Mer Weinhold is an Ottawa-dwelling writer, editor, book reviewer, and costuming enthusiast. You can follow them on Twitter.
You might be familiar with one of Ottawa’s board game cafes, but they’re pre-dated by Ottawa’s Original Board Game Pub Nights, which began 7 or 8 years ago, the exact date lost to the annals of history. Jordan Richer, Ottawa’s Board Game Guru, found himself with a small apartment, a large board game collection, and a pub conveniently around the corner.
“Board game nights at the Bank and Gloucester Royal Oak started out because I’d moved out of a big house with a big dining room table into a small apartment with a small table. I’d just gotten into board games and I wanted to play them more often, so I started inviting my friends out to the Oak.”
After about a year, Richer started advertising the event on Meetup, and a huge influx of new people happened. From these humble beginnings, it’s grown into a multi-night extravaganza. Many people attend on Mondays, and the more recently launched Thursday at the Royal Oak at Bank and MacLaren, and Tuesday at the Oak at 161 Laurier East are growing in popularity.
Now the schedule is expanding once again: The Flying Banzini is opening its doors to gamers, with the inaugural session happening Sunday 11 September starting at 2pm.
“The Flying Banzini got in touch with me and heard what was happening at the Oak. They’ve got a cool, changing menu, and Harvey and Vern’s soda on tap, which is excellent. I’ve just confirmed The Comic Book Shoppe for official sponsorship, so they’ll be providing prizes.“
Richer hopes to see more families, Hintonburg locals, and others who may not be able to get downtown on a weeknight.
“We get more students on Tuesdays near uOttawa, and some people come to all three nights downtown. I’m hoping that we can see a new crowd, a different crowd– although everyone is welcome to come out to Hintonburg! I think that the Sunday afternoon will attract more families and kids, teenagers too. People who have school or work during the day, but on weekends they can make it out.”
There’s also the possibility of hosting more RPG sessions on Sundays.
“Evenings are hard for Dungeons and Dragons or roleplay games because it’s later and people are getting tired, but afternoons are a good time.”
What should newcomers expect if they show up this Sunday?
“If you haven’t been to games night before, we try to set up a front desk area near the door, or ask for Jordan, you’ll get pointed towards me. I can help you find an open game, or if you bring one of your own, just drop it down on a table and you’ll have at least one other person come and join you. I can vouch for all of the people who come to games night, they’re good people.”
To ensure that games night/afternoon is a good experience for everyone, they’ve also implemented a safer space and anti-harassment policy.
“About 7:30 we collect a dollar cover from everybody, and give you a raffle ticket. We give half the money every night to the waitstaff, as a thank-you. They put up with a lot, we change tables a lot. The other half of the dollar you pay goes towards prizes. We try to give a little bit back to the places that are donating prizes.”
The first game day of the month (barring holidays) is raffle day. There’s a different raffle for every night, so you can hedge your bets and collect tickets for them all. Local game designers sometimes come to demo or playtest their new games, and some nights are RPG nights. The Facebook group is the best place to keep track of upcoming special events.
“For big events like learn to play D&D, we also post them on Meetup. I help run the Ottawa Geek Social Club, you can find those special events there too.”
Whether you want to meet more gamers and recruit them for a massive session of Twilight Imperium, or just want a relaxed game of Carcassonne, try a board game night/afternoon near you.
The first session is this Sunday, September 11th, starting at 2pm. For more information on this and their other events, see the Facebook group.