P4 – Habitat Hegemony

0. Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Mechanics and Components
3. Educational and Entertainment Value
4. Documentation of Game Development
5. Packaging and Visual Design
6. Future Improvements and Conclusions
7. Game Materials
8. Appendixes

1. Introduction

“Habitat Hegemony” is not just a board game; it is a nuanced simulation of the intricate dance of political power and societal dynamics. This game serves as a window into the complexities of governance, political strategies, and the socio-economic underpinnings that shape modern societies. At its core, “Habitat Hegemony” aims to bridge the gap between educational content and entertainment, offering players a unique opportunity to delve into the world of political maneuvering within a competitive yet insightful framework.

“Habitat Hegemony” fosters critical thinking, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the often unseen forces that drive political decisions and their consequences. Through its clever use of game mechanics—such as policy cards, global events, and diverse socioeconomic districts—the game mirrors real-world political and social scenarios, allowing players to experience the weight and impact of their decisions in a simulated environment.

Moreover, “Habitat Hegemony” stands as a testament to the educational power of interactive learning. By engaging players in a dynamic struggle for influence and control within a fictional yet reflective animal kingdom, the game simplifies complex political concepts. This makes them more accessible and digestible, especially for those who might find the real-world political landscape daunting or opaque. In doing so, “Habitat Hegemony” not only entertains but also enlightens, encouraging players to ponder the delicate balance of power, strategy, and ethics in our society.

2. Mechanics and Components

“Habitat Hegemony” combines various components and mechanics to simulate the complexity of political landscapes. To recreate gameplay, please refer to Appendix 1. 

Board and Districts

At the heart of the game lies a modular board representing a fictional society divided into districts of varying socio-economic statuses: Working Class, Middle Income, High Income, and an Immigrant district. Each district has a specific number of votes, indicated by the number in the center of its tile, which players compete to control through carefully crafted strategies and influence points allocation plans. 

Policy Cards 

The policy cards are central to the gameplay. Three types of policy cards exist, explained below. For further detail refer to Appendix 2.

  • Influence Policy Cards: Used to increase a player’s influence in specific districts. These cards allow players to strengthen their position in various socio-economic areas, simulating real-world political campaigning and outreach.
  • Offensive Policy Cards: These cards enable players to challenge opponents’ influence, reflecting the competitive nature of political campaigns and the tactics used to undermine rivals.
  • Strategic Policy Cards: These cards impact multiple districts or change the value of a district, representing broad political movements and strategies that can alter the game’s landscape significantly.

Global Event Cards 

Global Event Cards introduce unexpected scenarios that mimic real-world events, adding unpredictability to the game. These events range from grassroots movements to economic crises, each with unique effects on the game’s dynamics. For further detail refer to Appendix 2.

Game Mechanics

The game operates on a turn-based system where players deploy influence cubes to districts, aiming to gain the most votes. Players choose policy cards from their hand, place them face down, and reveal them in turn, executing their effects. The strategic placement of influence cubes, combined with the choice of policy cards, forms the crux of the gameplay.

Victory Points and Endgame

Victory Points (VPs) are earned based on the control of districts and fulfilling conditions set by VP condition cards. The game progresses until the “Election Day” card is drawn, signaling the endgame. The player with the most VPs at this point is declared the winner, symbolizing their successful political campaign and dominance in the election.

Political Party Dynamics

Players align with political parties—Progressive, Conservative, or Nationalist—each with specific strengths and weaknesses. This alignment influences gameplay strategies and interactions with various game elements, reflecting the ideological diversity in real-world politics.

3. Educational and Entertainment Value

Beyond its engaging gameplay, “Habitat Hegemony” serves as a compelling educational tool. It offers players a hands-on experience with political strategy and socio-economic considerations. The game facilitates learning through its simulation of political campaigns, policy impacts, and the management of unforeseen global events. The competitive nature of the game, coupled with its rich thematic content, makes it both entertaining and informative, catering to a wide range of players from avid gamers to individuals interested in politics and social dynamics.

