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Chennai-based Zvata Studios shakes things up by designing strategic games that are played on unconventional set-ups

Bored? Bring out the board game

It is 2 am on a week night. All is quiet except at the Ramani-Bose household where Vindhyanjana Ramani and Nivas Ranjan Bose are locked in an intriguing game that they have just conceptualised.They are playing it for, perhaps, the third time, and yet find the need to make a few more tweaks. As you can see, conceptualising a board game can have more twists and turns than a game of murder mystery.

The Chennai-based couple started their board game company Zvata Studios in 2018 and have so far created six games. The themes vary from space and monsters to wizards and sharks. “We make sure all our games involve strategy. You cannot just roll a dice and depend on luck,” says Vindhyanjana, adding that one of the games have all the players uniting and playing against the game to win. The duration of the games vary from 15-30 minutes, the longest being 45 minutes.

Each goes through a set of test processes. This includes taking it to evening schools, apartment communities, or just inviting friends over to play them (in times before COVID-19). “We also sent it to gamers to get their feedback. It goes through a lot of iterations. Whichever version works best for the group, we go ahead with it,” she explains.

Unconventional design

What is interesting about the games is their boards. They do not have the conventional rectangular shape. These are circular, multi-levelled (remember Sheldon Cooper’s three-dimensional chess board from The Big Bang Theory?), vertical (like a forest) or one that needs to be put together as a puzzle. Truth or Bull, a game for adults, is in a cards format. The others are largely designed for families.

Everything is done by Vindhyanjana and her husband, Nivas. “For our first game, Seekers of Astrod, we did the artwork ourselves,” she laughs.

The couple also took it to The UK Games Expo in 2018 where it was appreciated for its simplicity. “One of the designers, Peter Burley, who saw the game there, liked it and asked if we would be interested in bringing his game, Hexpert, to India. He designed it but gave us the right to publish it in India,” says Vindhyanjana.

It helps that they have similar interests, so disagreements, as of now, are non-existent when it comes to the theme but prevalent during testing phases. They are also starting work on three new ideas. “The mechanics of the game is the first thing that we come up with. What is the game about? How will the players move ahead? Will there be a dice or cards. If there are clues, how do they get them?” she says.

Ideas keep them awake at night. Sometimes they wake up at 3 am with an idea and quickly note it on their phones.

Zvata Studios has consciously stayed away from taking their products online. “People are glued to their laptops and phone screens. We want them to take time off gadgets and engage in offline activities such as these,” Vindhyanjana adds.

The games are available on amazon.in and on Zvata Studios’ website

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