The two little girls were playing an action variant of Candy Land I hadn't seen before, one that involved climbing on the table for each move. But this wasn't a playdate for toddlers, it was a dad date for nerds bent on world domination—the kind that involves drinking Commons saison while hunching over a board of Twilight Struggle, a diabolically complicated successor to Risk as designed by branches of the secret government.
Game Knight Lounge (3037 N Williams Ave., 503-236-3377, pdxgameknight.com), which opened two weeks ago in the former Wine Up on Williams, bills itself as Oregon's first board game lounge. Fifteen-foot-tall wooden parapets rise from behind the hardwood bar. Portland-themed board games, all versions of Monopoly, are tacked onto the wall as decoration. Every table is full.
A couple on a date are busy sinking each other's battleships next to a party crowd playing obscure card games that involve sex acts, while a crew of women is embroiled in a titanic struggle for control of American resources, in a variant of popular Euro game Settlers of Catan. At a bar stocked with a somewhat eccentric liquor selection, a decent six-deep tap list offering Breakside IPA and Heater Allen Pils, and a sandwich menu with joke names like Cluebano and Catanwich, just $2 a person will net you a day's access to a vast game collection. They include childhood favorites like Stratego and Mastermind alongside rarities like a Big Trouble in Little China card game and a first-edition 1986 Blood Bowl, a board game combining football with the role-playing world of Warhammer.
But unlike every previous Portland attempt to make a gamer hangout, Game Knight is a surprisingly functional bar as long as you avoid the complicated cocktails (please don't put blackberry puree in a Pimm's Cup, even at $6.50) in favor of a blessedly cheap $6 Medoyeff vodka tonic.
Just make sure you check out the dot system coding each game. Some of them are so complicated the staff recommends you spend hours online watching tutorial videos.