Learning Facilitation

The design of “Habitat Hegemony” is particularly effective in teaching political strategies, socio-economic awareness, and empathy. Players learn the importance of adapting strategies in response to rivals’ moves and global events, mirroring the dynamic nature of real-world politics. The game also highlights how socio-economic factors influence voting behavior and policy effectiveness, allowing players to experience the challenges and responsibilities of governance and political decision-making.

Arcs and Loops

Integral to “Habitat Hegemony” are its ‘Arcs’ and ‘Loops.’ The ‘Loops’ are recurring gameplay elements that reflect ongoing political dynamics, such as varying district responses to policies. The ‘Arcs,’ introduced through Event Cards, represent significant real-world events and their impacts on the game’s political landscape. These elements, from grassroots movements to economic crises, bring depth to the gameplay and encourage players to think critically about the long-term consequences of their decisions. For a deeper dive into game arcs and loops, please refer to Appendix 3.

4. Documentation of Game Development

Design Process and Iterations

The evolution of “Habitat Hegemony” started with simple mechanics, and our vision quickly expanded to encapsulate the intricate dynamics of political interactions. The design process was iterative, with each version reflecting a deeper understanding of political allegory. The incorporation of animal-themed parties—Rooster, Carp, Otter, Anteater—each with distinct political leanings and voting powers across various district types, was a deliberate choice. This thematic consistency allowed us to create a visually cohesive and engaging rulebook and game components. The printable version was crafted with user-friendliness in mind, ensuring that all players could access and comprehend the game’s components with ease.

Iteration Highlights

From the onset, “Habitat Hegemony” underwent several iterations. The first Iteration introduced basic political terms and party dynamics but lacked strategic depth. The second Iteration increased the number of policy cards and introduced global events, significantly enriching gameplay. Subsequent Iterations streamlined complex rules and balanced the cards’ impact, simplifying the game mechanics without compromising strategic intricacies.

Learnings from each phase were invaluable. The first iteration taught us the necessity of strategic depth, leading to an expanded policy card set. The second iteration’s introduction of global events brought unpredictability and excitement, simulating real-world political volatility. Further iterations honed the balance between strategy and accessibility.

Evolution from Playtesting

We relied on systematic and structured playtests to guide the evolution of the game. For every playtest we had specific ideas and questions we wanted to validate and test. We relied on the pre-playtest, during-playtest, and post-playtest framework to generate insights from our playtests. Based on this framework, we developed a set of questions we seek to answer before, during, and after playtests. This full questionnaire is in Appendix 4. For each playtest, we report a summary of the learnings based on this framework. 

Each playtest’s feedback was instrumental in shaping “Habitat Hegemony.” After initial confusion reported by college students in early tests, we simplified the terminology and game mechanics. The map size was adjusted, and negotiation prompts were added to facilitate player interaction. Notably, the discomfort players expressed toward political messaging guided us to introduce a neutral animal theme, distancing the game from real-world prejudices and enhancing its educational value.

Some other examples of this evolution include:

  • Adjustment of Party Cards: Reflecting player discomfort with direct political alignments, we allowed more autonomy in choosing political orientations, thus respecting diverse perspectives.
  • Refinement of Districts: We altered district names from low-income to working class.
  • Mechanical Overhauls: We simplified the event frequency, reducing the cognitive load and making the game more approachable for new players.
  • These changes, driven by candid player feedback, underscored our commitment to an iterative design process, ensuring that “Habitat Hegemony” not only entertained but also educated players in the art of political balance.

For a full list of playtests completed during the P3 phase, please refer to Appendix 5. We have performed a number of playtests in the P4 phase of finalizing this game. The playtests and their corresponding learnings are below. 

Playtest 7: Mechanics Refinement Session

Stanford, CA | In-class Playtest with 4 Stanford Students | December 5, 2023

Component Integration and Balance:

  • A Victory Point (VP) Tracker strip was added as an essential component for visualizing player progress and game dynamics.
  • The new limit of three Engagement Tokens per district was introduced to prevent any single player from dominating a district, promoting strategic diversity and balance.
  • Large Cubes were incorporated to provide greater visibility of influence and provide a less cluttered map, also adding excitement to the gameplay with the “Hotel Effect,” where players are excited to get to replace 5 small cubes with one large cube.
  • The game was adjusted to address how districts with no voting power markers are managed, ensuring all aspects of the game were accounted for and balanced​​.

