Saturday, March 22, 2014

Learning with Games of the Week: Tokaido, New World Carcassonne, The Presidential Game

By Nina Kendall

Want to help your students or children connect better to the world around them? Trying to engage in conversations about culture, politics or economics with youth? Games are a great place to start. When learning new things we try to make on of 3 types of connections: text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to-world. Like books and movies, games can serve as a text. In this article, we look at how 3 games will help you relate your experience with games to event and concepts.

Tokaido is an enjoyable board game in which you travel along an imaginary road. To me it invokes thought of the Silk Road and trade and exploration in Asia. This game can help students connect to other cultures in a more concrete way. As they make their way along the road they have to make decisions about trading, visiting at temples, and eating. Their choices lead to varying levels of success. The more balance they find in their choices of activities the more success they find in the game. This game provides a point of comparison for the culture you enjoy and others you study. Help others discover the components of culture and make comparisons between what they live or have studied and what happens in the game.

 Carcassonne is game that provides you with an opportunity to understand geography and development.  In the original Carcassonne  you experience growth and development in the French countryside. In New World Carcassonne, you help  to colonize the east coast of the New World. This game combines an understanding of geography and economic decision-making to develop successful settlement. Learn what makes some places successful and others die. Connect the action to local events in your part of the world or teach students about the transformative nature of development in the past.  These games reminded me of lessons teaching how the development of infrastructure like the transcontinental railroad and the interstate system changed the development patterns of cities and states leading some to growth in some areas and decline in others.  Topics I have taught in both geography and history classes. Want to spice up your classroom or help your child connect to their history class? This is the game for you.

The Presidential Gme is a great way to explore the Electoral College and the electoral process. this game you have to use strategy to compete for vote to win the presidency. You learn to make choice about what states you work in and what states you do less work in . You gain votes and lose votes . When playing we quickly came into direct competition in large states like Texas and California. This game would help provide people with insight into the decisions candidates make as they run for President.  This game could be played in small groups or tracked over time with small groups of students acting as competing political parties. No matter how you play or who you chose to play with it is time to run for president. Will you be the winner?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Building a Game Club in your Community

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Do you like history? Do you like playing tabletop games? If yes, why not combine the two!  The Histocrats have always supported the idea of incorporating games into the classroom.  However, as an extension we also hope that students would want to play games outside the school walls.  Like many schools, the high school I teach at does have a game club for students.  Each week members play games after school for fun.  Taking this idea one step further, we helped launch a local game club in our community.  The goal is simple—play games and have fun.  As part of our game club’s mission we invite all ages and gaming abilities to participate.

In its basic element, a game club is an organization of individuals devoted to bringing game players together.  We simply asked a local restaurant if we could use their additional room, and they said yes.  With this simple answer, we were off and running.  It became a win-win proposition.  We are provided a free space to play and the restaurant owner is happy because we increase foot traffic and everyone eats throughout the night. 

The group we support is the South Metro Atlanta United Gamers (SMAUG) and we meet every first and third Friday of the month.  There is a large variety of games available and our “History Game of the Week” selections usually come out of one of the play sessions.  Games range from generic board games, German-style board games, dice games, card games and collectible card games. They also range from quick and easy to all night complex games.  Usually, a few of the members bring the bulk of the games but anyone is welcome to bring any game they and others may want to play.

While we try and play game just for fun rather than competition, we do acknowledge the winner of a game.  We admit to stealing Wil Wheaton’s TableTop concept of a Trophy of Awesome.  Anyone who wins a game gets to hold and have their name put on the trophy.  It is just a fun thing to do. 

As we have grown, we continue to have a fun mix of people and games.  The atmosphere of the club is relaxed and newcomers are welcomed.  Most participants are motivated by the love of gaming, however, some come to enjoy the camaraderie of the group.  We often have a friend of a friend come and declare that they are not a gamer, they are just there for the friend.  However, after a few quick games they are enjoying themselves and will usually attend without being prodded.  The club has been fun.  We continue to grow and introduce more and more history themed games into the mix.  The club has been a fun endeavor.  It is a great family activity and cool to combine two passions—gaming and history. 

For anyone interested in starting their own game club, I would simply say go for it.  If your community does not have a local game shop to host the club, then ask a local restaurant.  It is okay to start small with a few friends and games.  Use media resources like Facebook, MeetUp or BoardGameGeek to publicize your group.  No matter what, just have fun, play more games and in time your club will grow. 

For more information:!/pages/South-Metro-Atlanta-United-Gamers/253677608130145!/histocrats