We’ve enjoyed board games since childhood. Recently we’ve started to use them in the classroom. In Spring of 2019, we embarked on an upper-level course titled Endless Forms and Imperfect Simulations: a gamified introduction to historical and contemporary biogeography. Our course examined the mechanisms that drive the evolution and maintenance of biodiversity through geological time. The course explored novel active learning techniques to teach difficult concepts. The class format included discussion of primary scientific literature coupled with hands-on exercises (in the form of computer simulations or analog simulations using strategic board games) and course projects (i.e. modifying a boardgame to increase biological realism).
In preparation for the course, our research group played many of the currently available evolution themed strategy board games. Below we provide detailed reviews of the games and their potential educational value.
- A.D.A.P.T. by Gate Keeper Games .1.6/5.
- Bios: Genesis (2nd ed.) by Sierra Madre Games .4.0/5.
- Bios: Megafauna (2nd ed.) by Sierra Madre Games .4.1/5.
- Bios: Origins (2nd ed.) by Sierra Madre Games .3.8/5.
- Biosphere by DDD Verlag GmbH .3.8/5.
- Darwin’s Choice by Treeceratops .3.7/5.
- Dominant Species by GMT games .2.8/5.
- Evolution: The Beginning by North Star Games .3.9/5.
- Evolution: Climate by North Star Games .4.2/5.
- Evo (2nd ed.) by Asmodee Games .3.7/5.
- Greenland (3rd ed.) by Sierra Madre Games .3.5/5.
- Inhabit the Earth by Huch & Friends .2.3/5.
- Neanderthal (2nd ed.) by Sierra Madre Games .3.9/5.
- Oceans by North Star Games – coming
- On the Origin of Species by Mont Taber – .3.3 /5.
- Pangea by Red Imp Games – coming
- Pathogenesis by WIBAI Games – coming
written reviews are currently hosted on the Brown Lab webpage (www.jasonleebrown.org)
Our Top Choices
We’ve used Evolution: The Beginning, Evolution: Climate, Biosphere, Bios: Megafauna (2nd ed.), Bios: Genesis (2nd ed.) in our courses. The games were chosen due to their strong link of gameplay to key biological concepts. As we progressed through the four games, as ordered above, they increased in complexity and spatio-temporal scope, moving from population-level processes over short periods of time to global processes over half a billion years.
Other Quality Strategy Games Useful for Science Education
We haven’t played all of these, but have heard great things
- CO2: Second Chance by Giochix
- Cytosis by Genius Games
- Periodic by Genius Games
- Endangered by Grand Gamers Guild
Myrmesby Rio Grande Games
- Plague, Inc. by Ndemic Creations
The games required me to evaluate evolution rather than simply read and memorizeKatie Eckhoff
By playing these games, I gained an appreciation for the many synergistic factors involved in evolutionary processes… I also was surprised by how cataclysmic events have repeatedly shaped our biodiversity!Jeremy A. Hartsock
Definitely reinforced my knowledge of evolution, as I frequently found myself comparing the natural world to these gamesAndrew O. Rubio
Muell MR, Guillory WX, Kellerman A, Rubio AO, Scott-Elliston A, Morales O, Eckhoff K, Barfknecht D, Hartsock JA, Weber JJ, & Brown JL (2020). Gaming natural selection: using board games as simulations to teach evolution. Evolution