My favourite character in the Monopoly board game is the Scottie dog, and I would always get annoyed if someone shifts the board or moves over the space it is standing on and makes it topple over.
I remember an old commercial for Monopoly, the one where a family of five (?) extorts money out of the father, and it ends with him being dragged to jail as the wife smirks.
Now, board games have become a kind of commodity; there are limited editions or special editions that appeal to collectors, or special designs and features to celebrate an anniversary.
Board games have also transcended the typical notion of a board with tokens and some action cards.
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Now there are so many different types of board games with different themes, different play styles, and some even have storylines to follow.
If the draw of tabletop games is that it is interactive and hands-on, this new game, designed and developed by a local game studio, will take it up a notch with its 3D features.
We introduce to you, Avertigos: South China Sky.
Setting The Sky Ablaze On Kickstarter
Avertigos launched on Kickstarter on 15 August 2017 and received close to S$122,000 of funding in a matter of 40 days.
Honestly, I felt overwhelmed just reading the description of the game, which makes understanding Avertigos a fun challenge.
He said that the campaign “reached its initial goal of S$102,000” in one month.
They exhibited Avertigos at this year’s Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC) which allowed convention-goers to have a preview of the game as well as a trial run, before they backed the Kickstarter campaign.
They raised the remaining amount of money with about 10 days to the end of the campaign, with a total of 506 backers.
So what made each of these backers invest an average of $240 on this game?
Besides its unique Asian Steampunk theme and its gorgeous, intricate sailship miniatures, its “three-dimensional” gameplay is also a big draw.
Sid explained, “It offers a lot of value as each unique combination of the hull and modules employs different play-style and tactics.”
After the campaign ended, Avertigos also appeared at Gamestart 2017 with the support of Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the International Game Developers Association Singapore (IGDA Singapore).
Local game stores and communities like Gamersaurus Rex, Dueller’s Point, and Team Board Game also endorsed them.
“We were absolutely overwhelmed with the positive response and strong support Avertigos has received from Singaporeans,” he said.
Oriental Fantasy Dogfight You Can Touch
We find out more about this game that has gotten so much hype.
Sid described Avertigos as a game about flying sailships and the daring merchant warriors who use them to conquer the skies.
The game can be played primarily in two modes: Skirmish and Strategy.
In Skirmish, individual players or teams battle against each other using various aerial tactics.
First, they build their ships with hulls and modules. Each unique combination will result in a ship that will move and act differently, impacting the game and causing different outcomes.
No two ships will look the same.
After the ships are built, players will draw cards from a common deck and lay a path for their ships.
“Players can perform 3D manoeuvres such as turn, soar (gain height), or swoop (lose height but gain speed). The sailships are mounted on the Avertigos proprietary height widget which allows them to physically go up and down as they move around the board,” Sid described.
“Depending on the load-out of their ships, players can use a range of weapons to attack and destroy the enemy ships. The Skirmish mode showcases its innovative 3D movement system and lets the player experiment with the innumerous combinations of ships and modules.”
In Strategy mode, players’ objective is to take control of the resources on various islands that are along trade routes.
They start with a single scout ship and some troopers.
So when they have successfully captured an island, they can spend the resources they have earned to build a fleet of ships and hire more troops.
There are different ways to win in Strategy mode.
For example, when a player or team takes control of two complete trade routes (each route has four islands), or when they have defeated all of the other players.
Sid classifies Avertigos as a Living Miniatures game and described it as a “science fiction or alternate historical version of our world.
Here’s the plot as told by Sid, “Avertigos takes place in a world where Zheng He’s fleet was never destroyed by the Hong Xi Emperor, and China retained its maritime influence.”
“This led to Asia being a major sea power when the Age of Sail happened (China in the 1400s had a larger fleet than Britain in the 1800s), and the Colonial Age never quite happened as the way we knew it.”
So, in this world, people wage wars over exotic resources instead of “wars over boundaries and land” – with flying ships.
I was curious to find out how did the names, like Singasari, in the game come about.
Sid answered, “All of the character names and lore in Avertigos are inspired from real professions, tribes and historical events. The art is inspired by the rich cultural motifs found all over Asia.”
The name Singasari is based on the Singhasari empire of Indonesia, and draws inspiration from their real historical significance.
He explained that Nanjing enjoys a lot of power and fame – similar to the historical fame of London – and has control over the Dynasty faction.
The Dynasty faction is run by merchant clans (think Korean chaebols) that command massive warrior-merchant navies and “jealously guard their political influence”.
“The discovery of rich resources and trade in the South China Seas starts a gold rush amongst these families,” he said.
Down south, the independent Singasari cities have formed an alliance to fight back the growing power of the Dynasty.
Meeplegamers has an elaborate review on Avertigos’ Skirmish mode that you can read here.
A Talented Team
Tabletop games may appeal with their entertainment value, but to create and produce one is another level altogether.
I think Avertigos is meant to be played with a lot of friends who are able to appreciate the game in whole. To be honest, at this moment, I am still only able to appreciate the art and the effort put in to come up with the plot and the lore.
And because of that, I am willing to try and play the game.
Sid said that Avertigos was developed by Playware Hobbies, an intrapreneurship from within Playware Studios that was incorporated in August 2017.
He credits Mr Gopinath Pillai, Chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, as a major contributor to the game.
He is also a major investor in the companies, investing an initial seed fund of $300,000, along with Mr Hadier M. Sithawalla and Mr Satpal Khattar.
The team that worked on Avertigos was carved out from the existing team at Playware Studios, and have worked together for over 10 years.
Their work on 3DHive, a Mobile Game Making Platform, has earned them global clients such as Bayer, Caterpillar, Singapore Airlines, Genting, and international awards such as the Brandon Hall Awards, ASEAN ICT Awards, and EdTech Excellence Awards.
Sid is a Game Designer with 18 years of experience and has worked on game titles such as Real Cricket, The Spoils (a Tournament Card Game), Magic Lanterns, and high-value serious game projects such as Virtual Nurse, FutureSchools@SG, and iCity Labs.
He attributes the creation, design, scripting, and conception of Avertigos to his extremely passionate and talented team members who worked tirelessly to produce everything from the mock-ups, preview kits, to the modelling and manufacturing.
He revealed that the design process was quite complicated as they had to refine several aspects of the game at the same time, and that would affect the other components of the game.
The ship designs, movement cards, height system, and the strategy board required a lot of attention.
We were determined from the start to make Avertigos a very special game. One of the best decisions we made was to begin prototyping and play-test early on in the development, so we could keep the ‘play’ (in playful) element in all of our processes.
The team spent many a weekend and pulled long nights to finish and deliver the game to everyone.
“I think Avertigos has taught us all that making something so big and beautiful requires an immense amount of patience and sacrifice,” he concluded.
The game has been described as “ambitious” and “value for money”, but you’ll only be able to experience the thrill of a strategy game such as Avertigos after trying it yourself!
Featured Image Credit: Playware Studios