The Iditarod Game

Julie Collett, April Foiles,
Kat Lund
, and Erin Williams

| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Set Up | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

The learners will be able to:

  • Describe typical hazards of the trail, potential weather conditions, and maintenance issues that can occur along the Iditarod trail.
  • Identify and locate towns, checkpoints, mountain ranges, and bodies of water on the map (game board).
  • Describe the directional relationship between different locations on the map.

Learners & Context of Use

This game is designed for fourth to sixth graders and will most likely be used in a social studies class. Playing this game is a fun and interesting way for students to practice map-reading skills. It is also a great game to include during a social studies unit about Alaska. Educators should teach students how to read a map legend and find directions on a map before introducing this game. After the students play, there are many useful topics to discuss, including problems they encountered with the map-reading questions, a discussion about situations they encountered along the trail, the terrain in Alaska, and what it would be like to race in the Iditarod.

Object of the Game

Be the first "musher" to cross the finish line at the end of the Iditarod, a race that captures the spirit of Alaska!

First you will carefully select the Supplies that you will need as you navigate your way across the rough and cold terrain. You'll advance across the board by first correctly answering a Map Card and then by spinning the Distance Wheel. You'll need your Supply Cards to help you face the various Situations that the trail will throw your way.

Are you up to the challenge of "The Last Great Race on Earth"?

Game Materials

Time Required

This game is designed for 2-4 mushers or mushing teams. The size of the mushing team will vary based on the class size. The board will take approximately 5 minutes to set up. Game playing time with take 20-30 minutes and should be completed in one sitting.

Set Up

  • First, place the Chance Cards, Situation Cards, and Map Cards face down in the appropriately labeled space on the game board.
  • Spread the Supply Cards out, face up, so that all of the players can see all of the cards.
  • Starting with one person, each musher (player) selects the Supply Cards of his or her choice, until each player has selected between 3 and 10 Supply Cards. Supplies include: Human Food, Dog Food, Dog Gear, First Aid, Documents, Sled Repair Kit, Camping Gear, and Clothes. Select your supply cards based on what equipment and gear you think you will need most on the trail. You must choose at least 3 supplies, but no more than 10 supplies. Do not select more than one type of each supply.
    • If you carry 5 or more supplies, you will be much slower and move by the inner distances you spin on the Distance Wheel. However, you will be better prepared for the hazards you encounter along the trail which are described on the Situation Cards.
    • If you carry 4 or fewer supplies, you be lighter and therefore move more quickly by following the outer distances you spin on the Distance Wheel. However, you will be less prepared for hazards you encounter along the trail which are described on the Situation Cards.
  • Each player chooses a Sled (player marker) and places it on the Start space in Anchorage.

The Rules

  1. Select one person or team to go first.
  2. Answer a Map Card.
    Iditarod mushers must navigate their way from Anchorage to Nome with basic navigation tools such as a compass and a map. In this game each musher must practice their map reading skills by answering a Map Card correctly before they can advance their sled along the trail on each turn.
    • If the musher answers the Map Card incorrectly, then his or turn ends.
    • If the musher answers the Map Card correctly, then he or she can spin the Distance Wheel and move the corresponding distance.
  3. Spin the Distance Wheel.
    Mushers carrying 4 or fewer supplies, use the outer distances on the Distance Wheel. Mushers carrying 5 or more supplies, use the inner distances on the Distance Wheel. If the musher spins a Situation or Chance, the appropriate card will be read to him or her. The musher must follow the guidance given on the respective card.
  4. Once a musher has moved their sled or fulfilled a Chance or Situation card, their turn is over.

Rules of the Trail

  1. More than one player can occupy the same space along the trail.
  2. Mushers do not have to land exactly in Nome in order to win.
  3. The first musher to Nome wins!

Design Process

We started out with two broad topics: the Iditarod race and navigation. No one in our group knew much about the Iditarod except that it was a dog sled race across Alaska and that the mushers relied on basic navigation skills to navigate their way across a 1,049 mile trail between Anchorage and Nome.

Each team member researched navigation and the Iditarod. A week later, we brainstormed as we decided how to focus Kat's original idea to have a navigation game and a game about the Iditarod. Then we divided the topics and searched the internet again. We met several times during the process to discuss our findings and play other games similar to what we had envisioned for our final product. One game we particularly liked was a card game called Mille Bornes.

In our first prototype we created navigation cards that included a distance and direction, similar to the Mille Bornes cards. We used the navigation cards as the means of moving across our board rather than using a spinner or dice. We thought this was a unique and creative way to incorporate navigation into our game. We played the game with people in our class, friends, and family. When we tested our game, we encouraged our testers to talk aloud as they played, took notes, and made necessary changes mid-game to check out how the changes worked. We rejected many ideas along the way, including using a movable game board, a real compass to navigate across the board, a topographical board, navigation cards with directions and distance, and Iditarod trivia questions.

The Iditarod is a great context to teach navigation because the racers use "natural" navigation without technology, like GPS. However, we found that most types of navigation are better learned in activity games where you have to move about the three dimensional world and navigate! A board game, being two dimensional, is a perfect fit for learning two dimensional map reading skills, so we decided to drop the other aspects of navigation and focus on map reading.

In our internet searches we found several Iditarod games. The Iditarod board games we found were based on knowing trivia about the Iditarod race, which wasn't our educational goal. We wanted kids to feel the excitement of the Iditarod as they played, so we included many factually based adventures on the trail in the form of Situation Cards.

We learned many important lessons throughout the process such as, set clear educational objectives, listen to the feedback from your testers, be open to all ideas and change, work with a team, and play the game with many different groups. For us, the most creative and original ideas came out of brainstorming sessions with each other and our testers. If we were to create a board game in the future, we would be sure to test it with our target audience. It took a lot of testing, revising, and hard work to discover the best way to make the game fun and educational, but it was also a very rewarding experience.


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Last updated October 14, 2004