Grace and the Zero Sum

As you may have guessed I do enjoy playing table top games and there is little more satisfying for me than a table top game with a twist and teachable moment. I know I sound like a total gamer nerd but hey the cap fits. So imagine my excitement when I discover a game that allows me to explore the dynamics of grace and sharing in a action packed thriller where the players are scientists trapped in a lab with a toxin facing certain death if they cant find the right antidote.

Antidote is a game for 2-7 players based on deductive reasoning, drafting and card counting. Produced by Bellwether Games it required about 30 mins to play ( 45 the first few times) and it great for players 13 years and up.

The players (scientists) have to work out which toxin card has been randomly pulled out of the possible toxins and placed in the middle of the play space face down, they do this by trading cards, seeing which cards have been discarded by others. Once they have deduced the correct toxin the players must then make sure that the last card in their hand has a formula that matches the toxin in the middle thus surviving the incident.

What I love about this game is that at first glance it looks like a competitive zero sum game where the players are trying to out maneuver each other to gain the antidote. Each person becomes focused on what they need and gives little thought to the others around them. The antidote formulas seem like a limited resource and each person scrambles to work out what is needed and get it for themselves, this causes formulas to be wasted as discards and inevitably means that some player will not get an antidote at the end of the game and die horribly. Looking deeper though ( normally after the first round of play the players realise that there was enough for every one and a different approach the problem would ensure that all players could find what they need and survive.

I was working with a small group using this game the other day to explore the concepts of love and grace, often talked about as if they are limited in supply and could run out when in fact if we change our approach to life are in enough supply to be freely given to everyone. I t was wonderful to see who the game was able to help people to explore these difficult concepts in a real and concrete way.

see why I love games!


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