The Rowbory/Nigeria Family Blog

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Survey Nigeria is a rummy-style card game for 2 to 12 players featuring over 100 languages of Nigeria. Win the game by collecting languages in their families.

Set up

Shuffle the cards. Deal each player 7 random language cards. Place the rest of the cards face-down in 1 or 2 ‘draw’ piles. Turn over a card face up from the draw pile to make a ‘discard’ pile.

Basic Play

On each turn a player will pick, place, discard:

  1. Pick the top card from the face-down or face-up piles.
  2. Place cards down from your hand onto the table in any of these ways:
    1. Begin a run: lay down 3 or more languages from the same family.
    2. Add a card to a family group already laid down.
  3. Discard a card face-up to any discard pile.

When a player discards their final card they win the round.

Advanced play

Make sets in alphabetical order

Each language card belongs in a family (indicated by the colour on the card and the map location) in alphabetical order. The ß previous language and à next language are indicated on the top or bottom of each language card. In the full version of the game you can only place cards down in strict sequence. Some language families are much bigger than others! See the SIL Nigeria Language map or to find out more.

Special Cards

Three kinds of special cards add a twist to the game.

Five wild cards represent languages of wider communication (LWCs).
Use a wild card in place of any language. If you have the specific language card a wild card represents, you can claim the wild card to use as you wish.


5 Activity Cards include Linguistics, Literacy, Translation, Publications & Scripture Engagement.
A player holding 4 activity cards immediately wins the round.


Language researchers Roger Blench or David Crozier.
A player with 3 activity cards + 1 researcher immediately wins the round.

More than one discard pile

Given the large number of language cards it’s annoying when a card you wanted disappears in the discard piles. Try one discard pile per player or per 2 players to give more opportunities to pick up cards other players discard.

If you empty the draw pile…

Shuffle the discard piles and make a new draw pile. This very rarely happens!

Scoring for multi-round games

Every card you have left in your hand counts against you. The winner of a round adds nothing to their score but everyone else counts the cards they have in their hand, and adds the following points to their score:

  • Any language card 1 point
  • LWC (Wild card)… 5 points
  • Activity card… 10 points
  • Crozier/Blench… 15 points

When someone scores more than 50 (or a limit you agree) they leave the game.

What’s on the cards?

The language name is in large print, with the unique 3 letter ISO 639-3/ code after it. The language family groups related languages together and the location of the language family is marked on the map of Nigeria. Icons show where work is in progress and what of the Bible has been published.

How to say the names

Most letters have one sound, like they do in Latin, Spanish or German or IPA. But j is like English ‘Jew’ and y like English ‘You’. Nigerian language vowels are simpler than English. Many languages use 7 or 9 vowel sounds rather than our 12 or so, but they use extra symbols for each distinct sound:

  • ɔ, is the ‘o’ in got vs goat
  • ɛ, is the ‘e’ in get vs gate.
  • a is like rat or da
  • ɨ, ə, , are like English interjection sounds err/uh
  • u is like oo and i like ee.
  • c is like English ‘ch’.
  • sh is like English and zh is like the s in meas
  • Nigerian languages use tone more than stress, yet most don’t distinguish low/high in writing so it’s impossible for non-native speakers to get it right. Acute is high so Áhán is high tone for both vowels.