So we had our first ever Guardians of the City National Tournament, over two days, 18-19 November 2017.
The Tournament was run as part of the annual Campus Game Fest event held at the Institute of Technical Education, College Central.
64 teams from various secondary schools took part. Some schools sent more than one team, and a large proportion of the students were from uniformed groups.
The Ministry of Defence got together some really nice team trophies and individual medals for the winning teams.
Falling Piano Games sponsored some sets of our latest game, The Impregnable Fortress, as team prizes for every team that reached the quarterfinals and beyond.
A closeup of the Champion's medal, one each for individual team members.
The broader Campus Game Fest event was supported by the Inter-Ministry Cyber Wellness Steering Committee.
For the first time ever, the new Guardians of the City Game Aid Pack was showcased, with a brand new game board and counters, which enhance the visual appeal, smoothen gameplay, and reduce errors in counting and scoring.
The tournament went well - students were clearly having fun learning about Total Defence.
The feedback about the new Game Aid Pack was very positive, and several people approached me asking how they could obtain a set for themselves (the Game Aid Pack was never made available to the schools before this Tournament).
One of the most gratifying things I saw over the weekend was how the students would be playing GOTC on the side just for the fun of it even though their team had already been knocked out of the competition. To me, it showed that at some level, the game was fun enough to captivate them.
Another group of students playing the game on their own time. This was during the finals, when the number of teams competing was reduced, and some spare Game Aid Packs became available. These RGS girls borrowed a spare board and started their own game on the side.
The finals of the Tournament were played on the main CGF stage, with a video link for the audience to watch the moves of the players.
One of the teams that made the quarter-finals, posing with their team prize of a trophy and a set of the Impregnable Fortress. What I was glad to see was that unlike the internal NCC tournament we ran in May, this National Tournament saw many girls sign up to compete. NCC, as a CCA, tends to be mostly guys, whereas the National Tournament involved students from all the schools, including CCAs like Girl Guides and NPCC.
The third-placed team, from Pei Hua Secondary.
The runners-up, from Commonwealth Secondary School (NCC).
And presenting the grand champions of the Inaugural Guardians of the City National Tournament - FUHUA SECONDARY SCHOOL! Congratulations!
I had a lot of fun at this event, and I do hope the students had too. Looking forward to next year's Tournament!
So we finally launched "The Impregnable Fortress" the board game, last Friday, at the National Museum. It was the culmination of months of hard work, with invaluable support from the National Museum and the National Heritage Board.
I got a chance to go back to do what I enjoyed doing many years ago - building props for the launch. It brought back memories from years ago.
In 1999, I was part of a massive Law Faculty production entitled "Tiananmen", an original musical about the student uprising in China in 1989. We had to make our own costumes, props and sets. I particularly enjoyed myself building all the wooden rifles for the play, and I made two more last week, for the board game launch.
My wife and I had fun looking for clothes off the rack from kids stores to make little soldier uniforms for Lisa and Becky. In the end, we didn't get a fantastic look, but it was passable. Becky got the steel-pot helmet as the British soldier, while Lisa got the soft cap Japanese soldier look.
Lisa loved the whole experience, and the night before the launch, she hardly slept. That make her look at the launch even more realistic - she had eyebags, and did a great impression of a sleep-deprived soldier.
The launch took place at the Salon room of the National Museum. I am really grateful for the Museum's support - they felt that my game complemented a World-War 2 exhibition that was ongoing in the Museum's basement, and because of that, agreed to let me launch my game there.
We went with authentic World-War 2 recipes for the food, prepared by a lovely couple Su Ching and Don, from fantastic recipes published in a book by my friend and master cook Chris Tan.
We received great feedback throughout the evening about the food.
Visitors to the launch received a ration book as a door gift, which explained what the finger food was, and also entitled them to a special launch price for the game.
Lots of friends chipped in to make the event a success. The lovely Delphne Tan kindly offered to rush down after work to be the master of ceremony. She was appalled by my utter lack of preparation for the event, but she still delivered a flawless effort.
Next up was my turn to speak. Lisa and Becky dutifully took up guard stations at the back of the hall, even though nobody told them to do so. It was very funny, actually.
I gave a brief presentation that outlined my reasons for going into board game design (also found elsewhere on this website), as well as the context for the game's theme. I ended with a brief explanation of the basic rules. After that, everybody was invited to give the game a go!
