Gaming Places

Review: Draughts London

Draughts, London
Draughts, London

I’m a Kickstarter backer of Draughts London,  and how could I not be? My primary problem with board games is not being able to find places to play them with people, especially since the Pembury Tavern – where we went a couple of times a week to do just that – became popular enough that finding a table to play games on got difficult. Then we moved out. So, having backed it, obviously I was first in line to go there when it opened in November…

… yeah, not quite. November and December have been a bit rollercoastery, and then I missed a trip there with some friends between Christmas and NY, so I eventually decided just to call a date and see if people would turn up. They did.

Draughts is in a railway arch under the Overground line from Haggerston. It’s fairly easy to get to, if not to find. An accordian player under the station was our constant companion as we walked back and forth looking for the right turn-off.

We turned up at opening time, which is 17:00. Sensible for normal working days, though did cause some confusion in the “what day is it today anyway?” murk of the holiday season, but they had published opening times clearly, it was just me being wrong. I’m not sure if it was the effect of being the last friday before the new work year starts (for a lot of people) or just a normal Friday night rush, but within twenty minutes of opening every table was full and the cafe was at capacity. I was quite worried while I was getting my Kickstarted membership sorted out that we’d get a table, but eventually we did.

a two walls of bookshelves filled with boardgames
Draughts has a library of over 500 games

My plan was to play Sentials of the Multiverse – which I bought a little while ago, but haven’t had the chance to play my copy – but until people arrived I went hunting in the Library to search for a two player game for me and Fyr to play with while people arrived.

The library is extensive, listed in detail on their site, and divided up into genres such as Strategy (Zones 1, 2 & 3), Family, Party and such. Under Family you’ll find the stuff that Joe Public expects to find on a board-games shelf, from Scrabble and Guess Who to the family dividing games of Monopoly and Cluedo. Members of my family will be debatably happy to know that neither Pit or Pass the Pigs make an appearance. While the shear volume of games is somewhat daunting, there are friendly employees who can find you the kind of thing you’re looking for. I picked up another Kickstarter-funded project (Dungeon Roll, more a serial-single player game than a multiplayer one) and the gaming commenced.

The drinks menu is mostly locally sourced, with draught beer from Meantime Brewery in Greenwich and soft drinks from Dalston Cola, and bottles of beers from all over London, and some decent apple juices too. This provides a nice supply of decent drinks for those who like such things, but is very much in the opposite direction of Opinionated to the inclusion of Monopoly in the library, anyone whose preferences are for more generic soft drinks rather than the strong and different flavours of Dalston’s output, or whose drinking preferences are for something + mixer are out of luck. Similarly, the only food the cafe offers is a short range of pre-made sandwiches and some cakes, the latter of which weren’t available when we went. While food is not a central tent-pole of the cafe’s appeal, and I imagine the existence of cakes will help, it felt lacking the “café” part of Board Game Café right now.

From 5pm when it opened, all the way until the last hour before close every table was occupied. Most of the tables are built for four people to sit around comfortably – six at a squash – but with the astounding innovation of a table under the table to keep things like board games and card hands in, which keeps the main surface clear for actually playing games on. The only possible improvement would be to add cup-holders to the table to reduce the possibility of getting beer over the games.

It’s not cheap, although it’s not bad for the area. The beer was ~£4/pint, £2.20 for the soft drinks. As I say, the food isn’t a focus of the place, but for £5 a sandwich I’d prefer it more was. Toilets are unisex, for those it’s important to.

Looking from the library out over the cafe
Looking from the library out over the cafe

The gaming sessions are better value, there’s a £5/person cover charge (£3.50 for members, who also get a set of free session tokens when they join) but that’s for however long you stay, and access to all the games. This relies a lot on people being honest and paying their due, and I hope they’re able to keep that attitude. Staff were friendly and helpful, and knew their stuff about the games on offer (and expressed interest in the game they hadn’t seen before that we were playing), and it was a good environment to play board games in, without the strange looks you get when you do that in most normal pubs, and with the added advantage of not having to lug any large boxes halfway across London.

A place I think I’ll go back to often.

home Random webcomics

Not Lovingfilm enough


Shoebox » Chuck & Beans.

