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LUMA's Board Game Journey: From Cultural Heritage to Market Tales

Explore LUMA's captivating board games, weaving culture into gameplay. From Kaki Lima's roots to Bansan's market tales, discover the essence of Malaysian-themed gaming. How did they create such strong Malaysian flavored games? We find out.



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.


LUMA started in 2012 with a vision to light up arts and culture in Penang through media production, which was what I could offer with my background of being behind cameras for these past 30-odd years. Since 2017, I've been designing board games as part of Arts-ED's Cultural Heritage Education Program, where participants learn a creative art form and use it to appreciate and connect with their culture. The euro board gamer in me thought it was the perfect medium to showcase how people, places, and resources interact with one another, while the documenter in me thought “What an immersive way to document culture!” That’s when Kaki Lima was born - it was initially an example to show the Youth Arts Camp participants what they could create, which LUMA and Arts-ED then developed and published as our first board game in 2019.


Q: What inspires the ideas behind your second board game, Bansan?


After quite a number of years programming Youth Arts Camp to appreciate wet market culture, we thought it would be great to capture some of what we learnt into a board game. The Northern Peninsula Malaysia Hokkien word for wet market, Ban San (萬山) literally means tens of thousands of mountains of a tremendous variety of goods piling high. Wet markets in Malaysia also serve as community hubs where people not only go to for fresh produce but also for local fare of food in the market food courts and surrounding hawker stalls and coffee shops. So the game follows the flow of goods and produce from wholesale to plate (and bin). Players take the role of market stall vendors who stock their stalls from wholesalers and sell them. They also run hawker businesses on the side, so they need to buy produce too to fulfill orders, and have to worry about the market waste area overflowing as every time you cook something, you also generate waste. It's a wet market experience because prices aren't fixed, so you have to negotiate with vendors, which is translated into the game.





Q: What did you learn from making Kaki Lima and Bansan?


One crucial lesson from Kaki Lima: manufacturing complexities. Initially, sourcing components from various places proved challenging. For Bansan, we opted for a single manufacturer, though not without challenges. Unforeseen issues like wooden meeple cuts and board thickness variations taught us valuable lessons. Despite these, we're content with Bansan's outcome, reinforcing our commitment to consolidated manufacturing for future games.


Q: What are your plans for future games?


LUMA has recently made a shift to focus more on publishing Malaysian-themed board games. With that in mind, Evan Cheah, who designed the solo modes for Kaki Lima and Bansan, has come on board to join me in pulling together and running a small collective of board game designers. A few games that we are currently developing alongside the respective designers and collaborators are:


Kaki Lima: Downtown Kuala Lumpur (DTKL) –highlighting the research of sticky activities in DTKL

Smash! – a game about playing badminton

Blume – a game featuring rainforest creatures and flowers

Rotate & Go – a game highlighting trishaw riders in Penang

George Town – a game about blueprinting and building shophouses in Penang





Q: We understand that you would be attending the upcoming Asian Board Game Festival in Singapore. What do you hope to achieve and are there any promotions that you are having?


We are definitely excited about sharing both our published and prototyped games with anyone interested to try them out. Every purchase of Kaki Lima and Bansan will come with promo cards. A special Singapore Shopping List for Bansan was specially created in conjunction with ABGF2023, featuring a dish picked out by Daryl Chow!


Q: What is your website where the audience can find out more?


You can find Kaki Lima on this site:


You can find out more about Bansan on this site:


Also, we’ll have updates and posts across our social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram: @luma.net.my

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