A relatively new development is giving us hope that mankind is not doomed to a world where people, even if sitting on the same table, are not talking to each other but are staring on their gadget screens. Ok, we may have stretched that too far. Too optimistic; we can’t really save mankind from doom. It’s more of the hope that kids will start enjoying games with actual physical interaction. No one knows what happens in the next generation, but at least there’s hope that we don’t grow couch potatoes. At least not too soon. We’re talking of boardgames, those games that don’t require electronics to run (the kind that the older generation used to enjoy). These boardgames are served, together with food, in cafes that have sprouted in the metro.
We’ve found three of these boardgames cafes and we’re going to give our opinion, for whatever its worth, on each one. These cafe / boardgame centers / restaurants are: (1) Snacks & Ladders; (2) Ludo Boardgame & Cafe; and (3) Laruan Atbp Cafe.
Operating hours are important to us. We have kids, you see, and it appears that the target market for these gaming cafes are teenagers. Opening late in the afternoon is perfect for friends and “special” friends.
For kids, however, we think it’s better to have an earlier opening time. It’s a good idea to have lunch somewhere (there’s a reason why we’re saying this) then move to the boardgame cafes. It’s also not a good idea to bring the kids at night because they sleep a bit earlier than adults.
For us, the best time would be after lunch. That would be around 2 p.m.
The first time we visited these boardgame cafes, we didn’t realize that they open late. We found out the hard way that Snacks & Ladders opens 3 p.m., while Ludo Boardgame & Cafe opens at 4 p.m. So, instead of waiting for 4 p.m., we checked Laruan Atbp Cafe. Our fairy godmothers must have been watching over us that day. We got lucky. Laruan opens at 2 p.m.
Based on operating hours, our favorite is Laruan. Of course, Ludo and Snacks & Ladders might decide in the future to move their operating hours earlier. We are looking forward to that happening soon.
A kid’s world requires a certain degree of certainty. They need to learn that promises are meant to be kept. When you tell the kids that you are going to a boardgame cafe, they’ll defintely feel bad if it’s fully booked. While parents teach kids to temper expectations, it’s always better to plan activities. It’s always good to have reservations.
Unfortunately, Snacks & Ladders doesn’t accept reservations. Perhaps it’s difficult to have reservations because these boardgame cafes are designed on a play-all-you can concept. You can’t just shoo away the guests to make way for a reservation. The idea is for the guests to have fun and time flies so fast when you’re having fun. Guests leave when they feel like leaving, not because they are told to leave.
On the other hand, Ludo accepts reservations (check more details in our earlier post). And just to emphasize this fact, and to show our appreciation for this feature in their operation, we’ll say again that only Ludo accepts reservations. We don’t know how they work that out, but we are grateful for it.
Laruan also accepts reservations, but the minimum consummable amount of P150 per head rises to P250. This may be an issue to some, but we’re sure there are those who are willing to pay an extra P100 for the certainty of a gaming table waiting at the venue.
Gaming and Boardgames
A boardgame cafe must have a sufficient number of DIFFERENT games to keep the guests interested. A boardgame cafe must also have a sufficient number of the SAME games so guests don’t have to wait forever to play when others are already using that particular game. It’s a fine balancing act.
For serious gamers, Ludo is the place to be. It has the most number of games, both in variety and in the stock for each game. We seriously think it would take forever to get through the games in Ludo, stacked beautifully from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and then some in the spaces between.
There are the usual favorites — Jenga, Monopoly, Battleship, Game of Generals, King of Tokyo, Rhino Hero. There are also a lot of games for the kids, like the Tumblin’ Monkeys, Spell A Word, Three Little Pigs. To be sure, there are way cooler games but we didn’t have enough time to truly explore these cafes (feel free to tell us your favorite game, through the comment section below).
Next comes Snacks & Ladders, then Laruan. As compared to Ludo, there’s way lesser games in Snacks & Ladders, way lesser in Laruan. What separates Snacks & Ladders from the pack, and we say this with a huge smile on our faces, is the presence of a single foosball (table football) in the premises and the huge chess set outside. The chessboard is not as huge as Harry Potter’s wizard chess set, but it’s big enough for kids to replace the pieces by standing on those squares. Nice one, Snacks & Ladders.
Still, while we love Snacks & Ladders, we’d still go with Ludo on this one, for the sheer variety of games that guests can play with.
There’s another feature that you’ll see in these boardgame cafes — game pros (perhaps they’re called by another name; this term is just our creation). These are the cafe staff who goes around helping clueless (or lazy) people with the rules of the game. You can figure out the rules by reading the pamphlet that goes with the games, but it’s more convenient to simply ask these guys. These guys are amazing, really. Just imagine all the games in the premises and KNOWING all the rules for each game. To be able to do that, you have to be a genius (or yoda). Truly helpful fellows.
It’s tricky to rate these boardgame cafes when it comes to space. You see, it doesn’t require much space to play a boardgame. Any table would do — just grab a chair, sit around the table, put the game in the middle, and you’ll have hours of face-to-face fun with family and friends. Still, we cannot take out the available space in the establishment as one of the important considerations.
The space is important because the cafe can only sit an infinite number of people. If you come in last, or if there are reservations, the establishment can’t obviously accommodate your group. On this basis, Snacks & Ladders grabs the cake. It has a wide ground floor space, with extra tables (and the giant chess set) outside the premises, plus the second floor where shoes/slippers/sandals are off limits because guests must sit on the mat/floor. It’s a nice touch, resembling those times when the family sits on the living room floor to play boardgames.