Playtest 8: Detailed Feedback Session

Stanford, CA | In-class Playtest with 4 Stanford Students | December 7, 2023

Rulebook Clarity:

  • The rulebook was understandable. The turn rules could benefit from more clarity and intuitiveness.
  • The “Health Emergency” card’s function was not working as intended, flagged as ‘broken’ by playtesters, needing a fix.
  • There was a lack of clarity about the fact the starting player is a different player in every round of the game, a rule oversight that required fixing.
  • The value exchange between big and small cubes was not clearly stated in the rule book: though present, it needed to be easier to reference/more explicit.

Gameplay Dynamics:

  • Players instinctively targeted high-income districts, showing intuitive strategic choices.
  • The concepts of influence and voting power were initially confusing, but playtesters quickly and independently understood the difference as the game progressed.

Player Engagement:

  • The game’s engagement mechanisms, like the summit event, were well-received, especially as it introduced a balancing factor against players leading in high-income districts.
  • The suggestion to have players verbally announce policies could increase engagement and the thematic experience of the game.
  • The “Education Faked” card was particularly engaging and strategic against high-income-focused players.
  • A dynamic shift in game balance through card play was noted as enjoyable, emphasizing the game’s unpredictability and excitement.

Suggestions for Improvement:

  • Introducing verbal allegations when playing offensive cards to enhance the thematic narrative and player interaction.
  • Observations were made that defensive cards might be underpowered, pointing towards potential rebalancing.
  • A need for a mechanism allowing players to recover from sudden loss of influence was identified​​.

Playtest 9: Final Playtest I – Detailed Feedback Session

Lake Tahoe, CA | Playtest with 4 Friends in their Twenties who like Board Games | December 9, 2023

Specific Suggestions for Improvement:

  • Weaken some of the influence cards: limit impact to at most two districts.
  • The game emphasizes the importance of whom players choose to engage with, rather than how they engage. That’s fine, but is it what we wanted (see next bullet)?
  • Game can end up in a 1 vs. 1 player struggle with others far behind/less engaged
  • More interclass plays would be fun: benefit high income explicitly at the expense of working class, for example?
  • More interactions between the different cards, instead of them simply taking effect one by one when flipped face up.
  • Why not enable players/opponents to move influence to other adjacent districts?
  • Generally: look more into interactions between adjacent districts.

Playtest 10: Final Playtest II – Macro View Session

Lake Tahoe, CA | Playtest with (same) 4 Friends as Playtest 9 | December 10, 2023

General Feedback:

  • Players enjoy the game’s dynamics but identify balance issues with certain cards and mechanics.
  • The significance of player interactions and the influence of specific cards on the game’s outcome are highlighted.
  • Suggestions for improving game balance include adjusting card effects and introducing new mechanics.
  • The game’s political theme and representation of different social classes are discussed, with a focus on how they influence gameplay.
  • Participants express a desire for the game to offer varied and strategic gameplay, avoiding repetitive 1v1 scenarios.
  • The importance of the game’s aesthetics and thematic elements, such as the use of animal imagery, is debated.
  • There is a discussion about the potential for the game to be published and shared with a wider audience.

Stories, Examples, and Citations:

  • Players recount specific instances where the balance of power shifted dramatically due to card effects.
  • The game’s representation of social classes and political parties sparks a conversation about real-world parallels.
  • A player’s strategy involving maximizing exposure with certain cards is shared as a gameplay anecdote.
  • The mention of another game, ‘Eschaton’, provides a comparative perspective on game mechanics and themes.

Quotes from Players

The sentiment reflected in the feedback from playtesters of “Habitat Hegemony” is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic:

  1. “I really liked the summit event in the game—it felt good to level the playing field against the players leading in rich districts.”
  2. “Definitely enjoyed this game and would love to play it again. It’s got great replay value.”
  3. “We were all competing to get the strategy cards—they were the most exciting part of the game for me.”
  4. “Battling it out for control of the districts was the best part; it really hooked us into the game.”
  5. “Using the ‘Education Faked’ card against someone focusing on high-income districts was so engaging and fun.”
  6. “I loved how the game balance could shift dramatically with just one card play. It kept us on our toes and was a lot of fun.”
  7. “The mechanics of this game? Very compelling. They really nailed it with the gameplay design.”
  8. “I was immediately drawn in by the game’s visual appeal. The colors are vibrant, and everything from the cards to the board itself is just beautiful. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable.”
  9. “The animal theme added such a unique twist to the game. It made understanding and engaging with the political concepts much more accessible, entertaining and fun!”

