Kenechukwu Cornelius Ogbuagu creates a Nigerian-made board game industry

As a child, he played board and card games including Snakes and Ladders, Whot and Ludo with children from his neighborhood in Enugu, southeast Nigeria, where he was born and raised.
Yet in a country that loves games such as chess and Scrabble – even fielding a world champion Scrabble team – Ogbuagu has noticed a lack of games made in Nigeria. In 2013, he decided to create his own game while studying at the University of Calabar in southern Nigeria.

“There was a nationwide strike at public universities across the country at the time, so no one was going to class,” says Ogbuagu, now 29. Without doing anything, “finally we started playing table games.”

At the time, he wasn’t sure how to make games. So he used cardboard, stones and dice from an old Ludo game to create a game of rolling the dice and drawing cards for himself and his friends.

Many of Ogbuagu’s school friends loved playing this game, which inspired him to turn his hobby into a profession.

Creation of games made in Nigeria

In 2016, a few years after making his first game, Ogbuagu founded a game production publishing company called NIBCARD, which focuses on table games such as board and card games.

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

That same year, he launched an annual convention in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, called the Africa Boardgame Convention, or “AbCon” – a gathering of table game enthusiasts from across the country, which Ogbuagu says is the first like in the West. Africa.
"Wan wan touch"  is a football-based board game.  It was established in 2018.

“Many Nigerians have stereotypes about board games. They say, ‘Oh, this is a women’s game.’ The convention exists to override these types of stereotypes, ”Ogbuagu explains. About 500 people attend the convention each year, he adds.

But his big break came in 2017 when the charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) hired NIBCARD to create 2,300 copies of a game called “Luku Luku” for an educational project he was running in the country.
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Ogbuagu was working with VSO as a volunteer when the group discovered he liked games. “I met British colleagues who liked to play card games. I took inspiration from their games and wanted to do something like that in Nigeria,” he says.

Since establishing Luku Luku for VSO, Ogbuagu says NIBCARD has created at least two dozen table games for sale across the country and has received grants from organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of United Nations.

“With the grant (IOM), we were supposed to artistically create an activity that will raise awareness about migration,” Ogbuagu explains. To achieve this, he created a tile placement game called “My World Trip”.

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

Nigeria’s Table Games Industry

According to a report by Dicebreaker, a publication focused on tabletop games, the Covid-19 lockdown period in 2020 has renewed interest in games and increased sales of board games in places like the United States and the United Kingdom.
That same year, table games managed to raise $ 236.6 million on Kickstarter, accounting for almost a third of all money made on the crowdsourced platform in 2020.
This 9 year old boy has built over 30 mobile games
But in Nigeria, there is hardly any data on the table games industry. 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 there aren’t many board and card games designed and produced in the country.

“Many Nigerians do not have access to information on where to get games in the country. There is also no access to table game cafes and other value chains surrounding these games, ”he explains.

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It is difficult for the average Nigerian to find information about the games, he adds: “People will most likely know where to find Scrabble or chess rather than where to find their local games, made in Nigeria.”

A house movement

In 2019, in order to increase this awareness, Ogbuagu opened a cafe in Abuja.

“The cafe is just a space full of games. People can come there to play,” he says, with 60 board games made in Nigeria and 300 other non-Nigerian games. “Not all of the games out there are made by NIBCARD,” he adds. “We also store games from other people.”

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

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

He’s also trying to reach out to the next generation of tabletop players, with “volunteers taking our games to different schools across the country,” Ogbuagu says. “They teach children to play these games so that as they grow older they will know that we have our own Nigerian games.”

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