Design diary: Fluffy Frontier - by Björn Ekenberg ION GAME DESIGN

Design diary: Fluffy Frontier - by Björn Ekenberg ION GAME DESIGN

It all started as a fun discussion waiting for the plane home from the Essen Spiel game expo. The Ion crew were brainstorming about animals in space, and it quite quickly escalated into a heated discussion about which animals were most entertaining and also possibly at the same time the most useless ones to bring into space. A debate regarding cuteness of course followed. Why do we feel more for cute animals? Would we object less if a scorpion was sent out compared to a tiny forest mouse with its little whiskers all quivering and aaaaawww… Our CEO Besime Uyanik turned to me and said “Björn, you wanna take this one and turn it into a game?”. What does one do then? Turn it into a game of course. This turned out to be challenging in a new way, because usually I design slowly based on a film, a book, or an historical event, but here I had the base idea already set and now I have to work almost backwards. This led to more testing of mechanics and brainstorming of ideas and challenging the first idea. More teamwork than with my first game, which brought on lots of very groovy ideas that are now woven into the game.

In the midst of designing a game everything is turned on its head, all the options are still open and everything is possible, so for me it's like a wonderful crazy tornado of fun ideas and interesting challenges. I’m so excited to see where we end up. 

The game centered around cats at first, but then we decided, hey, we are way more inclusive than that! All the furbabies should have a chance for adventure! A favorite of mine, Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy rumbled around in my mind. If you haven’t read it yet, beware, spoiler alert! In that marvelous book, it turns out that what the humans thought were just regular lab mice are actually the rulers of Earth, and the mice were the ones conducting the experiments on the dense humanoids. And the actual space animals came to mind, like Felicette and Gordo. What if they also secretly were in charge, and just made us believe we were? What would these Petsounats be doing up there? And why? What are they looking for? My brain suggested this obvious answer. Earthpets go up to meet up Halley's comet, which is actually an intergalactic messenger service, to pick up stuff sent to them from their home planets. Obviously. 

How realistic is this? Well, we’ve tried to blend in a little reality, but then taken artistic creative liberties because it was just so darn fun! You play as Felicette, Gordo and other animals that really went to space. The official version of what you are doing there is following the humans mission of going to Halley's comet and look for signs of life and pick up samples of iron, magnesium and other things to test them. The challenge is to keep the great secret secret, to not let the humans realize that the pets are in charge. And your mission is to secretly find Alien Supplies that you smuggle back to the ship, trading your finds with other animals, trying to reach your mission before anyone else. And not getting caught by those pesky hoomans, of course.

We are aiming at a weight of maybe 2-2.5? Easy enough to get the noobs interested but tactical enough to keep the heavy gamers entertained! Most importantly, they can enjoy it together!

A big part of the whole design process of a board game is the collaboration with the artist designing all the visual parts and artwork. We are fortunate enough to have the wildly talented Anne Isaksson doing this for my game, and she will talk about her process in her own Design Diary, coming soon! 


/ Björn Ekenberg (Stockholm, May 2022)

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