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Endless Winter: Paleoamericans -- the science of the board game

Gaming

Endless Winter: Paleoamericans — the science of the board game

Where in the Americas does the game take place? There are clues.

What was the world like in the year 10,000 BCE? What were people like, and what were they doing? Fantasia Games and the new hybrid worker placement/deck building game Endless Winter: Paleoamericans, designed by Stan Kordonskiy and seeking funding on Kickstarter until 4:00 am EST Tuesday morning, want to immerse you in that realm so you can see for yourself.

But where, exactly, are they putting us and our bands of intrepid tribespeople? Let’s take a look at the clues.

endless winter setup

The choice of temporal setting is an interesting one — 10,000 BCE is right on the border of two critical periods of human development, the Paleolithic Age and what’s termed in Europe the Mesolithic. The Paleolithic is characterized by the rise of these tribal groups, and the use of stone tools, one of the main currencies of the game. By the end of the age, Neandertals and Homo erectus, the last other surviving hominid species, had died out, leaving the Homo sapiens sapiens as the only remaining members of our lineage.

Those people finally came to North America around 22,000 BCE, and we know by the game’s name, that’s generally where Endless Winter is set. This is shortly AFTER the last global glacial maximum, so the ice sheets had already begun to recede. By 10,000 BCE, what’s called the Laurentide Ice Sheet had pulled all the way back to northeastern Canada (check out the below animation, from the CSDMS!), so we can safely say that’s where Endless Winter takes place.

Of course nothing is truly endless, and the ice would eventually become constrained to the Arctic. Except for one spot called the Barnes Ice Cap, which is on Baffin Island, at the extreme north-central end of Canada. There’s ice there that’s thought to have existed for the last 20,000 years!

The periodic eclipses that end each round are a nice touch, too. Solar eclipses occur somewhere on the globe up to four times a year, but total solar eclipses only happen at the same location every hundred years or so. About four generations, a good amount of time for a tribe to develop new culture and settlements.

Of course they’ll have to adjust after a few too many centuries pass by. The megafauna depicted in Endless Winter, that the hunters would kill for meat and supplies, mostly died out by 8,000 BCE. But then, the examples we’ve seen are a little imprecise to begin with. While the mammoth, giant ground sloth, and smilodon did live in North America, the woolly rhino was only in Europe and northern Asia, and the glyptodon and argentavis were confined to South and Central America.

endless winter megafauna

Also unlike in Europe and South America, there really aren’t a lot of megalithic structures in North America, even though the players collectively build something akin to a step pyramid throughout the course of Endless Winter. The closest thing we have is maybe the earthen “mounds” found in the eastern U.S., but it’s such a neat idea, I think the designers can be forgiven on this one.

Endless Winter: Paleoamericans has demolished its funding aim on Kickstarter, with a monumental 35+ stretch goals unlocked. You can get in on the history until 4:00 am EST tomorrow morning.

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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