SG Got Game: Local card game helps make sense of finance

The world of finance can be hard to get one’s head around at the best of times.

One local team gave themselves the difficult task of turning big financial terms into playable cartoons for the card game, Wongamania: Banana Economy, published by game design studio Capital Gains.

“We asked: How can we make finance more fun?” game designer Xeo Lye, 36, told The New Paper.

PLAY & LEARN: (From left) Game designer Xeo Lye, marketing director Yvonne Lai and comic artist Andy Choo with their educational Wongamania: Banana Economy. TNP PHOTO: MAX PASAKORN

Featuring cute artwork by local comic artist Andy Choo, 31, the game aims to teach the basic concepts of financial literacy.

Players take turns to invest their in-game currency — known as Wonga in the game — or play cards that may affect the values of investments they “buy”.

Mr Lye’s vision was to design a game as well as create something to educate the young.

BACK TO BASICS

He learnt a lesson in 2007 from the launch of his mobile app, Capital Gains Investment Game. It was high cost, high risk and low in profits.

Still smarting from that, Mr Lye decided: Let’s go back to basics and go back to tabletop.

“(In 2007), there were almost no tabletop game designers in Singapore,” said Mr Lye.

And the only tabletop game he could recall that taught financial literacy was Cashflow 101 in 1996.

He saw a potential market.

Banana Economy is the second iteration of Wongamania.

The original came out in 2014, and it proved popular enough for Mr Lye to try a sequel.

The other advantage of this card game over Mr Lye’s earlier app is crowdfunding.

Artwork from the Hotel card in Wongamania: Banana Economy. Artwork courtesy of Andy Choo
 

This Wongamania was funded on Kickstarter last December and it exceeded its A$10,000 (S$10,300) target by over A$5,000.

The game is designed for players aged 10 and above, but Mr Lye said that younger children can play it as well when some of the more complex cards are removed.

Wongamania is meant to be played internationally but being a locallydesigned game, some of the images have a local flavour.

Ms Yvonne Lai, 24, Capital Games’ marketing director, has a theory for the preference of cards over pixels.

“When you play a card game, you interact with everyone. It is easier to talk about how to play and glean learning points from the game,” she said.

Capital Gains is also launching an e-book supplement, Wonganomics, which will help explain financial jargon.

There is also another game in the works — Debtzilla.

Wongamania: Banana Economy is available for pre-order on wongamania.com at $38.

SG Got Game: Designing board games is her cure

After quitting accounting job & pursuing her passion, Christina Ng is happier and healthier

Ms Christina Ng (right) and Mr Yeo Keng Leong (left) with the three-player board game they designed, Three Kingdoms Redux.
GAME ON: Ms Christina Ng and hubby Yeo Keng Leong with their board game, Three Kingdoms Redux.
GAME ON: Cards from the three-player game where players take control of armies and generals in a competition for resources.

Board games changed their lives for the better.

For many, such games are solely for children or festive occasions.

But for Ms Christina Ng, 36, and Mr Yeo Keng Leong, 41, rediscovering a love for the old-school pastime improved her health — and their marriage.

Indeed, Ms Ng quit her job as an accountant to design board games.

Mr Yeo believes that everyone has something to gain from playing games. He told The New Paper: “Games bring us all together.”

The couple’s table-top passion began in 2009 when they were dating.

Mr Yeo had discovered that Samurai, a video game that he had been playing, was actually adapted from a board game.

He bought that board game and while it was complex, they quickly found themselves enjoying it.

It led to a second game called Agricola, a feudal farming game that proved to be a favourite.

Ms Christina Ng (left) and Mr Yeo Keng Leong (right) set up their own company, Starting Player, in order to design and publish their own three-player-only game, Three Kingdoms Redux. Ms Christina has since left her job as an accountant to work full-time on operating Starting Player. TNP Photo: Jeremy Long

The couple — who were married in 2010 — are not alone in rediscovering the joy of board games.

