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Uttarakhand gets its own board game for the elections

Garhwal Post, January 25, 2007

As campaigning for the state assembly elections hots up, a new strategy board game provides a different way to conquer Uttarakhand

This week, perhaps the first strategy board game based on the Uttarakhand Himalayas has been launched via the internet, and hopes to bring a unique perspective to the current election season.

Succinctly titled the Uttarakhand Board Game, the family entertainment package is the latest creation of Rajiv Rawat, founder of uttarakhand.org, which is also celebrating ten years online as the first ever web site devoted to the Uttarakhand region.

The game is set in the 13-15th centuries of Uttarakhand’s middle ages, after the collapse of the Katyuri Empire and before the rise of the Garhwal and Kumaon kingdoms when no central authority governed the land. Two to six players assume the role of one of many petty chieftains who attempt to unite all the lands under their dynastic control. This involves defeating opponents who attempt to do the same by building forts and engaging in battle over a map loosely based on the old perganas of pre-20th century Garhwal and Kumaon. Alliances can be forged or broken even while one seeks the favour of the gods through tapashya.

As a strategy war game, the Uttarakhand Board Game is not unlike RISKâ„¢ or other popular games in their game play or objectives. As Rawat notes, the medieval period of Uttarakhand lends itself ideally to such a concept, where even Garhwal, the western portion of the state, literally means the “land of forts.” However, he claims that the game play mechanics balance simplicity with variation and cultural customization to make this also an ideal tool for educational purposes, especially about the history of Uttarakhand, a land steeped in myth and legend.

The game is currently in the testing phase and has been released to the public to enlist the maximum number of participants from around the world. All the game pieces and instructions can be downloaded from the web site: boardgame.prayaga.org. The game pieces can also be imaginatively substituted with tokens from other games.

Coincidentally, the game launches in a historic month for Uttarakhand, with the passing away of Manabendra Shah, last ruling monarch of Garhwal and with the state reclaiming its ancient name of Uttarakhand. However, perhaps most on the minds of Uttarakhand residents is the looming state elections where an alphabet soup of parties and a record setting number of office seekers are in the fray.

Despite its historical nature, Rawat sees clear parallels with the upcoming polls, which were very much on his mind when he designed the game.

“Ironically, the recent controversies faced by almost every party over ticket distribution, mirrors the political fragmentation of the medieval era”, says Rawat. “At its best, the trend represents a healthy state of democracy. Unfortunately, it more likely reflects a case of over-politicization where the old derogatory but apt adage applies — too many leaders, not enough Indians.”

The game emerged out of a brain wave from Rawat’s recent travels and immersion into the rich and varied culture of Uttarakhand, so much of which harks back to the period depicted in the game. From watching plays in the Shakespearean mold, to ballads about legendary figures from the last millennium, to sword play and dances that celebrate the region’s martial and mythic traditions, Rawat was heartened to find such enthusiasm for Uttarakhand’s heritage. As such, he sees this game as a small but novel tribute to the cultural and social activists at the heart of this renaissance.

Interestingly, Rawat is no monarchist nor sympathetic to feudalism of any kind. While he finds the middle ages endlessly fascinating, the lives of common people were undoubtedly made worse by all the internecine bloodshed of the chieftains. Rawat hopes at some point to model the periodic peasant revolts and movements in the region, but is saving this for an expansion pack for the game. The web site will also be continuously expanded to include ongoing research into the rich history of Uttarakhand.



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