So I unsubscribed from Lovefilm DVDs today.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Boilers and the tyranny of "but it works"

So, our flat’s been out of heating for a week or so. Long term readers will remember our current boiler has never been the most logical of devices. About a year ago it entirely packed up, and various attempts to fix it by our Intrepid Plumber got us hot water but still no heating. For that December (2010), he came around about once every few days, spent a few hours trying a new possible solution to the continuing problem, replacing bits and pieces, fixing stuff with washers and duct tape, and generally roping the thing into some kind of order that would last long enough and be tickable as “Fixed” and to, importantly, enable us to not freeze. The pump got replaced, the control panel which I spent so much time blogging about was bypassed by a new digital interface, and it eventually all came back on, sometime in January last year.

Two weeks ago, when it failed again (when it was snowing, obviously), back came the Intrepid Plumber to fix and screw and replace bits and pieces of the boiler, saying how it needed to be flushed though, and got it back just about working having manually twiddled the filter.

Saturday it died again in exactly the same way. Intrepid Plumber wasn’t well, so our landlord’s agent sent a new company they hadn’t used before. New company took one look at it, listened to what happened when it was turned on (Thunk rattle rattle rattle, *thunk* rattle rattle, *thunk*, [pause], *PHWEEEEEEEEEEEE* as the steam safety valve does its best Ivor the Engine impression). And said, in effect, “Okay, that’s fucked. I’m going to call in for a new one” (By which point it was Wednesday, because the wheels of higher beings turn more slowly than for those without hot water). So, at quarter to eight on this Friday morning I’m waiting for the plumbers to arrive with the new boiler we probably needed a year ago.

(There’s a bit more complication, as our 17th storey status  means that installing a new boiler isn’t exactly trivial if they need to expand the flue, but they appear to have got around the original quote of needing to build scaffolding all the way.)

To drag this back to a relevant point, instead of waffling about boilers, the central problem was that once the dodgy boiler was “fixed” to the point where it provided hot water and heating, all the impetus to do anything further to shore up the system had faded away. My Landlord wasn’t massively willing to throw another few hours of Plumber time on something that was clearly working, and I wasn’t going to push them a lot further because I have better things to do during the working week than harrass my Landlord’s agents into fixing a working system.

Development suffers the same problem. Once a system is up and working, even if some of the ways that happened aren’t ideal, it’s quite hard to justify going back and risking breaking system for the somewhat arbitary goal of making it “better”. There will always be time to scale it, to refactor it, to reindex it, later. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Until eventually you’re sitting in a cold flat without having been able to have a shower for a week with a heater that might as well run by burning five pound notes.

Enhanced by Zemanta
driving Places


It’s now nearly three years since I moved to London.

Before London, Bedford. Before Bedford, Letchworth Garden City. Before Letchworth, Reading, Cambridge, Kent, Sunderland and initially Kent. London is the city I’ve spent the most time in apart from Kent.

I find the concept of “I hate London” both really easy and really hard to accept. I can understand that if you commute in every day, spend most of your time in London in either the tube or an office, always in Central London how you could find it clostrophobic and dirty. Mostly. But I’m sitting at my desk in east London, and behind my monitors I can see Hackney Marshes, a space of land the size of 88 full sized football pitches. We know it’s the size of 88 full sized football pitches, because there are 88 full sized football pitches marked out on it. Green fields for ages. Trees. Rows of houses as well as council flats. Elsewhere there are leafy, tree lined suburbs; huge gothic buildings and tiny wooden churches. I find it hard to hate London, because it’s like attempting to embrace the moon. You can get a part of it, but the whole thing is beyond your reach.

When I moved in I had the same view of London as most people who visit it occasionally. Islands where I knew the roads and directions, clustered entirely around tube stations. I knew the area round Kings Cross towards Angel very well, for I used to commute there. I knew Paddington Station, where my train from Bedford got in; Charring Cross, where trains from Kent got in. I knew bits and places. Getting around London was a matter of using the tube to hop between islands.

Later on, mostly once I’d moved here, I started to join the islands up, discovering that this Kings Cross island was actually within a couple of minutes walk from this Angel island; that Charring Cross Island was quite close to Oxford Circus Island; that you can get from Camden Island to Kings Cross Island quicker by walking. Covent Garden Island is within walking distance of Tottenham Court Road island, which is handy since Covent Garden Island’s tube station is heck on earth.