Note: Quotes are recreated based on the best effort and recollection of the P3/P4 team.

Players enjoyed the strategic depth of the game, particularly relishing the dynamic shifts in power and the competitive element of battling for district control. The excitement and engagement were evident, especially in how players vied for strategy cards, finding them to be a highly sought-after and thrilling aspect of gameplay. The unique mechanics and the ability for game balance to change suddenly with card plays were praised for adding an element of unpredictability and fun, keeping players engaged and eager to play again. This enthusiastic response underscores “Habitat Hegemony” as a compelling and well-received board game, offering an engaging mix of strategy, competition, and dynamic gameplay.

5. Packaging and Visual Design

In “Habitat Hegemony,” the thoughtful design of the packaging extends far beyond its primary function of protection and storage. The cardboard box itself is branded with vibrant artwork and essential game information, transforming it into an informative and inviting preview of the game within. On the back, players find a succinct overview of the game’s theme and mechanics, offering a snapshot that serves to both educate and entice. This at-a-glance synopsis of the game’s core concepts and instructions has been particularly well-received by players, sparking curiosity and excitement even before the box is opened.

The packaging’s exterior, adorned with thematic illustrations and key details, acts as an ambassador for the game, setting the stage for the adventure that awaits inside. It not only captures the essence of the game’s atmosphere but also primes the players for the strategic gameplay to come. Feedback has shown that this approach to packaging design significantly enhances the initial engagement, with players reporting a sense of intrigue and anticipation upon their first interaction with the game. This immediate connection with “Habitat Hegemony” speaks to the success of the packaging in creating a compelling invitation to delve into the world of political strategy and ecological dominance.

Significantly, the game board’s hexagonal districts have been meticulously designed to embed crucial information, such as the voting power of each district, directly onto the game’s landscape. This intuitive integration of data serves to streamline gameplay, allowing players to quickly assess and strategize over the terrains they vie to control.

Earlier versions employed colored humanoid (used for additional voting points) figures corresponding to different player colors, which, while visually distinct, led to confusion during gameplay. In our latest design iteration, we’ve streamlined this aspect by introducing uniform black humanoid figures for all parties. This simplification removes previous ambiguities and shifts the focus towards strategic party expansion and influence.

Furthermore, we’ve introduced party political leaning pins, a novel design element that players can attach to their clothing or display if they opt for specific political orientations. This interactive feature not only deepens player immersion by symbolically incorporating the chosen political orientation into their identity but also enriches the role-playing aspect of the game. Players wearing their party’s pin can experience a more tangible connection to their strategic choices and political machinations within the game’s universe.

The game’s aesthetic, characterized by an approachable and friendly animal theme, thoughtfully distances the product from the complex and often divisive themes of social class and political control it simulates. This careful design consideration ensures that the game remains accessible and inviting, even as it explores challenging societal dynamics.

6. Future Improvements and Conclusions 

As “Habitat Hegemony” continues to evolve, potential areas for further development are already coming into focus. The results of the final 2 playtests have not impacted the actual game and materials submitted today, but their take-aways are listed here as concrete next steps if we are to publish the game.

As we’ve now approached more advanced territory where the key mechanics are working, the majority of the learning from the Final Playtests (i.e. Playtests 9 & 10) is now no longer clear cut, and there is less consensus among playtesters. As such, the majority of the learnings from the Final Playtests are thus phrased as questions: even for the few areas where we know there are concrete directions (1-3),  open questions remain (1-3) what the concrete improvements should look like.

Some more open questions follow (4-6) that are not tied to a specific mechanic or change that is planned. Then, later in this section, some more creative/bold ideas are listed for further down the road.

