catalogue of boardgame cafes lining Sikatuna street, its snugness is reminiscent of Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, adding to the overall experience. Although its central beat is that of a book café, Nook still offers a fair selection of classic family-friendly games, like Snakes and Ladders and chess, as well as other whimsical relics, such as wearable Hogwarts robes and Quidditch memorabilia. The magic doesn’t just stop there–even the food is patterned after popular dishes from the wizarding world, such as Butterbeer and Golden Snitch cupcakes. 10 points to Nook.
Must-tries: Butterbeer (Php 100/150), bacon-wrapped chicken (Php 160)
Deep in the heart of Xavierville, Game Over presents itself as the crown jewel of Quezon City’s gaming cafes: it’s grand, loud, and proud, flaunting a great (Monopoly) deal of pizazz in its unique hybrid of medieval and minimal. Exuding the perfect gaming atmosphere with just the right amount of geekery, its walls are plastered with every piece of gaming memorabilia possible, from a display case cluttered with vintage gaming consoles, to a mosaic of PlayStation controllers adorning the restrooms. It offers not only an extensive collection of board and card games, but also a duo of retro arcade machines. Even then, the real deal breaker for Game Over is its hidden bar; in a nutshell, it’s Mineski meets Hasbro for Walrus-goers.
Must-try: Molten lava cake (Php 180)
Snacks & Ladders
Eponymously named after the popular children’s boardgame, the dual-level Snacks & Ladders sits nestled in the farther end of the Maginhawa strip, offering one of the widest arrays of board games for its customers. Jenga and Exploding Kittens are among the crowd favorites at this cozy cafe, where flaneurs of all shapes and sizes can be seen enjoying a round or two with friends. This doesn’t come for free, though, as the staff charges a gaming fee of Php 50 per head. Regardless, its warm aesthetic and good food are more than enough to pique your interest; they didn’t invest on a life-size chess set for nothing, after all.
Must-try: Oreo cheesecake (Php 90/slice)
Whether you’re a gamer claiming purchase in the MVP foyer, a PC-gaming supremacist calling Blue Skies home, or just a foolhardy soon-to-be millionaire on Monopoly Deal, the establishments on this list should be more than enough to satisfy your every gaming desire. Quirky as they are, the boardgame cafe phenomenon may simply pay tribute to its unique ability of providing pure, unadulterated enjoyment to its players. After all, nothing beats the sheer amusement that boardgames offer and perhaps for that reason, they’re not only slowly gaining momentum—it’s safe to say that they’re here to stay.