Race Through California History

Mario Jacquez

Diane Main
Kim McCain-Correll
Karen McKelvey

Table of Contents:
image from:

Instructional Objective
Learners & Context of Use
Competing Products
Object of the Game
Content Analysis
Game Materials
Time Required
The Rules
Motivational Issues
Design Process

Instructional Objective

Even though this game will be enjoyed by all ages, its main objective is to help students appreciate the difficult decisions (and their consequences) that occurred throughout the history of California. California's Grade Four Social Studies curriculum covers California geography and history, from pre-Columbian native peoples through many periods of change into the modern day. The introduction to the curriculum standards for fourth grade social studies tells us, "Students learn the story of their home state, unique in American history in terms of its vast and varied geography, its many waves of immigration beginning with pre-Columbian societies, its continuous diversity, economic energy, and rapid growth. In addition to the specific treatment of milestones in California history, students examine the state in the context of the rest of the nation, with an emphasis on the U.S. Constitution and the relationship between state and federal government." (from

Learners & Context of Use

This game is aimed at fourth grade students in California. They are between the ages of eight and ten, and they are immersed in a program of study that covers the history and geography of California. Students often struggle to grasp the relevance of history in their own lives, so facing the difficult decisions faced by our state's earlier inhabitants can help them gain a deeper appreciation for the lessons our state's history has taught us. This game can be played in homes or in classrooms, but it requires a computer with Internet, or a smart cell phone, in addition to the board game itself. The game could be played more than once as players could face different choices regarding the dilemmas they face. Players may or may not have covered much California history before playing this game, so the game is designed to enhance their experience and heighten their enthusiasm and curiosity for learning more in social studies class. After the game, the students could discuss with other classmates how their experiences differed and could potentially present to the class some things they learned by playing the game.

Competing Products

There is a board game called "California," but its purpose is to accrue the trappings of a privileged life in a California mansion. This game does little more than underscore the material greed of our culture and the misconception that everyone in California is rich and famous.

There is a "California Missions" board game, created by past SDSU students in 2000. The goal of this game is to be the friar who travels, south to north, through the entire mission chain. Setbacks and obstacles await the traveling friars on their journey. Players also answer questions about various aspects of mission life and history during the game. The game board is a map of California with the mission chain marked by dots.

There is a California "expansion" for a game called Age of Steam, which deals with "the struggle to move goods across the San Francisco Bay Area" and includes such places as San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Cruz and Sacramento. (Diane lives in San Jose!)

There is a board game called "California Vacation," that, frankly, looks a bit cheesy.

We thought that our game resembled, in some aspects, the Carmen Sandiego series of computer games, though ours is a board game and it involves a concept of time travel and history/geography while not requiring students use almanacs or other reference works to progress in the game. In addition, our time travelers do not chase a criminal. However, they do need to make choices, both about which artifacts to pursue and how to respond to the dilemmas they face.

Without playing the other board games mentioned, we think our game is better at least in that it focuses on furthering players' knowledge and facility with our state's history. Instead of just answering questions and moving through a game board, they need to decide how they would handle realistic dilemmas faced by our Californian forebears. The closest similar game we found is the California Missions game, but we hope that ours will provide a more satisfying experience, mainly in that our game covers more of California's history. Therefore, a player who is not overly intrigued by the Mission period of our state's history can still find some other time period interesting. In addition, our game brings the additional appeal of a hybrid game -- one that incorporates an Internet website for the dilemmas in the game.

Object of the Game

Players progress through the game by journeying through different historical periods in California's history. To complete each time period or round of the game, players need to:
  • Gather Five Fact Cards (the game's currency) from each time period
  • Face a historical dilemma at the end of each time period
  • Collect an artifact at the end of each time period

Each player (or team of players) must acquire five Fact Cards (one from each category: People, Places, Dates, Society, and Economy) by correctly answering questions about California's history. Once the player has collected five Fact Cards, he or she is presented with a dilemma.

