Board game cafe in Bristol – Chance & Counters

If you’re looking for a board game cafe in Bristol, you’re in luck. Just a few minutes’ walk from the busiest area of the city, just at the bottom of Christmas Steps, you’ll find the rather lovely Chance & Counters.

The missus and me spend Easter in the city as Pop Will Eat Itself (my favourite band) were playing there, I love Bristol, and Sarah hadn’t been since she was young and wanted to go. So, we went to a great gig, got to be proper tourists (Clifton Suspension Bridge, some Banksy exploring etc) – and of course we played some board games.

The cafe part

Just as a cafe, Chance & Counters would’ve ranked highly. The place was crawling with staff, but they weren’t not over eager – just smiley and friendly. We never had to wait long for anything and they were helpful and knowledgeable.

The food was lovely (unfortunately the cooker had blown up on our second visit of the weekend, but the snacks and sarnies were good!). It usually has a seasonal menu, while there are decent options for vegies and vegans. Sarah’s celiac, but there were also plenty of options for her on the menu.

The hot drinks were good (I had a lovely iced coffee), but the real triumph was the beer selection. Its German Hell pilsner (on tap) was the best beer I had all weekend, while Sarah loved the toffee apple cider. And the prices were pretty reasonable, including a £5 surcharge per person at the table.

I get this, as it’s a small place. I’d only say I’ve preferred board game cafes that put a table charge on, but reduce (or remove) it the more you’ve spent on other things. We spent a lot on each visit (close to £40), so having £10 of that be table charges – when some people were spending next to nothing – seemed a bit of an unfair punishment.

The board gaming part

With 850 board games on its shelves, Chance & Counters has you covered. And they’re usefully separated too: there’s a proper library system, with games grouped into areas such as ‘strategy’, ‘party’, ‘family’ etc. Just find the section you’re after and browse away.

They have plenty of ‘game explainers’ on hand to walk you through rules if you’re looking for a new game, or to help you from scratch if you’re new to the hobby. We saw a big mix of games on the tables during our visits, but it skewed lighter/family. Although, as you can see above, serious gamers have plenty of choice – and there’s nothing to stop you bringing your own games (which is worth it for the beer alone!).

Again, just one small complaint. The building is long and thin, and the back area could get very noisy. They’d done their best with a few noise dampeners but with a couple of groups of younger, shriller patrons in it got a bit much. If you’re grumpy old bastards like us, I’d suggest booking a table in advance (you should probably do that anyway) and asking for a table at the front end of the cafe.

For the record we played Downfall of Pompeii (twice), Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, ‘normal’ Azul and Kingdom Builder. All the games were in a reasonably good state and had all the pieces. But it was funny talking to one of the employees about how tough it is to harden themselves to the state they see some of the games get into. I expect they offer counselling for the more traumatic moments…

Will we return to this board game cafe in Bristol?

Absolutely. Minor problems of the large bill and squeaky noisy teens aside, both our visits were excellent. And the next time I’m in Cardiff, I’ll be sure to visit its sister store there as well. Cheers!

  • Photos taken from the Chance & Counters website. We were too busy drinking and gaming to remember to take any photos…

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