Arthur Smid


EARTHQUAKE! A board game, by Arthur Smid

Players 2 - 8

For ages 10+

Before the catastrophic quake, you and your friends must reinforce the tank farm that stores the hazardous liquids of city life. Play with or against each other to built structures large enough to reach the tanks. You can build, steal, invest, and profit, but the site has to be secured from at least three sides or you all will suffer the world’s single largest environmental disaster! The earthquake is a natural hazard, inevitable, and survivable—the choices you make in building the city determine whether the quake results in disaster.

About the pieces and game board

In the box, you receive everything needed to decide the fate of your city.

Player pieces
Building pieces
Game board

The player character pieces are eight geometric solids, made of wood, painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, black, and white. Each player starts with the same amount of building material, different colors and configurations of half-inch squares:

Blue - a single square
Red - a corner made of three squares
Orange - a line of two squares
Yellow - a line of three squares
Green - a line of three squares with one attached in the center

To prepare for the future, you have equal powers. These building pieces are your store of value, your medium of exchange, units of accounts. The pieces are a solid color and each has one side striped with thin grooved lines. All players begin with:

5 blue
4 red
3 orange
2 yellow
1 green

If you want, imagine them to be the basic materials of construction: wood, concrete, steel, glass, and copper. Better yet, the critical lifelines that go to any urban structure: water and wastewater, electricity, fuel, transportations, and communications. Reinforce the built environment. Your structure must have at least one of each of the five different pieces to withstand a massive earthquake.

The game board is a 22” x 22” square, an overhead map of the city with eight blocks along each of the four sides. Players who invest building material on a block receive a deed. Deeds are 2” x 2” cards, one for each block, 32 different names, with a color for the four quadrants of the city:

Red - Southeast:
Johnson Creek, Woodstock, Foster, Division, Hawthorne, Belmont, Morrison, Water

Blue - Northeast:
Sandy, Fremont, Alberta, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Lombard, Marine, Denver

Yellow - Northwest:
Vaughn, Quimby, Pettygrove, Cornell, Overton, Lovejoy, Couch, Naito

Green - Southwest:
Salmon, Corbett, Moody, Abernethy, Terwilliger, Barbur, Multnomah, Taylors Ferry

The solid gray ground at the base of each block is bedrock, a foundation for your structures. Each corner of the game board is a season. All players start in time, in the winter, in the square called New Year. Written diagonally on the board from one corner to the center: You Will Win The Future - Build or Be Destroyed. In the center is a tank farm of noxious liquid.

How to play

1. Choose your player pieces and distribute the allowed amount of building materials to each person.

2. Each player rolls the 10-sided die, the number 1 or any number closest goes first, and progressively down the line. If two players roll the same number, roll again.

3. Place all player pieces in the New Year, we’re starting now, you will be going into the future!

4. The player who goes first rolls two six-sided dice and moves down the street that number of blocks.

5. On the block where they land, the player choses one of these four actions:

1. Build - use any number of building pieces. The square edges meet to create an interlocking structure. Build up from the bedrock toward the tank farm. To be structurally strong enough to remain functional after a catastrophic earthquake, the building must contain all five colors. A player can build on the block where they landed or upon any other place they have a deed. Building is work, you clock in, clock out, but you don’t own the block.

2. Invest - place however many pieces you want on the block and acquire a deed. This agreement requires a player to pay to the bank that amount and type of pieces from their savings, each time they pass the New Year. An annual fee for the use of the land. It’s not so bad though because you now have a deed and after landing on or passing each season, you’ll collect “four squares.” Any combination of pieces that add up to a total area equivalent to four of the blue squares. It could be one red and one blue piece. One yellow, one blue. Two orange. One orange and three blue. Or one green piece. And you collect an additional four squares for every deed.

3. Loot - if the block you land on has a structure deeded to another player and you choose not to take it off their hands fairly, take what you want—you won’t get their deed, they’ll keep that and continue to collect on it—but you can take any number of pieces from a building. Naturally, this is possible only after the game has been underway and buildings have gone up around the city.

