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We have prepared this guide for YOU, YOUth workers, teachers and educators of all colors, shapes, sizes and geographies!

We think it will be especially interesting for you if you see the importance and feel the need to work with young people on topics related to environment, health and sustainable development. What is more, if you are eager and keen on using board games and/or simulation games on sustainability topics, then VOICI! This virtual guide is THE place for you to be.

We are Salvi, Natalia and Paul and we will guide you thorugh the process of developing and using games in educational settings.


Natalia Ciobanu is an experienced researcher, consultant and educator, with a background in environmental sciences and passion for sustainability education. She has been working on sustainability, stakeholder engagement, community learning, doing environmental and sustainability research and facilitating learning events (trainings, seminars, workshops).


Salvi Greco is an educational trainer facilitating learning processes. He cooperates with NGOs, institutional European stakeholders, local institutions and schools, and he is always in search of “the right conditions” to spark learning.


Paul Kloosterman has been working in the international educational field for many years as a trainer, consultant, researcher and writer. He has been and still is involved in training courses for youth workers, trainers, teachers and policy makers. In the last years he has been involved in different research projects focussing on learning in youth work and training.



In this virtual guide on how to develop and use simulation games and board games, we want you to feel that you can either use the games that we have prepared for you or - more importantly - you can develop your own educational games!

So yes, we will share with you some games. We will also share with you some info and resources on how to develop games. However, we will not give you any information that you can’t already easily find online. Nothing new here on “How to”, really.


What we really Really REALLY want to do is to share with you a story - the K2 Games story. In fact, K2 Games is a story of many stories, which, when woven together, produced 7 beautiful miracles: 7 ready-to-use sustainability games.

And trust us when we say: if this story of stories finished with beautiful, playable games, then there is no reason on earth why YOU, our yet unknown, but already dear youth worker, could’t do the same. Or even better!

So make yourself comfortable, and prepare to discover the many stories showing you how some unlikely friends, in most unlikely circumstances have come together to prove that you, too, our anonymous visitor in this landscape of games, can create educational games that change human minds for good.

“No, wait!” You may say.

“I like using games in education. They’re fun. But I am not sure that games are the best way to learn about such serious topics. In this time of so many environmental crises and such unprecedented climate emergencies, why use playfulness and games?” you may say.

Well, let us pause for a bit, and tell you why we play.


Why do we play games

There are a lot of different models and theories as to exactly what different people find fun, and David Mullich - game producer and game design professor - makes an inventory of answers in this LinkedIn post:

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Why people love games

“Games are a controlled form of freedom. Our brains grab onto them because they are structures that exist to be avoided” says Sam Von Ehren, the Game Maker for The New York Times (Yes! They even have a game maker). He also simply says “They’re fun!”

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Why do people play games

And here’s a brainy answer “Games are multipurpose information systems which nevertheless rely on hedonic factors, even in the pursuit of instrumental outcomes”. This answer comes from a scientific article published by Juho Hamari and Lauri Keronen in the International Journal of Information Management.

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Aldo Campanelli

TouPlay - Italy

Author of “K2 Gardens”

“Playing is a serious thing” is something that usually comes to mind when I think about how I have learnt English or how to set up a camping-site. This is because I took every chance I had in a game to learn something new by pushing myself over the borders of my actual knowledge: what can go wrong in a game? I can say that the game is a simulation and in a simulation a mistake can happen with simulated consequences, but the experience will be real. And from that experience I will learn. The process of creating the “K2 Gardens” simulation game, too, was a learning process for me. To make it a learning experience for others, I had to study, for example, how a public fund works or how a group of people can really participate by proposing ideas and solutions to common problems. After this experience, I am event more convinced of this: Let us play to keep changing the world!

Diana Lupei

SRC - Romania

Co-author of “K2 Pioneer City” & “K2 Recycling Party”

I think everyone plays and creates games. We often don’t recognize it because it doesn’t fit the image we have of games, but we create them. We do it to make life interesting or to explore scenarios we couldn’t normally. They are a great learning tool, allowing us to talk freely and lightly of dark situations, to discover potential solutions to issues, to find fun when there is none. That’s the reason they are perfect for learning about serious issues, and in particular about environmental issues. For example, losing a game is socially acceptable, but hoarding trash isn’t. Children use playing to learn, but to play is not childish. I am glad that more and more adults and educators use games, as they have the power of non formal learning.

Let’s turn the lens on you

looking for answers
  • What was your favorite game as a child/teenager?
  • Why did you like playing it?
  • What did it help you learn about yourself, about your relation with other people, or about the world around you?
  • In your life so far, how did you use playfulness in a challenging situation?

So, you see, our yet unknown, but already dear educator, there are plenty of reasons why games are a great tool to use even when we address such serious topics. Or better said - ESPECIALLY when we address such serious topics. And if you are still on this path with us, then you’ve made the first steps to designing an educational game:

  • You understand the importance to work with young people on sustainability topics.
  • You are interested in exploring games as tools to work on such topics.
  • You keep reading and looking ahead for the game development journey.

Ah! One last thing before we set sail! You may wish to take a few minutes, and reflect on the sustainability topics that make your heart beat louder. Which of them you would like to turn into a learning experience for yourself and for those around you?

In the next step, you will see why and how your educational approach can help you impactfully work with young people. Continue reading.



Educational approach

What is an educational approach in developing / using games?

I love dictionaries. Sometimes they are as inspiring as a novel, or maybe even more. If you look in a dictionary for “approach” you’ll find definitions like this: “to come near, or nearer to something or someone in space, time, quality, amount”. Think about when we say “to approach a person” - it is about getting close/closer, speaking to that person. But it is also about HOW you do it: in which way you get close(er), how you speak, how right (or wrong) the moment is for that, how long it lasts, etc. It is a combination of elements that, taken together, represent a system.

As for “education” - we believe that the greatest value and purpose of education is “to get people to learn” (and evolve), as we’ll see in this chapter.

So, if we put together “education” and “approach” to focus on “educational approaches”, we could say that “it is about how we come near people in space, time, quality and amount in order to support and facilitate their learning”.

people connecting

The “K2 Games - learning by playing” educational approach

The educational dimension of the “K2Games – learning by playing” project is firstly defined by its main context and framework: the European Commission’s Erasmus Plus Programme, which has a strong emphasis on the non-formal education/learning methodology/approach. In addition, the educational approach of this project is suggested already by its title: “learning by playing”. Yet, there is much more than that.

But, before we continue with K2Games, let’s look at two “examples” on the topic and contents of “educational approaches”:

  • Pick your favorite cookie and, just because you like that cookie, start thinking and elaborating meaningful learning metaphors around it. Think about things that the cookie taught you, about how that cookie played a crucial role in a networking meeting coffee-break, about lessons learnt by eating or missing too much that cookie, about how you have used it in dozens ways, about how you solved or started a conflict with that cookie, and so on. In the unlikely case you don't have real stories about the cookie, you can still invent some.

    Now elaborate, define and refine that idea. Make a consistent conceptual framework and, of course, find a cool name like “The Cookiefication of education”. And you are ready to go ahead with your cookie-mission and start your cookiefication-revolution! Surely you'll get followers. There are cookie lovers out there; if there are many of them, then it will be a mass-revolution. If there are a few - a niche-revolution, because your cookiefication is not for everybody!

    (If you don’t like cookies just choose something else, like stones for the “stonification of education”, or chilies for the “chillification of education”. You get the point.)

  • Make two piles of books: one pile with books you have read (maybe even more than once), and one pile of books you have on your shelves, but which you have never read.

    Sit or stand or lie down in front of the two piles of books. First, look at the pile of books you've read and think about what you haven't learned from those books. Then look at the pile of books you've never read and think about what you have realised, learned, with those books, in the few minutes you were looking at them, just by staring at them. Jot down your thoughts. Be ready to share your findings.

    Now, give to this tool a cool name like “The power of unread books”, or “Learning by staring at books (without reading them)”. Define a couple of topics that the tool addresses, like “self-reflection”, or “sparking creativity”. Prepare some questions for the debriefing. You have a tool!

choosing where to put book

We’ve “invented” these 2 examples in a few minutes, just while writing this part of the guide, but it wouldn’t be so unlikely that you find something similar if you google for some minutes.

The first example might be considered an “approach”, a “methodology”, a “theory” or even a “philosophy”, a…movement, because it is more about a wider system in place, as described above. The second example can be considered as a method, because it is a specific, straightforward way that you need to implement, to put your approach into practice.

We know that in the field of non-formal education/learning, we can take out learning insights, achieve some learning outcomes and create wonderful learning tools from almost anything (situations, party games, objects randomly found lying around, things that are just our interests, passions, etc.). But is it as easy as it looks like in the two examples above? Yes, it is, and of course - it is NOT!

There are quite a few things to properly consider when thinking of an educational approach. To mention just a few:

  • What context are you in?
  • Who are the learners and who is the guiding team that will be involved in the process?
  • What are the learning spaces (offline and online)?
  • What is the timeframe of a planned educational activity?
  • What style of training/facilitating/teaching do you and the facilitation team have?
  • There will be unforeseen events that will arise along the way and you cannot plan in advance. How would you deal with that?

