Are board games the answer to finding friendship and fun in Hong Kong? Wheat and Wood’s Timothy Kuok certainly thinks so!
What inspired you to open a board game cafe?
I moved back to Hong Kong after a few years away for university and work and was looking to reconnect with some old friends. One weekend, I bumped into a former classmate who invited me to a board game night with some other former school mates. This board game crew eventually became my core group of friends in this new stage of rediscovering Hong Kong after being away for a while.
As the group grew over time and it became a little harder to squeeze everyone into board game nights in our tiny apartments. I figured this was probably the issue a lot of people face in Hong Kong: space is limited and it can be hard to get together. Board games themselves aren’t particularly hard to procure, but we wanted to try and provide a space for groups like ours to meet over more than just food and drinks.
How is Wheat and Wood different to other board game cafes around town?
I think we gravitate towards the more inclusive and casual games as oppose to the very heavy strategy games. While we bill ourselves as a board game cafe, I think our aim is to be a space for people to meet and hang out; the board games are simply a means of getting to know each other.
We’re still figuring some things out, but everything is done with the hope that people interact more with each other. In addition to our teas and coffees, we have a broad selection of craft beers and spirits to further provide something for everyone. For the purposes of billing, we’ve experimented with giving each patron a playing card as an ID as opposed to billing their table. The reasoning for this is that we want to allow different customers to move around with that ID and possibly join other tables for the purposes of playing a large game and meeting new people. This system and the general vibe has allowed us to have a few nights where different tables of strangers have gotten together for big games.
What are some of the most popular games you have available?
It really depends on the group coming in. A lot of the more critically-acclaimed games are aimed towards smaller groups of 3 to 4; these are your European strategy games such as Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Azul. Parties of 6 or more tend to gravitate toward hidden identity games which are incredibly fun in large groups. This includes games such Avalon, Secret Hitler, and Werewolf. On the other end of the competitive spectrum are cooperative games where players are working together to achieve a goal. These games include Pandemic, Hanabi, and Codenames Duet. People are also sometimes just looking for a place to hang out and gravitate towards more familiar classics like Uno, Scrabble, and Taboo. We try to have a little something for everyone and are more than happy to make recommendations after talking to the group and trying to figure out what would be the best game for them.
What would you tell someone that’s new to the concept of board game cafes or is a more casual gamer and might be intimidated to try it out?
Board games are a great way to get to know people.The mechanics of different games can bring out aspects in people that you might not normally get to see over just a meal or drinks. You can see things such as how well they bluff, strategize, whether they have a weirdly deep knowledge of some area of trivia, how they negotiate, etc.
In all this variety, there’s definitely a board game for everyone. We make every effort to select games from the range of offerings that the specific group will enjoy. At the end of the day though, while a particular game might be hit or miss, when you’re with people you care about whose company you enjoy, you’ll still have a good time regardless.
Anything else you’d like people to know about Wheat and Wood?
I feel like the fact that we call Wheat and Wood a board game cafe distracts from it’s ultimate intention: It’s not necessarily to showcase the newest award winning Eurogames, but a place for people to meet up and get to know each other. When talking about the inspiration for the board game cafe, I mentioned how board games were how I got to know my core group of friends after moving back to Hong Kong. I think that the uniquely social nature board games had a big part in facilitating these friendships. It’s definitely an entertaining time with friends that everyone should try out.
(That being said, there are always the jokes about Monopoly ruining friendships.)
Try it out for yourself at Wheat and Wood, Shop 6 (Sai Hong Lane) , Ground Floor, Brilliant Court, No. 28 Praya, Kennedy Town