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Board to death

These nerdy board games put the fun in planetary problems

powergrid
Phil Romans

Maybe it was moving back to the city where I was a teenage nerd that reignited my interest in certain geeky pursuits. Or perhaps it was something more insidious, like my lizard brain grasping at receding youth and independence in the face of impending fatherhood. Whatever it was, it took me and my pregnant wife to a Denver board game store, where I wanted to find something akin to global-domination classic Risk or the far geekier Axis and Allies that I'd played in high school.

She, an environment and social-justice journalist who doesn't register on the nerd scale -- no interest in global war, space, fantasy, the occult -- found probably the only thing on the shelves that could have caught her eye even before meeting me. This game was called Power Grid. Of course.

Our visit to that game store, and the hours we’ve spent playing Power Grid (more on that later), woke me up to the board-game renaissance underway right now. Don’t think Monopoly or Mousetrap. Think Risk, or better yet, the nerd dog-whistle standby that is Settlers of Catan. Think of the most complicated, engrossing videogame you’ve ever played (or lost a loved one to), and put it on your dining room table with a cardboard world and little wooden pieces.

The games range in complexity, mechanics, and theme — and I was surprised to find that Power Grid was far from alone in its basis in energy and environment. I spent a little time searching and talking to fellow game geeks, unearthing a few games our fellow eco-nerds might dig. Here they are, in order from the very complicated to the very approachable:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Fahrenheit 451 and rising

Climate change: The hottest thing in science fiction

future sci-fi city
Shutterstock

The world as we knew it is gone.

Even if nobody is talking explicitly about it, it’s clear that something terrible has happened and in its wake, humanity must once again reset its priorities. Can we, in this resource-scarce new world, fashion some kind of idyllic agrarian commune with shared goods, serene faces, and hemp robes? Or are we doomed to be selfish hoarders, creating even greater scarcity which we can then leverage for our own benefit? Also, is that … is that some kind of genetically modified man-wolfephant?

Post-apocalyptic science fiction isn’t new. But you may have noticed an uptick in books set in the wake of some kind of major climate disaster. Some call it “cli-fi” -- sci-fi infused with the increasingly frightening impacts of climate change. The trope has deep roots, says science fiction scholar Istvan Csicery-Ronay, and plenty of room to grow.

Read more: Climate & Energy