In the same way there are things to properly consider and ponder when choosing or creating the specific methods that bring your educational approach to concrete life - the implementation of that educational approach. But here especially, in an educational project based on games, we would like to underline the most important element never to lose sight of: the ultimate goal of education is “to get people to learn”!

“In the end education is about learning, if there is no learning going on, there is no education going on. And people can spend an awful lot of time discussing education without even discussing learning. The whole point of education is to get people to learn” says Sir Ken Robinson.

And we echo him, because “learning” is what we always had in mind when the comprehensive staff (composed of environmental and health experts, game designers/developers, youth workers, educational trainers, researchers) designed and implemented the K2 Games project.

The role of the trainers was to give and maintain the educational dimension and learning goals when preparing the game development teams. It was challenging, because we know that many people when thinking of games, immediately think of the fun, the wild excitement they will experience, and also about that sneaky dark side of games, as there is many times. To bring educational elements into the games while keeping all the fun, the excitement and especially the “dark side” is not necessarily an easy task. Surely, we tried to develop the games in a way that could allow young people to explore topics around environmental, health and sustainable development issues. What was the intention behind this approach? - To make them think about and question their own attitudes and how these attitudes can change in order to engage more actively in their community. Did we manage? Explore the seven games and tell us.


Here is what some of K2Games’ own pirates and explorers have to share with you about the choice and the impact of a tailored educational approach.

Andrea Natale

Insight_epd & TouPlay - Italy

Co-trainer “K2 Games” course in Cluj, Romania

Climate change is an issue that affects all human beings and each area of ​​the planet. When I was asked to take part in a European project to enhance this global issue, I took pride in being a representative of change for our future. But pride wasn't the only emotion: I was afraid. Would I have held the comparison with European experts and enthusiasts? This doubt led me to deeper research, before leaving: I wanted to understand how Europe, in all its internal differences, reflected and operated on such an important issue. For the first time, thanks to the Training Course, I really felt European rather than Italian: a wonderful feeling that I will remember for a lifetime. The educational game conveys a concept so that it is learned in an indirect way: no lectures or texts to read, just a path full of particular and engaging activities and experiences. For an educational game to be successful and therefore to reach its educational objectives, it is important that the didactic and ludic components are perfectly balanced with each other: balance is fundamental, requires a lot of attention and can only be achieved after many analyses and playtests. Each game dynamic must be measured according to the age range of the target it is aimed at. The Training Course was a fundamental step: it brought together different cultures, and ask them to think about an international target, so that participants have left their national comfort zone, raising the level of the project. This was the only way to design experiences aimed at promoting global change.

Laura Slavinskaitė

EEHYC - Lithuania

Youth worker & “K2 Games” participant

The training course in Cluj was very pleasant and emotional for me. In the whole week spent with many beautiful people l learned to leave my comfort zone. I didn‘t know anyone at the beginning but I loved the feeling to get to know them in the process and my inner self. It was an intense time with a lot of interesting activities and tasks. I‘m a creative person so it was the most powerful feeling to join in action activities where we could sing and play together, feel each other without words and etc. I was impressed by the ideas of the trainers and how they glued the team. The hardest part of the training course was simulation games. I felt like I was only the observer, but the experience was still strong and inspiring.

Francesco Borrelli

Insight_epd & TouPlay - Italy

Youth worker & “K2 Games” participant

I have a wonderful memory of the training course in Cluj, of the experiences, of the close relationships I've built on that occasion. One of the very first things I noticed and appreciated in the organization and direction of that experience, was the “non-formality” of the methodology, the tools, that accompanied us participants for the entire duration of the project; “non-formality” I was already familiar with because of my experience as a scout educator. Surely the use of games as a way for knowing each other, for comparing, questioning oneself - leaving and re-entering the character we live in every day - and afterwards of constructiveness, of community productivity, or even the use of a “magic-stick” (a simple branch) as an element to verify common progresses towards a collective goal, the use of plenaries, confrontation, of mutual listening, stimulating creativity and critical thinking, are among the things I most appreciated about this project, which made me feel at home and kept standing for many hours in a row without ever making me feel really tired of absorbing as much as possible of the opportunity that was given to me.

Let’s turn the lens on you

looking for answers
  • What does education mean to you?
  • When designing an educational activity, what elements do you take in consideration?
  • Knowing that whatever activity you do it always is in a context / framework, what is the context/framework in which you plan to develop or use a game as an educational tool? What is possible and what might be too ambitious?
  • In the context and framework in which you will deliver the educational activity:
    • How much time do you (want) to have available for that activity?
    • How many participants should be able to participate simultaneously?
    • How deep do you want to go in a topic?
  • What are the learning objectives you want to achieve with the game you will be developing or using:
    • Do you want it to be knowledge-oriented or attitude-oriented?
    • Do you want to use the game to teach things / explore things / question attitudes / change attitudes / get young people to be active / raise awareness about things ?

