Table top board games are an age-old tradition dating back to prehistoric Turkey, and one which many believed would be wiped out by the advancement of video games. In fact, the board game market is enjoying something of a revival, with the billion dollar industry growing by about one per cent each year, according to a report by US business news channel CNBC.
In Hong Kong’s crowded quarters, it can be difficult to find spaces to meet with friends. As a result, people both young and old have been flocking to cafes like Capstone, Jolly Thinkers, and Painkiller to hang out. While many of these cafes serve drinks or food on the side, the main order of the day is board games.
Tucked in a cosy corner of Causeway Bay, Capstone Boardgames boasts a broad selection of games. While it is relatively quiet in the afternoon, as day slips into night it begins to thrum with activity. University students gather with their friends, scrambling for Scrabble tiles on a wooden table. Couples meet for first dates, measuring each other up over matches of Battleship. Families with young children giggle over mishaps in Snakes and Ladders.
Instead of offering you a menu, staff invite you to peruse the cafe’s walls, which are lined with every game imaginable. From five minute card games to two hour-long strategy games, the selection meets the demands of almost every demographic. We decided to try our hands at Ticket to Ride, a board game in which the objective is build railway routes across North America.
After a quick explanation from an enthusiastic employee, the game kicked off, sparking raucous laughter and frustrated groans whenever a player’s route was blocked by their opponent’s stratagems.
One downside, perhaps, is that the selection of games becomes more limited if you don’t speak Cantonese, but we didn’t find this to be a problem as there are still plenty of games in English, and staff are always willing to explain Chinese games. The prices at Capstone are also great, ranging from HK$30 to HK$70 per session, depending on the time of day.
If you’re looking for a place which also offers food – Capstone only serves drinks – Painkiller Boardgame cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui and Jolly Thinkers in Wan Chai are your best bets.
Painkiller, though smaller than the other two, has a selection of Western dishes including pasta, pizza, and lasagne. Even at peak hours, staff were happy to give us a rundown of game instructions. Jolly Thinkers, though pricier, has the largest selection of games and plenty of space. The menu is extensive as well, covering both Western and Asian cuisines.
Overall, board game cafes are truly one of Hong Kong’s little known treasures. They’re a great way to spend a lazy afternoon and are also relatively cheap for the hours of entertainment that you get out of them.
Location: 11/F, Bayfield Building, 99 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
Price: Around HK$70-$100 dollars per person depending on the drinks/food you order (part of the admission fee)
Hours: Monday – 12pm-7pm, Tuesday-Friday – 12pm-11.30pm, Saturday-Sunday – 2.30pm-11.30pm
Painkiller Boardgame Cafe
Location: Shop C, 5/F, 2 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Price: Around HK$50-HK$100 dollars per person depending on the drinks/food you decide to purchase (part of the admission fee)
Hours: Monday-Sunday – 2pm-11pm
Location: Unit A, 23/F, Golden Swan Commercial Building, 438-444 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
Price: HK$30-HK$40 per two hour session, depending on the time of day
Hours: Monday-Sunday – 2.30pm-11.30pm
Our top game recommendations:
Settlers of Catan
Ticket to ride
Survive: Escape from Atlantis