Finding a Venue

So most of you out there have probably had to look for a new home at one time or another; whether it was university accommodation, moving out of the family home or even finding a new place to live abroad. And if not, how about trying to find the right hotel to stay at during your last holiday? Either way, I’m sure you can remember how hard it is trying to find that perfect place.

Your Sugar and Dice Team have moved all over the world before we settled in the lovely city of Liverpool, so we know it’s a struggle, but imagine searching for that perfect venue for your dream café! Let’s just say that it feels like a full-time job where you have no control at all over the outcome. We’ve been searching since the beginning of the year. Now it’s already August and we have found a venue, but we are still waiting for the go-ahead. It’s been very stressful over the past months as one place after the other fell through.

The first place we found back in January was an enormous basement – we could have fit around 200 people inside with a huge kitchen, kids play area with huge board games, relaxing section for people who just want to chill on sofas and read books… To cut a long story short, we went for the property and suddenly the price shot up. Then there was talk of creating another basement underneath ours. Then apparently the building had been set ablaze a few years ago… We loved the place and the location, but we just didn’t trust the owner or the Estate Agents who sometimes took weeks to get back to us. So it was back to Square One.

Next we found the perfect place. It was a great size, amazing location and already in a good condition. We immediately went for it, but there seemed to be a lot of competition. The landlord was hard to get hold of, so for months we waited patiently, hoping we would get the venue. One day the landlord said yes, the next he said we were his second choice, then he was worried because we were a start-up company, then about three months of waiting, we were suddenly told the landlord had decided to rent it to his friend. Apparently this had been the plan all along, we were just made to hang around waiting to find that out.

Some of the properties we've seen need quite a lot of work...
Some of the properties we’ve seen need quite a lot of work…

It’s exasperating. We have looked at so many places. Most had no flooring, no toilets, no rooms, no radiators or heating. The last one we looked at was a great space, but the previous tenant had gone bankrupt and just decided in anger to trash the whole place. Every single wire in the building had been cut, the floor tiles had been smashed, the walls had holes axed into them… We’ve seen places where mould grows like mushrooms bigger than the size of my face, stepped into weird green gunk growing on floors, jumped in surprise as abandoned shops had pigeons living inside…

And then finally we found a venue once again that we loved. The location is fab, the area is lovely and there is lots of parking nearby too. It is a tad on the small size, but we can work with that and will make it cosy. We just want to have a place we can call Sugar and Dice Café and we hope we’ve finally found it! Excitingly, the landlord is happy for us to move in immediately, so we are working on all the paperwork and should have news for you by the 24th of August! So we are just going to need you all to cross your fingers and toes and everything else for us. We are nervous, terrified, preparing and mostly excited for our new adventure to begin. Here’s hoping I can give you a venue address soon! 🙂

Congratulations to Codenames

It’s been quite an exciting week for board games as the Spiel Des Jahres was announced! It’s like the Oscars of the board game world, when some of the finest board gaming minds come together to pick the best game of the past year. I’m glad I don’t have to decide, as it feels like an impossible task! Almost every game we play we absolutely love and to have to pick just one out of all the games that have been released in Germany in the past year… well… I don’t envy that job at all!

We actually thought that Karuba would win as it’s definitely family-friendly and such a different style of game to the hundreds we have played, plus every time we play it the game makes people laugh, agonise and panic, but the committee of Germans has spoken and we have a winner!

Let me tell you about Codenames. The hardest thing is probably splitting your gaming group into two teams – how do you choose which side to play on? There is a red and a blue team which each having its own team leader, so dividing Liverpool against Everton fans would work… But I would suggest pick the people who know you best – this game is all about giving cryptic clues to your partners and hoping they understand what you are trying to tell them.

The playing field
The playing field

Next, you create a grid of 25 cards in a 5×5 pattern and each card has a random word on it, for example ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ or ‘opera’. Then in battle-ship style, the red team leader has to get their team to guess which of the 25 words belong to red and the blue obviously are looking for the blue cards.

The team captain (or 'spymaster') uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.
The team captain (or ‘spymaster’) uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.

The way you guess, is by giving a one-word clue and a number to say how many cards have that one clue in common. I have no idea how you would come up with a clue that connects ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ and ‘opera’, but that is the challenge. You also have to be careful that another random word can’t be accidentally and confusedly connected to the clue. There are some words that are “innocent bystanders” and one word (the black cross) that makes your team lose instantly if guessed.

Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the 'innocent' grey cards that were wrong guesses...
Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the ‘innocent’ grey cards that were wrong guesses…

It’s a hilarious and silly game, full of confusion and bizarre clues. I (Vanessa) am a bit 50-50 on it, as I think it can be pretty dull waiting for someone to come up with a clue for a few minutes. Obviously using one clue for one word is boring, so you try and get creative to use one clue for a few words, but it seems not everyone is skilled in this way. I certainly am not. I would ALWAYS recommend using the timer to speed things up and the more players the better. Even though it says the game can be played from 4 players, to me it just doesn’t really work unless you have at least six or better still eight players. It’s been interesting to see the reviews about Codenames since winning the prize as it’s been very mixed. Many people are delighted and absolutely love the game, however there are also lots of people who don’t really see it as a ‘family game’ or a very fun game… Luckily for all of you, we have a copy of Codenames at Sugar and Dice so you can find out for yourself!

Karuba – One of our current favourite games!

So we promised to tell you all about the nominees for the coveted award of ‘Spiel des Jahres 2016’, so here I am! Your Sugar and Dice team and our Number One Fan Mike played all three nominated board games in one afternoon and I’m going to confess that my favourite by far was Karuba. At first it looked a bit like a spin-off of Carcasonne and I think that game is pretty much unbeatable, but WHOA, Karuba is fun!

Every player gets a board in which you create your own maze to try and get four explorers to their own personal temple of the same colour. Everyone has the same 36 square numbered tiles and one lucky chosen person will become the ‘bingo caller’. Their job is to randomly pick a tile, shout out the number on it to the rest of the table and at the same time everyone places that tile somewhere onto their own board.

It’s amazing how everyone’s board turns out completely differently. Here’s my yellow explorer trying to grab a crystal and a gold on the way to his temple.
It’s amazing how everyone’s board turns out completely differently. Here’s my yellow explorer trying to grab a crystal and a gold on the way to his temple.

Obviously, you have to place the tiles in a strategically clever place so you get your explorer to the temple faster than the other players. Sound easy? Well, I assumed we would pretty much all end up placing the tiles in the same empty square, but from the first turn placement we had all chosen differently and it’s fascinating to see even with such little choice how unique each maze becomes. The explorers rush to their temples, grabbing golden nuggets and crystals for bonus points on the way. The player who’s coloured explorer gets to their temple first gets lots of points, while subsequent explorers of the same colour to arrive will receive fewer etc.

We’ve played this many times with a whole bunch of different people and everyone loves it. It seems so simple and easy, but once you start the game, it feels like you are in this forest world, desperately cheering for your explorers to run faster. I’ve blocked off my temples by mistake, placed tiles so the path doesn’t join and forgotten to grab gold… it’s exasperatingly hilarious! I love it – definitely a new firm favourite of mine and I (Vanessa) predict it will win the Spiel des Jahres Award this year. Fingers Crossed!

I won even though I sacrificed the purple explorer in the end – he couldn’t even get into the forest – doh!
I won even though I sacrificed the purple explorer in the end – he couldn’t even get into the forest – doh!

Epic New British Games

A few weeks back we went to the UK GAMES EXPO in Birmingham. Of course I’m going to tell you it was purely research purposes for Sugar and Dice, but we all know we were really there to check out new releases, play them and buy as many as our arms could carry back home with us!

Without further ado, I’m going to tell you about a few of our new favourites and about some of the artists we met.

The best placed stall goes to YAY Games – they were literally in front of you as you walk through the doors. We hadn’t even stepped into the place properly before we were beckoned over to play Ominoes by the designer Andrew Harman. I knew instantly that I would love the game – rolling dice to get a specific pattern whilst trying to annoy your opponents? What’s not to love?! Then Andrew showed us Sandcastles… We played a timed variant where you have 10 minutes to build the best sandcastle before someone steals your bucket! This was my favourite game at the Expo and I’m not surprised many many other people have said the same. It’s easy to learn, has a great theme and makes everyone giggle.

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Obviously doing the Egyptian Dance with Andrew, the creator of Egyptian-themed game Ominoes
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Sandcastles was my favourite game at the EXPO – you absolutely HAVE to play this game!

