Photo by Stin Shen, via Instagram
is the hot thing at the intersection of science geekdom and board game geekdom. It's a prime example of how while you won't earn a PhD playing a board game, you -- or your kids -- may pick up key science ideas and start looking for more.
This superb game was designed by a Swedish science teacher, Jacob Fryxelius, It has a learning curve and takes a few hours to play, but it fulfills the promise so many games fail to do -- it plays out in very different ways each time. The main science lessons are a big reason for that. Players pretend to be corporations competing to turn Mars into a habitable world. That means making it warmer, getting oxygen into the atmosphere and creating oceans. With hundreds of science-rich cards in play, the paths to those three goals vary widely.
The game excited one player enough to write an essay about its clever science lessons
. That writer thinks the game shows how "phenomenally stupid" it would be to try to change a whole planet, but, of course, others think it can be done. Among the recent books we have on that are Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet
by journalist Leonard David and Mars One, Humanity's Next Great Adventure: Inside the First Human Settlement on Mars
by Norbert Kraft, a physician who helps select possible Mars pioneers.
Evolution is a popular topic for science games. One gamer put a recent game of that title on top of his list of accurate science games
. I've played Evolution
a few times, and it does show how survival depends on adapting to changing conditions -- which includes evolving competitors. If my animal eats all the available plants before my wife's can eat, well, too bad for her, but if her animal evolves into a predator, too bad for me. At least until I evolve horns, etc.
Sure, science games are simplistic compared to a textbook, but so are history games, business games and the rest. The point is to teach themes and inspire curiosity, not prepare for a career. And, if the game is good, to have fun.
And speaking of fun, one more plug. If you are into heavy board games and like a science theme, look into Dominant Species
. It's about species migrating to find resources as the Ice Age advances. Everybody's competing to flourish the most on different terrains with different food sources. It's an engrossing mish-mash of scientific concepts. Just beware of the spiders.
Evan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.