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Cultural game on the cards

October 16 - 22, 2019
Gulf Weekly Cultural game on the cards

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Two Bahraini card and board game enthusiasts are paying homage to the kingdom’s culture with Al Nakhal, a card-based board game in which players compete in a race to build a palm tree farm.

Alaa Hashim Mahmood, 29, who moonlights as a financial analyst in the public sector and Eman Ebrahim Sharif, 32, who works as a banker in the private sector, have been designing games targeted at Bahraini audiences, and with their second card game, Al Nakhal, they want to bring all Bahrain-lovers to the table.

Alaa said: “When we first thought of making a new card/board game, it was by coincidence. When we were playing ourselves the original version of Monopoly Deal card game with our friends, it has UK city names on it, and we thought, “What if we can have it with Bahrain cities?” Eman made a draft version with Bahrain cities and Bahraini local terms on the cards out of fun only to try playing it with family and friends. It was a huge hit and this small idea became a very successful start-up.”

The games are all card-based and Al Nakhal features comical drawings by Eman on each of the cards. The game, intended for two to five players, aged seven to 97, has three sets of cards. The first set is comprised of board cards, which are shuffled and then laid out in a square. These become the ‘board’ for the game and each time the configuration can be altered. The cards include squares like the Witch of Leaves (a folk bogeyman used to scare children) which can mean turbulent times ahead, Salaries which indicates incoming windfall and more, all based around Bahraini culture.

Each player starts off with BD2,500 of play money and the goal of the game is to acquire the 12 supplies, indicated on 12 flippable tracker cards per player, needed for a functioning farm, starting with soil, tools and chickens, all the way up to a palm tree plantation. The first one to get all the 12 items wins the game, but the catch is that you can only buy each supply when you land on the central market square.

There are also ground action cards, five of which are dealt to each player, which can be used to attack other players and delay their farm fantasies.

Alaa added: “When we first decided to make Al Nakhal, we wanted something inspired by Bahrain’s culture. Bahrain was famous for being, “the country of a million palm trees,” so we thought, why not bring this legacy back in a fun interesting game that can be played by kids and families to remind them of it. Having a farm, Nakhal, is very popular in Bahrain society. The main goal of the game is to finish your farm first and it can last up to 40 minutes.”

The duo has been designing games since 2013, their first one being Bahraini Deal and their latest one being Gam Al Shoot, a Bahraini all-ages version of Cards Against Humanity.

They have released several expansion packs for Bahraini Deal, which continues to be their most popular game, but Al Nakhal is their first multilingual game, with bilingual cards and rules.

As for what’s next, the duo says: “We are updating some of the games by launching an update collection of cards. Plus, we are now in the high-tech era so we are exploring the idea of shifting to mobile application-based versions.”

The up-start’s games are sold at Euphoria in Seef Mall, Star Shine in Arad and Muharraq, Ice Games in Isa town and online through feehla.com, with prices ranging from BD3 to BD11.

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@bahrainideal on Instagram.

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