We conducted a poll on our Instagram page a few days ago, asking you, our readers, if you thought board games should make a comeback. The response was a resounding, unanimous ‘Yes’. I was hardly surprised. I don’t think anyone was. After all, games are a really fun form of social interaction and I don’t think we’ve ever lived in times when we needed REAL social interaction more than we do today.
Taamaa, a contemporary design brand from Gurgaon, is offering some compelling starting points to go back to board games that we may not have played since we were kids. Think Ludo, Checkers, Brainvita and the like. In addition, they have a diverse portfolio of products ranging from iPad sleeves to hip flasks. Each object they make is very thoughtfully designed with function and a modern aesthetic in mind. But the games are, in my opinion, their most novel creation and a great peek into what Taamaa is all about as a brand. High quality board games built with good materials and really nice finish – such a simple but fresh idea.
In a nutshell
Taamaa’s interpretation of classic board games in a modern, minimalist, high-quality avatar is among the coolest product ideas I’ve come across lately. Their games are very pleasing to the eye and a great thing to have at home for a family evening to get everyone together. Or simply when you’re looking for an alternative to binge-watching a TV show online. I think I’ve found my gift idea for this summer.
Apart from novelty and nostalgia, the games point towards Taamaa’s philosophy about products and design – a thoughtful design process with details and materials at its heart, to give you an enjoyable, functional everyday object.
I spent time with their Ludo and Brainvita, but they also have Checkers, Snakes & Ladders, Tic Tac Toe, Tango puzzle and spinning tops.
Board games and the historical Indian connection
History shows board games first existed about 5000 years ago. Ur and Senet, in Iraq and Egypt respectively, are regarded as the oldest played games. India has played a fair part in this history too, by giving the world games that evolved into Chess, Ludo and Snakes & Ladders as we know them today.
Modern board games have come a long way. They tend to involve more strategy and are more current. But there’s something so simple and charming about the games we’ve been playing for a few hundred years. Last year, I rediscovered the joy of Ludo, playing it with my family, albeit on an iPad. There was a bit of reluctance initially as I had mentally written it off as a kids game. But once four full-grown adults sat together to play, it all changed. There was laughter, suspense, hysteria when an opponent was too close on the board, and finally, unadulterated joy when you got to send one of the tokens back home (‘geetee kaatna!‘).
Simple games like Ludo and Checkers are a good place to start again and can be stepping stones to others like the notoriously dark Cards Against Humanity, which has kept many a party vibrant and alive.
Taamaa’s Prisma Ludo
I haven’t seen a better looking game of Ludo than what Taamaa makes. Sure, there are some very ornate chessboards, but for simple games, I just remember a lot of plastic and oversaturated colours from my childhood. This one doesn’t look childish by any stretch.
Taamaa’s Prisma Ludo comes in a wooden box with a powder blue lid that is balsa wood covered with bonded leather. The playing board has a soft, matte touch and there are no rough edges or unfinished corners anywhere. It’s the feel and finish of materials that adds another layer of enjoyment to the overall playing experience. Even the sound of wood when opening and closing the box is satisfying and this interaction with natural materials is really joyful.
There are a few interesting details on the branding and packaging side as well. The box has neat cut-outs for the the dice and tokens on each side of the board. This feels a lot better than retiring the pieces to pouches and closed compartments. Here, you’re ready to play the moment you open it. And when you open it, you see ‘Taamaa – Made in India’ engraved on the inside of the lid. That definitely put a proud smile on my face.
As I mentioned earlier, India, in fact, gave the world Ludo. Indigenous games Chaupar and Pachisi are Ludo’s predecessors, with their most famous fan being Mughal emperor Akbar, who played it on a life sized board with people as moving pieces!
Taamaa’s Leisure Brainvita
Now from family time to alone time – Brainvita is a single player game. You may remember this game with the objective of having just one marble remaining in the end at the centre of the board. It has a kind of Rubik’s cube quality to it, in that you have to try different moves and approaches before you start to get it right. Given the slick form Taamaa makes it in, I can almost see it in Harvey Specter’s office.
Playing Brainvita got me wanting to do more in solitude. This game is great for a day when you want to kick back with a coffee or pint and just be by yourself.
Like the Prisma Ludo, construction of Taamaa’s Brainvita is top notch too. It’s covered in bonded leather for a premium look, with blended stitches around the edges. Whereas the cross-shaped playing board with holes for marbles is made of polished, reflective metal. Bonded leather is not the same as leather made from a single piece of hide, but it feels appropriate for the kind of product at hand. No one can really guess it’s a game when the box is closed, which means it’ll fit anywhere in your home with its coffee brown leather exterior.
What the design and finish of games say about Taamaa
Taamaa is an in-house brand of Loco Design, a design studio founded by Parminder Pal Singh in Delhi back in 1997. The folks behind Taamaa seem to truly care about design, quality, functionality as well as how all three come together. It’s quite evident even in the board games they make. There are no gaps in construction or execution and the products have a very warm hand feel thanks to the kind of materials used.
You can tell that someone took the time to ensure that using this product brings me joy. Because even little things like symbolic representations of the game on the cover are taken care of.
The board game renaissance
The number of new board games hitting the market has been steadily increasing since the last few years and has never been higher than today. So while they still aren’t mainstream like before, board games are certainly making a comeback. At least globally, where games such as Settlers of Catan have started a kind of revolution.
I guess we want to touch real stuff and be around real people. Playing board games lets us do that meaningfully. It’s also a great way of getting to know other people – how they move, how they think, how they react, what choices they make. And this is without the need to indulge in uncomfortable small talk or the 21st century favourites – “How’s work” and “So, what do you do?”. And for that, I hope this trend stays on an upward trajectory.
Pricing and buying
Taamaa’s board games can be bought online here from their website.
The price of the Ludo is ₹4,350, while Brainvita is ₹3,900. It’s not what we’re used to for board games, but we aren’t used to board games that are design pieces for our homes either. Check out the full range of games, which includes Snakes & Ladders, Checkers, Tic Tac Toe and Tango. This is a great gift for kids and adults alike – we all harbour simple desires.
Taamaa have a range of other products as well, from bar items to laptop bags. Check them out here.
Taamaa’s take on boards games is as fresh and novel as it gets. The games are examples of good design without any overt pretence, which is quite uncommon nowadays. And kudos to Taamaa for that.
Playing Ludo and Brainvita brought back memories, helped me disconnect and made me want to have a game corner at home. These are really, really great for keeping at home and bringing people together. In case you think you’re too old for this stuff, try it on your phone or tablet first with friends and family around. It’ll be fun, I promise.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a unique gift or who still believes board games are awesome
Talking point: When did Ludo get so sexy?
Best thing about it: Contemporary design that invites you to roll the dice
Winning combination: Clean design + Quality materials + Throwback factor
One thing I’d change: Less lustre on the Brainvita board
What do you think, should board games make a comeback? Or are they just for kids? Let us know in the comments below. If you found this story interesting or useful, please spread the Made in India, indie brand goodness by sharing!