Do you want to participate in a climate summit or learn to be a researcher? Educational board games teach you


The singer-songwriter Tontxu, in his 1997 song Risk , said:

“ A game of Risk, a Trivial, a Parcheesi. Lots of questions about you. Mix your chips with mine. Under the table, you cheat your caresses. 

Almost 25 years later, not only do I continue to meet with my people whenever I can to “play a little game”, but I have also begun to incorporate board games into my university teaching.

Educational potential

I dare to say that practically all board games are educational , regardless of the age of the players, since they stimulate, among other things , reading comprehension , writing, mental calculation, strategy or creativity. In addition, there are many themed games that, if designed rigorously enough, promote learning about a specific topic.

Aware of the educational potential of these thematic games, in recent years I have started to use them as teaching tools at the University. In this context, in the same way that I recommend bibliography, in the form of textbooks, documentaries, articles and essays on chemical and environmental science and technology, I have incorporated into my list of recommendations some games that, in my opinion, provide content complementary to the training of students in chemistry and chemical engineering.

For example, I often recommend the Periodic , Ion , Covalence, and Subactomic mini-games to first-year students , which gamify fundamental chemistry concepts such as formulation and the periodic table of elements. I usually also mention the version of Timeline of Science and Discovery , which is the temporary location of the most important scientific events.

In courses on sustainability, I always take the opportunity to recommend the CO₂ Second Chance game , an essential complement for future green chemists and engineers. This complex game of strategy is based on infrastructure planning, the purchase of carbon emission rights, participation in climate summits and the achievement of sustainable development goals. I also usually include the High Voltage , on the management of electrical resources and energy sources, the Terraforming Mars , on the management of multidisciplinary engineering projects, or the ” Women in Science ” deck , designed to display the scientific contribution of women who have unfairly anonymous.

To master’s students, especially those interested in research, I usually recommend the game Alchemists , which parodies the profession of researcher in a very funny way. Embodying a potion maker, the goal is to conduct experiments, publish theories, attend conferences, and get scholarships to boost your reputation.

More than 120,000 cataloged games

In addition to those that Tontxu had, everyone knows a few classics such as chess, dominoes, goose, Monopoly , Pictionary , Party or Scattergories . If you are unable to name at least two or three more, I am sorry to say that you are far behind.

More than 120,000 games are listed on the BoardGameGeek website , the IMDb for board games. The board game market is booming and has a very good prognosis . Board games are no longer sold only in toy stores, but also in specialized stores, both physical and online. In addition, general entertainment product stores have a growing section dedicated to board games.

Photograph of a shelf in a store specializing in board games. Image courtesy of the author.

Board game designers have also been able to take advantage of the different crowdfunding platforms . For example, Seville publisher ThunderGryph Games launched in 2021 a campaign for a game based on Darwin’s voyages to the Galapagos , raising 1,100,000 euros from almost 17,000 patrons.

Despite the fact that there are still many people who continue to think that “it’s a geek thing”, the truth is that more and more of us are fans of this hobby, and more and more households that have at least one copy of Los colonos de Catán .

As with comics, video games, or fantasy or science fiction novels and films, the stigma of the geek as an “obsessed hobbyist” is fading, as well as bridging the age and gender gaps.

Screens versus cards, dice and friends!

We are in a time when the video game industry has become the main entertainment market. Despite its positive aspects , there is widespread concern about its abusive use and potential addiction , especially among minors. If we add to this the popularity of streaming series platforms and telecommuting, at the end of the day we spend more hours than we should in front of the screens of our computers, phones and tablets.

The board games are made of paper, cardboard, wood, resin, and plastic. They represent a non-digital leisure alternative , which can be enjoyed by touch, sight and smell. Board game manufacturers are well aware of this, and they are paying more and more care to the aesthetics and quality of the materials, frequently releasing deluxe versions of the most popular games.

Another peculiarity of board games is that they involve two or more people. Therefore, they promote a social, face-to-face and communicative leisure environment. They can be combined with a dinner or coffee, entertained with music and enjoyed both in the living room and on the terrace. But, above all, the most important thing is that we have to enjoy them with friends or family.

For every taste

There are many types of board games : card, deck building, question and answer, puzzle, battle, strategy, worker placement, resource management, improv, dungeon exploration, etc. The most well-versed classify them into two categories: Eurogames , usually with a complex strategy and relatively little room for chance; and the Ameritrash , which are usually games very focused on themes such as zombies, science fiction or fantasy.

Cooperative games have recently become popular , that is, games in which the participants do not compete with each other, but have to join forces to face a common challenge: either everyone wins or everyone loses. These games are especially suitable for playing with children or for “hooking” friends with little experience.

He has just finished the course, and it is time to reflect on how the next one is going to be taught. Summer is a good time to try a game whose theme is close to our specialty and evaluate its educational potential for our students, our children and our friends, no matter how old they are.

Author Bio: Juan Manuel Paz Garcia is a Contracted Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Malaga