San Guo Sha (三国杀, usually translated as "Killers of the Three Kingdoms") is probably the most popular modern board game in China. Every game bar we walked into in Chengdu had multiple copies, and most of the patrons seemed to be playing it. Designed by two students in Beijing in 2006, the game was discovered two years later by a game enthusiast in his late 20s who started producing and selling it through his Beijing-based company, YOKA Games.
The 2- to 10-player card-based game is most often compared to the "spaghetti western" card game Bang! and has seen considerable success since its release, with over 1 million units sold within the first two years and five expansion packs released to date. Based on the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, San Guo Sha counts among its enthusiasts not only mainland Chinese but overseas Chinese living around the world.
Today, YOKA holds an estimated 80 percent of the country's board game market, in large part thanks to the success of San Guo Sha. Players chalk up the game's popularity in China to its being centered around Chinese historical and cultural themes. Although most of the board game bars we visited had Chinese-language versions of popular Western board games like Monopoly in their collections, such games are still foreign—in the literal sense of the word—to China.
YOKA Games is hoping to help facilitate the international board game exchange, however, by not only importing and selling foreign games but also by purchasing the rights to localize, produce, and sell certain foreign games.