Things I Love About Korea: Board Game Cafes

I’m a bit late starting this potential series, ‘things I love about Korea,’ since I’m not in Korea anymore. However, I figured I might as well write about it in a nostalgic sort of way. I will probably write about things I love about other countries, too.

Anyway, one thing about Korea is that people get married late. Most people won’t tie the knot until at least after university and often not for a few more years still, because tradition dictates that you need to save up some money to get married (the guy needs to buy a house or apartment and the woman needs to buy stuff to put in it). So marrying age is late 20s or early 30s, typically.

Because land is so expensive, nobody buys a house until later in life. While apartment rentals can be pretty cheap, many people nonetheless live at home until they get married, so that they can then actually buy an apartment.

The country has a very high population density, and because of this and people living at home, privacy is hard to come by. So what are young dating couples to do? Well luckily for them, there are various bangs (방) meaning rooms. You can rent out a room for various purposes and use it as you like. For instance, the DVD rooms all have vinyl couches that are wiped down each time and a large stock of porn.

In addition to those sorts of places, there are also places for friends to gather since apartments are tiny. One of these places is a board game café.

It is exactly what it sounds like. There are some board games (usually, a lot) and you come in and either pay by the hour (about 5,000 won per hour typically) or buy a drink (5-8,000 usually) and then get several hours free. Some places require buying a drink. Some make you buy a drink and pay an hourly rate. It varies.

During our recent trip, we stopped briefly in Gwangju for complicated reasons (in short, the ferry from Jeju to Busan wasn’t running because of the Yeosu expo so we took a roundabout route instead). While waiting for our Couchsurfing host to get home from work, we wandered around downtown Gwangju. We saw a board game café and decided it would be a great way to spend a while.

While some cafes or bars in the US have board games, it’s usually not the kind I most like to play. Board game cafes in Korea generally have a great selection with many Eurogames such as you might find in my friends’ collections or at Gen Con. At this café, the guy running it spoke great English and was happy to explain the rules for you.

We ordered cherry lemonades and Ticket to Ride, which we already know and love. Jeff won.

Then we played Tumblin’ Monkeys which is very simple but kind of fun anyway. This one, I won.

We have also gone to other board game cafes, like one in Hongdae. It’s a good place to take a group of friends and have a fun few hours.

Do you like board games?

2 thoughts on “Things I Love About Korea: Board Game Cafes

  1. Greg

    Board games (and games generally) are really one of my favorite things. I feel like this kind of place could be successful in the US… in the right places, at least. Makes me think of times I would go with friends to a Games Workshop in high school and watch them play various tabletop games. Maybe I just really want there to be places like this in America lol!

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