A game of cards
With the final episode of hit TV series Game of Thrones' sixth season airing today over HBO, we catch up with local fans who continue to live and breathe the franchise by being part of its growing card game community
The Silent Sisters might sound like fictional characters from Game of Thrones, but they are actually a group of colleagues in Singapore bound by a common interest: their love for the popular TV fantasy series.
Comprising eight women and two men from social enterprise group The Thought Collective, they train weekly and compete together monthly in local tournaments for the collectible card game A Game of Thrones (AGoT).
"We liked the element of surprise," Miss Jeannette Lee, 28, a management associate, told The New Paper.
"We would practise (on our own) and (other gamers) would not know about us. Then we would only show up at competitions."
This led to a Facebook user coining the name for Miss Lee and her colleagues in April this year. The name stuck, despite there being two men in the group.
Miss Lee said: "I think the online community was intrigued by the fact that there were so many girls playing the game (in our group), so they were more focused on the girls (when they named us)."
Aware that they are a rarity in the male-dominated AGoT community, the Silent Sisters, who were introduced to AGoT two years ago by their boss, take pride in representing women.
"(When I play against a man), it makes the win sweeter," said Miss Lee.
AGoT is based on US author George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series, which has been adapted into the popular HBO show Game of Thrones since 2011.
It was released by game company Fantasy Flight Games in 2002.
The Silent Sisters are among about 40 Singaporeans who compete regularly in local AGoT tournaments such as the Regional Championship on July 2 and the Singapore Open on July 23 and 24.
There are 100 to 150 such gamers in Southeast Asia and more than 2,000 internationally.
Also part of this community are business unit manager Derek Yang, 36, and his son Alvin, 16.
Mr Yang, who has been a fan of the book series since March last year, has been playing AGoT regularly since October. He introduced the game to Alvin when his son started watching the TV series in March this year.
They practise for an hour every weekend and compete in AGoT tournaments every month.
Mr Yang, who is considered the better player, enjoys sharing his love for the franchise with his son.
NO AGE GAP
He told TNP: "I feel proud as a parent. I've seen other adults not having the same kind of rapport with their kids."
Alvin agreed, adding: "We're able to talk (about Game of Thrones) a lot. It's quite fun. I'm very glad there's no age gap between us."
But the duo do not always see eye to eye, especially when the storyline diverges between the TV series and the books.
Mr Yang, who only reads the novels and has not watched the TV series, said: "I would say, 'Are you sure you're watching it properly?... The books make more sense'."
He would spend 20-minute car rides debating with Alvin, who only watches the TV series and has not read the books.
However, the debates have stopped with Game of Thrones' sixth season, which is ahead of the books as the next novel has yet to be published.
So Mr Yang now turns to Alvin to be updated on the story's progression.
He said: "I'm waiting eagerly for Martin to finish the sixth book."
Then there are Miss Charlotte Lun and Mr Derek Lee, both 24, who have been dating for over a year and who compete together in AGoT tournaments.
Miss Lun, a communications and partnership executive, has been a fan of the TV series since the first season and recommended the show to Mr Lee two weeks after they first met two years ago.
They discovered AGoT while shopping together last December and have been competing since March.
Mr Lee, a fresh graduate of the University of Birmingham at SIM Global Education, considers their love for both the series and AGoT a blessing.
He told TNP: "(My friends say that my girlfriend) is geekier than the average girl, but I feel that it is a good thing. We connect more, rather than if the girl just wants to go shopping."
The couple have AGoT sessions every Thursday night and are determined to watch each episode of the series together, even when across different time zones.
"I went on a 17-day trip to Europe (last year) and we tried to coordinate to watch at the same time," Miss Lun said.
They plan to register their marriage next year and intend to play the Rains of Castamere, a song that signalled the start of the infamous Red Wedding massacre, at their wedding.
They agree that the current sixth season has been slow in its plot development, but loved last week's climactic penultimate episode.
It features a large-scale battle between Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and Stark siblings Jon (Kit Harington) and Sansa (Sophie Turner).
The season finale airs today at 9am and 9pm on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601).
Alvin is looking forward to a cliffhanger or a twist for the finale.
He said: "I hope they'll show something that'll make me look forward to the next season. When they killed Jon Snow (in the last season), they left us dangling for a whole year."
My brother is one of the Unsullied
Given his passion for Game of Thrones, one would expect die-hard fan and ONE FM 91.3 DJ Shan Wee to be more excited when his younger brother Chris was cast as an extra in its current season.
"It was only a matter of time before (he) got the gig," the 34-year-old of Irish-Chinese descent, who has lived in Singapore since 2005, told TNP.
He said it has been "quite common" for his acquaintances to join the production as extras because much of the series is filmed near their hometown of Bushmills in Northern Ireland.
Chris, 31, the drummer of the Irish band And So I Watch You From Afar, plays an Unsullied warrior in Daenerys Targaryen's (Emilia Clarke) army.
He appeared in the eighth episode as part of "the group who bow down when Daenerys unexpectedly returns to the pyramid tower" and will be involved in "a formation shot on a boat" in today's season finale.
Chris' face is blocked as he wore a helmet and Wee could not work out "which one he was", but he was impressed with his brother's latest gig.
He said: "I thought it was quite cool that he was a tough soldier, but, of course, I joked about how anatomically accurate his Unsullied character had to be."
Wee was referring to the fact that Unsullied warriors are castrated.
But he was envious that Chris got to meet actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Missandei, a handmaiden, translator and adviser to Daenerys.
He said: "I was most jealous that he was in a scene with (her) and Chris did confirm that she looks flawless in person."
He added: "Chris has been a musician all his adult life, so when my mum heard that he was to be a TV extra, I think she probably exclaimed her classic, 'Oh, when is he going to get a real job?'"
On whether he would want to follow in Chris' footsteps, Wee said: "Chris did say that after the initial excitement of seeing (Clarke) in person, filming was, in reality, a long cold day waiting around in the dreary Irish weather, so I won't be flying back specially to look for an audition."
How the game is played
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition is a card game based on fantasy author George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
The game features plots, iconic characters and deadly encounters based on the novels.
It is for two to six players.
You must best your opponents to claim the Iron Throne, defeating them on the field of battle, outwitting them in the intrigues of court, or stealing their power in the political arena.
The game is released by games publisher Fantasy Flight Games.