KEEP COOL Boardgame

Gambling with the Climate

In a game of KEEP COOL, three to six players represent groups of countries such as Europe, OPEC, or the developing countries. For one to two hours they can choose between “black” and “green” growth, but also adapt to inevitable climate impacts like droughts or floods. The strength of these increases when the world temperature rises. Additionally, lobby groups like the oil industry or environmental groups have to be taken into account. The winner is the player who most efficiently reconciles climate protection with lobby interests. If some players are too ruthless, everybody lose

Getting started (Video Tutorial)

Our partners from ECOVISIO created a wonderful introductory video for the KEEP COOL boardgame. All rules of the game are explained and you’ll get a lot of hints how to manage a KEEP COOL game e.g. for your friends our in environmental education.

Elements of the game

On the game board, the six groups of countries taking part are represented by colours. On closer inspection, one can see that Norway and Iceland are grouped under “USA and Partners”. In the game, groups of countries are divided according to the main fractions in climate negotiations – and in this instance, Norway and Iceland cooperate with the USA. More details about country division can be found in the accompanying scientific booklet.

The game board also contains spaces where built factories and protective tokens can be placed. The number of factories placed here determines your income, and the number of protective tokens helps to reduce the damage caused by extreme climatic events from the greenhouse cards.

The carbometer is filled with carbon chips at the beginning of the game. It indicates the “world temperature”, but also serves as a source of income from black factories: If you take your income from the carbometer, the temperature rises and the climate enters different phases, represented by different “hotter” colours. The blue section represents a relatively safe climate and the damages resulting from greenhouse cards are relatively small, however, costs increase more in the yellow, orange and red sections. After each player’s turn, some new carbon chips are put on the carbometer. This climate recovery is a simplified version of a carbon sink: Since a part of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are stored in the ocean or the vegetation, they do not totally account for temperature rise. The strength of the recovery is printed on the carbometer.

Each player receives a country card, which determines that player’s group of countries. The card states the initial economic target and special rules for OPEC, developing countries or the former Soviet Union.

On the card there are three scales that show the prices for building black or green factories, as well as protective tokens. At the beginning of the game the price token is located to the far left of the scale. However, during the game it slides across to the right as factories or protective tokens are built. This has the effect of making certain types of factory cheaper and protective tokens more expensive. The price of factories can also be reduced through innovation. The starting number is located above each factory scale.

All factories generate income – two coal chips per round and factory. Black factories also have an impact on the climate: the income is taken from the so-called carbometer, which means an increase of the world temperature. In contrast, the income from the green factories is simply taken out of stock. In addition to an initial equipment you can build new factories over time. The total number of black and green factories among all players is also crucial for various political goals.

Protection stones on the board reduce damage of climate extreme events. For each red stone on the field of your country group you’ll have to pay one coal chip less. The price of the next “level” of climate adaptation is marked by the “price stone” on your country card. In contrast to green and black factories, the price of adaptation rises with each step, because e.g. a higher dike will be always more expensive then the current one. Also, the total number of built red protective stones can be a political goal.

For each country group there is a set of “greenhouse cards”. Two Europeans are explained here.

For the Mediterranean region, a generally drier climate is expected as a result of climate change. In addition to the shortage of drinking water reserves, an intensification and further accumulation of forest and bush fires is very probably.
It is not possible to directly link the recent flood events in Central Europe (Oder: 1999, Elbe: 2002) with climate change, since individual events can not be connected as a direct effect of long-term climatic  processes. However, the scientific evidence suggests that such events may occur more frequently in the course of climate change and also gain intensity. Recent events have also shown the secondary damages of such flood events.

Different interest groups have different goals. Each player receives a target card at the beginning of a game round, which determines the political goal. Some examples are explained here.

The oil industry has a strong interest that the world’s economy stays dependent on fossil fuel, especially oil. However, in the strategy and research departments of numerous oil companies, there are also attempts to develop new business concepts based on renewable energies as a source of income. For KEEP COOL, however, it was assumed that the oil industry has an interest to build black factories. Therefore, it is the goal of this lobby group to have a minimum number of black factories in total on the game board. This number is dependent on the number of players and noted on the card, so in 4 players total of at least 18 factories, 5 players 22 factories, etc.

The opposite of the “oil industry” goal is represented in KEEP COOL by the lobby group “New Technologies”: a minimum number of green factories on the game board. This group is still relatively weak in international negotiations, but its influence could increase quickly.


Here you can find a list of issues which have been negotiated within KEEP COOL. Presently this list comprises some reported experiences from various rounds (to be extended).

Mutual Insurance
Two players agree to help each other in case one or the other player is not able to pay the costs induced by a climate event on a greenhouse card.

Building factories or protection tokens in other regions
In order to improve your chances of reaching your political target, you may invest in green or black factories or in protection tokens in countries where it is cheaper than in your own. You can, of course, try to involve other players. You might also want to ask for something return, e.g. “give me the first two chips of income generated by this factory”. You might decide to give the money as a loan only, including some kind of interest.