Tabletop gamers gather weekly in bars to strategize—and “slay” each other

For around 150,000 internet users of the “Tabletop Game Bar” on Baidu Tieba, “killing time” has a different meaning than usual.

Congregating online to talk strategy and swap recommendations during the week, on the weekend, these aficionados gather in their thousands at professional “tabletop game bars” around the country for fun and socializing, based on strategy and roleplay—and pretend killing.

Though tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons began to arrive in the 1980s, the first real “gaming fever”— based on a homegrown product—took place in 2010 with Sanguosha (三国杀, “Three Kingdoms Kill”), a re-interpretation of the party game Bang! with characters from the classic Chinese novel. At its peak, the Sanguosha market was worth than 40 million RMB, and attracted tens of millions of players, along with literary copycats like “Red Mansions Kill,” and “Journey to the West Kill” at new gaming bars in every city—around 70 to 80 percent of which collapsed when the bubble burst just a year later.

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author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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