Survival Cards

These survival cards are more of a teaching aid than they are a game, though presumably you could hack a game out of them. The deck consists of 16 cards, each of them some sort of equipment (e.g., hatchet) or resource (e.g., cave). There are numerous ways in which they can be used (the cards, that is), but the way I’ve used them is this:

  1. Divide everyone into groups
  2. Shuffle cards and distribute them to the groups
  3. Allow each group a short time for discussion
  4. Give groups a chance to trade cards
  5. Provide a second chance for each group to discuss their resources
  6. Offer a second trading opportunity
  7. Discuss / Scenarios

Dividing into groups

Small is best. Ideally, you’ll have two groups, but more would be okay.

Distributing Cards

With two groups, you may want to withhold some cards, giving each group something like 4 or 5 cards, but it depends on the group. Handing out all the cards—giving 8 cards to one group, and 8 to the other—can potentially make the activity too easy.


This ought to be a time for brainstorming: a time for group members to discuss how each item can be used in an emergency situation, what the advantages and disadvantages of each thing are, etc.

This brainstorming session is intended to prime the groups for the next part of the activity, which is trading.


The goal of trading is for groups to improve their chances for survival. Groups shouldn’t think of their items as existing independent of one another, but as part of a system: ideally, they’ll think how objects could complement one another

End Game

Depending on the group and its level of involvement, the discussion and trading can be drawn out for quite a while. Eventually, however, you’ll want to move on to the final stage of the activity, which is essentially an opportunity for groups to see how they did.

Also available in convenient pdf format, four cards to a sheet.