Grasping the Complicated, Probing the Complex Ecological, social and socio-ecological board games and agent-based simulators from the rural south - 0.8 ECTS

This 2.5-day workshop introduces you to the world of participatory games to address and study wicked problems. This is explicitly not a workshop in which you learn how to design such participatory games for your own research, but to get an idea of the value that these types of games can have in studying complicated and complex problems. The workshop will be very hands-on and you will be introdcued to games that have their background in the natural sciences, games that have their background in the social sciences, ánd games that are truly socio-ecological.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS), Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC), Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research (WIMEK)

Mon 27 August 2018 until Wed 29 August 2018

Duration Registration deadline: 13 August 2018
Venue Forum, gebouwnummer 102

This workshop will be taught by Dr Luis García Barrios. Luis is Senior Researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, campus San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. He is also one of the INREF FOREFRONT researchers. Luis has much experience in these participatory games and has published many articles in this field. He has developed twenty-five original agent-based models and eight socio-ecological board games for education & participatory research with rural social actors, students and academics. Luis has taught over fourty graduate courses, and has delivered more than sixty workshops to Mexican farmers, and to academics from all five continents, on Role Playing Games, Agent Based Simulators & Complex Socio-Ecological Processes. 


Session 1. Monday 13:30 – 17:30 COMPLICATED BUT MANAGEABLE

  1. Introduction: Games and ABS, useful participatory  tools for  socio-ecological transformations in the Global South.
  2. Serious Games and ABS are about multiagent interactions and their dynamical consequences. A brief review of simple multiagent dynamics.
  3. Fun dynamical excercises

Session 2. Tuesday  8:30 – 12:30 ECOLOGICAL GAMES

  1. The fascinating Azteca network ; autonomous pest control in nature-friendly coffee agroforests.
  2. Play Azteca Chess Tournament; debriefing and analysis
  3. Contrast with case study: Learning how to share concepts of ecological complexity with small-holder farmers.

Session 3. Tuesday 13:30 – 17:30 SOCIAL GAMES

  1. Play the “Three-Five-Seven” game
  2. Play the Sierra Springs Game
  3. Debriefing and analysis; contrast with a case study with small-holder farmers.

Session 4. Wednesday  8:30 -12.30 SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL GAMES

  1. The hidden limitations of an apparent win-win multiactor strategy in a Man and the Biosphere reserve. 
  2. Hands-on computer excercises with TRUE GRASP, an agent based simulator
  3. Debriefing and analysis. Constrast with a case study: Multiactor workshops with TRUE GRASP.


  1. What is complex and what is not?  Order, Disorder and… something  else.
  2. Three in a bed: a paper & pencil experience.
  3. Hands-on excercises with The Alchemist ABS: creating  and recognizing complexity on your computer.
  4. Group excercise and reflection: What use for current and potential games and simulators in our  socio-ecological research and practice?

Target group

This workshop is aimed at PhD candidates, Postdocs, and other academics interested in exploring the actual and potential use of serious boardgames and agent-based simulators to adress complicated and complex socio-ecological processes in rural territories.

    Assumed prior knowledge:

    Capacity to easily read X vs Y graphs; Little or no fear of building and exploring box-and-arrow cause-effect diagrams and their feedback loops; joy in making decisions while guessing what other players might decide. NO previous experience is required in building fuzzy cognitive maps, writing models or playing boardgames and ABS, although experience is always welcome as a group resource.


    Session 1 Monday 27-8 13.30-17.30
    Session 2 Tuesday 28-8 8.30-12.30
    Session 3 Tuesday 28-8 13.30-17.30
    Session 4 Wednesday 29-8 8.30-13.30
    Session 5 Wednesday 29-8 13.30-17.30


    The sessions will be held in Forum Building, Droevendaalsesteeg 2 in Wageningen, The Netherlands. The exact rooms will be announced later.

    Course fees

    WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE PhDs with TSP € 60 € 110
    a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools € 140 € 190
    All others € 200 € 250

    *The course fee includes coffee/tea breaks, lunches and a group workshop dinner on Monday evening.

    *The Early-Bird Fee applies to anyone who Registers on or before 15 August 2018

    PE&RC Cancellation Conditions
    • Up to 4 (four) weeks prior to the start of the course, cancellation is free of charge.
    • Up to 2 (two) weeks prior to the start of the course, a fee of € 60,- will be charged.
    • In case of cancellation within two weeks prior to the start of the course, a fee of € 140,- will be charged.
    • If you do not show at all, a fee of € 200,- will nevertheless be charged.

    Note: If you would like to cancel your registration, ALWAYS inform us and do not assume that by NOT paying the participation fee, your registration is automatically cancelled, because it isn't (and do note that you will be kept to the cancellation conditions).