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Subject: Board game class for 8th graders rss

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Steve Ody
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Hello everyone! I was wondering if you had any ideas for me. I teach 8th grade math in rural Ohio and have the privilege of teaching an elective course entitled "Strategic board games and probability" which is a fancy name I made up so I could use games to teach problem solving and higher level thinking to my math students. I have 13 kids in my class and so far we have done a unit on deduction games where we looked at logical deduction and social deduction games and did some probability with them (but mostly just played some fun games). Sometimes I split them up in two or three games or sometimes we played together in teams or individually. My next unit I am looking at is a tile placement/route building unit that I can talk about graph theory in (and again, play a lot of fun games). Our class is 63 minutes long, which is constricting, and I was wondering if you, the board gaming world, have ideas for the tile placement/route building unit or any units I should consider in the future. We just started our unit with avenue from artipia games and we are going to play separate games of karuba. Keep in mind these 8th graders are 13 years old and have no gaming background so it has taken a while to teach (I have gone through sample games one day and then we play the next day). Thank you all in advance for your suggestions!
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Not sure whether you posted there or know if it but there is a whole site on BGG devoted to games in the classroom:

https://boardgamegeek.com/forum/35/boardgamegeek/games-class...

That would be the place to ask.
 
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christopher anderson
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Carcassonne

And I played a game last year where you were a middle-Eastern prince (I think) and used camels to develop trade routes and.....man, I forget the rest. I'm pretty sure you were a prince because you could marry into a family, or at least have the support of different families.

Someone here will post the name, I'm sure.

 
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SEGRETO wrote:
Carcassonne

And I played a game last year where you were a middle-Eastern prince (I think) and used camels to develop trade routes and.....man, I forget the rest. I'm pretty sure you were a prince because you could marry into a family, or at least have the support of different families.

Someone here will post the name, I'm sure.



Sounds like Samarkand: Routes to Riches.
It's a good game!


Have you considered using a book like Dice Games Properly Explained to help? I believe it talks about some of the statistics and how games work instead of just giving rules. That seems like a great starting point for a class similar to what you want...
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Damion Pisacane
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Hey!

This is really very cool. My wife and I have run a strategy games club as an after school activity at our school for many years, so I may have some tips for you. We have typically run the club for about 90-120 minutes each time we met. So, the time constrictions are a little different, but I still think that I can give you some useful tips.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't necessarily have to approach the class as if you are teaching a structured curriculum, where you introduce certain types of games or one that introduce particular strategies.

The benefit that your students will get from this will, by far, be the critical thinking practice and the socialization skills. Over the years, my wife and I have seen some truly amazing things happen with the kids we had in the club. Some of them have really figured out how to think creatively and critically. Some have learned some critically important social skills. It has genuinely been so amazing that for a while I was very tempted to pursue and doctorate and base my dissertation on this topic. No joke.

Here is a list of the games that we played with the kids three or four years ago (I happened to notice it on Google Docs a few days ago):

7 Wonders
Advance to Boardwalk
Bang!
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Carcassonne
Citadels
Cthulhu Dice
Dominion
Guillotine
Once Upon a Time
RoboRally
Roll Through the Ages
Scotland Yard
Stone Age
Survive!
Timeline
We Didn’t Playtest This At All
Zombie Dice

Alhambra
Balloon Cup
Carcassonne
Carcassonne Dice Game
Crocodile Pool Party
Dixit
Dracula
Dragonheart
Druid’s Dance (DruidenWalzer)
Elder Sign
Elfenland
Escape - The Curse of the Temple
Forbidden Island
Kahuna
Keltis
Lost Cities
Mr. Jack in New York
Odin’s Ravens
Pandemic
Pyramid of the Jaguar
The Reef
San Juan
Summertime
Ticket to Ride
Tikal
Tikal II
Times Square
Zooloretto

-----------------

We have found that games with fewer players often work out really well because students are not forced to wait very long before they take their turns. The Kosmos Two-Player series was a real boon. As you can see from this list, we have played a lot of them with the kids, and we have actually gone out or our way to get some of the rare games due to their popularity at Games Club.

There is no reason why you can't stop in the middle of a game, take a picture of the board and then set it back up and finish the next time you meet. We have done that many times. Also, we have often just not finished the game. Keep in mind what the goal is here. You want to get the kids thinking, and all of the things that you are doing in your games class will accomplish that goal. The kids were never all that disappointed when we stopped early. You can often tell who is going to win when you are nearing the end, particularly when you are playing with people who aren't experts at the game.

Finally, don't forget the importance of novelty. Playing a new game each time you meet definitely keeps the kids interested. They show up every week asking what new games we have to play with them. That's part of the fun for most of them.

Hopefully some of this is helpful to you. One last thing I will leave you with. One time an administrator came through the library while we were playing RoboRally, and he was very impressed. That's a real winner when playing with kids. They are challenged to really think, and any passing adult will be struck by the challenges that the game presents. (Just my two cents.)

Best of luck with this, and be sure to mention if you need any further advice or suggestions. (Oh, and one last note... we have always run Games Club with 7th and 8th grade students. It is the same age you are working with.)
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Oliver Dienz
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Check out Take it Easy!. It is explained in 5 min or less and can be played by the whole classroom at once if you buy enough copies. (Kind of like Bingo on steroids.)

Players place tiles on a grid and try to construct uninterrupted straight lines from one side to the other. Those lines have differing values based on the numbers associated with them and their length. It will be interesting to see how many different final results you will get despite everyone placing the exact same tiles.
 
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Ann W
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This does not directly answer your question, but addresses your theme.

I did just a day on Board Game Design for a STEM Summer Camp program two summers ago. I broke them into groups of 3-4 and had them play some short games that I designed to be intentionally broken (ex: in one you would need to roll a "1" to land on an important space, but you had to throw two dice; in another, the card deck had way too many of a specific card, etc.) and had them analyze the games by answering, "why wasn't this game fun?"

Then I had them play a set of very popular kids games (Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, etc) and had them review the games.

Then I asked them to design a game (gave them that it had to be designed around a favorite movie, but you wouldn't have to do that). They had to mathematically, thematically and "fun-factor" justify every single choice they made. Why that number of players? Why a 6-sided die? Etc. I found that the design portion was where they actually *got* the math aspect of the whole thing. If they wanted something to happen more/less often, they could control that. If they wanted to prevent an outcome or force a decision, as the designer it was in their hands, and they had to figure out how to do that, and have it make thematic sense, and be fun. Then they all played each others games and gave feedback. I was AMAZED by what they designed in a single day as total board game novices.

Maybe you could add that in at the end of each unit. So after social deduction, let them design a social deduction game. After tile laying, let them design a tile laying game. I had two sections of campers so I had them switch rooms and judge each other's games (they also had to write up rule sets and no one from the creation team was allow to explain the game to the judging teams). I didn't do this, but you could even do a whole unit about play-testing and how to create a play-testing process that drives valuable feedback (also the statistics behind surveys like rating scales vs yes/no etc). Maybe you could have a mini-Proto-Con after school and invite students from outside the class to judge the best games in several categories.

I miss teaching soooo much. I envy you!
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Terra or Fauna, definitely do those both for educational purposes.
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Mark Beyak
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A couple of short ones that introduce probability:

For Sale

No Thanks!

A couple other good ones that might be able to finish within that time frame:

Stone Age

Medici
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Jordan Fraser
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I run a similar option course for junior high students. I use the following in my class:

- Splendor
- Sushi Go
- Codenames
- Hey, That's my Fish
- Carcassonne
- Agricola: Family Edition
- Game of 49

I try to provide games that use a variety of game mechanics and are simple to teach, and quick to play. All (except Agricola: Family) fit nicely in an hour long block.
 
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Clayton Stewart
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With tile placement/route building, you can use Tsuro to reinforce measurement. Have the kids go for longest route and give each kid a piece of string at the end of the game to trace their route and measure. You can also then work in conversions, ratios, scale, etc. if they convert their measurements into other units. Maybe tell them 3 cm = 2 miles (or whatever) and have them calculate scaled distance.

I also teach 8th grade math and would love to hear updates on this class.
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Todd Robinson
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I would expect exploring the probabilities associated with Yahtzee-style dice rolling would be interesting for a 13-yo. King of Tokyo is a fun way to put what they learn into action. From there you can also talk about the relative value of the cards that let you modify your rolls. For example, there is a card that earns you a massive 9 VPs (out of 20 needed for a win) if you roll a 1, 2, 3, heart, punch and a energy on 6d6. If you roll 3, 3, 3, heart, punch and a energy are you better to take the 3 VPs you just rolled or pick up two of the 3s and try to reroll a 1 and a 2 for 9VPs?

Elder Sign is another yahtzee option, but the theme might get you fired at your school devil.

I had some fun thinking about probabilities in Thunderbirds the other night. Here you roll two custom d6 and add them together, (the higher the better). There is no 6 (the face where the 6 would be are bad and worth 0) so that alters the standard probability charts for 2d6, plus there are tokens you can earn that reroll a single die and tokens to add 2 to the result - which token is more valuable if you are trying to get 6+? 10+? Thunderbirds is overly complex for your needs, but perhaps there are other simpler games with similar dice choices others can recommend?
 
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AJ Cooper
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If you want some good probability number crunching, Backgammon covers a lot of ground from fairly basic to advanced.
 
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Eric Maule
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I'd probably pick Settlers of Catan...Easy to learn, 45 min to an hour long, and you can talk about dice probabilities for 2d6 with the robber and the odds of collecting resources on a 2 or 12 result versus an 8.

Monopoly (and no, I'd never actually play this in a classroom) is also a good dice probability problem that all the kids should be able to relate to without actually playing the game. Because you roll two 6-sided dice, and everyone starts on the same space, certain spaces are landed on more often than others. Further, a knowledgeable player can anticipate the next several most likely results for other players and buy properties accordingly. It's all probability.

