Polemic Game – Plastic Vortex Game


a Polemic Game by Jen Agosta


Plastic Vortex is based on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Garbage Vortex. This environmental atrocity is a mass of trash and human-made debris that has been caught in the swirling gyres of the North Pacific Ocean, floating between the west coast of the USA and Japan. Originally discovered by a racing boat captain sailing from Hawaii to California, he and his crew noticed their boat surrounded by millions of pieces of floating plastic debris. About 80% of the trash in the garbage vortex originates in North America and Asia, taking approximately six years to reach the vortex from North America and about one year from Japan and other Asian countries.

The trash accumulates because it is not biodegradable. It is made up of plastics ranging from plastic bags, bottle caps, disposable lighters, straws and microplastics. Microplastics are between 0.3 and 5 millimeters in diameter and are often found in cosmetics, clothing and industrial processes. Marine animals often end up eating the plastics, which are indigestible, or getting caught up in the plastics and they are unable to break free. Plastic bags are mistaken for jellyfish; bits of colorful plastic are mistaken for fish; animals get caught up in drift nets and abandoned fishing line, etc. The plastics that are eaten, end up accumulating in the stomachs and digestive tracts of these animals and they sometimes die prematurely from malnutrition or obstruction of their digestive process.

Plastic Vortex is based on the point of view of the marine animals migrating through the Garbage Vortex while trying to gain needed nourishment for their journey. The game is ironically beautiful and cute. One of the problems complications of the colorful plastics polluting the ocean is that marine animals see them and think they are colorful fish. Just as the fish are allured by the colorful plastics, filling the animal’s stomach with color pieces is designed to be alluring as well.





Agosta - Plastic Vortext Rules 03      Agosta - Plastic Vortext Rules 04

Agosta - Plastic Vortext Rules 05      Agosta - Plastic Vortext Rules 06


Agosta - Plastic Vortext Rules Cover Back


2 to 4 players


The object of the game will be for the sea animals to cross the garbage patch while obtaining nutrients for their journey. After each round they must feed on what is around them. They will be forced to select their consumption based on what is in the environment around. The goal is to be the first to get to the other side of the board without dying.


  • Spinning game board with spinning key and lid
    • Whale
    • Sea Lion
    • Sea tortoise
    • Seagull
  • FOOD BOX containing:
    • Fish
    • Food pieces (natural wood)
    • Trash pieces (red)
    • Supertrash pieces (black)


  • Each player chooses which animal they would like to play, and places it on their starting position on the board.
  • Once the animals are in place, populate the board with:
  • 20 food pieces
  • 10 trash
  • All fish pieces
  • All supertrash pieces


In the animal kingdom, the size order of the animals is:

  1. Whale
  2. Sea Lion
  3. Sea Turtle
  4. Seagull
  • The largest animal goes first, then turns move clockwise around the board.
  • The player who is the smallest in the animal kingdom distributes the food, and spins the board.
  • Once all the animals have taken their starting place on the board and the food has been distributed, spin the board to whirl the gyre.


  • Players may move any direction on the board, however the object of the game is to be the first to cross the board.



  • When distributing the food, populate the board with 10 pieces of food and 3 pieces of trash after every round.
  • Place the food toward the center of the gyre.
  • To spin the gyre, insert the key into the center square and turn it quickly while pulling the key out.



  • After the gyre stops spinning, there are three parts to each player’s turn: eat, store and travel.
    • EAT: Animals eats the food (and garbage) that occupies the three spaces surrounding the node they are currently on.
    • STORE: The animals must store the indigestible garbage pieces in their stomach.
    • MOVE: Zigzagging along the lines on the board from node to node, the animal moves the number of spaces corresponding to the number of food pieces they consumed in that round.
  • If there is no food in an animal’s immediate area, they may move one space.


  • If an animal eats a fish, they may double the number of pieces they move during that turn.
  • If an animal’s stomach fills up half with garbage (5+ pieces), the remainder of their moves are cut in half for each turn (rounding up if an odd number of food pieces is consumed).
  • If a supertrash piece (black) is consumed, that will also cut the number of spaces in half that animal can move each turn for the remainder of the game.


  • If a player’s stomach fills up with garbage before crossing the board, they die of malnutrition and are eliminated from the game.



  • Be the first to cross the board and win the game!