Former South Dakota State University meat scientist Duane Wulf has created a board game about animal breeding and population genetics. A Kickstarter campaign is happening the month of November for the game project.
Former South Dakota State University meat scientist Duane Wulf has created a board game about animal breeding and population genetics. A Kickstarter campaign is happening the month of November for the game project.

By Wendy Sweeter

When former South Dakota State University meat scientist Duane Wulf was in graduate school at Colorado State University about 25 years ago, the idea came to him for a board game about breeding animals after taking some classes on animal breeding and population genetics.

In 2013, he got more serious about developing a board game and wrote the first rules. He printed his first prototype for his game, Pedigree, at home on cardstock and cut it out himself. In the beginning, each time he played it he came up with more and more changes before having a prototype printed by a game printing company.

More than a hundred people have played the game. Friends and family have played the game and professional game testers have also tested.

“We have a lot of visitors. There’s well over a hundred different people have played the game,” Wulf says. “That’s how you keep making it better and better and better.”

Wulf, who now lives in Mexico and works for the non-profit The Fatted Calf, says his favorite memories from childhood were playing games with his family and doing things with animals, like showing cattle, riding horse and playing with their dogs. Then he went to college and got a doctorate in animal science.

While in graduate school, he figured that population genetics would work well with the mechanics of a board game. Now that board games are popular, Wulf thought it would be a good time to work on it.

“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but I just never told anyone. I’ve been a closet board game designer,” he jokes.

Wulf has a handful of other game ideas he has in mind, but wanted to give Pedigree a chance at becoming reality. He started a Kickstarter campaign Nov.1 and it closes Nov. 30. In order for the game to be printed, he has to meet or exceed his fundraising goal of $17,700 by Nov. 30. 

As of Nov. 5, the Kickstarter campaign had reached $11,084. The first 100 backers at the $49 point will be able to name an animal in the game. The breed sponsor level of $950 allows the backer to print the entire animal deck of cards with their favorite breed.

How the game works

Players are animal breeders trying to make the most money by raising the best animals. All animals sell at the end and the game is set up to play for five years with each year having six seasons – planning, breeding, gestation, birthing, show and market. During each show season a trophy is awarded. Wulf says you go through the seasons five times and the game is over. 

In the planning season, players have a hand of action cards where they can vaccinate, use DNA testing, do embryo transfer and other activities.

In the breeding season, players breed females to their own male for free or they can breed to other players’ sires by paying for their genetics.

In the gestation season, players pay their annual feed bill. Then they roll the die to see if disease happens. 

In the birthing season, babies are born and they have proven and unproven animals. 

In the show season, players can only take new crop offspring to the show for a chance to win a trophy.

In the market season, players have to decide which to keep and which to cull. Each player can keep a maximum of one sire and three dams.

Wulf hopes players of Pedigree make memories with their friends and family.

“I want to bring board games to people that have an animal breeding passion just so they can have fun and spend time with their families unplugged from electronic devices. I want them to create relationships for families and friends,” Wulf says.