by: Jeff Burton and Mark Warmbrand

Jeffrey L. Burton
Mark Warmbrand

Jeff and Mark are hardworking EDTEC students who use their Instructional Design knowledge in their current careers.


Bodylink attempts to help students learn to integrate their knowledge of the various components of human physiology. These components, body parts, body systems, and body processes are often taught as independent units. In reality, they comprise an intricate pattern of interlocking relationships. No single entity stands alone. Instead, each entity has a multitude of connections to other entities and systems. The game is designed to graphically display this web of relationships. Body parts are linked to related body processes, grouped with common system entities, and connected to other body parts. Body Group challenges the player to categorize entities into groups, and to link those entities with related groups. This understanding of component relationships accurately, if not simplisticly, reflects the nature of human physiology. By gaining this understanding of the larger systems picture, the learner may also be able to transfer this thinking to the many other physical and social systems that are a part of our existence.


After speaking with several parents and individuals in the health field, it was decided that the appropriate learners would be high school students currently taking a course in Human anatomy.
This game is designed to be a supplemental exercise. Two biology text books and a registered nurse were used to check the correctness of the content.


A board game is an appropriate format for this subject for several reasons.
By laying out the tiles within the various relationships, intricate patterns of interlocking relationships begin to form. The Group tiles (being a separate color) constantly reinforce these relationships.
The boardgame format allows for competition which should increase motivation and the time spent on the task.


Players attempt to gain points by grouping together tiles of body parts and body activities according to physiological relationships. The tiles are of two types: Play Tiles and Group Tiles. Play Tiles identify a body part or a body activity (e.g. brain, muscle contraction). There are only three types of Group Tiles: SYSTEM, CONNECTED TO, and PROCESS. These Group Tiles (in blue) identify the relationship between the Play Tiles in one of three ways:

  1. Part of a System Group - All of the Play Tiles in this group must form part of a body system. The Play Tiles "brain, sensory nerve, and neuron" are all part of the nervous system grouping.
  2. Connected To Group - All of the Play Tiles in this group must be body parts that are physically connected to one another. The Play Tiles "bronchial tube, lung, and alveolus" are an example of this type of grouping.
  3. Part of a Process Group - All of the Play Tiles in this group identify a body activity. These body activities function together to form a body process "muscle contraction, liings expand, inhalation" are an example of this type of grouping.

Players attempt to place together a string of Play Tiles that belong to the same group. The Group Tile that identifies the type of group (System, Connected To, Process) must also be placed at one end of the string. See Relationship Groups below for a complete list of the acceptable groupings.


Two to four players can play.
Tiles are laid out face down. All players select 7 Play Tiles and 2 Group Tiles. The first player must lay down a Group Tile and at least two Play Tiles that belong with that Group. A sample play might be "CONNECTED TO-heart-artery-capillary". The Group Tile, is placed on the center square with the Play Tiles branching off on any one side. Subsequent plays can be made in one of three ways.

  1. Add additional Play Tiles to the existing group by extending the row or column.
  2. Add a new grouping that branches off the Group Tile that is on the board.
  3. Add a new Group Tile that branches off an existing Play Tile.
    The play must include one or more Play Tiles that belong to the new group defined by this Group Tile. See "Adding a new Group Tile" below.

If a player cannot make a play, they can trade in any number of Play or Group Tiles for new ones, but they lose a turn. After making a play, the player replaces their Play and Group Tiles so as to maintain 7 and 2 respectively. A player can challenge a play if in doubt of its accuracy. If the play is correct, the challenger will lose a turn, if the play is incorrect, the challenger gains 10 points and the player loses a turn. Play continues until no more plays are possible. This will normally take between one and one half hours. The player with the highest score wins.

Adding a new Group Tile

There are three ways a player can add a new Group tile to the board.

  1. Creating a link between System Groups and Connected To Groups:
    Body part tiles can be played as part of a System Group, or as part of a Connected To Group. When a body part tile is used as part of a System Group, a player can use that tile to begin a Connected To Group by branching off of that body part tile. For instance, if larynx-lung-nostril-SYSTEM is on the board as part of the Respiratory System, a player can add the sequence CONNECTED TO-bronchial tube adjacent to the lung tile. Connecting the lung to the bronchial tube is a legal play. The player must play the Connected To Group Tile and then must add at least one Play Tile that makes up the Connected To sequence.
  2. Creating a link between Process Groups and System or Connected To Groups: The body activity tiles that are part of the Process group, all identify a body part that belongs with that event. Therefore, the body activity tile can be linked with its matching body part tile. For instance, if larynx-lung-nostril-SYSTEM is on the board as part of the Respiratory System, a player can link it with the Breath Process by adding PROCESS-inhalation (lung) adjacent to the lung tile.
  3. Creating a link between Process Groups:
    Some body events tiles are part of more than one process. Muscle contraction is part of the Bone Movement Process and the Breath Process. If PROCESS-muscle contraction-muscle relaxation-bone movement is on the board, a player can add PROCESS-lungs contract-gas exchange adjacent to the muscle contraction tile.
The Group Tile is always used in-between the two relationship groupings, as the link.


