Rocket Science

Rocket Science

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Rocket Science
Designer: Nick Howard
Players: 8+ in two teams
Stuff required: A pack of cards. Ideally, labcoats for all the players, but hats, t-shirts or any other clear method to distinguish players is fine.
Crew required: 1 to explain the rules and to distribute items. 2 actors
Preparation: Making the various cards and items, hiding them across the area, setting up the two actors in their rooms.
Time required: 15 minutes to explain rules and distribute items. 30 minutes+ to play game
Place required: Largish area, with clear boundaries – location should be large enough to make exploration worthwhile, but the size of your teams should be considered.
Activities: Running, chasing, finding, team.
Discuss this game
This is an untested game. Its rules are written, but it hasn't been tested out yet.
This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

A team game, finding hidden cards and smuggling them across the area. Simpler than it appears - knowledge of rocket engineering not required.


Game Items

Create eight or more pairs of 'equation-cards', by splitting real or fictional equations (a quick trip to Wikipedia can help here [1]) and writing each half on a card. For example, write "E=" on one card, and "mc2" on another. Remember to colour code the cards - each pair should be the same colour - to avoid the need for actual scientific knowledge. This can be achieved by colouring the cards with wax crayons or felt tips before writing the equations.

Also prepare enough team cards for each player. These can be as simple as Red/Blue, but there are a lot of possibilities - you could dip into the Cold War with teams of Soviets and Americans, for example. It's worth marking one set of cards, perhaps with a hole punch, so that players can tell which team they are on at the beginning of the game without having to look.

Finally, prepare two sets of 'rocket parts'. Each set should be colour-coordinated to one of the teams, and there should be around four items in each set (there should be enough equation cards for no team to get an insurmountable lead). These can be more cards, but if you can source some larger objects it would add to the experience. Label them - for example, 'Cockpit', 'Booster rocket', 'Fuel tank' etc.


The equation cards should be hidden around the playing area. At either side of the area should be a safe zone or room - the 'Laboratory' and the 'Launch Pad', in each of which should be an actor.

It is the job of the Laboratory actor to exchange the equation cards which players bring in for the rocket parts. To receive a part, both halves of an equation must be in the Laboratory - then, the player can choose which team part they would like.

At the Launch Pad, the actor will collect in the rocket parts and keep track of team progress. Perhaps a chart could be available, on which the teams' rocket parts could be ticked off.

Instructions for Organisers

At the beginning of the game, line up the players and explain the rules. Distribute costumes at this point. Have the players turn away, or close their eyes, and then place a team card in their hands. If you have marked one set of cards as detailed above, mention this now, and tell the players to keep their card hidden (unless they choose to reveal it).

Instructions for Players

You are a rocket scientist, working without rest to be the first team to reach outer space! To do this, you must discover equations, which have been split in half, written on colour-coded cards and hidden around the area. For example, the two matching halves of an equation might both be on blue cards - there's no need for textbooks.

At the beginning of the game, the rules will be explained to you, and the locations of the Laboratory and the Launch Pad will be revealed. You will also be secretly handed a Team card, identifying your allegiance. However, unless you purposely choose to reveal it, your team will remain a secret to the other players.

You will go out into the area looking for equation cards which, once found, may be handed in at the Laboratory (or you could keep looking for more cards). When the second card of a pair is handed in, the player can receive a Rocket Part, which they must take to the Launch Pad. The player will ask for the Part corresponding to their team colour - when all the Rocket Parts of one team are at the Launch Pad, they are the winners!

The scientific community is incredibly trusting, and so any fellow Scientist can ask you for any equation cards or rocket parts, and you will be pleased to hand them over. Of course, because no one knows which team anyone else is on, they could be sabotaging their own team's efforts.

Cards and Rocket Parts picked up in this way can be returned to the Laboratory, or the Launch Pad - though handing in a Rocket Part of the opposite team still counts in their favour.

Quick, Simple Summary

  • Scientists look for equation cards, which are hidden.
  • Equation cards are in pairs
  • A pair can be exchanged for a Rocket Part, but the pair doesn't have to be handed in by one player - whoever hands in the second card gets the Part
  • Parts are taken to the Launch Pad, and whichever team gets all their Parts is the winner.
  • But no one knows which team anyone else is on
  • Any player can ask any other player for all the cards or Rocket Parts they are carrying
  • Can't ask for your cards or Rocket Parts back after handing them over.

Play Variation

If hiding the cards around the area isn't possible, and you have a group of willing actors at your disposal, then there is another way to play the game. Dress the actors as rogue Scientists (make it clear through their costume that they are different to the player teams. A beret and dark glasses, in addition to the standard issue lab coat, would be perfect, but simpler ideas work as well) and provide each one with an equation card. The actors must wander the playing area, giving their equation card to the first player to find them. At this point they return to one of the safe rooms to wait out the rest of the game.