Board Game Lounge, these three words were enough for me to excitedly rush to the launch of Pi Social café in Karachi this Sunday.
Internationally, the concept of board game cafés has been around for a while, however, the idea only recently came to Karachi after two young board game enthusiasts decided to open it as an addition to their cafe, Pi Social. With more than a 100 international games on offer, The Board Game Lounge offers an extensive board game variety to the public.
As eager as I was to try out this new place, I also wondered whether it'll be good enough and prove successful in the long run.
Here's what you need to know if you're planning a trip to this newly opened café:
What is Pi Social?
Pi Social, "Pakistan’s first concept-based social café" as they call it, is located on the same street as SZABIST, Clifton. One if its key attractions is its 'Board Game Lounge' which has over 120 games including some from the US and the UK.
Shaan Naqvi, co-owner Pi Social, is a board game enthusiast himself and told me that all the games in the lounge technically belong to him. "We [my partner and I] came across this concept aboard and were really intrigued by it because we ourselves are quite into board games."
Initially, him and his partner thought Pakistan's market would be a little pre-mature for this concept, however after a board game café recently launched in Mumbai, India, they figured it may work in Pakistan as well. Bearing in mind that this is still a huge business risk and that there are chances the lounge may not do exceptionally well financially, they decided to incorporate other concepts to the café to keep the place buzzing.
"We have three spaces inside Pi Social – the Board Game Lounge, the Veranda and Pi & Co,” explained co-owner Fahd Nassr.
A breakdown of the three spaces:
The Board Game Lounge
You pass by a small garden and enter an enclosed café. It has a bar on one end, around 5-6 tables for four, a long bench in the center and a shelf full of board games to choose from.
You buy a pass for Rs329 (per player) and you can play as many games for as long as you want, which is great! If you've played board games abroad you'd know that similar cafes sometimes charge on an hourly basis, so getting to play for an unlimited period of time is an amazing deal. Plus, the pass allows you to avail one of the ‘non-special’ drinks (like water and soda) too.
The timings for the lounge are great, especially on weekends as closing is at 2am.
You can also win a free drink by winning against the bartender at a game of 'Connect 4'.
The café also offers a great way to meet and play against new people, for instance when you take a table, you have the option to keep it 'Open' or 'Closed' depending on whether you want other people to join in or not. On the other hand, if any particular game being played on an 'Open' table intrigues you, you can join the players. Though if you’re feeling the need to be by yourself, the café also offers solo games.
Since it is technically a café, the place will be serving lunch and dinner except for days when the Veranda is booked for the Neighborhood Market.
Monday - Thursday: 12:00pm - 11:30pm
Friday - Saturday: 11:00am - 2:00am
Sunday: 11:00pm - 11:30pm
The Veranda is essentially a small garden within the premises offering space for a ‘Neighbourhood Market’ which will be set up every other Sunday to provide space to local crafters in collaboration with The Crafters’ Guild and Sheops.
"The Neighbourhood Market is for home-based crafters and eateries that do exceptional business but are not commercially available… I would not say it’s a selling platform; I think it’s a marketing platform,” said Nassr.
However, the Veranda is a relatively small space and can only accommodate around 11 stalls in the front yard and 2-3 stalls in the backyard. The backyard unfortunately goes unnoticed and you don’t realise there is another space till someone points it. Another setback is that since it’s a small area, there's no space to sit and you'll have to find space inside the café.
The owners say the Veranda might also host comedy nights soon.
Pi & Co
The third space Pi Social offers is ‘Pi & Co’ which will be a co-working space for tech start-ups, but it hasn’t been launched yet.
Here's what doesn’t work
Good things aside, there are still a few things which left me puzzled:
On days when the Neighbourhood Market is set up (which will be every other Sunday), you have to pay an entry fee of Rs300. So if on any of those Sundays, I want to just hit the Board Game Lounge, I’ll have to pay the entry fee too?
Honestly, I'm not such a fan of the idea. I’d rather go to the lounge on weekdays when there is nothing else happening in the Veranda. This is an issue they can probably prevent by offering memberships to those who want to visit the Board Game Lounge regularly.
Another thing I was quite taken aback by was this image of the café’s receipt a friend shared. It showed that they charged Rs129 for a small water bottle and Rs150 for a small soda bottle. I personally find that quite outrageous!
After seeing the receipt I’m not too sure what the price range for food is at this café and whether I’d want to ever eat there if I plan to visit often (definitely not drinking any water though).
Though there are a few unanswered questions, I feel opening a board game café in Karachi with a good collection is enough reason for me to visit the place regularly – with friends or even alone.
All photos by author.
Update: One of the owners clarified that the increased prices in beverages is only on days when the Neighbourhood Market is set up. On regular days, water bottles will cost Rs78 and soft drinks Rs98.