Sunday, 23 December 2007

Carcasean boardgame cafe

Last night I visited the first ever boardgame cafe in my hometown of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It is located at S-0-28, Ground Floor, City Mall, on Jalan Lintas. It hasn't officially opened yet, there is no sign board outside, but it is already operating. I got to know the owner Chong Sean through Yoyo, who is the owner of Witch House boardgame cafe in Taiwan. I had contacted Sean before I returned to KK, and after I got back, I arranged to pay him a visit. I even had the chance to request beforehand games to play from his big collection of games.

The name of the boardgame cafe is Carcasean. Obviously a play of words on Carcassonne, the popular award-winning boardgame, widely recognised as a good gateway game for new players and families, and also one of Michelle's and my favourites. Actually, I'm not sure whether it is supposed to be pronounced as "Carca-shawn", or "Carca-seen". "Shawn" is the English pronounciation of "Sean" as in "Sean Connery". "Seen" is the pronounciation of Chong Sean's Chinese given name "Xin". This is how the cafe works (I think) - you buy drinks, and you get to play any boardgames available, i.e. just like Witch House in Taiwan. This is different from how Settlers Cafe in Singapore works. Settlers Cafe charges for time played. They have packages like 2 hours of play + free flow drinks. This is more similar to other forms of entertainment, like going to a karaoke. I, as a consumer, of course prefer Carcasean / Witch House's format, because it's cheaper and you don't need to watch your time. In fact, when I used to visit Witch House (when I was in Taiwan), sometimes I felt bad that I just ordered one drink and played for almost the whole afternoon. So, I order a second drink. Sometimes I also had lunch there before playing. Settlers Cafe opened a branch in Kuala Lumpur last year. I visited them once when they just opened. Unfortunately they closed after less than one year. I wonder whether their format just doesn't work for Malaysia, or the target market in Malaysia is not large enough like in Singapore.

Carcasean is very nicely renovated. It is spacious and bright and comfortable. At the moment they only serve drinks and no food. Rule #1, drinks and boardgames must not be on the same table. That's the right thing to do. Drinks and boardgames on the same table are just a disaster waiting to happen. I'm thinking whether they should also get mini tables, the tall but small type, for customers to put their drinks. Chong Sean has a very good range of boardgames, but he hasn't put many of them at the cafe yet. At the moment the cafe is more like a private function room for his friends to play at. Elaine and Simon, who accompanied me to visit Carcasean, commented that the coffee that they sell is one of the best brands. Unfortunately I don't drink coffee. So I had a chocolate shake. I remember it was good, but nothing much else, because, of course, my focus was the games.

Elaine and Simon playing That's Life. At Carcasean there are regular tables as well as low tables in the raised platform area, as seen in the background.

Elaine, Simon, Chong Sean, and two of Chong Sean's friends, playing Elfenland. Carcasean is quite spacious and brightly-lit. Very comfortable environment to play games.

We played three games, That's Life (3 players - Elaine, Simon and I), Elfenland (6 players, supposedly the ideal number of players - Elaine, Simon, Chong Sean, his two friends, and I), Chinatown (3 players - Simon, one of Chong Sean's friends, and I). I noticed that from the 8 games which I asked Chong Sean to bring, all are light to medium weight games. I am most happy to have had the opportunity to play Chinatown, which is long out of print (but is supposed to be scheduled to reprint next year). I learnt that Chong Sean actually bought this as a used copy from eBay. It was very nice of him to bring out this rare collectors' item for us to play.

Playing at Carcasean reminded me a lot of the days in Taiwan. Michelle and I visited Witch House on most weekends, sometimes on Saturday afternoon, sometimes on Sunday afternoon, sometimes on both days. I would survey the game shelves, including crouching low to browse the games under the long bench, and take note of games I was interested to try. Then I'd research the game rules on BoardGameGeek, and make rule summary sheets. Then Michelle and I would visit Witch House, armed with freshly read rules in my mind, and help ourselves with the games. Those were good times.

I definitely hope to visit Carcasean again before I return to Kuala Lumpur. I hope I can bring Michelle there, just to experience our Taiwan days again. It will be challenging, now that we have two young children, unlike when we were in Taiwan, before Shee Yun was born.

So, if anyone from Kota Kinabalu reads this, go visit Carcasean! Now!


Eric said...

Is this place still open? The past couple times I went there it was closed up.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Yes it is. I think on weekdays they open at 2pm, and on weekends 12noon. Not exactly sure, since I only get to visit them when I am back in Sabah. I live in KL.

During this Hari Raya period I think they are closed though. You may want to check next week.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

sorry, correction. weekday 5-12pm, Sat 2-12pm, Sunday off.

luisa said...

ok thanks