Teaching Evolution Through Board Games

THE GAMES

CO2 Second Chance

Playtime: 90-120 minutes

Teach time: 25 minutes

Game difficulty: Medium-heavy

Players: 1-4

Key educational concepts: carbon sequestering, sustainability, socioeconomics of climate change
Favorite rules video: The Dicey Review: How To Play

Overview**

In the game CO₂, each player is the CEO of an energy company responding to government requests for new, green power plants. The goal is to stop the increase of pollution while meeting the rising demand for sustainable energy — and of course, profiting from doing so. You will need enough expertise, money, and resources to build these clean power plants. Energy summits will promote global awareness, and allow companies to share a little of their knowledge while learning still more from others. In the game CO₂, each player is the CEO of an energy company responding to government requests for new, green power plants. The goal is to stop the increase of pollution while meeting the rising demand for sustainable energy — and of course, profiting from doing so. You will need enough expertise, money, and resources to build these clean power plants. Energy summits will promote global awareness, and allow companies to share a little of their knowledge while learning still more from others.

 

           Learning and teaching the game

CO₂ is a medium-heavy game and requires a bit of effort to learn and teach.  However, the gameplay is pretty intuitive, and the rulebook is excellent. The biggest challenge to using this game in the classroom is the extended gameplay (>120 minutes).  The game also has a lot of conditional rules and gameplay bookkeeping.  I’ve played CO₂ several times, and I guarantee I have overlooked some of the constant booking keeping at some stage in all my games.

       

           Gameplay**

In CO₂, each region starts with a certain number of carbon emissions permits (CEPs) at its disposal. These CEPs are granted by the United Nations, and they must be spent whenever the region needs to install the energy infrastructure for a project or to construct a fossil fuel power plant. CEPs can be bought and sold on a market, and their price fluctuates throughout the game. You will want to try to maintain control over the CEPs.

Money, CEPs, green power plants that you've built, UN goals you've completed, company goals you've met, and expertise you've gained all give you victory points (VPs), which represent your company's reputation — and having the best reputation is the goal of the game … in addition to saving the planet, of course.

           Education value

This game has moderate value in a classroom.  This mainly stems from the fact that the mechanisms the drive the game and the social and scientific content are a bit abstracted. My favorite thing in CO₂ is the juxtaposition of regional and global goals/limitations.  As such, the gameplay focuses on reducing global carbon emission by using alternative energy sources, while balancing regional energy needs and local economies. If carefully implemented, this game could be an excellent addition to a small class on conservation or global change biology. However, in most cases, I am not sure the educational rewards outweigh the effort to teach it.

 

           Fun factor

The game is a complex mind-bending puzzle. The numerous paths and a multitude of goals can cause the most efficient minds to be frozen with analysis paralysis.  I loved the game, however, I would be hesitant to play it several times a day. The complexity and the many situational rules make the game feel like a mix between simulation and a strategy board game. This isn’t a bad thing but does limit the general appeal and its broad utility in the classroom. If you love the theme and like medium-heavy weight games- this game is totally for you!

** text for these sections was copied from publisher's description

Box cover (Image credit: Ian O'Toole)

Pick a flavor of sustainable powerplants (image credit: Ian O'Toole)

CO2 mid game (image credit: Ian O'Toole)

image credit: Ian O'Toole