This Board Game Can Teach Chemistry Better Than Your Teacher

A game design company has created a board game that promises to help students learn chemistry in a fun way. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
A game design company has created a board game that promises to help students learn chemistry in a fun way. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Ever found chemistry boring and complicated? A game design company has created a board game that promises to help students learn chemistry in a fun way. Named “Subatomic,” the game was created by Missouri-based Genius Games.

A board game for chemistry

When John Coveyou, founder and CEO of Genius Games, was teaching chemistry at a community college, he discovered that his students were struggling to even grasp the fundamentals of the subject. He wanted to develop a teaching methodology that would enable students to learn the basics of chemistry in an easy, fun way.

“They really struggled with a lot of the basic terminology. At the same time, I’ve been a board gamer pretty much my whole life. And it kind of hit me like: ‘Whoa, wait a second. What if I made some games that taught some of the concepts that I’m trying to teach my chemistry students?’ So I just took a shot at it. The first couple of games were terrible. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I kept at it,” Coveyou said to Science News.

Unit Conversion & Significant Figures- Crash Course Chemistry #2 0-6 screenshot

Great teachers and teaching methodologies enable students to learn the basics of chemistry in an easy, fun way. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Playing Subatomic is pretty straightforward. “Subatomic is a deck-building game themed around the intersection of particle physics and chemistry. Players start with a hand of Up Quarks, Down Quarks and Photon (Gamma Ray) cards, which they use to form protons, neutrons, and electrons. Players combine these subatomic particles to either build available Elements or buy even more powerful cards for their deck,” according to the game’s official Kickstarter page.

When players build chemical elements like lithium, helium, boron, etc., they score points. The player who amasses the most “mass” wins. There are wild cards in the game that give you extra abilities that help to block other players. Such cards typically tend to feature Nobel laureates like Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Joseph J. Thomson, Marie Curie, and so on.

Learning new concepts

The game includes many concepts that may be unfamiliar to the players. For instance, several people may not know what a quark is. Yet, after a few cracks at the game, an average person will have a good understanding of such things. It also comes with a very useful booklet that has all the basic information regarding the science behind the game. Two to four players can participate in Subatomic at the same time. It usually takes a maximum of one hour to finish the game.

Subatomic was rated as the 4th best game design at Stonemaier Design Day in 2017, scoring an average rating of 8.31 out of 10. Genius Games has produced six other games on other science topics. Once a game has been developed, the company first tests it with other gamers. Initially, the team goes to schools and lets middle to high school students play it. The game is then shipped to about 200 different play testers across the globe. Only after this 2-step testing does Genius Games consider a particular board game to be fit for production and sale.

Subatomic- An Atom Building Game — game preview at Origins 2018 1-25 screenshot

Subatomic was rated as the 4th best game design at Stonemaier Design Day in 2017, scoring an average rating of 8.31 out of 10. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Next year, the company plans to add a game based on the periodic table to their catalog. According to the Kickstarter page, Subatomic raised more than US$260,000 from over 4,500 backers during the funding period Feb 6, 2018 to March 9, 2018.

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