Each dilemma is based on a real or realistic event in California's history and offers possible choices for solving it. Each possible choice leads to its own consequences, either negative or positive. The player will find out the consequences of his or her choice when he or she answers the dilemma. This translates into an outcome within the game as well. Will the player earn the artifact for that time period? Will the player advance to the next round? Might the player gain or lose some Fact Cards? The in-game consequences will mirror the outcomes of the choice.

If the player answers the dilemma appropriately, he or she earns one of the four artifacts available in each time period of the game. By the end of the game, each player must collect one artifact from each time period. Some examples of artifacts are:
  • A Yurok shell necklace
  • Junípero Serra's rosary beads
  • Patty Reed's doll
  • A high school yearbook from the Manzanar internment camp
  • Ansel Adams' camera

The goal of the game is to gather facts and face dilemmas, and make it to the present day with the required artifacts. The first player to do this wins!

Content Analysis

Content Type
Content Elements
Game Elements


Historical facts about important dates, people, places, society, and the economy from California's major historical periods:
  • Period A, Up to 1697: which covers Native Americans (California Indians) and Early European Explorers in California
  • Period B, 1697-1821: which covers Spanish colonization and government, Missions, and Ranchos
  • Period C, 1821-1869: which covers Mexican rule, the Gold Rush, Statehood, the US Civil War, and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • Period D, 1869-the present: which covers Railroad's Impact, Economic Growth, the Great Depression, and World War II (including Japanese American Internment)
Fact Cards:
  • One set of Fact Cards with questions for each of the four time periods
  • Each set contains questions from for each of five categories of facts--Places, People, Dates, Society, Economy


Ideas, events, symbols from California's major historical periods:
  • Colonization-exploration and settlement of the land
  • Immigration
  • Race and prejudice
  • Religion
  • Capitalism
  • Transportation
  • Greed
  • Family
  • War
  • Culture
  • Citizenship
  • Statehood
  • Government
  • Fact Cards (as above)
  • Dilemmas
  • Chance Cards


  • Responding to scenarios that are based on real or realistic events from California's history
  • Using non-fiction/expository resources, such as textbooks, to locate information about events in California's history
  • Playing Chance Cards
  • Dilemmas:
    • Players must adapt to each scenario and choose a solution. They must consider the unique details of each dilemma, and react to it by choosing one of three solutions.
    • Each solution has its own consequence in the game. Choose the wrong solution and the player may end up sitting out a round or loosing Fact Cards.
  • Reference Resources:
    • Players may use materials such as maps, primary resources, etc. to help them answer questions and earn Fact Cards.
  • Chance Cards have different values in the game and players must decide when it is advantageous to play them.


  • Game set-up
  • Playing with cards
  • Rolling dice and moving pawn around the board
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Game set up, including stacking cards according to unique color coded time period
  • Roll dice to move pawn from space to space on the board
  • Use the arrows located in each time period to move from one time period to the next
  • Use the Fact Card spaces on the board to draw a Fact Card
  • Use Chance Cards to trade for Fact Cards or steal Fact Cards
  • Player to the right reads the Fact Card and verifies the correct answer


  • Collect Fact Cards
  • Take turns
  • Play Chance Cards
  • Each round of the game is one time period and is represented by one ring on the tree
  • Answer five fact cards correctly (one from each category) before drawing a dilemma
  • Keep no more than eight Fact Cards at one time
  • Players take turns in a clockwise direction
  • Answer a dilemma correctly and collect one artifact before advancing to the next time period
  • Collect four artifacts (one from each time period) and win the game
  • Read and follow unique directions on Chance Cards, for example "Claim Jumper" which allows a player to steal Fact Cards anytime so long as he can answer the question correctly.


