Get your geek on and pit your pits against (friendly) strangers
Board games have transcended mere Monopoly, just ask one local group who regularly meet up to pit their wits against each other in the latest games on the market. We join in and do battle. Words Benita Adesyuan
On a sunny Saturday morning in the Shakespeare and Co café in Downtown Dubai, expect to find a little bit more than the usual breakfast crowd. Look among the tables and you might see a small group of people ordering tea and setting out cards.
The UAE War Games/Board Games Group meets every week in the emirate. Why? To socialise and become veritable masters of new board games. Established on social site www.meetup.com, the group is for social and casual players of war and board games to get together.
On this day, two early arrivals, Ludmila and Geoff, welcome us as they set out the table to play Dominion, a ‘deck building’ card game. Having never played many board games, or had the patience or strategic skill to master chess or battleships, we expected to struggle to keep up with these regular game players but luckily they are happy to explain the rules.
There is much more to board games than traditional games such as chess, draughts and Monopoly. In fact, there isn’t a chess board in sight – the group shares newly released games to try them out against each other. Ludmila comes with a bag full of games that we’d never heard of before such as 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo, Love Letter, and Bang! She says: ‘Everyone brings games, old and new and some are really popular – it depends on what kind of games you like to play.’
Dominion is a strategic card game where each player has an action and a buy – as in, what you choose to buy and the actions you take to bag you the biggest score and therefore the game. Admittedly it took a few rounds for us to really understand what we were buying and why, but after a while we considered purchases far more carefully.
The structure of the group is really relaxed. There are some regulars that bring games from home, or buy games to play with the group and others that come to take part.
Burak from Turkey has been coming for about a year. He says: ‘I don’t even have any games at home. I started playing board games with a friend who would always suggest we play a game after dinner, so when I moved here I found the group and have been coming ever since.’
The group has been meeting for a year and a half and while more recently it has taken the form of a tight gang of regulars, it’s still a casual attendance. Another member Ali says: ‘We start at 11am but some people will come in the afternoon, or some join in the evening.’
While some of the players are seriously into the games and have been at Netrunner tournaments in Kuwait, it’s a mixed bag in terms of skill. You can expect the games community here to be an array of nationalities and ages, with Egyptians, South Africans, Italians and Canadians all getting around the table.
After playing a few good rounds of Dominion (and loosing) – Ludmila uses the Witch card to devastating effect and wipes out our points – more people arrive and smaller tables brake away to play different games. These include the German strategy and resource-management game Caylus, where players have to buy wood and cloth and gain favours, as well as the abstract thinking Dixit, and Japanese monster game King of Tokyo. The joy of board games is that it’s inclusive, social, and there’s a game for everyone, it costs nothing to get involved, and if you want to meet people, have a good conversation and use the grey matter a bit, just pitch up and off you go. The UAE War Games/Board Games Group meets at Shakespeare and Co, Al Attar Business Tower. Sat 11am. www.meetup.com/uae-wargames-boardgames-group/
Other places to play
Bert’s Café Dubai This café has a stash of old games that you can play on the weekend while you have eggs benedict. There are large tables so feel free to take your own games. Bert’s Café Dubai, Una Building The Greens, www.facebook.com/berts.dubai (04 361 9292).
Wizards of the Gulf Coast This group is dedicated to the game Magic: The Gathering, but also plays other trading card and board games. The group hosts Friday tournaments at Battlezone in Park & Shop, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah and at Bean Machine in Bay Avenue, Executive Towers, Downtown Dubai. An additional casual ‘Commander Night’ is also held on Tuesdays at Sul Fiume on Sheikh Zayed Road, by Noor Islamic Bank Metro Station. www.wizardsofthegulfcoast (no number).
Dubai Chess and Culture Club For serious chess players, a chance to learn this game and play in international tournaments. The main hall is the largest chess hall ever built within a chess club, and there’s training rooms and a library. www.dubaichess.ae (04 296 6664).