Get in the game


Rebecca Paddick puts her game face on to try out Bristol's dedicated board game cafe, Chance & Counters

Over the years, Christmas Steps has been home to some real Bristol gems. From the potent selection of spirits and wines on offer at Weber and Tring’s to the thousands of retro films displayed at 20th Century Flicks, some of the city’s most quirky venues are tucked away here, at the edge of the city centre.

And 18 months ago, a dedicated board game café opened its doors at the bottom of the Steps, and has been steadily attracting gaming fans ever since.

Back in May last year, a trio of self-confessed “board game nerds” decided that it was time to bring the unusual café idea to the West Country. “Bristol was a no-brainer for a place like this,” said Steve Cownie, one third of the successful trio behind the café. 

“When we opened, we anticipated an initial rush, because a board game café was a novelty for the city, but we didn’t expect it to continue the way it has.”

The venue houses more than 600 games from old-school classics to the slightly obscure, for gamers of all ages and abilities. But in the age of Xbox, iPhone and Instagram, how and why has the humble board game been revived? “I think people are perhaps getting a little bored of social media, and the wall it sometimes creates,” explains Steve. 

“We all have smartphones, so we spend a lot of time looking at a screen. I think the board game is a great way to get people away from all of that, and to spend some time with friends, doing something simple, fun and interactive.” 

Steve also explains that the clientele are also very different to what the trio were anticipating. “We’ve got a real mixed bag of visitors, from the die-hard board game fanatics, to complete beginners who know nothing about board gaming; students, of course, families of all ages, and lots of young professionals looking for a different way to unwind after work.”

The venue also takes real pride in its food and drink, from its rotating craft beers and ciders to the seasonal, locally-sourced menu. “It’s something we’ve invested in from the start,” explains Steve. 

“When you do crap food it reinforces the ‘lazy board gamer’ stereotype. Our food is simple but very good quality. We want to offer people more than just snacks or standard pub grub.”

All the food on C&C’s menu can be enjoyed ‘one-handed’ so as to not interrupt an important game, from cheese and mezze sharing platters (both £12.50) to the mix and match tapas, (£4 each or £10 for three), including chorizo picante in red wine and garlic, pork belly bites with apple sauce, and honey-glazed pigs in blankets.  There’s also a selection of sandwiches, including brie, bacon and cranberry toasted sandwich, and the halloumi wrap with tabouleh and sweet chilli sauce (both £5.50). 

So whether you’re a casual gamer or a seasoned strategist, Chance & Counters’ staggering selection of board games is sure to have something for you. 

Chance & Counters

20 Christmas Steps, BS1 5BS

0117 329 1700

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