In the next step, you will see why and how your educational approach can help you impactfully work with young people. Continue reading.



Choosing a Topic to Address

What is the last piece of news about environmental problems that you’ve read, watched or heard? What about the last thing that felt wrong to you when you took a walk in the city, in the mountains or even in the countryside?

Climate change? Water pollution? Biodiversity loss? Deforestation? Food waste? People lacking access to food or water? Growing environmental disease burden? Disappearing green spaces in your town or city? You name it. With so many problems around, it can often feel overwhelming to know what to start from. And it is only normal that you may feel so.

person making progress

Need more reasons why it’s better to feel comfortable with starting small? Watch this short, inspiring video here.

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Tackling big problems, like environmental crises we face today, can be discouraging. In this TED Talk, Doug Snyder talks about how starting small can eventually achieve huge impacts (He touches on his personal experience helping to build a non-profit organization that is tackling air, land, and water pollution in Hanoi, Vietnam)

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“We all have big ideas for big things we’d like to make. When you’re dating, you don’t ask someone to marry you five minutes after meeting them. Marathoners don’t just show up on race day and run 26 miles; they start small.” Here is a business perspective from Justin Jackson on why you should start small.

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Give yourself space to feel the sadness, because the situation is sad indeed. Just try not to linger too much over it. This might cause you to slip into exaggerated fear, exaggerated frustration, despair and feeling of meaninglessness. These are the true enemies that prevent us from action.

Here is what some other K2Games explorers want to share with you.

Dhyan Or

SRC - Romania

Co-author of “K2 Air Quality in Cities”

The strong smell of exhaust-pipe smoke around my neighbourhood, especially on the way to school in the early morning, has been bothering me for a few years now. People around me, especially vehicle owners, didn’t seem to mind the quality of air they breathe, and pedestrians seem to be completely unaware of the risks to their health. The first action I took was creating a sort of flash-mob or street theater, where a group of actors blocked traffic in the center of town, and started coughing continuously at the drivers. I have also submitted an idea for an air quality monitoring app to a city hackathon, and raising the issue with the city hall. This simulation game is my best effort yet, as it combines creativity with data to help raise awareness to our common needs and interests regarding air quality.

Aiste Vertelkaitė

EEHYC - Lithuania

Co-author of “K2 Waste Management”

There were a few reasons for choosing to focus on the waste management issues as the main topic of the game. I grew up in a place where people used to litter. For me, even as a child, throwing garbage in a ditch was not acceptable. Seeing that happen caused me strong feelings of disgust. The other reason related to my choice to focus on the waste management topic was the several movies I watched: “Trashed: Waste and Pollution Throughout the World“ and “The True Cost: The Price Behind A Piece of Clothing“. These movies became an inspiration for me and contributed to the broadened perception of the waste management issues.

Let’s turn the lens on you

looking for answers

Remember when we asked you to reflect on the sustainability topics that make your heart beat louder? Which of them you would like to turn into a learning experience for yourself and for those around you?

Find yourself a quiet place. Pour yourself a nice cup of tea, coffee or maybe even a glass of your favourite wine. And think about what environmental problem is calling you for help.

Struggling? Here are some guiding questions to help you with this reflection. You have the freedom to choose all, some or none of them, of course.

  • What would you like to be the topic or issue addressed by the game? Be as specific as you can.
  • Which would you like to be your contribution to a better world through this game?
  • What does it mean for the bigger picture? How does it align with your vision of a better world?
  • How does this topic contribute to increasing the quality of life for you, your loved ones and other sentient beings in this world?
  • How does this relate to the interest, needs, questions of young people you work with?

In the next step, you will find guidance on choosing what kind of game to develop so that it matches the context and objectives of your work with young people. Continue reading.



The Choice: Board Game or Simulation Game?

There are many kinds of games. In this guidebook, we focus on what we have experienced and experimented with in the “K2Games - learning by playing” project: board games and simulation games.

So you have decided to use a game. Or even better, you have decided to develop your own game. Up until here, you have clarified the context, the learning objectives and how you want to use the game in your educational approach, and you have managed to jot down the topic/issue that you want to address.

What is a board game?

Board games are tabletop games that typically use pieces moved or placed on a pre-marked board (playing surface) and often include elements of table, card, role-playing, and miniatures games as well. They can be competitive, cooperative or a bit of both. There are also very many types and varieties of board games: eurogame type, card game type, etc.“Board games involve counters (or “pieces”) moved or placed on a pre-marked surface (or “board”) according to a set of rules. However, a board game does not necessarily need to be based on a physical board, as it happens with card-driven games, for example. Some games are based on pure strategy, some may contain an element of chance, while some others are driven by chance alone, requiring no skills at all. What they all have in common is the idea of a goal that players aim to achieve.”

