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Drifting Gamer Goes to Asia

by Hiroshi Tamura


Turn 1: 香港大戰棋會


In 1972, a magazine called “Hobby Japan” introduced miniature wargames as a “hobby from Britain.” In the same year, the magazine held a miniature wargame conference, and that was the start of commercial war simulation game (SG) in Japan. Today, when people talk about non-electric SG, they tend to think of paper pieces and games imported from the States, but that was not the case at the beginning. Apparently the same thing could be said for former British colonies in Asia, because after submitting the previous article, I found out that there are some miniature wargame clubs active in Singapore *1 and India *2.


Now, the former British colony closest to us, is Hong Kong.


I have introduced the SG situation in Hong Kong in the previous article, but that was only information gathered on the Internet. I flew into the island in hot, humid August to find out what was really happening, and also to make the first step towards connecting Asian and Japanese gamers.




After arrival, I have visited some distribution outlets. There are some stores that sell miniatures on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon, but only 2 stores in Mongkok sell paper SGs. 


First stop was 戰棋會 *3, which I mentioned in the previous article. They had no picture of the store on their website, and it looked like their major income was from mail-order system, so before visiting I kind of imagined a dark store with shelves packed with games in the corner of multiple-tenant building, like Sino Centre or Oriental 188 Shopping Centre, which are known as mecca of geeks.


Hua Chiao Commercial Centre was facing the east side of Nathan Road. 1st floor was a bank. It looked more like an office building than a multiple-tenant building, and most of tenants were offices and schools. Unfortunately, when I went up to the 8th floor it was being refurbished, but I went back for the second time a few days later and the store was partially open. More than half of the games were still packed in cardboard boxes, but the store had wooden floor and it was bright and spacious inside. I was surprised.


Close to the entrance were miniatures of “Wings of War” and some OSPREY series. By the windows were many card games lined up. In the centre was boxed board games, and there were even some translated games such as “Modern Art” and “Pandemic.” As for SG, there were rich collection of boxed games of GMT, MMP, DG and AP. On the magazine racks were back numbers of S&T, WaW, C3i and AtO. However, as for Japanese games, there were only “Six Angles Collection” by Sunset and “The Korean War” with English instruction.


大中華軍事書店 (Direct translation: Big Chinese Military Bookstore)


Next stop was大中華軍事書店 at the Argyle St. and Laundry St. Now this was a store targeted for geeks, just like Sino Centre and Oriental 188 Shopping Centre. As the name describes, most of the books they have are military related and many are in English. There were only about 10 SGs in stock. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and they only open after 5pm, so this is a place you might just want to drop by along with other stores, unless you are interested in these books.




Finally, visiting the club. Hong Kong Society of Wargamers *4 meets on the 1st Saturday of the month at the police headquarters in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island, and 3rd Saturday of the month at Hitec Centre *5 in Kowloon. The day I visited was August 15, the 3rd Saturday of the month.


After getting off at Kowloon Bay station, walk through the nearby shopping mall called Telford Plaza and you’ll find the stop for free shuttle bus. It takes about five minutes to get to the Hitec Centre.


This Hitec Centre is not very well known to Japanese people because it is not in a tourist area, but it is a huge complex facility with a concert hall and a convention centre. When I visited, there was a 35th anniversary of Hello Kitty event being held, followed by “Comic World Hong Kong 28” on August 22 and 23, and live of Hironobu Kageyama, the singer of “Dragon Ball Z” theme song, and Masaaki Endo, the singer for “The King of Braves GaoGaiGar” on August 30. It is a pretty well-known place for locals.


It was thinly attended at first, but eventually people started showing up and there were about 20 people after one hour. And catering service showed up(!). People were having lunch at each table, while the games were being played.


I had prepared souvenir for Mr. Lawrence Ho *6, who acts as public relations person for regular conferences on the Internet. I have brought him Kaminari-okoshi (translator’s note: crispy rice cake, popular souvenir from Asakusa, Tokyo) and handmade tactics card for “Storm over Taierzhuang.” (It was a chit on AtO25, but it is easier to play with cards.) We had a pleasant chat with Mr. Frederick Lai *7, who had brought “A Most Dangerous Time.”


