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Freedom: The Underground Railroad» Forums » General

Subject: Educational? I beg to differ. rss

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Björn Hansson
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First: I love this game. One of the best co-ops out there - if not THE best.

The thing that made me extra curious was the "educational" part of the game. Seeing that it was one of the seeling points on the game box.

I was very disappointed to find that the only educational about it was a very brief history of slavery in the US and a few lines on every card. Sure this might be considered educational, but it really is nothing compared to the array of information that you get from the average wargame.

If you want examples, checkout the playbooks for Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939 (available here: Red Winter Playbook ) or any of the games in the Operational Combat Series (avaiable here: http://www.gamersarchive.net/theGamers/archive/ocs.htm )

As I said, I do love the game and this does in no way take away from the experience, but to call it educational is stretching it a bit.
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Manuel Pasi
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While I see your point, I personally strongly disagree.

First of all, I find the historical texts as well as the mini bios very well written, concise and interesting.

But more importantly, to me a game is very educational when it whets your appetite for a specific topic, so that you might pick up a book or go researching online. A game that has much more than a couple of pages that puts it in its historical context would be overdoing it for me. After all, I want to play the game not read the book.
There are plenty of games who did a fine job IMO: Quebec, Folrenza, FOunding Fathers et al. All of those have led me to read up on that specific period or region...

Just my take on it...
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John Bradshaw
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taragalinas wrote:
The thing that made me extra curious was the "educational" part of the game. Seeing that it was one of the seeling points on the game box.

I was very disappointed to find that the only educational about it was a very brief history of slavery in the US and a few lines on every card. Sure this might be considered educational, but it really is nothing compared to the array of information that you get from the average wargame.


So in fact your point is NOT that the game isn't educational, it's that it's not as educational as some other games you know. Well I'm sure you're right on that point - I'll defer to your knowledge on those other games.

But, as Manuel says, and I agree, a game is educational if it stimulates my interest in a topic sufficiently to pick up a book on the subject or do some online research. On that basis F:tUR qualifies as educational for me. The notes on the cards and in the rules have taught me information about characters of which I wasn't previously aware, so I've definitely learned something. To be honest, I'd never actually even heard of "the underground railroad", so both my knowledge and my desire to learn more about this topic has been increased by the game.

On that basis, the game is most certainly educational. Of course, you could play the game a hundred times and not be able to produce a Ph.D dissertation on the subject afterwards, but if I want to be educated in depth I'll go to books and documentaries rather than games.

The game as a game I find ok - quite good - not great as far as my tastes go. So actually, the main value I've derived from my purchase is indeed the educational element!
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Stuart Holttum
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taragalinas wrote:
Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland: 8-12 December 1939


Hmmm. I'm be fairly willing to wager that anyone choosing to play a game with a title like that probably already knows a fair bit about the subject?

Maybe that game comes with more info than FtUR - but what would you say the ratio of knowledge would be before/after playing FtUR, as compared to Tolvajärvi?
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Björn Hansson
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Stu Holttum wrote:
Maybe that game comes with more info than FtUR - but what would you say the ratio of knowledge would be before/after playing FtUR, as compared to Tolvajärvi?



I would say even the most keen wargamer would increase his/her knowledge a thousand times more than someone who picks up FtUR. Check out the playbook. We are talking 55+ pages of awesome.

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Björn Hansson
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Seghillian wrote:
a game is educational if it stimulates my interest in a topic sufficiently to pick up a book on the subject or do some online research.


Which would completely water down the educational label, since every game might spark some interest in something. My own bowel movements sometimes causes strange thoughts that lead me to look things up on the internet, but I wouldn't call them educational.

My point is that FtUR is advertised as being educational, whereas games that are ten times as good at that is not. I had expected more. A LOT more.

However, I was first and foremost looking for a good game and I definitely found that - so I am no doubt keeping my copy of the game and I look forward to playing it a lot.
 
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Thom Goodsell
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taragalinas wrote:
My point is that FtUR is advertised as being educational, whereas games that are ten times as good at that is not. I had expected more. A LOT more.


