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The Board Games Turning Science into Playtime

Jeremy Morris

Science-themed board games are an increasingly popular way to learn about everything from atom building to colonising space.

Here are 5 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) powered board games:

1. Evolution (2014)

In Evolution, players adapt their species in a dynamic ecosystem where food is scarce and predators lurk. Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect your species from Carnivores, while a Long Neck will help them get food that others cannot reach. With over 4,000 ways to evolve your species, every game becomes a different adventure.

"The theme of evolution is not just tacked on: it drives play." - Nature (the world's most prestigious scientific journal) 
Evolution was covered in the journal Nature. The article was written by Stuart West, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oxford who has used Evolution in his undergraduate class. 

2. Pandemic and all its expansions and spin offs (2008+)

A favourite in the Wolf household.  In the game of Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.

The game board depicts several major population centers on Earth. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. A deck of cards provides the players with these abilities, but sprinkled throughout this deck are Epidemic! cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases' activity. A second, separate deck of cards controls the "normal" spread of the infections.

Taking a unique role within the team, players must plan their strategy to mesh with their specialists' strengths in order to conquer the diseases. For example, the Operations Expert can build research stations which are needed to find cures for the diseases and which allow for greater mobility between cities; the Scientist needs only four cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal five—but the diseases are spreading quickly and time is running out. If one or more diseases spreads beyond recovery or if too much time elapses, the players all lose. If they cure the four diseases, they all win!

3. Terraforming Mars (2016)

Terraforming Mars is the award winning game set in the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

4. Cytosis: A Cell Biology Board Game (2017) Coming Soon to Geek Boutique

Cytosis is a worker-placement game, which means each player has a set of “worker” pawns they place on the board in specific locations to trigger different actions or rewards.

Here, that board is a colourful depiction of a human cell, and those “workers” are placed on organelles, where they can collect carbohydrates or ATP, or purchase cell-component cards. Their resources can then be used to build enzymes, hormones and hormone receptors, or to help detoxify the cell, all of which earn the player “health points”; at the game’s end, whoever has the most health points wins.

As the box-front boasts, Cytosis is so faithful to the real processes that occur in a human cell, it’s been endorsed by The Journal of Cell Science.

5. Wingspan (2019) Coming Soon to Geek Boutique

 Wingspan is a competitive, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game from Stonemaier Games.You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). These habitats focus on several key aspects of growth:Gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower. Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors. Draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them. The winner is the player with the most points after 4 rounds. If you enjoy Terraforming Mars and Gizmos, we think this game will take flight at your table.



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