Thursday, January 26, 2006

Stealing (Game) Time in Hong Kong with Alan Kwan

Two days after arriving from Bangkok it was time to pack my bags again for a conference in Hong Kong.

Now I haven't been to HK since I left my last "major" job which had its regional headquarters in HK several years ago. I was primarily a roleplayer then and tracked down a game shop in an office building somewhere in Kowloon. Name of the store had "wargame" in it somewhere I think - I can't remember exactly.

Anyway, this time around it was a snap to identify who to contact for a boardgame fix. Alan Kwan is an active voice on BGG. He's also the YINSH champion from the last tournament run at Essen Speile. Finally, he's the proprietor of Tarot Games Hong Kong, the premiere source of Eurogames in HK. I dropped him a line because I'd only be able to get around the city on a Sunday, and Tarot is normally closed on Sundays except by appointment be regular customers.

In a trend among Asian gamers that warms my heart, Alan was wonderfully accomodating. He agreed to meet me at his shop Sunday afternoon. That meant that not only would I get to meet him, I also would be able to buy games! He had TAMSK and YINSH in stock, two games that have been on my wishlist for a long time. He also amazingly had a copy of Stefan Dorra's MEDINA still in the store. Now, TAMSK and MEDINA aren't cheap, the former carrying an MSRP of $50 and the latter being an out-of-print game with a lot of wooden bits, but they are both on my wishlist as "grail games" so I had to have them. Finally, Alan also had a copy of Lo0kout Games's little card game Attribute (yes, the English version) which I believed to be almost impossible to find. Those four games cost me clost to US$200, which was reasonable for an Asian environment. Besides, we have to show support to the people who bring "our" games into the region. Without guys like Alan in HK, Damien in Singapore and Edwin in Malaysia, we'd all be in the same boat as Thailand - no game stores and no way to get a new game fix other than by expensive orders from overseas.

Tarot Games is located on Hong Kong Island, and my hotel was on the other side of the bay in Kowloon. Fortunately, my hotel was a two-minute walk from the nearby ferry dock, which took me across to HK Island. Again, I was lucky since the ferry dock on the other side was right across from the MRT (subway), so I hopped on a train. Fortress Hill, the station nearest the mall Tarot was is, was just two stops away.

I popped out of the MRT station and took the five minute walk to the mall.

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I was a bit early so I looked around. Alan had an intersting mix of games in his store window. There were a couple of games (I think they're kids' games) that I couldn't identify (boo). There was Ingenious, and Igloo Pop, and Pickomino, and of course the new Kris Burm game PUNCT.

Alan arrived shortly, and after the requisite introductions we chatted about the HK and Manila boardgame scenes. I had a bit of time, so I proposed that we play a game. PUNCT was handy in the store window, so that was what we played.

I had only played PUNCT before online at The physical game has nice Bakelite pieces. For the uninitiated, PUNCT is an abstract connection game. Players try to connect two sides of the hexagonal board using various-shaped pieces. There are three twists. First is that pieces that are already on the board can be moved in straight lines, with one of the three points on the piece as a stable pivot. The second is that the pieces can stack on top of each other, as long as the pivot point is placed over a piece of the same color. The third twist is that there is a dark area in the center of the board that players can't play pieces into, but can move pieces into.

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Alan, as expected, smoked me in two games. Hey, he's the 2005 YINSH World Champ and he's probably played PUNCT and all the GIPF games a lot more than me. I don't mind getting whipped like a BGG Pony two weeks in a row, in two different countries. Abstracts have never been my strong suit. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

I had to run back to the hotel for dinner, so I thinked Alan for his hospitality and got going. Two games off my personal "grail list" and four games total off my wishlist, plus a couple more games played in a different Asian country. Not bad at all.

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At Thursday, February 09, 2006 1:17:00 AM, Blogger Joe Gola said...

It's scary how many games I can identify in that weensy picture of the shelves.

At Friday, February 10, 2006 12:40:00 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Negative timing. Very nice concept. I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it. :)


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