Debrief - how can Athena educate you about the current refugee situation in Europe?

Did you know that by playing Athena you could also get a better understanding of the dynamics regarding the refugee situation in Europe? Athena is not just a fun board game developed by juniors from CISV Norway. It is also educational! Like much of the things we do in CISV, Athena is a fun game that also has an educational aspect about different global issues. Here we will try to show you one educational aspect you can experience by playing the board game.


There are two teams playing against each other - the snakes and the owls (previously known as the reds and the greens) . In a game there are 3 "snakes" and 5-7 "owls". The point is that the first player to get around the board game wins. If the player is an owl, the owl team wins and if the player is a snake, well, the snake team wins. However, the snake team also has what is known as the X-factor. That little extra to make the game even more interesting - "Alpha Snake". The Alpha Snake can also change an owl player into becoming a snake player. Another important point is that the snake team knows who are on their team, whereas the owl team does not know who are snakes or who are owls. They only know their own identity.


The owl team is the majority and thus have the highest chance of winning. But since they do not know who are on their team it is hard for them to cooperate. Yes, you can say you are an owl, but then again, the snake team can lie and say they are owls as well. That is the first point: you cannot trust anyone. But especially the owl team has this mistrust. What does this mistrust do? You treat your own teammates with the same mistrust as your opponents and thus feel even more alone. Whereas the owl team in fact is the majority, the owl players feel alone.

The second point is that snake team is seen as someone bad by the owl team. As a result, the snake team feel marginalised and distrusted. You cannot say you are a snake, because then they would all treat you badly. So you have to lie and cheat to survive. The snake team are only three players, and it should be very hard for them to win, but the owl team still fear the snake team and treat them as an enemy.

If you are an owl, you mistrust everyone and you fear the snake team. If you are a snake, you need to lie and cheat to survive and you feel disliked by the owl players. The owl team sees themselves as the "good ones" and the snake team as the "evil ones".


So how does this relate to the current refugee situation in Europe? This behaviour has to do with how the majority in any community behaves towards "the others". Look at the refugee crisis now for example. Many Europeans (majority) are afraid and as a result treats the refugees (minority) as the bad ones. But what happens when the minority are hunted? They sees the majority as the bad ones. The majority feel they cannot trust the minority because they do not know who they are. This mistrust creates two groups where some are "us" and some are "them". It is hard to coexist, help and support each other if people think of someone as not being included.

Second, if the refugees are treated badly and mistrusted it makes their lives worse. They would never "take over" Europe, but are still treated this way by some people. If the refugees are marginalised, then it is also harder for them to be included in the society.

It is an extremely difficult situation to flee from conflict, be far away from home and to live somewhere where some people treat you as the enemy. Being the snake team, one thing you can recognize is how it is to be perceived as the enemy, as the evil ones - even if you are the minority and your chances of winning is not very high.

One the other hand, as owl players, you can also recognise how it is to be the majority, but still fear the "unknown" around you. To be able to recognise that feeling can also help you recongnising how some Europeans are behaving, when they treat the minority badly. There is often a reason for treating someone negatively, and being an owl you had several reasons - you wanted to win, you did not know who your teammates was and you did not know who the snake was and what their strategy was.


By playing this game, you can recognise how people react to "us" and "them". This feeling can be important in the future. If there are refugees in your local community you could try to include them more in the community to show that they are welcome and that you treat them as "us" (we are all human beings are we not?).

If people in your local community are sceptical or negative to refugees, maybe it is because they do not know them and they fear what they do not know? Maybe you could then include the local people in activities with the refugees?

Many Chapters in CISV Norway organise the Mosaic "Verden i". This is one small camp (or several camps) where kids and youth from the local the asylum reception center and kids and youth from the local community come together and play and learn from each other. It creates stronger bonds and can give everyone the feeling that they are all part of "us".

If you think you are too small to make a difference try going to bed with a mosquito. Small acts can make small positive changes to the world. By playing Athena, you can recognise the feeling of "us" and "them" and how that affects the group. Maybe it can also inspire and educate you to take action to make the world a little bit better place to stay for everyone?