Eventually, you get a better understanding of how London fits together. Eventually I’d got down my “Islands” to two: Central London and Walthamstow, because walking between them was a faff.

Eventually I moved to Leyton, and now to Hackney, and found the actual secret to getting around London without losing your sense of what’s where: Buses. My natural aversion to buses was caused by living in a small town, where buses where every half an hour or so if you’re lucky, and the massive problem with buses which is that in almost all cases you don’t know where you’re supposed to get off unless you’ve been there before, which presents a bootstrapping problem. In London, the former problem is solved by the fact that there are buses *everywhere* and they all run every 10 minutes on average, and the latter partly by automated announcements of which stop you’re at and partly by the fact I now have a GPS device in the form of an iPhone.

Living in Hackney makes getting buses more likely, as we’re the most central area of London that the Tube has little access to. The Overground works, but isn’t very frequent, and mostly goes between the great spokes of the London transport system, rather than down into the centre.

All of this is part of why I find things like The Knowledge – the official exam that London black-cab drivers take – really interesting. It apparently takes around four years to pass the test. The perils of an evolved city over a planned grid-based system, I suppose.


Our flat looking like a bomb site

While wandering around the net yesterday, I tripped over this video. This video is of a building being incompetantly demolished.

Coincidentally, it’s the tower next to the one I currently live in. It’s really quite weird to watch something that looks like your house being blown up.


New Flat Adventures, Season Three Episode Three

There is a Very Loud Noise. Someone is driving a piledriver though your skull. There is a tribe of pigmy gnomes playing “Smooth Criminal” using your head as a xylophone. Good morning player, you have scored 0 out of a maximum 120 points for today.

> Look

It is dark. There is no light. There is a loud noise.

> Open eyes

It is not dark. There is too much light. Your eyes are pierced on the rays of the sun like vision-kebabs. There is a loud noise.

[Bedroom. From the bed]

You are in a very bright room, domainated by an unmade bed which you are laying on, and partially in. To your left is an ALARM CLOCK on a table.

> Turn off alarm clock

The ALARM CLOCK is not ringing.

> Up


You are in a very bright room, domainated by an unmade bed. On a table is an ALARM CLOCK. Beside the bed is a PILE OF CLOTHES. The PILE OF CLOTHES is making a loud noise.

> Pick up clothes

You are holding the CLOTHES

> Wear clothes

You are wearing the CLOTHES. You have: a set of KEYS, an IPHONE, a WALLET and NO TEA. The IPHONE is making a loud noise.

> Examine iPhone.

7th July: iSmash by scribbletaylor, on Flickr/a
7th July: iSmash by scribbletaylor, on Flickr

The IPHONE is alarming. These are the reasons it is alarming: (a) It is making a loud noise in order to awaken you. (b) There is a spiderweb crack centred halfway down the left hand side, stretching across the entire screen.

> Silence iPhone.

The IPHONE is now 50% less alarming.

In that the IPHONE is still BROKEN.

> Go to Carphone Warehouse

You are in a shop. There are laminate wooden floors, lots of technology, and a HELPFUL PERSON.

> Show iPhone to Helpful Person

“Am I supposed to be impressed?”

> Give give iPhone to Helpful Person




> Wait

Time passes. The Helpful Person gives you a replacement PHONE.

> Examine phone

It’s got fifteen buttons, a small screen, and is brown and beige. It is not an IPHONE.

> 🙁

Well, you shouldn’t have broken it then.

> Wait.

Time passes. The Helpful Person sits down and sings about gold.

> Wait for three weeks.

Time passes slowly without an iPhone. The colour is removed from your world. You have no games to play, no internet to muck around on, even twitter loses its shine. Your world is a drab place, you are looking at your shoes. What do you do?

> I press the button again.

No! Forget about the button, you are looking at your shoes.

> I buy a new pair of… hang on, this is the wrong sketch. Also, I’ve borrowed an N95 from Ciaran, so I do have internet and twitter.

You have NO IPHONE.

> Noted.

The HELPFUL PERSON gives you a replacement iPhone.