I had brought a copy of CMJ (Command Magazine) vol.87 (with WaW supplement of Barbarossa, and also my column), GJ (Game Journal) vol.31 (with supplement “Korean War of The Bunroku Era,” which was done by the same designer and same system as “A Most Dangerous Time”), CMJ vol.60 (10th anniversary issue and with Index) and GJ supplementary volume “Nobunaga Saidai no Kiki (A Most Dangerous Time)” (comparison between “A Most Dangerous Time” plus rule book – translator’s note: the writer must be talking about comparison between Japanese and English versions of the same game), the last issue of monthly Tactics (also with Index), and a catalog of Origins 2009. Many topics were brought up and we talked non-stop.


I asked why they can use the police headquarter building, and they said they can rent a room once a month because there was a member who works for police. Also, the reason they meet on Saturdays instead of Sundays is apparently because it is westerners’ culture that they spend their Sundays with family members. So, at the meetings, people go home once they finish their game, and unlike meetings in Japanese circles, most of the time they don’t hang around to go out for a drink after the game.


They said that it is hard to get information on Japanese games or where to purchase them, so it was worth bringing all that information materials.


Other topics that came up are as follows: Japanese history of SG/ the difference between CMJ and GJ/ Gamers in Beijing and Shanghai/ Hong Kong is the axis of Chinese SG society/ “Six Angles”/ China-Vietnam War/ Traveling across America and Origins/ exhibitors at Origins/ “War of the Suns”/ MMP and GJ/ Games being played at Origins/ “Hobby Japan” and “Tactics”/ Tactics’ supplement/ Tactics’ SG issue and TRPG issue/ female gamers/ HKSW member who recently moved to Tokyo/ HKSW member who has been to “Yellow Submarine” in Shinjuku/ Portal sites for Japanese SG field/ match records/ self-made map of “The East is Red”/ “Invasion of Hokkaido” and “War of Hokkaido” (translator’s note: this is direct translation)/ Korean War manias/ Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence/ Battle of Hong Kong/ Soviet Aircraft Carrier Minsk


It really helped me that Mr. Lai was able to understand quite a bit of Japanese. He is a teacher, and has encouraged students to try SG. I was secretly astonished that he totally resembled the designer of “五虎三国志” (direct translation: Five Tigers’ Three Kingdom Saga), Mr. Tenshin-roushi.


We ended up talking so much that we ran out of time to play “A Most Dangerous Time,” but would love to do so if we have another chance.


(I am reluctant to write this on CMJ, but) GJ attracted more attention than CMJ. This could be because many of CMJ’s supplements are reproduction of English-versions (meaning people already have it), whereas GJ makes original games by Japanese designers. Many of their games are about Japanese history and Three Kingdom Saga, so people seemed to enjoy checking out the back issues. Taishu Matsuda’s cartoon proved to be popular – although it was all in Japanese, people understood it was offering commentary on the game system, and it was highly appreciated as a great idea. They absolutely loved this one scene where the Korean King Seonjo runs away from Kanjo (old name for Seoul), and some were taking pictures of it.


At one point, I got to meet Kirill Oreshkin *8, a Russian gamer who lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. After exchanging hello in each other’s languages, I asked him about SG situation in Russia and Vietnam. According to him, he had never seen a SG in USSR, but he had started playing after a friend invited him in 1996. He knew of the SG magazine “Taktyka I Strategia" *9 from Poland, but said that there are probably only 200 gamers in Moscow currently and fewer than players in Poland. He hasn’t met any gamer in Hanoi, so he plays online games on VASSAL or CyberBoard most of the time.


It was almost 8pm. Mr. Ho offered to send me e-mail regarding history of SG in Hong Kong, and I had promised him to research on how to buy Japanese SG games in Hong Kong, and the meeting ended.


After the party


After the meeting, I sent out e-mail to Japanese makers and shops regarding International shipping. As a result I found out that only Boardwalk’s Okayama branch has an English mail-order site. So I sent the URL to Mr. Ho, and he sent me the draft version of SG history of Hong Kong.


Mr. Ho also gave me information that Formosa Force Games *10 has launched in Taiwan this year, and has started producing and selling games. Their website shows that they already sell a postcard game based on Wushe Incident. Other than that, they have test version of mini-game which was a supplement of magazine “Warzone” by Taiwan’s military publisher, “知兵堂出版社 *11.”

*1 http://www.napnuts.com/


*3 http://wargames.com.hk/
*4 http://hksw.org/
*5 http://hitec.com.hk/en/index.htm
*6 http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/lawrence%20ho
*7 http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/fredlaiwl
*8 http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/Kirill
*9 http://www.taktykaistrategia.pl/
*10 http://www.formosa-force-games.blogspot.com/
*11 http://www.warmg.com/


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