Reimagining Board Games: Design Intervention for Indian Craft forms-H.S. Dharmendra

Traditional board games of India are quite simple in their construct. With an exception of few, most of them can be played by instantly conjuring the pattern on the floor with a piece of chalk or charcoal, while pebbles or twigs or colurful bangle slivers become the counters and split tamarind seeds serve as dice. Games like Pagaday (Pachisi/Chaupad/Chausar), Aligulimane (Mancala), Snakes and Ladders and Chess need complex boards or counters to play with. Such gameboards and their accessories were created as beautiful artefacts in different craft forms in days gone by. The main aim of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP) (Mysuru based art foundation) is to support craft traditions of the land. Hence it brought together the traditions of board games and crafts for its boardgames exhibition, Kreedaa Kaushalya. RKP has had these exhibitions in the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. Board games (designed by me) were created as beautiful hand-crafted artefacts for these exhibitions. To begin with, I study a craft-form before the design intervention. There is success of only 3 out of 9 designs. Not all craft forms can be used to create board games. The medium and complexity of each craft-form lends uniqueness and beauty to a game. I am working with about 30 craft clusters across India to produce game boards and accessories, a few of which are as follows…
Kalamkari, Solapur dhurry, Rivergrass mat, Wood Inlay, Silk embroidery, Bidri, Kinhala chowki, Batik, Palmleaf etching, Wood lacquerware and Wood polychrome.
Challenges: Designing and production are capital intensive. Since all elements are hand made, the consistency in quality is a major issue. The production quantity is small; supply of large quantities at short notice is not possible. Cost keeps increasing due to increase in the cost of raw materials. This talk is an attempt to narrate a brief sketch of my journey with RKP in designing and producing board games.

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