Sea Turtle Survival




Dara Rosen

| Instructional Objective | Learners | Object of Game | Game Materials | Time Required | Set-Up |

| Rules | Design Process | Diagrams | References |

Instructional Objective

The learners will be able to identify a variety of factors affecting sea turtle survival, both positive and negative. The learners will see that these factors are both human related and natural, and as conditions change so do the chances for survival. Also, the learners will become familiar with some aspects of sea turtle natural history.


The game is designed for learners, ages 10 and up, who are interested in sea turtles or marine science.

Object of Game

Maintain the largest surviving sea turtle population by overcoming various obstacles throughout the natural life cycle and avoid extinction.

Game Materials

Time Required

The game is for 2 to 4 players and will play for approximately thirty minutes to an hour. Players can determine the length of the game by deciding to either play for a certain amount of time or a designated number of cycles around the board before they begin.

The Set-up

  1. Open the game board and place each of the shuffled stacks of cards face down in the designated place on the board. The Question cards should have the answer side face down.

  2. Each player selects a playing piece and places it in the Start position or nesting area.

  3. Each player begins the game with 10 turtle tokens.

  4. One of the players can be in charge of the remaining turtle tokens to help others collect and return tokens as needed.

  5. Have one player spin the Variable Conditions Spinner to determine the conditions at the start of the game. The four conditions are:

    1. Level of Human Interaction - red
    2. Level of Climate Interaction - blue
    3. Number of Predators - yellow
    4. Availability of Food - green

  6. Place the Variable Conditions Indicator Tokens on the game board to show the current level (High or Low) of each of the conditions as determined by the spinner.

  7. All players should discuss and determine when the game will end. There are three options:
    1. Play for a specified amount of time i.e. 45 minutes, 1 hour
    2. Play until at least one player makes a specified number of cylcles around the board
    3. Play until one player reaches a population of 50 turtle tokens

The Rules

  1. Roll the die to see who goes first. Highest roll goes first.

  2. On their turn, each player rolls the die and moves the number of spaces shown on the die in a clockwise direction around the board. (* If a 6 is rolled see Rule 3.)

      If the player lands on a:

    • Land Space - Take the card on the top of the Land Card deck. Read the card to the group and lose or collect turtle tokens as required. The Variable Conditions Indicator determines the number of tokens. For example, the card may read "Your nests have been attacked by raccoons and many eggs have been eaten." The card will also have a yellow colored dot for predators, reminding you to check the position of the yellow token on the board. The card will indicate the number of turtle tokens lost, three during High levels or two during Low levels. Return the card to the bottom of the stack.

    • Sea Space - Take the card on the top of the Sea Card deck. Read the card to the group and lose or collect turtle tokens as required. Remember to check the Variable Conditions Indicator to determine the number of tokens as described above. Return the card to the bottom of the stack.

    • Question Space - Take the card from the top of the Question Card deck. Read the question to the group. Pass the card to the player on your left. The player on the left checks the answer against the answer indicated on the back of the card and tells the player the number of tokens earned. If the answer given is not exactly the same as the one on the card, it is up to the entire group to decide if the answer is acceptable enough to collect tokens. Return the card to the bottom of the stack.

    • Global Population Space - There are several spaces on the board that affect all sea turtles. If a player lands on one of these spaces, they read the description on the space to the group. All players lose or collect turtle tokens as indicated.

  3. If a player rolls a 6 on their turn, they must spin the Variable Conditions Spinner. This changes the current conditions for all players. Arrange the Variable Conditions Indicator Tokens on the board as determined by the spinner. The player then moves their playing piece and continues with their turn. The conditions remain the same until another player rolls a 6.

  4. When a player has completed their turn, play continues as above with players taking turns in a clockwise direction around the board.

  5. A Turtle Tussle occurs if two players land on the same space. When this occurs both players need to roll the die.
    • If both players roll the same number, a mating occurs and both players collect the same number of tokens as the number rolled on the die.
    • If the players roll different numbers, a competition for food, mates, or nesting areas occurs and the player that rolled the higher number collects the number of tokens that is indicated by finding the difference between (subtracting) both numbers rolled.

  6. When a player completes a life cycle by moving their turtle around the board and passing the Start space, or nesting area, their population increases in size. The quantity of the population increase is determined by the size of the population. Use the following chart to determine the number of turtle tokens to collect:

    Size of Population

    Number of Tokens to Collect

    0 - 4


    5 - 9


    10 - 14


    15 - 19


    20 - 24


    25 +


  7. If a player loses all of their turtle tokens their sea turtle population has gone extinct and they are out of the game.

  8. At the end of the predetermined length of time or number of rotations around the board, the player with the largest sea turtle population wins the game. Another option is to play until the first player has a population of 50 turtle tokens, winning the game.

Design Process

The game board is arranged in a circle to represent the cyclical nature of the sea turtle life cycle. The number of Land spaces is fewer than the number of Sea spaces to reflect that sea turtles spend very little of their life on land. Actually, after the hatchlings reach the sea it is only the females that return to the beaches and then it is only to nest. Considering this, there are probably too many Land spaces, but since many of the threats to sea turtles exist on land I felt that the learners needed to play a significant portion of the game on land.

I thought about trying to have some represtation of males and females, hatchlings and sea turtle eggs. I also considered having each player represent one of the eight species of sea turtles. This seemed like it would add too much confusion and would not be worth it in educational value. So the player moves their piece and collects tokens representing the generic idea of sea turtles, not worrying about only females going on land or matings occurring between opposite sexes.

As the players move through the land and sea, the Land Cards and Sea Cards are meant to represent the possible threats and benefits to sea turtle populations. One of my early concerns was making sure that the game is challenging, especially for older learners. I decided to use the Question cards, which also allowed the inclusion of more facts about sea turtle natural history and added some skill to the game. Some of the threats and benefits that in reality would affect all sea turtles were made to affect all players (the Global Population spaces), with the idea that it would keep players interested during someone else's turn. The Turtle Tussles, occuring when players land on the same space was added to bring some interactivity between the players and allowed the representation of mating and competitions that occur in nature.

The initial game design had the threats and benefits to the entire population (all players) on the spinner, and the board had Spin spaces. While playing the game, it was decided that it would be more interesting to add another dimension to the game. One of the game testers suggested the concept of representing the conditions that change and have an effect on sea turtles, such as climate, human impact, predators, and availability of food. It was decided to use the spinner to determine these conditions, so the things affecting all players were moved to spaces on the board (Global Population Spaces). Then playing the game and landing on a spin space meant that nothing happened to that player. So the Spin spaces were eliminated, and the idea of using a roll of 6 on the die was added.


Game Board

**Note: The diagram of the Current Conditions table includes representations of the Variable Conditions Indicator Tokens to demonstrate one of the possible arrangements.

Sample Cards

Front of Card

Back of Card




Alderton, David. Turtles and Tortoises of the World. London: Blandford, 1988.

Burton, Maurice. Encyclopedia of Reptiles, Amphibians and Other Cold-Blooded Animals. London: BPC Publishing, 1975.

Bustard, Robert. Sea Turtles: Their Natural History and Conservation. London: Collins, 1972.

Carr, Archie. The Turtle: A Natural History of Sea Turtles. London : Cassell and Co., Ltd., 1967.

Gibbons, Gail. Sea Turtles. New York: Holiday House, 1995.


National Marine Fisheries Service - Sea Turtle Page

Sea Turtle Restoration Project

Turtle Time

Turtle Trax

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This page was created by Dara Rosen

Last updated October 23, 1997