Plantopia: Singapore Card Game Sows Seeds Of Success
STORY: Farhan Shafie
02 September 2020
Who says card games and board games are passé? That is certainly not the case judging by the amazing early response for Plantopia, an upcoming Singaporean card game based on the adorable comic series, Life of a Potato.
Their Kickstarter campaign which was launched at the end of August was fully funded within 3 hours and has to date, garnered over $50,000 in pledges by more than 1000 backers from all over the world. Talk about a smol potato with big dreams!
How to play: Plantopia is a strategy card-based game, perfect for 2 to 5 players, where the objective is to harness your gardening abilities to win title of Plantopia’s Champion Gardener (just adorable!).
Nurture the plants in your hand and plant the best combos to earn the most magical leaves. But pay attention to all of your fellow gardeners, as whoever can predict the weather can make their plants grow!
This wholesome collaboration between local game development company Daylight Studios and board game publisher Origame is already a winner in our books (they had us at potato) but we spoke to co-creator Nick Pang to find out more about Plantopia.
Why is it important to create board games we can call our own (i.e. Asian), and more importantly, Singaporean?
In Singapore, board game culture established itself in a niche way but it is not yet as normalised as in the West. Westerns publishers regularly release games with Asian themes and styles but generally, these often tap on Asian tropes and motifs in a stereotypical or superficial way, ie. Asian only skin deep.
Board game cafes boomed more than 10 years ago and popularised the genre. Players play in public spaces but many also build large private collections. So Singaporeans consume a lot of board games but we don't really produce them.
That's something we want to change. Origame's goal is to publish modern Asian board games to showcase Asia in general, and Singapore in particular because board games are more than just tools for leisure, they are also vehicles of (pop) culture. They communicate and transmit a sense of history, values, aesthetics, worldviews, etc.
Asia as a whole is so diverse with rich histories and cultures that have yet to be explored in board games. We want share this, but through the lens of Singapore, which is very uniquely Asian and modern with our multicultural entrepot-melting-pot mix - something most other Asian countries do not share in their monocultural composition.
So in terms of representation, just as Western-made games have flowed eastwards carrying Western culture, we feel it's time for Asian-made games to flow westwards carrying Asian culture in an authentic way. A more balanced two way exchange. Imagine how it would feel to fish out and play a board game about our kopitiam or hawker culture with friends, and experiencing that sense of identity, nostalgia, and ownership of what's depicted.
Why and how are card games and board games still popular in a digital age?
There's a lasting appeal in playing board games with simple tactile materials with other people, face-to-face. Humans are social animals so a common activity that engages people and brings them together to interact is priceless.Something many people naturally and instinctively appreciate.
Another consideration is the availability of time. People seem to be getting more busy and time poor. Video games generally have long engaged storylines that involve many hours of solo play.
With everything going digital, particularly since Covid-19 began, there's also the issue of overstimulation and digital fatigue. In contrast, seeing the variety of board games available, you can play many different games over the same period of time with many different people and therefore provides a high novelty factor.
What were some of the responses you received for Plantopia?
Our backers have left some great comments on our Kickstarter page. They love the puns, the art, the theme and humour behind Plantopia, and especially the national/cultural references that the Plantopia characters embody.
Who is this game targeted at, and what do you hope players get out of playing it?
It's easy enough for children aged 10 and above to grasp and appreciate, so I would say our target audience is almost everyone, regardless of sex, cultural background, nationality or profession.
At face value, I hope players will learn to love and appreciate potatos (and all other vegetables and plants) as much as we do, and get tickled by the puns and humour they encounter as they play.
But I think once play begins, I hope players will immerse themselves in the range of strategic options that open up for them. Under the fun and quirky artwork lies some mean game mechanics that offer multiple pathways to victory. There are resources to manage, upgrades to stack, and moves to optimise.
With up to 5 players per game, and every player applying different strategies to win, you'll never play the same game twice. In fact, you'd want to keep replaying and trying new strategies to outgrow your opponents. Good green fun!