Local couple creates board game that takes battle to the immune system

Posted at 2:25 PM, Oct 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-13 18:20:49-04

Imagine you are a disease and your goal is to sicken your host. That's the objective of a new board game created by a Lenexa couple. 

In the game, "Pathogenesis," players draw cards and use them to build colonies of bacteria. 

"The start mechanism is the person who was sick most recently," said co-game creator Loren Cunningham. 

"We start out with different types of bacteria that affects different parts of the body," said his wife, Jamie. "As you are producing these scary pathogens that attack the human body, the immune system is fighting back. You start to run a fever, you get swelling, you get some types of cells that start trying to get rid of the pathogens there." 

Jamie Cunningham is a microbiology professor at Johnson County Community College who received her PhD from KU. 

"There's this really amazing interaction that goes on between bacterial pathogens when they enter the body and the human immune system," said Jamie Cunningham. "The textbooks always break it down into little tiny pieces to make it easier to understand, so the students never actually see how it all works together." 

Pathogenesis, described as a deck building game, was originally created to show how all of the parts work together to fight bacteria and pathogens. 

"It's all set up to be realistic, but it's set up so you don't have to know any biology to play it," she said. 

Her husband, Loren, said he's an example of that.

"I have no background in science really whatsoever, and I can easily play this game, fully comprehend it and when we play competitively I can usually crush her," he said. 

Pathogenesis is designed for one to four players. You can play alone against the immune system, cooperative with other players or compete against others all on different difficulty levels.

Jamie Cunningham said the game ends when players either completely overtake the immune system or when "the body becomes immune to the pathogens and the person gets better and everybody loses." 

The Cunningham's began their company WIBAI Games when they created the board game “Transylvania: Curses and Traitors.” That game can now be found in stores and online. 

"We registered for games on our wedding registry," Jamie Cunningham joked. "I like to buy and play new games, so I sort of have a problem with our growing collection." 

"We probably have 300 games in our basement," Loren Cunningham chimed in. 

Pathogenesis has already raised more than $30,000 on the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter.