Nudge: A Push in the Right Direction

Three discs, two moves, and one giant step forward for sustainable design.

Dan Bramham’s Nudge is a light abstract strategy game that is easy to learn and fast playing. Players face off across the game surface with one object – nudge one of your opponent’s chips off the board. Through a series of movements and pushes, you’ll try to maneuver your way around your fellow player in an attempt to push them out of the play area while avoiding being pushed out yourself.

But its simple appearance belies greater purpose. Nudge tackles an enormous behemoth in our industry – environmental impact. All of the game’s components are biodegradable from the recycled greyboard playing surface to the starch based player discs. Print is either debossed or single color to minimize impact. The box is fluted cardboard and the token ‘baggie’ is a kraft paper envelope. Additionally, a portion of sales is given to The Woodland Trust.

A tweet regarding environmental impact in the board game industry led to a reply from Dan, and we exchanged a flurry of messages regarding game design and sustainability.

What was your inspiration for Nudge?

I played loads of boardgames as a kid and got so much enjoyment out of them that it’s always been at the back of my mind to make my own. I loved chess because of it’s depth, checkers because of it’s speed and nine mens morris because of its simplicity so I guess parts of each of these got the creative cogs going.

Is this your first game?

Yes. It is my first game, but it’s about the tenth version of it, having gone through massive amounts of playtesting, format changes, board redesigns and rule reconfigurations over the past 3-4 years on and off. I knew I was getting closer to where I wanted it to be and that got me focused enough to go through the growing pains of making it real. I’m a graphic designer by trade, so I come with a solid understanding of the production side of things and that, along with a network of great suppliers has taken a lot of that pain away. I knew that a short run to start with was going to be expensive, but with the right production techniques, I’ve managed get the cost down to a manageable figure and still maintain my desired aesthetic.

Why did you make the push for sustainability in the design?

Well, I’m a big fan of commodity packaging. You know, the no frills, functional stuff which performs its duties in a quiet non showy way, and when done right, can look stunning due to it simply being well though through. The print industry has always had great alternatives to mass production, they were just forgotten about for a while due to demand for quick, cheap and large volumes but i knew in my heart that Nudge would never be made that way. I love materials in their unfinished state – they just feel more real to me.Less is more is kind of a designers mantra and I think as a designer, I have a growing responsibility to produce more sustainable solutions for businesses which will be seen by many and hopefully inspire others to think that way too. I love our planet and it saddens me to see the impact global consumerism’s had on the environment in such a short space of time, so if I can do my little bit to help in any way, I will. 

What changes would you like to see in the industry in regards to environmental impact?

I’d like to see less plastic, more craft and more natural fibres enter the boardgame industry. I’ve proved with Nudge that even an independent can make that decision, so if I can, the big names can too. I think that technologies have developed now to a point that more sustainable production solutions are real contenders. Everything comes down to price, but I think people are starting to accept that paying a little bit more for anything which has genuine environmental considerations at the forefront of their minds at the point of production will see it as a fair trade off and I think that initiatives like ‘My Green Pod’ are suggesting where companies come together and use their collective buying power for sustainable materials will help influence industries even further.

What do I like most about design?

Solving complex problems with simplification and consideration. I love to strip back all unnecessary distractions so you end up with the impression of effortless effectiveness. Don’t get me wrong, intricate and ornate has its place, but my predisposition is for simplicity, elegance and calm. At the end of the day, I have to help customers talk to their audience in a meaningful way and  I try to make that connection as direct as possible.

What’s next for you?

Who knows. Sit back, maybe relax. Hahahaha. No chance of that. I’m no money-grabbing entrepreneur looking at world domination but I am stoked that Nudge has become real, people are loving playing it so I hope it continues to be well received and it’s looked on as favourably for it’s gameplaying enjoyment as it is it’s responsible production credibility. If it does well, there’s the four player version to follow which is good to go and even more chaotic than the 2 player. Who knows. It’s down to peoples purchasing choices and preferences at the end of the day so let’s see what happens. It’s a great game and I’m getting great feedback from everyone who plays it so hopefully it will continue to bend peoples minds far into the future. 🙂