In the world of gaming, video gaming is like the younger brother that gets all the attention. Sure it has matured a lot over the years but everybody tends to pay less attention to the older sibling. Why are we making this analogy? Well, the older sibling in question is tabletop gaming and there’s no denying that the masses have all but forgotten about tabletop games.
Some of you reading this might have fond memories of family game nights where everybody sat down for a game of “Snakes and Ladders” or “Business” but those days hardly come by anymore. One of the reasons that contributed to the lack of growth of tabletop gaming in India was probably the idea that board games were meant only for children. However, times are changing and slowly but surely, tabletop gaming is making a resurgence all around the world. Even in our country.
There is a wide variety of tabletop games out there. From board games, to puzzles, to card games, and even games like Carom and Jenga. Of course, we can’t forget classics like Chess and Checkers, which are pretty much evergreen. These are games which you’ve heard off even if you don’t play them.
But here’s the thing, even within these different types of tabletop games there is a wide variety or genre of games to choose from. Someone who doesn’t normally indulge in tabletop games nowadays, would be very surprised to see the choices available.
Tabletop games and India
When it comes to tabletop games, India is not a very big player. Until just a year or two ago, India contributed to as little as 0.5 percent of all board game sales in the world, according to Jeswant R, senior VP — sales and marketing, Funskool India. Considering our population, that’s very tiny.
This is in part because we (economically speaking) opened up to the rest of the world pretty late. Thanks to this, we weren’t exposed to a lot of the things that were popular in the west. This is the reason we never heard of or saw many of the popular earlier game consoles in the market or many of the popular board games of the time. It’s very possible that individuals who are over the age of 40 or so right now, probably never played or heard of many of the board games that were played by those generations younger than them, save a select few, most of which have their origins in India.
However, over the past few years, Tabletop gaming has begun to rise in popularity, at least in metropolitan cities. One major contributing factor is our fascination and adoption of western culture, especially their TV shows. One sitcom in particular has made tabletop games fairly popular: The Big Bang Theory. Be it an on-paper role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons or a board game like Settlers of Catan or even a card game like “Mystic Warlords of Ka’a” which has a theme similar to the classic card game Magic: The Gathering, The Big Bang Theory definitely made it cool to own and play tabletop games again. It also showed us that you didn’t really need to be a kid in order to play or enjoy tabletop games.
Of course, this is just one factor, albeit a big one. The influence of western culture has always been a big part of the direction trends seem to go in this country.
Another factor which contributes to the rise of tabletop games in India is the internet. Thanks to e-commerce sites like Amazon, it’s easier than ever to acquire tabletop games. It was quite difficult to acquire internationally popular games in India prior to that. It still is in some cases. Also, thanks to the many variations of board games that are adopted into video games on social media sites and such, the masses became more aware of their existence.
The final major factor that is contributing to the growth of tabletop games in the country, in our opinion, is the inclusion of them at popular hang-out locations like cafes and bars. It has become common for newly opened cafes and bars to have a few board games and card games around to pass the time while waiting for meals. There are in fact cafes dedicated to tabletop gaming, where gaming is the priority and snacking an add-on. Think of them as gaming arcades but much cozier and for tabletop games only.
Needless to say, interests in tabletop gaming have definitely soared lately.
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get right to the playing! Of course, you would have already noticed one big thing about tabletop games that makes them very different from other forms of entertainment and gaming. There are little to no single player tabletop games. Most of them require at least a minimum of two players in order to play. So you’re going to need somebody to play with. If you’ve got a group of friends ready to dive into tabletop gaming with you, that’s great. If you’re looking for a new family activity, then you’ve got a solution for that as well.
For all you solo players out there, even groups who are looking to expand their numbers or want to play with more people, you could always visit one of the board gaming cafes. The most prominent one that comes to mind is Creeda Board Game Cafe in Mumbai. Or Dice N Dine in Bangalore. The tabletop gaming scene is much more prominent in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and even as of recently, Hyderabad. So it’ll be much easier for you to find like-minded players if you’re located in these cities.
