- Designers: Matt Leacock + Matteo Menapace
- Publisher: CMYK
- Players: ?? – 4
- Played: once on prototype; taught by the designer
Daybreak is a new cooperative game by Matt Leacock and CMYK Games (the maker of one of my favorite party games, Wavelength). At a recent convention, I had the chance to play a prototype of the game with a few of my friends, and it was a great experience. I’ll try to recap the game – but please remember that most of this is from memory (and my memory isn’t what it used to be). Despite that risk, the designer and publisher of the game have graciously granted me permission to describe the game and what I thought about it.
The main story of the game is climate change. The players in the game take on the role of different countries/regions of the world, and their goal is to combat rising global temperatures over the maximum 6 rounds of the game. Each of the world powers comes with its own bonus/handicaps (based on their unique starting set of cards) and energy situation as noted by chits on their board. There will be 5 areas for climate card stacks. The Climate cards are the main point of the game, and there is a huge deck of cards. Each has a main action found at the bottom, oftentimes activated by “tags”. At the top of each card, you’ll see one or more “tag” icons. More on this later. The right of the player board has an area for your “communities in crisis”, 12 in total. As you play the game, you will get more communities in crisis if you can’t control your pollution. The bottom of the player board has areas for three types of defense against climate change – I can’t remember the names of the types of resilience, but each has a different icon.
The board has a few main areas (and all descriptors are due to change as this is still a prototype). On the left in the conference area. Cards from the climate conference phase will be laid out here. The map of the world is central; and the amount of carbon emissions that can be absorbed by the different continents and oceans is shown here with wooden bits. Beneath the world map is the “chart of doom”. I’m sure that there is some different name for this, but there are 6 rows of climate negative effects here. To the right of this is the global warming thermometer. As the game progresses, red bars are added to this thermometer based on the world’s emissions. And then at the very right of the board is the area for Crisis cards. Some of these will be face up, and the players will have a chance to prepare for them through a round, though (of course) some will likely be facedown and will be a surprise!
The flow of each round is the same –
- Conference – Place some Crisis cards on the board, likely some face up, some face down. Reveal two Conference cards, and the players must discuss (have a conference!) to discuss which of the cards they want to keep. Some will add a new rule to the game while in effect. Some conference cards give a bonus, but only after they are activated – that is, certain cards are discarded from player hands and placed under the card, usually based on a certain tag being found on the card.
- Get new cards – each player is given a new hand of cards, usually 5 – but this can be modulated up or down based on game conditions. Each card has a main action, but cards are also a sort of currency in the game as they can also be used simply for their tags or they can be used as discards to pay for the actions found on other cards.
- Play cards – Play any cards you like from your hand, assuming you can pay for them. You have 5 stacks to play cards on your board – only the topmost (and therefore fully visible) card in each stack is active. These cards are used to improve energy production, improve emissions, mitigate emissions by planting trees, etc. You can also simply tuck some cards underneath a stack to use their tags (and forever give up their main effect). You can also use a card on the top of a stack and then later in the round cover it up and use the newly placed card. All of the tags in a stack are visible and used throughout the whole game.
- Calculate energy needs, carbon emissions and figure out global warming – First, make sure you are making enough power for your part of the world. If not, you’ll put a community in crisis for each missed. Then add up all of your emissions and place a matching number of cubes above the global map. When all players have done this, reduce your pool of emissions based on the amount seen on the map (showing the effects of the trees, water, etc to scrub some of the pollution). Any excess here is added to the global warming thermometer. A red thermometer bar (representing 0.1 degrees of global warming) is added for each 20 pollution cubes added to the thermometer.
- Roll the die of doom – based on the current level on the thermometer, roll the die of doom a certain number of times. For each roll, move the marker forward one space on the corresponding row in the chart of doom. If you hit a red space, something bad happens.
- Deal with crisis cards – now deal with all the crisis cards in the stack. Some of them might be face up, so hopefully you’ve prepared for them! Others will be a complete surprise. Many of these cards offer negative effects, though they can be mitigated/defended if you have the right type of resilience markers. The strength of many of the crisis cards is multiplied by each red bar on the thermometer – so as the game progresses, the Crisis cards get more and more painful. Some of them cause you to discard cards in your hand, so I learned to usually try to use all of my cards each Action phase, even just to put extra tags in a stack. However, it seemed like the bulk of the penalties were either to add pollution to the group stack for the next round or to put communities in crisis on player boards.
- Check to see if you win/lose. You win if you have survived the round AND you were carbon neutral as a planet this round; that is the land and seas were able to absorb all your pollution, and therefore NO red cubes were added to the thermometer that round. You lose if this is the end of the sixth round, if any player has 12+ communities in crisis, if the global warming thermometer is at the top. If neither has happened, go back to the top of this list and do it again.
