Growing up, my dad’s side of the family brought all the games to my childhood. My aunt taught me how to play xiangqi (aka Chinese chess), tiến lên (aka VC or 13), and the perennial lunar new year game, lắc bầu cua.
Now if you don’t know how to play this game, it involves a three six-sided dice and a mat. Players put their bets down on what they think the dice landed on and they get paid out one-to-one. Oh, and the dice actually have animals instead of numbers. So you’re betting on animals like a deer, rooster, fish, crab, shrimp and also a random gourd. Not sure how a gourd convinced people that it deserved a spot but it’s in the name. I mean, the literal translation of lắc bầu cua is “shake gourd crab.” (The game goes by other names, but this is what I called it growing up.)
Anyway, I spent a lot of time during Tết playing this game and it never struck me how ugly this board is. And it seems like this exact board is ubiquitous among every Vietnamese household. If not this one, then another one of the two, which are just as ugly.
Tired of looking at this thing, I decided to make my own. So as usual, I started with a sketch in Procreate.
Then I traced it in Photoshop via Astropad Studio using Kyle’s Halftone Brushes.
It’s a good start, but when I worked on the Nicorette pitch, I learned that smoking is actually really cool. I knew that when I read comic books in the 90s, and I knew that when I drew a bunch of animals smoking a cigarette all over my Nicorette brief. So I added some much needed swagger to these guys.
Oh hell yeah.
As a present to my families, I ordered these boards and dice for the coming new year, and I’m also considering making this an annual tradition. Will it be available in the /shop? Find out in the Year of the Rat!