Teaching Science

Dec 2020

Tipping Point

Tipping Point is like SimCity with cards. Players build cities while trying to survive extreme weather disasters that become more and more common as carbon dioxide accumulates in the air. It's a family-friendly game perfect fit for casual and strategic gamers. It's also a great choice for teachers looking for a visual way of introducing their students to climate change.

How does the game work?
The goal of the game is to grow, sustain and protect a large population. Players take turns pulling new citizen cards and purchasing new development cards to add to their city.

Each citizen has his or her own special interests, including the construction worker who can help you build your city, the educator who can teach your workers to use advanced technologies, and the solider who can help protect your city from outside attack.

One of the best parts of Tipping Point is that players can use their imaginations to build the type of city they want. There are dozens of different development cards to choose from, including oil wells which earn more money, hospitals which protect citizens from extreme weather, or power plants which are needed to power buildings. But this growth and development comes at a cost: the release of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2).

The end of the game is triggered when 1 player reaches a population of at least 9 citizens. Therefore, it is possible (but very difficult!) for all players to win.

Go big? Or go green?
A difficult decision players will have to make is whether they choose to build 'green' infrastructure, like forests, wetlands, and parks. This helps lower the global CO2 level, but doesn't always help the player grow their economy. Also, lowering your carbon footprint is great for everyone; are you sure you want to sacrifice your own growth and prosperity to help protect other players from the impacts of climate change?

Are you ready for more extreme weather?
Just when you thought the game was too easy... after each player has a turn developing, it's time for weather! Weather is always random, but the more CO2 in the atmosphere the higher the likelihood of severe weather. Severe weather events may target one player, or all of the players at once. Don't get caught in a lightning storm without a fire station!

Tipping Point is for strategic gamers
As CO2 levels climb, severe weather begins to disrupt daily life. Severe weather and limited food resources will force players to make strategic decisions: do they work together to ensure global victory? Or selfishly try for individual victory?

Tipping Point is for educators
Looking for a fun, interactive way of teaching your students about climate change? There are many real-world lessons that can be gained by playing this game, including:
  • what is the difference between climate and weather?
  • what are fossil fuels? How does burning them lead to global warming?
  • how does a changing climate impact people, the planet, and the economy?

Why a climate change game?
Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, period. It's time for a new kind of climate change game, one that teaches us about the dangers of runaway global warming while at the same time gets us thinking creatively about solutions. But more importantly, a game that isn't super complicated and is fun to play again and again!

This is another interesting game that is likely too involved for classroom use. The components are lovely but unlikely to survive a class without some small pieces being lost (speaking from sad experience).

I can see Tipping Point being used as part of a class project, where the whole class plays a single game divided into teams and moderated by the instructor. (This would also let the instructor handle all the fiddly rules, freeing students to concentrate on strategic decisions.)

Linked in the grade 10 climate unit.


Oceans is a stand-alone board game in the highly acclaimed Evolution series.

Oceans depicts the boundaries between the known world near the ocean’s surface, and the mysteries lurking in Earth’s deepest unexplored regions.

Enter a vast, underwater cosmos: a mysterious interconnected world of tentacles, sharp teeth, and black ink, where your survival depends on your ability to adapt in a changing environment.

But this is just on the surface… Lurking below the surface lie mysteries so bizarre they hardly seem natural. The Deep is a deck of nearly 100 unique traits that you’ll discover over the course of many games. These powerful traits represent the unknown: the undiscovered wonders of the deep ocean.

Venture into the Deep when you are ready to face the unknown!

Like the original Evolution, this is a fun game but tough to complete in a single period. It also has lots of little pieces that can easily get lost.

Linked in the grade 11 biology page.

Tiny Footprint

In this game you try to reach the climate target through awesome characters like the Hiking Hunk and the Gamer Girl and the Selfie Star. The different characters all have different traits that affect the game. And you are going to try different lifestyles; like the Motorheads, the Meat Eaters, and the Board Game Geeks.

The average American emits 16-18 tonnes of CO2 per year. To reach the climate target that number has to go down to 2 tonnes per year. That will require some changes in how we live. Through prioritization of your time and resources you will try to reduce your household emissions down to 2 tonnes per year and person.

The game is a cooperative game for 1-6 people, which means that you all play together against the game. Either you all win, or you all lose.

Tiny Footprint is probably too complicated for most students, unless they are used to playing games like Settlers of Catan. If you have a gifted class is could be useful — especially if you have students expand the game by adding cards that speak to their situations.

Linked in the grade 10 climate unit.


It is the modern era of space exploration, six space agencies from the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India, and Russia lead the world in launching spacecraft on journeys of planetary discovery. Believing that cooperation is key to success, multiple players must band together to build the rockets, spacecraft, and science instruments needed to reach the far-flung targets of exploration. Relationships are tested as each player strives to outperform each other and score the most discoveries to win the game.

Downlink, players lead a space agency to develop missions of planetary exploration. Resources are limited, and players must constantly decide where to allocate them best to score the most points. They can choose to specialize in launching rockets, delivering spacecraft to targets, downlinking science data, or spread their resources across multiple areas to increase the likelihood of success. Key events require dice rolling, and team training is available to stack the odds in player's favor.

Do you have what it takes to lead the world in planetary exploration? Find out in
Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery.

Once your data are on the ground — you combine them to make scientific discoveries. Want to discover a subsurface ocean on Europa? You must combine atmospheric science, astrobiology, cosmochemistry, and geophysics data. With over sixty downlink data cards and thirty discoveries — the possibilities are endless.

I could see playing this one as an extended game in teams over the course of the space unit. It is both competitive and cooperative, in that you can’t win without cooperating with other teams, and yet you are competing for the top position.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.