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Paul Villa
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Howdy all,

Longtime lurker here and now I could use some help. I am a professor of Humanities teaching mostly American and Constitutional history. This summer I also taught European History and Culture and I used that forum to introduce my students to the classic board game Diplomacy. It was an instant hit. They all responded well to it and several students are begging for more interactive action in the classroom.

As part of the Diplomacy exercise I made my class write a paper on their experience with the game and a couple said it was the best thing they had ever done in a classroom. Others said it was an intense and enjoyable experience. All of the students claimed to have learned lessons in geography and communication as well as strategic thinking. Others said that the chaos of European history suddenly made more sense. In short, the positive response was more than I had dared hope for.

Now I am thinking I would like to bring a similar experience to my American studies students. In a limited time such as a 16 week semester, I cannot cover the full breadth of the American experience and so I tend to focus my students on the pivotal eras of American history, The War for Independence, The Civil War and the World Wars. So I was hoping that this forum might provide me with some game suggestions that I could implement in an American History class setting.

Hopefully you all can point me towards something that is fairly easy to learn like Diplomacy and won't have a crush of units. I can enlarge and mount a map and magnetize the units fairly easily, I did so with Diplomacy which made it much easier for students to gather around as it hung on the wall. I will have about 8 hours of class time to devote to the game, spread out over several weeks. Within those parameters, I am asking for suggestions. Right now I am considering Triumph and Tragedy and A House Divided. I would be grateful for any other suggestions from the community.
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Eric Matlosz
United States
Matawan
New Jersey
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I know Academy games has a book that goes along with 1775: Age of Rebellion. It's a very good area control game. They put a lot of effort into keeping their games historically accurate.
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/128996/1775-rebellion

I haven't personally seen the book, but as they state on their website...

"This 72 page book includes a week of lesson plans, historical background knowledge, related readings, and student assessments all gathered in a single volume. A great way to introduce games into the classroom or homeschool. Teachers are also shown how to manipulate the game in order to create intentional instructional situations."

https://academygames.com/games/birth-of-america/product/p177...

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I was going to suggest Academy Games too. Didn't know about that book but they do have a lot of explicitly educational games on the site.
 
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Michael Hyland

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I like what Academy games does, but playing 1775, other than learning the geography doesn't add any historical angles except for maybe text on the cards. Still, something like that provides a nice hook and it's easy to learn.

Triumph and Tragedy is a bit more complicated, but provides a bit more when playing the game. It simulates the diplomacy, some tech, and military build up. It also simulates the how the Soviets and Western powers are working to achieve similar goals but are not really allies either. It can play a-historically but that's not a bad thing if you are looking at how some of the dynamics play out between the powers. It's still a game meant to be balanced and fun, not a historical sim.

What if you used 1775 as a hook, and then created a sort of diplomacy type game where you have 3 groups. The printers who pick some of the major events and do quick articles on them, and the patriots and loyalists who write in pieces to the paper under pseudonyms trying to convince the public to join their cause and maybe reference some of the historical events like the stamp taxes and so forth. You put out 1 issue a week. The sides read and respond to each other once a week. The printers do 1 article a week on the next significant historical event. They could read some of the things Sam Adams wrote, and the loyalist counters as primary examples. With each step you can give background information they can draw from to write. It could also be done in groups of 3 with 1 printer making the headline, 1 patriot, and 1 loyalist responding to the historical context and each other so you get 5+ different papers.
 
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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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Austin
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Academy Games also makes one of my personal favorites: Freedom the Underground Railroad. Really tension-filled, hard-to-win, co-op game. Tastefully handled,
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Paul Villa
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Thanks folks for all of the suggestions. Some of them are really great. The more I am tossing this around though, and the more I delve into my class reviews, it strikes me that I would really prefer to do World War II.

The reasons are these, first of all it is an event that most college students are at least passingly familiar with. This could be an exercise to close out the semester. One of the recurring themes in the reviews was that it was a letdown returning to class once Diplomacy was done. It would be brutal to start a semester with an exercise like "1775" and then have to fill another 12 weeks afterwards.

So with that in mind, how complicated is "Triumph and Tragedy". Can I run it in 8 hours of classtime spread over a month? I intend to order it shortly and begin playtesting it. I wouldn't be able to build it into my class before the Spring semester I don't think.
 
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John Prewitt
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One question: is this for American students? I was just thinking that I'd hope college kids are as familiar with the American Revolution as they are WWII.
 
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Paul Villa
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This is for American college students. Let's just say that their knowledge of history in general and American history specifically, is abysmal. Most of my students are headed towards business or tech degrees. There is only a two year history requirement in high school here and what they get is mostly social studies, not history.

I find that they have somewhat more knowledge of World War II than either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Sometimes this is the result of their own family connections to the conflict and sometimes it is the result of them all being familiar with the Holocaust, if not the context in which it occurred.
 
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Robert Wood
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guntrain505 wrote:
This is for American college students. Let's just say that their knowledge of history in general and American history specifically, is abysmal. Most of my students are headed towards business or tech degrees. There is only a two year history requirement in high school here and what they get is mostly social studies, not history.

I find that they have somewhat more knowledge of World War II than either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Sometimes this is the result of their own family connections to the conflict and sometimes it is the result of them all being familiar with the Holocaust, if not the context in which it occurred.


Heaven forbid they need info on those conflicts in their chosen field. shake
 
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K S
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Tonawanda
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guntrain505 wrote:
I find that they have somewhat more knowledge of World War II than either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Sometimes this is the result of their own family connections to the conflict and sometimes it is the result of them all being familiar with the Holocaust, if not the context in which it occurred.