Points are gained according to how many tiles are played at one time: the larger the group of tiles, the more points achieved. Scoring is as follows:

1 Play Tile: 1 point
2 Play Tiles: 5 points
3 Play Tiles: 10 points
4 Play Tiles: 15 points
5 Play Tiles: 20 points
6 Play Tiles: 25 points
7 Play Tiles: 30 points
All Group Tiles: 5 points (except on the opening play where it is worth zero points)

Scoring for a sample play of PROCESS-nerve firing-muscle contraction-bone movement would be

5 points for the Process Group Tile
15 points for the 3 Play Tiles
for a total of 20 points.
When any part of a play lands on a Double Score or Triple Score, the total score for that play is doubled or tripled accordingly.


Part of a System (SYSTEM GROUP)

Circulation SystemNervous SystemRespiratory System
veinbrain nostril
arteryspinalcord pharynx
capillary sensory nerve larynx
bloodmotor nerve trachea
heart associative nerve broncial tube
kidney neuron lung


When using this Group Tile, the following Play Tiles must be laid down in the sequence shown or in reverse. Any portion of the sequence is playable.

nostril-pharynx-larynx-trachea-bronchial tube-lung-alveolus
brain-spinal cord-sensory nerve-sense organ
brain-spinal cord-sensory nerve-associative nerve-motor nerve-muscle
brain-spinal cord-motor nerve-muscle
brain-spinal cord-motor nerve-associative nerve-sensory nerve-sense organ
heart-artery-capillary-[any body part tile]
heart-vein-capillary-[any body part tile]
Part of a Process (PROCESS GROUP)

The Process Group requires the use of the body activity Play Tiles. These activities can be grouped to create three different body processes. Although these events do occur in a sequence, it is not necessary to play these tiles in sequence. One cannot however, duplicate an activity tile when creating a process grouping.

Breath ProcessCellular Respiration Process Bone Movement Process
brain signalcapillary actionbrain signal
nerve firing gas exchange nerve firing
muscle contracts nutrient exchange muscle contraction
lungs expand waste exchange muscle relaxation
inhalation bone movement
gas exchange
capillary action
muscle relaxation
lungs contract

All body activity tiles also include the name of the body part that belongs with that activity. For instance, the "gas exchange" tile also states "capillary" below the event.


nerve firing, capillary action, muscle contraction, muscle relaxation : 6 of each
all other Play Tiles: 3 of each
all Group Tiles: 5 of each


The original board design was based on the 15 X 15 space Scrabble board. After several games, it became apparent that a larger board would allow for higher point plays. The final board has 19 rows and columns. Bonus spaces were also introduce to increase the "fun" of playing by increasing potential strategies and higher point plays.


The tiles were designed to be easily read, and comfortably handle. In the finished product, the tiles will have graphics and racks will be provided to help keep the playing tiles orderly.

Design Process:

This game evovled from an idea that the dynamic relationships between objects and processes could be reinforced through the use of a board game. The original idea was to use the various biological systems of the human body. We felt it would be easy to show the multiple interlocking relationships that exist between functions, physical relationships, and the actions of human body parts. This proved to be too big of a job for one board game so we limited our components to the respiratory and circulatory systems of the human body. As we field tested our prototypes, other problems became apparent. Our first attempt found still too many categories and not enough pieces in each group. This made it difficult to make bigger point plays. We narrowed our groups down to three per category and added new parts to the various groups. We also made the body activity tiles capable of branching by listing the associated body parts with each event of a process. With these changes it became easier to make longer plays, and the players began having more "fun".
The description and rules also went through several revisions. What seemed to make sense to us was nonsense to our "learners". Part of the problem arose from the fact that our test learners had not had any recent exposure to the subject matter. The game also requires significant up front understanding in order to play. The player must understand the idea of grouping tiles together nad how to link different groups together.