The cool thing about these gaming cafes is that they’re stocked with games. There’s so much variety that you will be overwhelmed by the amount of choice you have. Of course, a lot of these places have guides to help you out and explain the rules of a new game you want to play. And, if you happen to enjoy a game, some of these places even sell them.
Where to start?
If you have decided that tabletop gaming does indeed tickle your fancy, you’re going to need guidance, a game master if you will. A great place to start would be one of the cafes we mentioned above. Like we mentioned, there are guides who can teach you the game and play with you, so that the next time you visit, you can do the same for your friends.
Cafes are a great place for casual gaming sessions, but if you’re looking for something more hardcore and want to spend the entire day playing more complicated games with longer gaming sessions or continue where your previous gaming session left off, you’ll want to look for like-minded individuals to play with. Your best bet in this case, would be to look for groups and communities. The Mumbai Board Gamers and Bangalore Board Gamers groups are great places to start with. Of course you’re not limited to them, but they’re great to find people with a passion for tabletop games. They’re groups on Facebook that often organise weekly meetups and tabletop gaming sessions. They also thoroughly vet people seeking membership to ensure that only the right kind of crowd get into the group.
These groups often host large gatherings and meet-ups featuring plenty of games. Look out for special occasions like International Tabletop Day, which is mostly when they organise such events. These are the most happening places in the country when it comes to tabletop gaming.
If you’re already familiar with tabletop games, then don’t be afraid to jump right in and experiment with new games. You never know when you’ll find a new favourite. If you’re just starting out in the world of tabletop gaming, there’s no better place to start than with the classics. We’ll even list out a few so you can grab them yourselves. They’re fairly easy to come-by and should be really easy to get.
To start things off, you have Monopoly, which is among the first games that became popular in the nation. Even those born in the 70’s should be familiar with this one. Monopoly is also the most purchased board game in the country.
Another instant classic is Scrabble, everybody knows about Scrabble. Everybody’s grandma knows about scrabble.
How about a card game for a change? And what better game than Uno. Simple, unpredictable, and at times, chaotic enough to end friendships. A good round of Uno is a lot of fun.
Snakes and Ladders, and Ludo are kind of the default when you think about tabletop games in India, and for a reason. You don’t get more evergreen than this. We’re sure some uncle is gifting this to his niece or nephew somewhere in the country right now.
For those who want a bit of strategy in their lives, there’s always Chess. This is probably the only tabletop game that’s played competitively. And don’t say table tennis.
And lastly, Carrom. This one is also very well known in India, especially towards the south.
What’s everybody playing?
So now we’ve established where you can play and what to start with, let’s find out what’s up and coming in the nation.
One game that immediately comes to mind is Settlers of Catan, which has become widely popular in India and worldwide. Catan is a game that relies more on skill than luck. This genre of game is called a Eurogame and most of them usually involve a degree of thinking and strategy. Another popular game from the genre is Terra Mystica, which is again a German (or Eurogame) where luck has a very small role to play.
For adults, the card game ‘Cards among Humanity’ has become quite popular, thanks to YouTube and again, western TV shows. It’s a great game to play during social gatherings. The classic pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons is still played in some places though it’s still rare and collectible deck-building card games which became popular due to cartoon shows are aplenty in the country. We’re talking about shows like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Duel Masters.
The best part about it all is the discovery. You never know when you might come across a particular board game that you might enjoy.
Conclusion: Why tabletop games?
In today’s day and age where everybody is glued to a screen at any given time, even though you may be checking your “social” media and playing “online” with other people, you can’t exactly call that socialising. It’s far from it. We’re straying away from it for that matter. Tabletop gaming is a great way to socialise. Its social and community aspects are something that make it worth taking some time out of our busy days. And it’s fun, so why the heck not?
Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh
If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.