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Board Game Review: The Genomics Game

19 February 2018
Appeared in BioNews 938

It's not often you get to play board games at work. Recently at Guy's Hospital in London, the research nurse team were delighted to try out The Genomics Game, released by the NHS's Genomics Education Programme.

The first challenge with any new game is getting to grips with the rules. Luckily the instruction manual and introduction were clear and very straightforward to follow. This is an added bonus – when you are playing a board game you do not want difficult explanations and complicated rules as this can be off putting, especially if, like us, you don't have too much time.

The game is played with a maximum of two teams and takes approximately 45 minutes. The aim of the game is to land on as many 'double helix spaces' as you can, and win five tokens so that you can spell the word 'genes'. During the game, teams take it in turns to answer a series of questions as quickly as possible, monitored by a timer that is provided with the game.

We liked the look of the board. It was a clever design all fitting with the DNA and genetics theme. It was very easy to follow the pattern and know where to go. I have to admit that we were a bit confused initially as we thought each team was to follow the colour of their piece on the board but it soon became clear that everyone followed the same direction.

We were a little confused with the letters on the board ACA, TGT, CAG and CTG as they did not mean anything to us and they had not been explained in the manual. This would have been helpful.

The questions on the cards were fantastic, challenging and informative at the same time. Everyone felt as if they came away with something that they learned, but at the same time did not feel too discouraged by the difficulty of the questions. We all felt that we also knew the answers to some of the questions that were being asked of other players. The explanations to the answers were also a very good idea and gave us a bit of background to understand the correct answer.

The questions varied significantly in difficulty. As an example:

Question G-004: What is DNA?

  • An explosive
  • A molecule that contains genetic information
  • A molecule that carries oxygen

There were two answers here that could be plausible given that they are both clinical. To make the game more accessible for less scientifically knowledgeable players, we thought it could instead be structured like the following question, which has only one obvious answer:

Question G-005: In genetics and genomics what does DNA stand for?

  • Did Not Attend
  • Doesn't Need an Ambulance
  • Deoxyribonucleic Acid

We especially liked the way that the questions also relate to day-to-day medical treatments. For example, we appreciated one question about MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and how the genome of MRSA bacteria can be sequenced during an outbreak in order to find a root cause.

The game as a whole was very informative. It challenged our perceptions of what is said in the media or by other healthcare professionals, and was easy to follow, which makes it less taxing.

It would be a great tool to give our nurses, new and existing, that extra knowledge when it comes to something like genomics, which sounds very complicated but when simplified like this seems much easier. We loved the game brought out the competitive nature in us, making it a great game to add to a study day.

Enquiries to receive a copy of the game can be made on the Genomics Education Programme website.

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