Should gau rakshaks have their own national holiday? Will you make a public appearance to support an LGBTQ+ Pride march? Your response – whether truthful, deceitful or strategic – is going to get you votes. You are now in the mind of a politician. Your skin is in the game. In an effort to get more people to think about policy, politics and change, Goa-based new media studio Memesys has developed a strategic board game, Shasn. “Whenever I would talk politics with friends and family, I found it to be an uphill task,” says Zain Memon, who conceptualised the game. “But the less you talk politics, the more difficult it will be to solve the problems around us. So, I started thinking about how to make political conversations healthy again. Not in a didactic boring way, but where it becomes fun.” In a move uncharacteristic to their previous forays – cinema and virtual reality – the very young and edgy ideators at Memesys threw off their digital hats and sat down to craft an old-fashioned game. Three to five players can sit across a table to navigate the high-stakes environment of an . After some debate, the game designers decided that the game would not attempt to convert players to their own progressive liberal ideology but should be neutral and allow for all voices. In every turn, you take a policy stand which gets you certain resources – funds, media, trust and clout. You use this to influence voters. Winning depends on how well you manage your opponents – through aggression and deception. And so on. Over the past year, test players ranging from the ages of 13 to 70 were invited to play – in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Goa. Just as politics inevitably leads to dining table fights, the reactions were sometimes heated, including students shouting at their professor about his choices, to a young player from a scheduled caste who was forced to confront the issue of reservation through the game, says Ayush Asthana, one of the designers. Just as storytelling serves as the best way to convey ideas, there is a growing sense that the intimacy of role play often works better than round-table discussions in framing policy and understanding the deep issues confronting us. As 16-year-old Timur Shah, one of the trial players of Shasn, says, “The game expertly elicits the politician’s classic conniving nature in us, while also maintaining the fun and fuelling our base competitive instinct.” Capture, gerrymander, and maybe even betray your morals to win. You might actually begin to understand the real game players. The epic game currently has four versions – Indian, American, Roman and a futuristic one set in 2040. Gau rakshaks do not figure in the American version, but gun control does. The Roman game deck asks questions like: Should freedmen (former slaves) have the right to vote? And the more dystopic 2040 deck raises radical ideas about climate change refugees or whether one should charge people for our empathy. Last week, 24 hours after it was pitched on, the crowd-funding platform, the game reached its target funding goal of $25,000. Not surprising, given that a growing number of people are seeking to socialise away from screens, spawning cafes, bars and WhatsApp groups that are dedicated to board games. Traditional games are also being viewed by think tanks, universities and private corporations as great tools for role play and strategy incubation. The Netherlands-based Perspectivity, has developed a series of smart socially-themed games that deal with climate change, public health, global peace and the agrarian crisis which are being played by institutions worldwide. Closer home, Fields of View, a Bangalore-based company has created numerous games intended to influence public policy, including one on waste management. The players have to collect, segregate and sell garbage which, if not properly managed, ends up in a landfill and if that gets full then the game is over.