Announcing the “Voyage of the Beagle” trading card game. Plus a call for some crowdsourced goodness!

Reprinted from Popperfont:

The Phylo project is hard at work on preparing the next high quality Phylomon* deck, and this one will revolve around Charles Darwin and his wonderful 5 year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle.  

At this point in time, we’ve enlisted the help of noted Darwinian aficionado, Karen James, who has nicely narrowed down the list of cards that are needed for this endeavour (see original google doc here). In turn, I have a group of folks in the backend of the phylo website, who have produced a number of nice looking “beta” cards that can be used to test things out (they used images from vintage natural history prints, many of which were actually produced by folks on the voyage itself – i.e. John Gould for example).

These “beta” cards can be found on the phylogame website, but we’ve also produced a handy dandy 10 page pdf of the putative deck for easy printing and cutting (click on the image below to download – 11.5Mb pdf). Note, the rules for the game can be downloaded here.



Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)


That being said, because this is a crowdsourced project, we would love to hear comments from anyone interested, and with that community incentive in mind, here is a list of things to consider:

1. The next two weeks, I’m hoping that some folks out there in the world wide web will print out this “beta” Darwin card set and give it a try: this way, we can finalize what the deck list needs to be. The reason why there is a time crunch on this, is that this finalized list will allow us to start the process of seeking out and commissioning artists for the production of lovely card art.



Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)


2. The species used are all species observed and noted during that fateful voyage. For now, they’ve been grouped according to certain legs of the trip (kind of by geography if you will). This was mainly because the actual sea voyage had a lot of going back and forth, so Karen thought that going with a temporal theme would be too tricky. Here you’ll note that the geography categorization is mentioned in the card text (i.e. “Galapagos to Auckland), but we’ve also coordinated the background colours of the cards themselves, to make this easier to see (some cards have a reddish background, some brownish, etc).



Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)


3. With the geographical mode of categorization, and because the H.M.S. Beagle itself traversed a significant part of the globe, it turns out that when one plays this game, there will often be cases where an organism can be played adjacent to another where the compatibility rules work, but that they would never actually be in the same part of the world (i.e. technically, some connections would not be grounded in reality, as usually decks are organized around locality unlike this one). Here, players will need to make a judgement call on how important this is. In other words, I’d like to hear people’s opinions on what they think about this. We think the cards can still be played in a scientifically literate manner (i.e. using the background card colour to help guide these more “real” connections), but that being overly strict will likely make the game much more finicky. Perhaps there are options out there where the scientifically literate connections (i.e. via background card colours) are worth more points, or are immune from event cards, etc. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

4. The current list of “Event Cards” were pretty hastily made and largely influenced by availability of cool vintage paintings. Since the final deck will involve art commissions, we’re actually a lot more free to come up with much more clever event cards. Would love to hear more ideas here.



Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)


5. And since we’re asking for help generally, there is also a much bigger challenge at stake. Karen and I are very intrigued by the idea of tweaks to the current rules that allow folks to follow the voyage in a “temporal” manner. i.e. the possibility of “history cards.” Mostly, event cards change the food chain connections, or alter the game play where someone has a logistical advantage or disadvantage (i.e. The pdf you’ve been provided with is pretty much the usual ecosystem type building game, which we know works pretty well). With the possibility of “history cards” we want to see if there are elements to the game that can illustrate things in a time dependant (i.e. historical) manner. This is actually why the pdf has a number of blank cards. These have been included in case anyone out there has a cool idea they want to test out, since we currently have no idea what this might look like, or know how doable it is. Furthermore, we’re not even sure if it’s something we want to try to sort out now, or perhaps later with the release of Darwin themed expansion packs (i.e. no rush to do this, but super mega bonus points if someone does have a go).

Anyway, for folks who do help out, please leave commentary somewhere for us to find (if not in comments sections, then maybe at the forum, or via email – db at mail dot ubc dot ca). Anybody who comes up with some excellent suggestions/commentary will be eligible to receive the Darwin deck when all is said and done (and also the Beaty Deck as well). Note if the contribution is outstanding, we’ll also make sure you’ll be properly attributed in the final version of the deck itself.

Game on!

London’s Natural History Museum plays Phylo at their Science Uncovered


Last night, London’s Natural History Museum had a huge open house for members of the public, and the Phylo project was fortunate enough to be included in their “gaming” room. In the month leading up to this, the crew at the museum brainstormed on what sort of cards might be needed for a good “UK” deck.

