The Great Fish Story



Dawn Waterman
Mike McGrath
Matt Stollenwerk
Polly Stansell

Instructional Objective The students will be able to 1) recognize that some fish migrate as part of their life cycle; 2) identify the stages of the life cycle of Pacific salmon; 3) describe the obstacles affecting Pacific salmon as they complete their life cycle; and 4) generalize the obstacles that affect all populations of animals.


Learners/Context The users of this board game are school age children between ages 11 and 15, who reside primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

This game would be used following instruction based on the Pacific salmons life-cycle, migratory patterns, and obstacles the salmon faces to complete its life. This subject matter would probably be taught in a Life Science class, but could also be taught in a Social Science class dealing with the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.


Equipment The shape of the board will be square and the spaces in which the players are able to move their game pieces will be of two different sizes. T he larger rectangles allow faster movement, but entail greater risk to the player. The smaller rectangles provides slower movement to the player, but fewer risks. The board contains several obstacles for the players to overcome. The obstacles are: dams, predators, pollution, nature and other man-made impediments. The squares that the players move in will look like a river winding its way through a state.

Ancillary Materials The materials that are necessary to make each move different are:

* Dice--determine how many squares the player is able to move and determine random results from obstacles and fate cards,

* Trivia cards--to pose questions that must be answered correctly in order to advance,

* Fate cards--cards that come up randomly on the game board require something extra of the player,

* Fish marker pieces--to indicate the location 0of players' locations on the game board,

* School fish pieces--represent the number of fish in each player's school,

* Energy point markers--keep track of how many energy points each player has,

* Creels--hold each players fish,

* Tackle boxes--hold each player's energy points.

Scenario In this game each player takes on the role of a school of Pacific salmon.

The object of the game is to get the most pairs of male and female salmon back to their spawning grounds.

The eggs have been laid and you have hatched. You are now ready to begin your journey down the Columbia river to the Pacific Ocean. There are many obstacles, including dams, low water in streams, and predatory birds, mammals, and larger fish. Up to 90% of the fish that hatch never reach the sea. When in the ocean, you grow rapidly by feeding on the ocean's rich food supply. Predators such as sharks, killer whales, and other marine mammals take their toll. In addition, humans fish for salmon commercially and for personal reasons, including food and recreation.

In two to five years, you start your journey back to your own hatching site. The upstream migration from the ocean is also a series of hazards. For example, dams hinder your journey and would block it completely if fish ladders were not installed. Humans, eagles, bears, and other predatory mammals who fish also reduce your numbers along the way to the spawning ground. Sometimes landslides and logjams provide unexpected new barriers. So, too, do the natural waterfalls and rapids. You must do whatever it takes to get you and your mate back to your nesting ground.

Roles This game is designed for two to four people. There is no need for a supervisor or a referee to keep the game moving.

Each player needs to pay attention to all of the trivia questions. If the player whose turn it is does not know the answer to a question, the other players will have an opportunity to answer the question. If a player answer the question correctly, then that player may advance his or her fish.


Set-up Shuffle the trivia cards and fate cards separately. Place the cards face down on the game board in their respective spots. Place the fish markers on their corresponding tributaries.

Each player chooses one large colored game fish, one bag(creel), and one container to hold future energy points.

Fish selection: place all of the fish face down so the F (female) and M (male) do not show. Each player randomly selects 35 fish and puts them into their creel.

At the beginning of the game, each player starts with a pool of zero energy points.


Rules 1. Roll the die to determine the order of play. The player who rolls the highest number begins play, which then continues in a clockwise direction.

2. The person to the right of the player who is to go first draws the top card from the trivia question pile and asks the question on the card to the player.

If the player answers the question correctly, that player wins the turn. Go to rule 3.

If the player is unable to answer the question, then the question is asked to each succeeding player in a clockwise direction until one of the players is able to answer the question correctly. If a player answers the question correctly, that player wins the turn. Go to rule 3.

If none of the players are able to answer the question then the person who read the question wins the turn. The player reads the question again and then reads the answer. Go to rule 3.

3. The winner of the turn rolls the die and moves the number of spaces indicated on the die. The player may choose either of two paths to swim upstream or downstream (See rule 7).

If the player is swimming downstream, he or she also places one energy point into his or her energy point container (tackle box).

The player adds an additional energy point for each space he or she passes in the ocean.

If the player is swimming upstream, he or she receives no energy points for winning a turn.

4. While in the river, players may not backtrack (e.g., go back down stream a few spaces while swimming upstream). While in the ocean, players may only move in the direction indicated by the arrow on each space.

5. Fate Cards

If a player's turn ends on a "fate" space, on the board he or she reads the fate appropriate to his or her location on the board (upstream, downstream, or ocean) and follows those instructions. The player then places the card at the bottom of the pile.

