We Are Taking The Plunge!
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
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We are taking the plunge!

After more than three years of planning, research, design work, playtests, discussions, etc., we are ready to introduce our first board game, Three Kingdoms Redux, to you. My Significant Other is also setting up a company, Starting Player, to publish the game. Artwork for the game is progressing as I type this and should be completed by the end of this year. Manufacturing will follow shortly after.

As you can tell, we are thrilled and excited to be sharing this piece of news with fellow board gamers! Here is the story of our journey...

Links to other parts of our story:
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 2)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 3)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 4)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 5)


Subscribe to this geeklist to be informed when we update our story.

Links:
Three Kingdoms Redux
Starting Player
Three Kingdoms Redux Game Rules
Three Kingdoms Redux Compendium
Geeklist discussing historical perspective of Three Kingdoms Redux
Geeklist discussing artwork of generals of Three Kingdoms Redux
Geeklist discussing artwork of state enhancements of Three Kingdoms Redux
• The all important Significant Other:
Christina Ng
Singapore
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说了又不听,听了又不懂,不懂又不问,问了又不做,做了又做错,错了又不认,认了又不改,改了又不服,不服又不说,那你要我怎麽办?
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1. Board Game: Who am I? [Average Rating:5.48 Overall Rank:12675]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Our Background

My Significant Other and I hail from Singapore. I am an actuary by training, whilst she was an accountant. I also have what is known locally as Permanent Head Damage (PhD).

My previous working experiences include life insurers and reinsurers, as well as teaching in various universities. She has worked in the accounting departments of companies from various industries.
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2. Board Game: The Wedding Game [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Wedding (January 2010)

We met during a one day workshop on personalities in late 2006. We chatted during the breaks but I left it at that. The workshop ended and I had just boarded the bus home when I caught a glimpse of her strolling along the pavement as the bus coasted along. Something told me I would regret it if I did not alight. So I did, at the next stop and waited for her there. And the rest, as they like to say, is history.

We got married (the legal form) in July 2007, though the customary wedding did not take place until January 2010. We are Chinese by race, and to the elderly, you are not considered married until you have gone through the customary wedding. Customary weddings take a lot of planning, which explains the two and a half years interval between our legal and customary weddings!

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3. Board Game: Game Seeds [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Seeds of Our Board Gaming Ideas (mid 2007 to January 2010)

It was during that two and a half years interval that we bought our apartment, got it renovated and started board gaming more frequently. Our renovation was very hands-on in that we tracked down nearly every item in our home, e.g. tiles, taps etc, instead of leaving it to the renovator. We also included custom made shelves during the renovation in preparation for our future board game purchases.

Once the apartment was ready, we started filling our gaming room with board games! Trying and playing different board games naturally led to discussions about our preferences of each board game's mechanics and how we would improve the board game if we were the designers. From there, our first board game idea was borne, though it ultimately wasn't used in our first game.


Our board gaming room and shelves. They contain many more games now than when the photos were taken.
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4. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:4174]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Discovering Board Game Geek (2009)

Sitting Ducks Gallery and Samurai were our first board game purchases to fill the shelves. The former was more for my niece, who was only 7 then. The latter was a result of my playing of an PC version a number of years back. Researching online led us to BGG.

After playing these for a while, we started looking for other board games to add some variety. Agricola was ranked number 1 then. Looking through its pictures and reading a few reviews, it seemed the theme would be something my Significant Other would like.

I remember showing her the Agricola pics quite excitedly. She was sceptical about it initially, as we had not tried the game before and it was quite costly. She eventually relented, and Agricola became our first board game purchase based solely on research via BGG.

