Kingdom- Knight Moves

Kingdom is a card game that facilitates a methodology we developed in our service design assignments at Knight Moves over the past 1,5 years. The method combines the strength of play, the power of co-creation and the immersion of storytelling. Kingdom was


We are proud to present Kingdom1 as a candidate for the Service Design Award 2016 in the category of ‘Methodologies’.

Kingdom is a card game that facilitates a methodology we developed in our service design assignments at Knight Moves over the past 1,5 years. The method combines the strength of play, the power of co-creation and the immersion of storytelling. Kingdom was designed to define new service strategies and boost engagement in service design projects, but we’ve seen it work well in any kind of workshop or brainstorm.


Different prototypes of the game were tried and tested with people and teams from all over the world.2 Insights from each session translated progressively into a final prototype that was demoed to the public at the Service Design in Government Conference in London earlier this year. Currently we have a 2nd production version of the game in printing. The images included with this submission are photos of early prototypes, tests and artwork from the final version of the game.


At the beginning of 2015 we began playing around with the idea of creating a game to boost the outcome of our workshops. We saw great potential in the concept because we knew that gamification and service design had quite a lot in common as a discipline.

Gamification /Service Design

Data for Insights /Research for Insights Psychology of player motivation /Psychology of customer motivation

Player Journey /Customer Journey

Motivate people to do extraordinary things /Motivate people to change organisations


Tailored for big, complex systems /Tailored for big, complex systems

We started the project by doing extensive research into the topics of motivational design and serious play. Gamestorming by Dave Gray3 was at that time already a great inspiration to us: it proved that game techniques could improve brainstorms. Other research was collected from our own work experiences. Our team has backgrounds in design thinking, education and LEAN. Experience and learnings from earlier projects were carried over into the Kingdom methodology.


We created different prototypes of Kingdom over the course of 2015 and 2016. Early versions had rough forms and were printed and cut by ourselves. Later ones had more detail and more elaborate illustrations. We experimented with different forms and techniques. We ran play tests to see how teams from different types of organisations responded to it. Some important insights:


Bugaboo -

The first time we used play cards to map out services was for Bugaboo. For a 3-day workshop with different international stakeholders we created cards with rough symbols. The attendants used them to map out different customer experiences and service flows. The cards worked really well because they allowed for freedom of interpretation but also helped translate regional differences into a shared language. People felt really engaged using them and they requested copies of the cards at the end of the workshop to continue working with them. 

Gustaf -

Later on we used more detailled versions as play cards to allow for custom-tailored approaches. For instance for a tech startup called Gustaf – targeting musicians worldwide with a digital sheet music service – we created a set of musical instruments, tools and different orchestra roles to add to the existing cards. The team was really ‘into the exercise’ because they valued the explicit meaning of the symbols. We drafted powerful customer journeys and service blueprints with the cards and were able to deliver digital deliverables quickly with the same assets we used for the cards.

Expanding the card set

We continued expanding our cards for a while, tailoring the illustrations case by case for every new customer. This worked fine most of the time, but on some occasions we also noticed people getting disconnected by the amount of detail. Because we had so many different cards by then people started looking for too specific meanings. Ultimately they felt that things were missing and snapped ‘out of play’. This was the opposite of what we were aiming to reach with the game. We also became burdened by the increasing card set ourselves. Preparing for workshops took us more and more time and it became too cumbersome to sort and pick the right cards for each session.

Tailoring it down in simpler forms


To cope with the problem of having too many cards we experimented with new forms for the game. At one point we decided to create a more simpler prototype of the same concept with a limited set of wooden bricks. We aimed to limit the scope of the game to customer journeys alone and investigated the possibilities of relationships between different elements in this exercise. However, we soon learned this approach to be too cost-intensive. And it also gave us less flexibility to work with the different contexts. So afterwards we went back to cards.



Looking at the abundance of prototypes we had by the beginning of 2016 we listed up all the learnings of a year of testing. We then decided to transform our game into a simple, but more flexible form: Kingdom. We used storytelling as a bonding glue to keep a balanced set of 120 cards together. Great care was invested in the aesthetic quality because we knew from play tests that better production values made people ‘get into the game’ more easily. This final prototype was presented and demoed at the Service Design in Government Conference in London. More info can be read about that session in our blog post: After the conference we launched the game publicly on a separate website: We were pleasantly surprised to see positive responses coming in from fellow designers, students and people from all over the world.


3.1 Kingdom Cards

The output of our methodology is a card game that consist of 120 cards. It is accompanied by a set of rules, tips and challenges. The cards can facilitate workshops and brainstorms of 3 – 4 hours with 3 – 8 participants.

During a play session cards are put on a ‘blank canvas’ based on a set of predefined rules and boundaries (f.i. shape, composition, number, time,…) By using masking tape, pens and different types of markers people build relations between the different cards and mix them into meaningful models.

The illustrations on the cards are picked for their imaginative qualities and are chosen based on our experiences running play tests of different prototypes.

A deck of Kingdom Cards now contains a balanced mix of 50 illustrations: metaphors, touchpoints, people and locations, a grail and a dragon. Every card is colour coded for reference.

3.2 Better workshops

 Kingdom has helped us to increase trust between participants during co-creation sessions. The storytelling makes people connect with deeper meanings in themselves and the playful context makes them transform their work reality into a meaningful choices and challenges. We saw better results in all of our projects once we started using the method.

3.3 A tool for creativity


Sharing the background, insights and methods behind the game with the community is very important to us. Other designers have shared their positive experiences with the game. Some of them have built new quests, exercises and challenges for the game. It’s nice to see the flexibility of the system and the many applications it can have.


4.1 Public Service Design

Knight Moves is one of three Service Design firms that was picked by the Flemish Government as a partner on their ‘Radicaal Digitaal’ program: radicaal-digitaal. Over the next 4 years public services will be changed tremendously and this is not always an easy task for the people involved. We have used Kingdom successfully in our governmental assignments. It helps us deal with the high complexity and the magnitude of stakeholders to take into account while designing these systems. Kingdom makes the design process more engaging and effective for the people we work with.

4.2 Selling Service Design

Kingdom also helps us to ‘sell’ service design. The game is an easy way to get a conversation started with people about service design. Because of the quality of the illustrations and the mood of the visual art people are immediately drawn into the concept. During a game session they not only build experiences and prototypes for one of their own challenges, they also learn a lot about the approaches and methods of service design as a discipline. We learned that it’s much more difficult to reach the same effect by ‘explaining’ service design to them in words.

4.3 Mature Methodology

We are proud to have a solid methodology in place with a final product to facilitate it. Looking back at the journey of the past 1,5 years it’s nice to see how the early concept matured into the form of today. We believe these are the main reasons why the game and its methodology work: • It was forged from a furnace of extensive research, countless prototypes and playtests.

• It was tried and tested with teams from around the world.

• It has a quick and easy setup and is a breeze to carry around.

• It contains a balanced set of 120 cards including 50 unique illustrations.

• It uses co-creation to get better results in less time.

• It uses gamification to make work feel like play.

• It immerses participants into the action through storytelling and great visual art.


We demo the game in talks and workshop sessions. We would love to present it at the SDN conference and hope we can share our enthusiasm and story in deeper detail in Amsterdam! Check out & for more info.

·  Project Name:Kingdom

·  Category: Methodology, Professional 

·  Service Design Award 2016, nominated project for Professional Award

·  Organization: Knight Moves

·  Clients:/

·  Website:

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