Concrete Improvements Informed by Final Playtest I & II:

  1. Balance the game by tweaking overpowered cards and mechanics: concretely, limit influence cards to at most 2 districts.
  2. Explore introduction of deeper adjacent interactions beyond what is currently in the cards: combine with idea of cards on the table uniquely interacting.
  3. Enable resource shoving to diversify strategies: can be achieved through event cards, policy cards, or through yet a new mechanic (see below).

Open Question after Final Playtest I & II:

  1. Beyond limiting influence cards to 2 districts, what specifically are the overpowered cards, and are there further specific changes to be made to the overpowered cards?
  2. How exactly could a mechanism to enable deeper interaction look like? One idea (not from playtesters, but from our own brainstorming): limit the magnitude of the impact that policy cards have when multiple policy cards impact the same district – reward not going after highly sought-after districts – would also target the 1 vs 1 player problem.
  3. What could will the new mechanics, like resource shoving, be integrated into the existing game structure? Maybe sth like “foreign influence?” Or a “cultural barometer”?
  4. How can the game maintain a balance between strategy and luck to keep it engaging? What’s the right level of seemingly being unable to catch up and unpredictability?
  5. Gather more feedback on the game’s design, aesthetics (animal theme really necessary?) to guide further development, rather than animal theme think carefully about the political implications of the game and how it resonates with players. In what ways can the game’s political theme be presented to avoid controversy?
  6. What are the plans for publishing the game and protecting its intellectual property?

More Ambitious Changes: MDA & Medium Expansion

Areas of further improvement include MDAs improvements and medium expansion. On the medium expansion side, enhanced digital integration could offer an avenue for expanded gameplay and accessibility, while additional expansions could explore deeper political complexities and environmental issues. The potential incorporation of augmented reality could bring the game’s ecological and political battles to life, providing an even more immersive experience.

Below is a list of improvements that could be implemented in the future, loosely building on the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics framework.

  • Enhance Role-Playing Elements: Introduce a feature where players make verbal allegations when playing offensive cards. This would add to the thematic narrative and increase player interaction and immersion – but we experimented with that role play element during playtests and some players were uncomfortable.
  • Rebalance Defensive Cards: Develop defensive cards, addressing observations that some of the current policy cards may be overpowered. 
  • Implement Loss Recovery Mechanism: Develop a new game mechanic that allows players to recover from a sudden loss of influence, adding a layer of strategy and unpredictability to the gameplay.


Reflecting on the game’s journey thus far, it’s clear that “Habitat Hegemony” has carved out a niche that resonates with its audience. It strikes a delicate balance between being a mirror to our society’s political machinations and a medium for understanding the delicate interplay between various socio-economic forces. The game’s impact lies in its ability to distill complex concepts into engaging gameplay, making it relevant for both enthusiasts and educators alike.

In conclusion, the educational value of “Habitat Hegemony” cannot be overstated. Through its clever design and engaging mechanics, it has demonstrated an exceptional capacity to educate on governance, strategy, and social dynamics. As players navigate the intricacies of political influence within the game, they are unwittingly schooled in the art of critical thinking and decision-making. “Habitat Hegemony” is more than just a game; it’s a dynamic learning tool that continues to teach with every play, promising to shape and inform its players’ understanding of the world around them – and the fact that differing circumstances may mean a policy is welcomed in one place, yet decried in another.

7. Game Materials

Please find all final game materials on Google Drive (Stanford Login required). If that doesn’t work for you, feel free to reach out directly to get access.