My guest-of-honour, the Permanent Secretary for Education Ms Chan Lai Fung, was invited to try the game, and I gleefully tasked my other VIP guest, Brigadier-General Alfred Fox, Commander, 3rd Division Singapore Army, to be her opponent. He was caught unprepared by this, but gamely took up the challenge. Before anyone accuses me of putting PS in a bad spot, facing a real army general, I need to point out that in her earlier days, she represented Singapore in international chess tournaments, so she's no pushover herself.
A crowd naturally gathered to watch this titanic match. I commented that I had inadvertently put BG Alfred in a tight situation- if he won, people would brush it off as "expected" because of his army career. But if he lost....
Many of the friends who came brought their families, and the kids had a lot of fun playing. I was actually rather surprised - I had designed the game for teens and adults, with the possibility that pre-teens could still grasp the rules. But I didn't really target pre-teens as the game audience.
As it turned out, I received a lot a feedback that many of my guests' children loved the game and couldn't stop playing it.
It wasn't just kids having fun, though. The advanced rules make the game a lot deeper and more interesting for grownups.
By the end of the evening, there was a good buzz around the place. PS, in her usual generous manner, bought a few sets to donate to her Education Ministry departments. Just having her show up at all was such a blessing for me, her purchasing a few sets was a great bonus to end the evening.
Likewise, I was very touched that friends from 3rd Division came to support the event. These are very busy people - there was a Brigadier-General and three Lieutenant-Colonels who came. Hopefully they liked the game - if army people don't like a war-themed game, it's probably a failure.
Friends from Nexus were also here to support, and this bunch are such great people. I've worked with them for the past year to develop Guardians of the City, and they were enthusiastic about coming by to see my new game.
Pastors Roland and Laifun, whom I've known for so many years, came by as well, and Reuel enjoyed himself playing the game three times that evening! Glad that they were able to come, considering their crazy schedules. Ps Daniel and Serene came by as well, but were caught in a very bad jam and came late, so I didn't manage to get a photo with them.
Good friends from the arts community were here too - Ronald is a lawyer and published author, and Chris is the guy who came up with the recipes for the launch event food. He's also a published author and columnist, as well as a fantastic chef.
Classmates from the old days came too. It's a pity that we only really started to reconnect when I went back to making games, but better late than never.
Another friend from the arts community. Jameson and I were part of the original bunch that started the Acapella group Agapella, and now Jameson has launched his own opera company, something entirely unique in Singapore.
More classmates, this bunch from my Law School days. Joey, on the left, was one of the two producers for the aforementioned production "Tiananmen". Royston is an old gaming buddy. We go way back to the days of Counterstrike - when we'd go charging like madmen with shotguns. He's also responsible for putting silly ideas in my head over the years whenever we had lunch, which resulted in me now making board games on a full-time basis. Stella, I really got to know when we were colleagues in Minlaw. We've had our fair share of nonsense, usually involving playing pranks on another colleague, Gloria.
My old friend Danny and his family came by, as well as another friend Hwee Sian and her son. Danny and I served in NDP for many years, and we got to know Hwee Sian from her MOE involvement in NDP as well. Danny's wife and kids weren't in the picture, I think they arrived later.
Claudia and Joel are the kids of a good friend from Maxwell Chambers, Katherine. Kat and I worked together for many years, and she's now helming the place after I abruptly left to pursue my own dreams, haha. Kat badly wanted to be here but an important conflicting engagement prevented it, so she despatched her kids instead. She also graciously bought a few sets of the game to give away.
My cousin Gee came by too, and found that his unit commander was present at the launch, another friend of mine. This is typical of our small island - everybody knows somebody who knows somebody.
Pastor Eugene and Julie came to support as well, along with their daughter Vanessa and her colleague. Don't be fooled by Pastor Eugene taking on kids with the machine-gun; he was an officer in the army and even went to the Command and Staff College, so he can handle himself against slightly taller opponents as well.
Dominic and Mei Yunn were great help throughout - running around doing random tasks (random because I was rather disorganised). But they were great sport and cheerful throughout the evening. Really blessed to have friends like these. Others that deserve a shoutout are Jian Jie and Bing Ren for helping to be facilitators, Sheng Wei for coming early to assist in preparations, and Michelle for taking photos all night. Many other friends who came by to support the event, I didn't get a picture with you all, but thank you so much for making the time!
