The Restoration Game



OBJECTIVE: Be the first player to perform all 3 actions of at least 1 restoration technique to 3 habitats AND supplement them with 3 plant species.


AGES: 8 and up

DURATION: 40 minutes


BACKGROUND INFORMATION: This game was created in part to introduce people to the marvelous diversity of plants in nature.  Plants are often viewed as just green things and because of this, they are often ignored.  This game seeks to inspire people to learn about the vegetation present at a variety of habitats, to teach people that different plants grow in different areas, and give people a fun and interactive activity to do following their stewardship activities in the field.  The laminated cards are durable and water resistant. 



HABITAT CARDS:  The game is loosely designed around the plant communities of the Chicago Region and contains several habitats unique to that area.  However, it includes many plants and habitats that are applicable to a number of physiographic regions in the Midwest. 

There are 18 habitat cards, each representing a natural community in the Chicago Region: 4 forest types, 1 savanna, 2 coastal lake plain, 5 wetland types, and 6 prairie types, listed below.

Image on the back of habitat cards is of the Gravel Prairie at Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Cook County.


ACTION CARDS:  There are 3 restoration techniques that can be applied to each players’ habitats: herbicide treatment, prescribed fire, and tree and shrub removal.  Each restoration technique is further divided into 3 management actions: training, equipment, and a volunteer.

These cards can be played in any order, but only one card can be played per turn. 


Action cards include wild cards and consequence cards (formerly called sabotage cards).  Play consequence cards against your opponent during your turn to slow down their restorations.  These consequence cards represent real world scenarios that present challenges to restoration.  The consequence card, and the card it removes, are both placed in the discard pile after the turn. 


There are 4 wild cards: agency biologist, legislator, mayor, and another wild card for drawing new cards. The agency biologist is a wild card that can be used for any plant card or any management action card.  The agency biologist cannot be used as any consequence or wild cards.  The agency biologist can only be removed by one of the 4 consequence cards for this wild card.  A legislator allows you to draw 2 plant cards during each turn.  Only one legislator can be in play by each player at a time (i.e., you can’t play 2 legislators and draw 4 plant cards per turn).  The mayor allows each player to avoid any consequence cards, except the consequence cards that remove the mayor cards.  If a mayor is in play, this card must be removed before any other consequence cards can be played.  A discard hand card allows the player to discard any number of cards from his or her hand and replace them with new cards.  That is the end of the turn.  There are two natural disaster cards.  When played, all management action cards for all habitats that are not complete are discarded.  There are 2 of these cards in every deck.


PLANT CARDS:  Each plant card contains the family for the species and a C value, which is the coefficient of conservatism.  C values close to 0 represent species that occupy badly damaged habitats, whereas species closer to 10 only occur in natural quality natural remnants. The family names and C values are not directly involved in the game play, but instead are provided as an educational reference.  In general, plants with C values closer to 10 are considered “way cool.”

Image on the back of plant cards is of the Kankakee Mallow (Iliamna remota).


SETUP: All cards are labeled and color coded in order to make it easy for anyone to play.  There are three types of cards: Habitat cards are blue, Action cards are red, and Plant cards are green.  Extensively shuffle all the game cards according to color. 

Deal each player 3 habitat cards and put the rest aside.  Each player announces the habitats they received and places them face up in front of themselves.  Next, deal each player 5 action cards.  Place the remaining action cards in a draw pile and place all the plant cards in a separate draw pile.  If the draw pile for action or plant cards runs out, shuffle the discard piles.


To make the game go more quickly, remove the plant cards belonging to the habitats that were not drawn by any players.  And/or remove all the management action consequence cards for a less strategic, but friendlier game.  See below for an alternate way to play the game.



The player whose birthday is closest to Charles Darwin’s (February 12) goes first.

Each turn starts by playing or discarding an action card.  If the action card is a management action, place it above one of your habitat cards to show the restoration technique being performed on that habitat (Figure 1.).  If you wish to play a consequence card against another player, the opponent’s management action card is discarded, along with the consequence card.  If you wish to play a wild card, place it to the side of your habitat cards and it remains in play until it is removed by another player.  After playing one action card, replace it by taking an action card from the draw pile and putting it in your hand.  You should always have 5 action cards in your hand.  Next, draw a plant card.  If the species fits one of your habitats place it below the associated habitat card.  If not, put it in a separate discard pile.  This completes one turn.


Once all 3 cards representing management actions for any of the 3 restoration techniques are performed on a habitat, then the restoration actions are complete for that habitat, and they cannot be removed by consequence.  Turn those cards over to represent this.  The same is true for the plant cards, once a habitat is supplemented by 3 plant cards, turn them over to indicate that portion of the restoration is complete.  Turn over all cards when a habitat restoration is complete with the habitat card face down on the top of the pile.


Any of the 3 restoration techniques can be employed on any habitats; they can all be herbicide treatment cards for example.  You can also replace a management action for a particular restoration technique with a management option of another restoration technique.


If a plant card is discarded at the end of a player’s turn, and another player wants it, then they can discard one of their management action cards that is in play and take the discarded plant card and add it to their matching habitat.  This also forfeits their turn.  In a multi-player game, anyone can take a discarded plant card, but the option is available first to the person to the left of the active player, then the next player and so on.  Even if a person who takes the plant card is not next, they still lose their turn.  Discarded action cards cannot be obtained in any way.



