Undercover Aliens

A hybrid board game.

A hybrid board game that incorporates the use of consumer electronics into traditional tactile methods of play, in order to facilitate face-to-face interaction and sociability.
Project Type
Collaborative Toy Design Studio
My Role
User Testing,
UI Design,
After Effects
After Effects
8 weeks


As part of a Collaborative Toy Design Studio, I worked with peers coming from various disciplines - an industrial designer and 2D illustrator - to develop a game that intertwines the toy and digital game industry.

Concept Overview

A spaceship has crash-landed on Earth, and each player is an Undercover Alien trying to blend in with humans. Players collect Cover, Falter, and Sabotage cards and make decisions that will affect their "Social Suspect Score", which measures the level of suspicion that humans have of you. The goal is to be the first player to reach a social suspect score of 0, therefore successfully assimilating and clearing all human suspicion.

Undercover Aliens is a hybrid board game that integrates a mobile app and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to create a more interactive gameplay experience. By using RFID technology, players can scan cards that then initiate play prompts and custom animations within the game’s app.


Problem Statement

As consumer electronics have become a main source of entertainment for young adults and adolescents, a large amount of negative stigma around excessive screen time. Reports say adolescents are playing more digital games and lacking face to face social interaction due to consumer electronics. Over the past few years in the gaming scene, there has been a rise and fall of traditional tactile games, as well as a rise in consumer electronics.

Playing cards and board games are in danger of dying outBoard games returning as mainstream entertainment
Americans are socializing less, and playing more digital games

Competitive Analysis

Our team looked into the scene of hybrid physical-digital games to get an idea of what exists on the market. We wanted to see what made products successful (e.g. PlayDoh Touch) and where did some of them fall short (e.g. Monopoly zAPPed).

Key Takeaways

  • Electronic device shouldn't just feel slapped on
  • Integrated digital platform in a fun and significant way
  • People love seeing their own creations brought to life in a virtual world
Monopoly zApped and PlayDoh Touch

Play Testing


Collect user feedback to make sure we had a functional, yet entertaining game in the making


  • 4 group play tests (games consisting of 2, 3, and 4 players)
  • Explore user tendencies
  • Assess user understanding, satisfaction, and overall enjoyment while playtesting


Rulebook Icon

Clearer section hierarchy and concise explanations. Players want more visuals, and crucial gameplay information needs more emphasis.

Game board Icon

Game Board
The physical board needed a stronger visual association with the game cards. Players often looked to color and iconography for game cues.

Game Play Icon

Players needed more of an incentive to scan and interact with the digital aspect. Need to expand on the player's end goal.


How to Play

After downloading the Undercover Aliens app, players will start off by drawing their own alien on a character card. They will then open the app and take a photo of their alien, which will be automatically rigged for animation within the app. The players will then place their character drawings on a card stand, and place their mobile device horizontally on the UFO Card Reader.

The UFO contains an NFC reader, which is used scan the game cards, containing RFID tags. Players will roll the dice, move their alien the number of spaces that they rolled, and then draw a card corresponding with the space they landed on. They'll then scan their card with the UFO reader, and the app will then provide further instructions. Players will use the app to make decisions and track their Social Suspect Score. The app will also play animations (customized with their alien drawing) that correspond with each card.

Steps of How to Play

Video Instructions

A visual and audial guide on how to play Undercover Aliens. Given the complex game play, our team found this to be an effective medium to use to explain the game.

App Walkthrough

This walkthrough shows how the digital component of gameplay works, and depicts some sample animations that players might see as they scan their cards along the way.


Style Guide

The style guide, and color scheme in particular, were critical for the personality of Under Cover Aliens to be successfully communicated to players. We decided to use variations of the typical colors associated with gain (green), loss (red) for our playing cards. Darker, deeper shades were used to convey our outer-space theme.

Branding style guide


Games have such complex mechanics, and this experience was certainly eye-opening. This process really taught us the importance of listening to your users and understanding how they think.

Main Takeaways

  • Test early and test often. Just because we understand something doesn't mean that users will!
  • Check in with your team and create a project timeline. Even if things don't go as planned, it's always a good to visualize benchmarks, objectives, and deadlines.

Working on an interdisciplinary team was very rewarding and it was a pleasure to collaborate with students from different fields. Everyone brought such a wide range of knowledge and skillsets to the table and I loved learning more about their design processes throughout the project!

Team photo