Bristol and Me: Steve Cownie


We speak to Steve Cownie, co-founder of Chance & Counters

Chance & Counters is a dedicated board game bar/cafe on Christmas Steps. We have in the region of 750 board games and staff that go around teaching you how to play them. Having seen a few venues with similar ideas popping up – one in Canada, Snakes & Lattes, is often cited as the first – we thought it was something that could have similar appeal here. 

We opened in May last year and it’s been a runaway success in a way we really weren’t expecting. We thought ‘It’s a new idea coming to Bristol, the first six months will be quite buzzy’, but didn’t expect it to stay as crazy as it has been: fully booked two weeks in advance on weekends, fully booked most evenings, and feedback is almost universally positive.

Board game cafes are not typically renowned for haute cuisine, but we were always keen for ours to work as a place to simply come along and have a lovely meal. The menu tends to be finger food – sandwiches, wraps – and seasonal tapas inspired from all over the world. 

I’ve got fond memories of family gatherings playing Monopoly and a staple game for me was always Rummikub, which I insisted we get in at the start. Getting inspired by board games isn’t difficult for us. It’s a matter of whittling down the thousands we want into what will work in our space. We bought probably the first 300 and have since become quite pally with a lot of distributors and game designers; they see the value in giving us early sight of games they’re producing, we’re a bit of a marketing channel.

We’re also getting a better sense of what customers like. It isn’t the long, complicated games that get them excited – though we’ve got them – but the ones you can learn in 10 minutes and rattle through. There’s a publisher called Big Potato who make a whole bunch of very party-based, interactive games. One called Obama Llama, a celebrity-based rhyming couplet game, is incredibly fun; it’s a bit like Balderdash.  


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