There was a moment, about six months after I founded the company, Cards of Die, when I realised most people were probably misunderstanding the name,” admits Ann Jones, who runs Horsforth-based Cards or Die. A former English teacher and lifelong board games fan, she decided to turn her hobby into a profession after 17 years of teaching everything from Romeo and Juliet to Of Mice And Men. “It’s basically ‘cards’ or ‘die’, as in the singular for dice but some people think it sounds a bit dark. I think I realised there might be confusion when I did a twitter poll on what the difference was between dice and die.”
But the confusion over her name has been serendipitous. “It was too late for me to change the branding by that point but it does make me stand out from the crowd, it’s memorable.”
The idea behind the venture was to introduce (and re-introduce) people to the joys of board games and she now does that with regular evening events at various locations across the city and beyond and at special occasions, including weddings, birthdays, festivals and retirement homes. She even uses them to run corporate training and team building days.
“It’s all about communication,” says Ann, who has two children, Edward, 13 and Molly, 11.
“I was a teacher for 17 years and I wanted a change. I have always been passionate about board games and at the time, board game cafes seemed to be springing up everywhere. I looked at that and thought it would be good to do pop-up events, things like weddings, 40th birthdays and so on. I also do corporate training and team building. Playing board games is about bringing people together, to get people communicating and off their phones and actually interacting with one another.”
She now has around 330 different board games, which are stashed in various rooms about her house.
“There are so many good board games out there now. When you think of board games, most people tend to think of Monopoly and games like that and certainly I remember playing that for days on end as a youngster. The other one people remember is Mousetrap and while most will say they have fond memories of it, I think it was more in the setting up than the playing, because there would always be a piece missing, or when the diver fell, it would miss the bucket.”
Her collection includes ‘co-operative’ games such as Forbidden Island, in which players battle to leave an island with all the treasure before it sinks, and the curiously titled Exploding Kittens, a mix of change and strategy, again involving cards.
“Another great game is Colt Express, which is about robbing a train and uses cards to determine the player actions. Then there are games like Obama Llama, which is a bit like charades, except all the names on the cards rhyme, so it would be things like Tom Cruise in high heel shoes, and that’s a great game for kids, although I took it to a Women’s Institute event recently and it went down really well.”
She also regularly goes hunting for old board games in charity shops and in the past she has picked up some real classics.
“Some of the old games are sometimes the best. I found a game called mancala in one shop, it’s a really old game but a good one and is easy to play.”
She does, however, have more complicated games which take longer to play. “I do have games like Risk but because they take a few hours to play, it tends to be big events, such as the one I have coming up at the Royal Armouries, where people will play them.”
One strategy game that will always stick in her mind, however, is Escape from Colditz, which was a game my brother - who was 18 years older than me - used to play when I was younger. I always wanted to play it but he would never let me. Years later, when I was an adult, I asked him if he wanted it and he said he did, so I bought my own copy. Then last year, we found it in my parents’ loft and he asked me if I wanted it after all, so I now have two copies.”
Ann, who was born in Ellesmere Port near Liverpool, came to Leeds to train as a teacher but before that she worked as a hotel manager and in housing benefit, which is what prompted her to want to work with improving literacy. Leaving teaching after so long was a big step for her.
“It was a big shift,” she says. “And it has been challenging but I’m getting there and the business is growing. I have a number of regular weekly and monthly events in Leeds and Harrogate and I’m doing more bookings. It’s something I’m passionate about.”
She has also just been nominated for Best Independent Business in the Yorkshire Choice Awards, something she describes as “very exciting”.
She adds: “Another aspect is the focus on mindfulness and people taking time out - the pace of our lives is a bit crazy, we’re always on the go, it’s just nice to have that time, to slow down and interact with people, whether that’s meeting new people or sitting with friends and enjoying the moment.”
January 27 and April 7, 1pm-3pm: Games at The Boo at The Horse and Bamboo Theatre, Rossendale.
February 6 (and first Wednesday of the month) at The Abbey Inn, 7pm, free.
February 9 (but usually 3rd Friday of the month) at Mrs Smith’s, Harrogate: Family Tea and Board Games, includes two course meal and games. Adults £10, children £6
February 10 (but usually 3rd Sunday of the month): Hyde Park Book Club), 2pm-7pm, free.Last Thursday of the month The Cardigan Arms 7pm (next January 31).
February 13 (and 2nd Wednesday of the month) at Brewhouse, Yeadon, 7pm, free.
February 16-24, daily from 11am-4pm at Royal Armouries: war games and war time games
March 2 (and monthly) at Keeper’s Coffee and Kitchen - Saturday Socials: The Great Boggle Word Off. Coffee, cake and a Boggle tournament: £8 adults, £5 children
Last Friday of the month at The Kitty Cafe, 6pm-8pm (welfare charge applies, next will be February 22.
www.facebook.com/cardsordie and www.cardsordie.com