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Designer Diary: Kauchuk

Yaniv Kahana
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Board Game Designer
From gallery of YanivKahana
Kauchuk is both the first game that I developed together with my friend Oren Shainin and my first published game. The gist of the game is simple: Use rubber bands to enclose areas on a game board to collect energy and treasure. ("Каучук" is Russian for "rubber".)

The process of developing Kauchuk taught me many things about designing games. First, developing games with partners has many advantages. Each designer has a different blend of strengths, preferences, and experiences, and they balance each other out. The mutual brainstorming allowed me to take part in a creation that is completely different to what it would have been had I worked alone.

Second, I realized the great importance of having patient playtesters who are willing to play the same game over and over again and continuously give us meaningful and honest feedback.

At a very early stage of the development process, Oren and I knew that the hook of the game would be the rubber bands. Our muse was Ticket to Ride, a family game that gamers also enjoy playing as a medium filler.

Being the beginner designers that we were, it took us a few months to find the right theme and mechanism. We tried many different themes, like mining gold and colonizing galaxy planets, but the one we decided to use was fighting city crime, which was changed during our collaboration with eventual publisher Lifestyle Boardgames.

From gallery of YanivKahana

The first playtest I organized was a real learning experience. Our mechanisms, which worked nicely for two players, did not work for four. I had to change the rules on the spot so that we could continue playing.

From gallery of YanivKahana

Board Game: Kauchuk
First prototype vs. final design

After many more designing and playtesting sessions, we were ready to go public. We collaborated with the best board game shop in our area — The Kingdom — and organized a playtesting event there.

From gallery of YanivKahana

It was the first time we had tested the game with kids (as young as five years old!) and other non-gamers, and we got positive results. The kids loved the rubber band element, and the adults enjoyed the possibilities of area movement and enclosure that the rubber bands allowed on the board.

From gallery of YanivKahana
Celebrating with Kauchuk's old board design on a cake

We planned to present Kauchuk at our first visit to the Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany in 2017. In preparation, we consulted with the designer Jeremie Kletzkine and made some quick additional changes before the fair. (That, of course, led me to playtest Kauchuk dozens more times to validate all the changes we had made.)

The fair was exciting as we met many publishers who were interested in checking out our game. Pretty soon after the fair, we signed a contract with Lifestyle and started working on the development of new levels for Kauchuk. One of the major issues we dealt with was finding a solution for the board; our original prototype, made of a wooden board and nails, was not such a user-friendly family game...

It took two years, and at Spielwarenmesse 2019 we met our new Kauchuk prototype for the first time. It was overwhelming! Alexander Peshkov and Maria Kravchenko from Lifestyle had done an amazing job in creating a board on which it's easy to both position rubber bands and replace the board levels (as the game now includes multiple double-sided boards to put players in different environments facing different challenges).

Board Game: Kauchuk
Kauchuk boards

During the fair, publishers talked with us about our prototype which they had seen, and during one of our meetings at the fair, the person we met even drew our game from his bag. He told us that he had taken it for evaluation. That was a very cool surprise!

Kauchuk was the game that paved the way for me as a game designer, and its creation wouldn't have been possible without my partner Oren Shainin, all of our amazing designers and playtesters at GravitiX Games, my editor Sally Halon, and the amazing work of Alexander Peshkov, Maria Kravchenko, and the entire team of Lifestyle.

After Kauchuk, I continued to work with partners (Oren, Izi Eshkenazi and others), then after five additional games, I decided it was time to do something alone. That was when I developed Super Farmer: The Card Game, which will also be released SPIEL '19!

May the Kauchukium be with you!

Yaniv Kahana
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