I took a vacation to Seattle in mid-May, and decided to check out some of the more formalized areas of the board game scene while I was there (unfortunately, I wasn’t there long enough to get out to any board game events outside of these places). There’s a healthy community in Seattle by the looks of it, with regular bustling game nights and all sorts of events happening.
The Cafe Mox – Card Kingdom hybrid in Ballard has been around a while now, and they’ve recently expanded into Bellevue with Mox Boarding House. In West Seattle, Meeple Games has taken the opportunity to make themselves into a game store/cafe space (and I hear there’s one or two other spaces in West Seattle that are starting up too!). The spaces are really wonderful, and it’s great to have them paired with retail spaces – a trend we’re seeing more and more of now with local game stores/cafes.
Read on for a guided tour.
Card Kingdom is a large retail space with gaming tables and a tournament room towards the back. It’s attached to Cafe Mox, which is a cafe/bar space with nice booths, tables and even a small patio.
The board game library is kept and prominently displayed behind the counter of Card Kingdom. It does make it hard to browse their selection before making your final choice of what to play, as you can’t take a closer look at a box without asking for assistance. That said, I hate to bother people with that sort of thing, so it could just be a personal preference. I’m not sure whether they had staff available to teach games, as I was there with some friends of Mox, so we were a little spoiled.
My friend Stephanie and I decided to play Morels, and then we followed that up with Penny Press, which Aaron of Mox graciously taught us. I was pleased with the cider offerings on the bar menu (delicious!) and the food menu was broad enough that it catered to vegetarian/vegan folks a little too!
We had an enjoyable afternoon; for a Friday, it wasn’t too busy inside, which was nice, as it allowed us to sit and chat as long we liked. It’s worth noting that there is no cover charge for seating in the cafe, nor is there any rental fee to use the games. Plus, they have regular small event nights for games, D&D and miniatures/card games too.
CK/Mox Cafe is cozy, and I would love to have a shop like that be my local FLGS and gaming hangout!
This is the larger and newer member of the Mox family out in Bellevue (east of downtown Seattle). Being out in what I assume is a slightly cheaper rental area, the Boarding House has afforded a much larger space that they make excellent use of: more retail, more cafe seating, a generous event space, and private rental rooms (like the Speakeasy room, secret entrance shown below).
I think my favourite part of the Boarding House is all the great art deco stuff, and in the hallway alongside the washrooms/tournament space where there’s cool stuff mounted in little wall alcoves.
The retail game walls are immense and loom over you as you walk in. Everything is quite well organized into categories and sections, and there are rooms off the main retail space for miniature gaming and Magic. Then, behind all of that you find the huge tournament room – I attended a day long event there, and it was a great space as you can see from the photos of the event, shared by the Mox team.
Again, the retail space has some tables, plus the cafe/restaurant space is open for gaming also. The library, like the one at Card Kingdom/Cafe Mox, is behind the counter. It seems like they’ve got some small events going on throughout the week for card games, and mini games too.
The restaurant is roomy, with a slightly more varied menu and lots of great booze options again! Comfy booth seating, lots of table space. We went late-ish on a Friday evening and had no troubles getting seating to try Space Cadets Dice Duel from the library!
It’s a little more of a behemoth than its cozy little sister store in Ballard – but if you live out that way in Seattle, it’d be such an amazing space to have as your local store! Plus, no shortage of room for gaming.
Meeples Games is a retail space that also hosts a cafe space for folks to sit and play games from their library for free! They have a great selection for the bar, including a cider on tap, plus a menu that caters to a broad selection of tastes, and also veggie/gluten free folks.
I attended their weekly Thursday open gaming event with my friend Erin, and it was a great turnout! About a dozen or so people showed up, and we tried some stuff from the library in addition to the games some folks had brought with them. It was comfy, well lit, and had plenty of space for a large group, or for just spreading out for a 4 player game on a table.
It was terrific to see Meeples welcoming regular game nights, as their small events roster shows. They also seem to regularly host events in their tournament space too. It’s really built well for the gaming community in West Seattle, and for a variety of tastes (that their retail selection supports really well).
As seems par for the course, their library of games is behind the counter to ensure security and lack of confusion with the retail space. A small library, but enough to support casual gamers and a weekly open gaming night (which most people bring games to also!).
Meeples has done well with an upstairs location off a main road, in creating a spot that’s known to the community, but also welcoming to drop-in gamers like me! It’s a great place for getting together with a larger group for gaming when you don’t have the space or game library to host at home. And a big shout out to their delicious cider on tap. 10/10. Would drink again.
I came away from Seattle realizing that… well, they’re doing super well at providing the community with welcoming board game spaces and events! The libraries at all of the spaces I visited were great, and free to use, too. The cafe spots were welcoming and comfy, with great food and drink options (well, I can’t speak to the coffee, but their beer and cider offerings are tops!), and it really is nice to not have to shell out a bunch of money for a group to sit down and play.
The mix of the retail space and cafe seems to be a model that has done well in Seattle, and I’ve heard other similar spaces will likely open out there in the future. Seattle’s a big city and the way its geography kind of separates things out, game cafes can really make the most of it by opening in strategic spots to serve those distinct communities.
I really can’t wait to go back to Seattle, not just because it’s a beautiful city, but for more excellent gaming action as well!