Break Out the Boards to Bust Stress

Break Out the Boards to Bust Stress


Board games have exploded in popularity in recent years, with ever more games intended for adults hitting the market – and Prague is not immune to this trend. These days, locals are ditching late nights at the bar in favour of spending time with family and friends huddled over a Monopoly board, and it’s easy to see why. From bringing even the most antisocial friends together to lowering stress, having a night in or playing games at the local pub can be the perfect icebreaker during the chilliest of Prague winter nights.

The appeal is not just in the board games themselves, but also in the connections built while playing them. With over 150,000 expats living and working in Prague, board games present a unique opportunity to help make the capital feel like home: “In my household, board games were reserved for holidays, big family events, and birthdays,” explained Sybil Senn (29), a frequent visitor to a popular Prague board game café, “Now with this bar I can relive these special family moments with my friends whenever I want.”

With the notion of “family game night” being ingrained in many of us, board game cafés provide a close, family-like environment for many expats whose families aren’t exactly free to play a game of Scrabble at the drop of a hat.

“I always feel closer to my friends whenever we come to the café. Who has a bad time when playing a board game?” continued Senn, who recently relocated to Prague from South Carolina.

As our society descends deeper into virtual reality, these special nights of gathering with friends are being sacrificed. Why even meet up with a friend for coffee to see how they’re doing when you can spend three seconds crafting a text message on Facebook or WhatsApp? The increase in the importance of a social media presence means isolation is the name of the game, with many people suffering from a resulting lack of physical friendship. However, when playing a board game, you’re physically present, surrounded by a group of people with whom you actually have to hold a conversation.

If you’re an aficionado of Axis & Allies (or even if you’re not) and have no amigos to accompany you to the game table, don’t fret, as it’s not “game over” for you yet. Luckily there are local meetups dedicated to bringing strangers together over their love of competition and card decks.

“I first came [to a board game café] when I saw a meetup for playing board games,” said Ivan Stepanov (27) from Russia as he rolled a pair of dice playing Yahtzee. “I’m more of an introvert, so playing board games was one of the only meetups that appealed to me.”

In addition to open game nights, events including pub quizzes, RPG playthroughs, and even specialized gaming tournaments are popping up on social sites like Meetup and Prague Facebook groups, so if you play your cards right, you could be leaving the game table with a friend or two. Not to mention you can try dozens of board games for a fraction of the cost of even one copy of Codenames.

“Every time we come [out to play board games], we end up playing a game we’ve never heard of and always have a blast,” remarked Viktor Hancinsky (29) of Slovakia. “They have so many games [at this board game bar] we spend hours and hours here, and they keep bringing us something new to try.”.

With deliciously adult games such as Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, and Joking Hazard blasting onto the adult party scene in the past decade, board games have evolved from playing chess with your grandfather to full-blown social soirees.

It’s safe to say that no one has gotten a hangover from playing a round of hangman, while, for introverts, playing a round or two of a board game is a welcome relief from awkward nights at a bar or club. Therefore, if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to cut back on the alcohol while still enjoying a social night out (or in), your favourite board game can help you achieve just that. Or if the tax season is causing stress (which applies to everyone under the sun), then bringing out the dice and Trivial Pursuit can help you relax.

“This place has replaced our usual after-work happy hour…” said Gabbi Kralova (32) when asked why she visits board game cafés as a Prague local. “Playing games while drinking a beer is a good stress reliever and just more fun than going to the [average] bar.”

In a 2006 survey by RealNetworks Inc., 64% of people cited board games as being relaxing, while 53% of people play games to relieve stress. As more international companies are coming to Prague and our jobs are becoming ever more stressful, keeping a balance of work and play is more important than ever. We all saw what happened in The Shining to poor Jack whose life was all work and no play…