Journey through the inception of Kheo Games, a family run board game venture shaping the Indian gaming landscape. Uncover the story of their original game: Panchayat, and the evolving tapestry of tabletop gaming in India
Q: Please give the readers a short introduction about yourself and your studio. What is your "origin" story? How did you start off publishing games?
We are a small, family-operated board game crew nestled in the picturesque state of Goa, India. Our journey began in 2021, as the pandemic's frenzy was winding down.
From childhood, classic games like Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, Game of Life, and Chess captivated us. When the monotony of screen time during the lockdown became tiresome, we sought new adventures.
The discovery of Catan proved transformative, leading us down a path to embrace other classics like Carcassonne, Kingdomino, Sushi Go, and beyond.
Kheo Games is our venture to showcase captivating Indian games on a global platform. We're dedicated to expanding the horizons of this fantastic hobby, introducing diverse Indian themes. The journey is exhilarating, with its share of challenges, but we're enthusiastic about overcoming them with our vibrant board game community by our side.
Q: What inspires the ideas behind Panchayat? Why did you choose to make this type of game?
The genesis for the original idea for Panchayat was a discussion between two gamers, Abhishek Thakkar & Andy Desa (the designer), from the Indian board gaming community. It stemmed from how all major civilizations started from humble village settlements, and most of them were around a river. Whether it was the Indus or the Nile, life started blossoming from the banks of the rivers. It led to the realization that our Indian villages had some unique patterns that were not seen in many of the city-building games. A temple is typically at the heart of a village. Near a temple, you find many flower stalls dotted. Devotees who visit the temple stop at the flower stalls to buy the flowers and offer them to the Gods. A market or other industrial area near a temple is typically frowned upon. As agriculture is one of the primary sources of revenue for the villages, one would find a farm near all villages.
Based on this discussion and a TV show called 'Malgudi Days,' which is based on a book called 'Swami and Friends' Andy took on the mantle to design this little tile-placement village builder game. The book and show are like a love letter to the charm of Indian village life.
Panchayat takes that vibe and gently weaves it into the game. You're not just placing any old buildings in your village; you're creating a living, breathing community that captures the essence of village life in India. It's like turning your game board into a slice of Indian rural paradise, one tile at a time.
Q. What did you learn from making Panchayat?
A pivotal insight gleaned from Panchayat was recognizing the significance of incorporating a solo mode in a game. Witnessing gamers eagerly share their solo gameplay scores on Facebook was a source of immense delight.
While board games have conventionally been seen as social endeavors, a noticeable trend in recent years is the increasing number of solo gamers. Whether spurred by the pandemic or other factors, this shift has imparted a valuable lesson to us.
Q: Our Singaporean audience are often curious how the gaming market is like in other countries. How is the tabletop gaming culture like in India?
The contemporary board gaming scene in India is undergoing a captivating transformation. One notable aspect of this evolution centers around the integration of traditional games deeply rooted in Indian culture, such as Chess, Snakes and Ladders, and Ludo. These classic games have endured the test of time and can still be found in countless households across the country. However, transitioning to modern board games has presented its share of challenges. One major challenge stems from the proliferation of mobile gaming and the ease of instant accessibility it provides.
Additionally, the availability and pricing of well-known modern board games have been stumbling blocks. Many individual gamers resorted to requesting family or friends traveling from the US or Europe to bring these games back. Nevertheless, a ray of hope has emerged with certain companies now acting as distributors for international games, making these games more accessible and somewhat more affordable.
In a concerted effort to bridge these gaps, a dedicated community of enthusiasts has been diligently working towards creating board game cafés, organizing conventions, and hosting regular meetups. These board game cafés are sprouting up in various parts of the country, with a primary focus on major cities, though their influence is gradually expanding to different regions. Currently, the country boasts just one major board game convention, but the encouraging news is that organizers are contemplating increasing the frequency of such events. This development bodes well for the growing gaming community.
Perhaps the most essential element in the community's growth is the board game meetups. Regular meetups have become a standard practice across the nation. For instance, at a weekly board game meetup in Bengaluru, we witnessed a gathering of at least 100 gamers enthusiastically participating in gaming sessions that lasted from 4 PM to 10 PM. Such events have even begun to take root in smaller cities throughout the country.
In summation, there remains ample room for expansion and evolution within the Indian board gaming community. It is an exciting time, and we eagerly anticipate the continued growth and development of this vibrant community.
Q: What trends have you observed emerging in India? What developments do you see as compared to when you first started?
The board gaming market in India has experienced a significant upswing in the development of localized adaptations and original creations. Game designers are infusing Indian themes and narratives into their games, delivering a distinctive and culturally rich gaming experience. Themes that draw from India's history and culture have been on the ascent, resonating with players. Over the past few years, numerous Indian publishers have achieved success through crowdfunding campaigns, allowing them to introduce their games to a global audience. The increased use of crowdfunding has widened the accessibility of games from Indian publishers, making them available to a broader audience.
Q: We understand that you would be attending the upcoming Asian Board Game Festival in Singapore. What are some of the titles you have brought with you?
This marks the inaugural occasion where our games will be featured at an event beyond the borders of India. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the organizers of ABGF for facilitating a satellite booth for us, as our physical presence won't be possible. Rest assured, our spirits will be there in full force. If you happen to read this article before the festival, we encourage you to explore our gaming table, showcasing a collection of games from India. We are excited to present all three of our published games to date, including the aforementioned Panchayat. Additionally, we will have Go Goa and Samachar on display.
Go Goa stands as our debut creation, a roll-and-write game that pays homage to the picturesque state of Goa. This game has participated in two international game design contests and even secured some prestigious awards.
Samachar, a light drafting game crafted by the exceptionally talented designer Deepak M., adds another layer of excitement to our offerings. We are elated to witness this card game come to life.
It's worth noting that all our games are family-friendly and serve as an excellent introduction to the world of board gaming for newcomers.
Q: Do you have any plans for future games?
We are excited about the new games that we are working on. Interestingly, three of the games are all related to food. Which we now find is a crazy coincidence. We noticed that many Asian board games are also themed around food. We all must love our food.
The three games that we are working on are:
• De Thali - a light game about making an Indian thali (collection of food dishes served in a large, flat circular plate). The game uses the "I cut, you choose" mechanism. We are aiming for a release in February 2024 for this game.
• Baked with Love - This game is about bread. Once again, we are returning to our roots and showcasing a Goan specialty. There are various types of breads available in Goa, and some forms are unique to Goa. Bakers usually deliver bread that they carry on their bicycles to the people daily. This game will be a light-medium game, and hopefully be released late 2024 or early 2025.
• Pickled - India is famous for its pickles, and every meal is complete with this tangy and spicy food item. The game is under development, and hopefully we can publish it in 2025.
Q: What is your website where the audience can find out more?
You can also find us on most social media platforms if you search for "kheogames" or our website: https://kheogames.com . I would also encourage those interested in our games to join us on our Discord server, https://discord.gg/AWRrqPb4Js.