Dr. Remedy Grove: Environmentally Friendly Family Games with Legacy Mechanics [In the Lab]

Dr. Remedy Grove Masthead
When producing a retail board game commercially, you need to keep your unit costs very, very low. That often forces you to go to an overseas printer, where the economy of scale is friendliest. This can be very problematic if you're trying to be environmentally conscious or keep shipping logistics simple. Producing a game with chipboard, bamboo or vegetable inks can be more expensive, and ultimately make a product that doesn't look as polished as the glossy four-color boxes you see on shelves. Unless a buyer is willing to pay a premium out of the goodness of her heart, it seems the market for such a product is pretty meager.

But, hey, I'm a marketing guy. Here's my wild eyed, ivory tower proposal.

First, we can't market these games just on the appeal of environmentally responsible production. That is too distant, abstract, inside-baseball for the casual family game-shopper to consider. Instead, let's just use environmental themes in the game itself. Set the games in natural environments or put players in caretaker positions for the natural resources around them. Expanding the Dr. Remedy Grove brand to a whole series seems to make sense. Dr. Remedy Grove can be the Mario-like avatar representing a certain game experience.

All games in the line would be produced with environmentally responsible materials and in ethical working conditions. That generally means they would look something like Pinball Publishing's designer cards or the business cards seen above. Sturdy chipboard with natural imperfections and a limited color palette. This definitely stands out against the glossy four-color production values on game store shelves, but could be positioned and priced as a "boutique" or "artisinal" product.

The aesthetics and price would already make these games a niche product, so the game experience should be worth it. The games should be accessible to the whole family, but with enough substance for the grown-ups to enjoy over several sessions. I lean toward strategy games, as you might expect. The mechanics ought to also be a metaphor for individual choices having long-term impact. Again, this gets across the environmental themes without making an explicitly "educational" game. Toward this end, I think Legacy mechanics would be a nice fit. The natural textures and limited palette make the components ideally suited to coloring with crayons, drawing doodles or writing names.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents the Secret Cure
Players help Dr. Remedy Grove discover new medicines from rare Amazonian plants. See more details about this idea here.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents Endangered Rescue
A version of Pandemic where you're trying to preserve the cubes rather than eliminate them. Protect four endangered species around the world from poachers, disease, and human expansion. Each game changes the board and affects certain mechanics in future games.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents Sloth Sanctuary
A sort of emergency ER game where players nurse injured sloths back to health to be released into the wild. While the sloths are in the sanctuary, they attract tourists who provide funding, but you only earn actual victory points when the sloths are released.

So that's the idea! Maybe some day it'll actually come to fruition.


  1. The "Aesthetics" paragraph terminates in the middle of a sentence.

  2. The other approach is not to print the games, but construct them from wood or other materials (and charge appropriately). I will be talking more about his over at my site, stelgames.com, shortly.

    I think this is also a good way for niche game developers to avoid some of the threshold costs associated with printing. After all, the US board game business really was started as a sideline by printers who made games when they weren't otherwise engaged.

    By building in wood or other materials that the game maker can make games as they sell them or manage inventory (and costs) much better.

    ... the coolest part of this approach is that your game designs can open up in different ways when you are not focused on printing.

    Woodworking, metalcraft, needlecraft, and leatherworking could all provide interesting platforms for game developers who are willing to develop some craft skills. After all, there are a number of woodworkers and others selling their chess sets, backgammon sets, and cribbage boards... why not make games the same way?

  3. Thanks, nailed it. :)

  4. Where do you see 3d printers working into this model?

  5. I think that 3D printers will mainly be used for prototyping figures for production in pewter... especially for the Artistically Challenged like me :) . Mainly because the cost of 3D printing is dropping so fast. Pewter figures are perceived to have high value (and thus you can charge higher prices) while being relatively low-cost to produce in-house.

    CNC machines and laser cutters haven't dropped in price nearly as much, so I think most game makers can get away with using a scroll saw at a fraction of the price and most of the benefit. (around $200 vs. $8K for a laser cutter or $4K for a CNC machine).

    I just want to suggest there are other options for game making besides printing and indie developers may benefit from widening their tool sets.

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