Pandemic creator’s new board game, Daybreak, is about climate change

Matt Leacock, designer of the hit parlor game Pandemic, is dealing with a brand-new task. It’s a cooperative parlor game called Daybreak, and it will design the real-world battle versus environment modification. Collaborating with a brand-new partner, Italian video game designer Matteo Menapace, the technique will be stabilizing enjoyable with a desire to stabilize the discussion around our warming world.

The video game, which is still in advancement, will be released by CMYK, the exact same business behind hits like Names and Wavelength. No release date or cost has actually been set.

To fans of Leacock’s previous work, Daybreak ought to feel familiar. Prior to it was burnt out into a sophisticated project with Pandemic Tradition, the initial Pandemic utilized a reasonably unrefined design of illness to terrific result. A deck of cards represents groups of contaminated individuals, and drawing from that deck spreads out several illness on a map of the world. Hidden because deck are several upsurges, each of which positions lots more cubes of contaminated individuals on the board simultaneously. Cooperation and mindful preparation are crucial to winning prior to the last epidemic card enters play, and even then success is not constantly possible.

Leacock and Menapace inform Polygon that they will utilize comparable mechanics to drive the action in Daybreak.

Cardboard shits and cards litter a table. Lightning bolts are prominently displayed, alongside a giant red thermometer.

A paper model of Daybreak revealing a two-player video game nearing completion of a session.
Image: Matteo Menapace

Gamers will handle the function of either China, Europe, the United States, or a collection of other countries that are described in-game as The International South. When a video game of Daybreak starts, the Earth’s temperature level will be reasonably low. Then, in the exact same method that the illness cubes started to accumulate in Pandemic, the temperature level will start to increase all over the world. Crises will also begin to crop up — drought will set in, wildfires will break out, and sea levels will rise — and the intensity of those crises will be worsened by higher global temperatures.

“Each one of these powers has different abilities,” Leacock said. “The United States may be very good at research and development. China may have better control over its economy — direct control — and so on. […] You’ve got this global responsibility to figure out how to contribute in some way. If you don’t, if any one of these players has too many people in crisis, you all collectively lose the game.”

Together, players will need to split their energy between mitigation and adaptation. On the one hand, mitigation will remove carbon from the atmosphere, thereby lowering the Earth’s temperature over time. Adaptation, on the other hand, will be more about hardening infrastructure and society itself from the harm that rising global temperatures will cause.

Menapace used the example of a national water purification system as an adaptation. While it won’t make the planet any cooler, it will allow a country to weather a drought and keep more of its population out of crisis. Geoengineering, on the other hand, represents a very drastic form of mitigation. By spraying sulfur into the atmosphere, researchers think that we could significantly lower the planet’s temperature. But geoengineering’s impact on plant and animal life — and the human populations that depend on them — is unknown. Menapace said that risk could be represented in-game by drawing more cards from the crisis deck each turn.

Of course, sitting down to a game of Pandemic feels very different today than it did in 2007. Will Daybreak be capable of the exact same kind of breakout success when it deals with something so immediate as climate change? Leacock and Menapace are confident that it will.

Matt Leacock in an anchor-patterned shirt sits in a red booth.

Matt Leacock
Photo: Owen Duffy

“I want people to take it seriously,” Leacock stated. “But, first and foremost, I want people to play it and enjoy it. I want to be really clear about that. We’re not trying to create a vitamin. This is a tabletop game that we actually want people to play and enjoy. And then, as a knock-on effect, if they understand the climate stuff better, that’s wonderful. I recognize that people aren’t necessarily gonna want to play this thing if all it is is preachy.”

And what about those who outright deny climate change, or who adamantly oppose the research that claims human activity as its trigger? What happens if those pundits and politicians choose to attack this game? “We should be lucky to get that much attention,” Leacock stated.

Menapace had a slightly more pugnacious response.

“I think that if we get some sort of backlash, it would probably be a good thing initially,” he said, “because it would mean that we’re poking someone or something where it hurts. That would be a sort of endorsement, in a roundabout way.”

Matteo Menapace, Italian game designer, standing in a mustard shirt against a brick and stucco wall.

Matteo Menapace
Photo: Dylan Nolte

Board games aren’t the most ecologically friendly products. There is a certain irony in making a tabletop game about climate change when those games will likely be manufactured out of paper and plastic overseas, and then shipped thousands of miles on giant cargo ships to consumers in the U.S. and Europe. Leacock and Menapace are extremely aware of that, and they are working hard with their publishing partners at CMYK to come up with solutions. With luck, they hope that Daybreak can be the beginning of a new chapter in greener board game production — and in the public awareness of environment modification itself.

In fact, that’s partly where the idea for the video game’s name originated from.

“There’s so much apocalyptic coverage out there,” Leacock confessed. “We want the game to show how important, how big the problem is. This is not easy, and when you play the game, you can lose. It can look pretty grim. But, there are ways forward, and we want the name to be more of a positive. It’s sort of like this inflection point, this new day, this new way of moving forward. A sunrise, not a sunset.”

You can register for an alert when Daybreak goes for the main site.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.