On the 2nd of February (2019), some of my friends and I ended up in Portsmouth with the intention to go to the game fest at the Guildhall… but our plans changed, and there are 0 regrets because our visit to DICE: Board Game Lounge in Portsmouth was more than pleasant! I am gonna make a very strong statement here guys, but i wholeheartedly believe this establishment is the best of its kind in the South of England – granted we haven’t been to All board game venues, but, hear me out. I will use points of comparison with our local BITC in Southampton and the big name in London – Draughts. Having been to either of these several times, and knowing that of course their audiences are slightly different, I think DICE have actually managed to find a very happy medium which makes their success apparent.
For starters, DICE has several aspects of the business which we approve of: you have the facilities to play board games, they have a bar, a shop, and seemingly a good set of activities throughout the week. We were stupid enough to not book a table – plans! Silly! I know – so please if you are reading this make sure that you book through their page or Facebook which is: https://en-gb.facebook.com/diceportsmouth/ And you will think reserving a table sounds pretentious, but nuh huh! It gets so busy! particularly during the weekend. And you can understand why very easily.
So like noobs, we sat on the lounge area at the front, because the front of house staff are super friendly and decided it was cool for us to do so, even though they warned us we weren’t going to be terribly comfortable there. Yet, here we camped for the next few hours. First we made sure to fill us our bellies. I must say I like the fact that their menu was very simple but varied – food is good. Just so you get an idea, it’s mostly toasted sandwiches (which were delish btw!), a few other bits like soups, drinks and snacks. Done! Were is the need of a big hot food menu like in BITC? Well, there isn’t. And the prices were very reasonable in opposition for what Draughts serves you…and the quality, incomparable, simple as that. Now, talking about costing, you have just heard me say we stayed there for several hours – at what price do you ask? All of £4…for whatever time we wanted! So no more rushing to get your game done in 4 hours like in London which is frankly ridiculous. Nor having to pay the bizarre rates that BITC introduced as of last year and that frankly are pushing people away. This is simple: you wanna play? Awesome! here is your rate, stay, make yourself comfortable, and who knows maybe if you stay long enough you will have a few more drinks a few more snacks and business will run as usual. Yes! Thank you! I’ll do that! Just like in our beloved Abordage in Sofia (Bulgaria). That is a way of incentivising your customers to stay: by letting them do what they have come to do. And all with a smile on their faces btw: there was not a single member of staff that wasn’t kind, polite and with it, which I cannot say of anywhere else apart from Abordage (but then, these guys were the best so…!).
Then, I must say, I was super happy with the way they have sorted their games. It is similar to the distribution in Draughts, with the Ikea like shelves at the back. But, cleverly enough these guys have been smart enough to label the shelving units with numbers and letters so you know which games go where – and presumably if you don’t return them as you should, to make their staff’s lives easier by having a clear system! This doesn’t happen in Draughts – or wasn’t implemented last time I was there – and certainly is not what BITC have going on with their chaotic system that means you got board games everywhere and all over the place. All the games looked in good condition, and we even found whilst playing Sagrada that someone had the decency to write inside of the box that one of the points markers was missing. Awesome! Now I won’t go crazy trying to find it and feeling bad if I think I have lost it. In general, it gave us the impression that these little things were actually looked into and taken into account. And that, to us not only speak professionalism, but also wanting to keep happy customers.
So here are a few pictures of what we played and how much fun we had that we are already planning our next visit:
Here you have Sagrada, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is the game that was also the deal breaker for us because, the place is fairly big, and it was packed, so as you can imagine, lots of people talking, plenty of kids, movement everywhere. I remember the second time I came out of Draughts saying “I couldn’t hear myself think” – on a quiet ish Sunday afternoon. This was Saturday in the middle of the day, and granted, there was noise, but it was never disturbing. There is enough space between tables that even with loads of people around you can move comfortably and not been put off by the noise.
And this is the coolest game: Deep Sea Adventure. I am so glad that a place like this has brought a little japanese game to their collection considering all the games out there, it clearly shows their understanding of the board game industry as a whole and what players want. This is something I appreciated of Abordage as well, the fact that they had local games that otherwise you wouldn’t get to know at all. It is a completely different dynamic and sense of the business from what you can find in BITC which is a very erratic (huge, granted) game repository, with a trillion copies of monopoly that no one ever is going to play.
So, in summary: do you want to have a good time, get access to the right board games, in a friendly environment that is gonna give you good food, good service and a comfortable environment for a very reasonable price? Then, start heading your way to P’mouth because suddenly, the town has become a hub for gamers of all kinds. A nice addition to all the gaming stores already in the area, DICE is exactly what every decent size town and city in the UK needs. Kudos to you guys, and we look forward seeing you soon!