Over the weekend, I was most excited to finally meet Andy Allen, the designer of Hexagony, a game for 2 to 3 players in which you place tri-coloured hexagons on an ever-growing mass of tiles in order to make complete hexagons of your designated colour. The rules are super simple, just take one of your tiles, place it so that it touches another tile of the same colour and make sure that all other sides touch the matching colour of the adjacent hex. Once all the tiles have run out, the player with the most solid colour hexes wins. That’s pretty much it. For something that is so simple, it is a real brain burner. You agonise (get it?) over where each of your hexes will be placed as you don’t want to set up your opponents for an easy point. The game won an award at the UK Games Expo for the Best Abstract Strategy Game of 2015 and I can clearly see why. It was so good to finally meet Andy, as we’d chatted to him over Instagram for ages and even won a copy of Hexagony in a competition. We enjoy the game so much, we’ve even made Hexagony-themed cupcakes – something for the café!

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Andy must be the world’s friendliest and happiest board game creator!
Our delicious Hexagony-themed cupcakes!

Our must-pick-up game this year was Tatsu by John Yianni at Gen42 Games. We actually met John at the Essen Spiel Board Game Expo in Germany last year and he taught us how to play this game. We planned to grab it then, but we were limited by our Ryanair luggage space – we’ve since learnt to take the car to expos, so we have plenty of space for a massive game’s haul – haha! We love John’s game Hive and Tatsu is another two-player game. We like to describe it as Backgammon on steroids – a similar idea of moving your pieces around a board, but with extra rules, plus it’s dragon-themed, which basically makes it amazing! It’s easily the game we’ve played most since the Expo and I can foresee this being a firm favourite of many of you too!

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Interestingly, all the above games are from UK designers – a market we really wish to promote. There have always been tonnes of games coming out of Germany and then America, but the British market is here and it’s amazing. There is so much talent in this country and we can’t wait for you to discover these games and many more at Sugar and Dice… Where everything is very nice 🙂

T.I.M.E Stories

So by now you probably know that we have a board game collection of over 200 games and we’ve played them all. There are certainly games we love to pieces and others that will mostly likely not be played again, but today I will tell you about the first game ever to literally give me goosebumps.


We had been eyeing up T.I.M.E Stories for a while now, but you can only play it once and then you know how the whole story pans out, so you can’t play it ever again. Plus it’s over £30, so for a one-off experience it’s quite pricey. However, it’s totally worth it. I’ve been gutted at the spoilers for recent episodes of GoT (Game of Thrones) Episodes and I don’t want to ruin T.I.M.E Stories for you so I can’t say too much about what happens in the actual game, but I can’t recommend this enough – everyone we know who’s played it has a new favourite game!

The best way to explain how the game works is for you to imagine a mix-up of Doctor Who and a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ book. You are assigned a role and are then transported back into history for an adventure. You have a deck of cards that dictate the story and depending on where you choose to move your characters and what they decide to do in different situations, the game proceeds. You have to make good decisions and quickly, as the whole mission is timed. The less moves it takes, the better your score at the end. Needless to say, the game is hard! We didn’t even come close to finishing on our first run through the mission, but according to the reviews, that’s normal. All you do is reset the deck of cards and start the mission once again, this time armed with the knowledge of how to save time and complete the mission faster and what routes you took that were a complete waste of time and can be avoided.

It’s one of those games that you can’t stop thinking about. There are so many different outcomes and journeys in the one game and while all this is going on you also have to figure out clues and cryptic messages. It’s the only game where I’ve screamed out ‘OMG’ one moment and my whole body got goosebumps the next. It’s incredible! A game like no other I’ve ever played with such twists and turns that days later we are still talking about it. Including the one inside the box called ‘Asylum’ where you time-travel to an asylum in 1921, there are four official stories available and annoyingly the second story is currently between prints so we can’t get our hands on it! ARGH!

The good news for you is that it’s going to be available at Sugar and Dice to play! It took us 5 hours to play and it has a clever game insert box where you can ‘save’ the game easily at any point of the story.  I’m a little bit sad to confess that we failed the mission in the end, but it was an amazing roller coaster ride and I can’t wait to play more!


Who is behind Sugar and Dice?

I’m sure you’re all wondering who the Sugar and Dice team are, so today, in alphabetical order, I’m going to tell you!


