Kristin Gibson

Despina Soteriou

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

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

The learner will be able to:

  • create accurate relationships between organisms that belong to a certain food web.
  • group organisms by habitat
  • group organisms by their roles as carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, producers, and decomposers.

As early as first grade, students in the state of California are required to know that plants and animals inhabit different kind of environments; plants and animals need water, food and light; and animals eat plants or other animals ( These concepts are further developed in the later elementary years as students study food webs in detail. According to the California's Grade Four: Science Content Standards, students must understand that all organisms need energy and matter to live and grow. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know plants are the primary source of matter and energy entering most food chains.
b. Students know producers and consumers (herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and decomposers) are related in food chains and food webs and may compete with each other for resources in an ecosystem.
c. Students know decomposers, including many fungi, insects, and microorganisms, recycle matter from dead plants and animals.

Learners will also become familiar with the diverse life forms in different environments, such as oceans, woodlands and savannah. This is also included in the State's science standards (


Learners & Context of Use

Who's Eating Who is designed for upper elementary students who are interested in food webs and the creatures of the Antarctic Marine, Australian Grassland, and African savannah habitats. The game would be played following study of the roles of organisms in the food webs of the habitats above. The game would be played in the classroom as a means of guided learning or at home as independent practice.

Who's Eating Who can be played two ways. The standard version of the game allows players the choice to play within the contexts of three different habitats. Both versions of the game mirror the complexity and variability of actual food webs, and could be played a limitless number of times with no two games ever being the same. However, it is only the content of the game that is complex; the rules of Who's Eating Who are quite simple.


Object of the Game

Version 1: Who's Eating Who
To create or add to food web links which are worth the most points. The winner is the player with the highest score when all Organism Cards have been played.

Version 2: Food Web Trains
To make accurate groups of Organism Cards by habitat and/or role (carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, producer, decomposer). The player who uses all his/her Organism Cards first wins.


Game Materials

Game Board


Antarctic Marine Organism Cards
















Australian Grasslands Organism Cards
















African Grasslands Organism Cards
















Antarctic Marine Food Web Card


Australian Grasslands Food Web Card


African Grasslands Food Web Card


Organism Classification Card


Time Required

Version 1: Who's Eating Who
The game is for 2-4 players. The natural course of play takes 30 minutes to 90 minutes. In a classroom setting where time to play might be limited the teacher can announce when the game is over and the winner will be the student who has the highest score up to that point.

Version 2: Food Web Trains
This version of the game, also for 2-4 players, takes 10-30 minutes.


The Rules

Version 1: Who's Eating Who

Setting up

  • Select a habitat.
  • Place the corresponding Organism Cards in the card tub face down.
  • Each player takes 5 Organism Cards and places them on his/her rack without disclosing them to other players.
  • Choose a scorekeeper. The scorekeeper uses the score sheet to keep a tally of each player's score.
  • Roll a die to determine order of play. Highest roll goes first.

Start Playing

  • Play begins on the center square of the game board.
  • First player combines two or more of his/her cards to form a food web link.
  • The link must lie on the board building from left to right or upwards. Diagonal combinations are not allowed.
  • The second player and then each player in turn adds one or more cards to those already played to form another food web link.
  • After each turn the player counts and announces the score for that turn. The scorekeeper records the score.
  • The player takes as many new cards as he/she played, always keep five cards on his/her rack.
  • If a player is not able to make a combination he/she can pass his/her turn or he/she may exchange any number of cards from his/her rack for new cards from the card box. If the player exchanges cards he/she has to wait for the next turn to play.
  • Any player can challenge a combination before the next player starts a turn. At this point only, players may consult the food web chart. If the challenged play is acceptable, the challenger loses his/her turn. Consult the food web chart for challenges only.
  • The game ends when all the cards have been used and one player has put down all his/her cards, or nobody can find new combinations to place on the board.
  • After all the scores are added up, each player's score is reduced by the sum of their unplayed cards.
  • The player with the highest score wins.

Creating Food Web Links

  • All cards played in any one turn must be played off only one existing link in one direction.
  • If a card touches other cards in adjacent rows or columns, it must form a correct link with all such cards.
  • The food web links correspond to those shown on the Food Web Cards.

