Back in the day we were involved in a project to get young people, particularly boys, away from their computer screens and outside in the fresh air. There was a presumption that too much time spent alone in a stuffy bedroom manipulating his joystick would be detrimental to a lad’s social development.
What a lot of despairing parents didn’t appreciate was that their child potentially had wider networks than many adults’ own insular bubble. Lots of online games are very collaborative; enabling players to connect with like-minded teamsters all around the world – far from antisocial.
In a twist, gaming has embraced the analogue, with folks playing together in real life – away from screens, and with actual, not virtual, boards and pieces. And, rather than squeeze together amid the enigmatic aromas of a teenager’s bedroom, there is a lovely hygienic venue in which to join forces – or fight them – depending on the object of the game.
Our visit to Snacks and Ladders, previously the Board Game Café, was more about the snacks than the ladders, but we were happy to roll with it, as it were, and booked a table for a two hour session.
For the uninitiated, at a games café you pay a small cover charge to have use of a table and the extensive library of games for a prescribed time. At S&L if you order refreshments, the cover charge is slightly reduced.
Having been welcomed and shown to our table, we then scratched our heads over the dizzying array of enticing boxes, almost paralysed with indecision. What scenario did we want to act out? A murder mystery, interplanetary war; pattern-matching or a brain-teaser?
We selected a word-creation challenge and, while laying out the counters, studied the menu. Around us, fellow diners were channelling their inner orc, railway planner, conqueror, exploding kitten, or 1980s trivia champion. For her dinner, Cat role-played at being a vegan and chose the Moving Mountains meat-free burger which came with fries and slaw as standard. The vegan burger, presented in a skewered brioche bun and adorned with a jaunty gherkin, looked like any other. The succulent protein patty had a good smoky flavour and satisfactory density and, with the shredded leaves and tomato slices was a credible substitute for a meat version – if you are still worried about depriving yourself of beef. Even the ‘cheese’ was convincing, though why vegan food insists on pretending to be summat it ain’t is a mystery. Be out and proud, plants!
Bubble tea £4
Table hire (2 x 2 hours) £4
Our veg-fest pizza was moist and doughy and, as pizzas go, was very decent. It could’ve benefited from a little greenery – herbs or spinach perhaps – but nonetheless it was nicely laden with toppings, and was served quickly so it retained its warmth to our satisfaction.
The dessert menu was chock full of ice cream and sundaes. We picked our way through a bucket of chewy churros; dipping the ends into our choice of traditional chocolate sauce – though biscoff and maple were high up on our list among the other options.
Replete with our meals, we turned our attention back to the game. While we were pushing around our tiles to make basic words such as ENTER, the crew at the adjacent table were clearly in some other world, where a fantasy creature was knocking at a rustic door requesting clearance.
Our time nearly up, we dispatched the last few spheres of cherry pearls left in the bottom of our peach bubble tea… – oh, didn’t we mention that? Yup, you can enjoy a flagon of this peculiar Taiwanese concoction – a cold sweet drink enhanced with fruity ‘bubbles’ which you hoover up through a large-calibre straw, where they pop in your mouth releasing all the sugary flavour. Tongue-tingle-tastic!
Snacks and Ladders is a really friendly venue. We liked the fresh interior and, with the extensive range of games, there is the chance to be someone/thing else for a few hours. We’d posit that the menu is not simply ‘snacks’; there is a surprisingly extensive choice and certainly enough options to have a decent freshly-cooked meal. How to sum up our evening? Winner winner, meat-free dinner.
Snacks and Ladders, 69-70 Upper St James’ Street, Newport PO30 1LQ
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.