Tabletop Activities

A group of learners sit around a table playing the Very Good Day card game

Designing for Better Outcomes

Over the last five years, there has been a substantial rise in the popularity of tabletop gaming, driven by younger generations.[1][2] The Western Mining Safety and Health Training Resource Center is developing new tabletop games for learning, or serious games, to capitalize on this trend. These group activities enhance learning by using shared visual artifacts and cooperative or competitive tasks embedded in a compelling story.

When designing a serious game, the learning content may be incorporated by using an endogenous or exogenous approach.[3] With an endogenous approach, the story and game mechanics are closely coupled to the learning objectives. Ideally, the learner will not distinguish between the story and the learning content. Conversely, an exogenous approach involves a game that has no relation to the learning content. For example, consider a board game designed to teach mathematics, where the player cannot move his or her pawn until a "multiply" operation is done correctly. The board game is exogenous to the math lesson, as math has nothing to do with either the story or the game mechanics.

Research suggests that endogenous approaches can lead to better outcomes.[3][4] Endogenous games more fully immerse the user in the learning, which triggers flow state.[5] The Center carefully designs its serious games around the endogenous approach to maximize learning outcomes.

Our tabletop offerings, which include Very Good Day and Coming Home Alive, are available on high-quality print media at no cost to our training partners. For trainers wishing to print or modify their own materials, the games and related resources are also available as digital downloads through this web portal. See below for details.

Very Good Day

A deck of playing cards for the Very Good Day gameVery Good Day is a modular card game for hazards recognition and mitigation. Although the card deck includes work areas for Metal/Non-metal mines (surface and underground), it incorporates hazards suitable to all mining sectors and is easily modified to incorporate other work areas and site-specific customizations. An expansion pack addressing miner health is currently in development.

The game employs a matching mechanic with three card types: Area, hazard, and control. Area cards show various mine work areas, such as conveyors, highwalls, processing facilities, roadways, and maintenance shops. Each player is randomly dealt an area card and becomes “supervisor” of that work area for the duration of the game. On each turn, players select a random hazard card from the stack. Hazard selections were based on three sources, each representing a tier of risk severity:

  1. HIGH: MSHA fatality reports
  2. MEDIUM: Top 10 MSHA reportable injuries
  3. LOW: Common yet frequently missed hazards[6]

Each hazard must be mitigated, if possible, using one of the player’s control cards. A control card indicates one of five random levels in the hierarchy of critical controls. The control levels include elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The first player to use up his or her control cards, by properly mitigating hazards in the work area, wins the game.

Three card types of Very Good Day, including Area, Hazard, and Control

Very Good Day has been play tested with over 500 mine workers to date. Trainers often comment on the high level of engagement, ease of play, and spontaneous, on-topic conversations that the game elicits around hazards recognition and mitigation. Anecdotal evidence from testing suggests that gameplay with larger groups may increase discussion and competitiveness in ways that are beneficial to learning.[7] For more information on the game design and testing, please see the technical report (PDF).

The Center offers professionally printed gaming materials, including card deck and instructional guides. The cards are printed to flexible card stock with rounded corners and polymer laminate to increase durability. Each deck includes 78 playing cards, score card, and instructional sheet in a convenient shrink-wrapped storage box. If your organization is interested in acquiring printed decks, please contact us. The materials are also available as a download (see below). The center offers a train-the-trainer workshop to help you integrate Very Good Day into your training curriculum.

Quick Facts: Very Good Day
Media Type Card Game
Primary Authors Laurie Wilson, Michelle Lutz, Eric Lutz
Training Topics Hazards Recognition,
Hierarchy of Controls
Primary Sectors All Sectors
Number of Players 2-5 players per card deck
Activity Time 30-60 minutes
Requirements None
Train-the-Trainer? Available (Recommended)
Customizable? Yes
Downloads Card Deck Templates (3.92 MB ZIP archive),
Instruction Sheet (PDF)
Expansion Packs Miner Health (Coming Soon)

Coming Home Alive

Coming Home Alive is an upcoming hybrid game that will bridge traditional tabletop activities with the power and versatility of computer-based learning environments, such as Harry's Hazardous Day. By combining recent trends in gaming with the ubiquity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the Center will help organizations move toward a technology-enabled training curriculum for safety and health.

Example of a tablet-based serious game for mine emergency preparedness. Coming Home Alive features a shared physical game board and player pawns that are augmented by personalized training content using apps on mobile devices. Players will participate in cooperative and competitive gameplay to achieve rewards (incident free hours) or penalties (citations from the mine inspector) as they advance through a story about production or maintenance. As learners move among locations on the game board, which shows an overview of the worksite, they will respond to context-specific challenges on their mobile devices. Responses will be evaluated based on the current configuration of the game board. An instructor or other expert may optionally play the role of Mine Inspector to evaluate player responses. Coming Home Alive is currently under development and will begin play testing with industry partners in Q1 of 2021.

Quick Facts: Coming Home Alive
Media Type Hybrid Board Game
(Mobile App + Board)
Primary Authors Leonard Brown, Laurie Wilson, Rustin Reed
Training Topics Hazards Recognition,
Ground Control,
Miner Health,
Working around Highwalls
Primary Sectors Metal / Non-Metal (Surface),
Stone, Sand, and Gravel
Number of Players 2-8 players + 1 game master (optional) per board
Activity Time 30-60 minutes
Requirements Smartphones or Tablets (Android, iPhone) required for adaptive challenges and scaffolding.
Train-the-Trainer? Under Development
Customizable? Yes
Downloads Under Development
(Q1 2021 Release)
Expansion Packs Anticipated as Future Work

Further Reading

  1. British Broadcasting Corp. (2019, Sept. 28). "Board Games: Why are They Becoming so Popular?" British Broadcasting Corp. Available at BBC
  2. Graham, L. (2016, Dec. 22). "Millennials are Driving the Board Games Revival." CNBC. Available at CNBC
  3. Wilson, K.A., Bedwell, W.L., Lazzara, E.H., Salas, E., Burke, C.S., Estock, J.L., Orvis, K.L., & Conkey, C. (2009). "Relationships Between Game Attributes and Learning Outcomes." Simulation and Gaming, 40 (2), pp. 217-266.
  4. Garris, R., Ahlers, R., & Driskell, J.E. (2002). "Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research and Practice Model." Simulation and Gaming, 33(4), pp. 441-467.
  5. Rieber, L. (1996). "Seriously Considering Play: Designing Interactive Learning Environments Based on the Blending of Microworlds, Simulations, and Games." Education and Technology Research and Development, 44(2), pp. 43-58.
  6. Eiter, B., et al. (2017). "Recognizing Mine Site Hazards: Identifying Differences in Hazard Recognition Ability for Experienced and New Mineworkers." In Cassenti, D. (ed.), Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics 2017. LNCS 591, pp. 104-115. Springer: Heidelberg.
  7. Wilson, L., Brown, L.D., Reed, R. & Burgess, J. (2020) "Gamification of Hazard Recognition in Mining with a Tabletop Card Game," In Cassenti, D. (ed.), Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics 2020. LNCS. Springer: Heidelberg. (In press)