Children playing at the convention
| Photo Credit: special arrangement

We are in the backwaters of Kerala’s Alappuzha, rowing vicariously through meticulously marked and beautifully-illustrated race courses, in boats made of cardboard. Vallamkali, a light strategy board game inspired by the famed boat races of Kerala, has us – a group of five – hooked. We loudly bid and chant, with bated breath, as the race begins. Easily the loudest table there , we were later told.

Spread out on adjoining tables are other board games, most of which are made by Indian companies, each with a distinctive design, inviting keen players as they walk into TTOX Chennai, the city’s first ever board game convention. Here, you find games that follow the local spirits of Ladakh; the architecture and design of Taj Mahal, or the business strategy of a tea stall with a steady flow of customers apart from the battles fought that make history as we know it today.

An attempt to bring the already-thriving community of Chennai boardgamers, publishers and designers together, the event saw a footfall of almost 400 gamers, designers and enthusiasts. “The fact that there are more than 10 board game cafes in Chennai is testament to the strength of the community here,” says Phalgun Polepalli of Bengaluru-based Mozaic Games, who brought this novel format of a convention to Chennai.

Designers and creators playtest their new games

Designers and creators playtest their new games
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Apart from playtest tables (categorised into light-medium games and medium-heavy games) where anyone can try a game even if that entails hours of continuous gameplay, there was a library with 700 games mostly donated by volunteers and cafes, a games shop, and a table solely dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons. “D&D is a favourite among the Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha because they watch shows like Stranger Things. The dungeon master, Arvindh Sundar, one of the best in the country, ended up doing three sessions!” Phalgun says.

“This is a catalyst and will accelerate a culture where people are free to choose any game they want and sit with it, in no rush.”

Fifty percent of the participant crowd was from outside Chennai, travelling from Lucknow, Chandigarh, Kanpur and Bengaluru to experience the convention. Eager participants played games like Ankh: Gods of Ancient Egypt (where you can play as an ancient god from Egypt) and Chai Garam (where you can be the owner of a tapri in the heart of the mela) well after hours, adds Phalgun.

Chennai as a market is picking up fast, which is why conventions of this scale play a major role . The number of board game cafes in the city and their growing collection often only create players, and not buyers.

The game library had close to 700 games donated by volunteers and cafes

The game library had close to 700 games donated by volunteers and cafes
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

Girin Nayak of the two-year-old Chennai-based Xotoxo Games says, “I was playtesting the game Masala Lab based on the book by author Krish Ashok here, and the response has been good. Food and heritage often get people’s attention. For a beginner, the novelty lies in seeing familiar themes, and for the seasoned player, it lies in how well the theme has been integrated into the gameplay.”

The biggest takeaway from the event was how supportive the boardgame cafe ecosystem of Chennai is, adds Phalgun. They were not only receptive, but very supportive and helpful. “It is truly a community driven by a passionate love for games.”



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