Whether you’re planning a party, organising a family game night or even just a simple get together with some close friends, board games are a great way to break the ice and ensure hours of fun for everyone.
The best part is, there are so many options out there that you can definitely find something suitable for everyone. From timeless classics such as Monopoly to more modern treasures such as Settlers of Catan and even casual party games like Cards Against Humanity, there are countless board games available for you to choose from.
But even among all of that, there are some board games that every Malaysian should try out at some point — these games were actually invented by ordinary Malaysians like you and me, with all sorts of hidden gems and little nods to our nation’s unique culture and history.
In the spirit of Merdeka, me and my friends decided to try out some of these locally produced board games and see if our local home-grown talent could match up with games being published internationally. Below are some of our favorites!
1) The Malaysian Dream
Designed by MGAG, The Malaysian Dream is a cheeky interactive card game that lets you show off just how Malaysian you really are.
Choose from one of six super Malaysian personalities, all of which have their own specific Dreams and Special Powers. For example, when I played I was the Raja Bomoh (a nod to our very own coconut-wielding bomoh). His dreams are to have a lot of followers and to protect Malaysia from disaster, while his Special Power is See the Future (look at the top 3 dream cards and buy one at a discounted price).
Other personality options include Makcik Bawang, whose Kaypo power (look at another player’s hand and swap a card) is surprisingly dangerous and the Raver, whose Special Power is pretty hilarious (you can get a free dream every round, but you need to do a sotong dance and post it on Insta with the hashtag #TheMalaysianDream).
And then there’s the National Athlete, which nobody in my group wanted to pick because his Special Power involves holding a squat for 20 seconds. Sorry lah, but none of us have been to the gym in months.
The aim of the game is to collect as many Dream Cards as possible. These can range from general things like “Free Petrol for Life” to more specific dreams such as “Get a Girlfriend”, which gives a special bonus if the right person collects it (in this case, the Raver). Once all the dreams have been collected, the game ends and the player with the most dreams wins.
The gameplay is frantic and fun, with plenty of ways to gather money, collect new dreams, and utterly screw over your friends and loved ones. I particularly enjoyed the “Rukun Negara” card, which you can use to force someone to recite the entire Rukun Negara from memory. Better hope they paid attention during assembly — if they fail, they lose a dream!
All in all, The Malaysian Dream is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable experience. This tongue-in-cheek card game is great for Malaysians of all ages, with cute little quirks and jokes that are sure to have you rolling with laughter.
2) Drama Pukul 7
Do you like drama? Do you enjoy watching soap operas? Have you ever wanted to star in your own TV show? Then Drama Pukul 7 (translation: Drama at 7pm) is the game for you!
The premise is simple: you are the protagonist, a hero or heroine in a typical Malay soap opera. Your goal is to defeat all the other players by shaming them to destroy their Dignity/Face Value (in other words, their HP). The last person standing is the official main character for the TV series, while all the losers are dropped out of the show.
Each player starts with 1 Hero or Heroine card, representing the character archetypes in your drama series such as Cikgu Chenta, Ryan Kaya Raya and Ali Arkitek. Each of them will have their own special abilities that you can use; for example, Ali Arkitek can discard 2 cards to heal 1 life.
Each turn, you can play either an Episode card or a Plot Twist card, which represents all the backstabbing and drama happening in your show. Players can also buy items from the shop, collect new members (friends) and set up all sorts of dramatic moments to defeat their rivals (my favorite was the Plot Twist “Cliffhanger”, which forces another person to skip their turn).
I admit, I was a bit skeptical about this game at first since I’m not really a fan of soap operas, but before I knew it I was being sucked into the action, dropping down Plot Twist after Plot Twist to keep my poor character alive for as long as possible while all the classic drama tropes were happening.
During one particularly exciting round I got married, only to lose my wife a minute later to someone using a love potion. But wait! I still had a Plot Twist card: it was just a dream all along!
All in all, Drama Pukul 7 is an absolute riot. Whether you’re a longtime fan of soap operas or someone who’s never watched them before, this game is sure to have you gasping in shock with every new Episode or Plot Twist.
3) The Cikgu Life
Are you ready to relive your highschool days?
But it comes with the twist: in this game, you’re no longer a student, but a teacher.
The Cikgu Life is a surprisingly nostalgic game created by a group of actual teachers to give everyone a glimpse of what it’s like to be a teacher in a typical Malaysian school.
Each player represents a teacher in a different Malaysian school (National School, Rural School, Boarding School, etc.) all with their own particular advantages or disadvantages. Your goal? To clear up all your paperwork and help your students do well in their exams.
The gameplay is as easy as 1, 2, 3: every turn, you get 1 Event card, draw 2 Action Cards and play 3 different Actions.
Event cards represent, well, events. Sometimes it’s something bad such as school being canceled due to hazy weather or policy changes that add extra paperwork on your already busy workload. Other times, you might get a surprise public holiday because Malaysia won a sports game (which means that you’ll have time to clear out any extra paperwork before class starts!).
Action cards, on the other hand, are all about things that you can do. It lets you set up things like Transfer Student (aka: stealing someone else’s prized student) or Principal’s Best Friend (to counter someone else’s Action).
While The Cikgu Life does have its fun bits, it can’t be denied that it tends to feel a bit more serious compared to the other two games above. I found myself struggling a lot to juggle my paperwork with actually teaching my poor students — in fact, one of them even got expelled for disciplinary issues!
The Cikgu Life is definitely a game worth picking up no matter your age. The straightforward gameplay and gorgeous art style hides a surprisingly deep and meaningful lesson. I came away from this game with a newfound appreciation for how hard my old teachers had to work in order to get me through those turbulent high school years.
Supporting Our Local Creators
Games don’t have to be just for kids. Nowadays, there are plenty of board game options out there you can try out — many of which were actually created by ordinary Malaysians like you and me. So the next time you’re lepaking together with your friends or visiting your relatives, put aside your Monopoly set and #SupportLocal by playing one of these awesome games instead!
Of course, even the best board games can get a bit dull after a while. If you’re interested in a more active activity, check out our list of unique sports that every Malaysian should try out at least once in their life.