The board

game’s back

Marrakech, Abalone and Mysterium are among the 800 games available at Le Nid.

Teleporter and space atmosphere at Le Dernier Bar Avantla Fin du Monde.
Players are helped by pros like Thierry Boulet (photo), at Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde.

Worlds away from the digital gaming world, some Parisian cafés are fostering relaxed get-togethers around board games.

At a time when everything around us is moving fast, there are places where time no longer has us in its clasp, cafés where an activity that’s as old as humankind takes place: playing games. In particular the kind of game that has no other purpose than to provide fun and enjoyment, the board or card game, which by definition brings people together and fosters dialogue. Board-game cafés invariably have a welcoming atmosphere that you pick up as soon as you walk in the door. Everyone, be they novice or buff, is welcome in these havens of fun where, judging by the cheerful expressions, people of every stripe are united in the happy mood.

Far from being reserved for specialists, these cafés are about sharing a moment together, and everyone is sure to find what they’re after with the help of the staff, who can give pointers to both the inquisitive and the aficionados. “We help people to choose and we explain the rules to them,” says Patrick Ruttner, founder of Oya, the oldest café-shop of its kind in Paris. Oya raised eyebrows when it opened in 1995, at a time when virtual reality was on the rise and becoming hugely popular in the form of video games. And yet the phenomenon has continued to grow, today drawing families, couples and groups of thirty-somethings keen to share more than a drink or a meal. “We offer more than a thousand games and have produced around thirty ourselves,” Ruttner goes on. “There are games for everyone, including some that can be played by kids as young as two and a half. Our café offers a slightly different experience. Every game requires people to pay attention and think a bit, and it’s something that appeals to more and more customers.”

“Both the number of dedicated places and the demand for them are continuing to grow,” confirms Antoine, who works at Le Nid. “People want to switch off, and we’ve also noticed a strong desire for games that require cooperation and generate a good atmosphere, where the aim is not to compete with each other but to be together.” Le Nid, which describes itself as a “cocoon for play,” has been in business for three years. With more than 800 games, some of which are available to buy, it has been so successful that a second address has opened. The principle behind its pricing is simple: customers pay a fee and also for their drinks. At Oya, the latter are included in the fee. Other places offer admission to their games library. At all of them, customers can be sure of finding a selection of games that they could never have at home and they can ask for advice if there’s something in the rules they don’t understand.

At Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde, a welcoming haunt dedicated to these imaginary worlds, all the staff are familiar with the 60 or so games that are available for customers and will happily give advice. People come here to play, chat and get together in a very distinctive atmosphere. Dubbed a place for geeks, the place actually turns out to be very cosmopolitan, and, like its counterparts, it is spearheading the development of board games. All of these cafés organize special events to promote them, make them more accessible and give them a new lease on life. And create new opportunities to rediscover that elemental pleasure that we can all share.

 

Adresses à Paris

Le Dernier bar avant la fin du monde

19, avenue Victoria, 1er arr.

Le Nid

227, rue Saint-Martin, 3e arr.

Oya

25, rue de la Reine-Blanche, 13e arr.

Natema

39, rue des Orteaux, 20e arr.

Carte des bars à jeux dans le monde

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