“Let’s visit Ludo Cafe,” read the text message from my husband. The fact that he sent the message during a workweek made it unusual; a blue moon is rather a common occurrence compared to the frequency he takes time off from work on a weekday. Maybe he badly wanted to take a break. Maybe there’s something really interesting in Ludo that he wanted to check out. I didn’t ask. All I knew is that he already made arrangements with his friend, Marcelo, a co-owner (and, he said, resident cool geek) of Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe. We survived our first visit of Ludo with the following notes.
The Welcome Drink
Ludo does not serve welcome drinks. Not yet. But we’ll explain why Ludo should serve a welcome drink (lemonade or some token refreshment) for every guest that steps into its threshold (you might want to tag this article or post it on Ludo‘s Facebook wall so they might seriously consider this “suggestion”).
You see, looking for Ludo is not entirely a piece of cake. It’s easy to say that Ludo is located in the corner of Scout Fuentebella and Scout Torillo, in the vicinity of Quezon City’s established restaurant scene, Tomas Morato Avenue, as well as QC’s established bar scene, Timog Avenue (ever wondered by Timog Avenue is named in Filipino, in contrast to East Avenue, West Avenue and North Avenue?). Some people may consider looking for this address easy. For us, however, the search for Ludo was like knowing the real estate in Monopoly but not knowing exactly in which corner it’s found.
So how does one find Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe? 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).
From the Scout Circle, we headed towards the direction of GMA7/EDSA, turning left along Timog Avenue to Scout Torillo. We passed by the Jade Valley Cantonese Cuisine (first intersection, Scout Torillo and Scout Rallo), passing by Chef Laudico’s Casa Filipino (Scout Torillo and Scout Fernandez). As we took the descent towards Kamuning Road, we knew we missed our target. We had to turn back. We then discovered that Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe is not really found in any intersection, but sandwiched between two restaurants along Scout Torillo. The plain, black signage of Ludo, while consistent with a geek’s propensity to blend, doesn’t help. We learned that Ludo is beside Casa Filipino, hidden in plain sight because of its limited frontage (only two parking slots in front, with the rest making do with street parking along Scout Torillo).
And that extraordinary search effort, ladies and gentlemen, counts as sufficient justification for a welcome drink. A congratulatory speech is optional, but we won’t be surprised if there’s a template in one of those boardgames, probably like, “Welcome, fellow traveler, to the geek’s sanctuary. As a token of your successful journey through the dense urban jungle called the Scout Area, here’s a glass of water for you and your companions.” A tap on both shoulders with a broadsword wouldn’t hurt either. It would probably look weird and awkward, but in this emerging board game central, there’s no such thing as weird or awkward.
Bar versus Cafe
We’ve always wondered what’s the difference between a bar and a cafe. Well, wot really. We started to wonder about the distinction between a bar and a cafe only when we dropped by Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe. That was around last week. And the issue is still eating us inside (we’re no obsessive-compulsive, but did you ever have that urge to scratch an itch, like, say, what’s the difference between a bar and a cafe?)
A quick search brought us to an interesting distinction: a cafe is a place which serves coffee and alcohol, while a bar serves alcohol and coffee. Not helpful, really. So we have to rely on what we believe is a good distinction: a cafe serves food (but not full-blown like a restaurant) while a bar serves alcohol. We’ve sent a message to Marcelo, asking why they used both bar and cafe with Ludo, but he most probably thinks we’re nuts (we’ve asked him to limit his answer to one short sentence, and he said, in simple terms, it’s a bar because it serves alcohol and it’s a cafe because it serves coffee).
The kids and I ordered food. My husband, on the other hand, ordered a couple of beers (to this very day, my husband would, hopefully for fun and not to ruin my meal, still picks a debate to “prove” that he’s a “vegetarian” and that beer is properly classified as “vegetable”, not alcohol, because it’s made of “vegetables” like wheat and barley). Ludo is indeed a bar and a cafe (if you have a better distinction between a bar and a cafe, let us know through the comment section below).
Cheese Gyoza for appetizer. Bolognese for the picky eater. Chicken Yakitori, Tonkatsu and Tonburi (or is that Toridon?) for the adults. You may have noticed that food served at Ludo is heavily on the Japanese side. We don’t know why. There’s a sprinkling of other cuisines, like the bolognese or the Super Nachos which we appreciate munching while in the middle of some intense board game.
