By Darleen Fabio, Claudio Zavala,
and Jason Reis

Eureka Board Game Layout

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

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

After playing the game, fourth grade students will be able to answer questions about the California Gold Rush. They will be able to describe the daily life and travel experiences of a typical forty-niner. They will also be able to list the historical aspects of the Gold Rush in 1849.

They would use this as supplement material to help fulfill the following CA state content history/social science content standards for fourth grade:

  • 4.3 Students explain the economic, social, and political life in California from the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic through the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and the granting of statehood.
  • 4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.

Learners & Context of Use

Fourth grade students will be able to use the game, Eureka! The Gold Rush Experience. Through readings from their social studies book and various trade books, students will learn about the California Gold Rush. They will learn of James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, the population increase and the trials and tribulations of the miners. This game will reinforce their newly acquired knowledge and potentially increasing their prior knowledge about this historical period of time.

Object of the Game

To get the most cards by the end of the game (30 minutes).

Game Materials

The contents of the game includes the following:

  • 1 page of directions for game-play
  • 1 six-sided number die
  • Sailing Ship and Covered Wagon Markers
  • Timer (available only in deluxe edition of game)
  • set of California or Bust Cards

    California or Bust! Card
    Image 1 - Front of California or Bust! Card
    Image 2 - Back of Card (Information and Questions)

  • set of Gold Dust or Bust Cards

    Gold Dust or Bust! Card
    Image 1 - Front of Gold Dust or Bust! Card
    Image 2 - Back of Card (Information and Questions)
  • 1 Eureka! board game (folded in thirds)

We had to design two types of markers for players to use: sailing ships and covered wagons. These were the two most popular methods for getting across the country to California. Sailing ship markers are used if the player chooses to go by sea and covered wagon markers are used if the player chooses to go by land. The six-sided number die is used to move the players along the game's route.

Every time a person lands on an "i" spont anywhere on the board, they are responsible for reading the information found on the back of a California or Bust! card or a Gold Dust or Bust! card in the light brown section. Everyone is held accountable for the information because they might land on a "?" spot and have a chance to win that card (piece of knowledge). In this situation, the player to the left would read a question from the light blue section of a card for the player to answer. A timer would be used to regulate the time allotted for game-play.

Time Required

The set-up should only take a few seconds as players would only have to unfold the game (folded in thirds), place cards in appropriate sections, and place markers on start. The game itself will take approximately 30 minutes to play.

The Rules

Number of Players: 2 to 4

Objective: To get the most cards by the end of the game (30 minutes).

1. Each player rolls the die. Highest number goes first.

To start, players place their marker(s) on New York. Each player must decidethe path he or she will take to reach San Francisco, by land or by sea. A player will use a covered wagon marker, if going by land or a sailing ship, if going by sea.

If a player decides to take the sea route, there will be a point where he or she chooses to take the Panama short cut or go around Cape Horn.

3. When a player reaches San Francisco Bay, he or she can proceed to Downtown spot to continue the next section of the game.

4. The player rolls the die and moves his or her marker along the route.

The player may land on one of the following:
  • Blank Spot
    The player does nothing and waits for another turn to move.

  • Situation Spot
    The player reads the situation out loud and follows the direction as indicated.

  • Information Spot
    The player picks a card. If he or she is on their way to California, they choose a California or Bust card. If he or she has already made it to California, then they choose a Gold Dust or Bust card.

    The player reads only the information on the card out loud (not the questions). He or she then puts the card into either the General Store (California or Bust cards) or Wells Fargo Bank (Gold Dust or Bust cards), depending on his or her location.
  • Question Spot
    When a player lands on a question spot, the person to the right of the player chooses any of the cards in either the General Store or Wells Fargo bank. He or she reads one of the questions on the bottom of the card to the player. If the player answers the question correctly, he or she gets to keep the card.

    If he or she answers the question incorrectly, the card goes back to General Store or Wells Fargo bank. If a player lands on a question and there are no cards in the General Store or Wells Fargo bank, the player does nothing and waits for another turn to move.

    The game continues until the time is up (30 minutes). The player who acquires the most California or Bust and/or Gold Dust or Bust information cards wins and strikes it rich!

Design Process

Claudio, who was seeking a way to increase his fourth grade students' knowledge about the California Gold Rush both prior to and following the history unit, initiated the idea. He thought that it would be a great way to reinforce what he might teach about this topic and it would also address the California history/social-science content standards for fourth grade.

The group's initial idea was to create a race type game form New York to San Francisco. The player would read situations along the three paths (over land, around South America, or through Panama). The group realized that this did not truly mimic the historical event. Two board games were combined, one for the journey to San Francisco and one for San Francisco itself. The player would travel along ready scenarios and winning or losing gold. The object of the game was to gain the most gold. Even though the objective of the miners was to gain the most gold they could, this was not our objective as game designers - - educating the player.

Questioning the player on the information learned became the focus of the game. By having the players read information out loud and the cards going into a holding place (the bank and general store), all players will want to learn the information, in order to answer the question and win the card.

After the usability testing, the group noticed that there was not nearly enough information and question spots needed on the game board. We also needed to slow the people traveling by land down by adding more challenges to make it more realistic.


Books & Journals

  • Banks, J.A., Beyer, B.K., Contreras, G., Craven, J., Ladson-Billings, G., McFarland, M.A., Parker, W.C. (2000). California: Adventures in Time and Place. New York:
    McGraw-Hill School Division.
  • Chambers, C. (1984). Wagons West. New York: Troll Communications.
  • Chambers, C. (1984). California Gold Rush. New York: Troll Communications.
  • Daniel,A., Daniel, L., & Penner, J. (1999). Gold!. Bothell: Wright Group Publishing.
  • McMorrow, C. (1996). Gold Fever!. New York: Random House.
  • Morley, J. (1997). How Would You Survive in the American West. New York: The Salariya Book Co.
  • Roop, P. & Roop C. (2002). California Gold Rush. New York: Scholastic Inc.
  • Weidt, M.N. (1990). Mr. Blue Jeans: A Story About Levi Strauss. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
  • Womach, R.L. (1997). California Early History. Redding: Golden Educational Center.


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Last updated October 20, 2002 by Darleen Fabio, Jason Reisenauer, and Claudio Zavala