Talking Tabletop – Save Patient Zero

31 January 2022
We talk to the designer of Save Patient Zero, Cédric Martinez about trying to save the world first…

Interview by Christopher John Eggett 

You can also read our review of Save Patient Zero by clicking here! 

This article originally appeared in issue 63 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello, I live near Aix-en-Provence of France, I am a computer developer and author of board games. I am the designer of Sombrero! (Alces Games), Labyrintix (Djeco), Dungeon Logic (Djeco) and Save Patient Zero (Helvetiq).

What is Patient Zero?

Saving Patient Zero is a deduction game you play in teams. Two labs compete to find the antidote, the fastest wins the game.

Can you fill us in on the main mechanical loop? There’s lots of different elements, how did you bring them together?

At the beginning of the game three molecules among 25 are randomly drawn. With the help of 15 different tools, each lab has to find out these three winning molecules. They must find the best order to use their tools to optimize their research. The idea is to let the players test and develop the best strategy.

I also wanted an interaction between the two labs. Labs can spy or hack each other thanks to specific tools.

Finally, the structure of the game offers several configurations through different game modes, variants and – who knows – maybe extensions.

It seems like a game extremely of its time, but what was your inspiration?

My idea at first – early 2019, well before the current pandemic – was to design a game where all players would try to save another player before the end of the game.

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Quickly, the game switched to competitive mode as I added to this goal the race between two labs. This is what gave the game its tension and intensity and shortened the playing duration, 20 minutes on average.

 We like the way you’ve modelled a limited resource of time and application in the limited card type, tell us about finding this tension?

My intention was to give each lab various tools that give different information about the molecules of the antidote.

After the test phase, I adjusted the number of each tool according to their effectiveness. 

Finally, the rhythm and duration of the game came with the importance of choosing the tool first to play before the other team – and win.

We also like the way the game presents different roles to the players – one as savvy, or each other, or solo – tell us about ensuring all these roles are fun?

As I said, the structure of the game lends itself to modularity of gameplay and game modes. Depending on what you want to do, you can have a lot of fun playing in different ways.

The role of Savvy for instance, enables to observe the labs during their research and why not roleplay and host the game.

What was it like watching your game happen in real life, as labs attempted to find their own vaccines for Covid?

I didn’t think about this aspect as time went by. The subject is still serious and concerning in real life. But what I have noticed through the games is that players have the feeling of finally being able to be active in front of a pandemic. This makes the situation a little less dramatic and above all it ends well. Usually we find the antidote. A little bit of optimism at this time is not negligible.

What’s coming next from you?

My next game to be released in 2022 is another deduction game with Djeco. Other projects – beyond deduction games – are also being finalized. 


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