Friday, 6 July 2007

how it started / Witch House

I entered the wonderful world of German boardgames (also known as eurogames, designer games, and family strategy games) around end of 2003, via a boardgame cafe in Taipei, Witch House. I stayed in Taipei from around Sep 2003 to Dec 2004, because of a work assignment. I searched the internet for boardgame shops, and one of them that I found was Witch House.

Witch House is located very near the National Taiwan University. It is not purely a boardgame cafe. They also operate like any normal cafe, just that they have a library of boardgames and cardgames. They do regular mini concerts and various types of shows, one of them being "cloth bag" shows. I think these are puppet shows, but I have not seen one. I later found out that one Taiwanese band which I quite like, Luan Tan, actually started their career playing at Witch House.

At Witch House, I can just buy a drink or two, and spend the whole afternoon there playing boardgames. It is usually not very crowded during the times that I visit. The owners are a couple, a German guy, Yoyo (nickname) and his Taiwanese wife Yu-Ching. I ordered some games through Yoyo and also bought some games from him. He taught me some new games too, including Carcassonne.


When I first played Carcassonne, I thought it was just so-so. I didn't think it was particularly cute, or interesting. I guess it was too different to what I was used to playing at that time (Axis & Allies type of games). There was no aggression. It seemed like a children's game. Not very exciting. Little did I know I would come to love this game. It is now one of my favourite games, and when playing two-player games against my wife Michelle, it can be very aggressive and merciless, contrary to its cute and innocent appearance.

During the time in Taipei, Michelle and I visited Witch House very often (most weekends). I would take note of what games they had that I was interested to try. I searched the internet for the rules of these games, and then I made rule summaries for these games. So whenever we went to Witch House, I will have some loose sheets of paper of my handwritten notes. The waitresses there probably thought I was nuts.

Most of the time we played by ourselves, just the two of us. Sometimes we played with some strangers, but not very often. There were also a few times when some of my colleagues joined us too. I had the opportunity to try many many games before I decided whether I wanted to buy them. That was the best thing about Witch House. They also had some games which were out of print, and I was glad to have the chance to play them.

We also played a lot at our apartment. Michelle was my Number 1 boardgame kaki. These new games were non-confrontational and not about war, so she liked them and actually did (and still does) well at playing. At the time Shee Yun was not born yet. Michelle played many games when she was pregnant with Shee Yun, so hopefully Shee Yun will grow up to be a boardgame fan too. I surfed the internet a lot, primarily Boardgamegeek (which I still do surf a lot of now). There was such a wealth of information about boardgames which I never knew of. I was surprised that my beloved game Axis & Allies ranked around 200 or 300 at Boardgamegeek. I had thought it must be one of the best games available out there. Not that it was a bad game, just that there were many other more highly regarded games. And at the time I have never heard of any of the Top 10 games.

So, it was with Witch House, and with Boardgamegeek, that I started down this road of boardgame hobbyist.


wankongyew said...

That's pretty much how my wife and I got started at CarcaSean. It's interesting to note how enthusiastic you are about Eurogames while Han plays mostly American stuff.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Wow... I was surprised to see a comment from this very old blog entry. :-)

I think Carcasean's concept is very much based on Witch House. I think Chong Sean also learned to play German boardgames at Witch House. It's the owner of Witch House who introduced Chong Sean to me. Chong Sean and I were in Taiwan at different times, but the Witch House owner noticed that we were both from Sabah, thus he introduced us.

Yeah, it's good that Han and I have slightly different focus in games - that means together we get to try a wide range of games.

MDF said...

Witch house is a wonderful name for a nerd den. (We are all part nerd these days)

Also the place where the spell was casted on you to become an enthusiast Board gamer... Dun, dun, dddduunnn!