Board beyond relief

I realized that I mentioned board games in my last post but never ended up getting to it, so a quick followup was in order. I have always had an unhealthy obsession with board games. Having grown up learning chess at a very early age from my grandmother (She called the Rook “Elefend” and the Queen “Kyoon”), I soon developed a taste for turn based dice games, after realizing that cheating at chess, what with “Elefends” taking liberties with the straightness of their movements and bishops deviating slightly from their diagonals, just to win against my grandmother wasn’t really fun anymore, especially when I realized that she was letting me cheat and get away with it.

The first really sophisticated and downright addictive turn based game I was introduced to was a relic from the 1940s called Wembley. It was a full fledged simulation of the FA cup from that era. You managed teams, bought star players and calculated probabilities with a unique set of 6 loaded dice (3 favourable ones for home games, and 3 unfavourable ones for away games) to coax one of your teams to victory in the grand final at Wembley. This game kept us thoroughly engrossed through Chennai summers, sometimes to the point where we would get through about 4 or 5 games in a single day.

Having the bar set this high rather early, we found the Indian board game market rather disappointing. The very best games hardly ever made it here, and Wembley was starting to get a little repetitive. That was when we decided to design our own board games. Actually, “design” would be a rather specious thing to say. We mostly “adapted” good board games and set them in a local context. For instance, we created a Ranji Trophy version of Wembley, although the notion of buying and selling cricketers was unheard of in the late 80s.

I have always wondered what were the rules of the dice game the Pandavas played with the Kauravas. The original texts are rather obscure on this particular point. I mean, it couldn’t be a simple “Let-both-players-roll-and-the-highest-number-wins” sort of yawn-inducing game right? Surely, that cannot be spectator friendly. After all, we are told that the entire court was watching. So surely, there was some underlying board involved? What was it? Snakes and Ladders? Ha! Son of Dharma, your 3 leads you into the Snake infested forest while my 4 leads me to the Ladder to Draupadi. Was it some early form of Monopoly? Did Yudhisthira lose Draupadi at the Hotel on Hastinapura Avenue or the 4 houses on Indraprastha Place? Did Shakuni win the 400 gold coin Bank error in his favour? Did Yudi get assessed  for  “Street Repairs” on Chance after he built 3 houses on Dwarka Street? I don’t know.


On the subject of Monopoly, yet another game that I spent many an hour on, I quickly realized that playing by the official rule book made the game rather one-sided pretty quickly, sort of like how Tamil audiences in the 90s could predict, to the accurate nanosecond, when Goundamani was going to beat Senthil. Monopoly gets too predictable too quickly.

Perhaps I overestimate the number of board game geeks in this city, but should there not be a Madras edition of Monopoly? At least this gentleman and me seem to think so.  Perhaps it should be named Saravana Stores, after the nearest synonym for the original name. But I’d like to introduce some serious changes in the game play, to make it more Madras specific and in general more competitive.

First off, Free Parking has got to go. TANSTAFP (There aint no such thing….) . That dysfunctional location will be replaced with a Chance like set of cards that deal with various Chennai traffic motifs such as:

  • Pay Rs 200 towards end of month collection drive bribe to constable
  • Pay Rs 100 fine for having wrong kind of license plate.
  • Music system stolen from car. Rs 200
  • Miss a turn – Stay stuck here because the CM’s motorcade has blocked all roads

Those 4 boring railroads will be replaced by

  • MRTS
  • MTC
  • Madras Autos
  • Call Taxis

And each of them will have their own set of rules. Opponents landing on “Madras autos”,  for instance, will pay an “over-the-meter” rent, in other words, 25 multipled by whatever they rolled on their die + 1 (if one is playing during day time) and + 4 (if one is playing at night). If you land at the MRTS square, you need to pay rent only if there is a blue moon visible through the window. Yes, the train frequency is pretty rare, after all.

Chance cards will include Madras staples such as

  • Pay Rs 400 for whitewashing P James Magic Show graffiti from your wall
  • Rs 100 – Medical expenses incurred due to questionable fish fry at Elliots beach
  • Pay 200 for post-deepavali garbage cleaning operations

Water works and Electric company will be replaced with Saravanan Thanni Lorry Inc and TNEB. Owning the Thanni lorry, you can strategically deprive certain areas of water and lower their rents. People landing on TNEB will miss one turn in addition to paying the rent because hey,have you ever stood in a TNEB queue?


59 thoughts on “Board beyond relief

  1. I’ve been following your blog pretty frequently, nice stuff 🙂 anyway this whole madras monopoly thing is an awesome idea, and if you ever plan to make one, count me in, i’m totally game for any kind of help you need, despite the lethargic MRTS and the exorbitant autos, i still love namma chennai!

  2. That was Awesome!
    I liked the board game very much…
    Madras monopoly is GREATEST IDEA. Will join hands to implement it 😀
    Roftl!! Love your blog too 🙂

  3. tneb queue and fish fry thingy rocks
    grafitti thingy is also interesting…
    Rooom pottu yosipingala ayya???
    Sooper Dooper board game 🙂
    Will teach my kids this board game 😛 (ofc. in future)

  4. krish Ashok nice to see u update your blog so quickly. U seriously have some ultra creative brain. I flabbergasted by this Madras monopoly. Also included the umpteen no of subway’s but not completed for the past 10 years so. If you fall in that kuzhi u loose three chances.

    KA also how can u forget that helmet bribe man they leave all the thieves but catch guys without helmet. “Courtkku pona 500 ana enkitta 100”. hahahahahaha 🙂

  5. Hahaha… hilarious post! We should also have a ‘Police raids Park Wines. Go to jail’. 😛

    Man… I know EXACTLY what you mean about the P James graffiti. It’s everywhere! And if you notice, they’re mostly dull red in color, and the handwriting resembles the hate graffiti written by pro-Nazi Germans on the walls of Jew-owned shops during World War II. 😀

    1. Oh Scrabble. I spent most of my 4th year engineering playing Scrabble in the back benches. Yes, we were that geeky. We kept scores and a champions list. We memorized words like “Da” and “Qi” cos they were absolute life savers. But Scrabble has always been about uppity English speaking vocabulary skills and little more. So to beat some one because you memorized a word like Ue seemed silly to me. If you like board games, try “Settlers of Catan”. It tests ones ability to understand probability, to plan and heck, even bargaining skills.

  6. Too much!! Been to Chennai only once, for just a day.. still there is so much I can relate to. The auto fares and Saravana Stores rock 🙂

  7. Pallankuzhi would be a good game for madras yes .. pallams and kuzhis one after the other on our roads.

    As for this –
    > People landing on TNEB will miss one turn in addition to paying the rent because hey,
    >have you ever stood in a TNEB queue?

    Never. I just pay online at (ditto metrowater rates and property tax, bsnl / vodafone bills etc on their own websites).

    Now that I pay online, I hardly ever use a pen. I used to at least sign a check once in a while to give myself some excuse to hold a pen. But even that’s gone and its all http:// something or the other.

    Ah well, there’s always the occasional courier / speedpost to sign for. Handwriting is a dying art, I tell you.

  8. long time reader..first comment..sooper.. Hope u drishti-suthify each of ur posts.. And yea catan rocks..! Jus played d mobile version n loved it..

  9. Boy! Amazing. Can relate to everything. How can we miss SHARE AUTO. You get a free hit (literally you do if you are in a two wheeler!!) if you manage to escape unscathed – inside or outside.

    1. Not a fan of patents. I do realize that some form of intellectual property protection is required in any society that values innovation but I fundamentally disagree with the system currently in place, at least when it comes to the internet. Digital things are very different from physical things and therefore require a very different legal treatment when it comes to patents, but our IP system does not seem recognize that difference. Not that I have a better design in mind for a patent system, but yeah, the current IP system helps just one class of people – lawyers, and that’s never a good thing for society.

  10. What a riot of an idea! Would somply be too good! I too seriously miss Business and Monopoly big time man. and nice analogy with the goundamani, senthil thing.

  11. Lovely Krish. Maybe the Saravana Stores game could also include – “Yen appa yaar-nu thiriyum illay” to replace the Get Out of Jail Free card.

  12. I guess TB (Tam Brahm) grannies are pretty good at chess and call the rook and the queen the exact same thing around the world. This observation stems from the fact that I had the exact same experiences as a kid.

    And how did you forget Share Autos in Madras?

  13. Recently stumbled here and have been hooked ever since 🙂 Awesome blog and super creative thought. Love the Madras monopoly. We used to play my grandma’s painstakingly steel plated version – (I still have it – a mega relic). it was called TRADE I believe 🙂

  14. Looks like we have an orkut +rediff comentator here. as for P. James, I have friends in vellore and coimbatore who are helping spread the word through their college walls! i still haven’t attended a single show of his though.

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