Designer's Diary part IV - Why "the Sanctuary"?

A lot of people notice „politically correct” theme of our game. Actually when Przemek first time visited our office – he brought us a game about having your own farm: players had to cut woods, there was a cat to protect you from harmful mice, and todays' rescuers used to be a dog. There were horses, pigs, cows and sheep...
Right from the beginning we were sure that mechanically wise the Sanctuary has ''that'' – that it's unique and special. On the other hand it is a euro-game that could be about anything...about a farm, cars factory, restaurant etc. There are tons of good (not only tabletop) games about animal breeding and farming. We were slightly concerned that despite unique and original set of rules, the game will be overlooked in this stream of interesting games about pigs, cows, farms and farmers. And we wanted this game to be special not only in terms of its mechanic but also theming. But initially we decided not to change the theme if we wouldn't be able to find something much better and fitting the mechanics. And so we started to work on the game by its title „the Farm” which sticked around for a really long time. Our development team worked on final rules (for example adjusted 2-player game to 3-4players game ) while the other part of the company turned down all suggested re-themes. We rejected a cosmic theme (despite the fact that games about Mars seem to be popular). We rejected factories of small and not so small vehicles. We didn't want a game about prehistory and so on... but the time was limited and it came to a point we needed to start working on the graphic design and illustrations.
It was then, at one of our meetings, someone suggested we should stick to animals' theme but leave the farm and go for ...dogs for example. You'd have a Labrador, a beagle , a husky and a German shepherd to take care of. It was really exciting and close to be put in motion because we all love dogs here, and the races above are not chosen without a reason :-) But still something wasn't right. This idea gave us an impulse to keep thinking about animals though. But this time differently. 
And then we recalled our trip to Australia where our friend promised to show us something special and took us to a place he called the Sanctuary. It wasn't a zoo (that we're familiar with)! It wasn't a reservoir! It was a place where we could connect with one of the most amazing creatures in the world: kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian devils. And we're able to see how our civilization affects them. We watched when rescuers tried to help young kangaroos to survive after a car accident. We've watched a place where animals live free and safe, a place filled with knowledge and experience. We were able to watch them from a really close distant but yet we did it on their terms. Paradise on Earth :-) We kept that day in our memory because it really influenced our sensitivity. 
And at that day, few years later, in other part of our globe I thought that maybe we could share some it- this experience- with players through that game. Use a board game to show that we can live with animals, learn from them and at the same time – help them by minimizing our impact on their lives. That its not only about watching pictures on Internet or visiting animals in zoos – that there is another way. A spark was ignited and Przemek loved our idea. 
As you might already think, initially we wanted to make a game about Australian animals only, but during our research it turned out that we can not limit it that way. So we looked through IUCN Red List in order to find interesting species across all continents. At the same time a new idea came into our minds – what if we give players more than just 4 different animals, so that everyone will be able to protect and take care of their favorite four. The problem was that there is over 500 endangered species on that list. So we had to make a selection again. We decided to choose animals that are representative for certain habitats. We also looked for common characteristics so they could be divided into suggested sets of animals. Among many possible criteria there were food, continent etc, but we decided to go with similar living conditions. Because we were influenced by Australian fauna, we gave a lot of spots for Australian animals (there is a wombat, dingo or koala) but because we're from Poland – we decided that there will be also a space for species endangered in Poland even if there are not present on the world's endangered species list yet. That's why there is a wolf, European bison and Tatra chomois in the game. 
As you've already noticed we're not committed members of ecologic or animals protection organizations or societies , we're not claiming that it's an educational game but we do hope that we've managed to make a game about something really significant. 
There is one thing that already happened thanks to the Sanctuary. We've learned a lot about endangered species across the world. We know how to help them, how do all animal protection organizations function and which species unfortunately already almost vanquished due to our civilization's impact. One of our ideas is to release a limited edition of the game where an income would be donated to an animal saving organization or would allow us to adopt an animal. 
We strongly believe that if there is at least one person who will ask him or herself a question - „why is there a snow panther on taht game box?” or “- is there a place on Earth were Oryx can still be found?”, than it means that it was worth changing a farm into the 
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