Most importantly, I'm so thankful for my unbelievably supportive wife Hauteng, and our sleep-deprived kids, for doing so much to make this launch a big success and a great time for everybody. People shouldn't be allowed to have so much fun in their work - I could get used to this.
Once again, thank you for the support, everybody!
So I went for my first game convention as an exhibitor - Gamestart 2017. It was a humbling experience, very interesting and with much to learn. It was primarily a video-game convention, with a lot of emphasis on cosplay, but with a brand new tabletop gaming section. A lot of indie developers came to it, but the crowd wasn't great as most people came for the video games.
With help from a couple of friends, I camped there for two days, opening up a couple of sets of the Impregnable Fortress board game for people to try. It was slow on the first morning, it took until after lunch before anybody even sat down to try the game. At that point, it felt like we would never sell a single set.
Eventually, people began to come by to try that game out. And that's when it got really promising. Until now, the game had never been tested with complete strangers - all my playtesters were friends or family. As objective as they tried to be, there was always going to be something at the back of their minds holding them back from being too brutal with the feedback. So, it was very important that I let complete strangers try the game - this would be the acid test. And the ultimate measure of success would be when somebody decided to part with their hard-earned cash to buy a set.
And that's when it got interesting. Many people walked past, either because they were not interested in board games in general, or they had the impression that IF1942 was a heavy "wargame", full of complex rules and requiring some interest in the genre for a player to enjoy. However, for those who sat down to give it a try, they quickly found that the game was "light" and "casual", and easy to get into. It was not aimed at wargamers - it was aimed at the casual gamers. Couples began to enjoy playing it, and people of all ages gave very positive feedback about it.
We knew we had a winner on our hands when people who played the game almost always bought a set before they left, and two of them even came back the second day of the convention, bringing friends. By the end of the second day, we had a queue of people waiting to try the game, even after we opened a third board on an adjacent table that another developer kindly offered to let us use after they packed up early to settle some pressing production matters.
We even witnessed an enthusiastic girl explaining to her friend the game rules while they were both waiting for their turn to play. This was, to me, a sign that the game could appeal to families and non-gamers.
In the end we sold a modest number of sets by the end of the day, but the overwhelmingly positive response from those that gave the game a chance made us feel that if we could get this into the hands of people, we would benefit from strong word of mouth. On both nights, we had people playing until the convention hall closed and we had to reluctantly leave. Looking forward to the buzz that will come from the official launch on 3rd November!
Gamestart, Singapore's premiere gaming convention, is introducing a tabletop games section this year, and Falling Piano Games is delighted to be able to be part of it. We will be showing off The Impregnable Fortress for the first time, before the official launch on 3rd November. Come look for us at Suntec City Halls 401-403, on Saturday and Sunday October 14-15, 2017, and try out the game!
The date is 1st February 1942. Japanese troops, under the command of the indomitable "Tiger of Malaya", General Tomoyuki Yamashita, are poised at the gates of Singapore, ready to cross the Straits of Johor in force to finish what had been unthinkable even a year ago - the capture of this great British colony and naval base, dubbed "The Impregnable Fortress" by many around the world.
On the other side, Commonwealth forces under the command of General Arthur Percival are tired, demoralized and disorganised, having conducted a continuous two-month long fighting retreat down the length of Malaya. However, with the arrival of fresh troops in the form of the British 18th Infantry Division, there is one last chance to turn defeat into victory.
Both sides gird themselves for the battle soon to be joined. Commanders, your soldiers await your orders!
"The Impregnable Fortress", Falling Piano Games' new 2-player strategy game covering this important period of Singapore's history, will be launching soon. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for regular updates!
It's important to always remember to be grateful to our society that has blessed us with so much, and to look for ways to give back. It was a pleasure to be able to partner with Battle Bunker and the Civil Service College to treat a bunch of teenagers from Beyond Social Services to an afternoon of gaming and bonding together.
It was great to see them all having fun that day. And who knows, maybe there'll be a great game designer or two arising from this group as well! Special thanks go out to Battle Bunker as well, a great place for gaming. I'll definitely be back there more!
We just had our inaugural inter-school Guardians of the City Tournament, and it went very well! I wrote a post about it elsewhere, so I won't repost everything. You can read more about it here:
You can check out the photos at our Instagram page as well:
Most importantly, stay tuned for more information about our National GOTC Competition, to be held in November 2017. Don't miss out!