Hello world! I am a born-and-bred Liverpudlian and a self-confessed board game geek. My adventure into the wonderful world of games started at a young age when my father and grandfather would regularly demolish me in countless games of Chess. After realising that I couldn’t beat them at their own game, I decided to take up a new game instead – Go – which entrenched itself firmly as one of my all-time favourites. The thing I love most about board games is the inherent ability of the hobby to bring people together around a table and experience a wealth of emotions collectively, from sheer joy as your hard-fought plans finally pay off, right through to the anguish when it doesn’t. There are games for any and all occasions and I’m hoping to share my love and passion of games with you all! Outside of games, I love learning foreign languages, cooking, dancing, singing and playing guitar, I’m still trying to come up with ways to combine all of the above into some epic Sugar & Dice event! I hope to get you around one of our tables having fun soon!

Head shot


I love to play roller derby with the Liverpool Roller Birds – my skate name is “Button Doom”. Don’t be surprised if you come in and I’m covered in bruises… Those girls hit hard!! I had a go at bee-keeping until I realised I had an immense fear of bees –oops! I also take part in Tudor re-enactments and I like to play the ukulele, piano, flute and recorder. I also love animals and games with an animal theme. For example ‘Zooloretto’ has a panda on the box, ‘Takenoko’ which involves feeding a panda and ‘Dixit’ – as the playing pieces are bunnies! I come from a family obsessed with food so I’ve been brought up cooking and baking from a very young age. I trained and worked as a Food Technology teacher, then perfected my skills as a professional cake baker… So come by, play some games and taste my ‘life-changing’ rocky road!

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I was brought up in one of those weird families that didn’t have a Game Boy or a Nintendo, in fact we never even had a microwave. My family would spend hours and hours playing with a deck of cards or fighting over Monopoly. Finally, a few years ago I realised that there are literally thousands of board games out there. Now I get to be a bean farmer, collect cucumbers and cure deadly diseases at my living room table surrounded by a group of lovely, smiling people. In other news, my main hobby is eating, so I can promise you a lot of thought and tasting sessions have gone into creating our menu. I also love Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing, playing the ukulele and I’m currently trying to grow peas and tomatoes – I’d love to be self-sufficient one day and own a white piglet. My dream is to make Sugar and Dice a place for people to pop in for a few hours to be transported back to ‘the good old days’ by connecting with each other and having a laugh whilst eating the most amazing cakes ever. I can’t wait to meet you all 🙂

UK Games Expo Haul

So we’ve just spent the whole weekend dedicated to finding the best board games for the Sugar and Dice Café at the UK Games EXPO in Birmingham. It’s a hard job (haha), but someone has to research what’s new and fabulous in the board gaming world. We spent days wondering the huge exhibition halls playing games, talking to their creators, meeting distributors and most importantly chatting to attendees about what their favourite game was.

The whole place shuts down at 5pm and then the hotel next door opens its doors and thousands of people flood into huge rooms in order to test out those games they’ve just bought. We managed to stay up until 2am playing games with new friends. Then it all started again the next day at 9am for more trade fair fun.

I had such a great time exploring. We went to the world’s biggest board game expo in Essen in Germany last year and it was incredible. Even after two full days I felt like I had missed out on so much and it was so crowded. The UK version is still massive, but there is much more walking space between stalls, so you never feel squashed and because there are less people, you hardly ever have to wait long to play a game. In fact, we pretty much found an empty table at all the stalls we wanted to visit instantly and we met up with lots of creators of the games. At Essen, it was a quick ‘hi’ and ‘OMG I love your game’, whereas over the weekend in Birmingham we got a chance to really speak to the creators about their games and the industry in detail.

Here’s us with Andrew Harman, the creator of Sandcastles and Ominoes, a quick dice rolling game with an Egyptian theme.

Tradespeople had more time to spend getting to know their customers and fans and the atmosphere was so happy and fun, the place was just a stream of beaming people. Absolutely wonderful. Even if you’ve never visited a games expo before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone is so excited to show off their latest board games and get you trying them out. There are areas for brand new games that need to be play-tested, huge versions of popular games, speeches and talks, famous people in the world of board gaming doing videos and podcasts for their fans, a bring-and-buy bargain second-hand games area, places to buy missing tiles or game inserts…

We will tell you all about the games we tested out soon, but for now, here is a photo of our haul for you to dribble over! They will all be on the shelf as soon as our doors are open and will be waiting for you to play them all!



