Aarhus Brætspilscafé: Not your usual coffee shop

Danes find the most creative ideas to have fun, blame it on the bad weather or just the viking genes. Who would have thought that a board game bar would be so fantastic? Yes, just here in Aarhus. 

by Anna Dittrich, photos by Giang Pham

Upon entering Aarhus’ Brætspilscafé, you hear the sounds you would usually expect in an ordinary café. Spoons are stirring, cups are filled and emptied, and the noise of several conversations going on at once provides a comfortable backdrop.

However, after a few moments an attentive listener might hear more above the familiar café chatter; dice rolling on wooden tables, cards being laid down with a triumphant smack, and the soft laughter at somebody’s outrage at a move. Between the usual collection of tea and coffee cups, the tables are filled with board games. Just by the door a couple is playing Backgammon, while next to them a man is reading the rules for a strategy game, and a group of friends plays a card game in the next room.

Everything starts somewhere
As the name Brætspilscafé already implies, at least for those with some knowledge of Danish, the café is a place for people to meet up and play board games. 450 different kinds of board games are currently available, carefully stocked in shelves around the café, ready to entice players in.

Friends bonding with a strategy card game.

Bonding over a game of cards

Jesper Overgaard is the owner of the café and its impressive collection of board games, although he started out a bit smaller at first. “I used to play and buy a lot of board games,” he remembers. “And then I thought it’s pointless they are just sitting on the shelf; maybe other people would like to play them too.” So he got in contact with Folkestedet, Aarhus’ community centre.

“They gave me a room and then I had one week to prepare. I needed to buy snacks and more board games. I had 30 but I needed at least 50 to 80 for a real board game café,” says Jesper.

His idea turned out to be quite successful. On the first event, 30 people showed up. One year later, in September 2015, he opened up the café.

A place for couples, colleagues and friends
There is a wide variety of games available at the café, from modern classics such as the Settlers of Catan, Ludo or Cards Against Humanity to games like Cargo Noir, where the player attempts to smuggle goods in a 1950s noir setting.

“All the games are available to be played all the time,” explains Jesper. “We’re going to run out of space at some point, but at the moment we still have some space left for games,” he adds with a laugh over the sound of the coffee machine being worked at the nearby counter.

The place is almost full, with only a few tables remaining empty. It seems curious, considering it is late afternoon on a weekday. “We have lots of dates coming here, or people curious to check out the place,” explains Jesper.

Backgammon is really popular in Denmark. Couple dates?

Backgammon is very popular in Denmark; the perfect game for a date?

“September to April, that is our high season; during the cold and dark season,” he contemplates. He thinks the café is a good example of the Danish concept of hygge.

Anna agrees with that. Tucked away in a corner she is currently playing Trivial Pursuit with her friend Louise. It’s her first time here. “The place is very nice and hygge,” she says. Her friend Louise had invited her there after she went with a few colleagues.

“It’s a good place to meet,” says Louise “Unlike normal cafés, you can do more than just talk here. Playing games helps with any awkward pauses,” she adds with a smile.

Avoiding awkwardness might also be one of the reasons why this café is good for people on first dates, such as Cahlo and Amalie. “I don’t know exactly how I heard about this place, but it is a good place to meet for the first time,” he says, before turning his attention back to his game of Backgammon and, more importantly, his date.

Something for all tastes
If somebody requires more social lubricant than a round of Backgammon, the café offers an array of snacks and drinks. Bigger meals are limited to food convenient for board games, such as toast or nachos. Meanwhile, snacks range from Ritter Sport to popcorn or a bowl of chips. For those who consider the Brætspilscafé a pit-stop on their Friday night partying route, there are also alcoholic drinks available.

Let's play a game, then party in town!

Why not play a game before partying in town!

“We do get a lot of big groups of friends who want to have some fun before going out drinking,” says Jesper.
A couple of beers, a round of Cards Against Humanity, and then off into the city to party. The café is also close to ARoS; the rest of the city is easily accessible.

And while the café can hold up to 70 people, there is also the option of booking online beforehand to ensure that there will be a table available. Every person then pays 30 DKK to play any number of games for as long as you like.

What’s next?
When I asked him if there were are any plans for expansion in the future, Jesper shook his head. “I don’t want to move from this place, and we can’t really expand it,” he says. “We’re caught here, but I like it. It’s a nice place.”

Judging by the laughter echoing in from the other room, the café-goers seem to agree with him on this.

Brætspilscafé is one of our picks of the best spots in Aarhus. When visiting the 2017 European Capital of Culture, be sure to stop by for a game board afternoon, filled with fun and laughter. Located at Vestergade 58A, they are open from 14:00-23:00 Monday to Thursday, 12:00-01:00 Friday and Saturday, and 12:00-22:00 on Sunday. The price is 30 DKK per person to play the games, with no fee if you just want a drink without playing. For online reservations and more information about the games on offer at the café, click here.

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