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!
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.