I see patrons at game cafés who are clearly not tabletop gamers. And that’s cool! Game cafés are the BEST places to learn how to play games. Come see!
But if you show up with another non-game-playing friend (perhaps someone you’re trying to impress…), don’t try to choose a game. I can see it now; you’ll pick chess, or Mastermind or Trivia Pursuit or maybe Candy Land.
I’m not saying these aren’t fun games (well, maybe I am…); I enjoy an occasional bout of Monopoly, Pay Day or Pictionary. What I’m saying is to ask for recommendations from the café staff. There are SO many good games out there! And so many simple ones that you don’t need to worry about a steep learning curve or failing to make that good impression because you’ve exceeded the mental capacity of that special person you’re trying to impress.
What would I suggest for your first trip to a game café? Well that depends how many are in your group. Assuming most (or none) of your party have much experience playing games, here are some suggestions:
A group of 3+: Ticket to Ride, Indigo, Love Letter, King of Tokyo, Forbidden Island/Desert
A pair: Jaipur, Lost Cities, Ingenious, Blokus, Voluspa, The Duke, Carcassone, Hey That’s My Fish
You will be playing these games and having a great time within 15 minutes if you have to read the rules; and probably within 5 minutes if there is a good game guru to instruct you. It’ll be so much better than playing Battleship or Crazy Eights and causing your date to have to pretend to be impressed.
You deserve real impressed-ness.
After all, you did take them to a game café.