8. Appendices

Appendix 1: Game recreation guide

  1. Game Board Setup: Place the 10 District Tiles in a pattern on the table. Each tile is a district with a number showing how many votes it has. Green tiles are Working Class with 1 vote, tan tiles are Middle Income with 2 votes, and dark green tiles are High Income with 3 votes. The blue Immigrant district starts with 0 votes.
  2. District Voting Power: Add a cube to each district to show its votes. The number of cubes should match the number in the tile’s center. No cube is needed for the Immigrant district at the start.
  3. Sort the Cards: Make three piles of cards – yellow Influence cards, green Offensive cards, and blue Strategic Policy cards. Keep them separate and within everyone’s reach.
  4. Choose Your Party: Select an animal party card, like Rooster or Otter, to represent your group in the game. If you like, also choose a pin that shows your party’s political type, such as Progressive or Conservative.
  5. Taking Turns: Decide who starts the game by seeing who last saw an animal. That person begins, and then play continues clockwise. On your turn, place two cubes on any district to try and win its votes. After everyone has a turn, the next player to the left starts the next round.
  6. Policy Cards Play: Pick a policy card from your hand but don’t show it yet. When all players have chosen, turn the cards over to see what happens. Some cards add cubes for you, and others take them away from someone else.
  7. Victory Points Tracking: Use a special board or ruler with numbers to keep track of your points. You get points by having the most cubes in a district and doing what the Victory Point cards say.
  8. Global Event Cards: (Optional for later games) Add a new card each round for a surprise event that changes the game. These can be things like “Pandemic Outbreak” that affect votes.
  9. Winning the Game: Keep playing until someone finds the “Election Day” card in the Victory Points pile. Then everyone counts their votes from the cubes and districts they control. The person with the most votes wins!

Remember to place only up to three engagement tokens per district and to use the large cubes (worth five small ones) for big moves. Enjoy your time as a party leader in “Habitat Hegemony,” and may the best strategist win!

Appendix 2: Policy cards and Global Event cards

Influence Policy Cards

  • Charismatic Leader Visit: Increases influence in a chosen district, representing the impact of high-profile political visits.
  • Community Outreach: Boosts influence in a Working Class district, simulating grassroots engagement and community connections.
  • Grassroots Campaign: Allows for influence increase in two Working Class districts, reflecting the power of grassroots movements.
  • Educational Reform: Advocates for education system improvements, increasing influence in a chosen district.
  • Economic Stimulus: Represents financial aid to rejuvenate a district, adding influence to a district in need.
  • Diplomatic Debacle: Exploits an opponent’s diplomatic error to gain influence in multiple districts.
  • Whistleblower Windfall: Uses leaked information to gain influence, especially in High Income districts.
  • Public Health Initiative: Focuses on healthcare to gain influence, emphasizing the role of public health in politics.
  • Urban Renewal Project: Improves urban areas to increase influence, highlighting infrastructure development in political campaigns.

Offensive Policy Cards

  • Backdoor Backstab: Reduces opponents’ influence due to political conspiracy, symbolizing underhand political tactics.
  • Hacking the System: Represents political espionage, reducing an opponent’s influence in a district.
  • HIIT Job: Uses a personal incident of an opponent to decrease their influence, illustrating personal attacks in politics.
  • Offshore Secrets: Exposes financial misconduct to decrease an opponent’s influence, highlighting the impact of financial scandals.
  • Ghostwriter Gambit: Questions an opponent’s authenticity to reduce their influence, underscoring the role of personal integrity.
  • Social Media Meltdown: Utilizes past controversial statements to decrease an opponent’s influence, showing the power of social media in politics.
  • Infrastructure Incompetence: Highlights opponents’ neglect in infrastructure, reducing their influence in a district.
  • Family Feud: Uses familial criticisms to decrease an opponent’s influence, reflecting personal dynamics in political image.
  • Education Faked: Reveals false credentials of an opponent to reduce their influence in High Income districts, emphasizing the importance of credibility.

Strategic Policy Cards

  • Educational Equity: Promotes educational investments in Working Class districts, increasing their voting power.
  • Remote Vote: Facilitates absentee voting in Working Class districts, reflecting inclusivity in voting processes.
  • Infrastructure Innovation: Focuses on infrastructure improvements to increase voting power in selected districts.
  • Green City Initiative: Aims to make cities sustainable, increasing voting power in a chosen district.
  • Tech Education Expansion: Integrates technology in education, boosting voting power in High and Middle Income districts.
  • Healthcare Overhaul: Overhauls healthcare systems to increase voting power in selected districts.
  • Development Drive: Targets economic development in Middle Income districts, increasing their voting power.
  • Migrant Mayhem: Aids immigrant integration by increasing the voting power of the Immigrant District.
  • Social Welfare Reform: Implements welfare reforms to increase voting power in Working Class districts.

