You wouldn't necessarily know it just by walking around, but board game bars are becoming something like a phenomenon (baby) in Chengdu and other cities across China. With the first board game bar reportedly opening in Shanghai in 2005, those in the industry estimate that there are now over 1,000 such venues in the country with hundreds in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
In Chengdu, many of the board-game bars are concentrated around universities, especially Sichuan University. On the second floor of the Commercial Building on Gonghecun (near Hongwasi), you'll find a half-dozen board game bars and two or three videogame bars as well.
The latter provide floor couches and Playstations, X-Boxes, and other consoles for RMB8 per console per hour, with all the games you want to play; the former feature comfortable couches around tables and small shelves stocked with popular Chinese as well as foreign games. Most of the games are in Chinese, although you'll run across the occasional English-language versions of Eurogames such as Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Manila, Niagara, and The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow as well as classic games such as Monopoly, Uno, and World of Warcraft.
All of these bars opened within the past two years, according to a woman who calls herself Renee and runs the Eryu Hai'an (耳语海岸) game bar (No. 223 in the Gonghecun Commercial Building) along with her boyfriend, Tiger. The couple, both board game enthusiasts who speak Chinese and English, say that they stock more than 50 games, most ordered online, and that most of their patrons are university students. In addition to providing games, they pour tea and drinks for customers and teach new players the rules of the games.
Not far from Gonghecun is the SGM Boardgame Club, which boasts the largest collection of board games that we saw in our brief survey, including Powergrid, Mister X, Axis and Allies, Pandemic, and Quo Vadis. The bar has public and private rooms and hosts tournaments and other game events on the weekends.
Other board game bars can be found in Yulin and at Chunxi Lu.
Patrons cite low costs, the appeal of face-to-face interaction with peers and friends, and the novelty of learning a new game as reasons for frequenting the game bars.
Most of the board game bars we saw charge between RMB10 and 20 per person for up to eight hours of playing. At some places, this price includes tea; at others, drinks are charged separately. Most are open from noon or 1 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m.
Gonghecun Commercial Building
5 Gonghecun 2F
SGM Board Game Club
Kaiyue Xin Cheng 2F No. 3, Yihuan Lu South Sect. 1
桌游俱乐部 一环路南一段凯悦新城2楼3号 Tel. 85587252