Winter Rabbit: An official introduction

Winter Rabbit game box

I’m excited to announce that our next board game, Winter Rabbit, will launch on Kickstarter this Summer!

If you’ve been following Absurdist Productions, you’ve probably heard us mention Winter Rabbit. This game has been in development for a long time. I want to tell you a little more about the project.

The Legend

Long ago, when the animals could talk, they all spoke Cherokee…
One year, the animals looked at all the signs of nature and decided that the coming Winter would be longer and colder than any Winter they could remember. Even Terrapin, who had seen more Winters than anyone, agreed with this assessment.
So, the animals all gathered together in the council house to decide what should be done. Every animal had their own talent, so they decided the best way to prepare for Winter was to work together. Wolf was a great hunter. Possum knew where specific plants and medicine could be found. Otter was great at navigating the river. Bear could fell the strongest trees.
Rabbit was also in the council house, but he didn’t think he had any special talents, so he thought to himself, “How am I going to keep up with the other animals?” Rabbit was clever, even if he was lazy, so he came up with a plan. As all the animals went out to work in the forest and fields and rivers, Rabbit went around talking to everyone, “Hey, Otter,” he’d say, “Wolf needs you to go help him hunt in the forest.”
“Hey, Terrapin, Possum needs your help in the field.”
He went around to everyone and told them things like this. Soon, all the animals were so mixed up they didn’t see Rabbit sneaking supplies off to his burrow…

How does the game work?

Winter Rabbit is set in the world of traditional Cherokee animal stories, where each player takes on the role of one of the animal characters. In this semi-cooperative game, you’ll cooperate to provide everything the village needs for winter while also competing to see who can contribute the most.

Winter Rabbit features a unique hidden worker placement system. You’ll draw villagers from a bag. The active player knows whose villager they have drawn and can choose where to place it, though this information is hidden from other players. Resources are only generated when enough villagers are present. When resources are produced, every player gets one, but those with villagers present gain additional resources.

Winter Rabbit prototype setup

Rabbit villagers do not produce resources. When one of these appears in a resource location, resources are diverted to the Rabbit Burrow. In later turns you can steal these resources back.

You can spend resources to build personal engines through village cards. You can also spend resources on stories that affect the game for all players. And most importantly, you can complete tasks that score points, progress the game, and benefit another player.

Winter Rabbit encourages players to manage resources carefully. Storage is limited, and overproducing can result in difficulty producing resources in future turns.

Over four seasons, you will place villager tokens on the board, build villages, and complete tasks for one another. If the village is prepared when Winter arrives, the player who contributed the most wins! If you reach Winter before preparations are made, then all players lose together.

Zenobia Award

Zenobia Award 2021 2nd Place, awarded to Winter Rabbit.

In 2021, I entered Winter Rabbit in the Zenobia Awards, a historical game competition focusing on designers from under-represented communities. You can learn more about the competition in a recent The New Yorker article about this year’s Zenobia awards.

The judges awarded Winter Rabbit second prize. The competition was an amazing journey, and I am truly humbled by the feedback it received. I’ll post a longer article about the Zenobia Awards soon.

Indigenous Connections

As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, this has been a very special project for me. I’ve taken great care to ensure that all stories and cultural elements are depicted authentically, with all cultural considerations in mind. A tremendous amount of research has gone into this game. The game mechanisms, graphic design, illustrations, and flavor text all reflect this dedication to accuracy.

I believe that it is very important to be deliberate about these issues while designing a game. I’ve previously mentioned how the board game industry has issues with the depiction of indigenous cultures and colonization. Indeed, colonialism is woven deeply into the history of Western board games. However, indigenous game designers have been creating a different aesthetic based on their own histories, values, and styles. I’m planning a future post highlighting some indigenous creators.

Winter Rabbit is built on a framework that I’ve been calling 4C: Cultivation, Conservation, Continuation, and Competition. This framework was inspired by the popular 4X genre of games, but it isn’t a direct analog. As a 4C game, Winter Rabbit focuses on a balance of short- and long-term strategy, positive interactions, and semi-cooperative gameplay. It is also about the Cherokee concept of ᎦᏚᎩ (gadugi), or community building through shared labor. I’ll go into more depth about the 4Cs and ᎦᏚᎩ in a future post.

The Art

A big part of making Winter Rabbit authentic was hiring a Cherokee artist to provide the illustrations for the game. There are many very talented artists creating authentic Cherokee art. Unfortunately, none of them had worked on tabletop games before. After a lot of searching and asking around, I found two very talented artists who were keenly interested in this kind of project.

I’m very excited to be working with Kindra Swafford and Jonni Ketcher, who will be providing the visual elements of Winter Rabbit. You’ll be hearing more about them in future posts as well.

A Personal Note

Winter Rabbit represents six years of work for me. Throughout this, I’ve learned more than I can explain about game design. This game was an ambitious project, and it’s been through so many revisions that I’ve lost track.

But beyond game design, I’ve also learned so much more about my people’s history and philosophies. I’ve even reconsidered some assumptions about things I’d learned incorrectly. After all the work, this is a game I can be proud of. I hope you keep following along and that you enjoy the game, too.

ᏩᏙ (wado),

Will

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *