Monday September 01, 2014

Circular cards used


Card games have always been popular with gamers, but for me it is games with non-traditional card decks which draw my eye most easily.

So when I saw a newly-released Ganjifa deck, I was intrigued.

“Ganjifa, or Gânjaphâ, is a card game that originated in Persia and became popular in India under the Mughal emperors in the 16th century,” detailed Wikipedia.

“The name Ganjifa comes from the Persian word ganjifeh, meaning playing card. The first known reference is in an early-16th century biography of Bâbur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty. The game first became popular at court, in the form of lavish sets of precious stone-inlaid ivory or tortoise shell (darbar kalam). It later spread to the general public, whereupon cheaper sets (bazâr kalam) would be made from materials such as wood, palm leaf, or pasteboard.

“Ganjifa cards are circular and traditionally hand-made by local artisans. The suits are composed of twelve subjects on coloured backgrounds, with pip cards running from one to 10, and two court cards, one of a minister or counsellor, the other of a king. The precise style and arrangement of the decoration on any set is dependent on its artist. The designs of the cards of Dashavatara Ganjifa use motifs from the ten Avatars of Vishnu.”

“Tab Creations has been making games on an amateur basis for the past 12-plus years,” explained Matthew Pennell, a spokesperson with the company.

“In 2012 we finally decided to make a business venture out of our hobby and began developing a role-playing game based on Indian myth called Against the Dark Yogi. During the process of researching the game and in an attempt to make the game as authentic as possible we discovered Ganjifa. Since our game mechanic in Against the Dark Yogi uses standard poker cards we thought it would be even better to have Ganjifa available to play with. We searched in many places but we could not find any affordable Ganjifa anywhere for purchase.”

And therein they saw an opportunity.

“It was decided at that time to produce our own deck of Ganjifa cards,” said Pennell.

While finding Ganjifa cards was difficult before taking on the project themselves, Pennell said it appears there was a demand to be met.

“From the evidence of our successful kickstarter project, I would say yes,” he said. “According to the statistics, only 33.5 per cent of game projects posted on kickstarter are successful and only 19 per cent raise more than $10,000.

“Ganjifa beat the odds in both categories. It would seem that there is an interest out there for games like Ganjifa.”

To produce the cards Tab Creations went with some very traditional art.

“The deck was based on scans of a hand painted deck of Ganjifa from the early 16th century,” said Pennell.

“However, they were not exact copies and some changes were made. For example, we added pips for each suit to the face cards to help with identifying cards while you are playing. The process took about two-months of work with an artist and then another couple of weeks working on layout.

“This would have taken much longer if we were designing the game from scratch.”

And even then there were some hurdles to overcome to get the cards to market.

“We found very few manufacturers that offered round cards,” said Pennell.

The card deck actually offers rules for more than one game which can be played with a Ganjifa deck, a major plus for anyone grabbing a deck. Additional game rules broaden play options, which is always a bonus.

“One thing I enjoy about these games is how, with the variations, you can increase or decrease the complexity of the games depending on what you want at the time.”

Pennell said they are finding response to the card deck has been mixed, although generally positive.

“I have talked to people who are from or have been to India that were thankful for something they didn’t think would ever be available to them here,” he said. “I have also spoken to many who were intrigued by something they had never seen.”

Mark me among the intrigued.

It’s a big world out there, and I know from my own English-centric background, many great games were created in the distant past, and remain highly enjoyable today, games such as checkers, chess, cribbage and gin rummy coming to mind.

“We are constantly working on future games, some of our own design and some that are redesigns of historical and ethnic games,” he said. “I do see a great potential in ethnic and historic games in the future of Tab Creations and I think it is important to keep these games alive for future generations to enjoy.”

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