Hey all, today I have a quick post and interview on London’s newest Warhammer venue, the Bad Moon Cafe in Borough. Since the store opened in December 2018, I’ve seen a lot of great comments about the Bad Moon Cafe on Twitter and other Warhammer Age of Sigmar social media. So I just had to get in touch and learn a bit more about the venue, the design and business decisions that led to it opening and their plans for the future. Check out their website, Facebook and Twitter for more new news and updates.
The Bad Moon Cafe
The Bad Moon Cafe is a modern and truly dedicated Warhammer venue, built from the ground-up to be an inviting and enjoyable place to play. Think the best merger between a cafe, bar and gaming tables. The venue has 15 full Warhammer gaming tables (with mats and thematic terrain), a board-gaming space, barista coffee, locally-brewed craft beers, sandwiches, pastries from Borough Market and wood-fired Basilico pizza.
Where to find them?
The Bad Moon Cafe is minutes away from Borough Station and a 10 minute from London Bridge and Elephant & Castle stations.
159 Great Dover Street
How to book tables?
The Bad Moon Cafe has 15 6×4″ gaming tables dedicated to either fantasy or sci-fi themes, each with their own mats. The venue operates an online booking system with the following slots:
- Weekdays: Free until 5.00 pm. One bookable gaming session from 5.00 pm – 11.00 pm.
- Saturdays: 3 bookable gaming sessions:
- 10am – 2pm,
- 2pm – 6pm, and
- 6pm – 11pm.
- Sundays: 2 bookable gaming sessions:
- 10am – 2pm,
- 2pm – 6pm.
The price per table per gaming session is £12, which can be paid online or in person.
Board gaming at the Bad Moon Cafe
The Bad Moon Cafe has 10 board game cafe tables and an in-store library of over 60 titles. The board game tables operate on a first-come-first-served basis. There is a charge of £4 per person, which gives access to the entire board game library without a time limit. These tables are suitable for parties of 2 – 4 people.
The Bad Moon Cafe Interview
When I heard the rave reviews, I contacted the Bad Moon Cafe and sent through some questions about the store, its design, development and background. Hugh kindly answered.
AoS Shorts: Can you share anything about the people behind the store? Who are the key people in the store that visitors can expect to meet?
Wil and I (Hugh) are the founders – Wil is the manager of the store and I’m the marketing/social media/designer person. Wil is there nearly all the time and is extremely enthusiastic about the hobby – I think so far he’s spoken to every Warhammer player who’s come through the door about their current Warhammer project!
We’ve got great employees too – Paul is our other Games Workshop fanboy and is helping hosting our monthly tournaments. Ringo is our Board Games man and manages the board game library and stock as well as managing our board game meetup groups. Then we have Dave, Tom and Carolina who are all geeks in their own right and help organise D&D and other groups. They’re all trained baristas too! Although we’ve only been opened a few weeks, all the Facebook and Google reviews mention how great our staff are which we’re really proud of!
AoS Shorts: How long did it take you from the idea of the store to the store opening?
Wil first floated the idea of a store in spring 2018. He was working in retail management and wanted to use those skills for a hobby store. We had met playing Warhammer Age of Sigmar in various London groups and had gotten along great. When he mentioned opening a store, I realised I could use my experience working in architecture and design to help design the store itself and create a great venue. We founded the company in late July 2018 and opened on 15th December 2018, which seemed like a pretty quick turnaround to us!
AoS Shorts: What considerations did you take into account when choosing a venue?
There were two core considerations- centrality and size. London, despite being a huge and populous city, is served by only a couple of hobby stores (at least in the more central parts!). Otherwise, we have to rely on meetup groups to meet people and game. London Wargaming Guild in particular are a fantastic group – it’s where I met Wil! – but we felt there’d be a market for a venue with a store and proper food and drink. There are actually several great stores outside of central London, but they can be quite a journey to get to, especially on weekdays after people have had a day in the office. So having a central location was key to serving this player base of people who work and/or live in London but who are only served by meetup groups or venues outside of the center.
Size was also key – the core of the business is community and supporting that community. To have a good sized community, we needed a good number of full sized tables, so then we could host tournaments and become the place to play for Londoners. We essentially searched for the largest place within our budget and found a 3,500sqft location near Borough which seemed perfect – we could fit 15 full sized tables in as well as a cafe and bar!
AoS Shorts: What research did you do on the local player and potential customer base? Did you already have existing connections to the Warhammer communities and clubs in London? Have you made any affiliations with local clubs now for regular gaming nights?
Research into this kind of thing is pretty difficult! We had met the regional sales manager for Games Workshop in Nottingham when we produced our first concept for the Cafe who mentioned the huge increase in player base for Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar in the past two years. When discussing this new player base, it became clear to us they were much like us – which is to say people in their late 20s or early 30s who had rediscovered Warhammer having left the hobby in our teenage years. For whatever reason, this new player base weren’t finding some of the existing gaming venues that attractive and meetup groups were getting pretty great attendance, even if they had to use venues like pubs which aren’t exactly tailored to huge wargaming tables, miniatures and rulebooks! This told us there was a market for a venue made for Warhammer that didn’t need to be supported by Magic the Gathering or other TCGs, as most hobby stores are.
We’ve now affiliated with a few clubs – London Wargaming Guild foremost amongst them – to host monthly Warhammer 40k and Warhammer AoS tournaments as well as events for 9th Age, Warhammer Underworlds and Middle Earth.
AoS Shorts: How did you decide on your table set-up, amount of space per table, shelves etc?
