Published on December 6th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


Good game, good game

There’s more to board games than Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, as Alastair Gilmour discovers

When Mike Taylor and Jo Little invite you to play some board games, don’t expect Snakes & Ladders or Ludo. Theirs go by the names of Exploding Kittens, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Fluxx and Total Rickall.

Together, Mike and Jo are That’s How We Roll and have ambitions to introduce the best in fun and games to the pub environment. They’ve started with every-other Sunday at the Free Trade Inn in Newcastle and have secured a regular Wednesday evening slot at the brand-new Full Circle Brew Co a short distance away in Hoult’s Yard on the eastern fringe of Ouseburn. 

The plan is to eventually roll out the sessions (pun intended) to attract board-gaming beer lovers and beer-loving board gamers alike. Their games can range from simple cards to intricate balancing acts with dice-rolling, building, sailing ships and camel racing in between.

Mike is an IT technician working behind the scenes at the Apple shop in Newcastle. 

“Basically I’m a genius at Apple,” he says. “I fix iPhones, Macs and iPads – pretty much anything. I’ve been working there for ten years and would like to do teaching and training as well.”

Jo works in Peterlee buying steel for the construction industry. “We built the Gateshead College development at Baltic Quayside,” she says (which is as fine an example of modern structural activity as you would want in your portfolio).

Mike also admits he’s a “tinkerer by nature” so it’s no surprise they got into something that requires thought, quick answers and dexterity.

He says: “We met when we were about 15 and either already had or acquired board games over the years. We’re still getting more and more involved. We’ve got fifty-odd versions of Monopoly. I just kept getting it.

“One of the great things about these games is that they’re mostly for three or four players – even more – so they’re ideal for groups, particularly in pubs. There’s just more happens when there’s more than two of you.

“Jo likes the very pretty ones like Takenoko which has lots of pink colours, bamboo houses and little pandas. When she first saw it she was already buying it when she realised it had a little panda in it.” Jo gives him one of those “heard it all before” looks.

“We tend to look on Amazon’s ever-expanding list of interesting games then check them out in local shops. They can start anywhere from £20 to £30 or up to £65. But compare that with a night out for the two of you. I’ve seen one I’d really like that costs £480.” 

But it was on a trip to Burnley in Lancashire with the intention of climbing Pendle Hill that brought their love of board games to life. The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. Twelve women accused of witchcraft lived in the area surrounding Pendle Hill and were charged with the murders of ten people through their supposed use of black arts.

“Later on we found this brilliant games shop,” says Mike. “The people were super-friendly and we stayed for a few hours. We started playing Rhino Hero with a couple of regular customers and realised it was quite fun playing games with random strangers. 

“We thought about doing it at home and in the pub because I like drinking beer and playing games with people. Jo is more into her rum. Now we’ve got five Ikea Kallax bookshelving units at home virtually full of games.

“We got talking to Mick (Potts) about it as the Free Trade has a very family atmosphere – particularly on a Sunday – and it’s not full of hard drinkers. People can bring their own games along if they want. It’s just a pound cover charge which goes towards replacing any that get damaged.

“We’ve also been borrowing them from the City Library in Newcastle – some of the guys from there came and played them with us. It was brilliant.”

Mike has also invested in a 3D printer so he can build different terrains for games. “We’ve got computers plugged in all over the house,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun being in a room playing games with your friends.”

Most of them can be played by anyone from nine years old. Mike is particularly excited about one that you can spread out and build train tracks all across America. Then there’s King of Tokyo, Camel Up, Colt Express, Riff Raff, Goat Lords, Celestia and Adventure Time Munchkin. Betrayal of the House on the Hill involves horror stories with ghosts, demons, monsters and angels. Tiny Epic Games takes regular games and miniaturises them.

Mike says: “Some games can last about twelve hours. Eldritch Horror took us an hour just to set up then six hours to play. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is played with your eyes closed.”

The couple have plans to go to a four-day board game convention in Essen, Germany, next year.

“That’s basically us,” says Mike. “That’s how we roll.”


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Alastair Gilmour

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