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Talking the Rules of Play with Ian Davies

Cardiff is a playful city for sure – look no further than the city’s hub for gamers, the Rules of Play. We caught up with co-owner Ian Davies for some insight into how the shop was set up, and more about their gaming events.

rules of play

I’ve lived in Cardiff since 31 December 1999. I remember the exact day because I moved to Cardiff, from London, for a Manics gig. We drove everything up, unpacked the van and went straight to the show. I’m from Pontypool originally. I lived in Cardiff for a short time, about a year, in my early 20s so I knew Cardiff before I moved down here permanently.

I went to university in London, to Goldsmiths College, and stayed living and working in sales and marketing there until I moved back. When I first moved to Cardiff I lived in Roath, but we bought a house in Canton and that’s where I live now.

I grew up in Pontypool – some people say its a rubbish place but I had a great childhood there. Everything was a lot freer back then, so there was a lot of mucking around in the park, exploring the canal, taking your bikes up to the common, going and watching Pontypool Front Row play rugby. Most of my childhood in Pontypool was spent outdoors hanging out and exploring.

Kids aren’t as feral as they used to be and, in some ways, they need to be a little bit more feral – but it’s just not the way things are now. My boy is 10 and he goes to the park but he has a phone with him and he has to let us know what time he’s coming home and ring us if he’s coming home late. When I was his age I was jumping on trains to Bristol, or cycling to Usk 10 miles away. And my dad was telling me that at the same age he would be cycling to Gloucester.

Me and my mate Steve, who is one of the other owners, were gamers when we were kids. We always talked about owning a game shop ‘when we were adults’. In 2010 we found out that the old game shop in Cardiff – Cardiff Games – was closing down. We thought ‘if we don’t do it now it just ain’t going to happen’. We made a few phone calls, put a business plan together and we just decided to go for it. We had wanted to do it for a long time and this opportunity came up.

I think being someone who has always enjoyed playing different types of of games has helped the growth of Rules Of Play, along with the boom in the board game market in the last four or five years.

I also think being in Cardiff really helps, as the city is full of people who are interested in playing table top games, but wouldn’t consider themselves ‘gamers’ (such as students and families).

Playing games is an important part of life. There’s been a recent boom, boom not necessarily with board game enthusiasts – more with people who like to play games but wouldn’t call themselves hobbyists. It’s just become more acceptable. You can invite friends over to play a game, you don’t have to play on your own. Or you can go down to Chapter Arts Centre or the Lansdowne and it’s not unusual to see somebody playing a board game there.

Games are now are in popular culture. You have Jan Vertonghen, a Tottenham Hotspur player, tweeting about playing Settlers Of Catan.

I think the gaming industry has also realised it has to grow up and appeal more to the mainstream. So there are party games, games like Ticket To Ride which you can easily teach to people who don’t play board games. Or games like Dixit, which are gorgeous and imaginative.

My hopes for the next few years is to have more shops, both in Cardiff and other place, and to host more events. More school, library and mainstream events that everyone can get involved in and enjoy. I would also love to have a board game cafe, I think that would be a natural progression for the shop.

I guess my favourite past time is spending time with my kids. They’re 10, 8 and 6 and I enjoy spending time with them, taking them to football and taekwondo and – obviously – playing board games with them. At the moment my youngest one loves playing Tally Ho! and UNO. The middle one’s favourite is Forbidden Island and Ticket To Ride. Me and my eldest boy, whose 10, play lots of Star Wars X-Wing together. As a family we’ll sit down and play the best ‘pick on dad’ games.

I love being in Cardiff. I love any of Cardiff’s green spaces! I’m lucky because I have Victoria Park, Thompsons Park and Pontcanna Fields all within a couple of minutes walk from me. With three kids you can do anything in Cardiff and there’s no excuse not to. There’s Roath Park, going to Cardiff Bay, going into the museums, visiting the castle. You can go swimming, white water rafting, rock climbing, trampolining, horse riding. Anything is available for kids now and that’s not even including sport! If you want to play rugby, football, cricket then you’ve got some of the best facilities in the country right in Cardiff city centre.

Ian’s Cardiff picks:

Favourite shop: “I don’t have a lot of spare time to enjoy Cardiff’s shops but it’s always fun going in the lego shop because you can be a big kid in the Lego shop!”

Favourite place to eat out? “I really love Chai Street Cafe at the moment. I enjoy having a street foodie feel in a restaurant setting.”

What’s good about your neighbourhood? “Canton has everything that I want so close to town. I can cycle into town, take the kids to the park, go down to the Lansdowne for real ale pint, go to the theatre and cinema in Chapter. That’s what I like about where I live, it’s got everything I want.”

If you had friends visiting Cardiff for the weekend, what would you suggest they do? “Usually when friends visit they have kids so we’ll take them to Techniquest, grab some coffee in Penarth or get the bikes up and cycle up the Taf trail.”

Ian Rules Of Play

Thanks Ian! Make sure to visit The Rules of Play at 29 Castle Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 1BW.

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