Here, a number of species cards were listed, and then we were off to transform them into a “fancy” version.

Although these cards are available for purchase, you can check them out by downloading this pdf (~3Mb). Maybe we should do this to more our of cards?

Some Initial Press around the Beaty Phylo Deck


Here they are! Right now, they’re only available at the museum itself, but we’re working on seeing if we can come up with an online option for purchase (as well as holding off on marketing this deck until that option is available). It sounds like it might be a little complicated (because the museum hopes to use the cards for outreach fund raising), but we’ll try our best to keep you in the loop.

In any event, here is some press on the deck:

Phylogame teaches biodiversity using one card at a time (Ubyssey)

UBC’s ‘Phylo’ Card Game Inspired By ‘Pokemon’ (Huffpost British Columbia)

New Signature Phylo Card Game Celebrating Ecosystems Now at Beaty (Vancouver is Awesome).

Card Sharks (UBC Public Affairs)

New Signature Phylo Card Game Celebrating Ecosystems Now at Beaty

Reprinted from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum:


The Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC is excited to launch the first publicly available deck of signature Phylo game cards today.

What is Phylo? Phylo is a card game that celebrates ecosystems in all their awesomeness. Building off the popularity of trading card games like PokemonPhylo showcases the many weird, wonderful, and wacky species that live on Earth and deals with some serious threats to ecosystems, such as wildfires, oil spills, and climate change. Players use their cards to build food chains, create stable ecosystems, sabotage opponents’ ecosystems, and rack up points in the process. Phylo works like other trading card games, allowing players to add extension decks and trade cards with fellow players.

Phylo launched in 2010 as an open-source game where Internet communities have been able to crowdsource their way towards a biodiversity card game culture. The Beaty Biodiversity Museum deck is the first professionally printed deck widely available for purchase. It features organisms contained within the museum’s six major collections. All the organisms are found in the Pacific Northwest of North America and are connected through a web of interactions that is revealed through playing the game. The Beaty card deck will work seamlessly with existing open-source cards as well as print-at-home decks by the Natural History Museum, London and the World Science Festival 2012.

“It’s great for Phylo cards to finally be available in a high quality form, and that this is happening at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum,” says David Ng, a UBC faculty member and supervisor of the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory at Michael Smith Laboratories and a lead on the project. “They look awesome, and will hopefully inspire some kids to learn more about biodiversity. I also love how the decks are being used as a way to support educational programming at the museum.”

To develop Phylo, Ng tapped into the expertise of numerous individuals and communities, including scientists, gamers, educators, and artists. One of the most active contributors was the Beaty Museum’s own Digital Media Specialist and illustrator, Derek Tan, who helped select organisms, designed cards, and fact-checked scientific information.

“We are excited about this project because Phylo puts players in the middle of simulated evolutionary and ecological processes and exposes them to factors that are involved in the real world,” explains Eric Taylor, Director and Curator of the Fish Collection at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “Biologists at the museum collaborated with David, and generated a list of species with local emphasis. We hope that these become a valuable resource for parents and teachers to better understand biodiversity in a fun and interactive way with children.”

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum Phylo Starter Deck contains 48 full-colour playing cards and is available at the museum gift shop for $12.99 per deck. To celebrate the launch, all card decks purchased before September 1st, 2013, will receive a 10% discount. The museum is also exploring options for selling the game online. Sign up here to be notified when online sales begin.

Click here for more information on Phylo.


Some code for card APIs

This is post is for the 8 teams of CMPT 225 students working on a Phylogame app.  Note that there is apparently a small error in this script (we’ll get Enej to take a look when he gets back from vacation).
*  API DOCS v0.5
URL API Parameters:
api – can eather be json or xml default is json, has to be present
num – returns the number of cards maximum is 200 default is 20
page – page number to get to the page = 2 for second page
callback – only applicable to json will call the callback function with the json data passed into it.
if you don’t have a callback parameter specified phylomon_cards will be returned with with the data inside it.
diy – set this parameter to get back the diy cards instead
URL that will work.
Urls you can visit.
single card url:
Example urls: // – gets 200 cards on the second page as a json_object
same example HTML
function get_cards(data) {
alert(‘The first card is ‘+data[0].name );
console.log( data[0] );
<script src=””></script>
<!– <script src=””></script> –>