This Board Game Takes Drought to New Level

A new game teaches players about the real-world political and geographical challenges of the California drought.
This Board Game Takes Drought to New Level
Based on research related to California’s water history and current conditions, Alfred Twu designed the game for two to three players or teams that are tasked with finding a solution to the underlying cause of California's troubles.

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Let’s face it. Serious, complex topics and information always have the potential to feel as dry as the current state of California. However, Bay Area artist and graphic designer Alfred Twu, who specializes in urban landscapes, comics and maps, has tackled this issue head on with a new board game called California Water Crisis.

The game introduces the politics of water and puts players in the driver’s seat as they take on drought.

“Games are the best way for people to experience the interactions that occur between groups with different goals,” he says. “They also empower the player and show that their actions can affect the outcome.”

Based on research related to California’s water history and current conditions, Twu designed the game for two to three players or teams that are tasked with finding a solution to the underlying cause of California's troubles: The water supply is not sufficient to meet demand.

Participants assume the role of one of California’s three main regions — NorCal, SoCal and the Central Valley — all of which have different starting resources, strengths, weaknesses and strategies. Along the way, players are exposed to various challenges like special interest groups and population growth that reflect the real-world complexities involved with resolving an environmental crisis.

The goal of the game is to achieve the highest approval rating, and not necessarily to resolve the drought. Players can raise approval ratings by spending money on social services or cutting taxes for constituents. This, by design, reflects the actual political situation, Twu says, where solving the water shortage has to compete with other priorities.

The project came to life thanks to a Kickstarter fundraising campaign with 50 backers who pledged $1,612. Following the campaign, the game was published as a free downloadable Print and Play PDF, released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Additional details can be found at the game’s website: www.californiarailmap.com/cawater.



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