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Imaginary Map Game
Imaginary Map Game - Image2
Posting Details
Country of origin United States
Created by Julie Newdoll
Posted by Julie Newdoll
Date first posted February 10, 2014
Game details
Game genre Project based
Game summary A project-oriented, map and imagination based game that can be accomplished over a period of weeks.
# of players 12+ recommended
For ages 12+


Other details


Game Designer / CreatorEdit

  • Created byJulie Newdoll

Game SummaryEdit

Rather than play the same game repeatedly over a period of weeks, this is a project-oriented game that can be accomplished over a period of weeks. In the end, however, you will have lots of games to play over and over again!

Each player will first make their own simple map of something nearby, including a dashed path to a landmark of some kind. Once familiar with a compass, cardinal directions, and the concept of keeping track of distance when making a map, they will draw a map of their imaginary world with some basic requirements - title, grid lines labeled with numbers representing distance between lines, and a legend that explains what one square on their grid represents distance-wise. After coloring and embellishing their maps, they will make two game pieces and a spinner, divided into four quadrants for North, South, East, and West (or a handmade die if no spinner needle is available). They will also make their own cards with instructions on what one needs to do when drawn. Then they write up the rules for their game. Finally, they will take turns playing their Map Game with other players, and watching other players play their game by following their written rules. They may want to refine their rules for next time after playing.


Players / ModeratorsEdit

  • I have done this at our school with second through eighth graders, and they ALL loved it! There were usually 12 per group, and two adults supervising. However, you could probably decrease the adult / player ratio if you needed to.
  • Usually two players per game at a time, but everyone is always busy.
  • When playing the games with each other, no moderator other than supervising adults should be necessary. They are fun to watch, though!

Game Set-up and ConstructionEdit

This is a “Project Oriented” game that is best broken down into a series of sessions. The first session involves teaching all players how to use a compass by mapping something in their immediate surroundings – a classroom perhaps or a playground. For this, they will need scratch paper, a pencil, and some compasses to share – perhaps one for every two players if possible. The best way to do this is to:

  1. Have them draw a compass rose in one corner of a piece of paper. Give them a pencil, a board or magazine so they can walk around and write on the paper, and a compass to share with a partner. Worst case, there is one compass for the instructor and everyone looks at it to start.
  2. Take everyone outside if possible, or use a room or hallway indoors where there is space to move around. Tell them to imagine that the area is another place, if they want to, as if they are exploring new territory. Have everyone point the same direction, say West. Have them turn their map so their compass rose also points west. Make an X on the paper to indicate where they are starting, usually at the bottom of the paper in the orientation you are holding the paper now.
  3. Find a nearby landmark in that direction. Have them walk to that landmark and draw a dashed line for every five steps they take. When they get to the landmark, have them make a little drawing of it and name it. It can be what it really is, like a tree, or they can call it a forest. In any case, have them give it a label. If you have time, have everyone turn a different direction, reorient their paper with their compass rose pointing in that direction, and repeat.
  4. Go back to your desk / classroom and make a legend for your simple map. Give it a title, and draw regular grid lines the width of a ruler or other precut straight edge on it in both directions – east to west and north to south. Have them measure their stride. This they must multiply by five, because they made a dashed line every five steps they took. Count how many dashed lines would fit between two grid lines. This distance will go on your legend, along with the title and creator of the map. For the youngest crowd, you could have them put one dash per step to avoid multiplying by five, but you won’t get to go very far before you run out of map!

On the second session, they will make a map in pencil of their own imaginary world. This will require a nicer sheet of paper if they are going to use watercolor later, if possible. The paper could be pre-glued to cardboard for strength by adult volunteers, as it will be used as a game board later.

  • When I did this I showed them a reproduction of a map made by Lewis and Clark, but an explorer in your area would be optimal and depends on what country you live in. We discussed the amazing fact that their Corps of Discovery had to look back and judge how far they went every time they turned along the river, and when they arrived in Oregon, they were only 40 miles off in their distance calculation on a trip of 3,700 miles!
  • Each map must have, at the very least; a compass rose, equally spaced grid lines gong north-south and east-west, a title with the name of their imaginary world, who it is by, and a legend showing what the distance between each grid line is. I would suggest making the lower left corner 0,0, and then numbering the grid lines with an easy number, like by fifty (50, 100, 150, etc.)
  • I have had kids who made imaginary worlds full of islands, planets, giant apples, city streets, anything they wanted. I like to have a globe around and other maps for inspiration.

On the third session, they will color their map. For fun, I brought in feathers and some walnut ink, so they could make their initial outline sort of like Lewis and Clark. Dipping a feather in ink is not exactly a feather pen, but it works for outlines of islands and such. They had lots of fun with this. After outlining with something, they can then use watercolors, colored pencils, whatever is available to color their map.

