Kenechukwu Cornelius Ogbuagu creates a board game industry made in Nigeria

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As a child he played board and card games, including Snakes and ladders, who, and Ludo with the children in his neighborhood in Enugu in southeastern Nigeria, where he was born and raised.
But in a country that loves games like chess and Scrabble – even in the field World champion scrabble team – Ogbuagu noticed a lack of games from Nigeria. In 2013 he decided to develop his own game while studying at the University of Calabar in southern Nigeria.

“Back then there was a nationwide strike at state universities in the country, so nobody went to class,” says Ogbuagu, now 29. With nothing to do, “we eventually started playing tabletop games.”

At the time, he wasn’t sure how to make games, so he used cardboard, bricks, and dice from an old ludo game to create a game of dice and cards for him and his friends.

Many of Ogbuagu’s school friends enjoyed playing the game and inspired him to turn his passion into a profession.

Create games made in Nigeria

In 2016, a few years after making his first game, Ogbuagu started a game production company called NIBCARDthat focuses on tabletop games such as board and card games.

“I finally learned how to make games on YouTube,” he says. “I learned how to make boards. I learned direct imaging printers. I also found stores where I could get materials for the games I wanted.”

In the same year he started an annual congress called the in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria Africa board game convention, or “AbCon” – a gathering of tabletop game lovers from across the country, which Ogbuagu says is the first of its kind in West Africa.
"Wan wan touch"  is a football-based board game.  It was created in 2018.

“A lot of Nigerians have stereotypes about board games. They say, ‘Oh, it’s a women’s game.’ There are conventions for breaking these types of stereotypes, “explains Ogbuagu. About 500 people attend the convention each year, he adds.

But his big break came in 2017 as a charity Overseas Voluntary Service (VSO) hired NIBCARD to create 2,300 copies of a game called “Luku Luku” for an educational project it was in the country.

Ogbuagu had been working with VSO as a volunteer when the group found out he was interested in games. “I’ve met British colleagues who love to play card games. I was inspired by their games and wanted to do something like that in Nigeria,” he says.

Since Ogbuagu developed Luku Luku for VSO, NIBCARD has developed at least two dozen tabletop games for sale across the country, according to Ogbuagu, and has received grants from organizations such as the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“With the (IOM) grant, we should create an artistic activity that creates awareness of migration,” says Ogbuagu. To do this, he created a tile placement game called “My World Trip”.

"Gbosi"  Debuting in 2018, is a tile placement war game.

“The game has maps of different countries and the names and continents of the countries,” he explains. “As players jump from country to country to win the game, they are forced to explore new countries that they have probably never heard of.”

Nigeria’s tabletop gaming industry

According to a report in Dice breaker, a publication focused on table games, the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown period has sparked interest in games and increased board game sales in countries like the US and UK.
In the same year, tabletop games were successfully raised $ 236.6 million on Kickstarter, which is almost a third of all the money made on the crowd-sourced platform in 2020.
This 9 year old has developed more than 30 mobile games
But there is little data on the tabletop game industry in Nigeria. While games like chess, ludo and Scrabble are popular, the local sector is still largely untapped.

Ogbuagu says one of the reasons the industry is struggling is that not many board and card games are designed and produced in the country.

“Many Nigerians do not have access to information about where they can make games in the country. There is also no access to tabletop game cafes and other value chains related to these games,” he explains.

It is difficult for the average Nigerian to find information about games, he adds, “People will probably know where to find Scrabble or chess than where to find their local Nigerian-made games.”

A domestic movement

To increase this awareness, Ogbuagu opened a café in Abuja in 2019.

“The cafe is just a room full of games. People can come there to play,” he says with 60 Nigerian board games and another 300 non-Nigerian games. “Not all games there are made by NIBCARD,” he adds. “We also run other people’s games.”

"Hut alive"  Created by Ogbuagu in 2017, is an elimination card game for up to six players.

Another goal over the next few years is to get more people to appreciate locally made games and access what starts with visibility.

He says he is currently in talks with filmmakers across the country, encouraging them to swap games like chess in their films for Nigerian games like NIBCARD’s.

He’s also trying to reach out to the next generation of tabletop gamers with “volunteers bringing our games to different schools across the country,” says Ogbuagu. “They teach kids to play these games so they know we’ll have our own Nigerian games when they grow up.”


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