Monopoly? - Board game

Chess? - Board game

Poker? - Board / card game

And so are:

K2 Pioneer City

K2 Recycling Party


You know what? Aunt Wikipedia has much more to tell you about this than we would even attempt to :)

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Here you can find the SUSTAIN project white paper

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If you are particularly curious about some technicalities involved in the categorisation process, here is a more geeky youtube video explaining the different types of board games

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Why use a board game?

Board games are generally attractive for those people who like math and strategies more than stories. They can be used as tools when several small groups of participants have to be involved in a daily program convention or when you wish to create a somewhat more entertaining learning event.

Small concepts can become central in board games: if you want to explore a more single aspect, which is not very information-intensive, that's the board game field. Keep in mind that when used for learning purposes, board games have certain constraints in terms of learning objectives. They direct the focus of the learners to a certain aim, with a specific objective.

The success of these games is due to their ability to showcase innovative and unusual activities for engaging participants, as well as to promote learning among them. In fact, an added value of board games contrasting with, for example, video gamers’ “loneliness” is that the former usually involve group sessions, which literature indicates as further improving learning outcomes. SUSTAIN project’s white paper gives a more in-depth insight into why use board games as educational tools.

What is a simulation game?

A simulation is a model, a detail of reality transformed into a certain setting, which allows the arising of a particular dynamic created by the players themselves. Generally, simulation games train the capabilities of the players to take on decisions. In a simulation game individual actors or groups slip into certain roles and interact with each other within a predefined framework. At the initial stage of the simulation game there is a vital problem, usually a problem of taking action or of making decisions.

The settings (scenario) of simulation games usually include a conflict prone relationship between the different actors and groups and/or a topical conflict. Moreover the simulation game is structured in different periods or phases, whilst the mutual reactions between the actions of the participants (actors) and the environment of the simulation game create permanently new situations.

The general principle of all simulation games is to create situations in which the participants are required to not only take decisions on their own but also to face both the implication of their own and other’s decisions.


Why use simulation games?

Simulation games offer possibilities to test communication and organizational skills in a risk-free environment. They make it possible to plan, execute and optimize action strategies. Within the simulation game the players are not hampered in committing errors; rather these procedural errors are used to draw learnings.

Role-playing is a useful exercise in overcoming some of the limits of traditional lecture-based teaching. While lectures presuppose the existence of a knowledgeable professor transmitting information to overall passive students, role-playing requires both the redefinition of the professor ⁄ student relationship and the active and purposeful involvement of students. This paper is an initial attempt to assess a role-play designed to achieve three main results:

  • support participants to take a more active role and ownership of their learning process
  • develop students’ research, writing and presentation skills
  • apply their knowledge to a specific case
looking for directions

Here’s what aunt Wikipedia has to say to help you clarify what simulation games are.

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Read more about the benefits of simulation games in non-formal education in this material prepared by CRISP

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In this TED Talk, John Hunter explains how his World Peace Game engages school kids, and why the complex lessons it teaches - spontaneous, and always surprising - go further than classroom lectures can

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How did we make this choice in “K2Games - learning by playing” project?

In the K2Games project, the participating youth workers made this choice during a dedicated training course on how to develop board games and simulation games. Throughout the training and the game development process, they had the opportunity to ask for support and were guided in the development by experienced trainers, game developers and mentors.

In our game development experience, we realized that:

  • Developing a board game is hard if you don’t have previous experience with board game design, an experienced game designer in the team, or at least an experienced game designer having the role of a mentor.
  • Developing a simulation game is easier. However, a helping hand from someone with some experience is of great help.
  • The tendency is to plunge into developing complex, lengthy games. Better start small.

Here is how some of us, K2Games developers, have made this choice:

Natalia Ciobanu

SRC - Romania

Co-author of “K2 Air Quality in Cities”

I would have loved to try and develop both. That was not possible at the time when we had to make the choice between one or the other. What guided my decision was the team and the topic. With Dhyan we have been talking for some time about what could be done about the issue of air quality. When we had to form teams, it was quite natural that we came to work together. Then, as part of a team, we checked and both felt more comfortable to develop a simulation game. Basically, we considered that a simulation of reality would help the players feel the issue as being real and help them experiment real-life situations in a safe environment.

Antonios Triantafyllakis

CRISP - Germany

Co-author of “K2 Pioneer City” & “K2 Recycling Party”

I already loved board games, as I find the logical process followed in playing them, as well as the, quite literally, hands-on experience of interacting with them more appealing. I also wanted to get deeper into the process of developing board games, as it's related to my professional development on top of the personal development gained through this project. So, when the option appeared, it was pretty much a clear choice for me. Looking back I'm really happy for my choice and proud of our results!

