Discovering Kancheepuram through a board game: Meet the creators

Ettana - the looms of Kanchi', is a board game developed by Madhu Sundar, Founder of Mad4Fun Games, along with designer Darshini Sundar.
Madhu Sundar
Madhu Sundar
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How would you like to play a board game that not just transports you to Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, the town of silk, temples and history, but may also teach you a thing or two about weaving? Ettana, the looms of Kanchi, a board game developed by Madhu Sundar, Founder of Mad4Fun Games, endeavours to do all of the above. Madhu, who was in Bengaluru, is presently based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

Developed over a period of six months, Madhu, a self-confessed avid board gamer, came up with the concept mainly to indulge her own interests. “I wanted to conceptualise the things that I like. I have an interest in Kancheepuram sarees and I also like board games. I merged everything I liked into this game —weavers, weaving, game strategy, etc.,” Madhu tells TNM.

Together with Darshini Sundar, a designer with a keen interest in textile prints, Madhu has come up with a game that she claims has unending possibilities. “I wanted to make sure of that. No two games will be the same,” she says.

So how does one play the Ettana game? The two to four-player board with 5x5 octagons comes with 36 different design cards and 36 different action cards (of 12 different types) in addition to coin tokens, coloured pegs in five different colours representing yarns and 18 numbered tiles. There are 'anna' coins (a denomination of currency that's no longer in use) that one has to collect, eight to win.

At first, the numbered tiles are placed at random on the board, followed by the coloured pegs. At the roll of the dice — one a numbered dice and the other a coloured dice (for the pegs) — tokens are gained or action cards are picked from the stack. This is followed by the exchange of a design card or the execution of the action card.

If the player is able to form the design on the card onto the board, they can claim the design card that comes with points. The player who is first able to reach eight points becomes the winner.

Here’s a video tutorial on how the game’s played.

Elaborating on the game design, Madhu says, “My first board game was The Settlers of Catan in 2015 and over the years my thought and strategy have evolved. While designing my game I wanted to try and eliminate any deadlock situation, otherwise, it might become too boring. I did four months of research before working on it.”

This board game, which is meant for children above eight years of age, has also been created with the intent of introducing the quaint temple town of Kancheepuram to someone who is new to it. Among the things that Darshini kept in mind while designing the game aesthetics was “how to make the game resonate through colours, motifs, jacquard plates etc., to create maximum recall of this quaint town bursting with colours, scenery and temples in the background?”.

She further adds, “Designing it was quite simple. It was easy to replicate the jacquard looms. Action cards with 12 different actions like move, swap, replace, etc., were based on Bharatanatyam mudras and temple sculptures. Every design inspiration was already available in Kancheepuram. I just had to recreate it for the game.”

According to Darshini, the game presents the perfect opportunity to introduce Kancheepuram’s aesthetics to a western audience. “You don't see a lot of people overseas picking up a Kancheepuram silk dupatta in bright candy-floss pink colour but they do pick up a Kashmiri shawl. We are trying to take a local craft, put it through a series of colour and design etiquette changes and see how western audience look at it,” she explains.

Darshini Sundar

Madhu too adds that the response, so far, from non-natives have been very encouraging. “Whoever has played this game so far has loved the concept. They also found the game educative. There’s positive feedback from the Westerners too. It is a nice introduction to what Kancheepuram represents. And I too get to relive that part of the country through this game,” Madhu tells us.

The board game goes into production this April and is available worldwide for pre-booking. Those wishing to place their orders can do so here.

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