London’s first board game café is re-locating to Dalston

For Nick Curci, co-founder of the iconic board game café, the rationale behind his business is clear: “We offer a way to get people off their phones and getting back to interacting with one another,” he says from his newest venue in Dalston. 

Formerly located under a railway arch in Haggerston, Draughts is relocating to a Grade II listed building on Kingsland Road. The new venue, which dates back to the early 1900s, was home to F. Cooke and later Shanghai Chinese restaurant before getting replaced by Draughts. 

The new branch, about twice the size of the previous venue in Haggerston, offers players a selection of over 1,000 board games, more seating with larger tables, as well as multiple themed rooms. 

Curci says of the re-location: “We’d been looking at opening a third venue but then we stumbled upon this one and realized it was a great opportunity to bring this place back to life. We wanted to resurrect it and bring some life to the area of Dalston, as well as give people a bit more than what they had in Haggerston.”

The booths and light bulbs have been customized to resemble the décor of the original venue, and the food menu has been altered to include pie and mash, a tribute to the F. Cooke’s traditional dish. 

“I love the idea that you come in here and every room has a different feel, different vibe, and people can come back and have a different experience,” adds Curci. 

Launched in 2014, Draughts was the first board game café to hit the capital. With thousands of games made available across its Hackney and Waterloo branches, the café quickly made a name for itself, becoming a haven for board game enthusiasts.

Unlike other industries, the board game market has not been severely disrupted by technological progress. In fact, a study by Arizton predicts an expansion of 9% of the board game market size between 2018 and 2023, an increase that is expected to reach values of over £12 million (approximately £9.3 million) by 2023. 

For Curci, technology, and in particular video games, do not pose much of a threat to board games. 

“As far as competing with the digital, I think people like to get away from that,” he says. “Everyone has a touchstone to board games at some point. Every gender, every culture, every age group has interacted with board games at some point in their lives, whether they like them or not.”

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