The Best Places to Play Board Games in Dublin

The Bernard Shaw pub | © William Murphy/Flickr
The Bernard Shaw pub | © William Murphy/Flickr
Photo of Kate Hawkes
8 February 2018

Board games might not have the most fashionable reputation, but these family classics have had a modern makeover in Dublin. Forget those endless, argumentative games on rainy evenings: now, rather than being cooped up at home, you could be having your game alongside drinks, food and music at venues across the city.

Whether you’re a regular gamer looking for a new challenge, or are just in search of a new twist on your usual Friday drinks, it’s time to roll the dice and try somewhere new.

While the way we play games might have changed, those rainy evenings are still likely to be a feature. It’s no secret that Ireland is not blessed with the best weather, so it’s always worth having a few plans that will keep you snug indoors. Getting together with friends over a few games is more engaging than squinting at a grainy pub TV and more sociable than shouting at each other in a noisy club. As if you needed any more reasons to win you over, there’s also the fact that playing board games is almost always free.

From quiet venues where you can challenge fellow fans, through to bustling hipster bars, there’s a place to suit every type of board game and every player. For those who take their gaming seriously, The Clockwork Door is a good place to start. This a relatively new addition to Dublin’s Temple Bar area and a welcome alternative to pubs and restaurants. The Clockwork Door calls itself a ‘time house’, which means it charges a few cents for each minute that you stay. However, in return, the venue provides a variety of board games, and offers free tea, coffee, biscuits and popcorn.

If, come closing time, you want to continue playing at home, stock up at Games Workshop and Gamers World, which are both within a short walk of The Clockwork Door. While you’re in there, have a chat with the staff to find out about any specific board game groups you might be interested in. You’ll also find weekly board game sessions advertised on and the Dublin Event Guide. All sessions are open to anyone and everyone, and are a great way to get to know new people.

As the evening draws on, move on to one of the many other pubs now offering board games. At the top of the list has to be The Square Ball, where alongside rotisserie chicken and craft beers, they boast a ping-pong table, dart board, Nintendo 64 and a list of board games you can’t help but be impressed by. Seem too good to be true? Well, although basic games like chess and Monopoly are free to play, getting your hands on that full selection of premium games requires an €8 (£7) fee and a deposit. A small price to pay for an evening jam-packed with fun.

For an even more relaxed approach to gaming, pick from the selection by the bar in The Back Page or try one of the more eccentric venues that have fairly battered but serviceable selections. Sitting right in the centre of town, Cassidy’s is packed with sofas and armchairs as well as lots of other people, so claim a corner downstairs for a rowdy game of Jenga. In The Bernard Shaw, there is, unbelievably, a double-decker bus parked in the beer garden where you can eat freshly made pizzas while you relive childhood classics like Scrabble.

It’s no wonder that board games have started appearing in venues all over Dublin – whether you’re challenging your friends or challenging people you’ve only just met, it almost always ends up being more fun than you expected. One last tip, though: don’t leave your drink on the table when you’re playing Jenga. Just trust me on that.

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