Board Game Culture in Taiwan

March 6, 2019 Leave your thoughts
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Taiwanese board games!
Taiwanese board games!

I recently found myself in Taiwan. Of course, I had to take some time out of my schedule to check out what the board gaming scene looked like. Though there are many similarities, there are some aspects that I found quite unique.

Here are some of my insights!

1. Board Games are Everywhere, If You Seek Them

Found a few board games in a claw machine.
Found a few board games in a claw machine.

For sure, gaming is big in Taiwan. Wander around and you’ll see billboard after billboard advertising the latest digital game to play.

Somewhere within this culture is a huge and growing market of board game enthusiasts.

Initially, I wondered if board gaming was a thing in Taiwan.

When I thought about my first trip to Taiwan, I couldn’t think of a single time when I saw a board game being played. This trip, when I looked closer, I found the board game hobby to actually be pretty big.

Board games appearing out of nowhere in a store that sells stationary.
Board games appearing out of nowhere in a store that sells stationary.

Where there aren’t large stores selling board games; you can find tabletop games for sale in a smaller stationary stores, bookstores, and board game cafes.

Here's a dedicated space to play tabletop games in an apartment building.
Here's a dedicated space to play tabletop games in an apartment building.

Though people in Taiwan don’t readily play games at cafes, they do tend to play in smaller groups privately or specifically at dedicated board game spaces.

Board gaming is alive in Taiwan; the hobby is just explored in a slightly different manner.

2. Most Stores Don’t Have Huge Titles

Can't say I know too many of these titles.
Can't say I know too many of these titles.

Looking at the selection of board games available for sale, time and time again I couldn’t find anything that I was really familiar with. On this particular shelf above, for instance, I was familiar with Spyfall and a smaller version of Connect Four—that was it.

This game has all kinds of Taiwan references on the box.
This game has all kinds of Taiwan references on the box.

Many of the games available in the Taiwanese market are specifically created for this market.

It might be because of shipping and localization costs, but many of the big titles we know in the United States are few and far between. Speaking of which…

3. Most Games are Written in Traditional Characters

These look cool, but I'm not sure what all of them mean.
These look cool, but I'm not sure what all of them mean.

Not surprisingly, most of the games out there are written in traditional characters. Even if you can read simplified, this might make understanding the rulebook for a game a little more difficult.

Some of these games look like they might have English rules.
Some of these games look like they might have English rules.
Found a shelf with some English titles on it.
Found a shelf with some English titles on it.

It is possible to find games with English on the boxes. Some of these games use English for marketing purposes and don’t actually have English rulebooks in them. If you’re interested in picking one of these local titles up and need English translations, check to see if the contents contain an English rulebook.

4. Board Game Shops Look Different

Games ready to be purchased, neatly organized
Games ready to be purchased, neatly organized

Some of the most popular and more hardcore board game shops are primarily spaces where people convene after work or school, specifically, to play tabletop games.

The guys in the corner were talking about not being the ghost.
The guys in the corner were talking about not being the ghost.

This particular “board game shop” consisted of gaming tables in the center and various titles for sale on shelves lining the walls.

There wasn't a duplicate of any game.
There wasn't a duplicate of any game.

If you’re looking for more well-known titles, you’ll probably find them more at a space like this one.

I found that more hardcore gamers tended to convene in these spaces. The available games tended to reflect the type of gamer here.

Here's the selection of games available for immediate play.
Here's the selection of games available for immediate play.

In many shops like this, you can pay a small amount to play games for a fixed period of time. Some of these stores also rent out titles kind of like how Blockbuster used to rent out videos.

Here are some of the many opened games that players could choose to play.

5. Board Game Cafes Are Big

Walking through Da'an District to check out a board game cafe.
Walking through Da'an District to check out a board game cafe.

Complimenting board game shops in Taiwan are board game cafes.

Board game cafes can be found in almost all of the major cities across the island. In fact, I was surprised at the sheer number of board games cafes compared to the relatively small number in the United States.

Like the US, though, they’re the perfect way to enjoy a few games with a nice latte.

I'm told the cafes are normally packed.
I'm told the cafes are normally packed.

What was a little confusing to me was the fact that many of these cafes also doubled as tabletop game shops.

This shop sold sleeves for various sizes of cards.
This shop sold sleeves for various sizes of cards.
Here are some of the tabletop games for sale.
Here are some of the tabletop games for sale.
Here are some recognizable titles.
Here are some recognizable titles.

As I later found out, you could tell if a game was for sale if it was still in the shrink wrap. Board games that were open on this shelf were fair game for playing with your coffee or 咖啡 (kafei) as locals call it.

6. Games That Sell Are Cute and Small

Cute characters everywhere!
Cute characters everywhere!

Because Taiwan is such a dense and small country, space is at a premium. Not surprisingly, many of the top games that sell here are small-box games. For the most part, it is rare to find large boxes—this Carcassonne Big Box was an exception.

Many tiny boxes juxtaposed against surprisingly large ones
Many tiny boxes juxtaposed against surprisingly large ones

Games that also do well are more on the cuter side. Chibi characters and fun colors dominate many of the outside-box artwork on some of the most popular titles.

This game is about running a tea and dessert shop.
This game is about running a tea and dessert shop.
Lots of characters and color on this board game shelf
Lots of characters and color on this board game shelf

Bonus: My Favorite Board Game Shop

This is the entrance to my favorite board game shop in Taiwan.
This is the entrance to my favorite board game shop in Taiwan.

Traveling across the country, getting a flavor for the local board game scene, I got to check out a lot of neat shops. Going through almost a dozen of them, my favorite, to date, has to be Board Game Hut (also known as 卡牌屋 (ka pai wu) or card house.

This lady was so knowledgable and helpful.
This lady was so knowledgable and helpful.

Board Game Hut has an amazing selection of western, Asian, and specifically Taiwanese games.

So many games!
So many games!

Games range from light-weight to heavy-strategy.

Even with the sheer number of games, there's space to walk around.
Even with the sheer number of games, there's space to walk around.
If you're looking for a Taiwanese title, you'll probably find it here.
If you're looking for a Taiwanese title, you'll probably find it here.
Fun seeing some translations of popular games.
Fun seeing some translations of popular games.
Larger games being showcased like fine art.
Larger games being showcased like fine art.
There were even some exclusively English titles.
There were even some exclusively English titles.

I bought a couple of games to bring back to the US that I had on my list. I’ve had fun playing them with friends. One, I didn’t notice was only in Zhongwen. I’ll have to take some time to translate those game rules, but otherwise I’m looking forward to getting it to the table.

If you’re interested more in my travels in Taiwan and beyond, check out my travel blog, Collecting EXP.

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