Only use habitat cards and plant cards.  Lay out the habitat cards with 3 columns of 6 cards (6 rows of 3 cards) by habitat type, prairie habitats in the first 2 rows, then wetland habitats in the next two rows along with the mesic savanna habitat card, then the forest habitat cards and the coastal plain habitat cards in the last 2 rows.  Assign a dealer and deal one plant card to each player in a clockwise direction and the player with the highest C value goes first.  In case of a tie, the player who was dealt first gets to go first.  Put the plant cards back in the deck and deal 5 plant cards to each player.  Find a small household item like a button, rock, or bottlecap to represent each player's unique marker and place it in front of each player.

Each turn is consists of any 2 of the following moves: move your marker from card to card, play a plant card, or draw a plant card.  Earn points by playing a plant card while your marker is placed on the corresponding habitat.  This means you observed that plant in that habitat.  Place it aside faceup for all to see.  The object of the game is to observe one plant species in each community class (prairie, wetland, forest, savanna, coastal plain) and score the most points.   Once a player has observed a plant in each community class, each other player gets one more turn and then the game ends.  Add up the C values on the plant cards played during game play for each player and the winner is the player with the highest score.  Note:  It is possible to force the end of the game by observing a plant in each community class and still lose.  This is why the plant cards observed are placed faceup so each player can see how many points each other player has.  


Species nomenclature follows Mohlenbrock’s Vascular Flora of Illinois (2014) and C values are statewide (Taft, J.B., G.S. Wilhelm, D.M. Ladd, and L.A. Masters. 1997. Floristic quality assessment for vegetation in Illinois: a method for assessing vegetation integrity. Erigenia 15: 3-95.).

All photos copyright © Christopher David Benda except the photo on the fire expert card is courtesy of Jesse Riechman.

Figure 1. Game play diagram


HABITAT CARDS (1 of each) = 18 total

Forest Types

Wetland Types

Prairie Types

Coastal Plain

Dry-mesic Upland Forest


Black Soil Prairie

Beach/Sand Dune

Mesic Upland Forest

Freshwater Marsh

Dolomite Prairie


Floodplain Forest

Graminoid Fen

Gravel Prairie


Northern Flatwoods

Sedge Meadow

Hill Prairie


Mesic Savanna


Sand Prairie




Wet Prairie














ACTIONS CARDS = 110 total



Tree Removal


Wild Cards

Applicator License (6)

Training (6)

Chainsaw Use (6)

Natural Disaster (2)

Agency Biologist (12)

Backpack Sprayer (6)

PPE (6)

Chainsaw (6)

(2 of each

Legislator (4)

Steward (6)

Expert (6)

Novice (6)


Mayor (4)




action, 4 of each wild card)

Draw new cards (4)


PLANT CARDS = 90 total

Dry-mesic Upland Forest

Actaea pachypoda

Arisaema triphyllum

Asarum canadense

Podophyllum peltatum

Silene stellata

Mesic Upland Forest

Caulophyllum thalictroides

Dicentra cucullaria

Floerkea proserpinacoides

Sanguinaria canadensis

Trillium grandiflorum

Floodplain Forest

Bidens polylepis

Boltonia asteroides

Mertensia virginica

Onoclea sensibilis

Saururus cernuus

Northern Flatwoods

Carex bromoides

Cinna arundinacea

Lobelia cardinalis

Quercus bicolor

Platanthera psycodes

Mesic Savanna

Asclepias purpurascens

Lathyrus ochroleucus

Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii

Quercus macrocarpa

Thaspium trifoliatum


Calla palustris

Chamaedaphne calyculata

Larix laricina

Pogonia ophioglossoides

Sarracenia purpurea

Freshwater Marsh

Asclepias incarnata

Impatiens capensis

Iris shrevei

Sparganium eurycarpum

Typha latifolia

Graminoid Fen

Chelone glabra

Cirsium muticum

Lobelia kalmii

Pedicularis lanceolata

Parnassia glauca

Sedge Meadow

Campanula aparinoides

Carex stricta

Epilobium coloratum

Persicaria coccinea

Thelypteris palustris


Cephalanthus occidentalis

Hibiscus moscheutos

Lemna minor

Lysimachia thyrsiflora

Sium suave

Black Soil Prairie

Baptisia alba

Ceanothus americanus

Gentiana puberulenta

Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum

Silphium terebinthinaceum

Dolomite Prairie

Anemone caroliniana

Dalea foliosa

Isoetes butleri

Minuartia patula

Tetraneuris herbacea

Gravel Prairie

Amorpha canescens

Dalea candida

Dodecatheon meadia

Lithospermum canescens

Oxalis violacea

Hill Prairie

Anemone cylindrica

Bouteloua curtipendula

Cirsium hillii

Echinacea pallida

Lobelia spicata

Sand Prairie

Aletris farinosa

Koeleria macrantha

Lithospermum incisum

Lupinus perennis

Opuntia humifusa

Wet Prairie

Filipendula rubra

Lycopus americanus

Lysimachia quadriflora

Platanthera leucophaea

Scutellaria galericulata

Beach/Sand Dune

Ammophila breviligulata

Cakile edentula

Chamaesyce polygonifolia

Cirsium pitcheri

Juniperus horizontalis


Calopogon tuberosus

Cladium mariscoides

Triadenum virginicum

Triglochin maritima

Utricularia macrorhiza


Contact for questions/suggestions regarding the instructions for this game.