Daybreak, a game about climate change, honored as a finalist in the 2024 Games for Change Awards

A child sits beside a winding path, laid out as a set of cardboard tiles on the table. She’s holding a small stack of cards. In the background another hand holds a custom die above the bard.
Image: Beatriz Martinez

Plus details on a special panel moderated by Polygon

Games for Change, a leading progressive voice in gaming, spent 2023 getting way into tabletop. Now it’s back for the summer convention circuit with the Games for Change Festival in New York City, held this year from June 27 to 28. It will also award the second annual Best Board or Tabletop Game for Impact Award. Polygon has an exclusive look at the exceptional finalists, plus details of an extraordinary panel to be hosted by yours truly.

“We made the decision last year to expand our programming and our awards category to include […] analog games to the Festival for the first time,” said Games for Change president Susanna Pollack. “I feel like this is something that has been [inquired about] for years, and we felt that the momentum and enthusiasm had grown so much that we really would be remiss if we ignored the demand.”

The global tabletop games industry clearly got the message, as Pollack said submissions were up 71% compared to 2023. Three finalists, described below, were selected by a jury chosen by Games for Change. The program’s partner, Hasbro, will make the final selection.

“This program beautifully showcases the ability for designers to connect people through a shared love of games,” said Brian Baker, senior vice president and global play lead of board games at Hasbro. “The creativity demonstrated by the applicants was truly impressive. Crafting an engaging game is already a challenge, but the added dimension of tackling social issues inherent in this program makes the submissions even more inspiring.”

Here are the finalists, which will all be available to play during the Games for Change Festival:

Daybreak by CMYK, United States

A game of Daybreak laid out on the table. Several dice and colorful tokens are spread on the table, with additional cards tucked in at the sides.
Image: CMYK

Designed by Pandemic creator and Pandemic Legacy co-creator Matt Leacock with Matteo Menapace, Daybreak is a game about stopping global climate change. It’s currently available directly from the publisher, at local game stores, and on Amazon.

“We were really impressed by how deep the research was, and the partnerships that went into designing the game,” said Pollack. “They’ve also partnered with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They represent the domain experts, and to have that kind of expertise in the design process from the beginning is a model that we certainly advocate for. […] The integrity of the data and the information that was infused in what is a beautifully designed game […] helps incorporate a complicated issue of climate change in a way that feels personal. That balance is not always easy to achieve.”

Empiric Pediatrics 2023 by Mike Cosimini, United States

A hand of black cards with colorful edges showing drug names, categories, and chemical pathways.
Photo: Mike Cosimini

A print-and-play card game, Empiric Pediatrics 2023 is intended to help medical students learn about antibiotics. Residents and practicing physicians can also keep up with their own continuing education thanks to the platform’s regular updates across multiple disciplines.

“There is a need for, and a real interest in, finding creative ways […] to infuse [games] into learning opportunities for higher education, and in specific disciplines,” Pollack said. “The traditional methods of study and memorization in the field of medicine is effective […] but the opportunity to create these game-like learning tools, for us, is a great application of games and game design into different sectors. The team behind Empiric Pediatrics […] demonstrated this really well, and also demonstrated the scalability of this model to other fields.”

Trilhas Urbanas: The Game to Engage in Cityscapes by Beatriz Martinez, Brazil

Four cards with bold, primary colors sit beside a game that shows people enjoying a fountain and a public square.
Photo: Beatriz Martinez

Martinez’s playful, colorful design is both modular and semi-cooperative. In it, players work together to solve the problems of the city that they share. It’s intended to promote civics and a focus on citizen-driven urban solutions.

Trilhas Urbanas translates into Urban Trails,” Pollack said. “It allows players to problem solve with a community focus. […] There’s this wonderful critical thinking and problem solving [through] what can be framed as social emotional skills that are involved and can empower youth in urban areas. […] There’s also this super fun approach of how you can configure the board, […] so there’s this high replay value and how you can shape the board and that is an attractive feature as well.”

In a further expansion of the Games for Change Festival, I will also be participating on behalf of Polygon this year. My panel, titled “Flip the Table: Rewriting the Rules of Tabletop Game Design and Social Impact,” will touch on many different issues. I’m pleased to note that panelists will include: Tory Brown, designer of Votes for Women; Elizabeth Hargrave, designer of Wingspan and a founding board member of the Tabletop Game Designers Association; Eric M. Lang, designer of Blood Rage and co-designer of Life in Reterra; and Andrew Navarro, founder and creative director of Earthborne Games, publisher of Earthborne Rangers. If you’d like to attend in person, tickets are on sale now and I’d love to meet you at the event. The panel will be shared online as well.

[Disclosure: Games for Change will provide Polygon’s reimbursement for travel to the Games for Change Festival in New York City. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.]

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