  • Chance Cards with varying outcomes.
  • Random amount of Fact Card, Chance Cards, blank, and arrows appear on the board
  • Chance Cards spaces on the board lead players to select a card which could lead to bonuses or penalties (such as moves forward or backward on the board, randomly awarded Fact Cards, etc.). Specific examples:
    • Claim Jumper which allows a player to steal a Fact Card anytime.
    • Panning for Gold which allows a player to steal a Fact Card now.
  • Outcome of each move on the board is unknown--could land on one of four types of spaces


  • Major time periods in California's history. Players travel through time to explore events within these time periods.
  • Design, for example giant Sequoia tree trunk graphic used as the background for board
  • Artifact Cards that represent artifacts from important events, people etc. in California's history, such as John Muir's journal

Vantage Points

  • Various perspectives of people scattered throughout California's history.
  • Dilemmas involve thinking about events, people etc. in Calfiornia's history from various perspectives, such as:
    • Native American
    • Mission padre
    • Gold miner
    • Chinese railroad worker
    • Japanese internee

Game Materials

Game board:
Two ten inch by sixteen inch boards. Cross-section of a Sequoia tree trunk in which each of four colored rings represents a period of history. Players move around one ring at a time and complete that time period or round before moving to the next time period. The board includes spaces for Fact Cards, Chance Cards, and arrows to move from one period or ring to the next.
The ? represent Fact Card spaces. The coin image represents Chance Card spaces.


Player pawns:
Different colors to represent the different players or teams of players.

Fact Cards:
These come in five categories: People, Places, Dates, Society and Economy. Each time period has a separate stack of Fact Cards. In addition, each stack of Fact Cards is color-coded to match the time period on the game board. For example, the innermost ring is red for the time period that covers Native Americans (California Indians) and Early European Explorers in Calif
ornia. All of the red Fact Cards are about t his period of California's history.

Fact Cards


After earning five different Fact Cards for the time period or round, a player is presented with a dilemma. The accompanying website (password: goldenstate) provides six dilemmas for each time period. Each dilemma describes a real or realistic scenario from that time period and offers the player three choices. By clicking on a link for a choice, the player learns the consequences of the choice made.

These are cards that contain a picture and description of an artifact from California's history. Each time period or round has four different artifacts. These artifacts are color coded to match the corresponding time period on the board. For example, the artifacts for the innermost ring have a red border to match the color on the board and the corresponding Fact Cards. Each artifact in this ring is from the time period that covers Native Americans (California Indians) and Early European Explorers in California. Each player needs to earn one artifact from each time period.

Eureka! Artifacts

California Indians & Explorers
(up to 1697)

Cabrillo's Sword

Yurok Shell Necklace

Mojave Hoop & Pole Game

Pomo Basket

Spanish control, Missions, Ranchos

Indian's Slate from Mission School

Junípero Serra's Rosary Beads

A Vaquero's Lariat

Mortar & Pestle

Mexican California, Mexican-American War, Gold Rush, Civil War, Statehood, Railroad

The Original Bear Flag


Gold Pan from Sutter's Mill

Patty Reed's Doll

Biddy Mason's Nurse Bag

Railroad's impact, economic growth, Great Depression, World War II and Internment

High School Yearbook from Manzanar
Ansel Adams' Camera

John Muir's Journal

The Golden


Sand Timer:
Times a player. Players have 2 minutes to answer each Fact Card.

Chance Cards:
Landing on a Chance spot on the board causes players to draw one of these cards. The outcomes can be positive or negative. The Chance Cards are:

  • Claim Jumper: Steal anytime. Hold onto this card. The next time a player hears a question he/she wants to answer, he or she can steal it from that player, BUT of course he/she must answer the question correctly to keep it.
  • Panning for Gold: Steal now. A player can take a fact card from any other player noDysenteryCard.jpg
    Chance Card
    w. That player however, has no way of knowing until he or she gets the card which category it belongs to. Again the player must answer the questions correctly in order to keep it.
  • Finders Keepers: A players gets to pick up a fact card from the middle of the pile. If he/she can answer it, he/she gets to keep it.
  • Charitable Donation: Give a fact to the player with the fewest cards...if more than one player has the fewest, the player picks one to give the card to.
  • Dysentery: Lose a turn...the player's stuck in the outhouse.
  • Lucky Strike: Move immediately to the Double Fact Spot.
  • Joaquin Murrieta: Lose a fact card (which goes on the discard pile).
  • Wind at Your Back: The player gets an extra turn.

