Fab Lab Liverpool creates board games to support LJMU research

Two board games designed and produced by Fab Lab and graphic design undergraduates from Liverpool School of Art and Design, are supporting students and academics to better form and share their research.

Fab Lab were commissioned by LJMU’s Research and Innovation Services to support two different projects, one in Liverpool Business School to help students develop their research proposals and one in the School of Justice Studies that shines a light on the probation service.

In order to develop the games from blueprint materials, Fab Lab recruited two LJMU graphic design students through Unitemps and the team began design processes for each game.

Alongside developing a series of custom 3D models for 3D printing, the lab tested out new materials, suppliers and collaborative tools to develop artwork through a mixture of studio and remote working.

Through this process the Fab Lab provided expertise in digital design, fabrication, material selection and project management to see the fabrication process through from initial concepts through style sheets, 3D printed designs and material finishes until the finished products were realised.

The Conditions Game – School of Justice Studies

The Conditions game provides players with the chance to step inside the experiences of prisoners entering the probation service.

Dr Will Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, said: “It’s a board game that reflects real experiences of being on licence to the probation system in England and Wales and has been developed as a teaching and training tool.

“As a product of academic research conducted with those on licence and those working in the system, the game presents us with an opportunity to collectively play, understand and critically discuss the probation system.”

Dr Jackson commended the collaborative work of Fab Lab and the students in bringing the board game to life. He said: “The design and production process undertaken by the Fab Lab has significantly improved the game. The team were able to take the idea set out in our provisional designs and produce a finished product that looks very professional and has improved its functionality.

“The initial feedback we have received has been very positive and players have been impressed with the standard of both the graphic design and production quality.” 

Research Roadmaps – Liverpool Business School

Research Roadmaps is designed to help students studying undergraduate to advanced postgraduate degrees to learn and reflect on different paradigms of research philosophy.

Through playing the game this complex area of higher education is broken down into five key areas of research philosophy, including how to choose a topic area, ontology, epistemology, methodologies and methods.

Students navigate their way through either a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods roadmap through the use of small cars. Discussion and reflection are promoted at various stops on the roadmap, using dice and cards which invite students to rationalise their thoughts and develop their research proposals. 

Madeline Stevens, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and developer of Research Roadmaps, said: “The game board graphics, tokens, dice and cards were all created in-house by our wonderful Fab Lab. The final product is not only pragmatic but also aesthetically pleasing with the Fab Lab team carefully considering the use of colours to promote the use for students with neurodiverse challenges.” 

Conference recognition

These games were recently presented at conferences to provide new avenues for research impact and engagement.

They were presented at the Howard League for Penal Reform conference in Oxford University and the 10th International Educational Games Competition, where the game was a 'finalist' and received a 'commendation' from the judges. 

More about Fab Labs

Fab Labs are mid spaces between creativity and industrialisation, offering the chance to develop physical and digital products through a range of processes and materials and offering spaces for teams to come together design, create and iterate.

Although they can’t rollout 1000’s of units, Fab Labs are able to develop physical products to a high standard. In this process teams within LJMU were able to successfully work across schools and produce new research outputs.


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