Thirsty Meeples is a lovely place. The only reason I haven't been more often is because my partner felt it lacked a little something what with only serving coffee and no alcohol. Happily this has been remedied - craft ales are now available (without jeopardising the wide selection of coffees) and so I look forward to installing myself there more often.
On this occasion four of us went to play a specific game, and were able to book a table and a copy of that game (though this does depend on its popularity and some games cannot be pre-booked). The staff were immensely helpful and we were given a complete (and vital) description of how to play, entirely from memory. Given that it was a reasonably obscure game we were all the more impressed.
The setup is that you pay a cover charge, which is £6 per adult (£5 per child) unless you order food or drink in which case it drops to £4.50 (£3.50). That covers you for 3 hours, though you might get longer if it's quiet. It's a good evening's playing, and definitely sufficient for most games. Food is available, including gluten-free sandwiches. The only problem we found was making space for the cups of coffee in amongst all the playing pieces. The food is sustaining rather than gourmet, which is not a comment on its quality so much as its purpose. After all you've gone there for the games.
The space is welcoming and appealing. Board games are in their very nature good to look at, and the shelves look ten times more exciting than the best library. (And do go to the bathroom, just to check out the mirror!) The games are sorted into categories - quick, children's, wordgames, cooperative etc. and you can go in without the faintest idea what to play - just tell the staff what sort of things you like and they can recommend something. And of course if you don't like it you don't have to play to the end. There's no charge for chopping and changing games.
Many games are available to buy. The prices are good especially compared to other outlets in Oxford. This is useful to know at Christmas, though a better present even than a boardgame might be a boardgame party - definitely an option to get the friend who has everything.
The night we were there it was fairly quiet, except for a group having a heated game of Articulate. "Rat pack singer... nicknamed Ol' Blue Eyes... First name rhymes with Spank!" shouted the increasingly frustrated player. In that friendly and convivial atmosphere it was all we could do not to join in.