4. Police - take what has been taken, or just take. Up to five pieces. Not four squares here, nope, five whole pieces. Go ahead. Doing business, call it dark money, a bribe, a donation, a favor. Corruption here is a return to a special factor of production: political power, which you possess at that very moment you land upon a block with another player sitting, just waiting their turn.

6. An investor receives a deed where they pay COST, a Common Ownership Self-Assessed Tax. Any other player who lands on that block can also buy the structure automatically and without negotiation by giving that same number and type of pieces to the player who had previously owned the block. That player who now has the deed can add a piece, or more, as many as they choose, on their next turn. But they will have to pay that total amount of pieces each year.

7. One way to separate what you will pay on a deed from your remaining building pieces is to place the total COST in pieces atop your deed.

8. If the structure doesn’t include one of all five of the types of pieces when an earthquake hits, it can suffer damage, perhaps it will be a complete loss. But the chance of an earthquake happening is totally random. Why worry? No one is worried, they are building, stealing, investing their loot, investing in the city. And after landing on or passing the New Year, a player pays the COST of any structures, collects four squares for each deed they have, and then, rolls a six-sided die. If they roll a one or two, an earthquake hits. A roll of the 10-sided shows the magnitude:

10–8, any building without all five pieces is toast, a total loss
7, all buildings that don’t have all five pieces lose 3
6, all buildings that don’t have all five pieces lose 2
5, all buildings that don’t have all five pieces lose 1
Roll 4–1, no damage

9. In the center of your city is a dangerous tank farm that stores all the toxic liquids of civilization. If the magnitude 8, 9, or 10 earthquake occurs before that black dot is buttressed from at least three sides, then the tanks rupture and the environmental disaster ends the game and all the players lose.

How to win

Players must secure the critical lifeline systems before an earthquake. The game is over when four structures from all four sides touch the black dot, securing the storage tanks before the catastrophic spill. Those structures must have one of each of the building pieces: blue, red, orange, yellow, and green. The game can be won either collaboratively or competitively. The winner has the most deeds. If two or more players have the same number of deeds, the one with the most unused building pieces wins. To contribute to a win for the entire city, can individual players remain focused on winning for themselves?

How to arbitrate

1. Setting up - at the beginning, if four or more players are seated around the board, it can be easier if players take their turn in sequence around the table beginning with whoever won the roll.

2. Building - if a player lands on a block where another person has a deed, it’s possible to add pieces there. Any amount. They might add missing building types to reinforce the structure. By building collaboratively they can contribute pieces to reach the storage tanks at the center of the board, but the player holding the deed will have to pay that total amount in the New Year.

3. Build to Invest - if a player builds upon their deeded block and connects their structure to a neighboring player’s building, they must pay the amount of building pieces to acquire the deed from them.

4. Shared ownership - Building upon another player’s structure can be a strategic depletion of their resources. And, it can link two different players’ structures. Two players with linked structures, each in possession of deeds, pay the COST of the entire structure when one of them first lands on or passes the New Year. They negotiate how they will pay together, and this covers the COST for the other player when they arrive at the New Year.

5. Property transfer - If a player arrives at New Year with multiple deeds and they can’t pay the COST for all of them, they can give up the deed on one or more of their structures and use those pieces to pay for the structures they can afford.

6. Public good - Other players can choose to contribute to the COST of a structure reinforcing the tank farm if the holder of the deed has transferred all their other property and still can’t afford it. But, the players may instead choose to bid at auction. Before bidding, the deed for the critical structure goes into default and that player must transfer all of their other properties, giving any deeds and every last piece of building material they have to the bank. The structure supporting the tanks now belongs to the bank. It remains intact. Going counterclockwise, all players have the option of bidding on the property. The highest bidder takes possession of the deed and structure, giving their pieces bid to the bank.

7. Police politics - If a player lands on a square occupied by two or more players, they can take five pieces of any kind from any one of those players. This may be because another player has taken a piece from their structure and they landed on the same square as that player, and they take it back. Or they might believe corruption is just like any other type of income. The likelihood of landing on the same square in a two-player game is slim, and of course playing with more people increases the odds. So definitely, invite more people to play. What will their actions reveal about who they are during this game? Every player must decide what is right and what is wrong.