"Daybreak reminds us if we can imagine it, we can make it happen," says the pandemic's designer in his climate change awareness game

"Daybreak reminds us if we can imagine it, we can make it happen," says the pandemic's designer in h

Mark Leacock, the creator of Pandemic, a popular co-op board game, has collaborated with Matteo Menapace, who has a rich history in cooperative play, to develop Daybreak, a new board game that seeks to analyze the real-world issues of climate change and identify solutions to them. The name-change to Daybreak was initially revealed as Climate Crisis in early 2021, before receiving a name change. The upcoming game will include players working together as world powers in order to

The campaign for Daybreak on Backerkit, which was recently launched, has now raised almost $300,000 (284,296), a total total that the project has now raised - at the time of this article being published - for the project to totalize $75,000 (71,000). With this being the next co-op tabletop title from the designer behind one of the most durable co-op board games out there, there is a lot of buzz around Daybreak.

To tense the truth from the hype, Dicebreaker sat down with both co-designers to discuss their upcoming game, how it differs from Pandemic, what players can anticipate, and whether a board game can make a difference in the fight against climate change.

What is the difference between Daybreak and Pandemic?

Like Pandemic, Daybreak is fully cooperative. Both games invite players to work together in order to overcome a growing threat that threatens humanity. Mechanically, they are very different, however. In Pandemic, each player represents a world power, forming a matrix of technologies and strategies to protect communities and decarbonize their economies.

Players in Pandemic exchange cards to develop sets in order to discover cures. In Daybreak, players use cards to create their own charts of technologies and policies that progress even more rapidly throughout the game.

There is no limit to the number of actions players can do in each round of Daybreak, and players may take their actions in any order. It''s much more free-form.

The players in Pandemic operate on a shared board. In Daybreak, each player maintains their own player board which records their world power. Daybreak''s world map is used to track planetary tipping points and how many emissions are absorbed each round.

Why is the pandemic philosophy still so rigid?

The Leacock: Pandemics engine has proven to be more robust than I anticipated when I first developed it. At a very high level, it allows the players to collaborate on long-term goals and then the game pushes back. This engine involves discovering cures for diseases, keeping floodwaters at bay, and even putting barbarians at bay. The game is able to adapt its strategy, take calculated risks and manage unpredictable situations.

We urged ourselves to create completely new patterns of play for Daybreak. This resulted in a game that makes its players feel proficient in accomplishing long-term goals (such as protecting communities, producing clean energy, and decarbonizing your economy) as well as a fresh threat engine that puts tension and stakes on during each game.

You mentioned on your crowdfunding page that Daybreak was inspired by Wingspan, Terraforming Mars, and Race for the Galaxy - might you give you some specific examples of inspiration?

Players enrolled in Leacock and Menapace in our early prototypes, earning various currencies (in our case, financial capital and political power) to purchase opportunity cards from their hands. These cards then altered the world power statistics in a somewhat static manner. These cards were then stacked up and set aside. This was roughly replicated on Terraforming Mars, which has many different cards that you can purchase, record, and then forget.

We tweaked the game so that the opportunity cards might be made available for free, but the players would have to pay cards to obtain the solutions they were given. Lastly, we altered each card design so that they could build on previous cards and become more efficient with additional investment. In this way, the game became an engine builder similar to Wingspan, where your tableau feels increasingly powerful over time.

We changed the game''s economic model rapidly, replacing financial capital and political power tokens with opportunities cards themselves for the games currency. This made for agonising tradeoffs (do I roll out this powerful technology or use its card to pay for this other solution?). These tradeoffs are similar to those found in Race for the Galaxy, which also uses cards for currency.

How much research was used to establish Daybreak? How many real-life examples of climate change and how to reduce it, which erected them into the game?

A lot of research on Leacock and Menapace!

Here''s a look at some of the most important sources (we used many more):

  • The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change by Solomon Goldstein-Rose
  • A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Thea Riofrancos
  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawkin
  • The Drawdown Review: Climate Solutions for a New Decade edited by Katherine Wilkinson
  • Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy by Hal Havey
  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
  • Planet on Fire: A Manifesto for the Age of Environmental Breakdown by Mathew Lawrence and Laurie Laybourn-Langton

We have also partnered with climate experts:

Since the beginning of 2020, we''ve worked closely with climate experts from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. Pablo and his colleagues informally helped us model the carbon cycle and design crisis and opportunities cards, primarily the humanitarian ones.

Politicians like Laurie Laybourn-Langton, author of Planet on Fire, and Solomon Goldstein-Rose, author of The 100% Solution, have worked with Laurie and Solomon in the game in a variety of iterations, and helped us transform ideas from their books into policy cards.

We''ve also talked to Bill McKibben, who outlined the game''s tone in depth, communication expert Elizabeth Bagley from Project Drawdown, geo-engineering experts Oliver Morton, Peter Irvine, and Andy Parker, as well as advisors from WWF and Greenpeace.

The result is that the game outlines a wide variety of theories about climate change, whether it be the emissions caused by electricity generation or other sectors of the economy, or external feedback loops, or political forces, such as misinformation or negligence.

The game is outfitted with over 150 opportunities cards that cover a broad spectrum of policies and technologies that can all be combined to be part of the solution.

What are you hoping to achieve with Daybreak? Do you believe this will encourage players to take action or learn more about climate change?

Leacock and Menapace: As we designed the game over the years, we started filtering news articles and net-zero promises through the lens of Daybreak. We realized what we have developed was a tactile model that allows us to understand what is happening (or not) on the climate front, and to have deep conversations with our friends.

Many playtesters said that playing Daybreak changed how they understand the problem and its potential solutions. And they said that while the game does not shy away from the loss and destabilisation expected, it is empowering to take action the rapid and far-reaching consequences that must be done to stop global warming. To live a healthy future where everyone can prosper as well.

Daybreak, a playful blend of climate science, technology, policy, and internationalism, reminds us that all of it is possible. If we can imagine it, we may make it happen.

We hope playing Daybreak helps people zoom out from the chaos, understand the climate crisis, and its potential systemic solutions, and become playful activists.

What was the experience of starting a project with Backerkit? Do you think it has the benefit of Kickstarter and Gamefound?

Leacock and Menapace: So far, it exceeded our expectations. We also found it easy to leave Kickstarter owing of their commitments to blockchain, especially for a climate change game!

What happens when will players be able to get their hands on the game? Are there any surprises?

Backers should expect them to receive copies in May 2023, according to Leacock and Menapace.

What will you two companies be doing in the future?

Menapace: I''m currently working on a serious game project with Policy Lab UK to involve stakeholders in the implementation of legislation (cant reveal full details). I want to continue working on games with a climate focus. Id love to continue working with Matt, either on a sequel to Daybreak or a new game altogether:)

Leacock: I have a half-dozen projects that I have been working on for the last several years; I''m looking forward to the time when I can talk more about them! I am also quite curious about how Daybreak will evolve once its been released. I see so much potential and itd jump at the chance to continue working with Matteo.

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