Emperor penguin



  • Decomposers act as wild cards. They can "eat" (decompose) any organism at any point in a link.
Emperor penguin




  • The score for a turn is calculated by adding up all the values of the new cards a player has put on the board.
  • Each organism card has a one point value.
  • The one-point value of any Organism Card is increased if it lies on a premium square (2X, 3X, 4X). For example, an Organism Card that lies on a 3X square has a value of 3 points.
  • Any player who puts an organism card on the board which is used in two different food links (horizontally and vertically) scores 25 bonus points in addition to the regular score for the turn.
  • Any player who plays all five of his/her card in a single turn scores a bonus of 50 points in addition to their regular score for the turn. The 50 points are added after multiplying the value of Organism Cards on premium squares.

Version 2: Food Web Trains

  • As an alternate version of play, put away the Who's Eating Who board and combine the Organism Cards from all three habitats, face down, in the card tub.
  • Draw one card from the card tub and place it, face up, in the center of a flat playing surface.. This is the base card.
  • Each player takes 5 organism cards and places them on his/her rack without disclosing them to other players.
  • In turn, each player must place a card down, adjacent to the base card. The organism placed down must either:
          - live in the same habitat as the base card.
          - play the same role in a food web (carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, producer,         decomposer).
  • A player may continue to add to the card he/she placed down from the cards in his/her rack. For example, if the base card was a zebra (AFRICAN SAVANNAH, HERBIVORE), the player might place down a cricket (AUSTRALIAN GRASSLAND, HERBIVORE) and then a dingo (AUSTRALIAN GRASSLAND, CARNIVORE). In this way, players create one-directional linear "trains" of cards that build off the base card. The player may play as many cards as possible to his/her train in a single turn.
  • If a player cannot play at least one card, he/she must draw a card from the card tub:
             - If the newly drawn card can be played, the player may do so.
             - If not, the player must put a wooden cube on top of the newest card in his/her train and wait for his/her next turn.
  • A player can only play on his/her own train unless there is a wooden cube on another player's train. A wooden cube on a train means that train is open. In this case, a player may play on his/her own train and/or any open trains.
  • When a player is able to play a card on his/her train or another player's train, that player may remove the wooden cube from his/her train, thus closing the train to other players.
  • The first player to use all of the tiles in his/her rack wins.


Design Process

Initially, we desired to create a board game that simulated a changing environment. We felt this was a challenging yet under-explored option. However, it was much more difficult to adapt content to a design idea than a design idea to content. We then chose food webs as our content and made the appropriate design decisions based on that content.

The first version of Who's Eating Who was a linear movement game in which players raced to collect pieces of food chains. We also considered a game with elements of different power, where carnivores were more powerful than omnivores and omnivores were more powerful than herbivores. Both of these ideas, however, had features that conflicted with the structure of the content. For example, because a food web is a time-independent natural cycle, a linear race game seemed inappropriate. Similarly, while the lion may superficially seem more powerful than the zebra, the zebra in fact survives because the lion has died, decomposed, and become part of the soil that grows the grasses zebras feeds on.

We decided the most elegant game format would be a two-dimensional pattern game. Players would build links of food webs and accumulate points for the number of organisms they could include in these links. We designed a rough board and a series of organism cards based on the board and letter tiles used in Scrabble. Trial and error allowed us to make decisions regarding how many cards and board squares we would need for the game to be played successfully and within a reasonable time. We also researched Scrabble rules and modified those to meet the needs of our players. ( ,

We next researched many food webs in search of ones that had a workable number of involved organisms. We stumbled upon an excellent web resource ( that in fact provided beautiful visual representations of three distinct food webs for three distinct habitats, all of the same relative complexity. To add flexibility to the game and to expand our content, we then decided to use the webs of these three habitats to create three, instead of one, sets of organism cards.

We explored the role of the decomposer in food webs. Decomposers can "eat" or decompose any organism at any point in a food web. Thus, decomposer organism cards became wild cards, providing a short cut for players. One element we added to the game that does not match the content but does not violate the content was the premium squares. Similar to Scrabble's Double and Triple Score spaces, we created several spaces on our board that have increased values. This decision was made to increase player motivation while maintaining the integrity of the content.

To increase the game's flexibility, we developed a dominoes version of Who's Eating Who It is played off the board using all three sets of organism cards. This version requires learners to go beyond creating food web links and group organisms by habitats and by their roles as carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, producers, and decomposers.

Usability testing brought major and minor needs for modification to our attention. First, our rules needed clarification, particularly regarding the direction in which food web links were to be built. Adding visuals with arrows and labels solved this problem. Also, the felt bags proved too small for player's hands to reach into when selecting organism cards. We simply added a larger box for the cards to be emptied into before play.








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Last updated October xx 1999