Q2. Where do you play your games? In homes? Are there public places to play?
I play my games at my own home, my in-law's and at my friend's place. I
know of a board games cafe named
where some casual gamers go for
games. Most gamers I know play at one another's homes or at a clubhouse.
Gaming at the local store is pretty popular, but it is mainly miniature
gaming there. The market here is not big enough for conventions.
Q3. How do people in your area acquire the games? Are there shops? Also,
is there any kind of database web site supporting translations or are most
games "played" in English?
The most popular local shop here has been set up for only a couple of years.
Before that it was mainly shipping from Germany and US. The number of
gamers then were fewer, but they own the more coveted titles. Most
gamers today buy from the local shop, not really because it is cheaper, but
mainly because it is faster and more reliable. However, the shop deals
mainly with a US distributor and therefore if we are desperate for the
German-only titles, we still need to order from on-line stores in Germany. I
would say that for those German titles, most would get their translations
from BGG, and yes, most games have to be played in English, a language most
Singaporeans are fluent in.
Personally, I order some English titles from
JogoCanada (shipping is cheaper than US), and the bulk from the local store.
Once in a while when a close friend visits Europe for work, I will ship in
the German titles. I get all the translations and paste-ups from BGG, but I
generally avoid paste-ups and order only language-independent games. I
would say it is indeed a great boon to gamers here, now that American
companies like Überplay, Face 2 Face, and Out of the Box are collaborating
to release the German titles and out-of-print games, since their distribution network
reaches Singapore. Rio Grande is still the mainstay, but their stock level
is infrequent – how could they discontinue
Web of Power?
– and their
prices are not so attractive now after a recent price hike.
Q4. Do you have any ideas how many people in your country are playing new
strategy games? Any idea what the demographics are like? What's the overlap
with role-playing games (RPG), collectible card games (CCG), war games,
computer games, video games, comic books, anime? Are
there any special reasons why gaming is or is not popular there?
How many sounds like a tough question, especially if you include American
games like Munchkin and gateway games like
and Galloping Pigs. I
would estimate serious "German" gamers at less than 50, strategy gamers at
less than 100, and gateway gamers at less than 500. Demographics are mainly
young professionals and their family and friends. The overlap comes mainly
with war gamers, and to a lesser extent computer gamers. I think RPG and
CCG gamers is a group of their own, and it is a much larger community. The
main reason for its lack of popularity is minimal exposure, cost of the
hobby (about double the US prices) and the high pace of an urban society. It
certainly doesn't help matters that major department stores and toy
stores in Singapore don't even stock gateway games like Epic Duels,
Battleball or party games like Moods or Compatibility. Just imagine,
Cranium is a recent introduction.
Q5. Are there any traditional board or card games, perhaps even
non-proprietary, that have particular popularity in your country and how
have they informed the gaming scene if at all?
Well, for traditional board games, I would say
is the most
popular, followed by International Chess, Go, and Malay Checkers. I would
not say that they inform the gaming scene as they pretty much have been
around all the time. Most are exposed to them during the school days. At
home, it is the usual
and Pay Day that get the majority of family gaming.
is getting a resurgence thanks to the intense
marketing efforts of its publisher. Oh I forgot!
is the favorite
of all! During Chinese New Year, you can pretty much hear the noisy game
throughout the night. It is popular among youngsters during camps, a weekly
hobby for many with time to spare; still I dont think they inform the gaming
scene as much.
But card games are far more popular during gatherings, and the standard card
deck is omnipresent in camps and overnight parties. Most I know play a
called Chor Dai Di, and
is popular with the more
intellectual. Some play Heartattack which is a lot like
is especially informative as it introduces basic trick-taking, and I
often proceed to teach
is gaining popularity with the young as well.
Q6. What games seem the most popular there? Any games which have found
particular success that may surprise those of us living elsewhere?
With regard to These Games of Ours (TGOO), my general impression is that games popular here are
similar to those popular in the US – no surprises I think.
Q7. Is anyone designing or publishing games there? Can you give us some
overview of home-grown game publishing?
This one is tough. Most home-grown games here are children games either for
educational purposes (e.g. learning maths) or very luck based (I know of a
school project, which some students designed a game to raise fund for needy
students of the school). Sadly, we also have a
Singapore version of
It is the only Singaporean game with a big print run.
One company which stands out is called
Van Der Veer Games
and they have been around since 1998. Their most notable game is Blackmail, and they
are still designing new board games though they do computer games as well
Q8. You have helped to compile the BGG
list of games set in Singapore.
What is your impression of these games? Have any of them received special attention or
popularity because of it? Are there any kind of recurring motifs, even
stereotypes, in these games on which you would like to comment?
These are all war games of WWII. I am not a war gamer, but I think they
involve mainly the invasion of the Japanese forces into the then British
colony of Singapore from Malaysia. They are not especially sought after
(it is a bitter part of our history), and I think are mainly reviewed based
on their game design merits rather than historicity. I think if you
want a game based on Singapore that is not a wargame, you can either choose
a shipping theme like
or a shopping theme like
Otherwise, Singapore has too young a history for mythical themes like
Q9. Is there any mass media presence for board games there and what is the
nature of that presence? Is there any mass market advertising for board games?
No, very sad, absolutely none at all. If you mean toys and Parker Brothers,
yes, on the Children channel, otherwise, none. German board gaming is very,
very niche here.
Q10. What is the societal view of board games and their players?
I think the societal view of board games is that they are for children or
for a party atmosphere. I don't think the society is exposed to enough adult
board game players for them to form an actual opinion or view of them. I know
of some people who have not even heard of
You are talking about a
densely populated urban society, whose main pastime, besides sports and
shopping, is TV and movies. Board gaming I believe is a alternative lifestyle altogether.
Q11. Getting a bit more personal, what makes the games fun and interesting for
you? What are some of your most favorites?
Generally I would play any game, even the lousy ones if the rest are enjoying
the game, for the social interaction value. So I think the gaming group is the
most important aspect in a game. Even a game like
Princes of Florence
or simple ones like
will become unbearable, if the group does not like the
game. Boredom is contagious. Similarly, enthusiasm is contagious.
With that as a premise, I would say a game will shine for me, if it has
simple rules, yet is intensive in its execution. Games that I consider good,
but which have too many exceptions in the rules include
(it is like a set of rules for every character),
(the multiple ways to score) or even simple games like
(do this, now do that, and then this and so on) and
Plateau (again, too many types of pieces). Simple rules that yet make you
think and be clever are games like
for the heavy ones,
for the middle ones,
for the light card games. Hence,
designers like Leo Colovini, Michael Schacht, Alan Moon, Stephen Dorra, and
sometimes Knizia and Kramer who abide by these design rules are my favorites.
Games that few like are not my favorite games, as I value mass appeal in a
game. Games I like are often easy to explain, but it's still worthwhile to strategize in them.
Like I said, I am a gaming addict. However, I do have a soft spot for
abstract games with simple rules (Gigamic and GIPF series IN,
expert level OUT). Games that promote interaction like negotiation
(Traders of Genoa,
bluffing and memory (Rat-a-tat-cat, Liar's Dice) and
are all games that I choose to play
often, and which I excel at.
Q12. Given that games are not so well known there, how do you find
players? Do you employ games as part of your vocation in any way?
Actually, the best way would be to join the existing gaming groups in
Singapore (I know of two big ones). But I am not a heavy gamer (the big
groups prefer wargames and heavy games), and prefer to game with people I
know. I think of games as part of my vocation, which is to promote
interaction between friends and church members of my age group (young adult)
and with my youth. That said, I do have a lot of difficulty to geting
people to commit to a regular gaming session, even though I know they enjoy
the games they have played. I think gaming is just not high in priority to
Q13. You say they're enjoying the games, but do they also succeed in
promoting interaction? Do you find some games to be more successful than
others in this role?
I would say that in most games, there isn't really an interactive level in
the personal revelation sense. Some are clearly intellectual and silent,
Others interact, but in a superficial manner, like
the interaction is the competition. More of this type of interaction
appears in trading games like
Traders of Genoa.
perhaps, those games which are pure fun promote interaction best. I have a
lot of laughter coming from
I think party games
have a special place and purpose. I don't particularly like games like
Ungame as the interaction is too set up. But Compatibility, Double Dilemma,
Couplez, and Wat'n'Dat combine interaction with fun and that is when games
are more successful.
Q14. What about your own involvement in games industry? Have you had any
participation there? Is there anything I've left out that you would
like to say? And finally, what are the words for game and board game in
Chinese and/or Malay?
Currently I have no involvement except participating with comments on
Boardgamegeek. I do hope to design a game someday that would be published.
I don't know Malay, but the Chinese words for game is "you xi". The tone for
"you" is the "you" in "Is that you?", and the tone for "xi" sounds like the
"sea" in "let's go fishing in the sea". Thank you for your interview, I
hope I am of help, and have a nice day.
It's been great – thanks for your time, Siow Hwee, and happy gaming!
Links Cited in this Interview:
Spotlight on Games