The last place I visited was Witch House, which isn’t a board game store exactly, though they do have a small selection of games for sale. It’s a coffeehouse which really wouldn’t look out of place in the US — several tables scattered throughout a small room, warm but not-too-bright lighting, a counter with barstools and a bunch of knickknacks on the wall. Mostly it’s a little coffeehouse with a games library, and in the evenings they have live music.
The first thing that struck me as I entered Witch House was the number of people there. Okay, it’s not packed like a gaming convention, but you can see a decent number of people sitting around on a weekday afternoon, hanging out with friends and playing games. I saw people playing Carcassonne, Inception, Lost Cities, and Drako. There was a larger group that wasn’t currently playing a game but looked like they had been earlier. This was a big contrast to the actual game stores I’d been to, which were mostly quiet and empty during the daytime hours. I’m sure Witch House’s proximity to a major street near the university helps, plus the fact that they actually serve food and drink. Probably a lot of the folks I saw were college students, stopping for a coffee-and-games break between classes. (There was one mom there with her son as well.)
The employees at Witch House also were the least interested in a visiting blogger. I tried to talk to the woman at the counter to ask about how things work, what sort of games people liked to play, and so forth, but she didn’t seem to understand why I was there if I wasn’t actually going to order food or sit down to play a game. From what I could gather, though, it costs about 150NT ($5 USD) to come in and play games, and that can be applied toward food and drink purchases. So basically as long as you spend five bucks, you can have a table. That buys you from 11am until 5pm; after 5pm you’ll have to spend some more money.
For that, you get access to their gaming library, which is not bad. It has a decent mix of old and new games, with multiple copies of some popular games like Settlers, Carcassonne, and Dixit.
So although I couldn’t get a lot of direct answers from the staff, it seems that something about Witch House is appealing to Taiwanese gamers. Maybe it’s less intimidating walking into a coffee shop (or inviting your friends) than a dedicated board game store. Maybe it’s the different atmosphere: warm and cozy, a little more intimate. It really made me want to find something like this back home. I know there are some restaurants and bars that have small board game collections you can play while you’re there, but most of those are predominantly about the food and drinks, and the games seem like an afterthought, shoved into a corner somewhere. It’s clear that board games at Witch House enjoy equal standing with the food and drinks.
I did try to contact TwoPlus Studio, a Taiwan-based game company that was mentioned in Hsu’s article. They’re affiliated with the Yawan Stationery Company, which is known for publishing the Taiwanese version of Monopoly, and I did see some of their games both in the game stores and in a stationery store (see the slideshow at the end for more). I was very curious about their 1911 Revolution of China game, but none of the stores I visited had any copies. Unfortunately, they were under deadline at the time and weren’t able to speak with me.
One other gaming store that my parents passed by while I was elsewhere was Mars Card (warning: some slightly NSFW), a shop that seemed dedicated to trading card games. They snapped a few photos of people playing card games at the shop, but that’s about all I know.
Next: games (Taiwanese) people play.