We were hoping to find pizza — it’s more convenient to grab a slice of pizza while in the dangerous process of out-maneuvering the other players in Rhino Hero. Ludo planners may be thought that holding the pizza, before holding the game cards, would speed up the wear and tear of the game pieces, although this may be farfetched because they’re serving nachos. So, dear Ludo, can you serve pizza together with the Battleship box?
We don’t expect the food in Ludo to be culinary masterpieces. The stars of the show are the boardgames. Food, in Ludo, rests in the backseat for guests. The place, of course, has to earn in order to continue operating. There’s no entrance fee or membership fee, so paying for the food serves as a guest’s token of appreciation for staying inside AND having fun playing with friends and family. We’re actually worried for the owners of Ludo. How on earth are they supposed to recoup their investment if guests stay for hours, holding up the tables and preventing other guests from coming in.
We strongly suggest that you contact Ludo for reservations, through telephone no. 0920-9218482, especially during weekends and Friday evenings. Operating hours:
Monday to Thursday: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
Friday: 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
Saturday: 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
That much Boardgames?
Ludo, which describes itself as a Bar and Cafe catering to the board game lifestyle, derives its name from the latin word ludo, which means I play, we’ve been told. We were told that the more popular family games are the Dixit, the Ticket to Ride, the Word on the Street, the Toc Toc Woodman and the Super Rhino. Teens like the Cards against Humanity.
Now, be honest, have you encountered any of those board games? Don’t worry. You’re in good company. We haven’t heard or have not encountered those games (we’re not sure if Super Rhino is different from Rhino Hero). If you’re not familiar with those games, we’re almost certain that you’re also not familiar with the top favorites among the serious gamers: the Agricola, the Le Havre, the Ingenious, the Takenoko, and the Dominion. So, from us “casual gamers” to you “serious gamers”, we say, may the odds be always in your favor, geeks (and, trust us, being a geek is a good thing).
It would be interesting to have a (formal or informal) survey and find out what percentage of Filipino homes have at least one board game stashed somewhere. It would also be interesting to know the most common board game Filipino families play (it’s understandable that this kind of survey would be the last priority in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Chess, which qualifies as a board game, is a good candidate. And so is Monopoly. At home, we have the Scrabble (can somebody tell us why the “Scrabble” boards sold in stores look exactly like Scrabble but named differently?), Word Factory, Upwords, Blokus and Game of the Generals (do you know this game is proudly Philippine-made, invented by Sofronio H. Pasola, Jr.?).
Some may consider that “collection” as “a lot” and we run the risk of being branded as nerds (not that we care). Still, in the universe of board games, the games we have are insignificant compared to the collection of Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe. They have a huge collection that would put toy stores to shame. We never thought there could be that much boardgames at Ludo. We heard that for the month of July, Ludo already has more than 360 games. And they’re adding new titles every month.
That, dear friends, is unadulterated geekness.
Embrace your Geekness
Ludo exhorts everyone, its loyal patrons and new recruits alike, to embrace their geekness. Live it. Be proud of it.
We won’t be surprised that, one day, there would be a call for geeks to unite and take over the world. It’s happening soon. The top companies of the world — including Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo! — are all founded and run by geeks. These products permeate our lives (even way before we are born and way after we die). You’ve probably bumped into this quote: “Be nice to nerds; chances are you’ll end up working for one.”
Of Friends and Family
There was once a time when neighborhood kids pour out of their houses, converge on an agreed spot, and engage in physical group games like luksong-tinik and patintero. There was a sense of community. Once upon a time, friends and family would spend considerable time around a favorite board game. There was a sense of family.
Everything changed with the advent of computer games and gadgets, when solitary fun took priority over face-to-face and deeper interaction in a group, community, barkada or family. The refreshing experience of stepping into a modernist cafe, stuffed with old school boards and games, is what we encountered at the Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe.
It doesn’t come as a surprise if families prefer spending time at the mall. It’s no surprise either if barkadas would rather spend more time at the bar. Or in a cafe, sipping overpriced coffee. What’s surprising is the phenomenon where friends and family spend time together, sitting beside each other, but remain glued to each other’s phone or gadget. Next time you’re in a public, try something fun: look for groups and observe whether members spend more time on their gadgets or more time talking to each other.
Board games have been relegated to “down times,” like blackouts and storms, or “boring times,” when you’re stuck somewhere and there’s nothing fun left to do. It wasn’t always that way. Board games have always provided a fun way of interacting between friends and family. You’re expected not to understand this if you grow up in this generation. The only way for you to know what you’re missing, and to embrace the depth of interaction brought about by board games, is to rediscover these games. Ludo Boardgame Bar and Cafe is a good place to start this journey.