A blast from the past

Azlan Othman

When Zaed Hani first learned about Brunei Darussalam of the early 1900s, instead of filing it away like most people would, he had another idea: To turn it into a card game called Letters To Brooketon.

Charles Brooke was the White Rajah of Sarawak in 1889. When he took over Muara Town, he renamed it Brooketon, where his administration set up the first post office.

“It was an interesting piece of history that I was not previously aware of,” Zaed admitted.

For years, he played around with the idea of creating a game that revolved around historical events. His first venture was a board game called Kawal, which was built around 17th Century Borneo.

“The response from the public wasn’t very good though,” he said.

The failure to rock the market didn’t dissuade him from trying again. As a matter of fact, upon learning about Brooketon, he went into research mode, which he called the “fun part of the project”.

Zaed Hani, the brainchild behind Letters To Brooketon, plays a game with patrons at Games & Lattes in Kiulap during the launch of the card game. PHOTOS: AZLAN OTHMAN
Letters To Brooketon comes in 104 playing cards

He said, “Most of the sources came from historians outside of Brunei, such as how coal mining first appeared in the Sultanate.”

Once he had gathered enough information, it was time to develop the card game.

“It took me a month to incorporate the events into game play and design the artwork,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that the game promoted interaction among the players and provided an opportunities for people to bond over a fun activity.”

He added, “It was the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in Brunei, and I was working from home. My curiosity and boredom led me to designing a card game that was fast-paced and had various mechanisms as its main features.”

The 104-card game requires between three and six players. It involves a miner and a mole.

It is a strategy game, and the player that reaches five points first wins the game.

In August, the card game was launched at Games & Lattes in Kiulap and the response has so far been encouraging.

Letters To Brooketon is the first game from Comet Games available on a large scale,” he said, beaming with pride. “Almost 150 sets have been sold.”

Zaed, who is also a musician, believes that the local creative industry is growing, including game developers and entrepreneurs.

He plans on introducing the card game to neighbouring markets, such as Malaysia and Singapore, to take advantage of the niche of a uniquely Brunei card game among card game enthusiasts.

“I hope to take Comet Games to great heights,” he said. “I’m looking to organise a tournament at the end of this year to further promote Letters To Brooketon.”