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47: Natural Selection Raffle

February 10, 2011

Warning! Extremely nerdy post:

A few years ago on Darwin Day, some friends and I were throwing a big celebration and wanted to give away raffle prizes. I devised a way to randomize the raffle, while staying true to the central reason of the celebration: Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

The idea was that we could have everybody stand up, and someone would draw a natural disaster or climate change scenario from the hat, which would “kill off” half of the people in the room. Then the remaining “survivors” would have another round to reduce them by 50%, and so on until there was only one survivor. That person wins the raffle. (Then you can reset and do it again, if you want.)

We’ve performed the Natural Selection Raffle every year since then, and it’s a lot of fun, but I wanted to rewrite some of it for this year. It’s always been played with printouts and spreadsheets. It looks kind of ugly, so I figured I would give it a facelift while I was at it, and post it here so everyone can use and enjoy it. Feel free to download it and use it at your own party.

Here are the rules of the game:

  • It’s for 64 or more players (It is a raffle, afterall).
  • Each player is randomly assigned a ticket with an animal name at the top, and its 6 attributes listed below (For instance, you might be a Panda: big, slow, smart, insulated, land-dwelling, prey/herbivore).
  • Everybody stands up, and the designated picker draws a paper coin from a bowl.
  • The coin is flipped and one side is read aloud. The coin tells a short story and declares one attribute dead (For instance, “Blah blah blah… and so the BIG animals die”).
  • Everybody who is “dead” sits down, the coin is discarded, and we pick another coin.
  • With exactly 64 players, only one player remains at the end of round 6… of course there’s never exactly 64 players.

So, we have alternate rules:

  • There are Instant Run-off! coins included. These are designed to be tie-breakers, or just to change it up for fun, use at your discretion, because most of them end the game immediately.
  • To play a game for more than 64, print the tickets twice or three times. Distribute all of one printing before moving onto the next. This may result in two or three winners at the end of six rounds, so use an Instant Run-off! card to break that tie.
  • To play a game for less than 64, throw away all tickets of one attribute and that coin. This will leave you with 32 tickets. You can also lose one more, and get 16.

And the clarification rules:

  • Use only 6 coins (one from each attribute) in your draw pile. There are two groups of these coins, so you can have different questions when playing a second time 🙂
  • When you use a coin, discard it.  You may put it on the included Discard Area mat to make checking the winning ticket go faster.
  • Instant Run-off! coins deal with the actual height, age, position, etc. of the player. The animal attributes are to be ignored. Keep these coins in a separate bowl/hat/bag.

So that’s about it.

Download PDFs of the scenario/run-off coins here and animal tickets here.

The tokens are 2-sided; fold them over and glue them. Like so:

I know some of you will have some problems with my assessment of different “animals,” but that’s OK. It’s hard to think of 64 different animals with very specific attributes. I’m happy to hear better suggestions.

Happy Darwin Day (Feb 12th)!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 9:31 pm

    This is genius! I need 63 people in my life who would go bonobo over this with me.

  2. February 10, 2011 9:40 pm

    Holy crap, that’s complicated.

    Sure’d like to try this out whenever I get invited to a party with more than 64 people ;__;

    • February 11, 2011 2:23 am

      It’s not actually that bad. “You draw a card, half the people sit down. Repeat until someone wins.”
      Explaining the details and the creation is complicated. Also I tend to over-explain things.

      • February 11, 2011 3:50 pm

        Yeah, I meant creating it seems really complicated :v

        How did you do it? And are all the attributes different (say, only one animal has attributes abcde)?

      • February 11, 2011 4:33 pm

        Every animal has 6 attributes (speed, size, hair, diet, aquatic, intelligence), each of which has 2 options (0 or 1). It was easiest to write it out all the binary numbers from 000000 to 111111, and then assign a name to each number.

        So each column represents an attribute, it either has a 0 or a 1 in that column (eg. speed: 0=slow 1=fast), and the coins determine what number we’re looking for.

        With the coins, I’m actually just picking a number one digit at a time, and people are sitting down as they find out that it’s not going to be their number.
        So the 6 random coin flips might make up the number 111001, then I just look it up on the list, and find out that’s a squirrel.

        Now that was nerdy!

  3. February 10, 2011 11:06 pm

    Looks awesome! Can’t wait to see it in action this weekend.

  4. Annie permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:09 am

    This is brilliant! I haven’t read all of the cards, but I may see if I can tweak this to use in my elementary school science lab.

  5. April 7, 2013 2:54 pm

    … and more awesomeness : )

  6. June 29, 2013 12:17 am

    This is being used at Camp Quest Northwest this year. Every camper will have their own organism and each mealtime we have a different mass extinction! So excited!

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