Let’s turn the lens on you

looking for answers

There are two big decisions you need to make at this point.

  • Will you opt for a board game or for a simulation game?
  • Do you want to develop your own game or do you want to use some game that already exists? For example, you can already use one of the two board games or one of the five simulation games developed as part of the “K2Games - learning by playing” project.

If you plan to use some existing games, keep in mind the importance of clarifying your educational approach and the very important guidance on debriefing! You can always very important guidance on debriefing! where you can get support with this.

In the next step - depending on which type of game you have chosen to develop - you will find specific guidance on the game design process and some technical resources that can help you design a game for your work with young people. Continue reading.



Designing the Game

Designing a simulation game

Designing a simulation game is an exciting and rewarding experience. Between board games and simulation games, this is the easier option. Easier, but not necessarily easy. Therefore, you need to be prepared for multiple trial-and-error cycles.

To see the step-by-step instructions on how to develop a simulation game, read this detailed manual prepared by CRISP.

Some important aspects to keep in mind before proceeding to the design process is that:

  • The main purpose of using simulation is to allow participants to ‘learn and practice’ the desired skills, attitudes and knowledge.
  • The problems of the simulation game should correspond to reality and be relevant for the day-to-day reality of the participants, in order to create interest and an emotional reference.
  • Players should be given the possibility to exchange knowledge, discuss problems and debate problem-solving-proposals, and thus expand their horizons and perspectives.
  • A simulation game should offer the players the freedom to take their own decisions and subsequent actions and take on responsibility for them by handling the consequences.
  • It is important not to present any content as fixed. In fact the players must have the freedom to construct knowledge themselves by interpreting, observing, reflecting and generalizing.
  • The problems of the simulation game should be embedded in different situations that allow taking different perspectives.
  • The setting of the simulation game should include a variety of actors that contribute an additional angle to the problem/conflict AND each single actor should find possible partners for cooperation (other actors) and opponen
people having a conversation

Designing a board game

Designing a board game is fun and it brings joy to both those who design it and, ideally, to players that will experience the final result. As a board game designer, you choose the topic, and also other features of the game such as the experience that you want the players to live and feel. Yet, K2Games experience has shown us that it is by far not an easy task. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you:

  • Get in touch with a (more) experienced game designer. If you don’t have one in your own community, join us in the K2Games community.
  • Play a lot of other board games to “get the hang” of it.
  • Start with developing a very simple game.
  • Test the game A LOT.

Board game design lays more on method than on pure inspiration, and creativity needs to be driven to concrete results. Unlike in the case of simulation games, the hardest part in the design process of this type of game is bringing an idea to a playable prototype, and then transforming it into “a product “.

To see the step-by-step instructions on how to develop a board game, read this manual prepared by our experienced board game designers Pasquale Facchini and Francesco Binettti.

Some important aspects to keep in mind before proceeding to the design process are:

  • It’s very useful to quickly come up with a prototype, especially in team work. It’s easier to modify something that already exists instead of endlessly brainstorming on ideas.
  • Split the tasks and give yourself deadlines. It’s always a good thing to have a timeline to follow.
  • In a team, it is always helpful to define roles and assume corresponding tasks, such as design, development/testing, graphics, writing.
  • It’s very common in creative works to have diverging ideas, so you’ll need someone or some system to make the (final) decisions / have the final say.
  • Don’t fall in love with your game. If published games are in some cases not perfect, prototypes are NEVER perfect, so be ready to trash some features if they’re not working.
  • Don’t argue or complain too much against bad feedback from testing.
  • Pause. Take breaks. Full time designing usually is not the best option. Take your time to try new games, to relax a little. You’ll be back on the project with renewed energy.
  • Have fun. Designing is a game itself and having a great experience makes everything better.
people interacting

Coming next: the last step, where you will learn more about a crucial element that will help you impactfully work with young people - the Debriefing



The Crucial Element: Debriefing

Whether developed by you or by someone else, when playing the game is over… time for debriefing.

Debriefing is according to the Cambridge Dictionary: a meeting that takes place in order to get information about a particular piece of work that has been finished, for example about what was done successfully and what was not. In youth work we see it a bit broader; predominantly as a tool for learning.

Debriefing is a tool for reflection and reflection is an important or even crucial element for learning. Reflection helps:

  • to become aware of your learning. By looking back at your learning you become conscious of your learning
  • to be in charge of your own learning. Observing and understanding your own learning process allows you to direct your learning in the way you prefer
  • to share about your learning with others. Talking about your learning with other people opens a great resource for receiving feedback and it can create new questions for you. Sharing the successes and challenges creates a means of support
  • plan further learning. Having an insight into your own learning, as well into the process, allows you to make the next steps in a conscious way

You can reflect by yourself but in the case of debriefing you do it together with the other people that were in the same activity with you. It helps to share impressions and feelings with others, to see different perspectives on the same activity, to find different questions and answers… It helps to learn.

people togheter

How to debrief?

