It was the perfect hugot weather, but if I had expected to meet a dark, brooding man behind the Hugot Card Game, it just wasn’t in the cards.
Thomas Regala was wearing black, yes: his company’s shirt as he just came straight from his call center job in Boni Avenue. But if gravity didn’t fasten him to the ground, he probably would’ve been floating and bouncing lightly off the walls.
He was alternately giddy and apologetic, turning serious only for brief moments when he remembered his informative spiels and talked about his research.
“Marketing prepared me for this. They gave me pointers, like what not to order. They told me not to drink coffee or tea, lest I get hyper. But, well…,” he trailed off, motioning resignedly to his tall, bright-orange glass of caffeine and sugar topped with a hefty serving of whipped cream.
Regala said he started creating games in 2014. He carried around a box of cards, which he described as part portfolio, part laboratory.
“The work (at the call center) is technically a bit light, that’s why I can develop games on the side,” he explained.
“I feel very blessed to have workmates who understand my needs. Hugot was tested on them. All my other games went through them one way or another,” he said. “I’m really happy because my workmates are family.”
Regala said he looked up to Seiji Kanai, the creator of a quick and simple card game called Love Letter.
“Imagine: four players, 16 cards. Wow,” he continued. “And when I saw how it was designed… it’s so efficient
—Japanese level of efficiency. I decided to pattern my games and my approach after his: casual, micro, very light. Just filler games to be played during break time.”
“Other game designers plan to make The Big One. Even I want to make The Big One. But, you don’t get to The Big One right away, you have to level it up, scale it up,” he explained.
Regala swore he didn’t know “how to hugot” before creating the Hugot Card Game.
But in 2015, he found himself at the end of a relationship. Incidentally, a friend was similarly going through a breakup at that time. They had different ways of coping.
“Some people drink… I make games,” he said.
Meanwhile, his friend Coleen Oliva flooded people’s newsfeeds with hugot posts.
“Sabi ko, kung hindi sya titigil, gagawan ko s’ya ng game,” he recalled.
And when she didn’t stop, he made good on his promise/threat and started conceptualizing the Hugot Card Game in 2016.
“I thought, ‘I have something good here,’” he recalled. So despite people telling him it wasn’t a good idea to publish a game in small quantities (it would end up costing more per deck), Regala said he just wanted to try it out. He had 30 copies printed.
“Most of the people who bought it are my friends… but it got the attention of people.”
By the middle of 2017, Regala and his group, The Epic Gaming Regiment, had gotten into a partnership with Ludus Distributors to mass-produce the Hugot Card Game. Just this month, they released the expansion pack, Hugot Pa More.
Currently, Regala is working on other games.
“Nowadays, I make microgames: Games that you can play with the minimum amount of items,” he explained. “The reason I’m making small games is that I realize that the Filipino market is open but they’re not yet ready for the normal prices of board games.”
“Another goal,” Regala said, “is for us to develop and nurture independent board game design in the Philippines. For example, when someone wants to make a board game, the resources will be ready. We can help that person out: Here’s the printer, here’s the designer. If you want to get it published, we have publishers. That’s one of our goals, too—not just to make games, but also to make more people play games and to make more people make games for those people.”
—NASTASHA VERAYO-DE VILLA