#GameAWeek NASAGA edition: Curate! or Stuff Matters! or some other title here…

This past week I was at the North American Simulations and Games Association (NASAGA) conference for the first time.

The stories are true; it’s unlike any other conference. There’s a purity and sincerity to it that’s pretty refreshing. Other academic conferences can get pretty cynical and snarky. I like snarky, probably more than the next guy, but there’s no place for that at NASAGA. Everyone is just so enthusiastic and optimistic and really fucking cares about other people, it’s crazy awesome and really hard not to feed off that energy.

All the sessions I went to were semi-structured, hands-on play and debrief of mostly tabletop simulation games that address serious issues and are meant to be used in varying contexts (schools, NGOs, indigenous, healthcare, etc.).  Some of the people attending have been doing this work since the late 60s! They lived the new games movement. Wow…

When I first heard of the conference, in my naivete, I assumed “simulations” were all about the 3D virtual world stuff for the military, since that’s how I’ve come to associate the word in the last 10 years. But NASAGA’s “simulations” are about learning games that simulate complex systems for players to grok and critique. The best games are pretty damn great, remind me of great euro games…  and I’m sorry this conference has been under my radar for so long.

Anyway, the last day had a 3-hour gamejam for local museums and historical societies. Specifically, Eli Pousson from Baltimore Heritage and Abram Fox from the Laurel Historical Society  were there as our gamejam clients. I made this card game with the help of new friend and comrade-in-arms Bret Staudt Willet. I’m using this to fulfill my #gameaweek challenge. :p

Curate! (or some other title… Stuff Matters!)

Problem Statement

“Museums are full of stuff that no one cares about.”

Big Idea

Compete for the best set of artifacts for an exhibit.

Players would learn about relative value of artifacts, documents, etc., possibly scaffolded by a teacher or curator or whoever that helped them make connections between the items depicted on the cards to their real-life counterparts, help them research value, learn history, etc.


Players: 2-3

Time: 15 min


RIght now, use a regular deck of cards, but these could be skinned for particular museums. Separate the cards into two decks: 1-6 and 7-King.

Pretend the 7-King cards represent different things you could collect into your museum. All the 7s share a common theme, etc., and all the cards of the same suit also share a common theme. Players want to make the best poker hand they can using these artifact cards.

The 1-6 cards deck are the buy cards and should be shuffled. Then deal 7 to each player.

Reveal n+1 cards in an auction pile in the middle of the table. Players then pick one of their cards to play for selection order on the cards in the middle. Each player places a card face down and when everyone’s ready simultaneously reveal which cards were chosen.

Whoever put the highest card picks first from the auction pile, etc.

If there’s a tie, players choose another card to place face down and reveal (then draw a card from the remainder or shuffled discarded buy cards).

You go seven rounds and whoever has the best poker hand (5 cards, poker rules) wins!

Initial Brainstorm That Is Totaly Unrelated

A game where the museum has few resources and needs to decide whether to sell artifacts to survive. players must then learn about each artifact and decide which to sell for particular benefits such as continued wages for employees or equipment like a TV or something…. and then the absurdity of it all where players end up being in a state of deciding to sell a priceless artifact for a TV…

prob a card game? or maybe a simple twine game?

a card game where items in hand represent different artifacts and they each have a different sell value… a buy pile in the middle… but each artifact also has a victory point value and so selling them actually makes players lose points… but the stuff in the middle are essentials. So then it becomes a resource management strategy game…

maybe throw in some auction game mechanics.. players compete for the items in the middle…

what if the value of the artifacts was hidden? players just bid numbers of artifacts for the stuff in the middle but don’t really necessarily know how much they’re losing? forcing them to do research on the different artifacts.

but it’d diminish replayability?


3-4 Players.

Deck of cards.

All the face cards plus Aces, the two Jokers, and 10s represent necessary things and are their own deck. Players must collect a set of either 4 straight flush or 4 of a kind for the game to end. Put n+1 of these cards face up in the middle. This is the available stuff players can buy.

The rest of the cards are divided among the players. Each player has their own draw deck and initially draws 5 cards. Modeled after For Sale: pick one of the cards to bid secretly. Reveal them and then high bid gets to choose from the buy pile first, etc.


collect / buy artifacts to go into a curated exhibit

sets of historical narrative; the longer the set the more valued

save the stuff from a natural disaster?

Poker hands!

bid on cards to add to your poker hand.


4 thoughts on “#GameAWeek NASAGA edition: Curate! or Stuff Matters! or some other title here…”

  1. Hi Mark,

    I am an EDLT C20er. We met briefly at the last F2F with Paul. I am a noob to gaming online, but when I read this post, I was pleasantly pleased. I love card games, dominoes, etc. To tweek the cards to represent another quality awakened the ‘new ideas world’ in my head. I love the idea of bricolage.

    In the past several years, I have been wondering how to make gaming more educational, especially for not only social change, but also for other areas which have huge impacts. The environmental, economic, political, and health sectors could all use a huge dose of educational gaming.

    I wish I could have attended that conference, yet, alas, I live and teach in Japan. Thank you for alerting me to this NASAGA information. I will search them out for more ideas and queries.

  2. Thanks Mark. I hope to see you next week at the next C20 F2F. Like I said, I am a noob, so play nice. 🙂 I was wondering if you could show me some cool games my Japanese students would be interested in…and just give me some of the basics to gaming, esp. for real world purposes. 🙂 I’ll look for you in your ‘office’ too. 😉

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