Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Emirati's own 'game of thrones' taps into growing global board games market

Conqueror: Final Conquest relies on skill, cunning and the roll of a dice to recreate the great battles of history

An Emirati board game that recreates some of the great battles of the ancient world has gone on sale, with 100 units already sold on pre-order.

Conqueror: Final Conquest pits the great empires of Carthage, Rome, Egypt and Sparta and others against one another in a battle for dominance.

Players must recruit an army and acquire fertile land to sustain their people.

The strategy game can see players bribe foreign fighters to join them along with expanding their territory, while battles are fought with the roll of a dice.

This industry is worth $10 billion a year and it is growing 10 per cent every year, and the UAE has contributed zero products to it so far

Mohamed Al Qadi

It was a labour of love for board games fan Mohamed Al Qadi, who believes it is the first to come out of the Emirates.

He hopes to tap into a renewed global tabletop games market worth billions.

“This industry is worth $10 billion a year and it is growing 10 per cent every year, and the UAE has contributed zero products to it so far," he said.

Mr Al Qadi, 33, came up with Final Conquest after finding the games he and his wife Nijoud Aiman, 31, and their friends play were never quite right.

“We usually gather with our friends to play and he usually has criticisms of other games like ‘this is too boring’, ‘this doesn’t have the right…” said Mrs Aiman.

“And he always used to say: 'one day I will make up one of my own'."

He began using tracing paper and sketching basic maps using over existing board games.

"We would stay until 4am just tweaking and playing,” said Mrs Aiman.

They invited friends to their home to play every weekend, using a cardboard map he drew up in the garage.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, December 16, 2019. STORY BRIEF: Mohammed Al Qadhi and the first emirati innovated board game which he created, Conqueror, Final Quest. Section: NA Reporter: Haneen Dajani
The game comes with an online history of the characters and empires to shed light on a period of history often not taught in schools. Victor Besa / The National

“We tested it with people at home at least 20 times and there were nights where he would meet friends outside too to play," she said.

As with many successful board games such as Settlers of Catan, which has sold more than 20 million units, the aim is to expand while learning about basic economies and nation building.

With Final Conquest, Mr Al Qadi also hopes to educate young people about periods of history that are rarely taught, along with critical thinking and quick decision-making.

“If you don’t know what Carthage is, you can just scan the barcode [on the game box] with your camera and it takes you straight to the website,” he said.

The game's website gives a history of Rome’s Julius Caesar, Egypt’s Ramses II, Sparta’s Leonidas, and the Iceni Celts ruled by Queen Boudica.

If a player takes too long to take money from their coffers, recruit troops and make a move, an opponent player can try to bribe their troops.

"If you are taking too long, your troops are frustrated with you so it makes sense for another player to win them over," said Mr Al Qadi.

Players can also form alliances with one another - “I don’t attack you and you don’t attack me,” Mr Al Qadi told a player in a trial run for The National last week.

But it often does not last.

The player kept her word for a few rounds, until she had to attack his territory to stop him in his tracks. Nevertheless, Mr Al Qadhi recovered and won the game.

“He always wins - for obvious reasons,” Mrs Aiman laughed

The couple hope that young people so often glued to phones and online games will give tabletop games a try, and that “people are getting bored with the digital world".

“It is entertaining and you learn about strategy, problem solving and stretching your mind," he said.

“It started with no dice, but I am all about authenticity, I wanted it to mimic real life.

“In real life war is also based on luck; yes, it is about the size of your army but also luck.”

Mr Al Qadi is co-founder of Sandooq Al Watan or the National Fund.

He and the Emiratis who established it support citizens and their start-up businesses. The board game is being funded in the same way.

“It started as a workshop for fun, but then we thought why not turn it into a start-up?” said Mr Al Qadi.

The game is available for purchase from the website - conquerorfc.com priced at Dh269 - and he is in talks with retailers to stock the game in stores soon.

Updated: January 30, 2020 05:44 PM

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