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Change the Subject: A New Board Game

In Person can rightfully be described as a excellent idea with a failed execution. The basic idea was to give students practice in transforming simple sentences with the focus on the personal pronouns I, he, she, it, you, we and they, and to make it a multi-level game adverbs of frequency and time were thrown into the mix. The board itself was a hotchpotch of ideas taken from various games and worksheets which I had designed over the years. The ‘failure’ was in the non-existent promotion of the game (my constant failure), the complexity of the board and the lack of variety in the cards, though at 1,500 yen for a board game it was still a useful resource to have on hand as it only took a minute to set up and most teachers would have found it easy to use. Now, after 7 years in existence, it is out of print.

This is the old game “In Person”. You can download the board and use it freely, with your own cards or with cards you have purchased from me, from here.



Years ago, in choosing an email name, I settled on the name “stedefaest”, which is Old English for the word “steadfast”, choosing something I aspired to be. I’m still not there yet, but in practising I have come up with a much improved version of the game, which is simpler to use, is of a better design and is more engaging for the students. The original idea for the board design came from a Mary Glasgow magazine published more than 25 years ago. There was a hand drawn game in the magazine called “The Balloon Board Game” which I produced at that time. I eventually threw it out but not before designing another version of the game, in 2009, on my computer, so now In Person, with the help of The Balloon Board Game and many modifications, has become Change the Subject. It’s an endless board game which can be played on a timer, a set number of points or until all the ‘Subject’ cards have been played.


This is new playing board for “Change the Subject”.



What’s in the game, how much does it cost and where can I get it?


There is a large foldable board (2 x A4 in size) with rules, which comes free with each individual order, 60 laminated chance cards and 90 laminated subject pronoun cards consisting approximately of 45 affirmative cards, 20 negative cards and 25 interrogative cards with a good balance of the subject pronouns. I’ll also send you, via email, a digital copy of the board so that you can print extra boards. The chance cards have about 20 negative outcomes and 40 positive outcomes. It costs 2,800 yen plus postage and is available directly from myself. You can use my contact page at ETJ Book Service, email me directly or through Facebook to make orders. It is not yet in my ETJ Book Service catalogue.


Here are some sample cards.




How to play the game: guidelines (extended)
Use dice, coloured counters and/or chips, “Change the Subject” cards, “Chance” cards and playing board. Place 4 chips or counters on the start positions and give each player or pair 4 counters, one of each colour. Split the packs in two and place the cards face down in the relevant rectangles. 2-8 players to a board, playing individually or in pairs, take turns to throw a dice (die) and to move their chip from the “START” in either direction by the number shown. Consider using four dice if 8 players are playing.


When your counter lands on a “CHANCE” square, answer the chance question that another player or the teacher asks you and follow the consequences. You may look at the card if need be. You can change direction after landing on a star or on the centre square. When your counter lands on a green or pink square take a card from the green or pink rectangle and change the subject pronoun to match that of the square. Somewhat similar to the examples below. Try to finish in the affirmative whenever possible.


Here are two possibilities for each pronoun for: “She studies science on Tuesday.”
It: (The dog) doesn’t study science on Tuesday. It studies music.
It: (The dog) never studies science. It always studies music.
He/She: Makoto/Michiko studies science on Tuesday.
He/She: Makoto/Michiko sometimes study science on Mondays.
You (ask classmate): Do you study science on Tuesday?
You (ask classmate): Do you often study science on Tuesday?
They: Bill and Ted study science on Tuesdays.
They: Bill and Ted often study science on Tuesday afternoon.
We: We usually study science on Tuesday.
We: We don’t study science on Tuesday. We study it on Thursday.
I: I don’t study science on Tuesday, I study English on Tuesday.
I: I always study science on Monday and Friday.
If a player lands on a chance square they answer the “chance” question and accept the consequences, also you can move in any direction when leaving a chance square. Play can end by time and the team with the most counters wins, though each of the four colours should be represented. Play around with these guidelines.


As stated before you can use a timer, a set number of counters (points), say 2 of each colour, or till the subject cards are all used up before ending the game and declaring a winner if need be. 


Possible Variations:
1. No dice game. Each student has a counter and moves forward according to the number of words spoken correctly and consecutively. This makes it more of  a game of skill than chance as students need to produce sentences of an exact numbers of words in order to land on a ‘chance’ square.
Examples. I: I don’t science study on Tuesday. (4 points) I: I study science every day because I plan to become an environmental scientist after graduating from Tokyo University. (18 points) As you can see the teacher can also play, but usually against the whole class.


2. In Writing. Use just one dice and one counter and every student writes a sentence for each card in play. Sentences can be compared at the end of the game.

You surely can adapt the game to your situation and liking if need be and don’t forget… the teacher can always cheat.


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