Raw Sugar’s weekly Beats N Boards on Tuesday night was nothing like what I thought it would be. I thought it would be many small tables with two player games like Chess, Checkers and maybe Snakes and Ladders. Instead, there were only a few large tables with six to eight player games that I had never heard of before. Games like Power Grid, where you build a powergrid over Ontario; Betrayal, which is like a really hardcore Clue; as well as that game where you prevent your dragon from flying off the board.
I paid my two dollars, ordered a delicious iced lemonade and took a minute to observe the pleasant vintage dresses decorating the wall. Then I was immediately thrown into the mix as a group of friendly gamers welcomed me to their table. We were playing Quarriors, a game that features several types of coloured dice, numerous Magic: The Gathering-type cards and a large scorecard that read GLORY COUNTER. Kevin and Graham, Quarriors vets, explained the game to me with phrases like ‘activation cost’, ‘special abilities’ and ‘glory points’. Slightly overwhelmed and with my eyes threatening to glaze over, I wasn’t so sure about this whole Quarriors thing… that is until I rolled an eight, which gave me enough ‘money’ to buy a dragon. Buying a dragon in the first round, the table assured me, was a solid move. Several rounds later, as my 8-attack dragon dispensed misery upon the mere 1-defence pawns of my opponents, I thought Quarriors wasn’t such a bad game after all.
Quarriors ends and night falls. The place becomes ram packed, the tables are full with games of all sorts and the music is in full swing. Beats & Boards, in addition to being a gathering place for gamers, is also a gathering place for DJs. It features tunes spun by DJ Sweetcheeks (Jose Palacios) and DJ Hobo (Pawel Skor), the guys who bring you Kitchen Party at the Rochester Pub once a month. The nice relaxed environment gives Pawel, Jose and other local DJs a place to come out and try out their sets. All the music is vinyl. No Serato, no mp3s – just a crate of old records on the floor. Pawel was throwing on some soul, some 50s mod music, some hip hop, some Shaggy, some George Benson. At some point I heard Bollywood. While not visibly paying attention to the music, the mood of the room responded to the effort put into the tunes by the DJs. Crowds subconsciously respond to good music, regardless of what they’re doing. Like the wild hippos and that little tick-eating bird, board gamers and DJs enjoy a symbiotic relationship at Beats & Boards.
Robert Parungao, the host of Beats & Boards, graciously runs around the place teaching everyone how to play the games with enthusiasm no matter how complex the rulebook, and all the games I saw were at a Settlers of Catan-type complexity. How did Beats & Boards start? I ask. It was during last year’s FestivAsia, Robert explains.
“I had a tent of board games and was showing people how to play. Pawel was on his way home from brunch, somehow we started talking and put the two together and came up with the idea. Pawel also knew the owner of Raw Sugar, whose chillness would be an appropriate venue and – boom – another classic local Ottawa event was born.” Also, Raw Sugar serves a great vegetarian chilli.
You can find Beats & Boards on Facebook. It takes place every Tuesday from 6 – 11pm at Raw Sugar Cafe (692 Somerset St).