In December we spent a week in Denmark visiting friends who had recently moved from the UK. Having never been to Denmark before, we decided to spend a few days in the charming city of Copenhagen before joining our friends in Aarhus. We played the tourist game: taking in the cityscape from the Rundetårn; descending to the depths of the Cisternerne; and gulping plenty of festive Gløgg.
And of course, we couldn’t leave Copenhagen without spending some quality time at the notorious Bastards Café.
Bastards café has what I believe is the best ‘free to play’ board game collection I’ll ever find at a board game café. By offering not only free games, but good free games, they’re not only enticing board gamers into their café, but they’re also making the board gaming experience accessible to everyone and encouraging newcomers to the community. And for this they should be applauded!
Having spent the morning traversing the city, we decided to escape the winter cold and spend the rest of the day in the warm, inviting Bastards Café. As we walked up to Bastards, I knew we were in for an amazing afternoon. You can’t miss the wall-to-wall board games calling to you through the glass doors.
Excited, we entered Bastards and eventually picked a table – the perfect table is vital for a good board game session, so we had to sit at 2 or 3 before picking ‘our spot’. Once settled, we went up to the bar to grab coffees and pay for our gaming session. We paid a total of 50DKK (around £6.50) for both of us to play all day – a bargain! If you live in Copenhagen, there’s also the option of a 1-year membership for 150DKK (around £20) per person – an even bigger bargain! We couldn’t believe how reasonable the prices were.
Table picked and refreshments acquired, it was time to seek out some games to play! It was only at this point that I realised the size of Bastards Cafe and their games collection. The main games room boasts a collection of over 2,000 games covering almost every inch of available wall space, with doors leading through to additional gaming areas. At the end of the night we also found another hidden gaming area in a basement room (accessed through a separate entrance to the main café), which is open during busy evenings.
Whilst scanning the shelves I noticed the ‘free to play’ section – i.e. games you could play without paying for a gaming session. On any normal free shelf, I would expect to see some of the more ‘traditional’ games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and maybe Cranium or Boggle. But not at Bastard’s! The free to play shelf actually had a respectable mix of highly-respected, recent games: Agricola, Betrayal of the House on the Hill, Century Spice Road, Dominion, Sagrada, Santorini, and Sheriff of Nottingham to name a few. I couldn’t believe the choice on offer! This was a fantastic touch, and a great opportunity for people who were new to board gaming to have a proper introduction to the hobby, with no financial commitment (and boy, can it be an expensive hobby). By offering new players to such a great, varied selection of games (again, for free!) they are likely to find something they like and exposes people to different aspects of board gaming.
On to the games we played! Although the choice was huge it actually didn’t take too long for me to return to the table with the perfect game for us to start with.
Lotus (by Renegade Games) was my first pick. Players alternate placing cards that form the petals of beautiful flowers, and it doesn’t take long until you create a beautiful garden across your table. The player who completes the flower (places the last petal) gets to pick the flower for themselves.
We were both surprised how enjoyable this game was, both in artwork and gameplay – the mechanic of working on the same flowers, but trying to stop the other player from being able to complete flowers was a good one.
The next game was one that has been on my PLAY IT list ever since it first caught my eye on Instagram: Honshu (published by Lautapelit). So when I spotted it on Bastards shelves, I knew it was a must play.
Like Lotus, Honshu is a card placement game where you build an image across the table by overlaying cards. However, instead of forming flowers in a communal garden, you compete to build the best landscape with forests, towns, factories and lakes. There’s a nifty little trick-taking mechanic to determine which cards you can place, which adds an interesting aspect to the game.
There’s a lot of strategic potential to Honshu that I don’t think I could really appreciate during our first play, as I was trying to get my head around the rules. I feel I made decisions based on whims instead of well-reasoned strategy. I think it takes a few play-through before you understand the game enough to fully assess your strategic options. We enjoyed the challenge but it definitely left our heads a bit sore.
Next up was Campy Creatures (published by Keymaster Games), which brings cult horror film creatures from the big screen to the tabletop.
Players all start with an identical set of Creature cards that they play head-to-head against each other to try and win the best mortal cards. With great artwork and a great selection of evil creatures, I really wanted to like Campy Creatures. However, we found having identical hands a bit of the problem – in two of the three rounds we played the same monsters at the same time. As a 2-player game, there didn’t seem to be much scope to play a varied strategy, making it a bit boring for the both of us.
We finished the evening off with Jaipur by Gameworks. We’ve played Jaipur before so already knew that it’s a solid 2-player game. Players are merchant traders who are competing to buy, sell and trade goods for the best prices. You have to balance the risks of collecting a larger quantity of a product and selling it a high price, because the other player could sell first and get the best rate. The game flows beautifully with a quick back and forth, and it was a great way to round off the evening.
Time flew as we spent hours in Bastards and we couldn’t survive on caffeine and board games alone! We also sampled from their food and drink menu. Bastards offer very reasonably priced pub style food. Throughout the day we had: mushroom and cheese toasties, vinegarsalt fries, and chocolate muffins washed down with some hot mulled cider. Everything we tried was great and perfect for eating whilst tackling a board game or two. In fact Bastards had some of the most reasonable priced food in Copenhagen. If you want to visit Copenhagen on a budget it would be worth popping in just for the food!
When we first arrived at Bastards in the early afternoon, there were some other gaming groups around but still plenty of free tables. As the hours passed, the room got progressively busier, and by the time we’d finished our session (at 7pm – a solid 5 hours of gaming fun!) there were people waiting for tables. There was a brilliant atmosphere with the sounds of games being played filling the café.
Something I found quite interesting was the diverse range of games being played on the other tables. Backgammon, Scrabble, Bears vs Babies and Terraforming Mars were all games that I saw being played nearby. One couple played for hours with just a standard deck of cards! From my experience of the culture in the UK these ‘traditional’ games don’t tend to be at gaming events and café’s but instead they have “cooler” modern hobby games (well at least I don’t remember seeing them!). Whether you are into traditional games, party games or strategic modern board games, Bastards has you covered and everyone is welcome!
We had a brilliant afternoon in Bastards Café, and I’m so happy that we made the time to visit. I would definitely be a regular if I lived in Copenhagen. I’d probably have myself one of their unlimited gaming memberships! My only regret is that I never found out how they chose the name Bastards Cafe… there must be a story there!