Infuse Lebanon’s politics and even culture on a board game, and you’ll get Wasta, a board game that has boomed in the Lebanese market after anti-government protests erupted in Lebanon back in October of 2019.
The board game consists of cards comically illustrated, such as a police officer (Darake), a bank, a thug (Az3ar), your mom (Emmak), your neighbor (El Jara), politician, judge, etc.
The illustrations, created by popular cartoonist Bernard Hage, act to serve as cynical symbols of what many Lebanese have to struggle with on a daily basis, such as corruption, clientelism, and nepotism.
“I wanted to criticize society, particularly present Lebanese society,” Elie Kesrouwany, the creator of Wasta, told Arab News.
“We are in huge pain every day. My entire generation has been suffering from our present predicament, and these warlords in the government have been there for years sucking the blood of this country,” he briefly yet accurately described today’s Lebanon.
Wasta is an Arabic word that loosely translates into nepotism. If you’re a Lebanese resident, you should be well accustomed to ‘wasta’ in your everyday life.
Basically, officials with powerful connections all too often use their influence to rig opportunities in their favor and in favor of their people and partisans.
Released in June, two months before the devastating Beirut port explosion, the board game sold out its first batch of 500 units in just two weeks, according to Arab News.
Due to the tremendous positive reaction to the game, Kesrouwany is now working on creating an English-language version, as well as a second edition that consists of updated illustrated characters that mirror Lebanon’s latest political state.
The game is quite thrilling. Kesrouwany explains it as follows:
“The game is based on kicking other players out of the game, and the objective is to either have the highest number or be the last man standing at the table.”
“The most powerful card in the game is the Lebanese flag, which is number 8. So, if you have this card in your hand and the whole deck is done, then you win the game.”
There is also a catch in the game, a patriotic one in fact. You must hold on to the Lebanese flag. You can’t throw it from your hand, otherwise “you lose your dignity and are out of the game,” he notes in his explanation of the game in the video below.