Last summer, a friend of mine opened up a little place called The Gaming Lounge Torquay, a venue where people could come and play a wide variety of table-top games, board games and card games, and even the occasional LAN party as well. I told myself at the time that I would have to go and check it out, but circumstances always seemed to get in the way, but finally, on Saturday 18 January, I finally managed to get there.
While initially a little hard to get to, The Gaming Lounge Torquay is housed in a decent sized room with four large gaming tables and plenty of seating arrangements. There is an on-site shop that sells a variety of both hot and cold drinks and a selection of snacks. But the main selling point is the collection of games. Taking up two whole shelving units are piles of playing cards – Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic: The Gathering – and enough board games to lay down the foundation of a small house. With a full evening of gaming costing only £2.00, this place is an absolute bargain.
On Saturday, the owner, myself, and two other friends/gamers got to The Gaming Lounge Torquay at about 5:00pm and the four of us got stuck right in (there were originally supposed to be ten of us going but there were a lot of last minute cancelations, but that’s another story for another time).
The first game we played was a tile-based game called Carcassonne. Named after a fortified city in the south of France, the aim of the game is to build up the titular city using the game tiles and earn as many points as you can in doing so. Each tile features either a piece of city, a piece of road, a cloister, a piece of grassland, or a combination of them. The tiles have to be placed so that the various features line up to create a whole structure. When a player places down a tile, he can claim part of it with a small figurine, known as a meeple. Either the road, city, cloister, or grassland can be claimed, with each feature giving a different amount of points come the completion of the game. For what initially seemed like quite a simple game actually turned out to require an awful lot of strategy and forward thinking, but nevertheless remained fun and fast paced throughout. After claiming almost all the grassland, I thought I had the game in the bag, but I was sadly pipped at the post by my younger brother, who sneakily claimed victory by building small but numerous cities.
The next game on the agenda was Love Letter, a card game that relies on risk, deduction, and a large amount of luck, that makes up part of the Tempest – Shared World series of games. Like Carcassonne before it, Love Letter required quite a lot of skill for a seemingly simple game. At the start of each round the players all draw one card and then on their turns have to both draw a new card and play a card. The player left with a card in his hand at the end of the round wins it. The sixteen cards have a variety of abilities and can be used to knock other players out of the round. Or they could backfire and you could end up knocking yourself out. The player who wins the round gets a kiss (not a real one, but a small plastic square) and the first player to get five kisses wins the game. I am sad and ashamed to admit that I didn’t win a single kiss and lost Love Letter miserably.
After that, we ordered in a couple of pizzas and slowed things down with a couple of games of KerPlunk. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason. I lost one game and came third in the next. Clearly KerPlunk is not my strongest suit.
Once the pizza and KerPlunk were finished, we moved onto a game called Scotland Yard, a board game where one player takes on the role of a criminal called Mr. X, and the remaining players team up and take on the roles of Detectives. The aim of the game is to catch Mr. X as he makes his way across London, but this is easier said than done. The movements of Mr. X are hidden from the rest of the players. His method of transportation – taxi, bus, or underground – is revealed to the Detectives, but not the route he has taken. Mr. X’s position is revealed to the other players roughly every five moves, and the players have to use logic to try and work out where he had gone, based solely on his previous position and the combination of transport he has taken. With only twenty-five moves to catch Mr. X in, the game soon becomes a tense and nail biting affair. Sadly the three of us were unable to catch Mr. X (although I came pretty close once!) and the three of us lost the game.
After playing three games (and KerPlunk) and losing to another player during all of those games, when the option of playing a purely co-operative game was suggested, I leapt at the chance, unable to face the prospect of another crushing defeat. The co-op game we opted on playing was Pandemic, where the players have to stop four different virulent diseases from taking over the world, first by curing them and then eradicating them, all while fighting new outbreaks. It’s kind of like a board game version of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, but with less Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne. Each potential character comes with a set of unique abilities, each one useful in different situations, so strategy plays a big part in this game. With players limited to four moves per turn and new diseases appearing randomly at the end of every round, the game is extremely tense and nerve-wracking, yet incredibly enjoyable. Sadly we were unable to contain all of the diseases and the map was soon overwhelmed with little coloured disease markers. But we didn’t really care, the game itself had left us all smiling.
We left at around 11:30pm and all headed home. Six and a half hours of solid gaming (and pizza) and, despite being trounced in every game, all of it was brilliant fun. If I could, I’d return to The Gaming Lounge Torquay in a heartbeat and waste as many hours as I could sweating over an intense gaming session, but that will soon no longer be an option.
Unfortunately, due to external pressures, my friend has decided to sell the business. It’s a great shame, because it really is a great little venue, and the facilities and entertainment it provided really were of a very high standard. They say all good things must come to an end, but the closure of The Gaming Lounge Torquay will have come far too soon for the loyal fanbase that it was slowly but surely building.