Time Required

It will only take about five minutes to set up the game board and cards. Players lay out the Fact Cards and Chance Cards in the designated boxes on the board. Players will need to access the website for the dilemmas when needed [ (password: goldenstate)]. The game will take at least two hours to play. It will ideally take place in one sitting, but if there is a way to leave the materials undisturbed during breaks from the game, it could be left and come back to.

The Rules

Players travel through time to collect artifacts to bring home so they can study them and return them to their rightful places in California's museums. Players travel through time to rescue them from where they have been scattered throughout time.

Play starts in the middle of the Sequoia tree trunk and continues out from the center. To move from one ring to the next, players must answer questions from California's history, face dilemmas, and collect artifacts. The rules (FAQs) explain exactly how you do this.

Quick Guide to Your Turn

Trade: Request a trade of Fact Cards. Players can only do this at the start of their turn.

Roll: Roll the die, and decide which way go and move that number of spaces.

Move: Move pawn in any direction that number of spaces.

Card(s): Land on a space that has "?" then draw a Fact Card. Land on a space with a coin then draw a Chance Card. (See FAQs for what to do with these cards.)

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about playing Eureka!

Where does play start?

At the center of the board. Put all the pawns in the center of the tree trunk on the game board.

How many people can play?

The game is for two to four teams or players. Teams of two or three are preferred, but players may play individually.

Where are players trying to go?

Players move through each ring on the board, one ring at a time, from the center to the outer most ring.

Which way do players move around the board?

On each roll, a player can move in either direction around a ring of the tree. Players can go one direction on one turn, and then go the other direction on the next turn. Players can't change direction in one move.

How do players finish one ring of the tree?

Players complete each time period or round by correctly answering five Fact Cards (one from each category), facing a dilemma, and collecting an artifact. Depending on the answer choice to the dilemma, the player might get an artifact for that round and then move to the next ring of the tree...or not, and have to face another dilemma on the next turn.

What are artifacts?

Historical items, such as John Muir's journal, that are scattered throughout time. Players gather them by choosing the most appropriate response to each dilemma. To win the game, the player collects one artifact from each of the four time periods.

What does a player do on a Fact Card space?

A player draws a card from the top of the corresponding Fact Cards for that time period. He or she then hands it to the player sitting to the right. This player reads the question AND DOES NOT SHOW THE QUESTION OR ANSWER TO ANYONE ELSE. If the player who drew the card can answer correctly, he or she keeps the fact card. If not, the player who read it puts it back in the pile, at the bottom, without telling anyone else the correct answer.

How does a player answer the questions?

There is a sand timer with the game. It measures two minutes of time. That's how long players have to answer each question. Players may use books or other resources to help find the answers.

Why do some of the Fact Card spaces have two question marks?

These are double facts spaces. Players who land here get TWO Fact Cards to try to answer, one at a time.

What does a player do on a Chance Card space?

A player draws the top Chance Card from the Chance Card pile and follows the directions on the card. Some of the cards are held on to and used later, but most of them are things to do right away. Some are good, and some are bad.

How many Fact Cards can be held at one time?

A player can have no more than eight (8) Fact Cards from any time period in his or her hand. Remember: players are trying to get one Fact Card from each of the five categories (People, Places, Dates, Society, and Economy), so players might want to or need to trade Fact Cards with other players during the game.

If a player trades a Fact Card, does the player have to answer the question?

Yes. It helps to listen when other players answer their questions. If a player can't answer the question correctly, he or she can't complete the trade.

What are the arrows for?

After a player complete a time period or round (by getting five different types of Fact Cards, facing a dilemma, and collecting an artifact) the player can move toward an arrow and use it to move into the next time period ring of the tree trunk.

How to face a dilemma?

Once a player has five Fact Cards, he or she may face a dilemma on the next turn.
  1. Use a computer with Internet and to go to
  2. Once there, click on the word "Dilemmas" on the left side of the page.
  3. Enter the password goldenstate.
  4. Click on the corresponding time period.
  5. Roll the die to see which number dilemma to click on. (There are six different ones.)
  6. Read it and click one of the three responses to the dilemma.
  7. Read the directions to the response.

What happens on a blank space?