I think this is at least partly an issue of expectations, then. For what is essentially a Eurogame, this is a good start. It provides a better education about the Underground Railroad than Agricola does about farming, for example.

Your point is still valid, though. It would be interesting to see a "Teacher's Companion" PDF for this that would provide more detailed history, as well as strategies for discussing that history in the context of gameplay. I might even hold out hope for that, since the designer's day job, as I understand it, is to go into public schools and use games to engage students in the curricula (along with the help of the specialist teachers), though that may mean he's too busy using the game as an educational aid to actually write up such a document.
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Matt Pinchuk
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A playbook is not a game, it's a supplement to the game.
I didn't learn anything from playing Red Winter, not a damn thing other than who was fighting who and that lakes suck in the winter.

FtUR has way more information in the game itself and provokes so much thought and discussion about the individuals and events that helped shape the movement.
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Kevin Duke
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Thanks, I am with Matt.

Adding books to the game does not make the GAME educational. It just adds lots of text to the game box.

By sprinkling out the 'few lines' of history ON EVERY CARD, it makes the learning part integral to the game, and gives players frequent encouragement to go find out more. Each card has the effect in the game it does because of some link to a historical person or event. The link may be abstract but it is there, and even an abstract link to something people are having an experience with is a stronger learning experience than just reading text.

Just adding a book to the box doesn't make it educational. Many players don't really even read the rules (as witnessed by the questions they post).
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Soren
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In playing Freedom: The Underground Railroad, I was exposed to more than a few events, personages, and facts I had not been aware of thanks to the text on the cards 'dinging' me every time I picked one; the game's mechanisms also gradually brought to light, in general, the set of challenges faced by people struggling to fight slavery. So for me at least, it would certainly qualify as educational. There are many people out there for whom this subject slipped between the cracks in high school and beyond, and even a fairly light treatment of the topic is a nice reality check.

I doubt the game is making any claims to being your one-stop shopping source for all knowledge of the abolitionist movement...
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This is a very interesting conversation and brings to light how hazy game categories can be. (Remember 'Alternative' music, anybody?)

To use the definition of 'educational game' from the entirely editable Wikipedia: "Educational games have been specifically designed to teach people about a certain subject, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand an historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play."

Does FtUR fit this category? I'd say 'yes' as it hits the critical mark for the definition (minus the 'learning a [educational] skill as they play'). The game is set up so that you become familiar with some of the people involved in the struggle and a little history for each with the blurb on their respective Abolitionist Card. If the blurbs weren't there - let's just say this history was given in the back of the rule book - would it still be an 'Educational' game? I guess not. If it was, then Twilight Struggle could also be considered 'Educational' (as the historical footnotes can be found in the back of the rulebook). If the historical footnote was given on the cards of Twilight Struggle instead of in the back of the rulebook, would it be considered 'Educational'? Perhaps.

There are a lot of funny examples on this site. 'Wits & Wagers' is not considered an 'Educational' game, but 'Wits & Wagers: Family' is. And where exactly does the line in 'Trivia' end and the line of 'Educational' begin? Lots of games produced by Victory Point Games have educational footnotes right on the cards, but only the lower-rated Hero of Weehawken is included in the category. The mash of history and science fiction is good enough for Chrononauts to be included, but High Frontier arbitrarily misses the mark.

Some categories (Animals, Zombies) are easier to categorize than others. Others - like this one - are not. I am leery of including Wargames because then virtually every wargame would be added into the 'Educational' category (just like how every 'Train' game is at the risk of being also categorized as a 'Transportation' game). I have no answer. Such is the way of user-editable content!
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Maya
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I want to say first of all, I agree that more historical material could have been included in the rulebook and there was an opportunity lost there.

I don't agree that the game is not educational because of this, though. I think it provides an educational experience in three areas:

A - the information included, although not very detailed, is more than many people know about Abolutionism or the Underground Railroad, and is therefore a good start.