Many youth workers and trainers find ‘doing a debriefing’ a difficult and complex thing. What are the right questions, what if there is a long silence, how to get everybody in the group talking, should I make conclusions and summaries…..???? Let's first look at some basic conditions before going into debriefing.

A safe environment

If you want people to share their impressions, feelings and insights you need an atmosphere in the group that allows for that. It means that people can express their doubts, their questions and the different feelings they had during the game. That needs a ‘safe’ environment.

Being ready to reflect

After an activity people can be very excited in all kinds of different ways. When people have been taking part in a simulation game they need time to ‘get out of their role’. It might be good before you start the debriefing to give time for ‘calming down’. To first do something completely different before diving into reflection together. That can be a relaxing exercise, just a silly exercise or even just a simple coffee-break. It allows people to take some distance from the strong feelings they got from the game.

Being explicit about why you do debriefing

For you it might be obvious you do debriefing after an activity but for the young people it might be very unclear why they have to sit in a circle and talk about something they just did. Explaining why you think it makes sense to do so helps young people to make it meaningful for them.

people talking

How to prepare yourself in having to facilitate the debriefing?


It’s good to have some questions prepared. For that in the first place it’s essential to go back to the reasons why you wanted to do this activity. What were your intentions? So there might be questions to ask the group to check if your intentions came out.

Then it’s good to have questions which cover 3 dimensions; what happened, what did you feel, what did you learn. It’s important to separate the outcomes of these three dimensions. Doing games can give a lot of emotions. Emotions that need to be expressed during a debriefing. But also emotions can take a person away from making meaningful conclusions. So to separate emotions from ‘what happened’ can help a lot to define what you learnt from the game.

A well known exercise which follows this thinking just uses these three questions:

  • What happened? Participants can just describe what factually happened. As soon as people use expressions like ‘that was fun’, ‘I found that difficult’, ‘that was not fair’ etc., you stop them and ask them to describe only the facts
  • What did you feel? Here people can freely express their emotions.
  • What did you learn? (or What would you do differently if you would play the game again?) Here people can indicate what they concluded for themselves, their own behaviour and insights.

After this exercise you can go more freely to topics that came up so far.

When debriefing after a simulation exercise it’s important to give first space for people to express how they felt about ‘being in a certain role’. For young people it might have been their first experience in acting out a role and they might have a strong need to say something about that. The same kind of question can be asked to people who were not in an acting role but were observers; How did that feel?

Let them all talk

In a group it happens often that only 3 or 4 people talk. They have no problem taking the floor. Others need some more support to share their experiences. You can help them by addressing questions to them. And… don’t be afraid of silence. Sometimes people need some time to open their mouths.

Being curious

Maybe the most important element about facilitating a debriefing is also the most simple one; be yourself and curious. You offered a game to a group of young people and you are curious about how they experienced that. As simple as that. Being prepared with a long list of questions can also limit the process because you are too much focussed on asking all these questions which can even take your attention away from what people say. So...listening very attentive to the group is essential and will probably give you other questions. Just because you are curious about what happened.

Listening and not…

It might happen during a debriefing that you as the facilitator have the need to ‘express your opinion’, to say‘ you don’t agree with what participants say’, or ‘wants to explain why the exercise was a good one when participants are criticizing’... Don’t! Now it’s time for participants to express their experiences, impressions and opinions. Your role is asking questions and listening.

Making conclusions/ a summary

When it’s possible it can help a group when you sum up the conversation in the end. But that’s not always easy. Sometimes conversations go all over the place and then it’s not easy to draw conclusions that are meaningful. Conclusions might be very different for individual members or many interesting things have been said but don’t necessarily lead to one conclusion. When this is the case then don’t force yourself in a concluding statement but leave it like it is. You can always ask as a last question to the group; ‘So...what do we conclude from this’. Many different answers might come up but maybe there is simply no conclusion. Don’t worry; an interesting conversation will give insights, ideas and questions that will come back in other situations and will lead to learning.

person sending a message

Let’s turn the lens on you

looking for answers
  • Is it clear for you why you do this debriefing?
  • What do you want to get out?
  • Are you prepared that maybe very different things come out?
  • How do you prepare for a good atmosphere/climate for the debriefing?
  • Did you prepare some questions?
  • Are you also ready to let those questions go and just go with the flow?
  • Are you ready to listen?

