Detail from custom board game designed for VSA

We can honestly say that we’ve never designed a human-sized custom board game before. Thankfully, we love to tread new ground (literally), and when the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority of BC (MVSABC) asked us if we could do it, we jumped on the opportunity (figuratively).

Our mission: to create a promotional ‘Snakes & Ladders’ style board game based on ‘Walt the Curber,’ a character the MVSABC uses to educate the public about vehicle curbers (curbers are unlicensed dealers masquerading as private sellers). The board game would be used as a life-sized carpet game, a full-page insert in newspapers across British Columbia and as a limited edition box set. The game needed to be fun, but it also had to spread awareness about safe car buying habits.

To accomplish these feats, our intrepid graphic designer Natasha, created a cartoonish caricature of the MVSABC’s live ‘Walt’ actor. Next, she created an isometric game board with readily positionable elements like roads, foliage and vehicles. As we learned first hand, there are some significant challenges to printing on carpet. For one, the resolution is much, much lower than it is for print and digital. This meant that we had to develop custom graphics that would look good even with minimal details. We also had a limited color palette to work from. This meant that we had a big chunk of carpet with sample colors up in our office for weeks during the design process.

Something that would also be easy to take for granted is gameplay. We went through about a dozen internal versions to ensure fairness of play and to ensure all messaging was presented fully. Next, our Kyosei designer came up with a nifty way to make a ‘lite’ version of the carpet game using only 2 pieces of the carpet (versus the standard 4) so that the game carpet could be setup in smaller spaces and still remain playable.

The finished game plays like Snakes and Ladders, but focuses on teaching players lessons about responsible car buying. Land on a square with a positive auto buying action — like going to a registered dealer — and you get to advance up a highway. Land on a square with VSA’s villain, Walt the Curber, and you buy a dangerous car from an unlicensed seller. This sends you back along a dirt road. With colorful custom illustrations and easy rules, it makes a fun way to learn about responsible car buying.

Want to get in on the fun? Watch your local BC newspapers! A version of the game will also show up as a print advertisement and as a limited release game board.

The custom board game in action at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show:

Kids playing on the life-size Walt the Curber game. 20160324_123315_resized