6. Permanent obstacles (falls, dam, city)

When a player passes a permanent obstacle in the river, either upstream or downstream, he or she completes his or her move as normal, but then must roll one die to determine how many fish were lost attempting to pass the obstacle. The player randomly removes from his or her creel the number of fish indicated on the die.

Optional Rule

Before rolling the die, the player has the option of wagering up to six energy points in order to decrease the number of fish he or she might lose. The player subtracts the number of energy points wagered from the roll of the die and removes the resulting amount from his or her creel. He or she then removes the energy points wagered from his or her pool. If the die roll is less than the points wagered, no fish are lost, but the original number of energy points wagered are still removed from the player's pool.

Example: Sue has just passed the dam obstacle with few fish to spare, so she chooses to wager 3 energy points against the fish she might lose attempting to climb the fish ladder. She rolls the die and gets a 4. She loses (4-3=) 1 fish. She randomly removes one fish from her box and removes three energy points from her pool.

7. Path switching

A player traveling in the fast or slow path on the board may, during that player's turn, change paths during his or her move:

The player must stay in the new path for two rolls of the die.

The player may only switch paths on the first or last space of the move.

8. Starting on the round after a player has reentered the river to go upstream, he or she removes one energy point from his or her pool at the end of every turn, whether or not he or she has won the turn.

9. If a player's energy pool falls to zero, he or she randomly removes one fish from his or her creel for each energy point lost from that point on.

10. The winner is the player who is able to return to his or her original spawning area (tributary) with the largest number of pairs of male and female salmon.


Design Process The process of design for The Great Fish Story starts with an idea for a game dealing with the life of salmon. Polly Stansell used the game "Hooks and Ladders" as her starting point.[1] After pitching the idea in EDTEC 670 the group was formed.

The first session for the team began by brainstorming the many possibilities of a game based on the life cycle of the Pacific salmon. We discussed board layout, game pieces, rules, and ancillary materials. The session ended with each member agreeing to research the Pacific salmon and bringing the information gathered to the next meeting.

The second session dealt with the dividing of the books among members and the assignment of writing 25 trivia questions each. We also split up several other tasks such as writing the report, finding game pieces, initial drawing of the game board, and writing fate cards. Other decisions were made about the design of the game. For example we decided that we wanted the game board to emulate a river. We thought about the various obstacles a salmon would most likely encounter during its life cycle. We discussed the idea of consequences the players faced for certain choices they made throughout the game.

Session three focused on the need to find ways to keep the players involved in the game when it was not their turn. This was accomplished by allowing the other players the opportunity to correctly answer trivia questions that were missed by the player's whose turn it was thereby "stealing" the round. We also felt the strategy needed to be a stronger factor in the game. For this reason Matt came up with the idea of wagering energy points instead of always losing fish while swimming upstream. We also gave them choices concerning how long they spent in the ocean and which track they wanted to swim in (fast or slow). There would be two tracks for the players to move both up and down stream. One track moves the player quickly, the other slowly. The ocean section of the game would have four tracks, each progressively more hazardous yet rewarding. Each of these decisions would require careful planning and consideration by each player.

Next, we decided the spacing of permanent and random obstacles. We also decided that the number of pairs of fish (one female and one male equal a pair) at the end of the game determines the winner. We divided the task of writing the rules among the group members.

At the fourth and final design session, we checked the game against Keller and Suzuki's ARCS model. The game passed their criteria. We also performed formative evaluation using other members of the EDTEC 670 class. Their suggestions were then incorporated into the game.

The comments from the 670 players were mostly positive. There were also some suggestions: there was not a clear demarcation between the land and ocean, and the rules regarding energy points were not clear enough. Changes were made to reflect player's concerns.

We then presented the prototype to Bernie Dodge for his suggestions. He had two items that we needed to address. First, there were many game pieces. Second, the fish markers were big. After playing the game all the way through again it was determined that we could reduce the number of fish that the players select at the start of the game from 50 to 35. By doing this it not only reduces the number of pieces each player is responsible for but also increases the difficulty of the game.

The second issue was not nearly as easy to solve. We feel it is very necessary to keep the game pieces as authentic as possible. The fish markers represent another clue to the players that they are salmon swimming a river or ocean. We realize that they are a little too big for the spaces on the game board. We tried to make to board bigger but then we lost spaces which shortened the game and lessened the challenge of the game. We also contacted a company in town that produces games, they told us we would not be able to find what we were looking for, but offered several suggestions most of which were out of our budget range. We did call every cake decorating supply store, craft store, educational supply store, and any other store we could think of. Unfortunately, nobody sold small enough fish(and they thought we were a little strange). For this reason we were unable to change the size of the fish markers. Besides, we had already grown too attached to the little suckers to dump them from the game.

Game Board