Our first few plays were incomplete, due to various uncertainties over the rules. She started getting concerned about it being money wasted. Fortunately, BGG came to the rescue. Most of our queries about the rules were answered in the forums. Before long, we fell in love with the game. It has become our favourite ever since, particularly after the Farmers of the Moor expansion came long. I estimate we have had over 600 plays of it thus far. modest

Our other initial board game purchases based on BGG reviews include Ingenious, Hive and YINSH. Hive has gone on to become our second favourite game. Its rules are simple, has sufficiently deep play and most importantly, is very portable. We probably have had around 350 plays of Hive up to now. modest
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5. Board Game: The Big Idea [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:5159]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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First Board Game Idea (early 2010)

I have been a fan of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story (三國演義) and history (三國志) since I was a teen. I have read the books, played almost every single edition of the infamous Koei series of PC games, own a rather well-drawn series of comics and watched the well-produced China made series several times (there has been many drama series produced of Three Kingdoms, but this is still the best in my opinion in terms of authenticity).

I naturally started researching on BGG for Three Kingdoms themed board games. What I found did not tickle my fancy sufficiently. One of the most important and intriguing themes of the story was the natural balance of power between the three states of Shu, Wu and Wei, e.g. how the two weaker states tended to form an alliance to counter the strongest state, and how quickly alliances were formed and broken as this balance of power shifted. I thought these were not developed sufficiently in the Three Kingdoms themed board games I found on BGG.

It was also around this time that the Significant Other bought the DVD set of the China produced series for me as a gift and we started watching it. I was watching it for probably the third time. It was then that the Significant Other started getting under the skin of the Three Kingdoms era (her favourite characters are Guan Yu, Zhuge Liang and Zhang Liao).

Whilst commuting to work one day in February 2010, I started pondering about possible game mechanics for the Three Kingdoms theme. I belong to the nearly extinct group of people who do not own a mobile phone (never did, never will). My daily commutes are spent listening to the radio and thinking.

That day's random thinking resulted in a worker-placement-like mechanic. I wrote it down in an e-mail (to the Significant Other) once I reached my workplace. Other ideas continued to manifest themselves throughout that day. My Significant Other was probably a little overwhelmed that day, and given that she was still not familiar with the story then, could not offer much by way of suggestions.

That weekend, I started piecing the ideas together and a rudimentary set of rules started to take shape.
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6. Board Game: Find the Mistakes [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Rules Before Playtesting? (mid 2010)

Through the middle part of 2010, I filled in the meat onto the skeletal set of rules. This turned out to be more time consuming than I expected. The rules had to be easy to understand and had to cover all possible scenarios that may take place. Progress was also excruciatingly slow as I could only work on it during the weekends.

This turned out to be my first big mistake at board game designing: Attempting to write out a full set of rules before playtesting even the most basic mechanic(s) of the game.

It was also at this stage that we discussed the possibility of selling the game idea to a publisher or publishing the game ourselves. Our research into the first possibility suggested it was not going to be easy, especially if we wanted to retain the theme. The more research we did, the more we leant towards publishing it ourselves...
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7. Board Game: Decisions [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Big Decisions (2010)

In the meantime, we were both experiencing issues with our respective jobs.

My Significant Other has never enjoyed the accounting line of work. She would sometimes lament that she chose the wrong course to read in university and subsequently, the wrong line of work. That the hours were long in the accounting line did not help; Her suffering was extended on a daily basis. I was also upset to see how dog tired and unhappy she was.

As for myself, I had been with a life reinsurer for more than four years by 2010. There were a number of fundamental issues regarding the direction of the company that had been bugging me. Despite reflecting them to my line manager a year back in early 2009 who acknowledged the feedback, nothing much seemed to have changed. These issues continued to gnaw at me.

It was at this juncture that we started discussing our future seriously. One of the decisions we made was, we would start a board game designing and publishing company. Another decision was we would quit our respective jobs if the company took off.
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8. Board Game: Quit [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Quitting, Part 1 (September 2010)

There is a famous Chinese proverb: 謀事在人,成事在天. Read móu shì zài rén, chéng shì zài tiān, it means regardless of how well-laid your plans may be, a little Luck and Fate is usually required to see that plan through.

We were perhaps a little naive to think we could manage all the designing, playtesting and logistics work whilst holding down our full time jobs. Progress continued at a snail's pace, and we had not even started playtesting the Three Kingdoms idea yet.