> Install Sim

You install the Sim. You have an iPhone again.

> Turn on iPhone, listen to music.

The IPHONE won’t work until you connect it to ITUNES.

> How long until I can go home?


> Wait

You wait.

Time passes.


Citylink are not useful to me

(I’ve maintained escaped quotes from the email, because I think this is funny)

Dear Nicholas Avenell,

Many thanks for using our website for your customer service query. We are currently replying to all queries within 2 business days, please bear with us while we process your query.

A new eNote, number 1081442, has been raised, which reads:

Citylink have been foiled by a gate with an intercom on the pillar.

They’ve tried to deliver this three times in four days, each time have “left a card”, which I’ve never recieved. Collecting from their depot will take five hours I don’t have.

Since delivering things to my office means I have to lug it home manually on the bus, I can no longer order anything of any great size from you until you stop using Citylink, or at least provide a paid option to use someone else instead.

I’ve lived in places with a good Citylink service. I’ve had a good service from you for the last eight and half years, but your continued use of Citylink without another option is now a major factor against you. I was relying on the delivery of the hard drive over the weekend, and ended up having to spend 33% more for the same model at somewhere within walking distance.

You’ll be receiving the order contents back as soon as Citylink stop holding it for a collection I’ll never make.

You can view this eNote via our website here :[REDACTED]



New Flat Adventures Season Two, Episode Two

There’s a cut-scene as a week passes, and we’re on the Saturday after we’ve moved in. I’ve skipped over some puzzles, like "planning how to get to work", "how to get all the books on the bookshelves" (which is a substandard tetris-ripoff of a minigame at most), and "How to cook bolognaise when only one hob gets hot enough to boil or fry anything", but yesterday, this happened.

Current inventory: Nothing.

A credit card has been delivered to the MAILBOX in the hallway, but the MAILBOX KEY is mising.


You are in a hallway. There is a redundant array of inexpensive MAILBOXEN in front of you. They are all blue. They are numbered with a selection of the possible numbers from one hundred to one thousand nine hundred and four. They are all locked.

> Examine box 1704

It’s blue. You can see a NEWSPAPER inside.

> Talk to PORTER.

You see no PORTER. There is a SUBSTITUTE PORTER here.



> Thank porter. Take key.

There is no PORTER here.

> Thank substitute porter. Take key.


> Open mailbox with key.

Opening MAILBOX 1704 with MAILBOX SKELETON KEY. That doesn’t work.

> What?

That doesn’t work.

> Return Key


> Examine Mailbox.

It’s blue. You can see a NEWSPAPER inside.

> Examine Mailbox slot.

Your fingers will just about fit inside.

> pick up NEWSPAPER.

There is no need to shout. You have a copy of Hackney Today.

> Examine MAILBOX

It’s blue. You can see a PIZZA LEAFLET inside.

> Pick up leaflet.


> Examine Mailbox

It is blue. You can see a ENVELOPE inside.

> Pick up Envelope.

You cannot get a grip.

> Up.

You are in your flat.

> Drop mail.

You have nothing.

> Look.

You see a PIZZA LEAFLET, a NEWSPAPER and nothing useful. A spark of INSPIRATION floats by.

> Get inspiration.


> Look

You see a SPATULA and some other stuff.

> Take tongs and spatula.

You have a SPATULA.

> Down

You are in a hallway. There is a redundant array of inexpensive MAILBOXEN in front of you. They are all blue. They are numbered with a selection of the possible numbers from one hundred to one thousand nine hundred and four. They are all locked.

> Use spatula on mailbox.

After a short amount of time, you have an ENVELOPE for someone else, and an ADVERT for european style hair styling and waxing from as shop called "Ibiza" down the road.

> Examine Mailbox

It is blue. You can see a LARGE FLAT ENVELOPE inside.

> Take Large Envelope

You can’t get a grip with the SPATULA either.

> Up.

You are in your flat.

> Drop Mail

You have a SPATULA.

> Look

You can see some mail, a roll of STICKYBACK PLASTIC, some STRING and a PAPERCLIP.

> Pick up sellotape and string and paperclip.


> Examine Sellotape


> Examine Sellotape


> Examine Sellotape

You can’t make me, you know. I *like* calling it STICKYBACK PLASTIC.

