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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

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ReMIX H2020 - Intercrops

INTERPLAY, a board game designed to support practitioners assessing the ecosystem services provided by a large range of cereal-legume intercropping options

INTERPLAY serious game released
Interplay contains a game board, cards, counters, and datasheets to support and materialize players’ reflection on ecosystem services provided by intercrops. Once an intercropping scenario is designed, its performances are assessed by the evaluation module. All the components of the game are available here. Come and play!

Why we developed Interplay?

Interplay was created in 2021 as part of the ReMIX project and an INRAe - ITAB  partnership. Cereal-legume intercropping is not much developed on commercial farms and practitioners implement very few intercropping options e.g. wheat-pea sown and harvested simultaneously with a balanced sowing density for the cereal and the legume. Yet, the range of options offered by cereal-legume intercropping is much larger than that. It though remains hard to explore due to the difficulty of answering all the questions raised by the practice of intercropping: Which species to combine? When and how to sow? How to manage pests and diseases, weed control operations, and phytosanitary treatments? Etc.

With Interplay, we aim at offering a reflection-support tool making it possible to assess the ecosystem services provided by a large range of cereal-legume intercropping options according to the cropping system context (crop rotation, landscape, pedo-climate). Interplay is a board game relying on cooperation and knowledge exchange between players. These discussions and exchanges, especially between peers, are expected to act as levers for interesting, motivating, and convincing players of the potential of intercropping in their particular situation.

What is Interplay for?

  • To allow players to explore a large range of intercropping scenarios and identify the one(s) matching their goals.
  • To ensure that players become more knowledgeable about cereal-legume intercropping.

How Interplay works?

game board2

Fig 1. Relationship between Interplay’s material board game and computer evaluation model

To reach these objectives, this game combines both material and computer-based components (Fig. 1):

  • The material component (game board) is a tool supporting the design of a shared representation of an intercropping scenario in a given cropping system context, i.e. with a detailed description of the context and design goals. It enables the choices made during the successive design steps to be materialised.
  • The computer component (evaluation model) is a tool for evaluating the ecosystem services provided by each scenario designed on the board, based on a synthesis of current knowledge on cereal-legume intercropping. This model supports players’ reflections by allowing them to compare multiple scenarios at a low cost (in terms of time and financial resources) compared to a field trial. It offers a simple, accessible, and easy-to-use interface, and the results provided are quickly understandable.

A game session consists of iterative cycles of scenario design and evaluation. These cycles stimulate players’ learning by raising the main questions posed by the practice of intercropping, and by catalysing knowledge exchange on the topic among players.

Interplay conditions of use

Interplay is intended to be used in small groups (one or two facilitators, 2-6 players, and one observer if necessary) (Fig. 2). The players can be students (from agricultural vocational schools, schools of engineering, etc.) accompanied by their teacher, or agricultural professionals interested in the issue of cereal-legume intercropping (farmers, advisors, etc.).

For each session, we recommend a duration of 2 to 3 hours, which seems to us to be a good compromise to succeed in mobilising actors with a busy agenda while having time to familiarise themselves with the game and to explore a sufficient number of scenarios (Fig.2).

Interplay covers a wide range of situations to come as close as possible to the specific conditions encountered by each player (Fig.2):

  • It considers pedo-climates that are representative of all growing areas in France.
  • It is efficient for low-input organic or conventional farms, as these are the most suitable for intercropping.

The associated crops used in Interplay are all cereal-legume associations with simultaneous sowing and harvesting. Forage legumes and relay sowing are not currently included.

Interplay also allows the ecosystem services provided by a pure cereal or legume crop to be assessed, so that players can have a reference scenario in terms of the services provided. It is then possible to study the positive or negative changes caused by an intercropping scenario compared to the growing of a single crop.

game board 3

Figure 2: Framework and conditions of use of Interplay

Game elements

Interplay contains a game board, cards, counters, and datasheets (Fig. 3) to support and materialize players’ reflection on ecosystem services provided by intercrops. Once an intercropping scenario is designed, its performances, i.e. provided ecosystem services, are assessed by the evaluation module (Fig. 4).


Fig 3

Figure 3 : Interplay game elements

Fig 4

Figure 4: Results provided by Interplay evaluation module

A detailed user manual and all game supports are freely available here. A standard scenario for use with students is also provided.