The Vortex Game.  This is a game I’ve created that can be used with any age or level – for pretty much any purpose.  It came out of a conversation with a colleague (thanks Sarah!) who was looking for an idea to help learners with minimal pronunciation pairs, but it can be used with pretty much anything!

I can’t claim complete originality here though – this game was inspired by a very old BBC tv show called “The Adventure Game“.  Now this is going back almost thirty years to a time when special effects were….  well a bit shoddy really.  But truly amazing by the standards of the time!  If anyone wants to look at the amount of progress the human race has made in the last quarter century, you only have to look at clips of the adventure game – of which more later…

Anyway – for game board, rules and different ways to play it (there’s a TPR style method) etc – read on!


At the end of every episode of the Adventure Game, as far as I remember it, the contestants had to cross “the vortex”.  This was basically a diamond shaped grid.  The catch was that “the evaporator” was also moving on the grid and… you know what – just watch the clip:



So the premise of “The Vortex Game” is relatively simple.  The game board is available to download here:   teflgeek – The Vortex Game

Versions and Rules:

In it’s simplest form – each team has to get to the other side of the grid.  They can only move along the lines, from node to node or star to star, and can only move when they answer a question correctly.  In this scenario, you would need a minimum of 15 questions, before one or both teams achieve their goal.

However – the catch is – that if one team steps into a space occupied by the other, then the team occupying the node initially get sent back to their starting base.  Thus turning the thing into a lengthy game of cat and mouse, back-tracking, chasing and quite possibly nobody winning at all….  You are almost certainly going to need double the number of questions, if not more.

An even longer version can be played as a “capture the flag” style game.  Teams have to make it over to their opponents’ base, capture the flag, and then make it all the way back again….

It probably works best with the game board displayed on an Interactive whiteboard, with virtual counters moved over the top of the board.  But it also works well enough printed out and enlarged onto A3 paper.  If you have access to an outside space, like a playing field, sports hall, garden or local park, it should be easy enough to recreate the game board in the real world, and have learners nominated to be the game pieces – if a learner gets sent back to base, another player can take their place for the next attempt.  I’ve not tried the physical version of this – so any feedback greatly appreciated!

As an alternative to the teacher coming up with all the questions, why not ask your class to do this for you?  You could collectively think about different categories, which could extend beyond the language learning context (geography, history, celebrity gossip, partical physics – the list goes on…) and allocate each category to a group of two or three learners to generate ten questions (and provide the answers!!!) – which could then all be jumbled up together and the questions asked at random.

Or there’s always exam practice classes…..

Anyway, let me know how it goes.  I’ve only used this once so far and it went down really well – though apparently my questions were “too difficult”….  but they enjoyed the game!  So I’d be really interested to hear how it’s worked elsewhere – or in any more variations or developments that you come up with!