There are maybe three to six players sitting in a circle, each dealt with a hand of cards, it is a game of cat and mouse, but the question is who is who?
Are you the Mole or are you a Miner?
Launched recently on August 28, Letters to Brooketon is the third game created by independent local game creator, Comet Games and has since sold out within the first few days.
“Letters To Brooketon is the first game from Comet Games to be published on a mass scale. It was really successful,” said the founder of Comet Games, Zaed Hani.
Inspired by Brunei’s rich history, the games was influenced by an article written by A.V.M Horton titled “Rajah Charles Brooke and Mining Concessions in Brunei 1888-1924”, which detailed how Muara was taken over by Charles Brooke and renamed to Brooketon.
“I wanted to re-create a particular storyline about the Brooketon coal mines which I imagine must have been a real scenario; What if there were local Bruneians who were against Charles Brooke and wanted to sabotage the coal mines?” he shared.
Besides providing entertainment, the theme of Letters to Brooketon aims to educate players on the history of the White Rajahs.
“From my research, I found a few articles regarding Charles Brooke (nephew and successor to James Brooke) and his attempt to establish a coal mine in Muara Town in the late 1800s,” he said, adding how Brooke then renamed Muara to Brooketon.
“It was a fact that Charles Brooke ran the administration of the town and even brought in his own police force to gain control. This must-have meant there were rebels/pirates that were trying to undermine him.
“This is why there are two teams in the game: you either play as a Miner or a Mole,” he added.
How to play Letters to Brooketon
Each player is secretly assigned a role as either a Miner or a Mole, and it is the job of each player to find out who is who as the game progresses, lest they want the opponent to win.
Though a simple point-based card game, deception is a central strategy and depending on whom you play with, twists and turns abound in every round.
With cards consisting of Letter Cards and Action Cards, how you win will depend on the role you are assigned to.
For a Miner to win, they must connect the Letter Cards (each numbered 1/6 and so on) in ascending order until the final 6/6 card is placed in the middle of the table. When the objective is met each Miner will receive a point.
A Mole will try their best to intercept all the Letter Cards, preventing Miners to connect them. If all Letter Cards are intercepted at the start of a turn, and no one is able to connect the other Letter Card, each Mole will receive a point.
Action Cards such as the Revolt Card and the Intercept Card can be used throughout the rounds – should the players meet the necessary requirement – to even the playing field by allowing each faction to earn additional points.
The first player to win 5 points wins the game.
But is it that easy? It goes back to the question; are you a Mole or are you a Miner?
From an idea to a complete set
Letters to Brooketon was born out of a concept scratched on a piece of paper.
When Zaed was working from home during the wake of COVID-19, his curiosity and boredom led him to research on different types of card games and their various mechanisms. He explained that the game was heavily inspired by the card game, Saboteur.
“However, Letters to Brooketon has more than one way to win,” he said.
Comet Games collaborated with talented local artist Wan Mayang to bring his idea to life. Wan designed the cards and box using historically-inspired yet visually-appealing graphics. The result was an aesthetic treat for the eyes.
Thematically, the game has been stylised around the vintage idea of 18th Century Brunei.
Moreover, the cover for the game box itself depicts an illustration, modeled after a photo of the original Brooketon.
The game in its entirety took a month to make – it was not all smooth sailing.
“The hardest part was designing the game. It took us a couple of days to come up with a complete set of designs. We had to create 70 unique designs which include the logo, graphics and the illustrations,” he explained.
“It was all worth it. Seeing the game come together and the first reactions from people enjoying the game are the best feeling ever,” he continued.
Background on Comet Games
Pokémon Trading Card Game began as a hobby for Zaed, which sparked his interest in creating card games.
As a way to expand his passion into a business, the 32-year-old decided to set up the first tabletop game developer in Brunei, Comet Games in late 2017.
The first game that Comet Games released was Kawal, a strategy board game based on 17th Century Borneo.
“(Kawal) never went into full production due to cost issues, so we are very happy we managed to create and publish a totally new game which is “Letters to Brooketon”,” he explained.
During those years, Zaed also learned the ins-and-outs of the table-top and board game industry in addition to entrepreneurship.
Aside from seeing the growing trend in the local card and board games community, he said that the game publishing sector in the sultanate is still very small, but he still sees potential in it.
When asked about the future plans for Comet Games, Zaed said that they are concentrating on promoting and marketing Letters to Brooketon.
“We are also in plans to release more games in the future, perhaps as early as 2021. I do want the game to have another historical theme, but we’ll see only time will tell,” he added.
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