What is Safari Survival?

Safari Survival is a turn-based physical card game in which 4-6 players must battle it out to prove who can be the King of the Safari. The game was completed over a period of 10 weeks in which I conducted numerous playtesting sessions, created my own art, and fine-tuned the mechanics and gameplay systems based on playtesting feedback.

To see the full image of the game's rulebook and the different types of cards, click the button down below.

Game Design Document (GDD)

My game entitled Safari Survival is a turn-based physical game in which there are six characters who fight to be the king of the safari; Five of those characters are African animals and one is the poacher, who begins the game with more health than all the other characters.

The game proceeds by going around in a full clockwise circle and then counter-clockwise to prevent disadvantages such as being the last player of the first turn. The goal of my game is to get players to prove they are will become the King of the Safari by actual physical means. This means that they have to physically prove that they are fit to be the King. I accomplished this by establishing a mini-game within the game called “Food Chain” in which two players battle through a freeze-motion turn-based sequence where they try to slap each other’s hands; The loser loses a health chip.

To help speed up the game I established an “Extinctify” ability that eliminates a player from the game if the attacker has a certain number of cards more than the victim. From playtesting, I noticed that some players get bullied by attacks from the rest of the players so I created a “Deflect” ability that allows the victim to deflect his incoming attack to another player; of course this feature was abused so I had to place a limit on how frequently it can be used.

I purposely prevented players from revealing how much health they had because it would’ve rendered the Extinctify card useless and I wanted to introduce a risk aspect into the gameplay. I want people to think and keep track of  how many health chips the other players have so they can efficiently use Extinctify when the time comes.

Some players lost health chips frequently so much that I introduced a trivia system where players can attempt to answer a question about African animals and gain a health chip if they answered correctly, but I still wanted to maintain that risk aspect so I decided that they would lose a health chip if they answered incorrectly. I purposefully did not put easy trivia questions because it would’ve been too easy to gain health chips. For example, I had a trivia question: “The horn of which of these animals are removed in Zimbabwe in order to protect them?” in which the answer was the Black Rhinoceros.

Overall, I wanted to educate players on the poaching and endangerment of African animals in the world. Ten million African animals are legally hunted each year and for every legal kill that’s also one illegal poacher kill; That’s the reason why I gave the poacher more health. He’s the tougher opponent in real life and I wanted the animal players to work together instead of fighting each other so that they understand that poachers do not deserve to be the King of the Safari in the game and in real life as well. Although I did not think about this theme when I was first developing the game,I suddenly had that thought and that’s what motivated me to take this direction.

All the Details


How did you approach your new fiction?

The three fictions brainstorming session got me thinking of several different ideas. The Three Fictions brainstorm is an exercise to help come up with ideas. It works like this: Think of 3 universes. For each of those universes, answer these four questions:

  1. What is the fiction?

  2. What does health represent?

  3. What does winning mean?

  4. What does losing mean?

One of my ideas was called UC dominion in which all the University of California colleges waged an academic war on each other and conquer each other but then at the same time in my life I had an interest in lions and I’ve been following a lot of news on their vulnerability to endangerment so that was the idea I decided to go with. 

What were your experience or aesthetic goals?

I wanted players to think that the poacher was some big, powerful bully who is stronger than everyone else. My experience goal is to not let the bully win, it’s to show that humans must not be allowed to dwindle the population of other species and get away with it. I used Food Chain as a measure to do that. The physical aspect of playing the game shows that the poacher can still win if he is physically capable of surviving the odds against him.

Did you succeed in meeting your goals?

Yes and no because since the drawing of the character cards were random, not all players are physically active which meant that whoever got the poacher card and isn’t as physically capable of becoming the King of the Safari risked being more likely to be eliminated first, but that also introduces the balancing aspect because no one can purposefully decide to be the poacher just to have more beginning health chips (This was apparent in my playtesting when the most physical player wanted to be the poacher because he believed he could win with his physical confidence).

What went right? What went wrong? What did you learn?

The right:

  1. Solutions: I faced a lot of problems when I did some of my playtests. Thankfully, I managed to come up with good solutions on the spot when I was conducting playtests.

  2. Motivation: The Three Fictions brainstorming session allowed me to pursue a creative idea that I thought was meaningful to me which gave me the passion to develop something that I believed was worth making.

The Wrong:

  1. Crafting Frustration: I never really was a good crafter so I had frustration during the final polishing stages of my game. When I was putting the components of my card pieces together I faced a lot of frustration such as cutting in straight lines (I kind of have tendencies to follow OCD mannerisms) on my designs. Gluing was another issue because the glue would not stick all the time so I had to reglue my pieces using krazy glue to make sure it actually stays there. Then, using crazy glue got all over my fingers and it felt even more frustrating because I felt like I couldn’t work with my hands feeling super stiff and dry. Running out of supplies was another issue. I had to go to Safeway every now and then to get some glue and double-sided tape because I underestimated how much adhesive I needed. Cutting corners on some of my cards were an issue until I met someone who had a corner cutter at Student Collaborative Section. Unfortunately, I only managed to corner-cut only about half my cards until he had to leave.

  2. Adobe Illustrator frustration: At first, when I didn’t know how to use Illustrator I was slightly frustrated. I didn’t know how to do a lot of things such as extend/minimize an image to scale without messing up the X and Y lengths of it. At first, I thought I should’ve waited until I could ask someone who knows how to work Illustrator I decided to google search how to do certain things and that helped me. However, The beginning stages were pretty frustrating.

What did you learn?

  1. Adobe Illustrator: For the first time, I used Adobe Illustrator. In the past I used Adobe Photoshop. I thought why don’t I use Photoshop but then I looked up when I should use one or the other and I found this image. It proves that using Illustrator is appropriate for this project because my work is basically logos and icons on a card. This has taught me that certain programs are better than others when it comes to different types of projets and Adobe Illustrator is another tool I can add to my toolbelt.

  2. How to accept criticism: At first, I didn’t know how games would be developed. Through all of the games I played, I never thought playtesting would play a huge role in its development. I feared receiving criticisms from people thinking that my game would be very empty, but receiving constructive criticisms is necessary for growth and I learned how to slowly do that.

How would you approach this project if you could begin again? What might you have done differently?​

I would’ve definitely not procrastinated. For the first two weeks after started this project, I waited until the night before my self-imposed deadline to focus on ideas and I felt like those last-minute ideas permanently set the direction of my game. I would’ve focused on polishing the artwork a little better. Instead of instantly eliminating a player with the Extinctify move I would’ve done an all-or-nothing system where the players engage in food chain and however lose would be instantly eliminated instead. I also wish I could've devoted more time to playtesting because my playtesters had a pretty busy schedule and they were planning on doing something after playtesting my game and I feel like that made my playtesting feel a little rushed and not relaxing enough.

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