Mark Wootton – Developers Diary #2

As Elizabeth noted in her Design Diaries the game that went to AEG was a solid game, but we all agreed that we needed to put in a few little wrinkles. We wanted to predominantly focus on replay ability and introduce a touch more hidden information.

The initial obvious choice was the city hexes. They were predominantly used in the submitted game as geographical reference points for migration objectives. A bit of research and discussion and together we realized that we could use them as a source of hidden information. The Monarch Watch way station program is designed to create Milkweed habitats that help alleviate some habitat loss that has occurred along the Monarch’s migration routes. Public spaces, gardens, and other similar land can be used. As the number of these way stations increase over time, there is the potential to increase the health of the Monarch population. We could reflect this in the game.
Several iterations of the way stations were tried until the final version was hit upon.

Each way station has the possibility to give you some additional victory points, or improve the migration abilities of your butterflies. If you manage to collect full butterfly life cycle sets you can get some pretty interesting bonuses as well. In addition to that we increased the variability of the season cards, and also kept each season hidden until there is a trigger to reveal it. Both of these things make it slightly more difficult to predict what the best options are for the players.

Elizabeth and I would meet on a regular basis to discuss ideas, chat about the latest version and come up with any new concepts. Each time the game would get a little bit closer to where we all wanted it finish.

Early on in the process Elizabeth had suggested Indie Maverick as a great artist for the game. In discussions with Josh Wood, who was art directing the project, we agreed that we wanted to do something a little bit different, using her art style. Many natural history based games go with traditional colours. In this case we felt we wanted to do something a little bit different. The game is tied so strongly to a real natural world event that we felt that one of the areas we had most latitude to do something different and to make it stand out was the look. For that reason we went with a strong sugar skull look and a bold black background.

This In turn has been complimented by the graphic design of Matt Paquette. Matt took the colours and themes and tied them together in a really strong visually compelling look for the game. He even managed to deal with requests on little details. So for example on the Way station bonus board and lifecycle cards, have flowers in the background, Matt spent a lot of time to ensure that we got representations of Milkweed species rather than just a “random” flower. We also chose colours for the sets that complimented the look, but drew inspiration for those colours from actual Milkweed flower colours.

The attention to that sort of detail is what makes a project you can be proud of. Matt’s desire to put a bit of information in the rulebook about the Monarch, together with help to verify that from experts in the field of Monarch migration was the finishing touch.

This was a fantastic project to work on; it was a joy to work with a designer that shares my passion for the natural world, and to have such talented collaborators working together. I hope people will enjoy being carried along on the breezes and seasonal changes off Mariposas as they rediscover this epic natural journey.

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