Consider this children’s board game called “Elections.” You have to choose between two parties. One is known to be corrupt. The other is communal. What makes the game interesting is that the corrupt party is somewhat communal too, and the communal party is somewhat corrupt too. One road leads to disaster, the other to calamity.
This board game incorporates the essence of many other board games. There are snakes and ladders. There are banks, wads of money, and the wrong throw of the dice could land you in jail.
You could find yourself on a square handling the waterworks or income tax. Sometimes you are given letters to make words with which have to be connected to the words already on the board. For example, “elect” could be extended to “electricity”, or “nation” to “nationalism”.
One section has 64 squares where you can capture your opponent’s pieces by simply jumping over them diagonally. Anyone who, out of kindness of heart, refuses to do so is set upon by the other players and lynched. When a coin reaches the other end of the board, it becomes a “king” and can not only move backwards too, but say what it wants to whether true or not. The same section can be used for a game where the raja moves just one square at a time but in exceptional circumstances moves more. The wazir moves all over as it attempts to place his pawns in advantageous positions.
Our board game also borrows from ludo, which was invented in India, and played by the Mughal rulers who now go by their Hindu names. Sometimes a player dies mysteriously, and you have to guess who did it, how and where.
Clues are available, and you can deduce for example, that Professor Plum was the murderer who killed in the conservatory using a candlestick. Anyone pointing that out, however, will be shot by a revolver in the billiard room. For the more aggressive, there is also Battleships played on a grid where the idea is to guess where the battleships are hidden and destroy them. Much scope for bluffing here.
For those too sensitive to abide capture, killing or destruction, our board game is also influenced by Chinese checkers where no one kills anyone, and the idea is to move your pieces from one end of the board to the other after jumping over pieces, sometimes your own. This last might make you unpopular with a small coterie but it won’t matter because as Henry Kissinger nearly said, victory is power which is an aphrodisiac and therefore victory is an aphrodisiac.
“Elections” (to give the board game its name) can be fun for the whole family. You can have winners, but seldom losers.
And if your great grandfather won in his time, that is reason enough for you to expect to win by merely turning up. And if you do lose, you can always blame the board, or insist it is laid out all wrong. The fun never ends.
(Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu)
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