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A new cafe in Karachi wants you to bond over board games

A new cafe in Karachi wants you to bond over board games

The café's got food, drinks and more than 100 board games to keep you entertained.
Updated 20 Feb, 2017

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

Games, games everywhere.
Games, games everywhere.

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 play snakes and ladders or try your hand at beating the bartender for a free drink!
You can play snakes and ladders or try your hand at beating the bartender for a free drink!

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.

People playing board games inside the café.
People playing board games inside the café.

Lounge timings:

Monday - Thursday: 12:00pm - 11:30pm

Friday - Saturday: 11:00am - 2:00am

Sunday: 11:00pm - 11:30pm

The Veranda

Art works on display made by home-made crafters.
Art works on display made by home-made crafters.

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.

Delicious desserts on display in the garden.
Delicious desserts on display in the garden.

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!

A hefty charge for two drinks.
A hefty charge for two drinks.

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).

Verdict

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.

Comments

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Habib Feb 20, 2017 04:51pm
It will be a useless concept and a place of visit if they don't have "Settlers of Catan" board game. It's the most interesting, addicting and award winning board game.
Recommend
Karachi Feb 20, 2017 05:52pm
I would love to hear from the owner that 35% of the income goes to power who cannot buy the water bottle or beverage from street. It will be noble as well.. just a thought as i got scared to see the bill and thought of the majority of us.
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AbhiManue Feb 20, 2017 06:24pm
Nice to see innovated and creative café. I have also buy monopoly for my kids and they like it very much . When first I got it I was also excited like a child to feel the board and material came with game. Snake and ladder was our favorite game when I was kid. But these days children are spoiled by smart phone and computer . now came about café charges I think water bottle should be sold on Print MRP as water is a basic human necessity. Long before in India multiplex were also charging the price of Mineral water bottle more then print rate but after order of the supreme court now any where in India water cannot be sold then print MRP.
Recommend
Ruby Feb 20, 2017 07:08pm
I saw this sort of a place in Bangalore in 2008. It was fun and had a lot of patronage.
Recommend
ashok Feb 20, 2017 08:59pm
Difficult to sustain just based on board games. Not only the target audience is extremely narrow, but also different than the one that goes to cafes. Good luck though.
Recommend
Parvez Feb 20, 2017 09:24pm
Board games in the age of the i-pad .....may work.
Recommend
True AGRA Feb 21, 2017 02:16am
Prices are outrageous! Instead owner should consider per person cover charge of Rs. 150 for 2 hours. Plus beverages and desserts at a reasonable price.
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Munis Feb 21, 2017 02:46am
People of Pakistan, please don't. These are all orientalist practices that will lead to actual gambling
Recommend
viv Feb 21, 2017 12:44pm
All things aside, the price of water bottle (small) and pepsi is really ridiculous. Such price for water and pepsi is not charged by even 5 star hotels in India. Does this cafe has standard of even 3 star ?
Recommend
zakhta Feb 21, 2017 02:19pm
Not a great idea to charge such high price for just a small bottle of water. you will not find it this much expensive in any other city of the world.
Recommend
Omar Feb 21, 2017 05:54pm
@zakhta in Europe water costs more on the street!
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Muneeb Ahmed Khan Feb 22, 2017 09:23am
And why are they charging the sales tax for? GST is already included in the cost of water and carbonated drinks.
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Maria Feb 24, 2017 01:34pm
Loving it!
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Chris Roberts Feb 24, 2017 04:44pm
The concept is interesting. If the owners iron out a few things, such as the pricing, as several people have mentioned, this just might work. I have been to places like this elsewhere and it can be a great way to meet interesting people and make some new friemds as well. Would likely visit Pi Social Cafe when next in Karachi.
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