What's in my shop: Take a look inside this unique Sussex cafe which has hundreds of board games for people to play

People of all ages are coming together and connecting to enjoy playing one of nearly 1,000 different board games over a coffee and a bite to eat at what is thought to be the only board game cafe in Sussex.

Hastings Board Game Museum and Cafe is a labour of love for board game enthusiast and self -confessed nerd Gary Surridge, who gave a up a successful career in sales to follow his dream after a moment of enlightenment.

Gary, who has in roots in Sussex, explained: “I went travelling in a remote part of Peru, way off the tourist trail, where you lived with a tribe in the way they did, working together and experiencing nature. It made me realise that money doesn’t make you happy. After I returned, I woke up one morning and thought ‘I just can’t do this any more,’ so I handed in my job and decided to do something I loved that would make me happy.

"I returned to Hastings, where I have family, and opened the Board Game Cafe and Museum, with the intention of creating an inviting and comfortable space in the heart of the Old Town.”

It has only been open for a few months but has already built up a loyal following thanks to an excellent range of food and drinks and Gary’s infectious enthusiasm.

If only Monopoly and Cluedo come to mind when someone mentions board games then think again. The reality is if you can think of a subject there is probably a board game based around it. Wingspan, currently one of the best selling games on Amazon, is based on bird watching. It has caused such a stir that video game giants Nintendo are looking at turning it into a video game. The themes and genres in the games industry are so vast and diverse that most people can find a point of entry.

The global board game market was worth around $7.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to be valued at $12 billion this year. So why are they so popular? The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has made it easier than ever for unknown, but talented, designers to release games. YouTube content providers offer the opportunity to watch games being played, to see if they appeal. Wavelength, a social guessing game that involves a topic and a dial, grew in popularity after TikToks of people playing it went viral.

But Gary believes the recent Covid pandemic has helped increase their popularity. He said: “During lockdown, everything was mostly digital and remote. What I am seeing now is a need for people to come together and connect and board games provide that.”

It’s not just for ‘geeks’. When we visited the cafe on a Friday lunchtime it was packed with young families, mums sitting down to enjoy playing with their children and Gary on hand to select the perfect game for them and take them through the rules.

In fact, such is his almost photographic knowledge, he has memorised and knows the detailed rules to virtually every one of the nearly 1,000 games that fill the shelves. Some games are also available to buy as well as play, so you can take the experience home with you. The games fill every wall and are all helpfully categorised to help people select.

But its not just about the games, if you fancy a bite to eat or a drink, Gary has you covered, with something for everyone, including vegans and those with a gluten intolerance. Toasted paninis, wraps, sandwiches and salads are all available and you can even have a vegan porridge. Examples include a vegan Keralan curried cauliflower chickpea and onion bhaji pasty served with a sauce of choice, or the double cheese sandwich, with cheddar and Mozzarella, which you can have toasted. There is even a Marmite toastie on offer for fans of the savoury spread. For drinks there is a wide range of coffees, herbal teas, hot chocolate, , juices, milk shakes and fruit smoothies.

The cafe, is situated on The Bourne and corner of Courthouse Street in what used to be the old Kings Head pub – one of the oldest pubs in Hastings that used to be a ‘waterman’s pub’ before the Bourne Stream was covered over.