Off to the UK Games Expo 2016

TUkgamesexpohis weekend, 3-5th June, is a very special weekend indeed. Board gamer enthusiasts across the UK (and some from even further afield) will be making the holy pilgrimage to Birmingham for this year’s UK Games Expo. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, this is the UK’s largest hobby games convention and attendance is expected to exceed 10,000 people. Three of these will be Team Sugar & Dice!

There seems to be a million and one things while you’re there – checking out the 150+ exhibitors, playing a giant game of Catan, a multitude of different games tournaments (we might actually enter the Splendor tournament ourselves!) and even a bring-and-buy for a chance to find some rare or bargain games!

We’re especially looking forward to meeting some UK games designers such as John Yianni and get our hands on his new two-player dragon-duelling game, Tatsu. We absolutely adore his game, Hive, which is a staple in our suitcase whenever we go travelling. Despite its tiny size, its depth of play keeps us coming back for more. We’re also on the look out for Andy Allen, designer of another abstract strategy game for 2-3 players called Hexagony. The game won the award for Best Abstract Game in last year’s Expo and we can see why!

We’re going to be mega busy over the next few days checking out the latest and greatest in the tabletop world so be sure to follow us on facebook/twitter/instagram and the hashtag #sugaranddice for updates on our escapades!

Spiel des Jahres 2016 (Game of the Year) Nominees Announced

The nominees for one of, if not the most, prestigious awards in the Board Gaming world – the Spiel des Jahres – have just been announced. The Spiel des Jahres are the board gaming equivalent of the Oscars, but significantly less glamorous as the prizes are awarded to cardboard and plastic!

Spiel des Jahres Logo

The awards have been running since 1978 and focus on finding the best and most creative in family gaming fun amongst games released in the previous 12 months in the German market. The awards are serious business and provide an incredible boost to sales for all games on the short-list. Nominees for the Spiel des Jahres tend to see games sales increase from 500-3,000 copies to over 10,000 while the winners generally enjoy sales of anywhere between 300,000 to 500,000 copies!

The nominees for the awards were announced on Monday evening and there is fierce debate among the board gaming community about who will scoop the grand prize. The 3 nominees are:




Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES.

In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right colour while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin.

Codenames: Win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues.




In Imhotep, the players become builders in Egypt who want to emulate the first and best-known architect there, namely Imhotep.
Over six rounds, they move wooden stones by boat to create five seminal monuments, and on a turn, a player chooses one of four actions: Procure new stones, load stones on a boat, bring a boat to a monument, or play an action card. While this sounds easy, naturally the other players constantly thwart your building plans by carrying out plans of their own. Only those with the best timing — and the stones to back up their plans — will prove to be Egypt’s best builder.




This is a tile-laying race game with players starting with boards that are identical, and one player drawing tiles that they all will use. They race to get their explorers to temples first and earn points. Along the way they can collect additional points by collecting items off the paths they create.

Over the coming weeks, we will be doing a feature spotlight on each of these games and giving you our own thoughts on who might be the winner. There will also be a Spiel des Jahres competition for all of our lovely followers in which one lucky person will win a copy of this year’s winner! More details on that to follow…

In the meantime, keep on gaming and watch this space for more information about this year’s Spiel des Jahres nominees!

Our First Challenge

Have you ever tried to come up with a good name for something? Maybe that new pet goldfish you won at the fair? I struggle to come up with a good pub quiz team name, let alone the name of a new business. We would decide on one name and the next day it wouldn’t feel right and then all of a sudden we found an even better name… It literally took months. However it was definitely worth the wait. Unable to sleep one night, an idea popped up out of the blue and so Sugar and Dice was born!

We actually thought the hardest part was over, but then we realised we would need a logo. And that logo would need colours, a funky font and a little mascot for extra cuteness (his name is Albert by the way, but more on him soon). The list just went on and on.

It took us 6 hours to come up with the end result. We got a professional designer to sit down with us and we all drew a mind map with multiple branches of words, ideas, images, famous game pieces etc. We realised we wanted something that was easy to read, but with a few board game symbols included. Bit by bit, one letter at a time we turned, twisted, poked and played until we got the end result.


Phew! But that’s not where it ends. Oh no! We then had to find a font we liked. Then colours. We tried so many different colour combinations, but in the end we just loved the blue-orange retro look. It’s reflects our vision for the café – to take you back to the good old days when people weren’t glued to their mobiles all day, but would gather around a table for a game or two, have a natter and eat some delicious homemade cakes. That’s what we are all about!

Sugar and Dice… And Everything Nice!