It's been a bit since my last update - there's some stuff cooking that I can't post here yet until a later date. Rest assured there's interesting things on the horizon! In the meantime, have had the pleasure of catching two great movies recently, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Fast 8:The Fate of the Furious. Both movies have great special effects and gripping action sequences, but where both really work for me is that they bother to go deep into the story and the characters. Even a short five sentence exchange between two characters can be enough to flesh out a backstory that changes the tone significantly and makes you more emotionally invested in a character. Not to give any spoilers away but in Fast 8, a very short scene between Hobbes and Shaw (Jason Statham) is enough to suddenly shift how you see the characters and explain a lot of their motivations. Similarly, a very short scene between Gamorra and Nebula in GOTG V2 changes dramatically the lens with which you view them, and makes the show so much better. I think when the effort is made to develop characters and plot properly, the end product is so much more rewarding than if the action and special effects (e.g. CGI monsters) are relied upon to do the heavy lifting for the movie. I enjoyed the two movies, and have had reinforced for me the conviction that substance remains far more important than style in many things, and when developing games, the same applies.
Over the past couple of weeks, I added a few more photos on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/fallingpianogames/) of things I've drawn/designed when I was a kid. I thought I'd explain the context of some of them. First up is a drawing I made in Pre-U seminar, when I was a student participant and pretty bored. I even managed to get most of my schoolmates who were also attending to sign on it. The picture itself isn't supposed to mean anything - I just drew whatever came to mind.
That was done in June 1992. I liked the style of the drawing, so I followed it up with a second drawing in December 1992, this time inspired by our History Society trip to Turkey and Israel. Unfortunately, I took so long to complete the drawing (I think it was done almost a year later!) that I hardly got any signatures on it, as I lost touch with many of the other people on the trip (who weren't that close to me to begin with). Nonetheless, I like the strong image of Israel in the middle of the drawing.
In 1992, I also did a water colour of a hypothetical World War III scene, with American M1 Abrams tanks advancing, supported by an A-10A Thunderbolt II Close Air Support jet.
I later used this as the cover art for my first card game, Tactical Armoured Combat.
Sometime when I started working, I made another random doodle on a notepad. I must have been in some kind of seminar or workshop, as the paper indicated that I was at a local hotel. I drew my watch, my car keys, and my favourite phone at the time (and one I still fondly think of), the Nokia 6131. There was something cool about flipping a clamshell phone open before answering it. Unfortunately the clamshell design had a fatal flaw - if not held securely in your hand, the powerful flipping open action could actually cause the phone to spin out of control and fly out of your hand. That's exactly what happened to mine, and the screen glass cracked as a result. Needless to say, I was very upset.
One year, our church decided that it needed a larger space to hold worship services. As such, we rented Max Pavilion (Hall 10) of the Singapore Expo and ended up holding our weekly services there for almost five years. Before the move, to commemorate this event, the church held a T-shirt design contest. My entry didn't win, but I have to say I enjoyed myself immensely designing it. I guess if you can't please others, you should still try to please yourself!
Finally, for our wedding in January 2005, we went with a Lord of the Rings theme. At the time of the wedding planning, we were between The Two Towers and The Return of the King. In fact, the third show came out in December 2004, just a month before the wedding, so everybody was still in "the mood" when it came around. My wife and I dressed up as Arwen and Aragorn (who else!) for the dinner, and a close group of friends and relatives joined us to dress up as well. My best man, a good old friend of mine, even sportingly did his MC duties that evening in a Boromir outfit. In keeping with the theme, we sent out wedding invites to our guests with Middle-Earth fonts and named our dinner dishes according to what you'd expect at a feast in Lothlorien. We even included a "map" of how to get to the dinner location, the Hyatt Hotel along Scotts Road. The map was my favourite part of the wedding invite - we made many copies of them on parchment-like art paper, and even went as far as to soak each and every piece in a bucket of tea, crumpled them, straightened them out again, and dried them in the sun, to give them a "weathered parchment" look.
We figured, if you're gonna put so much work into your wedding planning, you might as well have some fun while you're at it. And make some great memories in the process:
Ok, that's all for now. Will be sharing more about a computer game I designed in 1993, in a later post. Farewell from Middle-Earth, friends!
Having fun playtesting our new game with friends. Scheming and plotting our way to victory!
I've learnt over the years that I don't have any real skills except the ability to play games. So I guess it makes sense that eventually I would gravitate towards making my own games.