In this time of lockdown and limited recreational activities, some people have been finding entertainment in board games. And board game creator Christopher Naranjit is hoping people add his new game, Buyin' Scrap Iron; Old Battery Buyin', to their game collection.
The game gets its name from the popular slogan that is blasted from a speaker on a truck that drives through various communities in Trinidad announcing its mission.
Naranjit, 31, and principal and parenting consultant at Zenith Preparatory Learning Centre, told Newsday Buyin' Scrap Iron was his attempt at making a simple and affordable game.
"It plays one to six players and can be as short as five minutes long. It's designed to be played many times in a row like All Fours."
He said he has played the game with eight-year-olds but it is mostly played by the 20-35 demographic.
The art and graphic design were done by Ryan James and Kamron Julien respectively and Naranjit said the three of them put the game together during the lockdown in 2020.
Buyin' Scrap Iron is his third released board game; in 2019 he released Not A Real Place (NARP), which was a parody of monopoly; and 2020 Trini Taboo, a printable Trini version of Taboo, which he released for free during the first lockdown.
Naranjit explained all three games are products of his main board game business, Board at Home, which is a board game library where people used to pay to come and play from their more than 200 board game collection.
"The objective of Board at Home and Buyin' Scrap Iron is to increase the amount of physical social time families and friends spend together and to increase the amount of mental exercise that Trinidadians and Tobagonians do in their spare time."
Board game epiphany
With a board game business and three games under his belt, one would assume Naranjit has long had a love for board games. But he explained that while he played them growing up he did so passively and if his friends invited him to a board game lime he would not be interested.
"I am not a fan of Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, Snakes and Ladders. But I would play it to appease other people. I didn't enjoy them."
Then four years ago he played a game called Munchkin, a dungeon card game, and he found it a little more complex and designed for adults. He was exposed to designer board games where the creator places their name on the packaging and puts a lot of work into it.
He also learned there were more than 40,000 board games he had not heard of and he became fascinated by the mathematics and how much psychology (which he has a background in) was involved in some of these games.
"(I was fascinated they) took pieces of cardboard and wood and created emotions."
He said starting Board at Home in 2017 was an "obvious transition" for him and the response was better than he was prepared for.
"I saw how much games can bring people together and how much it made people think in ways they didn't normally. People will find a job and stick with it and think one way only. There are parts of the brain that never get exercised. Board games give people a chance to do that."
He said Board At Home was really big at first but after the business was hit by flooding it was closed for some time and after it reopened it never had the same traction.
"At that point, I became more interested in making my own games."
Not a Real Place
His first game, Not a Real Place, was inspired by Triniopoly, a piece of art someone made out of wood and localised the points on the board. Naranjit decided to make a version of monopoly that felt like Trinidad instead of just looking like Trinidad. He experimented with game mechanics and settled on corruption, nepotism, potholes, and accolades.
"It does not feel like monopoly but it is familiar enough to attract people intimidated by more complex board games."
He reported the game did very well and sold out one weekend in Christmas 2019.
"I worked very hard to make it the most beautiful board game in Trinidad. It looked better than the 200 board games I have. I was not surprised people wanted it."
Naranjit said he was surprised people wanted to pay $500 for it.
"I wish it was cheaper but it was very expensive to make."
He said people who played it were surprised as they thought it would have simply been Monopoly with TT names and found it felt "different and Trini." He recalled people commented, "No way is it a Trini game" because of how good the aesthetic was and the high production value including 3D resin models.
Last year during the first lockdown he released Trini Taboo which he uploaded the PDF files online for free. He recalled many people downloaded it though he did not market it heavily.
"It was a simple game that was free and I had fun playing. There was nothing impressive or noteworthy about it."
Buyin' Scrap Iron
Naranjit decided he would make a new game every year and for his 2021 game, he wanted it to be cheap and be made with only cards instead of 3D printed models. He settled on a game based on an old Indian gambling game using pieces of straw. He set out the mechanics and spent a week thinking about the theme of the game.
"My main goal (was the) name of game would do half of the marketing for me."
The name Not A Real Place came from "meme culture" and he decided to do the same for his new game. He settled on the popular recorded slogan "buyin' scrap iron, old battery buyin'" created by scrap-iron dealer Jairam Seebaran.
"I was so in love with the grammar of buyin' scrap iron, old battery buyin' even before it became a meme. When it became a meme I was happy. I turned the name into a story and superimposed the story onto the mechanics I had."
He explained his game is a bidding game where all players play simultaneously to try to get the most valuable piece of scrap iron and the player with the most points at the end wins. The cards being bid for have positive or negative value and the value at the end of the game wins unless any person gets all five negative value cards.
"The story is six friends get an HDC house and they are competing to see whose house they will throw the celebration lime in. To do that, whoever decks out their living room first will win and they go to buy scrap iron to get money to furnish their living room."
Buyin' Scrap Iron was launched in late March and he started marketing in April.
"The response has been good. People are liking the game."
He added that some people feel uncomfortable about leaving their homes to purchase the game and finances are difficult for some.
"Independent of that, sales going well but just not as quickly as Not a Real Place. I am pleased with the response so far but it will take a while for everybody to hear about it."
Naranjit was not pleased, however, when the game arrived in Trinidad and he was informed the duties on board games went up from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.
"We are trying to do something for Trinidad and Trinidad is making it hard."
He added: "Especially in a time when families are forced together they should be afforded the opportunity to access products to improve their quality time."
He said some local board game creators come up with the idea first and then put it out but he said aesthetics are also important and he cited Santimanitay (created by Newsday's graphic artist Warren Le Platte) as one example of good production value.
He said all his games are play tested for months and played over and over.
"You change the rules and aesthetics to match the needs of the data. I want other game designers to know that is something they can and should do."
The game is available online at find.allyourlocal.com and tootoolbay.com.
For more info: Facebook and Instagram pages.