Board Game Design: Stop the Oil!

This semester, I’ve been enrolled in a pretty cool and interesting class: Game Design Workshop. The cool part about it? We make board games! It’s challenging and fun, and has most certainly been helping me better understand game design. So far in the class, I’ve created a total of four board games along with other classmates for most of them, but today I am going to focus on one in particular. “Stop the Oil!” is a game about cooperating with your teammates to clean wildlife and clean up the BP oil spill currently affecting the Gulf Coast.

My friend Nigel and I created a group together, and began thinking up game mechanics after I suggested making a game about cleaning up the BP oil spill. The requirements for the game included incorporating a fog of war element, cooperative game play over competitive, and some but not necessarily all of the components in a “piecepack.” The Professor provided us with the “piecepack,” which included twenty-four tiles with various numbers and suits, six-sided die, circular tokens, and player tokens. We decided to use the dice and the tiles for our game, and spent a day play testing to figure out how the game would work and what mechanics we wanted to implement. We also had to include an “alien” in the game, which was a rather loosely used term. Most other games in the class used a literal alien, though not all. Our “alien” was the BP employee, which was one player who would attempt to sabotage the other players in a secretive and cunning manner. After several play tests, we developed an interesting game play that seemed to work. We still needed to polish the game, fix a few mechanics, clarify the rules, and finish implementing the “alien’s” dastardly methods, when suddenly, Nigel got sick! I attempted to play test the game in class by myself, and my Professor actually came over, learned the rules, watched how the game play worked, and offered several very insightful suggestions. The core of the game play remained the same throughout most of the design, although the aesthetics were altered, with permission from the Professor of course, to better fit the game’s theme. Now that the game is nearing completion, I thought I would share!


This game was a lot of fun to make, especially because it incorporated a current issue in America. Utilizing the piecepack and no other materials made it a real challenge, especially when it came to incorporating the theme, but I think it came out fairly well. The fog of war element blended well with our game mechanics, although making the game cooperative yet still with a bit of competition was a bit more tricky. The “alien” aspect was by far the most difficult to implement, but makes the game play more interesting and fun. Through this project, I’ve discovered that game mechanics are an extremely important part of one’s design, and while a unique theme is great, making sure the game is fun is most certainly a designers number one priority. Also, making your game, whether it’s a video game or a board game, stand out from the crowd is always a plus. There are so many games that merely fade away with the multitude, so implementing attention-grabbing mechanics, game play, and theme can really help sell your game. But once again, it is imperative to not forget or slack off on developing mechanics. I personally design games starting with the story and move my way into mechanics, but I understand now just how significant mechanics and system design truly is. A game’s mechanics, the way it is played, is what makes it fun, a factor which should never be undermined.

Below is the latest rules set for “Stop the Oil!” in a Microsoft Word 2007 docx file.

Stop the Oil Rules

The following pictures were taken during early play testing, while the tile set templates are the latest tiles that represent the wildlife to be cleaned.

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