Corps of Discovery

Betsy Bruce
Jason Chrest

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

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

Players will be able to identify the geographic path of the Lewis and Clark expedition along with the impact of Native American tribes that the expedition encountered. Players will identify plants and animals that the expedition came across along with the weather conditions they endured.

This game fits into Social Studies or American History curriculum during the study of Manifest Destiny, President Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase. The game is designed to be played as a learning reinforcement exercise or as a Webquest.

Learners & Context of Use

The game is designed for middle school students aged 12 – 14 spanning grades 6 through 8. The game would ideally be played in a classroom setting during the course of one class period. It is entirely self-contained, needing no special accommodation for completion of a typical game. Since there is a great deal of content relevant to the Lewis and Clark expedition contained within the game cards in the areas of Plants and Animals, Native Americans, and general Expedition Facts, repeated play is appropriate.

Ideally, the subject matter would be introduced in a lesson prior to actual game play. The content of this lesson would provide a context in which the game ideas/elements could be interpreted. Some ideas for this lesson would be to discuss:

  1. The time frame
  2. President Thomas Jefferson
  3. The Louisiana Purchase
  4. A map of the United States circa 1805
  5. The main route used by Lewis and Clark
  6. An introduction to the Native American groups that the Corps of Discovery might encounter
  7. Plants and animals previously unseen by Americans living in the east

Of course, if all of the above elements were to be included, the scope would have to be expanded beyond one preparatory lesson prior to game play. The content could encompass a lesson, a unit, or an entire semester of the school year at the discretion of the instructor.

After game play, students could focus on specific elements of the expedition to create reports that could be presented to their classmates. Advanced students could edit the journals of the expedition members to have a more in-depth understanding of the events of the expedition. Questions taken directly from game cards could be incorporated into an assessment designed to determine the effectiveness of game play on learning. Such an assessment could be delivered in a pre-test, treatment (game-play), post-test scenario.

Object of the Game

Players collect experience points in three categories (plants and animals, Native American, and the expedition) while traveling across the game board (the Lewis and Clark expedition's path across the Western United States).

Game Materials

The game includes:

  • Game Board
  • 4 playing pieces
  • 1 stack of Experience Cards
  • 1 stack of Food Cards
  • 1 die

Time Required

The game is for 2 to 4 players and will play for approximately thirty minutes to an hour. Game play will be quicker if players are familiar with the material. Playing the game in Webquest mode will cause the game to take longer.

The Rules

A group of two (2) to four (4) players travels across a map of the Western United States along the Lewis and Clark expedition’s Westward route.

Players get points by collecting cards on three main topics:

  • Native Americans
  • Plants & Animals
  • Expedition Facts

The game can be played as a group or individually. When played individually, each player represents an expedition and collects her own card pile (points). When played as a group, each player represents a member of the same expedition and the group maintains a single card pile, pooling the points for the group.

Web Version
A variant of the game enables players to answer question by looking up the answer on the Web (like a WebQuest). This option is only available when players have Web access.

Movement on the Board

Players move from East to West along the expedition route. The board is divided into sections. Players move across each section, collecting cards and earning points by moving off the main path onto color-coded areas. Each color corresponds to a certain card category (more about the cards later).

The sections of the board correspond to the time periods. The sections represent different terrain, weather condition, and Native American tribes.


Question Cards
Each question card has an associated point value. When a player lands on a Native American, Plants and Animals, or Expedition Facts hex, they draw a question card. If they answer the question correctly, they retain the card and the points are added in to the total for the respective category. If they answer incorrectly, the card is returned to the bottom of the pile. In either event, on the player’s next turn they must roll the die and move off the hex.

Event Cards
Other cards will introduce events that happen to the player or the player’s expedition. These cards may involve weather, food, trade with Native Americans, or other probability events. These cards may have point values that count toward the player’s total or may be useful later in the game. For instance, learning some of the Shoshone language doesn’t have an immediate point value but will enable the player to quadruple the point value of cards involving the Shoshone tribe.

Food Cards
Food is essential to the expedition and a player is required to collect food as they move across the board. If players run out of food, they must take steps to acquire some before they can move on.

Players cannot advance to the next region unless they have obtained a minimum of ten (10) food points. The cards totaling ten (10) food points are returned to the Food Cards pile. Players may take a surplus of no more than three (3) food points into the next region.

Winning the Game

The game ends when one player/team reaches Fort Clatsop on the west coast of the United States. At that time, the player/team with the most points wins. The first team to Fort Clatsop must have a minimum of five (5) food points upon arrival.

Design Process

The game board represents a map of the Western United States and game play occurs on the Lewis and Clark expedition route. We felt that the map lends itself to a race game and decided that players will be racing to get to the end point of the game acquiring experience and food along the way. We decided to keep the play to the route of the real expedition since this is a historical game.

Content Analysis

Most of our background information was gathered from the Lewis and Clark PBS Web site. One team member (Jason) had experience with Lewis and Clark curriculum and we drew heavily from his knowledge.

Game Structure

We struggled to include elements that influenced the actual expedition. We included food and weather as influences by requiring the players to gather food cards and by restricting the "flow" of the game through the areas where weather influenced the actual expedition. We originally intended the spaces on the game board to be smaller in areas where the expedition encountered inclement weather and difficult conditions, causing the player to move more slowly through those sections. This proved to difficult to implement in the prototype version of the game.

The player encountered obstacles mainly by drawing Experience Cards describing situations and setbacks. The player may lose a turn or surrender food points because of the obstacle. Alternatively, the player may encounter a shortcut items that allows them to jump to another square and receive an extra turn. The game is randomized by the chance distribution of game cards and by rolling a six-sided die controlling game movement.

Drafting the Game

Since this game simulates a historical event, we realized the importance of making sure that the game reflected the actual experiences of the expedition. It was also obvious that the subject matter lent itself best to a race style of game. We listed many different subject factors and influences and then narrowed the focus down to:

  • Knowledge of plants and animals, Native American tribes, and facts about the expedition.
  • Food
  • Obstacles such as the physical terrain the the weather

We considered assigning a different role to various team members, as if they played a certain part in the expedition (naturalist, interpreter, hunter, guide, etc) but we rejected that idea because it unnecessarily complicated the gameplay. We decided that even though the actual expedition went West and then returned, we would limit the game to simply the journey West because of fears that players would be bored with the return trip. We couldn't come up with a way to make the return trip unique.

We settled on a Trivial Pursuit style of card where there are multiple questions and answers on a single card. We also intermixed cards that describe a player event instead of requiring them to answer a question to earn the Experience Points. Question cards are worth more points than Event cards.

We played the game with adults because no suitable middle school age children were available to the developers. The initial feedback was positive. Players felt the game was interesting and fun. We incorporated several changes suggested by test players including more game squares available to land on. Designing the game was difficult and fun. The biggest challenges proved to be staying true to the real expedition and mapping the real world activities into the game.



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Last updated October 21, 2002