Some years ago, four Teach For Malaysia fellows found themselves having a board game night in Sarawak, where they were posted.
Inspired, they came up with the idea to create a game that journals their lives as teachers while also educating players about education in Malaysia.
Calling it The Cikgu Life, the board game went public in 2018. The reception was great, if our article in 2018 is something to go by.
Four years later, the team is making a comeback with a new school-centric card game.
Named Kantin Wars, this game steps outside of the teacher’s shoes and into the world of students. According to the team behind it, the ideation actually came three to four years ago. But since the team was busy building The Cikgu Life, it has taken a backseat until now.
More than a game
Funded by the sales of The Cikgu Life, Kantin Wars is a card game that lets players act out a food fight. The objective of the game is to cause messes for others while trying to avoid messes yourself.
Each food card has numbers at the top denoting how many messes the card is worth. The first player to collect ten messes loses the game.
The creator behind Kantin Wars is James Choong, the founder and managing partner of Classroom Adventures. He’s also the co-creator of The Cikgu Life.
James got the inspiration for Kantin War’s gameplay while playing King of Tokyo, a board game that involves cards and a custom die. After playing it, James was inspired to design his own card game with a custom die.
But the actual theme of the game comes from his own experience. If you studied in public schools, you’d know the absolute chaos that can happen in the canteen when everyone’s rushing to buy food, even though the prefects try their best to keep it under control.
“I remember when I was 13, a student in the canteen got knocked [over] and he got so angry that he threw the packet of nasi lemak he was holding across the canteen,” he shared.
The nasi lemak ended up hitting another student, who also began to throw his food, triggering a “semi-food fight”.
Still able to recall the image of nasi lemak flying across the school canteen, James decided to make that scene the foundation of the game.
However, beyond its entertaining premise, there’s actually a deeper message between all the messes.
Making learning exciting
The goal for Classroom Adventures is to make learning exciting for kids.
“We want to rethink how learning and development happen, and how we can use gamified solutions and experiential experiences to create learning growth,” said Siti Sharifah Sharina, the programme associate of Classroom Adventures.
According to her, card games play two key roles in Classroom Adventure’s strategy. First, to continually explore and refine their skills in making fun experiences. Second, to use games as a platform to generate discussions around key issues in the education sector.
To her, game-based learning is one of the best ways to learn as it increases self-confidence, improves conceptual knowledge, and ensures learning retention.
As a proof of concept, Classroom Adventures has now partnered with financial institutions to conduct game-based learning on financial literacy with over 18 schools.
Then, there’s the objective to generation conversations around important topics. According to Siti, James believes card games can be used to raise social issues in a non-threatening, non-invasive way.
“Although the whole card game was inspired by an actual food fight, the reality is, many students still go to school without a proper meal, simply because the parents could not afford it,” Siti explained.
Thus, the main intention of Kantin Wars is for people to talk about their high school experience and hopefully get them to think about what actually happens on the ground.
Battling it out ourselves
Having received a deck of Kantin Wars, I decided to play a round of the card game with my colleagues.
The game was advertised as only requiring two minutes to learn, and could accommodate four to eight players.
While I didn’t go so far as to time myself, the instructions were definitely clear and easy to understand. Rather than a thick guidebook, the cards came with a foldable pamphlet that explains the simple premise of the game.
Here’s a quick summary of how to play:
- Deal three cards to each player and keep the ones on your hand secret.
- Shuffle the deck and put it face down in the middle of the table (draw pile). Leave some space for a discard pile.
- Pick a player to go first.
- You can play one food and/or one special card per turn.
- Player with the least mess at the end of the game wins.
There are three kinds of cards: the special cards, the food cards, and the teacher card that immediately ends the game.
Special cards include:
- Dartboard: Gives a confirmed hit;
- Lightning: Can be used anytime (even when it’s not your turn);
- Shield: Lets you defend yourself.
Based on the number on the time bomb in the corner, food cards deal a number of messes (up to four per card). You can pick a person to target, but to find out who you’re actually giving the mess to, you have to use the die.
The die’s options include hit, miss, left, and right. The latter two means the mess ends up going to the person on the left or right of your target.
The die element made the game that much more interesting and unpredictable, just like in a real food fight. There’s also a bit of strategy to the game, as you need to make sure you’re not overly targeting one person as they might end up targeting you too.
Altogether, it was a light and easy game. It took us only around 15 minutes of playtime—a perfect, mess-free way to finish our lunch break.
“So far, we’ve had really good feedback,” Siti said. “The game really aligns with Malaysians’ penchant for sabo-ing each other in games.”
Siti would be absolutely right in saying that, as I had a great time targeting my colleagues.
To reach the masses, Classroom Adventures has collaborated with board game cafes Kaki Table Top and 43 Coffee.
Kantin Wars is also available on Classroom Adventures’ official Shopee store. It can also be found in physical stores such as Kinokuniya, Gerak Budaya, APOM Bangsar, and Puzzle Planet.
The game even has its own official merch, which includes sticker packs and limited-edition nugget tees that are coming soon (you heard it here first!).
While the game seems to be teeming with support, Classroom Adventures still thinks that the Malaysian board gaming scene is in its infancy—a thought James has maintained since our 2018 article.
“There’s not a lot of publishing houses or printing companies that can cater to the varied designs and component requirements of board games,” Siti reasoned.
“We do have to hunt around for different companies to produce different components, and then compile the entire game ourselves.”
Plus, the team said that the amount of people who spend money on board games isn’t huge, so it takes time to break even. This might explain why it took four years before the launch of Kantin Wars.
With that said, though, Siti reported that the team is happy to be able to continue bringing joy and nostalgia to the Malaysian public, while also bringing awareness to important issues in the local education scene.
Furthermore, the team aims to continue its financial literacy workshop, bolstered by their partnership with Hong Leong Bank.
“On the gaming front, we’re toying around with a couple of ideas, and maybe we’ll see a pandemic edition of The Cikgu Life,” Siti shared.
- Learn more about Classroom Adventures here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Classroom Adventures