Nothing. The turn is done.

How does a player win the game?

Be the first to complete all the time periods and move out of the tree trunk. This means a player or team has one artifact from each time period or round.

Motivational Issues

Motivation is addressed in many different ways in this game. Malone and Lepper's Taxonomy of Instrinsic Motivation for Learning defines classes of "individual" motivations (challenge, curiosity, fantasy, and control) and "intrapersonal" motivations (cooperation, competition, and recognition) (1987). If we refer to Malone and Lepper's Heuristics for Designing Intrinsically Motivating Instructional Environments as a guide for designing motivating learning experiences, we see that several of these classes are incorporated into this game's design. These classes are addressed in the game as follows:

Individual Motivation of Challenge
The activity should provide a continuously optimal learning level of difficulty for the learner incorporating both short and long term goals, uncertain outcomes, and frequent and positive performance feedback (Malone and Lepper). This game provides a continuous level of difficulty for players because the categories of Fact Cards vary in difficulty. Some are rather simple, such as where did the Chumash Indians live? And others are more challenging, such as why do you think the different Indians tribes of California developed different cultures? The dilemmas are also more challenging still. Since the players can use resources to look up answers they don't know, their ability to make use of resources also affects the relative difficulty of the questions.

game has hierarchical goal system that allows players to set both short-term and long-term goals. Each time period on the game board has a short term goal. The players collect five fact cards from five different categories, face and solve a dilemma, and collect an artifact from that time period before moving on to the next time period. The game as a whole has a long-term goal of moving through each time period and collecting four artifacts to win the game. Throughout the game, players have plenty of chances to set their own individual goals too, for example gain a fifth Fact Card in a specific category or use one of the Chance Cards to slow down another player.

The varying difficulty of Fact Cards and the goals, along with the randomness of the facts generated on the Fact Cards, all add an element of uncertainty to this game which also adds to its intrinsic motivation. The Chance Cards add an element of uncertainty as well. Players can choose which way to move on each round, and they might choose to land on or avoid Chance Card spaces altogether because they are uncertain about the outcome which can be both positive or negative.

Individual Motivation of Curiosity

The activity should provide an optimal level of informational complexity or discrepancy from the learners current state of knowledge and information by including both sensory and cognitive curiosity (Malone and Lepper). This game stirs cognitive curiosity when players encounter the dilemmas at the end of each time period. Players may be surprised or intrigued by the information they encounter in these scenarios, including the outcome of the choice they eventually make.

The players may start out knowing a lot about California history, or may only know a little. The gathering of facts during each time period helps the players become more familiar with that time period. It is our hope that the players will find this somewhat challenging, but also that they will also become more curious about these periods of California's history and want to learn more.

In the website, there are links that offer places to find out more, including links within certain dilemma outcomes to specific information about those scenarios in the state's history. The questions are not very easy, but players have the chance to look them up quickly to try to get more appropriate answers. There are also links to an in-site glossary terms that may be unfamiliar to the players. At the very least, they'll get some new vocabulary by playing this game!

Individual Motivation of Control

The concept of control is also key in why people find activities motivating. Empowering learning environments are those in which options are rich, and dependent upon the response of the learner (Malone and Lepper).

The role of the Fact Cards and Dilemmas amount to what Malone and Lepper refer to as contingency. The players' outcomes are dependent on how well they can answer the facts. Since players have a chance to look in books and other resources, they have a little more control over whether they can correctly answer a question than if they just had to know everything from rote memory.

The player exerts some control when he or she rolls the dice and decides in which direction to move around the board on that turn. Usually, the player will be aiming for Fact Card spaces, but he or she may also be trying to land on or avoid Chance Card spaces (as these can be positive or negative) or get to the arrow space to move to the next level after achieving an artifact. There is also perceived control when the players choose to answer a particular category or perhaps decide whether or not to put a Chance Card into play and steal a fact from an opposing team.

In facing dilemmas, the players have perceived control too and their actions have powerful effects on the outcome of the game. Players must consider the greater good and avoid being completely selfish. Choose the wrong solution to the dilemma and perhaps, sit out a turn or choose the right solution and advance in the game.

