You don’t need a stage or be an actor to play the characters of writer Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan. All you need now is a deck of cards, intelligence and strategy, to bring to life some of the powerful characters of the epic novel and be the kingmaker of the mighty Chola dynasty. 

Chennai-based podcaster and story-teller Deepika Arun has created the world’s first card game based on Krishnamurthy’s magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan. Designed as a 3-6 member role-play game, Ponniyin Selvan card game comes with 20 character cards based on the nine important characters from the historical novel, including Arulmozhivarman, Vanthiyathevan, Kundavai, Poonkuzhali, Aazhwarkadiyan, Kandamaran, Nandini, Ravidasan and Periya Pazhuvetarayar. It also has 6 reference cards, 50 coins and one instruction booklet. 

Each player gets two character cards and two coins from the treasury to begin with, and can play their way till other players are eliminated to become the kingmaker of the Chola dynasty. 

“It is designed like a role-play game so each of your actions will also reflect the traits of the original characters of Ponniyin Selvan. For instance, the Nandini card has the power to steal coins from the treasury and, in the book, too, she is known to steal treasure from the Cholas. Similarly, the character Ravidasan is a Pandya assassin in the book. In the game, too, he pays coins to eliminate other characters while the character Vanthiyathevan has power to block the actions of spies and so on,” Deepika explains. 

‘Authentic look’

‘Not just the characters, even their illustrations on the cards have been designed based on author Kalki’s descriptions and artist Maniyam’s illustrations for the original novel. “Even the coins used in the game are engraved with the name Uttama Chola in Nagari script with other Chola signages to make it more authentic,” Arun highlighted. 

But Deepika is not new to Ponniyin Selvan. From completing all the five volumes of the novel in her early 20s to re-reading it over and over again, Deepika’s love for the novel has only grown with the years. After increasing demand from listeners, Deepika decided to do a podcast on the novel. After working for a year on recording, editing and proof listening, she released one chapter a day on her podcast channel, ‘Kadhai Osai’

“When I spent a lot of time with these characters [of Ponniyin Selvan] for the podcast, I realised there aren’t any card games based on our native stories. I decided to create a role play card game based on this novel, which took almost two years from the concept to the final launch,” Arun added. 

But she also added that while knowing the Ponniyin Selvan story is an added advantage, anyone not knowing the story can also have a lot of fun playing this game.

In Kalki’s epic novel, Arulmozhivarman (Raja Raja Cholan) ascended to the throne of Chola dynasty. Can the same be repeated in the game, too? Well, it depends on how well you play your cards. 

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