Ticket to Ride is also a great option for route building and probability. Counting cards is a key component of the game if you play competitively. Hording cards of a certain color is also important sometimes...You know, not that I've ever done that or anything. Further, the game forces you into a certain amount of planning via the route cards, and picking a set of routes you're likely to be able to connect is also critical. Watching the cards that others pick combined with their board position gives you an indication of which routes they're likely to be going for in the future.

I'm not sure I entirely understand graph theory, but if I'm understanding the YouTube video I just watched correctly, Nine Men's Morris (or 12 Men's Morris) might also be an option for that. It's an ancient, classic game dating from the Roman Empire, and some of your kids will be familiar with it if they've played any of the Assassin's Creed games on consoles.

Hope this helps! I'd have loved to take that class when I was in 8th grade...or even high school!
 
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Starla Lester
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Steve,
I did something similar a few years ago, only it was critical thinking and "reading for instructions" based rather than math based. You seem to have this well thought out and well in hand.
For tiles and probability: Qwirkle
Good job!
 
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Andrew H
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For tile laying, Ingenious might be worth looking at. It could also be an introduction to permutations and probability, and has an unique scoring system.

Another probability game, that would be easy to make copies, is Can't Stop.

Lastly, I thinkCribbage is a great mental math game. The frequent adding and recognition of patterns is a foundation that is often sped through with modern technology.
 
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Laura Creighton
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Mr. Jack and Mr. Jack Pocket and many others recomended here lend themselves to mathematical study, but isn't for teaching graph theory.

Cornell University is teaching graph theory using Ticket to Ride see: https://blogs.cornell.edu/info2040/2015/09/11/graph-theory-a...
There are a large number of games in this family, and many, many fan made map expansions, so, for instance having your students design their own board is an entirely reasonable thing to do. Head on over to the DIY PnP wiki if you want help in finding resources to physically make your own games.
https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Print_and_Play_Games

Elfenland would be a good way to teach the Travelling Salesman problem. The game is hard to get but there have been updated versions and the like, but you will have to check their own forums to see if the TSP is still the foundation of the game. I only have the ancient version -- it's made by Alan R. Moon and what he did before Ticket to Ride.

Jet Set has the advantage that it is still in print. You play the game on a board which is a classic graph with weighted links and nodes. There are expansions. I haven't played it, though, so there may be problems I am unaware of, but this is the one I would start with and then go to TTR or Elfenland.

Sprouts isn't exactly a board game, but if you are going to teach graph theory, you have to play Sprouts. and has a BBG entry, so I'm adding it anyway.

Good luck and have fun!
 
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Damion Pisacane
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mentioned Escape: The Curse of the Temple in his list. I believe, it could fit your purpose - this game has tile-laying; you need to move between tiles quickly, so path-finding and graph theory are applied; and you got to chuck a bunch of dice, so probabilities theory it is! Also it lasts for only 10 minutes, so you can run it multiple times.
 
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Chris in Kansai
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How about So Long Sucker?
 
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Damion Pisacane
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Alienka wrote:
Damion Pisacane
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mentioned Escape: The Curse of the Temple in his list. I believe, it could fit your purpose - this game has tile-laying; you need to move between tiles quickly, so path-finding and graph theory are applied; and you got to chuck a bunch of dice, so probabilities theory it is! Also it lasts for only 10 minutes, so you can run it multiple times.



Also... kids find this game INCREDIBLY fun. I have rarely seen children this age get more into a board game than I have with Escape: The Curse of the Temple. It is one of the rare occasions where they will care tremendously about whether or not everyone is playing exactly right, following every single rule.
 
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Alex Mellen
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A simple game I've played that's basically all tile placement is Blokus. Players take turns placing Tetris-like pieces onto a grid, but they have to be linked by corners only. Sounds like an awesome class! Hope it goes well.
 
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Steve Ody
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You guys are awesome! I really appreciate the ideas and suggestions. We are doing a favorite game Friday on Friday's and they get to pick a game so this week I taught a group King of Tokyo and it went really well. I plan on next week using Escape: Curse of the Temple after reading this because I think the kids will love that. Also, I can't believe I didn't think about Ticket to Ride for route building but thanks for the suggestion. I will try to update this every now and again and please keep up ideas on other units that I can get ideas from!
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Steve Ody
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So update on the board game class. We just finished our route building/tile laying unit and it went really well. We played Avenue, Ticket to Ride, Karuba, Barenpark, and Zooloretto. They are now working on an end of the unit project where they have to make their own tile laying or route building game and so far they have some interesting ideas. I am trying to steer their thoughts so they make sense and some of the ideas are great. I may post a link to a google doc on here so you can see some of the ideas when they are fully developed but some sound really fun like a game I would play. I think we are going to talk about deck building next so if you have ideas on games please share them!
 
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Andy Guest
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If you are wanting to talk about probability then a game like GetBit! or LoveLetter where you start out with lots of possibilities and they gradually narrow through the game could work well.

Deck building you can look at how you build decks to take probability in to account. A simpleish game like Star Realms or the Ascension introduction pack could work well for that. Talk about the way pruning your deck increases the the speed of cards turning up again but at the cost of having to prune it.
 
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