While Laruan has more space than Ludo (Laruan also as a 4-table second floor), we rank Ludo second. We’re actually thinking that Ludo should rank first. The reason? While Ludo obviously has less space than Snacks & Ladders, the tables in Ludo are farther apart, which means there’s more legroom (and elbow room) for players to rejoice every time they win (or lose). It’s like food; there’s commercial food that scrimps on ingredients and there’s home-cooked, which throws in the finest ingredients, including TLC (that’s Tender Loving Care, for the few who might not know it). In our view, the bigger space between tables is designed for serious lovers of boardgames.
Ok, we take it back — we’ll declare a tie between Ludo and Snacks & Ladders when it comes to space.
Cough Up Some Dough
The best things in life are free. True, yes. The fun and bonding between friends and family members that a boardgame can generate are priceless. Still, these boardgame cafes are businesses and they can’t possibly continue serving the public if they don’t earn anything. It really makes sense for the public — especially those who keep on saying that people should connect with each other outside the confines of a gadget screen — to patronize and constantly visit these boardgame cafes.
For this criterion, Ludo is hands-down the best. You play all you can, and order only what you can finish. It really makes us wonder how on earth Ludo can make money if there’s no minimum order requirement. The answer is perhaps evident in the other features of Ludo — it’s made up of people who loves boardgames first.
Snacks & Ladders charges a consumable fee of P100, plus a gaming fee of P50 (if you want to use the foosball, you have to pay an extra P50). Laruan charges a consumable fee of P150 (P250 if you make a reservation). That’s play-all-you-can for all boardgame cafes (so you have to patiently wait your turn at the counter).
There’s really not much differentiation among the three gaming cafes when it comes to food. We’d like to think that they’re not restaurants, so it’s unfair to expect much from the food served in these places. These boardgame cafes naturally serve a lot of finger foods. It would be hard to compare the three boardgame cafes on a per food basis because we have tried each kind of food.
One menu item common to all three cafes is the nacho. We ordered nachos when we visited each boardgame cafe. We love nacho. Let’s just say we’re not too crazy with the nacho in any of the boardgame cafes. And if we have to rate the nacho for these cafes, Ludo would be the better nacho, followed by Snacks & Ladder. That leaves us with the loneliest nacho, Laruan. We sincerely hope that Laruan upgrades its nacho.
We’ve sampled other menu items of these cafes. For Ludo, we tried the tonburi, bolognese, chicken yakitori, cheese gyoza, and tonkatsu. For Snacks & Ladders, the kids liked the Buster’s Poppers and the Grilled Parcheesi Sandwich. You can’t go wrong with Crispy Liempo, but we were not too crazy with the mustard dressing. For Laruan, we only got Stuffed Bread Sticks, in addition to the nachos.
Getting There / Parking
Location / Address of Snacks & Ladders: 188A Maginhawa Street, Quezon City. This is the part of Maginhawa Street that is nearer to Anonas Extension. Check its facebook page for more details.
Location of Ludo Boardgame Bar & Cafe: 26 Scout Torillo Street corner Scout Fuentebella, Quezon City. How to get there? First, head to the general direction of Tomas Morato. It’s the more recognizable landmark in that area. Then look for the Boy Scout Circle, in the intersection of Tomas Morato and Timog Avenue. The Boy Scout Circle is a monument in honor of the entire Philippine contingent — 20 scouts and 4 scout masters — on their way to Marathon (Greece) for the 11th World Scout Jamboree in 1963. The surrounding area is called the Scout Area, the reason why the streets are named in honor of the scouts, including Scout Fuentebella and Scout Torillo (where Ludo is located). Check our earlier post for more directions. See its website and facebook page for more details.
Location / Address of Laruan Atbp Cafe: Ground Floor, Luisa Building, 107 Maginhawa, Diliman, Quezon City. This one is beside the barangay hall. Check its facebook page for more details.
Parking is a legitimate concern for many. In it’s a concern for you, the greatest headache would be in Laruan. It’s no secret that parking along Maginhawa Street is a problem. It’s a housing area that was not designed to accomodate the explosion of restaurants and other establishments. Worse, Laruan shares a tiny bit of parking area with the other tenants in the building.
Snacks & Ladders has the frontage all to itself, so it can comfortably host the largest number of vehicles. We have to consider, however, that Snacks & Ladders accommodate more people, which means that there’s a higher demand for parking space. Still,
Out best bet when it comes to parking? Ludo.
We recognize that each one has a preference. What we consider important may not be the same as yours. This is our opinion, so feel free to think that we’re totally wrong (and say why you think otherwise, at the comment section below). Also, our preference may vary depending on what particular aspect we consider. It’s terribly difficult to put Ludo Boardgame & Cafe at No. 2 because we rate it high in most aspects, except that Snacks & Ladders‘ open spaces sealed the deal for us. So if we’re forced to cough up our Top 3, the overall ranking would be:
1. Snacks & Ladders
2. Ludo Boardgame Bar & Cafe
3. Laruan Atbp Cafe
Next time you want to play superhero and save the world from being overrun by gadget screens, visit any of the boardgame cafes in the metro. And even if you have no real powers, you can, in these gaming havens, still play superhero through a variety of games. At least for an hour or two. For P150 pesos. Sulit.