Game of Floods

Community Development Agency


For Immediate Release
March 18, 2019

Award-Winning Sea Level Rise Game to Go on Sale

Boxed versions soon available of County's Game of Floods

San Rafael, CA – Further proving that climate change education can be fun, the County of Marin is coming up with a boxed version of its award-winning Game of Floods, which teaches players about adaptation choices to for inevitable sea level rise. The game will be available to order online soon.

The game, created by Community Development Agency (CDA) staff members and their water resources cohorts from the Department of Public Works, is designed to engage and educate the community about sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation. It allows players to design solutions that protect entire communities as well as individual properties to address the permanent flooding impacts of sea level rise. The challenge requires collective approaches to build solutions that protect access, airports, wastewater treatment facilities as well as smaller communities while dealing with uncertainty and balancing priorities among players.

Players work around the board collaboratively and discuss adaptation strategies considering their effectiveness, impacts and relative costs. New boxed game features include a fixed budget, news cards, special action cards, and social and environmental health indicators.

The game received the Gold 2017 National Planning Achievement Award for Public Outreach from the American Planning Association (APA). Previously it received the California APA’s Public Outreach Award of Excellence, a California State Association of Counties’ Merit Award and the top County of Marin Innovation “Inny” Award.

The County received financial support from the North Bay Watershed Association to create the boxed game with a target audience of community groups, schools, libraries, professional networks or others interested in learning about sea level rise adaptation. With the funding, the County enlisted Berkeley-based game designer Alfred Twu to develop the boxed version.

“We face difficult and complex decisions in responding to increasing threats of sea level rise, and playing the game helps people become our partners in this process,” said Public Works Senior Engineer Roger Leventhal, who came up with the idea for the game.

CDA staff has hosted sea level rise adaptation planning parties and played the game in a variety of settings, remarking that players often display energy and enthusiasm to translate the fun into grassroots actions in their neighborhoods.

Photo of Game of Floods board game

Game of Floods Wins Planning Awards

Game of Floods

The "Game of Floods" was developed by the County of Marin as a public education activity on sea level rise adaptation, including traditional flood protection measures such as levees and seawalls; green infrastructure approaches including horizontal levees, wetland restorations, and beach nourishment; and policy/zoning changes. The Game of Floods is a small group activity, with 4-6 participants tasked with developing a vision for ‘Marin Island 2050,’ a hypothetical landscape that highlights the conditions that will be experienced in Marin in coming years with sea level rise and increased storm impacts causing the loss or deterioration of homes, community facilities, roads, agricultural land, beaches, wetlands, lagoons, and other resources. 

Host an adaptation planning party of your own! Email us to request a kit or download the complete Game of Floods materials

game of flood board 

To start the game, participants are given a lesson with an adaptation strategy reference sheet, including the effectiveness, environmental impacts/benefits, and cost estimates. Integral to the activity is the introduction and consideration of green infrastructure as an alternative to traditional levees and sea walls, with habitat and water quality benefits of such concepts articulated. Seated around the game board, participants take turns championing assets they value and proposing strategies to protect these sites from sea level rise and storm impacts. The game creates a lively interaction between participants, heightening awareness of the challenges of planning for sea level rise. The game concludes with group discussion to obtain consensus for a vision which protects critical assets, while maximizing ecosystems benefits through wetland restoration and other living shoreline approaches. 

The Game of Floods has been launched at public workshops, high schools, and community group meetings. Participants enthusiastically praise the game’s effectiveness at fostering collaborative dialogue and deeper understanding of the environmental, economic and social choices that communities will face in preparing for sea level rise.  Because the game was designed to be general enough to represent any Bay Area community, CDA staff can provide the board and materials to any local jurisdiction, non-profit, or other group interested in hosting an event, or game night. 

CDA staff launched the Game of Floods early in the sea level rise planning process because an educated citizenry is critical to successful planning and implementation. What citizens learn and understand will shape crucial community decisions about sea level rise adaptation that will be made in years to come in Marin and other Bay Area jurisdictions.  With some 90% of the Bay Area’s historic wetlands having been lost to non-wetland uses, green infrastructure solutions such as horizontal levees may be a means to restore essential habitat while simultaneously providing flood protection from rising waters.  Many innovative green measures are new and unfamiliar and the Game of Floods is an effective, engaging tool to introduce and teach citizens and decision-makers in support of implementing emerging environmental approaches to sea level rise that promote a healthy, renewed and resilient Bay. 

For more information, contact