Playing Commons Poly in Chennai GLUG

Playing Commons Poly in Chennai GLUG
A pen drive, a stone, a five rupee coin, a rusty nut and an old Battery played the game Commonspoly

The board game event was organized on (22nd of June 2019) a Saturday evening in Chennai (Tamil Nadu), at a time when the striking summer heat had just started to wane away. Fashionably, I happened to reach there late, hitting a few spots on my way to FSFTN's office space in T-Nagar. Thanks to Rajalakshmi and the people whose office space we got to share (NewsClick), the participants (Umar Basha and Velchamy) who came on that almost scorching day didn't wait outside and were waiting inside, communicating with each other about their experiences with FOSS and what not. There were five of us in total at that point. Since my friend Arun and I were the last to arrive, we didn't expect anymore participants and decided to start with the event.

We had a small talk about the history of Commonspoly and how it was created as a way to understand a life of commons and how it payed a tribute to the Landlords game that was created in the early 1900's. After the small talk, it was time to get the assets ready and it was time to print out the game assets. I had downloaded all the assets to the game before hand and had them copied to my pen drive. I had printed the game board pieces in colour as I was coming over, I split the square image of the game board into two halves using GIMP, so they can be stuck onto two pieces of cardboards and be folded like most of the other board games. The other game assets like cards, coins, player profile sheets were yet to be printed.  As one group was getting the game board ready, another group started printing out the assets. We faced some issues printing out the cards. The cards were in a pdf and in the pdf reader they looked like they made up a whole page, but in print they were pretty small. Then Arun printed a scaled up version to file and printed from that scaled up version. We weren't printing experts, but we managed pretty well. Then Rajalakshmi took to inkscape to print out the coins for the game. After a long time of printing and cutting, we got the game assets ready.

Creating the Game Board

It was time to play the game. I explained the game rules from what I understood and Arun read the manual and filled in some more. We understood the game better once we started playing it. I acted as the game master and all the others took turns to roll the dice to decide the game mode. They rolled a four, five, five and a six. The game was in CommonsLand Mode. The game's objective was to convert every game spot or tile to commons or public from being private, to win or end the game in a draw. With the game in CommonsLand mode, except health type game spots all others were already in Commons. So the goal of the players (the good ones) basically was to save their CommonsLand from being turned into Private by Speculators (the evil players). Two (Umar and Raji) of the five players became defenders of Commons and other three (Arun, Velu and me) of us took the role of Speculators. And this is where the fun began.

The Defenders are in the Left, the Speculators are in the right side of this picture

The defenders had to keep on defending and converting the game spots to Commons, while we speculators were converting things to Private and were trying to turn their Utopia into a Dystopia. The game is designed in a way that conversion of game spots from Private to Commons is easy (once you earn money like points), but the other way round is difficult for the speculators. But at the same time, the game also gave us the speculators, immense powers and leniencies from the game rules. Its a real battle against good versus evil you can say. And like in stories and comic based movies, if the good guys come together, they can convert all the tiles of a specific color to Commons from Private, with the karma like points that they earn while playing the game. The beauty of this game was that everybody were speaking and discussing on what move to take while we were actually playing, as we didn't have to pit against one another. It was fun.

There were these things called global cards that were to be read out at the beginning of each round. The scenarios on those cards affected the whole game play either for that specific round or all rounds from there. We got a few cards that reduced the number of rounds from 20 to 18. We bad guys were scrambling hard to convert at least one game spot to private by this point in the game. And the number of rounds we had to finish the game were actually decreasing making it even harder for us, the speculators.

Radha Krishnan just joined the game and is reading through his player profile sheet

Right at this point Radha Krishnan came by and joined the Defenders team. We Speculators after several attempts and with Velu rolling a five twice, managed to convert three spaces to Private by sending Rajalakshmi to the 'Tragedy of Commons'. Umar came up with the strategy to convert game spots of the same type rather than converting different game spot types to private, then. That sealed the fate of the game and with Radha Krishnan they reached the place called 'Central Agora', performed an uprisal and converted those final spots in private to Commons again. The Defenders of Commons won the game and the whole game board was filled with green clay pellets.

Rajalaksmi deciding to convert the 3 tiles of the same type to Private after landing in the Tragedy of Commons

The game ended with tea, snacks and some drizzle of rain.

Everyone enjoyed playing the game, it was very interactive and some decisions made during the play decided the fate of the game. The beauty of Commonspoly is that no one gets hurt playing this game. Yes, people can get on each other's toes and have some grudges but if one fails the game, that person doesn't lose the game alone. Victory or Failure every player in the game does it together.

The End

(Read on to understand some game jargon used in this blog post)
To understand the game jargon you need to play the game, I apologise for the inconvenience but I will try to explain as best I could without making this blog post too big to read than it already is.

A very run down explanation of the game is that its a commons version of the game called Monopoly or Business. If you are familiar with those games then you know that there will be different places from real life as spots on the game board. In commons poly, these spots can be either Privately owned, Public governed or Commonly taken care of by the community. Private, Public and Commons. So the game players have to convert the game spots to Commons or at least to Public, if they wanted to win or end the game in a draw. And some players will be playing the role of SPECULATORS, who basically try to convert things to private again, (the villains of the game). Based on the mode of the game, the game can start in a place,

  • where almost every spot is private (or)
  • where there are as many commons or public spots as there are private spots (or)
  • where almost every spot is public and commons.

So based on the difficulty level of the game, the number of bad guys vary in the game. Say if the game is in CommonsLand mode where every spot is either Commons or Public, then the Speculators or bad guys will be 3 in number and other players get to be defenders.

Just go to to learn more about the game. Download the game assets and sit down for a game or two with your friends. Feel free to contact us at [email protected] for any doubts or queries regarding the game. Or you can contact the commonspoly team directly at [email protected] .

Thanks for reading, have a nice day ^_^ .