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The multiplayer card game’s creators, including Romaine Lee (left), plan to work with the Ministry of Education on a video game version to engage students in the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum. IMAGES: SIM DING EN

Upgraded ‘Chao Recruit!’ Card Game Goes For (IPPT) Gold

If you’re a Blur Sotong when it comes to army lingo (we’re looking at you, pre-enlistees and NS GFs), or if you just want to “Semula!” those good ol’ national service days, then “Chao Recruit!” will put you right in the thick of Basic Military Training (BMT).

Launched via Kickstarter in 2021, the multiplayer made-in-Singapore card game was created by The NSXperience – which comprises a group of Singaporean youths (one of whom wanted to show her NSF boyfriend how serious she was about putting effort into understanding NS and relating to his experience).

The aim of the game is to complete BMT by gaining the most XP (experience), and becoming the most "Chao Recruit". But the bigger goal is to celebrate NS, to bridge the gap between those who’ve experienced NS and those who haven’t, and to demystify NS culture in a fun way. In the landscape of made-in-SG games, it's turned out to be “Company Best Recruit”, so to speak.

“We thought card-game enthusiasts would show interest in it. But we had a promo on Kickstarter which allowed people to customise their game IDs (designed to look like an 11B), and many girlfriends of NSFs personalised the 11Bs and bought the game as gifts,” says co-creator Romaine Lee, 24, a dancer who trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in the UK, and who is responsible for the game’s design and illustrations.

“It’s interesting to hear about people from all walks of life enjoying the game. We've seen older generations reminiscing about their own NS days. We also play-tested it with some primary school NCC kids, who picked it up easily, and learnt more about army lingo through this card game.”

Version 2.0 of “Chao Recruit!” launches today (1 July), which is, aptly, SAF Day, a day when members of the armed forces reaffirm their pledge of loyalty and dedication to the Singapore Armed Forces and the nation. It's also a day when we celebrate these brave servicemen and women who keep our island home safe.

Say "hello" to new card designs and more convenient packaging. | IMAGE: THE NSXPERIENCE

What’s new in “Chao Recruit!” 2.0?

Everything that was enjoyable about the first version of “Chao Recruit!” remains: the character IDs, the endearing and uniquely-Singaporean army lingo, the awesome Kena and Attack cards, and the quick game play (which averages 15min per round).

The biggest change is in the design and packaging. Expect better card stock (we played a round, and the cards really felt premium), more convenient packaging (instead of a fiddly top-flap, the box now slides out from its cover like a drawer for easy storage), and “upgraded” illustrations (every card will put a smile on your face!).

“We also looked into some of the game mechanics,” says Romaine, who received numerous DMs to clarify some of the rules in the first iteration. “We became, like, a little service centre in our customer service on our DMs, answering questions like, ‘Oh, what happens when this, this, this happens?’ So we decided to establish some rules that were easier to understand and implement.”

The NSXperience created a limited-edition card game in 2023 to commemorate the RSAF's 55th anniversary. | IMAGES: SIM DING EN (RSAF OPEN HOUSE) AND THE NSXPERIENCE (CARDS)

Other versions of “Chao Recruit!”

Romaine reveals that many people have asked if the creators are considering variations of the game for, say, other services. Well, you might have come across a limited-edition card game at the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House in September last year. It was created by The NSXperience too.

“We collaborated with RSAF and made an Air Force-themed card game to commemorate their 55th anniversary. It was limited to that event,” says Romaine. “But we would really love to look into building different expansion packs specific to other services.”

A video game version of "Chao Recruit!" could be part of students' CCE curriculum. | SCREENSHOTS: THE NSXPERIENCE

Version 3.0 – what’s next?

Unsurprisingly, the card game is on a mission into the digital realm. If all goes according to plan, a video-game collaboration between The NSXperience and Singapore’s Ministry of Education could see students experiencing NS in the classroom and having discussions about it as part of the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum.

Admittedly, there are some drawbacks. “Of course, you kind of lose out on the human interaction [of a card game] because you’re playing via the computer. But as an educational tool, it’s an interesting medium,” says Romaine.

“I think it will engage students because it’s a video game. And who doesn't wanna play video games?”


Our thoughts after playing a round of “Chao Recruit!” with Romaine

Kai: “In one word: nostalgia! It brought back bittersweet memories of BMT, where most of us chao recruits had our first taste of army life, but also experienced brotherly bonds when everyone was chiong-ing together.”

Nicholas: “I like the fact that the game is not so straightforward. The card pool allows for a lot of curveballs. You never know who’s going to win, and just when you think you do, there’s a chance to stop them from doing so. What I considered ‘powerful’ cards had ‘counter’ cards. That’s a sign of a good game.”

How much ah? Where to buy?

“Chao Recruit!” retails at $20 and is available on Lazada, Shopee, and at the following SAF commercial eMart outlets:

  • LifestyleMart @ THE CHEVRONS
    48 Boon Lay Way, #02-10, Singapore 609961
  • LifestyleMart @ SAFRA Punggol
    9 Sentul Cres, #02-04, Singapore 828654

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