The tables were the key thing the entire venue was designed around. My day job is Architectural Illustration, so we had all the tools we needed to figure out best use of space.
We wanted to maximise the number of tables but didn’t want to compromise on space for players and player experience, which is usually required for smaller venues.
We wanted to avoid some of the problems we saw when playing in pubs, meetups or other venues – lack of space between tables, lack of storage for our stuff and lack of space beside the tables for food, drinks, armies, books and dice.
Our dream situation for the tables was to have the table only for the miniatures- no books, miniatures in reserve or even dice would have to be placed on the table! To that end, our table design has 1ft of space on each side for books, models and a dice tray as well as a shelf below the play surface for bags, foam etc.
The shelving was actually a pretty easy decision – the space was so large and only 1 wall didn’t have any windows or doors on- so we just covered the entire wall in shelving, which allows us to have the full range of Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar products (or at least that product we’re allowed to stock as a third party seller!).
We also knew we needed space for a bar/cafe/board game area. The board gaming area was part of the initial plan – before returning to the hobby, I was (and still am!) a huge board gamer and knew that it would be a great market to tap into to supplement our core Warhammer offering. As the venue is in a huge student residential area, a market that seem to love board gaming, we knew it would be a great addition to the store for the local community. From the first day, it’s proven hugely popular!
Finally, and key to the whole feel of the venue, was our bar. This is a huge thing – 6.5m in length, and dominates the cafe area. It’s our company’s identity on site and ties together our whole business of mixing a bar, cafe, board gaming and Warhammer venue in one place. It also makes the cafe/bar area feel like a proper cafe or bar and not just an add on to a Warhammer space!
AoS Shorts: I see you have long bookable gaming sessions? Was it important to give players enough time to get through a decent sized Warhammer game?
Yes, for us we knew that a game can take 2 hours or 4 hours and didn’t want to force anyone off a table! We can’t underestimate how much we want it to be the place to game in London and customer comfort is everything. I would hate to have a game ended early when I’ve paid to hire the table and I’ve traveled to the venue after work, giving up my evening to play. We also wanted to allow people to choose their specific table they wanted to book- so our online booking system allows you to choose a specific table at a specific time to book! All our tables are themed with matching game mats and terrain so being able to choose specific tables- as you can do at Warhammer World- seemed like a no-brainer.
AoS Shorts: What is your current split between wargaming and board gaming patronage?
We’ve only been opened for a few weeks now but our Warhammer community of returning players is growing rapidly – though not sold out every day yet, we’ll likely be doing that in the next few months. The board gaming cafe area is usually full on weekends and most weekdays- though London sort of empties for the Christmas period, so this January will really give us a clearer idea of where we’re heading!
AoS Shorts: You seem to have really focused on the atmosphere of the venue and the amenities – real coffee and Italian pizza. Was this an important consideration? What kind of impression do you want to leave visitors with?
This was really my entire focus in the time before we opened. We wanted somewhere people wanted to spend time in. Not just gamers, but even someone wanting a coffee in the morning or a beer in the evening. We wanted it to be like a great coffee shop for the general public, have that same feel of great atmosphere in a nice venue.
If we could manage that atmosphere with Warhammer gaming and store offering, we could attract the new player base we identified early on in our planning. We also felt that if we’re asking you to spend your evening in our venue we should make it the nicest venue we can. If you’ve spent a day in the office having carried your foam bag around London on public transport, it would be so nice to be able to grab a beer and a proper meal while playing at a table with space and storage for everything, rather than having a sandwich from a supermarket on the way and balancing all your hobby stuff on the table or floor.
When we were looking at food and drink, we wanted it to be the best we could get. We’re using a local brewery called Kernel, who make some of our favourite beers, and a local pizza place called Basilico, who make proper wood-fired italian pizzas – thin crust, cooked at very high temperature with great quality ingredients. We’re already looking at expanding our selection too! We’ve got proper barista coffee on offer as well, which has proven a hit with the local community and turned us into the morning staffroom for the local schools!
Essentially, we wanted our venue to not just be the place that you go to play Warhammer, but the place you’d love to spend your evening in, whether you’re playing Warhammer, a board game, an RPG or just drinking with friends.
AoS Shorts: How do you find people new to the hobby, or with no connection to tabletop gaming, enjoy the venue?
The whole new hobbyist market is something we really wanted to cater to. Some hobby stores can be pretty intimidating to new hobbyists. Games Workshop stores do a pretty good job already, though their size somewhat limits them. Really the key to attracting these new hobbyists is our staff- they love talking about Warhammer and what you’re currently working on. We’ve had people come in and buy their first kits and make them in store, we’ve had people come in and buy the rulebook and read it with a coffee for a couple of hours and we’ve had people come in for hours to just paint and have a drink and some food! We’re really keen on providing a great first experience of the hobby and have gotten great feedback so far.
AoS Shorts: Do you have regular events planned? Or is the focus on more casual gaming?
We do already have monthly Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40k tournaments organised – these are 18 to 24 player one day, 3 game events which are more casual than a 2 day tournament but still provide a decent challenge to seasoned players, in no small part thanks to some great local players who are pretty serious tournament players. We’re also planning 1 or 2 annual two-day, 5 game events. Having said that, I’m a casual player at heart, so catering to casual gaming is also important. We’re developing some events for casual gaming and new hobbyists which should provide a great day to meet new players, work on hobby projects and play a game or two against more casual players.
Thanks again to Hugh and everyone else at the Bad Moon Cafe for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s great having an opportunity to talk about the design and decision-making process that led to the opening of the store. Wish we had a similar place down here!