Erzsébet Lajos

CRISP - Germany

Trainer on Sim Game development in the “K2 Games” training course

Experience alone does not guarantee learning. In order for a simulation game to turn into a learning journey it is necessary to reflect on and draw conclusions from the process of the game. The simulation offers opportunities to experiment with different ways of behaviour, of addressing conflict and communicating. In the debriefing process afterwards we look at the results, receive feedback and, by asking the right questions, achieve a better understanding of the topic of the game and the negotiation process that occurred. The framework of debriefing allows the simulation to take place in a safe environment since any result or occurrence can be debriefed and thus elevated from personal experience to conceptual learning. Winning is not the goal, learning and developing is.

Salvi Greco

Insight_epd - Italy

Trainer in the “K2 Games” training course

“Yes, the magic moment of debriefing after an intense and meaningful activity (or even better not so intense and meaningful perhaps), is not that magic many times. For some trainers, facilitators, it challenges their…facilitating skills! For me sometimes is a double-sided moment. When I think back to the “K2 Games” training course in Cluj, it’s almost strange to me to realize how smooth and fruitful the debriefing moments were. That training course, at the beginning of the project, was the only activity with the full group/team/staff of the project reunited. Its purpose was to set the overall project environment, for a two years process (which became even longer with the pandemic and its specific challenges), with all its dynamics, the two boardgames and five simulation games to be produced, the exciting administrative stuff to be managed, etc. So, the debriefing moments were really crucial not only to elaborate on specific activities of the training sessions, but also to establish a constructive communication on a longer-term perspective. But all those nice debriefing moments were so smooth and fruitful just because of our trainers' amazing competences? No, not only. We had an extensive combination of “right conditions” that helped in creating a good atmosphere, a safe learning and working environment. Right conditions not only related to the training spaces and the group directly involved in the training, but related also to other “indirect” elements, in a wider understating of a training context. A few of these elements can be about the hosting organisation, and the nice way they managed the logistic, the communication before and during the training; the place, venue, not about a “nice or not nice venue” but about how you can use the venue, its functionality; the staff of the venue and the interaction with them (managers, directors, receptionists, waiters/waitresses, cleaning staff). For the success of a training experience, I consider these elements as crucial as the ability of the trainers’ to work with the group, because these elements can have quite an impact on the group and the training processes. All of this just by thinking about “debriefing”? If debriefing is one part of a broad process and not just a technical exercise, yes! And if sometimes it’s really difficult to directly handle those “indirect elements”, it’s just good to be aware of them, it will help anyway also your debriefing sessions”.

Starting a game development process is like setting out for Ithaka.

In fact, as you will probably see for yourself, the entire journey to finishing this process resembles the journey to Ithaka, too: ups and downs; rainfalls of inspiration and dry spells; Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon; productivity sprints and times when you will be staring at the drafts and doubting if they’ll ever reach a final shape. And then - will Ithaka make you rich? Is the result perfect or at least good enough? Is it attractive enough for young people to play it? Will it get the young people enthusiastic and engaged? Will it make a difference in the world? Remember:

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn't have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


by C. P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keley

We, the authors, thank the K2Games project crew, pirates and explorers, for embarking together on the journey to Ithaka. This journey made it possible to share our insights with you, YOUth worker, teacher, trainer - fellow educator. This guidebook came to life through the work, inspiration, patience and dedication of:

k2games team

Aistė Vertelkaitė, game developer “K2 Waste Management

Aldo Campanelli, game developer “K2 City Gardens

Alevtina Snihir, game developer “K2 Waste Management”

Alex Adam, game development contributor “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Andreea Natale, trainer for board game development teams

Anna Branets, game developer “K2 Climate Negotiations”

Antonios Triantafyllakis,game developer “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Daniel Valachi, game development contributor “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Dhyan Or, game developer “K2 Air Quality”

Diana Lupei, game developer “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Dovilė Adamonytė - Rimkė, game development contributor

Erzsébet Lajos, trainer and mentor for simulation game development teams

Francesco Binetti, game development contributor “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Francesco Borrelli, game development contributor “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Karim Elbana, game developer “K2 Climate Negotiations”

Laura Slavinskaitė, game development contributor “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Maria Eftimie, graphic designer

Miriam Minerba, game development contributor “K2 Climate Negotiations”

Nastya Halyko, mentor for simulation game development teams

Natalia Ciobanu, game developer “K2 Air Quality”, graphic designer

Noha Mosaad, game developer “K2 Climate Negotiations”

Ovidiu Pop, graphic designer

Pasquale Facchini, game developer “K2 Pioneer City” and “K2 Recycling Party”

Salvi Greco, trainer on non-formal learning

The K2Games project and the production of this publication were co-founded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the National Agency and Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.