Scramble for

Created by
Mike Guerena, Lori Killpatrick,
Dan McDowell, and Anne Paxton-Smith

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

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objective

Using this board game, the learners will

  • experience the competitiveness of the scramble for colonies in Africa in between 1884-1914.
  • experience the various ways that colonial powers acquired territory from the Africans.
  • understand the relative economic value of the individual colonies.

These objectives are aligned with the following California State Standards for 10th grade World History:

10.4 Students analyze patterns of global change in the era of New Imperialism in at least two of the following regions or countries: Africa, Southeast Asia, China, India, Latin America, and the Philippines.
  1. Describe the rise of industrial economies and their link to imperialism and colonialism (e.g., the role played by national security and strategic advantage; moral issues raised by the search for national hegemony, Social Darwinism, and the missionary impulse; material issues such as land, resources, and technology).
  2. Discuss the locations of the colonial rule of such nations as England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Portugal, and the United States.
  3. Explain imperialism from the perspective of the colonizers and the colonized and the varied immediate and long-term responses by the people under colonial rule.

Learners & Context of Use

The game is designed mainly for 10th grade World History students ages 14-16 years old.

This game will be used in a 10th grade World history class lasting 50 minutes, but can be extended over 2-3 days. The game will follow a lesson on the Berlin Conference and an introduction to Colonial Imperialism in Africa from 1884-1914. This game is meant to engage students and spark interest for a 2-5 week unit on imperialism.

Object of the Game

The goal of the game is to acquire the most points based on the economic value of the colonies in Africa.

Game Materials

  • 5 tokens representing 5 European powers in the scramble for Africa: Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and Portugal.
  • Spinner
  • Scramble for Africa board
  • Dilemma answer booklet
  • Chance cards
  • 20 dilemma cards for each of the 20 African territories along with the dilemma answer sheet
  • Score sheets
  • 10 flags for each European power

Game Board


Dilemma Card Front
Dilemma Card Back


Chance Card Front
Chance Card Back


Additional examples of cards can be found here.

Time Required

The game will take one 50 minute period but may be extended over several periods.

The Rules

  1. Each player selects a country and places his piece at the Berlin Conference. One player will be the score keeper, filling out the score sheet.

  2. Players spin to determine the first player. The highest spin goes first. If the spinner lands on chance, the player spins again.

  3. Players spin to determine how many spaces to advance. Each hexagon represents one space and only one player may occupy a space at a time with the exception of the entry points.

  4. If the spinner lands on chance, the player will draw a chance card, read it out loud and follow the directions, adding or subtracting points on the score sheet.

  5. In order to enter a territory, a player must land on the entry point by exact roll. He will then select the dilemma card for that territory. He must read the card aloud and select a choice. He then must check the corresponding number on the Dilemma Answer Sheet. If successful, then the territory is colonized. The player then places the appropriate country's flag on that territory and adds the appropriate number of points to their score. If unsuccessful, the player, with his piece still on the entry point, loses one turn but may attempt to colonize the territory on his next turn. During this time, other players may attempt to colonize this territory.

  6. Once a territory is colonized, a player must return to the sea before entering another territory.

  7. Play continues until all territories are colonized or the instructor ends play.

Design Process

One of the first things we considered was finding a game that would fit within the social science standards for the 10th grade. After analyzing the curriculum, we decided that a game focusing on the European domination of Africa during the Age of Imperialism would be ideal. It would focus on the political, economic, and religious motives for the European grab for land in Africa, where the players would be the European nations attempting to get as much land as possible. Additionally, players could attack each other in their attempts to gather territories. We discussed how close we wanted the game to reflect the actual historical events. We decided that the actual "scramble" could not be confined to history and that this game would be used to simulate the main ideas of the time period. We did, however, decide to incorporate the specific encounters between the European and the Africans. It would be up to the teacher using this game to provide the actual results and discuss how some nations were more successful than others.

We proceeded with the "First Steps in Board Game Design". We started to formulate ideas about the content and design of the game. We used this as a basis for expanding and rejecting ideas. Through research, we were able to focus our ideas on the history of African imperialism, considering the political and economic influences.

Once we started discussing and elaborating on the idea, we decided that a battle or "Risk" type game would not work. The target audience would be more focused on attacking one another than the actual scramble and any educational information included. Additionally, there was historically very little conflict between the European powers during the Age of Imperialism. We opted for a strategy game that focused on acquiring land rather than demolishing the opponent. This also allowed us to simplify the game. Instead of having armies (like in Risk), the players would have a single piece andflags to signify they had colonized a territory. Once we secured the concept of the game, we finalized the details of how a player would colonize a territory, move on the board, and use the chance cards.

We initially used the Internet to obtain content information on the topic of African Imperialism. While Dan teaches this subject to his 10th grades, the others needed a little more information to understand the concept behind the game.

Internet searches also were done to look for similar games. A similar computer-based game was found, but that game was very complex and similar to Age of Empires, Starcraft, and Warcraft. A similar board game was found at Game Keeper, but this game veered from the historical context and focused on war and diplomacy between the European powers.

Our main feedback came from three world history teachers. During informal conversations, ideas were discussed and feedback received. They tested the prototype and wondered when they could order a game.

The development of the prototype was a group effort. We divided up the research with each member taking on five African colonies. We each then formulated several chance cards and one exemplar dilemma card. We exchanged many e-mails throughout the game design process, discussing how these cards would be formatted and used in the game. We then developed a design for the cards, a spinner, score card, answer booklet, tokens, flags and the board.

We learned several important lessons that we will carry into the next game design project. We recognized the importance of the game design process. Sequential steps provide a thorough way to turn ideas into a final project. Also, it is crucial to involve subject matter experts in the design team because they help focus the game on the objectives and content.

We felt that games with multiple approaches were more interesting and provided a richer context for the game. Scaffolding also supported the learning process and provided structure for the players during the game. While the educational content should be the focus of the game, we realized that it is not always that easy. The tendency is to get caught up in the "fun" aspects of the game and forget about learning.


Books & Journals

  • Ellington, H., Addinall, E., & Percival, F. (1982). A handbook of game design. London: Kogan Page.
  • Pakenham, Thomas (1991). The Scramble for Africa. New York: Avon Books.


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Last updated October 17, 2001