Updated: Jun 5
Singaporeans love Thailand, and for many of us Thailand is a second home, especially the well-stocked clothing stores of Platinum or the exciting narrow alleyways of Chatuchak. This time, however, we wanted to expose a different, exotic (and recently booming) side of Thailand, one that few outsiders have been exposed to. No, not Patpong - the Thai board game community.
Like in many other Asian countries, the board game scene in Thailand recently exploded in the last couple of years. But the sudden exponential growth of board games in Bangkok could rival that of any other country in Asia (or the world). Hundreds of board game cafes have sprung up in the last few years, and dozens of publishers and localizers have also leapt into action. Seemingly overnight, every district in Bangkok is home to a place you can sit down and engage in a battle of wits over a board game and a basil pork stir fry with rice.
One thing that has fuelled this growth spurt is social media, as well as the demographic who play board games in Thailand - young, fervent ambassadors of the hobby who champion board games wherever they go. They make board games fashionable and cool, and that's really all you need since modern games can speak for themselves. We learnt this in a pleasantly unexpected way when Mooncake Master was featured on Thai social media and sold out overnight.
Together with an influx of localized international games, independent Thai board game designers and publishers have been springing up as well. It isn't easy to build a board game design community from scratch, but the Thais have a headstart with their camaraderie and elegant design sense. Some of the games have the cleanliness of earlier Japanese designs, and the Thai love of interaction makes some of their original social games as good as any in the Asian market. We had loads of fun organizing a special Origame workshop at the aptly named Board Game Academy as well as playtesting and giving feedback on a number of upcoming Thai designs at places such as Lanlalen board game cafe.
We even joined a filming of Board Game Night where we played Mooncake Master with the BGN crew and had a ton of fun. Playing board games with Thai friends somehow feels more fun than playing games anywhere else in the world, and even playing games on camera felt really natural. Board game banter comes naturally to the Thais.
Board games have always been more than just the games. In Thailand, above anywhere else, we felt that it was all about the people. The Thai board game community are some of the warmest, most genuine human beings you will ever meet, and we made memories playing games there that we will never forget. It's people like these that you live to make great games for. Kop khun maak kap, our Thai friends - this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship!