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Subject: Wargaming as a Senior Project for my son rss

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Fred, an 11th grader now, has been given an assignment that is quite similar to a college Thesis. The choice of project is wide open.

The focus Fred chose is "Use of war games to explore history and entertain".

He must have a 'consultant' or 'Mentor', and it can't be a parent, so one of my gaming buddies, Stuart, who has gamed for 40 years now, and does his own Civil War studies in the Danville, VA area and environs will fill that role.

Fred must also have a Faculty Advisor, so he is going to ask his history teacher.

In his semester, he has to do 15 hours of work.

The end 'product' expected is not defined, but we are planning a paper, a Powerpoint Presentation, and possibly a Demonstration.

One game strongly considered - Diplomacy.

I have the 76 AH wooden block version, so it presents really well.

The EWR gaming group discussed it briefly while playing Wellington, and we agree that something that 'shows' well and looks fun is the way to go.

Cards are comfortable and familiar, and one or two impulses of the first turn would work well too.

However, Diplomacy has really short rules and is so easy to teach.

So, ideas and any experiences please.
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Stance Nixon
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I had a non-gamer friend who learned how to "play" Diplomacy in a Business Education class (Contracts?). I showed him how to really play Diplomacy, and he overwelmed the Teacher.
From personal experience he needs to get the History teacher on his side so that the presentation actually covers the un-written expectations.
Don't expect to get to play the game as their won't be enough time and the uninterested mass of students will disrupt the presentation.
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Christopher KrackerJack
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snixon wrote:
From personal experience he needs to get the History teacher on his side so that the presentation actually covers the un-written expectations.


Absolutely key. Can't stress that one enough.

I recommend picking an era and something historically unique about combat in that era. Then grab a game that simulates it. This way, Fred can tie the game mechanic to a historically relevant and unique situation. Therefore he can show how the game is dependent on the history that it simulates. Some examples might be trench warfare in WWI, supply lines in Napoleonic era, use of Naval Power in pretty much any era since the 16th century, effect of air power in modern conflict, etc.

From an academic perspective (historical not mathematical), there is little interesting about moving chits and resolving the rolls. He needs to find the unique mechanics that are specific to warfare of the time and show how and why they are important.

At least that's how I would attack it.
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Steve Bauer
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The first game that came to mind for me was Twilight Struggle.

It has a lot of history and fairly simple rules.

It would not show as well as Diplomacy but has far more history. You could give a great short demonstration with a stacked deck of event cards for which he is prepared to discuss the historical events. US headlines "Marshall Plan" and the Soviets Headline "Blockade"...

Any of the other CDG would work but most are more complex and have lots of setup and pieces to move around while you play.

Diplomacy is also a good idea but the game play is hard to demonstrate and the history is more abstract.
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Les Marshall
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I have to agree with the last poster. While I have always been a fan of Diplomacy it offers little insight into WWI as a model of historical events, strategies or motivations.

Try picking the conflict that interests your son and find a game that models something relevant to that conflict. Everyone will nitpick about what games simulate real history and most games simply don't have simulation as a goal. More importantly, real simulations will likely be complicated to an extent your high schooler may find offputting.

I would therefore suggest picking a game that models about three relevant themes/mechanics including victory conditions and why they are relevant, strategic resource interdiction and production, maneuver, use of combined arms, political motivation, etc. You will need to decide whether you want the physical appeal of figures or blocks versus the much greater array of counter based games.

One suggestion I could make, if it interests your son is Axis and Allies. It should be eye catching for the neophyte. The alliances are fixed based on historical conditions and the outcomes are determined by limited strategic goals (in other words you don't have to kill everything). Limited resources require difficult strategic decisions about what to build and where to place units. Battles involving used of combined arms tend to be more successful. Further, the major powers are faced with different situational factors that heavily influence their behavior. The Russians tend to build lots of infantry to throw in front of the German advance (much as the many thousands of Russians were used up in human wave attacks). The Brits must maintain sea superiority to prevent German invasion. The US, while protected by large ocean areas is called on to provide material help to Britain and Russia while having to struggle for supremacy in the Pacific and build for massive invasions of Europe through the Mediterranean or the forbidding western wall.

For a relatively simple game there is quite a bit that goes on and might be fun to use.
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D T P
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You don't say whether Fred already plays wargames or not. If he does then let him pick the topics that he would be most familiar with.

But I think I would focus more on notable battles. Gettysburg, Waterloo, the Battle of the Bulge. Anyone that reads the paper would instantly recognize the subject matter. Familiarity with the subject matter can be positive if the reader is impressed, possibly from reading about aspects of these battles that they did not know before.

A game like Napoleon's Last Battles would be useful as a graphics component to the paper. It's simple enough to understand so that even a reader with virtually no gaming knowledge could easily grasp the basic concepts. Should be easy enough to get usable digital images.
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Fred does not play wargames as a hobby. However, his Dad had not been playing wargames for his entire childhood until 18 months ago.

Fred is into World of Warcraft and now FarCry 2.

However, he has played BlueMax (GDW), Circus Maximus about 10 times, and Naval War, the AH card game, several times.

He frequently has friends in his Lan Gameroom and his Dad has friends in his Board War Room.
 
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D T P
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Teach him the game. Have him play it a few times. The experience of learning it will become a big part of his explanation of wargamings entertainment factor.

It seems like it is going to be difficult for him to fully express how wargaming entertains if he hasn't really gotten a lot of entertainment from wargames personally.
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xlhrider wrote:
Teach him the game. Have him play it a few times. The experience of learning it will become a big part of his explanation of wargamings entertainment factor.

It seems like it is going to be difficult for him to fully express how wargaming entertains if he hasn't really gotten a lot of entertainment from wargames personally.



That is part of the plan.

More details later as to 'product'

First off, Wellington calls.
 
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Robert Wesley
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I'd suggest giving this a try some: World War I cool


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June Hwang Wah
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You need a simple game on a topic that is familiar with most of the class, and has lots of "chrome". Ever considered We the People?
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N P
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Axis and allies would probably be your best bet. Have him emphasize the total global war. Most people don't know of all the locations battles happened. Some don't even know the USSR was on the Allies side. Point out China was also an important ally. The average highschooler is not going to know these things. The rules are simple enough. I don't even think you would need to play any rounds. Emphasize that the set up was at the greast extent of the Axis powers in 1942. Just point out points of large improtant battles. Where is Stalingrad what happened? Where are the solomon islands what happened? I tutored college history and I was appaled at people's lack of geography knowledge. Many people didn't even know where Japan was! If he uses the new Aniversary addition have him use the 1942 setup as it's on the cusp of many large battles. What a fun project.
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tiger tiger
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Instead of one game, you could do an analysis of how well different game mechanics model the different aspects of war.

Fog of war: many different mechanics: blocks, counters, off map hidden movement

others:
odds based crt
Card driven
diplomacy
political
industry
morale (army vs. unit)
 
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His teacher is VERY excited about his project proposal - it is one of the best she ever saw.

He came home very excited about it yesterday.

The teacher mentioned the idea of a product as being a Game Design by him and demonstration.

She mentioned rulers and minis, which is interesting...did she google wargames, or has she seen them?

Age of Sail games show off very well as minis, and I bet most of the kids have seen Master and Commander and Pirates of the Carribean. So, I handle my son a Pravka book on Napoleonic Ships and a copy of the mini rules Beat to Quarters.

As Fred is planning to study Atmospheric sciences at UNC-Asheville, well, it sort of makes sense.


Another possibility; the Battle of Guilford Courthouse - the kids know that one, as that campaign touched Rockingham County (where Eden, NC is) as it relates to the Dan River/Troublesome creek area. In our region, Guilford courthouse is well known as 'The Battleground', and everyone visits the area. lots of shopping surrounds it, and it is a well kept biking and walking park. We've gone to the annual March 15th re-enactment a few times.

My wife's side of the family lived on Horsepen Creek Road, a significant road connected to that battle.
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PJ Manning
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I'm late to the discussion, but....

I didn't see a mention of what time periods the class is covering this school year. That would obviously impact your decision. From the threads, it seems like a general World History class, or one focusing on the last 200-300 years or more.

Age of Sail and Axis and Allies both would have their strong points.

Even smaller, battle-specific games(Midway, Bismarck) could be utilized to demonstrate the importance of wartime intelligence and movement, deployment of forces, commanders' personalities, and the element of surprise involved in actual historical events.

Depending on your fianl decision, you could always punch up the presentation with additional books on the battle/campaign/theater as background/supporting materials.

Sounds like an enlightened teacher there.
 
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Elwyn Darden
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An important question is whether his project involves teaching and playing other students.

If other students are part of the project, I would suggest Quebec 1759. It is very easy to teach and play, and plays quickly enough that a new player can play, change sides and play again in one sitting. This means a maximum of gaming, a minimum of teaching, and an opportunity for both players to "see" both sides of the situation.

There is also the added benefit anyone playing his second wargame ever will notice how much more he understands what he is doing than he did in the first game.

What makes Quebec 1759 attractive is that it is remarkably sensitive to player strategy. Back to back games can produce radically different results. The landings can occur in any of four zones, the main attack can come North of the River or South of it. The British can drive for a pitched battle up front or they can set the countryside ablaze to encourage desertions. And finally the French can decide whether to oppose the landings or hold back for a single battle.

One other benefit is that orders consitute something of a written record of the battle, which makes it easier to write and analyze after action reports.

 
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