Marche Board Game Café is hidden on the edge of Melbourne's CBD, only a block away from Melbourne Central. It's a gorgeous haven for board game geeks who are looking for a place to play, either with friends or as a quiet couple. The interior of Marche is spotless and cute, with lots of personality and a great set-up for groups of 2-6 people to play games. That's by no means the only size group you can take, but most board games are built for those numbers, so it works well.
You can choose from a truly impressive selection of 100 board games, some of which are listed on the website. The variety of games delighted me, as did the presence of many games I know are good and/or popular. There is a great range of kids games, classic board games, strategy games, quick and easy to learn games, and in-depth epics. Titles I recognised included classics like Rummikub, Balderdash and Game of Life, then other popular choices like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Dixit, Game of Thrones, Dominion, Pandemic, Arkham Horror, and that's just naming the ones I remember and have played.
So how does it work? You pay $8 for a 3 hour session, and you have to buy a drink on top of that. The drinks are over-priced for what they are, around $6-$8 for a large coffee, iced coffee, milkshake or mocktail; however the snacks are the same price, and that seems decent value. They include things like chicken nuggets, cheesy bread, rice balls and spring rolls – fun party snacks that fit the mood. The drinks weren't anything special, but they weren't bad either. And let's be honest – I needed the caffeine and sugar when it came to learning half a dozen new games. The fact that the café is unlicensed and has no BYO doesn't bother me, because even though I like a glass (or three) of wine when playing board games, they seriously hamper me. And I like to win. So really, they're saving me from sabotaging myself.
My partner in geekery and I spent 6 hours in the café, without realising where the time went. When we got hungry we ordered chips, which fuelled us for the next few hours. One proviso on the time limit is that if they are quiet and your table hasn't been booked, you can stay longer for no extra charge. Since it was a weekday, we left only when we were totally gamed-out, which apparently takes about 6 hours. It was a wonderful way to spend a day-off together, especially given the air-conditioned nature of the café and the 35 degree day outside. And what did 6 hours of fun set us back? Less than $40. Cheapest day out we've had in ages! And serious fun.
Our game selections included a few games we've eyed off in shops or read about, and some that the friendly waitress recommended for us based on the type of games I told her we liked. Her recommendations were great, which shows she knows her games.
We chose mostly collaborate and strategy games, as those tend to be our favourite kind, but we also played a kid's game called Monkeys, which is like a cross between Jenga and Pick-Up Sticks. It was a nice way to break up the hard work of learning a 'proper' game. That's one thing I especially like about this café – the fact that you have so much variety on hand, and can choose whatever game suits your mood at the time.
I highly recommend this as a fun day or evening out with friends, or as a date with someone special. There are plenty of two-person friendly games (something which we always struggle to find), so it's ideal for a date. It's also a great way to do a birthday party, and will appeal to any kind of board gamer, be you a lover of the classics, or keen to try something new.
And if games aren't your thing or if you need a rest from an intense game session, you can also get your karaoke on! There are a number of private rooms for hire, cleverly hidden within the cafe itself. Basically, it's a one-stop shop for all your leisure-time desires, and well-worth a visit.