Global Event Cards

  • Grassroots Uprising: Boosts influence in Working Class districts through social media empowerment, reflecting the power of digital activism.
  • Refugee Crisis: Simulates the socio-political impact of a refugee influx, affecting influence in High and Middle Income districts, highlighting the complexities of immigration.
  • Pandemic Outbreak: Portrays the upheavals of a health crisis, altering influence in High Income districts and showcasing the role of public health in politics.
  • Davos Summit: Distracts High Income districts with an elite global summit, temporarily halting their policy card plays, symbolizing the influence of international events.
  • Economic Growth: Demonstrates wealth distribution during economic booms, benefiting certain income districts and illustrating economic disparities.
  • Neighbors at War: Mimics the domestic effects of external conflicts, impacting Working Class districts, and emphasizing the repercussions of war.
  • Unionization Wave: Empowers Working Class districts through labor movements, increasing their influence and highlighting workers’ rights.
  • New Immigrant Voting Policies: Highlights the political changes from progressive immigration reforms, affecting influence in various districts and underscoring the importance of inclusive policies.
  • Election Day: Marks the culmination of the game, converting votes into Victory Points. This card signifies the end of the game and the final tally of players’ efforts in influencing the various districts. It serves as a critical juncture, determining the winner based on the successful strategies and influence garnered throughout the game.

Appendix 3: Arcs and Loops in Habitat Hegemony

Loops (Woven Into Gameplay)

Loops are recurring gameplay elements that surface in each round, representing ongoing political and social dynamics. These include:

  • Different Populations with Varying Needs: The game simulates how different districts (representing various socio-economic groups) have distinct needs and react differently to policies. This mirrors real-life political scenarios where a policy might be welcomed in one area but opposed in another.
  • Dynamic Policy Decisions: Players face situations where they must adapt their strategies based on the changing political landscape. For example, a player might commit to a policy that becomes less ideal due to another player’s aggressive tactics.
  • Strategic Complexity: The mechanic of laying down a policy card at the round’s start, before other players make their moves, adds strategic depth. Players must anticipate opponents’ actions and global events, mirroring the foresight needed in real-world politics.

Arcs (Delivered as Event Cards)

Arcs are narrative elements introduced through Event Cards, each depicting a scenario that influences the game for a single round or longer, reflecting significant real-world events. Examples include:

  • Grassroots Uprising Event Card: Focuses on the impact of social media in empowering grassroots movements, especially in working-class areas.
  • Refugee Crisis Event Card: Deals with the socio-economic effects of a refugee influx from neighboring conflicts.
  • Pandemic Outbreak Event Card: Simulates the political and societal upheaval caused by a global health crisis.
  • Davos Summit Event Card: Represents the influence of elite global summits on public policy and focus in affluent areas.
  • Strong Economy Event Card: Highlights economic growth and its unequal wealth distribution effects.
  • Neighbors at War Event Card: Reflects the domestic impact of neighboring countries at war.
  • Unionization Wave Event Card: Focuses on the rise of labor movements, particularly in working-class sectors.
  • New Immigrant Voting Policies Event Card: Addresses changes in immigration policies and their political repercussions. It represents the real-world dynamic that immigrant are often marginalized but given the opportunity they can be a major contributing force in society 

Appendix 4: Structured Playtest Questionnaire

Pre-Playtest Questionnaire

  1. Background Information:
  • Have you played “Habitat Hegemony” or similar strategy games before?
  • What are your favorite types of board games?
  • How often do you engage in board gaming?
  1. Initial Impressions:
  • Based on what you know so far, what are your expectations for “Habitat Hegemony”?
  • What aspects of the game are you most interested in exploring?

During Playtest Questionnaire

  1. Gameplay Mechanics:
  • Are the game rules clear and easy to understand?
  • How do you find the pace of the game?
  • Are there any rules or mechanics that seem confusing or unnecessary?
  1. Strategy and Engagement:
  • Do you feel engaged with the game’s strategy and decision-making?
  • Are the game’s objectives clear and achievable?
  • How do you find the balance between different strategies?
  1. Game Components and Design:
  • How do you find the quality and design of the game components?
  • Is the game board layout intuitive and visually appealing?
  • How do the game’s components (e.g., cards, cubes) enhance or detract from your experience?

Post-Playtest Questionnaire

  1. Overall Experience:
  • Did the game meet your initial expectations?
  • What was the most enjoyable aspect of the game?
  • Were there any aspects of the game that you didn’t enjoy?
  1. Game Balance and Mechanics:
  • How would you rate the game’s balance between luck and strategy?
  • Were there any rules or mechanics that you felt were particularly effective or ineffective?
  • Did you encounter any issues with game mechanics or rules that need to be addressed?
  1. Suggestions and Improvements:
  • What improvements, if any, would you suggest for the game?
  • Would you recommend any changes to the game’s design or components?
  • Would you be interested in playing this game again?
  1. Final Thoughts:
  • How likely are you to recommend “Habitat Hegemony” to others?
  • Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

Appendix 5: P3 playtests 

Playtest 1: In-Class College Students

  • Participants: 4 college students from a game design course.
  • Feedback:
    • Confusion about what info can be conveyed
    • Confusion about what condition cards mean in actual execution
    • When should card be played? Why does waiting until the end of everyone’s turn to play matter?
    • Help players remember what cards had been played
    • Tapping twice after players have already strategized together seems redundant – what happens if players disagree? Is it likely that they disagree?
    • Liked being able to see your team’s cards but not your own
    • No lack of information, game is too easy
    • More complex movements would be appreciated
    • Fun after players understood what was happening but confusing initially
  • Adaptations Made: This initial game concept was scraped for not being “system-like”. The team felt that a different, more complex system would best fit the project requirements.

Playtest 2:  In-Class College Students

  • Participants: 4 college students from a game design course.
  • Feedback:
    • Framing of the game is questionable – why are immigrants fighting? Cards are somewhat uncomfortable and low/high skill divide is also uncomfortable
    • Map is far too small
    • People not encouraged to speak to each other to trade – need to add more explicit negotiation prompts
    • There should be a cheat sheet of the rules
  • Adaptations Made: The strongest response we got from this playtest was in regards to players feeling uncomfortable at the political messaging behind the game. Based on this, we chose to lean away from assigning players political ideology directly and instead allow player choice in terms of what ideology they wish to follow throughout the game. Additionally, we implemented a friendly looking animal theme to further move players away from thinking of themselves as real world parties which may hold existing prejudice.

Playtest 3: College Students

  • Participants: 4 players (2 CS students, 2 LDT students).
  • Feedback:
    • Enjoyment and willingness to replay.
    • Suggestions for clearer symbols on policy cards.
    • Strategy cards were highly sought after.
    • Recommendations for game mechanics adjustments (e.g., VP tokens, policy cards discard option).
    • Suggested improvements for offensive cards and immigrant population policies.
    • Identified the need for a scorecard to track progress.
  • Adaptations Made: Based on this feedback, game symbols were clarified, and rule adjustments were considered, such as implementing a scorecard.

Playtests 4 and 5: Family Gathering

  • Participants: Diverse, including a 13-year-old and two middle-aged men.
  • Feedback:
    • Positive reception, with comments on the fun aspect even in adverse situations.
    • Observations about card balance and victory conditions.
    • Suggestions for alternative victory point mechanisms and round-by-round vote counting.
    • Noted emotional dynamics and player interactions.
  • Adaptations Made: Adjustments were made to card effects, especially for the leading player. The rules were tweaked to incorporate suggestions about victory points and vote tracking.

Playtest 6: In-Class College Students

  • Participants: 4 college students from a game design course.
  • Feedback:
    • District Name Clarity: Students emphasized the need for clear and distinct naming of class districts to facilitate strategic decision-making.
    • Balancing Opponent Presence: Suggestions were made to refine how opponent presence is managed on the board, aiming for more strategic depth and clearer rules.
    • Reevaluating District Types on Cards: Some students found the inclusion of district types on cards to be potentially redundant or confusing, suggesting their clarification in gameplay.
    • Reducing Card Text: The excessive text, especially story elements on the cards, was seen as overwhelming. It was suggested that these be minimized to streamline the focus on game mechanics.
    • Simplifying Event Frequency: There were concerns about the number of events per turn, with suggestions to simplify the game’s turn structure for a smoother, more engaging experience.
    • Enhancing Political Leaning Impact: The students felt that political leanings should have more influence on the gameplay, perhaps through more integration with event and category cards for added thematic relevance.

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