Breathe easy. They’re just a group of gamers who are hooked on everything from trying to be a Mongol warlord, to a castle owner and vineyard magnate, all on a gaming board, finds Ismat Tahseen
It’s one of Mumbai’s less known secrets. On a quiet day you might find group of 20-somethings hushed together over a table. They’ve got a few million between them and yet they’re about to make a few deals with the precision and tact that might leave older folk in the shade. The pragmatic bunch must outdo each other in a two-hour strategy game to play, negotiate and have the maximum resources and money. They’re playing a game called Settlers of Catan. Say hello to a meetup of Mumbai Board Gamers. One of its main founders, Karan Vashisht, says, “Forget the classics like Ludo and Monopoly -- this is game is Monopoly on steroids; it’s the game of the moment.”
Playing Game of Life, which simulates a person’s travels through his/her life, from college to a job, marriage and kids
Variety is... a roll of the dice!
The game is quite similar to its counterpart and involves buying and selling of certain stock and, if you play your cards right, you can rev up your demand as these 16 to 25-year olds do. “There’s a lot of treachery and backstabbing here, with people aiming to hoard their cards and opponents aim to play a single stroke that will diminish their stock and oust them from the game. So, this really is no game for kids,” he explains. For the younger group (under 12) there is Pitchcar, which takes place on an F1 racing track placed on a 8X5 circuit made of wood where the first to reach finish line, wins. And that’s just dipping into one of the 430 board games the group has in its kitty. From a group that began with just four members, they are now an 863-strong club with members from all over the city. Karan (whose gaming name name is K2), talks about the journey. “We realised that there was such a thirst with people to play good, strategy games. Games that require you to test your mettle, mentally. How often you may have played a game on the iPad that’s so stimulating and wished it was more physical and hands-on? That’s how these games are.” With a few other friends, he brought down games from abroad and since their very first gaming session in 2012, the bunch has taken fun seriously. Gamers love Panic in the Wall Street where traders enter into a mind battle with investors or even Race for the Galaxy where you must build a galactic empire and defend it from evil galactic invaders.
Gamers try their hand at buying stock
Rules of the game
A few board game events like the one organised at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum at Byculla last week, saw a packed hall. Of course, since it is an open forum, they also did get all kinds of folk coming in. Says another organiser Kamlesh Avasare. “We did have a bad experience once where we found that a few guys strayed in only to try and hook up with some girls; we asked them to leave immediately.” Since then they have rules that won’t contend with spoilsports, flying tempers and discourtesy. “We make that very clear at the start. We have strict mandates like, ‘Do not cheat’, ‘No stealing’ and ‘Be courteous to everyone, especially ladies’. Misbehaviour is shown the door straightaway.”
A funny game called Will where the objective is to get poor the fastest
When and how much?
Another founder member, Prashant Maheshwari, met up with fellow game lover Mohit Goel, who operates a website that imports a range of board games to India at a slightly more affordable price. ‘It’s still not easy,” says Prashant, who is also called Pakz, adding, “The import duty is as high as 60-80 per cent on these games so we have been musing over levying a small registration fee.” Often the game events take place at a café and mini meals are provided. So far, three cafes have supported them, Zen Café at Lower Parel and the XVII Tea Room and Doolally Taproom at Bandra.
There are big plans ahead for the monsoon season. “We’re planning a marathon session June-end with food, prizes and game giveaways too,” reveals Karan. “Gamers from Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi have shown interest towards it,” he grins.
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