Space Program is a turn-based board game for players aged 11 and up that teaches fundamental concepts of computer programming. The project includes a main quad-fold playing board, four separate “Control Console” boards for each player, four 3D printed game pieces, three different decks of playing cards, two custom dice, a variety of game tokens, and an instruction booklet. The installation of the project also includes nine 20” by 20” informational posters arranged in a three-by-three grid. Players manipulate game pieces by sequencing playing cards into simple "programs." Space Program involves an accessible, simplified coding syntax, including actual programming terms and concepts. The game mechanics emphasize strategy and computational thinking over luck, encouraging players to plan their moves several turns in advance and to group actions into reusable "functions.” It accommodates two to four players.
The idea to give each player a separate "Control Panel" board arose as a solution to design problems I encountered. For one, players--especially new players--needed a way to keep the various cards and game tokens in play organized. They also benefited greatly from having brief reference text in front of them, and there was no room on the game board for this information. Similarly, the idea to include cutouts on the side of the "Control Panels" stemmed from the need to preserve space.
I decided early on that I wanted to create a quad-fold game. I appreciate the utility and efficiency of this approach; I can make the eventual box much smaller this way. Also, a board that folds into a square echoes my square motif. My method required that the art be printed on a material that won’t tear or crease. I decided that vinyl would be a good, durable material on which to print. To make the board, I cut 4 pieces of .120 caliper chipboard (I originally tried using .80 caliper but was unsatisfied with the sturdiness) so that, when laid out in a 20” by 20” square, two of the quadrants are touching and the rest have a gap of about 1/4”. Using this method, I only needed to make a single cut in the artwork, halfway across the board face. I carefully placed the chipboard on vinyl contact paper, folded the edges, and mounted the face art to the front of the board. I then made a single cut, right where the touching tiles meet. I constructed the control consoles similarly, with 2 panels spaced about 1/4” apart.
I wanted to print the cards on a material conducive to easily shuffling and dealing. I decided to use linen stock and to print the fronts and backs on separate sheets before gluing them together and cutting out the cards. This allowed me to align the fronts and backs more precisely than if I had used double-sided prints. Also, two sheets of 67lb linen stock resulted in an ideal thickness for the cards. The texture of the linen stock compliments the texture of the vinyl print nicely. I tried printing the cards on an ink jet printer first but got vastly better results using a laser printer.
I created a 3D model for the ship game pieces and printed them in flexible hard white plastic. This material has a slightly rough texture, so I I gave them several coats of acrylic spray paint and glossy varnish to improve the tactile experience.