B - the whole game is a talking point. I don't know how relevant this is in Sweden, but as an American I can tell you we need things like this urgently. From the first days of the European settlement in America, our history has been a roller coaster of good deeds and horrifyingly shameful acts, high principles and gutter values. It has resulted in a society that is heavily polarized around racial issues. Many of the more shameful things have simply been swept under the carpet, and no one ever talks about them or about race. This game brings a sampling of the American people's best and worst moments right out into the light. That's a pretty good achievement for a boardgame.

C - the "decision space" within the game is its greatest educational strength. By making the player work for the Abolutionist cause, instead of just trying to move slaves to freedom, the designer has built an ethical dilemma into every phase of the game. Players need to consider the greater good, while identifying personally with every slave on the board. The cubes aren't just pawns, they are people. The "Lost Slaves" box being set right next to the victory display of freed slaves is a reminder of the cost of freedom. It instantly makes you want to play again and try to save more people.

A game that forces you to make hard decisions and think about the ethics of your choices is a great teaching tool. It's arguably better than giving you a few pages of spoon-fed information in the rulebook.
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Maya
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Galego wrote:
It would be interesting to see a "Teacher's Companion" PDF for this that would provide more detailed history, as well as strategies for discussing that history in the context of gameplay.


Hear, hear!
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Shane Hockin
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Somebody is using an awfully concise and arbitrary definition of "educational."
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kduke wrote:
Thanks, I am with Matt.

Adding books to the game does not make the GAME educational. It just adds lots of text to the game box.

By sprinkling out the 'few lines' of history ON EVERY CARD, it makes the learning part integral to the game, and gives players frequent encouragement to go find out more. Each card has the effect in the game it does because of some link to a historical person or event. The link may be abstract but it is there, and even an abstract link to something people are having an experience with is a stronger learning experience than just reading text.

Just adding a book to the box doesn't make it educational. Many players don't really even read the rules (as witnessed by the questions they post).


LOL. Man, you are a breath of fresh air sometimes.
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Matt Smith
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I just played the game for the first time this weekend, without having researched it online at all. I was struck with how the game forced players to make tough decisions between saving slaves and raising money. There were several times during the game where we had to "sacrifice" a slave to open up routes to lucrative cities, so we could raise enough cash to buy up all the support tokens. We certainly didn't feel good about losing a slave to a slavecatcher, so from that standpoint I think the game did a good job of engaging us in the theme. We also associated the card powers with the character on the card, to the point where we started saying things like, "We need Harriet Tubman to give us a hand!" We even went so far as to rescue more slaves than required to win, as we had the ability to do so and wanted to see as many rescued as possible.

From that standpoint, I think the game help educate us all a little bit about the Abolitionist Movement.
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Played this game for the first time last night, and had this situation arise:

A player used a card to move two "slave units" from the marketplace area directly to freedom in Canada. "Cool card," he said, "but how do they justify that? Did the slaves hijack the ship or something?"

"Sounds like the Amistad" the history teacher said.

"Oh!" he responded, "That's why it's called the Amistad Revolt. You mean that really happened?"

Sounds like there were some educational opportunities going on through playing the game.
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The Dave
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I'm interested in this thread simply for the data I'm getting on what people think counts as "educational". To the OP - it would help matters greatly if you could define what you mean by "educational".

Great discussion, all! Keep it going
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Stephen Paschal
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I did the cover painting for "Freedom". It was an educational experience for me, deeply, as I was compelled to study the topic, familiarize myself with some of the central figures--such as Harriet Tubman, then search my soul as to how to depict the subject in a tasteful and historical manner.
As a white American male born in 1945, I've seen enough race-hatred in my own country to clearly realize this subject needs to be faced up to. And for no other reason I can think of, the game Freedom qualify's as educational! Well, what else would you call it if not that?
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Jason Birzer
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I find this conversation kinda funny, since one of the criticisms I read about Founding Fathers here was that the rule book had too much historical information it in.

While including such historical details in a rule book isn't necessary for a game to be educational, it is nice to have. That being said, my motivation for wanting this game is for the educational reasons, and because I have a strong interest in history. I'm always very interested in seeing how historical events can be represented in game form, because it can be used as a tool for better understanding of these events.
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