NomadSed is a strategic board game where players assume the role of nomadic herders and try to increase their livestock capital. They have to make decisions that do not only depend on the state of the pastures, but also on daily challenges related to life in the steppe. At times, it makes sense to invest money and buy extra fodder; at others, sheep have to be sold at the market; and sometimes, cooperating with your neighbours is the best choice.
The players’ goal is to obtain as many animals and as much cash as possible. In the end, it will be seen whether this is best achieved by exploiting the lands or through considerate resource utilisation.
The players possess livestock herds, monetary resources, rangelands, and their own labour force which is expressed in action points. Not all pastures on the board are equally productive: fertile grasslands, as well as barren steppes, provide the dietary staples for the animals, and both are easily exhausted. Herd mobility is therefore vital.
Moreover, the players have various options for action so they can persist in the face of external adversities and prevail against the others. At the market, they may buy fodder, sell part of their livestock, or purchase additional animals. Development cards open up new options and alternative income sources.
The challenges faced by nomads are considerable. Year after year, they have to cope with different types of unexpected events. Recurrent external influences, whether local (drought, snowstorms, illness, legislation) or global in nature (price increases in animal fodder), determine their scopes of action. Only those who are flexible enough will prevail in the world of NomadSed.
NomadSed is entertaining and instructive all at once. Current problems that are faced by nomadic societies across the globe have been adapted into a game which offers insights into a unique subject matter. It has successfully been used in schools and universities to delve into the complex social-ecological conditions of land use in drylands.
The board game can be borrowed for educational purposes in an easily transportable version whose design has been registered.
The game was jointly developed in the context of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre 586 ‘Difference and Integration’ in cooperation between the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ Leipzig, the University of Leipzig, and the Berlin University of the Arts.