The Rise Of China's Board Game Cafes

China is a big place but with its huge population (1.4 billion) mostly gathered in urban environments, space is becoming more of a commodity. Grown from this need for space, “board game cafes” began to spring out in major cities much like internet cafes did.

In early 2010 a new trend broke out in China, stealing the thunder of internet cafes. Springing up overnight, “board game cafes” became a thing. Internet cafes can be said to have served the needs of Chinese gamers without access to a good PC or to a stable and fast internet connection. Board Game Cafes grew from a need to get out of one’s home and socialise, and a need for space for people to gather to play games.

These gaming cafes grew and grew in popularity and became huge in China; soon enough there were “zhuoyou ba”-s literally everywhere. These places were often filled with uncomfortable couches and overpriced food. The one good thing they had was big tables and lots of board games, from everything such as Call of Cthulhu and Three Kingdoms Killers to Monopoly. Unfortunately, these locations were businesses and not real cafes that served the needs of table top gamers. They did business by the volume; the whole purpose was to get gamers in and get them out in record time. They also charged by the hour like an internet cafe. The average pricing in Beijing is about 10 RMB per person, per hour (about $1.60) on the weekdays and about $5 an hour on the weekends.

Beijing gaming fixture Dan Bass says that another reason for the growth of gaming cafes was that people wanted more face to face interaction time. Bass, who recently helped launched Beijing and China’s first tabletop/role-playing gathering, Khan-Con, also ran the now defunct Beijing D&D Cafe.

The business really boomed in late 2011 with loads of cafes popping up everywhere, but now it seems that tabletop gamers aren’t as happy with the business model any more. At least according to People’s Daily, the Party newspaper of China, at least half of the stores that opened for business in Shanghai have gone the way the way of the dodo bird.

Photos: Eric Jou/Frank Yu


    Board Game cafes have died out big time in Korea. Interesting to see how China is like Korea but ten years ago

    I've been playing a bit of hero quest lately. Hero quest with beer. Love a good boardgame.

      Internet cafes are dying out in Australia, and board game cafes are on the rise. I really like both, but board games are more fun. Easy to learn, hard to master... where as most games are, easy to learn, play a few hundred hours until you are somewhat competitive, rinse and repeat.

    That is awesome. I could see power grid, carcossone and ticket to ride in those photos

    There's one in the city called Norita I think, a bit of fun

    There's a great one in Perth called Cafe Myriade. It's really reasonably priced, certainly isn't a rush in/rush out style, has very friendly and helpful people (They're always offering to show you how new games work) and their food and drink selection are reasonable priced for cafe food, but are top notch quality-wise. Definitely worth a look. Need to organise another trip there with some mates, I want to get another game of 'Last Night on Earth' in

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now