Customers at Ludica Pizzeria in Vancouver play a game called KnitWit while they wait for their meals. The pizza and board game concept is coming to New West this fall.
Darryl Boone and his wife loved playing board games while they munched on meals.
It was so much fun, they began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, many others would also find it fun to combine the activities. So they put their money where their wonder was and opened up Ludica Pizzeria and Game Room in Vancouver near the Stadium/Chinatown SkyTrain station in January 2014. Turns out they were right. It’s been so much of a boon to the Boones, they’ll soon be bringing their winning combo to New Westminster.
“They’re great icebreakers, and can be a fun way to occupy your time while you’re in the restaurant,” said Boone in an email interview with the
Record. “The few restaurants that had board games tended to just have a few thrifted, beat-up copies of old games and used them almost as decoration, as restaurant flair. No one else seemed to take the game part seriously, to have newer games, games we’d want to play. So we saw an idea that we’d like to exist, and did it ourselves because no one else was!”
The first location, although close to rapid transit, isn’t very large. It’s so busy in the evenings there’s a waiting list to get in. So to reach more people the Boones decided New West, because it’s so central, was the place to set up a second Ludica location. It will be at Sixth Street and Carnarvon, and it’s expected to open this fall.
Boone admitted Ludica (which is described as a “really obscure Italian adjective” meaning “of, or related to, games” making Pizzeria Ludica literally a pizzeria of games) doesn’t “have hardly any doubles!” So a second spot means they’ll have to buy seconds of their most popular games which includes the likes of Bang, Catan, Dixit, The Resistance, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, King of Tokyo, Telestrations, and many, many more.
The original Ludica has grown its board and card games collection from about 400 to more than 800. They range from quick games and children’s games to lightweight, medium-weight and heavyweight. Eventually Boone plans to have as many in New West, although that could take some time.
“We are building enough shelf space for that many (800),” said Boone. “Since we don’t have much more room at the Vancouver location, we’ll move some of its collection to New West, and of course get extra copies of the games people play the most. So each location will have hundreds of games, with room for more. After opening, we’ll continue to add new games regularly at both locations.”
One of the best aspects customers appreciate is being able to unplug. There are no fingers flying over smartphones because everyone’s on board with all the fun they’re having with board games that don’t come with a digital display.
Boone’s had fun, too, teaching customers how to play.
“When I’d see people looking at the games, I’d walk over and offer to help recommend a game suitable for their group and to teach it to them,” wrote Boone. “I love games and enjoy sharing my passion with others. People seemed to appreciate that, so as Ludica got busier (and I got busier, meaning I had less time to help personally), we hired (game stewards) specifically for their game knowledge, so we could continue to offer that service.”
The games are free. The food isn’t. But it’s a big part of the pizzeria’s popularity. They’ve even included game playing as part of a couple daily deals. On Mondays, group game winners get a free gelato or sorbetto. On Wednesdays, winners receive the entrée he or she ordered free.
“A unique restaurant won’t be successful if no one likes the food. We have many customers who come for the food, both eat-in and take-out, and don’t stay to play,” said Boone. “We didn’t advertise at all, we let people discover us and tell others.
“I like to think it was a combination of things. Good food, taking the board game thing seriously instead of as an afterthought, not rushing people and letting people stay and have fun, and not charging more just because we offer something different.”