A recent revival means the tabletop industry is worth US$880 million (S$1.18 billion). And though that pales against video games’ US$91.5 billion, plenty of people are happy to shell out $100 and above for each physical strategy game.

WORTH IT

Although the couple were initially hesitant about the cost, they found it to be well worth the money, they even bought expansions. The estimated total of $300 made sense based on their frequent usage.

“One game takes about an hour,” Mr Yeo said. “If you divide $300 by the 800 times that we’ve played...”

GAME ON: Cards from the three-player game where players take control of armies and generals in a competition for resources.

The couple exclaimed in unison: “That is about 30 cents for each hour of entertainment.”

Then board games took on greater significance for Ms Ng. When she started working, it became clear that the stress and long hours that came with accountancy were taking their toll on her health.

She suffered from gastric problems. Sometimes she had no desire to eat. Sometimes, it was so bad she would be unable to get out of bed because of the pain.

Mr Yeo, who teaches locally, suggested that she leave her job.

He said: “We don’t smoke. We don’t drink. We don’t shop. Once in a while, we go for a holiday, that is about it.

“I told her, ‘We don’t need your income. Let’s just live a simple life.’”

Ms Ng was hesitant at first, then they hit upon a literally game-changing idea.

Pieces of the board of Three Kingdoms Redux, a two-hour long, three-player game where players take control of army and generals in a competition for resources. TNP Photo: Jeremy Long

As the couple had already begun to design their own board game as a hobby, Ms Ng could take on the task full-time.

The choice was clear — stay in regular employment at the cost of her well-being or pursue her passion.

In 2011, Ms Ng she became a fulltime board game designer, and she has never felt healthier or happier.

Two years ago, they released their three-player-only board game, Three Kingdoms Redux — based on the Three Kingdoms period in China.

While it has sold more than 1,000 copies worldwide, they noted that they have yet to make a profit. But as Mr Yeo said: “We did not intend to make money off of it.”

SECRET

However, that made it hard for Ms Ng to tell her parents of her change in vocation.

“We didn’t tell them up front,” admitted Ms Ng.

Before the revelation, she introduced board games to her parents as an ideal retirement pastime.

She managed to keep her secret for a whole year.

It was in 2012 that she made the big disclosure. It led to many questions from her father, who was worried about her finances.

There is still a concern, but otherwise they support her decision.

Indeed, they are helping to “road test” Ms Ng’s new game idea.

So what attraction do board games hold? For Ms Ng, it is the face-to-face interaction.

“It is not so much about winning but about the time we spend together,” she said.

“People spend a lot of time on their mobile phones nowadays. Although it feels like we are closer together, you are actually interacting more with the machine than with another person.”

Three Kingdoms Redux is now available on startingplayer.com for $70.


"People spend a lot of time on their mobile phones nowadays. Although it feels like we are closer together, you are actually interacting more with the machine than with another person."

— Ms Christina Ng

Cabby hurt in five-vehicle pile-up at West Coast highway

Five vehicles involved in West Coast pile-up

DAMAGED: A blue Comfort taxi landed in the central divider after a multiple-vehicle collision at West Coast Highway towards Jalan Buroh. 



An accident between a lorry and a taxi sparked a chain collision involving three other vehicles on the West Coast Highway yesterday.

It started with a lorry colliding into a taxi from behind on the highway heading towards Jalan Buroh.

The blue Comfort taxi then slammed into a black Toyota Corolla Altis before going off the road and landing in shrubbery of the central divider.

The Toyota hit a van, and the van collided with a black Volvo SUV.

The Toyota driver, Mr Joseph Chua, an engineer in his 40s, told The New Paper: "It happened at around 11am. The vehicles were waiting at a red light when the accident happened. My car was in front of the taxi.

"The lorry driver later apologised to us and claimed that his lorry's brakes had failed."

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said it received a call for an ambulance at West Coast Highway at about 11.15am.

MINOR INJURIES

An ambulance took the taxi driver, who had minor injuries, to the National University Hospital (NUH).

