- Politiko is a Malaysian-made card game based on local politics created by Centaur Games, where players are pit against each other in a parodical simulation of Malaysia’s General elections.
- With the original card game released in 2013, Politiko now has a mobile version that switches up gameplay mechanics and matches single players up against an AI opponent.
- New features include more political tropes such as redelineation and parliamentary seats, and it plays more like a board game than its original card-based version.
Before releasing the politically derisive card game Politiko during the thick of the 2013 General Elections, Mun Kao of Centaur Games only wanted to use the developmental process as an opportunity to learn more about Malaysian politics and all its charms.
“I was actually working on another project before a friend suggested I make a game for politics,” he said. “I wasn’t the most politically informed person so it felt like a great chance to have a better understanding of Malaysian politics.”
Creating the first prototype on a bunch of name cards, Mun Kao then brought in writer and fellow gaming enthusiast Zedeck Siew—who eventually became Politiko’s co-designer—to help him test out his creation.
“It was horrible,” Mun Kao joked. “It was horrible for many of my friends who had to playtest it.”
“But eventually, it became something that resembled a game, and LoyarBuruk—an NGO for civic education—took a chance and produced the very first Politiko, which became quite a surprising success for all of us.”
A Party Game Of Parties
Heavily inspired by the popular gameplay of Hasbro’s Monopoly Deal, Politiko compacts the most eyebrow-raising aspects of Malaysian politics into a 30-minute card game and mimics—in surprisingly accurate fashion—the feel of Malaysia’s political climate within the past decade.
Applying simple turn-based gameplay mechanics, the Politiko card game tasks players with the job of trying to win votes as they spearhead various political parties—each representative of real Malaysian factions, complete with their own perks. And throughout the game, players can make use of an array of policies and tactics, some more devious than others, but all of which are based on possible real-life administrative shenanigans.
Redelineation, financial-policies, and sex scandals all play important roles as players try to attain a majority, and much like reality, the game isn’t fair and the odds are unreasonably skewed in favour of certain parties.
Since its release in 2013, Politiko seen one revision and has added to it an optional expansion pack featuring East Malaysian political parties and new gameplay mechanics.
And just recently, the creators have released a mobile adaptation on Android, with an iOS version in the offing. All just in time for GE14.
“The mobile version of Politiko came from the experience and lessons we learnt from the past five years,” Mun Kao said. “While the cynicism of Politiko was fun, we wanted to design something beyond that. But figuring out what that is took us a while to figure out.”
“Eventually we felt there were certain aspects of our electoral system that could be reflected well through Politiko, but it required a digital medium to work. So we figured maybe we can work on a mobile version instead.”
And according to Mun Kao, Politiko’s mobile version will differ from the physical copy of the game by being more focused on the upcoming GE14, and will play out more like a single-player board game, pitting players against an AI opponent.
“There are so many new features that it’s hard to mention them all, but one of the biggest features is the idea of parliamentary seats,” he explained. “The scoring system for the game is now seats, not voters, so you can have more voters and still lose the game.”
Here’s a video showing how the Politiko mobile game feels.
Getting The Vote Of Approval
Despite having sold more than 5,500 copies of the original game as well as over 3,000 copies of its Sabah & Sarawak expansion set, Mun Kao says that the process of getting the original Politiko to where it is now was no cakewalk.
“Money was always going to be an issue,” he said. “Aside from the first version which Loyarburuk funded, we had to self-fund everything else.”
“And it doesn’t help that Zedeck and I are socially awkward hermits, making us horrible at marketing. Distribution and getting the game to people was also hard,” he continued. “Many bookstores declined to carry it because of its political nature.”
But despite these obstacles, Mun Kao has been pleasantly surprised by the reception Politiko has so far received.
“It’s been really great for us! We often get people telling us that they play this game with their friends, and then they congratulate us,” he jested.
“I think they’re congratulating us on being foolish enough to make a card game based on politics.”
“The positive response to our card game from friends and fans—that was a big surprise,” he said, referring to Politiko’s success both locally and overseas, where the game has been spun off into localised versions for other coutries.
But ultimately, Mun Kao thinks the reason the game has been well received amongst Malaysians is due to its relevance in the current political climate.
“People recognise and relate to the Malaysia that our game reflects.”
On whether there was a message that they aimed to convey with their games, both co-creators were keen to state that Politiko—despite its controversial content—was created as a tool to help Malaysians approach politics in a fun and light-hearted manner.
“The card game was often described as satire, but that’s because in reality, our politics can get absurd to the point of satire,” Mun Kao said. “There is no message really, but we do want players to have fun and not let politics feel intimidating.”
“Essentially, Politiko is a mirror to the current party-political perspective,” Zedeck chimed in.
“In that world-view, citizens are ultimately points to collect. What Malaysians make of that is up to them.”
- To know more about Politiko, visit the official website or get it here.
- The mobile version of Politiko is now available on Android for free.
Feature Image Credit: Politiko