DAPHNIA GAMES Playing Cards Set


Reference #: 01592

The University of South Carolina is offering licensing opportunities for the DAPHNIA GAMES aka TAILSPINE role-playing game and card set complete with game pieces


The DAPHNIA GAMES aka TAILSPINE is a card-driven, competitive, engine-building game. The game is designed for players to subversively interact with several layers of ecological and evolutionary theory under the premise of a simple and engaging board game. Players start with a population of Daphnia, small freshwater zooplankton, and actively respond to environmental threats by altering the traits of their population. Players make choices based on various biological principles from scientific literature throughout the game, continually modifying their populations with built-in trade-offs. Each player’s goal is to survive with the largest population size by the end of the game.

Invention Description:

This includes playing cards, custom 3D-printed game pieces, currency, play sheets, and a rule book. There are event or chance cards, player morph or trait cards, as well as cards that give bonuses to each player. Each card has custom art and stats that are used by the player during the game. 3D-printed game pieces include the different morphs of possible characters that can be used in place of morph playing cards. Currently, there are four game mechanics built into the game: two forms of predation (invertebrate and vertebrate), toxic algae, and pathogen infection. Each mechanic provides a new dimension to the game as it progresses.

Potential Applications:

The DAPHNIA GAMES aka TAILSPINE can be used as a teaching tool for 6-12 STEM education and/or upper-level college biology courses. Compared to a traditional lecture, students playing the game are more willing to engage with complex principles and see connections between topics through the act of gameplay. Alternatively, the kit could be sold as a free-standing board game intended for ages 14+.

Advantages and Benefits:

This is a unique and immersive teaching tool that addresses complex biological topics through interactive gameplay. It eliminates an often-intimidating lecture teaching style with a much more inclusive and engaging one. Additional ‘expansion packs’ can be added, incorporating new biological features that enhance the game experience.


It is a crisp spring morning where the weather has shifted from the brutality of the winter and the signs of life are sprouting up and chirping away. You are a delightful little Daphnia, freshwater zooplankton, swimming along in a beautiful lake teeming with algae, your favorite food. You are a filter-feeding machine that is living a seemingly carefree life surrounded by thousands of your kind. Your life consists of grazing algae, reproducing through a fascinating cloning process, and growing; life is good, and all is well. 

Suddenly and without warning a phantom strikes; the wickedly evil-looking and appropriately named Phantom Midge. You watch in horror as monstrously large jaws slam tight around one of your fellow planktonic sistren. All around you, jaws are slamming shut at lightning-fast speeds inducing an atmosphere of pandemonium. Despite the chaos of the attack, you aren’t without recourse. Oh no, you have a full arsenal of choices ranging from speeding up or slowing down your reproductive cycle (to increase the chances that you will reproduce before being eaten or that your offspring will be born too large to fit in the jaws of your phantom predator) to developing a full set of multi-plated body armor adorned with protruding spikes. You can turn yourself into a planktonic version of a pufferfish- increasing your size and creating sharp defensive spines. What set of choices will you make? Will you hedge your bet, opting to reproduce before potentially being eaten, or will you invest in protecting yourself at the expense of all else? 



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Lacie Cottrill
Technology Associate
University of South Carolina
Trenton Agrelius
Rachel Schomaker
Jake Swanson
Matthew Bruner
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