In the meantime, our unhappiness at work continued. Things got to a head for me in September. I recall feeling extremely agitated and irritated after a meeting that day. When I got home, I discussed recent developments with her, and told her I would really like to leave my job.

I was confident that I can find at least some part time tutoring (perhaps in local universities) and that would keep the income going, albeit at a reduced level. She was supportive and we changed our plan that night: I would serve out my three months' notice, work on the board games full time until the turn of the year and before taking up some tutoring work commencing in January (the semesters start in July and January over here).
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9. Board Game: Home Alone [Average Rating:4.10 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
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Working on Board Game Idea Full Time (September to December 2010)

Work naturally slowed for me during my notice period. I made use of that freed up time to work on the Three Kingdoms idea and I more or less completed the first set of draft rules before the end of December 2010.

It took me a little time getting used to working from home alone, but I was happy that I no longer had to commute to work in packed trains. It meant I was saving around one and a half hours a day, five days a week.

I also sounded out a professor in a local university and managed to secure a full-time lecturing position in a local university, starting from the semester commencing July 2011. That sounded great, for it means I have more than half a year to work on the board game idea full-time.
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Keng Leong Yeo
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Board Gaming With My Significant Other (ongoing )

Of course, amongst all the upheavals at work, board gaming continued. When our budget allowed, we would buy the odd board game or two, then play and dissect it. My Significant Other is my main board gaming partner, though we do invite friends over for the occasional board gaming session. Our favourite board game, Agricola, is also very popular amongst our friends.

Trying out various board games also gave us many little ideas to incorporate into our board game designs. I certainly borrowed a few ideas from Agricola, amongst a number of board games, in our design for the Three Kingdoms idea.
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Keng Leong Yeo
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Board Gaming With My Niece (ongoing )

I also found more time to play with my niece, who was eight then. A nice age to introduce board games to. We have since made it a point to board game with her at least once during each of her school holidays (every March, June, September and December).

We plan to design family games as well, and this was a good opportunity to find out what children liked in their board games. For the record, my niece's favourite board game is Sitting Duck Gallery.
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Keng Leong Yeo
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Breaks from Work (ongoing )

My initial experience with designing board game full time is it can be quite brain-burning. Even more so than my previous job as an actuary. Occasionally, it gets to me and I run out of ideas.

I enjoy fiddling with board game components and when I need to take a break from working on the board game, I will retire into our board gaming room, take out some components and play with them. Sometimes, something nice appears, and I will photograph it and post them in BGG.

I am a very amateurish photographer but I did take enough "good" photos to compile into a geeklist.

I find the whole exercise relaxing and more often than not, I return to my work with a few fresh ideas to try out.
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Keng Leong Yeo
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Naming Our First Board Game (September to December 2010)

Having got the first set of rules down on paper, the next logical step was giving the Three Kingdoms idea a proper name. We first considered how other board games were named, but that did not yield much by way of possibilities.

We wanted a name that was sufficiently short, but could still bring out the rivalry and ultimate goal of reunification of China. I forgot exactly how or when the name came to me, but I thought of the Chinese name for the game way before the English name.

The Chinese name is 三國得志(sān guó dé zhì), which is a pun on and a combination of 三國志(sān guó zhì) and 得志(dé zhì).

三國志(sān guó zhì) is the Records of Three Kingdoms, the historical text covering the three kingdoms era. 得志(dé zhì) is a phrase used to describe a person realising his/her ambition or achieving his/her goal. 志(zhì) means ambition.

Put together, 三國得志(sān guó dé zhì) can be taken to mean achieving your ambition during the three kingdoms era. I remember feeling rather smug when I first thought of this name. cool My Significant Other loved it but we decided to run this by our Chinese friends. They too gave us the thumbs up and one even complimented me for coming up with such an innovative name. modest

The English name, however, was a different kettle of fish. We wanted a name that wasn't too different in meaning from the Chinese name, but yet not too cumbersome. We probably discussed this on and off for over a week and eventually settled on the preliminary name "Three Kingdoms' Pinnacle". Even then, I wasn't entirely happy with it...
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14. Board Game: The Teachers Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Part Time Tutoring (January to June 2011)

The professor who helped me secure the lecturing position e-mailed me in December 2010 for help. It turned out that there was manpower shortage and he needed help with a number of tutorial classes in the coming semester. I agreed, albeit reluctantly, since that meant a loss of six months' in board games development.

