China is AWESOME for board gaming. They have board game cafes spread all over the major cities where you can pay to play any of the games they have in stock (usually around 200) by the hour and someone will even come over and teach you how to play a game or clarify rules for you if you’re not sure about something. It’s not a niche or “geeky” hobby there. It’s right up with going to the movies, going to KTV/Karaoke, or going to the mall as something very normal that a lot of young people do on a regular basis.
While in Harbin (my wife’s hometown in northern China – a city around the size of Chicago), we spent some time at one of these cool board game cafes. My Mandarin is a joke, so it was left up to my wife to translate most of what was going on when we arrived. The first game we played while we were waiting for some of the people there to finish up some matches of a popular Chinese TCG was DaVinci Code, a simple and fun bluffing, deduction, and guessing game. Afterwards, we found three guys willing to play a game with us, and we decided on Ticket to Ride since there aren’t any language skills needed. Playing in my basement at or at my local group is fun, but it’s hard to beat playing with some REALLY hilarious guys who were smoking and joking and shouting, even if I didn’t know exactly what they were always saying
I also managed to snag a copy of Dixit Odyssey 1+2+3 for less than $10 and Power Grid with English rules for about $12 while I was there. You can buy games all over China, at bookstores, magazine stands, toy stores, and of course board game stores. If you ever find yourself there, make sure to do some shopping. The prices for games are insanely low. The only reason I didn’t buy more was that I didn’t have room in my luggage.