Modern Gaming 101

Stay Tuned for details!

On the weekend of June 24th, A Friend of the Cafe will be in-house for a couple hours to teach one of our favorite gateway games: Splendor.

Stephen Chast will be on hand to instruct, demo, and otherwise teach the rules, strategies, and mechanics of one of the great modern classics. On the heels of the recent announcement that an expansion is to be released, Stephen will show off this simple strategy game in which players fight to build a precious gem collection.

This is the first in a series of weekend events, designed to introduce selections from the cafe library – especially those that are a great introduction or re-introduction to the world of gaming!


Carcassonne! One of the modern classics. With straightforward rules and simple expansions, it becomes a gateway for nearly every new gamer. The wealth of strategies keeps most coming back for more.

Carcassonne, like last week’s focus, Qwirkle, is a tile-laying game. Unlike Qwirkle, there is more to the matching than just color or shape. You are literally building the cities, roads, monasteries, and farms surrounding medieval Carcassonne, in southern France, and then laying claim to them by placing meeples. By matching up specific elements on randomly-drawn tiles, you expand your area of influence and gain points: when the tiles run out, the game is over, and points are tallied. The version we have in the cafe also includes both the River and the Abbots & Gardens expansions, which adds an element of complexity to the base game. Both are optional expansions, and we usually recommend leaving them to the side until new gamers are comfortable with the core game.

We played it earlier this week with a group of four, but it plays just as well with two or three. It’s a core part of most game collections because it appeals to most gamers – the small amount of luck in drawing tiles and the moderate amount of strategy in placing the tiles makes for a versatile and ever-changing game.

A fun side note: the term “meeple,” used to describe the vaguely human figures seen in many modern games, was first coined to describe the pieces used in Carcassonne. The story is now a bit of gamer lore, but meeples have become a common representation of gaming – we even have one in our logo!


(P.S. Did you notice the shake shots in that top photo? They’re live, and have been described as “addictive,” amongst other words. Come try one and let us know what you think!)

Meet the Staff! Aviva

Aviva is a plant nerd, herb farmer and musician.  She is also a huge fan of Hygge– if you haven’t heard of the term yet, it is Danish/Norwegian for “a form of everyday togetherness”, but also loosely translated to ‘Cozy’.  Board games are Hygge. Coffee is Hygge.  Therefore Aviva likes these things, and likes helping other people access these things, thereby helping the world heal with COZINESS. You can ask her questions about plants too.

Qwirkle – A Gateway Game

Qwirkle has been written up numerous times for how easy a game it can be. And it is one of my favorite gateways – it tends to be one of my primary go-tos when someone asks “what should I try?”

Part of that is because it has easy, familiar mechanics, such as those found in Scrabble and Dominos. It’s a tile-laying game, where each tile has only two variables: color and shape. By creating a row of one matching variable on each turn, you create a colorful, textured game board that grows as you play.

The rules: Each player draws six tiles from an opaque bag, and sets them up in such a way so as to hide them from the rest of the table. From those six tiles, the player is trying to build a line of either all the same color (different shapes) or all the same shape (different colors). Within a line, only one of the variables is repeated – the other must be all different. Scoring is done after each line is placed, and is the sum of the tiles aggregated in ALL rows. If a line of six is either placed or completed, the player doing so scores an extra six points. This is called a Qwirkle.

Example: Sarah draws six tiles. She can make a row of four blue, but two of those blue tiles are diamonds. So she can only make a row of three. Sarah scores three points. Jacob has five diamond tiles, in four colors – none of which are blue! So he can lay down the four distinct tiles perpendicular to Sarah’s row, meeting at the blue diamond that she laid down on her turn. Jacob scores five points. Mariam has the last available color for the row of diamonds, and can create a new, perpendicular row of three, expanding down from the end of the row of diamonds – she has finished the row of six, which scores her a Qwirkle (an extra six points) as well as creating a new row of three, for a total of fifteen points. After placing tiles, each player draws tiles from the bag until they have six, and play continues. The game ends when the bag is empty and one player has placed all their tiles. The first to do so gains an extra six points.

That row of six, finished by Mariam, is now complete. Rows can be built perpendicular to it, but no tiles can be added on the end. This provides a chance for some interesting strategies in blocking your opponents and setting up future Qwirkles. On Tuesday night, we pulled it out and played a not-so-quick game. With two experienced players and one new player, it became an exercise in pointing out possible strategies and looking at the board in a different way. The photo above was our final layout: this is why we have oversized tables!

The replayability on this game is very high. It’s absolutely a modern classic, and great for families as well as small groups. Happy gaming!

Grand Opening!

 Welcome to House Rules! After months of hard work we had our grand opening on Saturday May 13th, and we’re so excited to finally be welcoming the community into our space.

Over the past year, many folks have asked us “what the heck is a board game cafe?” We believe that at its heart, it’s a place for the community to come together, eat delicious food, and play a game or two from our adventurously curated library.

Although this may be your first time hearing the term, board game cafes have been popular throughout Asia since the 90s and have been growing in popularity in North America for the past five years or so. After the founding of Toronto’s Snakes & Lattes in 2010, board game cafes started to pop up in major cities across the U.S. Lately there’s been a visible increase in public interest in tabletop and board games, and this has driven the rise of free-standing cafes dedicated wholly to providing a space for the community to play games.

At House Rules, we have created an inclusive, welcoming community where there’s something to interest everyone. Our library has all the classics as well as some exciting modern games you may have never played before, and to help you get a handle on our collection we’ll be featuring a different game in each of our bi-monthly newsletters.

We have a varied menu with sandwiches, homemade baked goods, coffee, frappes, and all sorts of other great stuff. We also offer bagels in the morning and take-out all day, and in the coming months we’ll be serving beer and wine as well.

At House Rules you can sit, play, and eat for as long as you like. There’s a per-person fee of $5 for access to the games collection, which is included in your bill, and we also offer weekly and monthly memberships for those who just can’t get enough of our games. So we hope that everyone stops in, grabs a table, orders some great food, and plays some fun games!

Welcome to House Rules Cafe!

Welcome to our blog!

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be introducing our staff, the cafe, and our philosophies. We’ll show off the space, and talk about some of our games. For some of our informal, frequent postings about life in the cafe, check out our Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram.

We’ve started take-out, and are working on getting the bagels in stock. But we are here every morning from 7-9am (8-10am on Sunday) for all your caffeine needs!