How we are making an Immunology Board Game

I've been fascinated with how the immune system protects us from disease since I was a child and watched "Once Upon a Time... Life". I would often recreate battles between phagocytes and bacteria with my toys, and when my little brother discovered the series we made new make-believe games about immunology.

Eventually, in 2017, I found Kurtzgesagt's videos about the immune system.

Wishing that everyone could experience the fascination that immunology produced on me and have fun while learning about it, I decided to make a board game out of it. This is how.

April 2017

I start from Kurzgesagt's videos, which simplify the immune system complexity by using colours to represent cell functions.

I begin doing rough sketches of card layouts and basic game mechanics.

Also trying to relate their model to real science.

Science first

I didn't want to create a game and then make it be about immunology; I wanted to turn immunology into a game. During this year I methodically studied different aspects of immunology and turned them into core game mechanics.

February 2018

First I revisit the cell-cell interaction maps, trying to fully understand Kurzgesagt's scheme.

As I played with my little siblings I quickly made up new rules to replace those that didn't work.

The goal of the game changes: bacteria win by causing damage.

Most current game mechanics are born now.

Playtesting

Now that most actions done by bacteria and the immune system during a real infection can be done in the game, it is time to ensure that doing them is fun and challenging. I also started considering the potential of the game for expansions with other "bad guys".

December 2018

Complement and antibodies reworked to make them simpler. Playtesting with my siblings starts to highlight imbalances on team strength, and several tweaks on interactions and rules are introduced to solve this, quite succesfully.

It's my 2nd year of university.

Conveying mechanics through design

During the next major stage of game development, no new core mechanics were added. Instead, I focused on adding the last bits of science I wanted to include and ensuring that information about possible actions, their consequences and the state of cards could be derived from visual clues.

July 2019

Lymph node design improved to include more advanced science.

Now there are two types of antibodies (G and M), and immune memory, which previously was game-breaking is finally fixed.

The future

I will soon start playtesting with professors to finish making the mechanics scientifically accurate, while also playtesting with board game players to ensure the game is fun and balanced.

Further steps include finding a graphic designer to make quality designs, producing full boxes that can be sent to other playtesters and game reviewers for extra feedback and promotion, starting online marketing with the help of my youtube channel and my contacts on the fields of scientific outreach, board game design and education, and launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to finally produce the game, possibly in collaboration with established educational boardgame maker John Coveyou.