Sunday, May 4, 2014
Game Day: Board Game Cafes in Taipei
I don't know what's up with the strange formatting of the information above. So...sorry about that. The photos aren't great quality either because they're low light iPhone photos. I don't know how people get such great quality photos on their phones; my iPhone photos look like crap and are notably lower in quality to my camera shots.
We had heard that the weather was looking to be pretty bad today (Sunday), when talking with a friend about hanging out. So, we decided to do something none of us had really tried before, which was to go to one of Taipei's many board game cafes. You can find a list of them here, although a few of them appear to be stores rather than cafes where you can play board games. There's also the famous Witch House near NTU (in a lane off Xinsheng South Road), where I've been for live music but I hadn't really checked out their games.
Honestly speaking, I never was much of a board gamer, although I do enjoy them: they're expensive and we never really had a lot around the house, and my friends weren't super into them, so I didn't get into them, either. While I knew Taipei was chock full of these places - and they're reasonably popular in the West, too (and I'm sure many game stores also have spaces where you can play, just as craft stores may have spots where people gather to knit or bead or quilt or what-have-you) - I hadn't really bothered trying to go to one. I guess I assumed they were full of hardcore earnest nerdy types - I mean, I'm a nerdy type myself, but nerdier than me - and you'd be expected to walk in, pick a game you knew well, and play that game like a pro. When I went to Witch House, I did look at their games, realized I didn't know how to play any of them, and copped out.
But I was wrong. A lot of these places are set up like real cafes, you can pick a game, and the staff will tell you how to play it (in Chinese) if you don't already know. And, duh, they come with instructions. Explaining game rules to me in English is generally a lost cause, you can imagine how helpful explaining them in Chinese is - although I speak Chinese. But I'm pretty good at picking up the idea of a game once I've played a round or two, so I figured with patient friends who were fine with my floundering for a bit I'd pick up any game just fine.
And a lot of them aren't set up for serious game nerds per se, but rather for people who want to play or try out a new game, but don't want to buy their own. Those things can get expensive!
So, at the suggestion of our friend Joseph, and feeling curious about the board game cafe scene in Taipei - I'm curious about every cafe scene everywhere! - we decided to give it a go.
We went to 8f Gathering Space (8f聚會空間) after a recommendation from our resident
gamer friend, Hui (just in case you're picturing a guy, assuming all gamers are male, Hui is
a woman). Or rather, a recommendation from her boyfriend Orson, who also joined us,
but seeing as Hui's two main career experiences are in museum work/art history and
gaming, she's also more than qualified.
Here's how it works, at least at 8f Gathering Space: you can make a reservation - in fact, I recommend you do as there aren't many tables. For an NT$250 per person fee, you can play away the afternoon. You show up, order tea (included in the fee), pick a game, and if you need the staff to help you they do. Then you play. It's best to go with a group of four, but we played with five and Brendan and I just acted as a single team.
There is food available, but it's basic chicken-and-rice stuff, and there is at least one private room with Japanese style floor seating. There's a nice view of Brother Hotel and MRT Nanjing East Road (the entrance is right next to the Family Mart across the street from the MRT).
I believe you can bring in snacks, either way, a good plan would be to eat lunch first, head over to drink tea and game all day, then when you're ready to go, go out for dinner (if you go to 8f, I recommend Kunming Islamic Food, just one alley down, maybe a 2 minute walk away). If you can't tear yourself away from the game, you can eat there.
We played Suburbia (it's like The Sims, in board game form), and then a few rounds of DiXit as we waited for our friend to show up so we could all go out to dinner.
DiXit involves taking six cards, and when it's your turn picking a card and giving a phrase to describe it, without showing it. The phrase should be cryptic enough that not everyone can guess (if everyone guesses you get no points) but easy enough that a few people guess (you don't get points if nobody guesses, either). Others pick cards from their selection that they think best fit the phrase, and everyone guesses which card was the original.
This was the selection we got for Taiwanese Clown President Ma Ying-jiu (馬英九):
(Sorry the focus is so bad)
We have a very fey king, a woman-cage trapping fish inside, a marionette on a throne, an sullen little boy being carried past soldiers, and a silly-looking scarecrow surrounded by sunflowers. (The original card was the boy in the cart).
Anyway, 8f is just one of many choices in Taipei, especially if you're already a board game aficionado and don't need the games explained to you (I'm not sure they will explain them at a busier establishment that doubles as a bar and live music venue like Witch House).
It's really opened up another avenue of "stuff to do on a rainy day in Taipei", and there certainly are enough rainy days in Taipei to make that an important list to fill.