Initial Rules of Play

(subject to change and development)




The card game models the ecosystem of a Caribbean coral reef.  Players gain points by building stable food chains.  As in real life, both natural events and human actions may help or hinder the growth. The game can also have direct connections to the daily lives of players. They may gain or lose points or opportunities to play certain cards based on eco-friendliness of their everyday behaviors.

This game can be played in either a COMPETITIVE or COOPERATIVE mode.  In COMPETITIVE mode, a player or a team builds up their own reefs, while trying to damage the reefs of their opponent.  In COOPERATIVE mode, all players work together to place cards where they will do the most good, or the least harm, for all the coral reefs under development.

We are prototyping cards with open license artwork, while creating original card art. The rules of the game model mathematics and science of an ecosystem. The artwork of each individual card uses crochet, origami and other mathematically rich media to model surfaces and shapes. This invites students developing or playing the game to engage with many types of modeling.

Card Deck

The deck consists of 100 unique cards.  There are three types of cards in the deck.

Creature Cards

The information on the Creature Cards include:

  • Common name
  • Latin name
  • Rank (size, relative numbers of the species)
  • Food Chain Level (set inside the vertical lines |  | )
  • Picture
  • Scientific classification information
  • Points
  • Food chain information (what it eats, what eats it)
  • A curious fact about the creature
  • Artist and URL information

Event Cards

The information on the Event Cards include:

  • Type of Event
  • Picture
  • Effects of event
  • Possibilities for countering the event, if any

Event Cards include natural occurrences, such as weather or animal behavior, and large-scale human actions, such as  overfishing or establishing nature sanctuaries.

Personal Power Cards

The information on the Personal Power (PP) Cards include:

  • Type of Power
  • Picture
  • Specific actions in players’ real lives that create POSITIVE and/or NEGATIVE PPs

Playing the Game

Two players or  teams are building two reefs. Each player or team starts with a deck of 25 cards. In COMPETITIVE mode, players can either receive 25 cards randomly or can build their own deck of 25 cards. In COOPERATIVE mode, players receive their cards randomly.

Each player/team sits across the table from their opponent and puts down a Seabed card facing them.  They also shuffle their decks of 25 cards and place them face down on the table.  Players prepare to write or type their Personal Power (PP) points.

When players place cards on any of the two reefs, cards are facing these players. . This establishes which team receives the points for that card at the end of the game.

Play begins with both players/teams selecting the top three cards from the deck and laying them face up. The player/team with the card with highest place on the food chain (highest ranked card in highest level of the food chain) begins the game.

Each person on the team will take turns individually. Thus PP cards and Event cards will depend on the point level of the individual in the team playing that round, not on a joint team point total.  However, any individual in the team can choose any of the cards on the table that have been drawn by anyone on the team.

Each round begins by the player/team picking one card from the deck, and then taking a total of three actions.  The possible actions are:

  • Passing and doing nothing
  • Playing a Creature Card
  • Playing an Event Card (limit of one per turn)
  • Playing a PP Card
  • Moving a Creature Card
  • Discarding one card to receive two new cards

There are additional rules about how and when to play these cards.

  1. Reef building must begin with a plankton, zooplankton, or other Food Chain Level #1 card, which should be placed on one side of the Seabed card.  Additional Food Chain #1 cards can be placed on the other sides of the Seabed card, so each player can be building multiple reefs on their Seabed card.
  2. To play a Creature Card, the reef must have all specific conditions listed on that card, and the card must be of a higher rank and food scale level to be placed after another card on that reef.
  3. Either team/player can place any eligible Creature or Event cards on ANY reef under development. There are strategic reasons for staying in your own reefs, and strategic reasons for adding cards to your opponent’s reefs. Players cannot prevent opponents from placing cards on their reefs.
  4. Each player begins at 0 PP score. If the card selected is a Personal Power card, the player who pulled it must play that card immediately. That player figures out the PP+ or PP- points from that card and then adds/subtracts them from their current PP score.
  5. If the card selected is an Event card, and the game is being played in COOPERATIVE mode, it also must be played immediately. In COMPETITIVE mode  Event cards can be kept on the table to be played at a future time.
  6. If an Event card is played, the opposite side has its entire round to adjust to that event before any consequences take place. For example, many Creature cards have a MOVE capability. If Team A lays a destructive Event card on Team B’s reef, Team B has its entire round of three actions to mitigate the damage, including moving eligible Creature cards to other reefs.
  7. Discarding a card to draw two new cards must be the first of the three actions of the round.  If both cards are PP cards in COMPETITIVE mode, or PP or Event cards in COOPERATIVE mode, both must be played for the remaining two actions in that round.

Players/teams alternate rounds, building and/or destroying reefs, until all cards have been played from both decks. When that has occurred, players add together the points from the cards they have played (those facing upward)onto healthy and surviving reefs. Some reefs may contain cards, but have been shut down because of Event cards.

In the COMPETITIVE mode, the player/team with the most Creature points wins.

In the COOPERATIVE mode, the Creature points for all the reefs are combined.  The game is won if the joint point total of all reefs is 40 or higher.

Inspiration and credits

Both the idea for this game and the rules behind it have been inspired by and developed from the Phylo Trading Card Game:

All photographs for the prototype cards developed by H2O students are Creative Commons license photos taken from Wikimedia Commons.

The card templates were created by 


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