(Again, apologies if this is not correct, but this is completely from memory. Also, by the time you read this, I’m guessing parts of the game will be changed from the multiple playtests the game received at the convention… but it should be enough to give you a feel for what you do).
Daybreak is a very compelling game – constantly keeping players on their toes. Every decision feels important, and every flip of an unknown card has you worried that this could be the one that triggers your doom. This is a design hallmark of Leacock cooperative games, and the designer and I had a nice chat about this while we played. There are so many cooperative games coming to market these days, and it’s rare to have a game that carries this high level of tension through most of the game.
The game is meant to be both entertaining and educational. Leacock told me that each card will have a QR code on it, linking to an informational site describing aspects related to each card in the game. There has been a lot of real research done into the topics for each of the cards, some of which has been outlined on the designer’s blog – https://medium.com/climate-crisis-the-game. For me, from a developer’s standpoint, it was also interesting to see how much the game has changed from the earliest blog posts – the game that I played was a bit different from the description in the 13 Jan 2021 blog post.
Also, a big positive for me is that it seems quite hard for a single player to quarterback the progress of the game. Each player has their own hand of cards and player board; and frankly, it’s a lot to think about – much less what’s going on with the other players. In our game, during the action phase, we would all keep our heads down trying to figure out how to play our cards. But, as we were doing it, we would call out suggestions: “Hey, can anyone use two power plants converted to solar?”. “Hey, I have a card that lets me pass to another player – does anyone need a funding tag? Or a nuclear tag?” “Hey, I can reveal the next two crisis cards but it’ll cost me three discarded cards – do we think that’s worth it? I will end up with one unmet energy need though”.
The game focuses on this sort of communication rather than Player A telling everyone else what the best plan is. The Conference cards often led to a spirited debate over which one should be kept. Sometimes the cards simply gave a reward when put into play. The more interesting ones gave a really good reward when activated; but until that time… there was a pretty big negative effect that is always activated – so the team is really motivated to meet the needs of that card in the current round.
Players constantly have to decide between different actions. There are so many ways to progress, and only so many cards that you have in your hand at any time. Do you focus on your own energy needs or production? Do you give up some of your cards for the greater good? Many of the cards allow you to give resiliency tokens to other players or to remove different types of pollution – and these cards require constant conversation amongst the players so that they know what the options are.
Though there are a lot of things to consider, the game feels like it plays fast – because you are constantly trying to figure out what to do with your cards. I think our learning game came in around 80-90 minutes; but there is certainly some delay given the learning process. It was a wholly engrossing experience, and one I look forward to trying again in finished form.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (1 play): Cooperative games are something of an odd duck for me – I’ve enjoyed nearly every cooperative game I’ve played, but they don’t tend to stick for me the way competitive games do. Which seems odd, since I’m not a competitive player – I’d rather try something new then take what I consider to be the choice that gives me the best chance of winning. In any event, the cooperative games which have most caught my interest are those with a compelling theme, and those where players really have to work together. And Daybreak comes through on both of these counts, magnificently. If you enjoy cooperative games, I’d highly recommend watching for this one.
Tery N: (1 play): I don’t always love cooperative games, because I have had too many experiences where one person tries to impose their will on everyone else and it just isn’t fun.I am very careful who I play them with. Daybreak is a perfect cooperative game for me because it does not rely on all players having to agree to the action. Sure, players are agreeing to which Conference Card to keep, but after that you are playing cards from your own hand and making your own decisions. It’s important that you keep other players in mind when making your choices of cards to play, but they are your own choices. I really enjoyed how the cards interacted with each other, and the decisions to be made about covering up one action with another, and how important each decision can be. Die of Doom is definitely the right name for it, but Jeroen had a special power that allowed us to ignore some die rolls and we escaped with a victory, but it was tight. I will definitely be picking this one up.
[NB – the term “Die of Doom” is completely the invention of the author of this review, Dale Yu. Though I will see if CMYK will use the term in the official rules…]
Mario Pawlowski (1 play): I’m usually a fan of cooperative games. So I guess I played an extraordinary high number of them in comparison to other genres. Although I played Daybreak only once so far it has the potential to take one of the higher spots in my all time ranking list. The theme is interesting and you really get the feeling you’re working ‘together’. Since it feels like everybody is contributing necessary ‘little pieces’ to the overall puzzle this also pretty much takes away the ‘Alpha Player’ problem. The only problem you might encounter is the AP player who wants to see exactly what’s going on in each players’ tableau (Ok, he’d be a problem in any game, but here it would be especially painful as there’s simply too much going on in each players’ tableau. But that’s also a good thing as you feel like being at a conference where results are important and not the way to get there.). The difficulty seems to be great with a lot of methods to adjust when needed. All in all this gets a definite ‘thumbs up’.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor