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The game Camel Up is played in a time-lapse at Game N’ Grounds on Jan 6, 2023. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

13 under-the-radar L.A. spots to play tabletop games

Play is an integral part of what it means to be human. We’ve been playing games for thousands of years, after all.

For good reason: Play can improve comprehension, creativity and problem-solving skills. It can reduce stress and bring people together. Playing tabletop games, for example, can help you feel more socially connected and increase your confidence, researchers have found. Tabletop games, which can be played at bars, game shops and cafes throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, incorporate many types of play, from moving pieces to connecting with others to imagining narratives.

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There’s a name for the sense of flow and pure joy felt while playing: the “play state.” It means one is fully immersed in an activity that provides pure bliss and a break from distractions and worries. Whether you’re a hobbyist or new to gaming, here are 13 spots where you can harness and develop your personal sense of play.

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Nov. 23, 2022

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A group of people stand near a sign that says "Board and Card Game > (Behind the Staircase).
(Sam Sanders)

Angel City Brewery

Downtown L.A. Games
To find games at the spacious Angel City Brewery, walk to the back and locate the shelves behind the stairwell. There you’ll find many classic and nostalgic games, including Candy Land, Sorry, Clue, Uno, Taboo and dominoes. Downtown Taco has a pop-up stand at Angel City Brewery that’s open on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. Check the Angel City Brewery website to see the current beer selection.

Hours: Monday 4 to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday noon to 2 a.m., Sunday noon to 11 p.m.

Pricing: Gameplay is free. Drinks range from $7 to $16; food $6 to $16.
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Two people at a table laughing and learning to play a board game.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Game N’ Grounds

Chatsworth Games
Game N’ Grounds is a clean, inviting neighborhood coffee shop and a fully stocked board game store and cafe all in one. Its library includes more than 300 board games, including some, like Quacks of Quedlinburg, with upgraded pieces not available in standard boxes. So-called “gameologists” recommend games they think you’ll enjoy based on your interests. Games range from multiple-hour strategy games to 15-minute party games. The gameologists can also demo the game, making it easy to jump right in. The store has a custom Dungeons & Dragons world that you can only experience there. Nightly board game events can draw 40 to 50 people, with a focus on creating a safe and inviting community. There are also events for beginners, including Dungeons & Dragons 101 and Learn the Game of the Week, which teaches patrons to play a game in full. Show up solo or in a group; staff members will play with those who come alone or encourage people with similar interests and skill levels to join together. The most popular coffee drinks here are the strawberry-and-rose-flavored King’s Rose and vanilla-and-lavender-flavored Queen’s Lavender. There is an active Discord where you can find out about events and discuss games.

Hours: Monday through Wednesday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Pricing: Meals $6 to $11; drinks $2 to $7. Most events are free.
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A Gameology banner that reads "the study of fun" hangs above games for purchase inside the store.
(Sam Sanders)


Pasadena Games
Kevin Gaffuri, the owner of Gameology, describes it as a refuge from stress and a place to go to have fun. Gameology has two locations, one in Pasadena and one in Upland. Gameology has game nights for both casual and tournament-level players. To play, you need to bring your own games and decks. Casual players should try Sundays and Wednesdays at the Pasadena location, which are casual Pokémon and Dungeons & Dragons nights, respectively. Tournament-level players should check the store’s website for competitive events. Don’t miss Monday’s board game night in Upland. The Pasadena location has custom-built tables with an inset pocket to prevent dice from falling off. Gaffurri encourages interested players to “come in, ask questions and be geeky.” Gameology also has a Discord server.

Pasadena hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday night casual Dungeons & Dragons 6:30 to 11 p.m.; Sunday Pokémon casual event noon start time.

Upland location: 916 N. Mountain Ave., Suite A, Upland; (909) 920-5900; open Monday through Saturday noon to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 7 p.m. Monday is Board Game Night.

Pricing: Tournaments $5 to $50. Snacks and drinks $1 to $5.
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A cat on top of a bookshelf in a store where a man stands looking at the shelf's contents.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Geeky Teas & Games

Burbank Games
Geeky Teas & Games is a female-owned, LGBTQ-friendly business with tables and rooms that transport you into a fantasy gaming world. There’s a dwarven-themed tavern and a spaceship-themed room, along with a vast library of more than 400 tabletop games to play. The shop, which can draw more than 40 patrons on any given night, requires all guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Geeky offers some dry snacks and water but does not allow additional food. Reserve a table online, especially on the busiest days, which are Saturdays and Tuesdays. Geeky Teas & Games also includes a cat rescue where well-trained cats wander the space. If you want to come alone, the best way to make new friends at Geeky is through its Discord server. Simply post your interests, and staff members or patrons will help you get involved. The store is well-staffed, so you can usually find someone to explain new games. Geeky Teas & Games also hosts an LGBTQ board gamers group. Donna Ricci, Geeky’s founder and co-owner, focuses heavily on creating a light-hearted, fun and accepting community. Ricci says she is “building a place where geeks feel like they are being honored.”

Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Pricing: Table $5 per person; private room $10 per person. Snacks start at $1.50, souvenir tea $10.
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People sit at a bar.
(Sam Sanders)


Burbank Games
“Any game that might be fun with a beer, we have that game,” says Collin Tollefson, Guildhall’s general manager. Guildhall is an adult gaming and esports bar with a library of more than 300 board games regularly curated to accommodate the latest gaming trends. It offers both party and strategy games and allows you to bring your own games. Guildhall, which has two locations — in Burbank and in Whittier — pays incredible attention to detail with its bright walls, themed decorations and well-lit rooms. Nerdy-themed drinks and cocktails like Chareau-dinger’s Cat and Dragonblade, as well as local craft beers, are available. On Fridays and Saturdays, board gamers tend to fill the 20 to 30 tables available at each location. The clientele typically ranges in age from 25 to 40. If you are coming alone, the staff recommends sitting at the bar to make conversation. Wall-mounted TVs stream gaming podcasts like “Critical Role” and esports competitions like “League of Legends.” On the menu: gluten-free chicken tenders made with corn chips and house-smoked meats. Check Instagram for food specials.

Burbank hours: Sunday through Wednesday 5 to 10 p.m., Thursday 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Whittier: 6741 Bright Ave., Whittier; (562) 632-1445. Hours: Sunday 11 to 12 a.m., Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Pricing: Gameplay is free. Drinks $6 to $14; food $5 to $24.
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A table set with plates, a teapot, cups, spoons, chopsticks and rainbow-colored xiao long bao, as well as a board game
(Sam Sanders)

Iron Teapot Dim Sum & Bar

Palms Games $$
On Mondays, Iron Teapot Dim Sum & Bar hosts a weekly board game meetup on its patio. While the event technically starts at 5 p.m., it gets crowded closer to 7 p.m. Iron Teapot has more than 30 games but also encourages guests to bring their own. The games range from light to medium in complexity (for example, Jenga, Telestrations, Azul and Catan). Board game nights are run by a husband-and-wife duo, Brooks Larson and Sally Chan. Chan, CEO of Iron Teapot, opened the space to offer high-quality, vegan-friendly dim sum on the Westside. Larson, a television editor and avid tabletop game fan, was the inspiration for the board game meetups at the location. Currently, these meetups are small, with up to 20 people playing in a congenial setting. When Larson is there, you can find him happily explaining games or inviting people to play together. You’ll notice people of all ages, experiences and backgrounds bonding over games. Along with the dim sum, you can see orders of rainbow-colored xiao long bao as well as Chan’s creative cocktails and tea steeping in iron teapots. You’ll feel comfortable showing up alone or in groups to play.

Hours: Board Game Night is Monday from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Pricing: Dim sum and xiao long bao $8-$15, cocktails $12-$15, pot of tea $8
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Rows of shelves featuring various games at Meeples Family.
(Daniela Becerra / N360 Studios)

Meeples Family

Anaheim Games
With more than 2,000 games to rent, Meeples Family has games for any type of fan. Kendall Fang, the owner, started his collection after playing board games on a camping trip, and the store’s tented playing spaces are an homage to those early days. You get charged per hour here, so Fang recommends looking through the games, picking one, then renting a table. The space is best for groups, not solo players. Tables can support up to 10 people but feel intimate with the tent structure. Some snacks and nonalcoholic drinks are available. For a $4 cleaning fee, you can bring in outside food. If you want to come in on Saturday or Sunday, make a reservation online; on weekdays, you might be able to walk in and get a table.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Pricing: Tables $3 per hour per person; snacks $1-$6, drinks $1-$3.
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People sitting at long tables playing games, surrounded by rentable games on the wall, at Next-Gen Games.
(Sam Sanders)

Next-Gen Games

Mid-City Games
Packed with 25 to 60 patrons nightly, Next-Gen games hosts themed events for people to get together and play. Its busiest nights are Mondays for Dungeons & Dragons and Thursdays for Pokémon. Wednesday board game night is also a great time to play games and meet people. Next-Gen Games has a unique system for renting games: Pay $5 for the night to access its game library, a row of games that stretches across the wall opposite the entrance. That money turns into store credit, so after visiting and playing five times, you could have a $25 credit toward the purchase of a game. If you want to meet new people, attend one of its events. You can stop in during store hours and rent games with friends as long as there is open space (events tend to fill up the tables). Gamers who come here know their preferred games inside and out. There’s also a Discord server.

Hours: Wednesday board game night: 7 to 10 p.m. Regular store hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday noon to 10 p.m., Tuesday 6:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Pricing: Accessing board game library $5. Snacks and drinks $1-$3.
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Castle-like walls painted inside of Odyssey Games.
(Sam Sanders)

Odyssey Games

Pasadena Games
Walk into Odyssey Games and you’ll see walls painted with castle bricks, volcanoes and gaming characters. The back of the store includes a large wooden watermill. It’s all designed to put you in a gaming mood, as are the more than 100 games and 50 tables to play on. Odyssey Games has multiple newbie nights. On Tuesdays, you can learn Warhammer, and on Wednesdays, you can learn Dungeons & Dragons. Board games are the draw on Thursdays. There’s also an active Discord where you can talk to others interested in gaming, and two rooms upstairs that you can reserve for a more secluded experience. Paul Zuber, the owner, tries to create a welcoming environment. The staff will let you try out games, and they can also teach you games when available. You’ll feel comfortable showing up to Odyssey Games after work, in a group or alone. Come in and play games anytime the store is open, but if you want to meet people, attend events, which are listed on the store’s online calendar.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m daily

Pricing: Gameplay is free. Snacks and drinks range from 50 cents to $5.
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Four young men sit around a table playing a board game.
(Sam Sanders)

Paper Hero’s Games

Van Nuys Games
Paper Hero’s Games hosts multiple events at its two locations in Sherman Oaks and West L.A. These chill events typically draw a crowd of folks in their late teens and 20s. The store has more than 50 games in its demo library that are available to play for free. Walk to the back, pick a game from the library and sit and play at a table. If you want to meet people, try the Friday board game nights. While the events start in the early afternoon, most people tend to arrive in the evening. On the weekends, events can have around 40 attendees. I spoke to a group playing there recently who said they all showed up alone to a Friday night board game meetup and are now friends inside and outside gaming. There’s also a Discord server.

Hours: 2 to 10 p.m., daily, both locations

Los Angeles address: 1304 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles; (669) 232-6666.

Pricing: Gameplay is free.
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A red booth and tables inlaid with chess boards at the Rhythm Room.
(Sam Sanders)

Rhythm Room L.A.

Downtown L.A. Games
When walking into the Rhythm Room Lounge, you’ll notice tabletops inlaid with chess boards ready for play. Here, you’ll find multiple games ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty, including Catan, Clue, What Do You Meme?, chess, checkers, Connect 4 and Operation. Music is the main focus of this spot; the games are more of a side activity to complement the live bands. The bar, which typically attracts people in their mid-20s to mid-30s, has a $5 cover. The menu includes $5 rum-infused pineapple shots and a $9 pepper steak sandwich. You can make reservations online for tables.

Hours: Thursday to Saturday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Pricing: Drinks $4-$16, food $5-$15; cover $5.
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A hand with a diamond ring and yellow nail polish puts down letters in a game of Scrabble.
(SWIM Social)

The Spare Room

Hollywood Games
Hidden on the mezzanine of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is a small, stylish gaming parlor and cocktail lounge. The bar has a collection of more than 15 high-end, high-quality, classic games like Monopoly, backgammon, Connect 4 and Scrabble. Some of these classic games were custom-made with fabric, leather, suede and special stitching. The lounge’s copy of Connect 4 was built from scratch in collaboration with a millworker. It’s best to show up with people to play with. Before you go, check the website to make sure the venue is not hosting a private event.

Hours: Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Pricing: Cocktails $18
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Warhammer models and games in a store
(Sam Sanders)

Warhammer Store & Cafe

Monrovia Games
Warhammer Store & Cafe dedicates itself to all things Warhammer, a miniature tabletop war game. The front of the shop has a space to paint your own “mini” game pieces, and the back has play stations for games. Warhammer games and minis line the shelves across the store and are available for purchase. The shop also includes a cafe with Warhammer-themed coffee- and tea-based drinks. Check the store’s Facebook page for event information.

Hours: Monday to Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

Pricing: Coffee and drinks $2-$5; snacks and pastries $2.50-$3.25.
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