Ludo, the modern version of the classic Indian strategy board game Pachisi, these days comes in many funky mobile avatars. As such, it is quite popular among the youths (When was it not, really?). Every day, countless invitations are sent out on Facebook to join and play Ludo Club. This scribe, for instance, gets invited to the Ludo Club several times a day.
Perhaps no popular tea stall or eatery in Nepal is without a small group of young people huddled together to play Ludo over a mobile phone. It’s handy, too: You don’t need a physical board, or money, or any other special arrangement—only your trusted phone.
Until a few years ago, Ludo was considered a largely family board-game or a pastime for close friends. You also needed a physical board.
Sanat Kumar Regmi, 30, from Kathmandu, reminisces how it was playing Ludo on a paperboard. “Playing Ludo on an actual board had a certain appeal. Gathering of friends for Ludo felt like special occasion.” However, for him, playing Ludo on the mobile phone is also a good way to beat lockdown boredom. “It is an easy way to keep myself entertained when I am alone.”
Although the feeling of excitement is different, playing Ludo through Facebook as an instant game is no less entertaining for Regmi. Players can chat with each other and play at the same time, he says. In addition, they can be in-call with other players through messenger while they play. And as it is on Facebook, anyone around the world can play with you.
If you are conscious of your phone’s storage, Facebook Ludo is nothing to worry about either. It is tiny compared to other games and with a good internet doesn’t take more than a mouse click’s time to load. Since Facebook launched Ludo Club in 2016; at any given time, it now has 18 million active players.
Achyut Nepal, 24, from Hetauda, says he plays Ludo through Facebook everyday. “Especially, when I play with my friends or relatives abroad, it feels like a reunion. I become so happy to connect with them,” he says. He has also installed Ludo Neo-Classic from Google Play. “Though the offline game is not as interesting as online playing, I, as a Ludo lover, can go for 2-3 games in a day against my phone.”
Reshma Bisunke, 18, from Dhading, claims Ludo Neo-Classic is light in size in both online and app versions. “Unlike Free Fire and PUBG, it consumes far less internet data,” she explains.
Facebook Ludo is also simple, and the rules are easy. When played on mobile phone, you just need to tap your screen. There is no fear of catching the dreaded coronavirus from someone else, nor do you need a high IQ. Perhaps these are the reasons the game is so popular among people of all age groups.
But Facebook’s recent removal of the Games tab from the Facebook messenger app is a little annoying for some. Now, you can invite friends to play only through the Facebook app. “Yes, it’s a little irksome. But since we can do it via the Facebook app, it’s not a big deal as well.”
And you can always play offline by yourself or with friends through downloaded apps.
A popular Nepali app
Ludo Neo-Classic, an app developed and published by Jeevan Shrestha in 2015, has already crossed 25 million downloads in Google Play, with an overall rating of 4.1. It is the first Nepali app to reach that milestone, leaving other popular Nepali apps like e-Sewa and Hamro Patro far behind. There are hundreds of other Ludo apps in the digital stores, and they too have significant user bases in Nepal. This speaks of the growing popularity of Ludo as a mobile game in the country.
“At first, it was mostly people from India and Pakistan who downloaded the app. But later Nepali people got quite interested too,” says Shrestha. “Downloads from Nepal is increasing by the day.”
Ludo Neo-Classic is also customized for online playing, but it’s not available for all users at the moment. Enthused by its popularity, Shrestha is working to make it available for all those who want to play online.