On the fourth session, they will make game two game pieces, a spinner, game cards by folding a piece of paper into eight rectangles and cutting along the lines, and rules. Once a pair of people are done, they can get to work playing each other’s games! Here is how I did this:

  • Game pieces were square tiles make of mdf and coated white that I bought at the craft store. This they decorated. However, you could use buttons, stones, dried beans, anything available for two unique game pieces.
  • Spinners were made by connecting the corners of a square or rectangular piece of stiff paper with two lines, and putting N, S, W, E on it. I purchased spinner needles that came with brads, poked a hole in the paper with a tack, and loosely fit the needle into it. Alternatively, you can give them a cube of wood or other material, or have them make a paper cube and write N, S, W, E on four sides. The last two sides have whatever the creator wants on them.
  • Game cards were key. They might say, “Go one space north,” or “Go to Apple Island,” or “Hop on one foot,” depending on what the game designer chooses. On the other side, they either drew the same picture on each card, or had different kinds of cards with different pictures on the back. They had the option of creating a stamp with a piece of rubber eraser and stamping each card. Some made eight cards, some made 20 little cards with just a picture representing an extra life, or some other bonus.
  • Rules are written on a separate piece of paper. Sometimes you could see them playing and realize that, for example, their card said to go north 10 spaces and they didn’t have that many spaces to travel. Then they would laugh and sometimes re-wright cards or toss one out.

The final sessions, as many as you like, would be spent playing each other’s games. For older kids, you could sometimes have one of them watch two others play their game and see if they needed to clarify their rules. Either an adult or the kids need to fold a large sheet of newsprint into an envelope to store all their game pieces and their board. I would recommend putting the game pieces in an envelope you can reseal every time with a string or brad so the cards and pieces don’t get lost. You could also have them make an inventory list showing the pictures on their game cards, so they can be found and returned if mixed up.

Required materials are:

  • At least one compass and preferably one for every pair of players for the first activity.
  • Art supplies for each player; one piece of regular or scratch paper, one piece of nice stiff paper or paper glued onto cardboard, one stiff piece of paper for the spinner if making one, pencil, eraser. To share; scissors, watercolors or colored pencils or other color media. Optional, feather and ink, potato or rubber to cut out a shape to stamp one side of the playing cards.
  • Hardware for each player; spinner needle with brad, or blank wooden cube, or stiff paper to make a custom die, and two different (preferably decoratable) objects to act as game pieces.
  • A re-sealable envelope to keep the game cards, die, spinner and game pieces in, with the name of the game on it. Some sort of large envelope or a large piece of newsprint for making an envelope to keep the finished game in.

How to Play / Game RulesEdit

The best part of this game is that the kids make up the rules, the actions on the game cards, and the board. The only constraint is that the four directions via the spinner or die are required. For example, if the spinner lands on N for north, you may move your game piece one square to the north or 50 feet north, or whatever your rules are. Some optional game rule tips you could give are:

  • If they were stuck, have them consider having a “Start” square and an “End” square or location. Winner makes it to the end square first.
  • If you want it to be possible to play by yourself, you need some sort of timer. For instance, one child made lots of little game cards with the words “life” on them. You got a fixed number at the beginning and lost them along the way somehow. You had to get to the endpoint before you ran out of “life” cards.
  • For older kids, consider making game cards that require you to travel a certain distance in a particular direction, like “Go 50 feet north, then 100 feet east.”

The rules they came up with were fascinating!

Templates / DiagramsEdit

Imaginary Map Game - Image1

Sample from an eighth grader


Imaginary Map Game - Image2

Sample from a third grader


Imaginary Map Game - Image3

Template for minimum information needed on the map. DO NOT put these particular numbers shown on your map, they are an example to show that the numbers on the north-south lines are sideways and the east-west lines are not. Also, the units will depend on the area covered in your own map. Please see the web page listed below for a full visual description on how to make the maps.

Related Web LinksEdit

Here is a visual description of the above steps. http://www.brushwithscience.com/Archives/MapFAB.html

I design chemistry card and board games for teaching the basics of an atom and bonding, with younger kids in mind, as well as high school and above. You can see that here: http://www.brushwithscience.com/electronimoes/index.html

Other DetailsEdit

I realize this is both a game and an activity. You could have the creation of the game be one activity, and playing the games part of “game time”. The important thing was, no one ever complained they were bored or did not want to make their maps and games. They were very invested in their own project, and could not wait to play it with others. There was a little math involved, measuring, multiplication by five or ten usually, writing so others could read it, art, geography, history of exploration, and many other aspects to this project. It was interesting to watch when one of their rules did not work. They realized the flaws in their logic and corrected their rules, which should be a great reasoning exercise.

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