The part time tutoring began in earnest in January 2011. Having taught in dribs and drabs previously in other universities, it did not take me too much time to get into the groove. However, since it was my first semester, there was more preparatory work required and that meant board game designing work slowed down again. My Significant Other's one year contract ends only in March.
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Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
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Serving the Nation (February 2011)

Another event further slowed our progress. I was called back for my annual in camp training in February. I admit to disliking the regimental lifestyle of the military, but it's the duty of every Singaporean male. I also took the opportunity to introduce board games to my army buddies. I brought Hive and Blokus into camp and the result was a resounding success. I taught Hive to many of my buddies and it was quite warmly received. One of them went on to purchase Hive with the Mosquito and Ladybug expansions.

It was during one of the Hive sessions that I met a young chap by the name of Brandon. He was only 20 and was serving his two years' full-time National Service, after which he was going to study at a local university. What caught my eye was how quickly he picked up Hive. He learnt the game by observation of our games, punctuated by a few well-phrased questions. Before we knew it, he was playing with us and managing to beat the other novices.

I remember making a mental note of his name. Never did I imagine that he will play a major role in our board gaming projects in the not so distant future.

Brandon Lye
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16. Board Game: Ditto [Average Rating:5.20 Unranked]
Keng Leong Yeo
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Quitting, Part 2 (March 2011)

My Significant Other's one year contract came to an end in March 2011. As I had secured a full-time position, I suggested to her that she could quit her job and work on the board games full time, whilst I chip in during my free time. In return, we will split my pay and she will have complete freedom on how she utilises her half of the pay.

She was reluctant initially, but I eventually convinced her. We do not shop a lot, almost never go to the movies, do not smoke, do not drink, do not drive... Our home (in tropical Singapore) does not even have air-conditioning (which keeps the electricity bills low)!

Our main expenditures are our house loan and board gaming hobby. We do not even spend a lot on board games. A new board game can usually keep us occupied for two to three months. A really good one, such as Agricola, can be and has been played and replayed for years!

Her job's income would end up going into our collective savings, and this comes at the cost of slowing down our project's progress. She acknowledged my point and decided not to renew the contract.
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17. Board Game: Duo [Average Rating:5.23 Overall Rank:13916]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
Singapore
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aka Uncle
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小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
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Working on Board Game Idea, Full Time and Part Time (April to June 2011)

In late March 2011, I passed most of the board gaming work to my Significant Other. Like me, she took some time getting used to working from home and I checked in on her every now and then. After a few weeks, she professed to enjoying her board gaming work a whole lot more than accounting.

Progress on Three Kingdoms' Pinnacle also picked up again. It was in April that she produced the very first crude prototype of it in preparation for playtesting. Here is how the very first prototype looked like:

A few more prototype versions have since been made by her, all of them by hand. We eventually settled on version 5 (or was it 6?), as seen in the picture below:


It has probably gone through over 100 playtests with us, and is therefore a little rough around the edges. Here is the link to the more recent playtests, which she added to the plays after the game entry was approved.

I can still recall how excited both of us felt about playtesting it for the first time. On hindsight, quitting our respective jobs turned out to be one of our best ever decisions!

Edit: Inclusion of first prototype picture and correction of version number of the latest prototype. We went to dig out some old pictures, and realised there were more versions than we previously remembered.
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18. Board Game: Three Kingdoms Redux [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:917]
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
Singapore
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aka Uncle
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小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
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To be continued by my Significant Other (playtesting starts!)...

P.S. That's the artwork for Liu Bei 劉備, leader of Shu 蜀, on the left.



Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 of our story are up!
Follow this link:
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 2)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 3)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 4)
We Are Taking The Plunge! (Part 5)
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