> Noted.

Good. Next?

> Down

You are in a hallway. There is a redundant array of inexpensive MAILBOXEN in front of you. They are all blue. They are numbered with a selection of the possible numbers from one hundred to one thousand nine hundred and four. They are all locked.

> Use sellotape and string on spatula.

Done. You now have a MACGYVERIAN DEVICE instead of a SPATULA. There is a PORTER here.

> Use device on Mailbox.

Before you do so, the PORTER hands you a MAILBOX KEY.

> Use Key on Mailbox.

You do so. There is an ANTICLIMAX here.





New Flat Adventures Season Two, Episode One

(Cross-posted from another place, because someone asked me why I wasn’t putting them here, and I have no good reason)

Last time I got a new flat, I flooded the floor and roasted the manual to the new oven.

This time, nothing in the flat is new.

And this time, I have an Easy To Use Boiler.

It has no instructions or labels. It has icons.

It has:

  • A dial of the numbers one to twenty four, with pegs around it in the state of Up or Down.
  • A rotary dial with an icon of a square wave.
  • A rotary dial with an icon of a set of ineffective staple removers.
  • A three state dial with the following possible values: Snowflake, Null, Lightbulb.
  • An icon of a crossed out flame, next to a red light, which is off.
  • A button.
  • An Exciting Rotary Monitor with a black line and and a red line, with the scale in degrees centigrade, in black.

In the state when I arrived, all the dials around the clock are in state Down, square wave is all the way left, staple removers are somewhere in a middle, and we are in state lightbulb. There is no hot water.

Also, I’ve been moving boxes for two days, I need a shower. So. I recognise this, for I’ve played graphic adventures before. This is a Puzzle.

Now, I’ve solved part one of the puzzle, which was that the two rotary dials only have one actual turny-thing between them, and I had to repair the other broken turny-thing with bluetac (acquired as part of a previous puzzle). Traditionally, I should work out what they symbols represent, realise the connection between them, and set the machine to the perfect settings so the hot water happens and I can move into the next location.

Right. Experimentation time.

In state lightbulb, changing the state the pegs around the current time appears to do nothing, as does moving the square wave dial. Nothing I do changes the Exciting Rotary Dial.

Okay, trying with state Null. Still nothing. Must be on the wrong track. The solution is hot water, so let’s try…

So, moving to state Snowflake gives me hot water, so long as the current time pegs are down and the ineffective staple remover level is high. Mucking around with the staple remover settings gives me tepid water.

This is, obviously, a machine for the apocalypse. Lightbulb obviously represents the gods of Knowledge, whose effectiveness is – by the state of the world – currently very weak. Therefore the machine is obviously a torture device, set to cause pain and suffering to those it is pointed at.

The gods of Knowledge are weak to high pitched noises, so playing with the square wave makes their life worse, but it’s hard to know what happens when you torture a god of knowledge, so nothing appears to happen.

The snowflake setting represents the ice gods, trapped in whatever dimension this thing points at. The only way to damage them is with staple removers, which – having been invented after they were incarcerated – is the only thing they have not made themselves unharmable by. Torturing an ice god releases heat – this is thermodynamics – and applying more staple removers creates more heat.

Thus, the torture of immortal beings provides my nice hot shower.

I was hoping for a cut scene, but instead I was thrown straight into another puzzle involving shower controlled by a mixer tap.

Sometimes I wonder why I play these games at all.



So, House number 11 has been moved into.

Yesterday, I, my girlfriend Fyr, Her parents, My parents and David McBride all decended on my old flat in Leyton to remove its entire contents.

Keldaby, as the flat was known, was a nice flat. It had nice rooms, in a nice area, with fields around it and bus links to the centre. Its two main faults were that people kept dumping stuff outside, which I could live with, and that it was in no way big enough for both me anFyr to live there, and so we no longer do.

The new flat, which is currently unnamed, has these properties:

  • It’s 17 floors up.
  • From the balcony I can see the new olympic statium being built
  • as well as Canary Wharf, The Dome and the London Eye.
  • It has room!

I’m not sure how I filled a large 2 bedroom flat with the contents of a small 1 bedroom one, but it is apparently true.