Elements of two ancient Indian games, chess and ludo, have been blended to form a brand new one – Squarace – in an unusual effort by a former ISRO engineer and businessman, both from Indore .
It’s both intriguing and a little infuriating to play, as the chess pieces move like chess pieces and require strategy and foresight, but the pace of play is determined by the dice, which leaves this piece entirely randomly.
The game is meant to be hours of fun for the whole family (up to four people can play), and users say it helps their kids develop an interest in chess. But it all started with ludo.
During another lockdown last year, Ajitesh Sharma, 41, was watching his wife and son play ludo on their phone when he thought, “What if I take two of the oldest games in the world? ‘India, always popular for thousands of years, and that I combined them?
Sharma, a filmmaker who was formerly a mechanical engineer at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), reached out to a friend, printing and packaging businessman Dhirendra Rawat, 45, and together, they got to work.
“Our first big challenge in combining the games was that they were so different. One relies on luck and the other on strategy and skill. Second, the ludo moves in a linear direction, while the pieces chess games are more dynamic,” Sharma explains.
It took four months of brainstorming with Rawat; Sharma’s wife, Shilpa Sharma, 41, fashion designer; and their 15-year-old son Atiksh Sharma to create a fun-to-play board game that adequately represents both root games.
Here’s how it works: In Squarace, a player can only start when their die roll results in a one or a six. They can then remove one of their four pieces from the original square. Each of these four pegs is a different chess piece: knight, rook, bishop and queen.
These pieces retain their ability to move as they would in chess: bishop diagonally, rook in straight lines, knight in L, queen in any direction. But they can only move as many squares as the single die indicates.
The ludo grid has been changed to accommodate some of the chess moves, with double lanes instead of singles. Each time a player rolls a one or a six, they can choose to remove another of their chess pieces from the original square, if they think it will help defeat an opponent.
As in chess and ludo, an opponent’s piece is defeated if another player’s piece lands on the same square; this piece must then return to its original square and start again. The game ends when all pieces have crossed the finish line with an exact roll of the die.
Squarace was launched in March, priced at ₹1,199, with an introductory offer of ₹800, and Sharma says 50 units have sold so far. The game won a silver in the entrant category at the 2021 US-based Muse Design Awards, and won in the board game/dexterity category at the also US-based NYX Game Awards.
“Unlike ludo, it’s not a game of chance. The main challenge is anticipating and figuring out how best to use the pieces at hand,” says branding consultant Amit Koserwal, 42. , who played the board game with her 11-year-old son, Ahaan.
IT project manager Avinash Tamrekar, 42, came across Squarace in March while searching online for indoor games to play with his family. His 11-year-old daughter Adwita, a ludo fan, is now a fan of the hybrid too, he says. “It acts as a gateway game to chess, as she also started to take an interest in chess.”
Meanwhile, Sharma and Rawat work on their second game, one that aims to teach children about banking and finance. “It’s about dice, but also about cards, tokens, a mechanical banking system, and unique character-based pieces,” Rawat explains. “The goal is to help children understand stocks, futures, cryptocurrencies, and other financial and banking instruments.”
The idea is to explain the risk-reward ratio of these instruments, so that children can acquire financial knowledge and think about investing from an early age, adds Sharma.