Astronomy Game - Cosmic Colonization

Amber Lunde
Jim Harwell


Instructional Objective

The players in this game will learn that all the planets in the solar system are very different from one another. Earth is a very special planet that it has optimal conditions for life. In order for us to colonize the other planets the players will learn that we will have to create some way of dealing with the other planet's gravity (or lack of) and extreme temperatures (both hot and cold).
Astronomy is one of the National Science Content Standards (NS.k-4.4 and NS.5-8.4).

Learners & Context of Use

This game could be played in a middle school level science classroom. The game could be played multiple times. Prior to the game the students could be introduced to the idea that the planets are all very different form one another. Following the game the teacher could continue the idea that the planets are different and inhabitable. The students could then do a project on a planet such as writing a research paper, designing a way to make it habitable, or creating a travel brochure for the planet.

Competing Products

  • Good Heavens! - an astronomy quiz game. Players quiz each other on astronomy trivia questions. game contains 54 cards with questions, answers and explanations.
  • Race for the Galaxy from Rio Grande has players build galatic civilizations, but it is based bore on science fiction than science fact.
  • Monoloply - Astronomy is a variant of monopoly. No real educational value. teh monoply places are replaces with celestial bodies.
  • Planet Quest Game - contains cards that ask true or false questions about the universe. As players answer the questions correctly they collect planet cards. A winner is declared when a player has collected all the planet cards. Players will learn some astronomy with this game.
  • The Solar System Game - Players travel around the board and collect cards that contain educational fact cards. The object is to collect as many card sets as possible.
From viewing the other games, there are only a few that would have a learning objective for the players. Our game would add in the element of competition and higher level thinking where the players need to plan out their future moves. Our game would only focus on the learning of a few statics about each planet, but from just playing the game and having the players see the images and order of the planets additional learning will occur.

Object of the Game

A player will become the winner of the game when they have collected the cards needed to colonize a planet. The cards they collect will make the planet more optimal for living. Depending on the planet that they chose to colonize, they will need to collect a specific number of cards that will do things such as increase the temperature, decrease the temperature, increase gravity, or decrease gravity. To win you will need to collect the needed cards as you travel the board and return to the planet with them.

Content Analysis

Cosmic colonization Content Analysis

Game Materials

The box will include:
  • game board
  • player pieces - in the shape of different celestial objects (comets, stars, space ships...)
  • dice - 2 six sided dice.
  • planet improvement cards - when drawn will state either increase gravity, decrease gravity, increase temperature, or decrease temperature.
  • cosmic calamity cards- cards that contain bad events that would cause players to lose cards that they have already collected or lose a turn. (sample cards here will be rewritten with different scenarios once the game is in final production.
  • planet overview reference sheets
  • instructions

Time Required

Being a game that will be used in a classroom, the game should take less than one hour to play as most middle school period are about an hour.

The Rules

  1. Each player starts at the sun.
  2. Player rolls the dice, and moves their marker the number of spaces that are on the dice. The player can go down any pathway including traveling back the direction they came from on their last move.
  3. If a player lands on a planet improvement space a planet improvement card is selected form the pile.
  4. If a player lands on a Alien Exchange space, they may trade one card with another player (the second player must accept the trade).
  5. If a player lands on Warp Speed Travel, they may move their marker to another Warp Speed Travel space on the board. Their next turn will pick up from that space.
  6. If a player lands on a Cosmic Calamity space, they must take a card from the top if the Cosmic Calamity card pile and follow the directions.
  7. When the player has finished his/her turn (completed one roll and move). Play moves to the next player.
  8. Play continues until a player has collected enough cards to alter both the temperature and gravity on a planet to make it habitable. Players can refer to the planet overview reference sheets to determine what they need to collect to colonize a planet. (Collecting cards that are not needed is okay.)
  9. To be considered the winner, the player must travel back to that planet with the needed cards. To be considered to be on the planet the player must land on a space marked "welcome to ___"

Motivational Issues

Players will be engaged in watching what cards the other players acquire so that they can prepare for making a trade. They will also be actively involved in determining what planet they should colonize based on what cards they have collected so far. They will engage in cooperation of trading cards with other players, but at the same time being careful not to make a trade that will give an advantage to their competition. Players should also be motivated by the knowledge they gain when drawing cards and applying differing effects to the various planet atmospheres.

Design Process

Initially the thought was to create an astronomy game, but it was unclear what the objective would be. Another class member suggested a game about colonizing the planets. From this came the idea of using the data about the planets and making the players collect something that would make the planets habitable. Originally the idea was that the players would have to identify what planet they wanted to work towards colonizing prior to the start of the game, having their player marker in the shape of that planet. After considering this, the idea was changed to allow players to work towards and planet, in some cases the same planet as other players. They no longer need to identify what planet they are working towards as it may change during the game. The rule was then added that the players must travel back to the planet that they want to colonize to win.
After the first prototype was created some changes were made:
  • players are now permitted to travel in any direction on any move.
  • a reference sheet was created so that players can easily read the statics for each planet while playing.
  • more planet improvement spaces were added to the board to increase players chances of landing on one.
After the second round of play testing some clarifications were made to the instructions. The second round of play testing was done by people out of the target audience, so comments made about board layout where considered, but it is thought that the target audience would like to have an active game with a large board. Children like to sit in the floor and move around. This game is not intended to be played a table. The intent of the board is to illustrate the massive distances that there are in space.
A third playtes was conducted. The users in this case liked the design of the board, thought it was cumbersom to play at a table, they thought kids playing it on the ground would be fun. They also liked how the board illustrated the large distances between planets. It was suggested that Pluto be removed from the board as a planet. I believe it would be if the game were being produced in a few years. However, new science textbooks were just adopted in many states. With the recent adoption occuring so close to when the status of Pluto waschanged, many of the textbooks still have Pluto listed as a planet. For this reason Pluto is listed on the game. I believe in another 5 years when new updated books are published, both Cosmic Colonization as well as the books will reflect the new status of the planet.