game design

jelly kingdoms
disney's fairies
living history
game design
building virtual worlds
gnome death

The Imagi-Nation


Assignment: Design the game of your dreams. Whatever you want it to be on whatever platform.


For this project, I wanted to create a game that would play on two feelings for a person: nostalgia and desperation. What better vehicle for this, than a game that revolved around the very concept of losing one's childhood?


As children our worlds are awash with fantasy, adventure, and delight. As we grow older, our lives become filled with disappointments, painful memories, and betrayals. However, as long as we can keep some small part of our hearts awake with delight and innocence, we can persevere through anything.


In ‘Imagination Preserved’ three or more players take the role of denizens of the Lands of Make Believe and Reality. One player represents the Realist, and tries to tear down the heart of Imagination and kill off the fantasies and dreams of the Make-Believers. The Make-Believers, in turn, try to maintain the child’s faith throughout their life, or build their faith to a point where they Imagination is safely preserved in their hearts.


The evolution of a game board.


The final ruleset is a bit on the longer side, and can be found in the document link at the bottom of this page.


The overall play of the game involves the players of Make-Believe trying to ensure the survival of the Imagi-Nation. Each turn the role of the Realist (the adversary) is passed to the next player who then spends their turn trying to defeat the Make-Believers. Revolving antagonist is, I'll admit, a stranger game concept, but it's one I wanted to experiment with.


Each turn, an event occurs that damages the child's Imagi-Nation.


A Realist creature appears at the fallen square. The Realist can then move the creatures about the board, attempting to cause other areas to fall, or even attack the Heart of Imagi-Nation.


The Make-Believers can then defeat the Realist creatures/restore fallen lands with battles of Whimsy. These Whimsy games are little improvisational exercises that the Realist will then impose rules upon via his Rule cards.


If the Make-Believers suitably impress the Realist, they succeed.

The game continues until the Realist conquers the heart of Imagi-Nation (the Realist wins), the Make-Believers build up enough faith, or the child gets to age 21 with their Imagi-Nation still standing (both of these lead to a win for the Make-Believers.

Click here to see all the squares of the board

A lot of the joy in this game came from crafting the world and what players would do in it. Coming up with various whimsy like games, and then the rules to be enforced on them was fun, and drew from my experience with theatre and improv.


Mechanically, I feel the game needs additional work to be a solid experience. While the theming and improv games are cute, the overall game needs work to feel challenging and cohesive.


However, I was happy to observe playtesters remarking on stories/experiences that the cards, images, and descriptions reminded them of.


Click here to see the game board


Click on this to go to a directory with all the card images divided up by card type



Click on this to download the document describing the design process,
along with rules (initial & final) and playtest data.