In Toronto, we like to consider ourselves one of the best destinations for board gaming in the world. Maybe it’s the long winters, or the dense population, or simply the abundance of cool nerds, but there is never a shortage of board gaming for people who are on the lookout. Toronto is home to some fantastic FLGSs, board game cafes, and conventions. Aspiring designers can test out their work at a number of different prototype nights around the city, and many members of the Game Artisans of Canada (GAC) live within its borders.
Caryl Tan and Peony Gerochi are co-owners of Quiche Games (it’s pronounced Quickie). Quiche is a unique hybrid of a gaming store. They have an online shop, but they are also regularly holding public gaming events, that make them feel more like a board game café than a traditional FLGS.
This past weekend, Quiche held an event took place that really drove home the strength of the gaming community in Toronto. They recently traveled to Indianapolis for Gen Con 50, and they wanted to make many of the hot games from that event available to people who weren’t able to make the trip down. Between them teaching games of Bunny Kingdom and Clank in Space, we got a chance to chat about the philosophy of Quiche Games and why they think Toronto is such a special place for gaming.
How did you first get into board gaming?
Caryl: I think it all started when Peony and I were looking for more video games to play cooperatively. We both played Starcraft 2 religiously in 2v2 and 4v4 matches for about 2 years and when it came time to move onto something else, I looked to things like Black Ops to keep our shared hobby going. (plus, we’re both so competitive in nature, we needed something where we were working together haha)
Then of course, that didn’t end up well because Peony would get motion sickness from the first person view and I think it was a Game Informer article, a site dedicated to video gaming, that covered some boardgames to check out that were hot that year. I came across Zombicide and it sounded WONDERFUL. It was basically all I was looking for from Left 4 Dead or Black Ops but without the motion sickness haha.
Zombicide literally became our very first entry into modern board gaming. All because we wanted to play something together.
Tell me where the idea for Quiche Games came about?
Caryl: I have a background in working in game stores, from video game stores to hobby stores. Most of the time when I’d come home complaining, it wouldn’t be because I hated the job, but because I hated how management was. The way some stores view and treat customers is appalling, and the times I had to sit back and go against what I felt ethically was unsettling.
I just eventually got to a point where I was sick of it, and I think what happened was that Peony and I were walking our dog one day and she says to me, “why don’t you just open your own store”. Like wow. Why didn’t I think of that. Run things the way I’d be happy with and treat customers the way they deserved to be treated–as people and not numbers to add to my sales quota. Why not give back in a BIG way.
Peony: Having worked at marketing agencies, with startups, and having Caryl’s expertise in board games/retail, I decided to invest and within one week we had an online store up and running. I agreed with the idea of providing a customer centric business, not only from a customer service point of view but also from a website, social media point of view and how we engage with our customers in different platforms…I also wanted to play all the games.
You do a lot more than just selling games at Quiche. Can you talk about some of the game days you’ve held?
Peony: At first, we were thinking about just being an e-commerce website but it grew into something more because we saw a gap. We felt like not a lot of stores try to get to know their customers and we wanted to get to know our customers. We thought events would bring value to our customers than just being an online store by teaching and showing them some games they may not have heard of.
Caryl: Being a solely e-commerce store, it makes the job I love feel rather lonely. You don’t get that face to face interaction with customers, you don’t get to see people react to hearing about Carcassonne or Coup for the first time.
We started our events with our very first Tabletop Day as a store to give back to the community and have a way to show games we loved and get to know the community we were slowly building.
Why are these sorts of community building projects important for the hobby?
Caryl: The biggest thing about boardgames that can never be taken away from a video game is: interaction. Video games feel like a revolving door of strangers who come and go in between games, and sure, some will stick with you, but for me, nothing is the same as having a buddy or relative sitting next to you, taunting you or laughing with you over pizza and drinks.
Your focus is solely on what’s in front of you because you’re so engaged–and that’s the thing that boardgames does so well. When you get a good game going, like a reallyyy good game, the poor habit we have to disengage to go back to our own worlds and pick up our phone to go on reddit–that’s gone.
Our past event on Saturday, the only time I picked up my phone was to take pictures and order pizza. As an introvert, it also becomes a form of communication with people I normally would have trouble interacting with. It makes feeling awkward at a party without knowing anyone, become “oh hey you know this game” “you’re speaking my language, tell me more”
Toronto is kind of a hotbed for the board game community. Why do you think makes this city unique?
Caryl: I think the open mindedness, the diversity and the need for connection in the city is so strong that really differentiates Toronto–especially when it comes to community. The amount of meetups we have in every hobby available, the room escapes and board game cafes and such are beyond just the fad and gimmick. I’ve found both to persist because they bring people together. It amazes me how we always get someone new attending our events and finding just how well they mesh with our culture of fun, kindness and acceptance. I’m extremely grateful for Toronto as a city because of that.
What lessons have you learned since you opened Quiche Games?
Caryl: I think my biggest lesson learned is knowing how to balance work with life. It’s probably a tired thing to hear by now, but it’s really true. Work/Life balance is SO important. Working too much and burning out is a very real thing and admittedly, you can feel like you’re getting so much done because you’re putting more hours in, but putting 18 hours of your day into your work, and then feeling like death the next week because of it, is just not worth it. You end up making mistakes, losing focus, and in the end, you’re spending your time going over something that could’ve been done right the first time.
I’ve also learned to keep things fun and light and not too seriously. Like if I get some negative feedback, to not take that personally, but look at it in a way to improve myself and perhaps even give myself a more realistic standard to set for myself.
Peony: I think the lesson that I learned most was that it’s not easy opening an online store when distributors favour brick and mortar. It’s a bit of a backwards mentality for them in my opinion because rent is getting expensive and while it’s good to support your local game store, you’re limiting the reach of people who live in places that don’t have those types of stores in their hometown.
You also have started working with Mandi from To Die For Games. How do you like doing media work?
Caryl: I love it! One of my drives for creating Quiche was to create a way to let non-gamers hear about board games. It’s just been an amazing journey with Mandi to have a platform where we could voice our opinions and perspectives. The amount of people I’ve met just for creating the videos has introduced me to so many people who either work as publishers, other media personalities, that I’ve gained the benefit of viewing the hobby from all 4 of its distinct viewpoints: consumer, publisher, media and retailer. It’s given me an amazing amount of insight and has definitely pushed me to become a better person by learning Premiere and After Effects to create new ways to communicate my ideas. It’s also great to be working with someone who understands and shares the same viewpoint and ideas as you.
Why do you think board games are important in this day and age?
Caryl: I think with the rise of digital and vr, we’re really moving away from features we once had like couch co-ops or verbal conversations. Most of my day is dedicated to emails or texting, and my unlimited call plan is unused. Everything can and does get done remotely and digitally. But of course, as humans, we can’t fully function in our own little worlds. Boardgames maintain that simplicity of creating bonds and relationships. There are things in it that just can’t be replicated digitally.
Peony: How can I play a game of Avalon digitally? Definitely not through Skype! It’s just not the same! To feed off each other’s emotions too is so essential in my gaming experience. To hear someone laugh or gasp is infectious and is a major contribution to the experience you leave with. All of my great memories of gaming have been through the reactions of others and by far, my most favourite game played from our last event was Werewords. Nothing can bring a group of 10 people together laughing our butts off and point accusatory fingers at one another like a board game.