Interpersonal Motivations: Cooperation and Competition

Other kinds of intrinsic motivation are interpersonal, that is they depend on other people (Malone and Lepper). This game encourages players to interrelated to each other in many different ways. Players are encouraged to play in teams since this sets up a cooperative environment where players work together as they move through the game, and at the same time compete against other teams.

Cooperation with other teams is also necessary during the game. If a player needs a certain type of Fact Card, he or she may trade with another player. Players need to decide what is in their own best interests but also in the interest of the other player(s) when they trade cards. There is also a Chance Card that enables one player to help another through his or her sacrifice of a Fact Card. The game could be played with four two-person teams so that pairs of players could cooperate to answer questions and make choices about how to proceed in the game.

Design Process

When our original team members (Mario, Diane, and Karen) first began brainstorming game ideas, we started with a math game that took place on a playground-themed game board. We had a lot of ideas about how the game would play out, but it still ended up being mostly fact review for math. There was no way to make the game elegant for such a young audience (elementary students) based solely on math facts. We then changed gears to a California history game that also involved time travel. It was partly inspired by the "Scramble for Africa" game in that historical scenarios would play out in the form of dilemmas, the choices of which would lead to consequences for the player. We also noticed that students in our class enjoyed the Magic Tree House fantasy series of books. These books involve time travel and learning facts about a particular time period. Once we had a pretty good plan in place, Kim came on board as the graphic designer for the team.

There have been many back-and-forth discussions on smaller elements of game play. We first wanted a game board based on a map of California, but then we came up with the idea of the rings of a Sequoia tree -- native to California -- to represent the different periods of time. There would be some strategy involved, as players had to plan a little bit how to get all the required facts and artifacts. The dilemmas would both convey realistic situations from history and keep the game from being strictly a Trivial Pursuit type of game. The Chance Cards introduced an air of uncertainty, fun, and challenge, much like the waves of people throughout California's history have faced when great change or danger came upon them.

Mario teaches fourth grade. Karen teaches third grade and especially loves the California Indians time period. Both Mario and Karen have materials and access to people who have offered a lot of ideas for facts and dilemmas. Diane teaches technology at multiple grade levels, including fourth grade, and her first teaching job in California was a fourth grade self-contained class. She has a lot of materials, including books, websites she has used for various projects, and a love for the history and geography of her adopted home state. Kim typically teaches multi-grade blended classes in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. This year she has a fourth/fifth blend. Her experience with both the content and graphic design bring new expertise.

To get some feedback, we asked Karl, as he was looking at our design document, for some advice. We also asked JT Smith (of The Game Crafter) a question or two about the board itself when he spoke in the weekly 670 class. Several of us ran ideas past friends, family members, and colleagues. We then got as much of the content assembled as we could in time for play testing. Each of the four team members took one of the four time periods and developed the Fact Card content and dilemmas.

When we talked to Bernie about our game, he suggested we consider making it a hybrid that combines the board game with an accompanying website. We had briefly considered this before but did not know this was an option for this assignment. This option certainly solved the problem of too much information to fit on the small game cards. That website will be used by players to access the dilemmas, choices, and outcomes, as well as further information about California history. Another advantage to the website is that the dilemmas can be easily updated. New dilemmas can be added at future dates which will hopefully increase the longevity of our game.

After playtesting, we added some features to the game board and redesigned the rules as a quick start guide and FAQs. We also did away with the tentative idea of having players name their characters after places in California. Kids just wanted to play the game. We also decided that we needed to provide a glossary of unfamiliar terms used in the dilemmas. Some words on the website with be hyperlinks to their definitions on


  • Books & Journals
    • Armento, Beverly J., Nash, Gary B., Salter, Christopher L., & Wixson, Karen K. (1991). Oh California.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
    • Farr, J., Malone, T., Lepper, M. (2001). Making Learning Fun: A Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivations for Learning. In R.E. Snow (ed.)Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction (pp. 223 – 253). Philadelphia: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
    • Porter, Priscilla H. (2007). Reflections -- California: a changing state. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc.