The antimalarial candidate MMV008138 (1a) is of particular interest because its target enzyme (IspD) is absent in human. To achieve higher potency, and to probe for steric demand, a series of analogs of 1a were prepared that featured methyl-substitution of the B- and C-rings, as well as ring-chain transformations. X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and calculation were used to study the effects of these modifications on the conformation of the C-ring and orientation of the D-ring. Unfortunately, all the B- and C-ring analogs explored lost in vitro antimalarial activity. The possible role of steric effects and conformational changes on target engagement are discussed.