Knuckling down and studying anatomy can sometimes feel like a grind. Anatomy is hard and there’s a lot to learn. Hiding yourself away somewhere to rip through the usual flashcards and anatomy atlases can also be lonely too.
Learning anatomy with board games could solve all that. Giving you a fun, social way to get to grips with the subject and impress next time you’re in class, these recommendations might just bring your grades up too.
But don’t quote me on that! You still have to put in the hard work…
Here are the six fun anatomy board games we’ll be exploring in this article:
- Rick & Morty Anatomy Park Game
- Looney Labs Anatomy Fluxx
- Scabs and Guts: The Meducational Board Game
- Cytosis: A Cell Biology Game
- Dr Livingston’s Human Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzles
- SmartLab Toys Squishy Human Body
NOTE: These recommendations are a lot different to the free anatomy study games for college students I put together. Head over to that article if you’re looking for web-based quiz games and the like.
Rick & Morty Anatomy Park Game
OK, so it’s not exactly the most high-brow of games – but any fan of TV series Rick & Morty would already know that…
Anatomy Park is based on a Rick and Morty episode cribbing both 80’s film Innerspace and Jurassic Park. The basic premise being that the two main characters go inside the body of vagrant only to end up in Rick’s twisted theme park. From there, things, obviously, start to go wrong.
The game itself is centered on building “Anatomy Park” and avoiding the diseases (Hepatatis A, Pancreatitis etc) that inevitably get in the way.
Here’s the official vid…
Maybe you won’t learn much “hard” anatomy playing this but you’ll get a sense of what can go wrong! Bodily reactions turning into diseases is pretty factual but won’t be enough for you to get the basics down.
Included mainly because I’m a big fan of Rick and Morty myself…
Looney Labs Anatomy Fluxx
Anatomy Fluxx is a much more sensible educational resource. Designed by an actual ER doctor – and with all its facts checked by anatomy professionals – you’ll definitely sharpen your anatomy skills playing this one.
At its heart a basic card game, no round of Anatomy Fluxx plays the same. You get extra points for learning the anatomy factlets on the cards and play via rounds where you follow ‘goal cards’ to victory.
What’s great about it from an educational perspective is that learning is a built-in motivator to win the game. You’ll notice that certain cards have you read anatomy-based questions to whoever is next taking a turn. The outcome is dependent on whether they answer correct or not.
The detail on the cards is somewhere between basic and intermediate. The ‘keeper’ brain card, for example, divides the brain up into four main lobes. As does the stomach with its mention of pyloric and esophageal sphincters. For that reason it serves as a great overview and revision tool for students.
Here’s a review of it at the GAMA trade show…
Each round lasts 5-30 mins. You can also play with up to six players…the perfect med school drinking game anyone?
Scabs and Guts: The Meducational Board Game
Scabs and Guts isn’t strictly about anatomy but it definitely includes a lot of it! Aimed at younger learners (anyone 6+), it’s probably not going to be engaging enough for med students but could be useful to have in your back pocket if you’re tutoring or teaching.
Similar to Anatomy Fluxx, Scabs and Guts also has lots of interesting (and disgusting) human body-related facts. Playing involves moving around the body-shaped board and answering a series of multiple choice questions based on the following three categories; Scrapes and Scabs, Blood and Guts or Blubber and Buff.
Questions are very basic; “where does the digestive system start?”etc. But still useful for learning – especially as there’s so many of them.
There’s also a chance for some amateur-dramatics with action cards too.
Here’s a vid showing how the game is meant to be played…
Cytosis: A Cell Biology Game
There’s no anatomy without cell biology. To help teach us that there’s Cytosis, a strategy board game that involves building enzymes, hormones, cell receptors and proteins.
Created by Genius Games, a STEM-based publishing company on a mission to produce educational tabletop games for teaching science, Cytosis is a worker placement game, meaning you place pieces on the cell and its organelles to direct its functions.
The resources you collect from placements can then be used to build things and collect ‘health points’.
Here’s a 10-minute run through on how to play Cytosis…
Dr Livingston’s Human Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzles – The Human Head
If you like puzzles and have the patience this might be a nice way of learning the major bones, muscles and vessels of the human head.
This is actually the first in a future series of puzzles that will map the entire body. It was created by the anatomy team at John Hopkins University. It’s also 2X the actual size of a human head too – making it a little easier to observe the finer anatomical details.
SmartLab Toys Squishy Human Body
OK, it’s not strictly a board game but it’s cool. It’s like a mini dissection you can do in the comfort of your own home. Without having to go near a cadaver (unlike most med students).
This 29 piece kit includes:
- Plastic human body model and stand
- 9 squishy organs
- 12 plastic bones and muscles
- Forceps, tweezers and collection mat
- 24-page illustrated anatomy book
Very cool for young learners or adults who just want something fun to play with.
Here’s how it looks…
What Other Resources Can I Use to Learn Anatomy Effectively?
Most med students are advised to use anatomy atlases and text books when it comes to school-based learning. Although those can help (and certainly serve as great references), my preferred method is to use flashcards.
Of course there are plenty of resources out there on the web to help you learn too. One resource I absolutely recommend beginners check out is YouTube (see my article: best YouTube channels for anatomy). A lot of good content there can give you a quick and easy overview.
Websites are another useful resource to use. Especially those outlined in my best anatomy websites for medical students post.
The most important thing to do when it comes to learning anatomy – given just how many resources there are – is to pick one thing and stick to it!
How to Teach Anatomy in a Fun Way?
Games can make teaching anatomy fun because they add a competitive element to study. Giving students the chance to show off their knowledge (or learn things through ‘gamifying’ the subject) can help capture their attention and prevent boredom.
Maybe they’re not suitable for med school-based learning – where cadaver dissections and serious lectures are commonplace. But they’ve definitely got a place in more informal environments; seminars, classes, clubs and workshops etc.
How Do Board Games Help Science Students?
According to this 2019 systematic review, board games “improve the understanding of knowledge, enhance interpersonal relations and increase motiviation.” In the classroom though it’s probably safe to say they offer a bit of light relief from traditional study methods and probably shouldn’t serve as a primary teaching resource.
The games recommended above are just meant as a bit of fun more than anything!
Can Board Games Really Help Me Master Anatomy?
Mastery? No. Get a good idea of the basics and have fun while doing it? Definitely.
Where they will certainly help is with active recall and quizzing – study strategies I heavily depend on in my own med school studying philosophy (see my article: how to study medicine more effectively).
They might also add context to what you’re learning to. So the next time you see something in anatomy practicals or labs for example, you can say “hey, I learned that playing X’. Further strengthening your memory of that one fact or concept in the process.
Anatomy board games take all the sting out of lonely book or flashcard study and help bring you and your classmates, colleagues etc, closer together.
I wish I’d have known about some of these options before passing anatomy myself. Especially as they would have made a nice guilt-free evening studying with my med school friends!
Image Credit – @jessedo81 at Unsplash