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A Dancing Duel? This two player game will keep your brain juice churning!

Dancing Queen's designer Chok-Sien Hiew shares insights on crafting this award winning 2-player dance party diplomacy game where players manipulate, bluff, and outwit for victory in this gender-mixing card challenge!

Q: Please give the readers a short introduction about yourself and your studio. What is your “origin” story? How did you start off designing games.

My name is Hiew Chok Sien, from Cili Padi Games (Malaysia). I have been a boardgame blogger since 2007. I enjoyed playing games and writing about them, but it was only around 2020 that I started exploring game design. This was the time I left full-time employment and went into entrepreneurship. Boardgames was not my full-time business, but I decided to make time to venture into game design, as it was something I always had at the back of my mind, but never made time for. It was the adventurer bug which told me – might as well do it now, or you’d never get around to it.

Q: What inspires the ideas behind Dancing Queen? Why did you choose to make this type of game?

The work on Dancing Queen started because I came across a game design contest on which had a very interesting premise. The criteria was you could only use 9 cards to design a game. I found that intriguing and decided to give it a go. That was in 2021.

I have always been a big fan of Love Letter by Seiji Kanai. That was why the concept of a minimalistic card game using only 9 cards intrigued me. Dancing Queen drew some inspiration from Love Letter. I wanted to make a short game which has some strategic depth. I wanted the players to have a journey of discovery as they mastered the game.

Dancing Queen eventually went on to win the 2021 BGG 9-Card Nanogame Print-and-Play Design Contest - Best Overall Game award, along with awards in 4 other categories.

Q: What is your creation process like?

My creation process is essentially many iterations. I keep a digital journal for every game project I start, writing down all my ideas, recording the rules of each version and collating notes from every playtest session. I try to playtest with different people – gamers and non-gamers, friends and strangers. I cover different player counts. Every playtest helps to justify whether the project is still worth pursuing. I have multiple projects running concurrently, and I have a bag of prototypes that I can easily pick up and go to any event where I have the chance to playtest my games. I playtest and tweak multiple games at the same time, until I feel some of them are strong enough to be worth publishing.

Q. What did you learn from making Dancing Queen? Or what lessons from other games did you implement into Dancing Queen? What about your game that you wished could have been done better?

The process of making Dancing Queen helped me realize the importance of both breadth and depth in playtesting. Breadth was certainly important, because having the perspectives of many different people helped me find problems I wouldn’t otherwise have found by myself. Also it was important that the game pleased the players, not me. Depth in playtesting was important too. Had I not playtested extensively with my daughter, we would not have discovered some of the more advanced strategies that was possible with this seemingly simplistic game. There were also some problems that could only be detected after having the same person play the game many times.

Dancing Queen occupies an unusual niche. It is a filler, but a thinky one. Non-gamers and casual gamers will likely struggle to learn it. Most seasoned gamers are not particularly interested in fillers in the first place. So I have a rather narrow target audience. This makes marketing the game more challenging.

Q: The artwork of Dancing Queen is very unique and reminds me of City Hunter, a Japanese manga from the 1980s. Why did you decide to create the look and feel of the game in this manner?

I asked my artist Edwin Chong to feel free to explore different styles. He came up with three concepts. The one I liked the most was not the one we eventually used. I presented the three pieces of concept art to three different groups of people – Malaysian gamers, Malaysian non-gamers, and international gamers. The art style which most people liked was picked for our project.

Q: Our Singaporean audience are often curious how the gaming market is like for other countries. How is the tabletop gaming culture like in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, tabletop gaming is still a small hobby compared to digital gaming and other hobbies. It has steadily grown, and more and more people know about it. We have boardgame cafes which do well. There are boardgame clubs at universities and schools. In recent years we start having game conventions.

Q: Do you have any plans for future games?

My next game is Snow White and the Eleven Dwarfs, a game for 7 to 18 players. I am planning to release it by December 2023. Snow White is a game designed for a different audience. It is friendly to non-gamers and casual gamers. It is a party game and works well at Chinese New Year gatherings.

Q: What is your favourite genre of games or games you think are underrated?

I’d like to see some more minimalism which we used to see in German games of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I am a veteran gamer, and I naturally gravitate towards heavier gamer games. One trend that I see now is many gamer games tend to be more complex than they need to be. Complex for the sake of complexity. I miss the days of clever and elegant, but strategic games.

Q: Where can your game be found in Malaysia and Singapore? What is your website where the audience can find out more?

Dancing Queen can be found in a number of Boardgame Cafes and Boardgame shops in Malaysia. You can also find out more about the game on my website !

Editor note: Dancing Queen can also be purchased from SBD shop!


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