I mean, there's also a lot more movies and video games set in WWII (especially the European theater) than in the American Revolution.
 
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Robert Wood
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True but now we have an Assassin's Creed game set during that era. ^^
 
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Brian Easton
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New Mexico
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I am not sure what you want them to learn from the game, so a bit of a shot in the dark. One thought is D-Day at Omaha Beach. It would help students understand the struggle of the D-day landing. It is a solitaire game, so three students could work as a team to play against the game. The ultimate coop game! If you like the solitaire game played by a team approach, there is also Silent War and Silent Victory(both sub warfare).

I am using Campaign Manager 2008 in my high school government classes to try and bring a less emotional more intellectual atmosphere to our election this year. Pairs of students will play against each other. I will have thinking and writing assignments for them to complete after the games. (Still putting this together. I hope they will enjoy this and learn from it.) If elections are part of your interest, 1960: The Making of the President is a more in-depth game in a similar vein. Again, if the solitaire approach appeals and the election process appeals, VPG has Swing States 2012. In this one, the students can pick which candidate they want to play (not limited to the two who ran).

Sorry I am rambling. What do you want the students to learn about World War II from playing the game? Maybe a game like Churchill, a political game, really, about the interplay of the Big Three?

Just Some Thoughts





 
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Paul Villa
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Well offhand I want them to understand what a total commitment World War II was on the part of those countries involved. It is so different from more modern conflicts in the totality of the conflict. I can lecture them till I'm blue in the face about the effects that World War II had on American society but I think a game that gets them into it would really make the lectures more sensible. I would love for students to take away lessons in geography, communication, planning and strategy and also diplomacy.

One of the salient points that students made in their assessments of the recent Diplomacy exercise was how much they learned about European geography and culture and how important communications are. My students had next to zero knowledge of American much less European geography so Diplomacy was a great intro. As one of my students said, "before the game, I didn't know the difference between the Black Sea and the Baltic but you can bet I will never forget now."

While I had the students playing the game, I was rolling a YouTube playlist of European national anthems from the seven empires and marching songs from their armed forces. I ran that in the background of a Powerpoint slideshow displaying pertinent quotes from European leaders of the 18th-19th centuries. I also had another professor present who is a cultural geographer and she offered students alliance tips. Telling them why one alliance or the other made sense from a cultural or geographical perspective.

 
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John Prewitt
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guntrain505 wrote:
This is for American college students. Let's just say that their knowledge of history in general and American history specifically, is abysmal. Most of my students are headed towards business or tech degrees. There is only a two year history requirement in high school here and what they get is mostly social studies, not history.

I find that they have somewhat more knowledge of World War II than either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Sometimes this is the result of their own family connections to the conflict and sometimes it is the result of them all being familiar with the Holocaust, if not the context in which it occurred.


My sister is a High School student with A's and B's and a) didn't know how many states there were and b) didn't know why there's stripes on the flag. I was mildly disturbed.
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Robert Wood
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79strat wrote:
guntrain505 wrote:
This is for American college students. Let's just say that their knowledge of history in general and American history specifically, is abysmal. Most of my students are headed towards business or tech degrees. There is only a two year history requirement in high school here and what they get is mostly social studies, not history.

I find that they have somewhat more knowledge of World War II than either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Sometimes this is the result of their own family connections to the conflict and sometimes it is the result of them all being familiar with the Holocaust, if not the context in which it occurred.


My sister is a High School student with A's and B's and a) didn't know how many states there were and b) didn't know why there's stripes on the flag. I was mildly disturbed.


"Because some of the first Americans were barbers?" A real quote of someone who doesn't know the symbolism of the American flag. Cue the heavy facepalming.
 
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Paul Villa
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Well without hijacking my own thread, on the topic of education. Since we are all here in a forum dedicated to board games, many of which are designed around historical events, it can be safely presumed that most of us have a greater than average knowledge of history. Sadly, we have all but eliminated history in primary and secondary schooling and replaced it with Social Studies.

Social Studies mashes together the study of history, cultural geography, sociology, anthropology, environmental science and a host of other “studies”. The result is that there is no continuity, no flow to the chronology of history itself. Students gain only a passing knowledge of any of the topics.

Much of our learning is done through repetition. That is why we have students take 12 years of English and Composition, 10-11 years of mathematics and many years of science. Currently most American students are only required to take 2 or possibly 3 years of actual history and that in high school. Unfortunately, many of those high school history courses follow the social studies template and so there is no hard history being taught.

Each semester I am appalled at the lack of historical knowledge among my students. After 7 years you would think I would know better. On the other hand, I bring enormous passion to my classroom and I try to instill in my students the same love of history that I possess. More than one of my students has changed their major after taking my course so at least I’m making a difference in a few.
 
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Robert Wood
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I can't speak for everyone here, but you can count me among American graduates who not only knows their history, but enjoys learning about it. I was fortunate enough in high school to have a teacher for my first 3 years who made lessons more than just lists of names and dates. If more teachers were like you and RF (my teacher's initials), I'd imagine students would show more interest.
 
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Andrew H
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I don't have advice for the American Revolution through the Civil War, but if you go into the late 19th Century, I thinkTammany Hall could be a educational introduction into politics and corruption.
 
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Paul Procyk
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Ottawa (Orléans)
Ontario
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For a World War II themed game that is about the same level of complexity as Diplomacy take a look at Quartermaster General. It is a six player game which covers the entire world.

It is not exactly historically accurate from a timeline perspective. For example all countries start out at war from the start rather than the staggered entry which happened historically. What it does provide is a sense of where the war was conducted and the strengths and weaknesses of the participants.
 
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