The police said that the taxi driver, 66, was conscious when he was taken to NUH. The other drivers were not injured.

SCDF has classified the accident as a multiple-vehicle collision.

Mr Pavaday, the driver of the Volvo, said: "I am extremely upset. The whole of the back of my car is damaged."

Mr Chua said: "During the accident, my family immediately came to my mind. I was so afraid I was going to die."

Sailor Cheng and shooter Ser can surprise

Sailor Cheng and shooter Ser good enough to battle the best in Rio

"The competition is wide open among the top-10 sailors... A medal would be a long shot, but I hope I will knock on that door." - Laser sailor Colin Cheng, who attained his career-best ranking of 13th last December
Teo Shun Xie (Shooting).
Jasmine Ser (Shooting).
"The key is to focus on your race and try to forget you’re at the Olympics." - Former national sailor Koh Seng Leong (above)

He is a world-class sailor, she is ranked in the top echelon among shooters, but Colin Cheng and Jasmine Ser are not fancied to return to Singapore with a medal from the Olympic Games in Rio next month.

But former national sailor Koh Seng Leong and Jeanine Heng, the high performance manager at the Singapore Shooting Association, both say the duo have what it takes to vie for a spot on the podium.

Koh previously jointly held Singapore's best finish in the Laser Standard at the Olympics, coming in 36th out of 43 boats at the 2008 Beijing Games.

He equalled Ben Tan's position (out of 56 boats) at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Four years ago, Cheng finished in 15th place of out 49 boats at the London Games - the best by an Asian sailor.

Koh believes Cheng, 26, can do even better in Rio.

"I can only imagine he's improved four years on (and) I've been following news that he has been winning a few races," said Koh, 32.

"If he can improve on his placing from the last time round and make it into the top 10 and get into the medal race, he'll have a chance."

In sailing, the medal race offers double points and is reserved for the top 10 sailors heading into the final day of racing.

For shooters Ser (50m rifle 3 Positions & 10m air rifle) and Teo Shun Xie (25m pistol & 10m air pistol), meanwhile, the main challenge is handling pressure.

Said Heng: "The pressure at the Olympics is different, for sure.

"Normally for shooting at the Olympics, scores tend to get lower because of it.

"It could just be someone coming up to you and saying, 'Hey, we're counting on you'.

"If you're experienced enough, you make sure it goes in one ear and goes out the other, as you focus on what you have to do, which is to take everything shot by shot."

Heng pointed to Ser's experience at major events - she has done battle at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games - and Teo's "mental strength" as two reasons for her optimism.

Crucially, Ser also took part in the 2012 Olympics, which will leave her in good stead.

They have both also enjoyed breakthroughs recently, winning at International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup meets.

Ser, 25, won a bronze in the women's 10m air rifle event in the Bangkok leg in March, while 27-year-old Teo won a bronze in the women's 10m air pistol in the Rio leg a month later.

Said Heng: "This year, both Jasmine and Shun Xie medalled at the World Cup.

"I can't say it will definitely happen in Rio, but both are more than capable of shooting a score that can get them into the top eight, and the final round.

"From there, it's all about how they perform in the final."

Koh said mental strength must also be part of Cheng's armoury, as well as physical stamina.

"The key is to focus on your race and try to forget you're at the Olympics," he said.

"Typically, people don't win medals at their first Games.

"Sailing is a multi-race, multi-day event. You may race 12 times across six days.

"Some days you may have good races, some days bad, but it will average out.

"The main thing you need is the stamina to last the mental and physical requirements of those races."

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Former striker replaces Fomenko who quit after Euro 2016

"It’s an emotional moment and a great honour for me. My first task is creating a real unit which is able to achieve results." — New Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko (above)
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I don’t see why I can’t continue that, not just this week but for years, and that’s kind of what the game plan is. - British Open leader Phil Mickelson (above)
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'I Was born with pressure'

Conte confident of turning Chelsea from 'small flick' to 'blazing inferno'

MORE TO COME? Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi is Chelsea's only signing under Conte (above).
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