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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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I have played 3 full games of SPI's game "A Mighty Fortress", and a few turns of it in unfinished games on several other occasions. This was back in the early 80s. It has many virtues, including the fact that the routines of play are not in themselves too complex, it has great broadbrush historical authenticity, and you feel like a statesman not a gamer playing it. The finances system of the Advanced game is simple but punishingly real - never was the money drain of war better exposed.

Of course it has a handsome nephew (nepotism?!) in the form of Here I Stand, a game that also makes me feel like a statesman not a gamer. But for my purposes there is a crucial difference. I want to use AMF or HIS with my 6th Form History group as a learning experience. They are studying the Reformation and Counter Reformation (or Catholic Reformation for those that are not Old School). The rulebook of either game would give them delirium tremens and blow their pretty little minds, but the fact is that it is easier to orally explain the essentials of AMF than HIS. HIS has more "historical colour" for them to absorb, but AMF does get to the dynamic essentials of the situation.

There is a remaining problem. We will have a day to play this. Even with strictly timed moves AMF is interminable. At 24 turns its way too long for a face to face multiplayer (PBEM is another matter).
Possible solution, since there are no short scenarios? An "express" version of the game where every 2 turns of the original game is replaced by one turn. Turn 1 will therefore be 1532-1533 etc. The joint reinforcements for turns 1532 and 1533 will therefore appear at the end of Turn 1 and so on. All timed effects like the 3 turn penalties for a Catholic who is excommunicated for converting to Protestantism will be halved rounded up (so being of 2 turns duration instead). Replacements will appear at the end of the turn following elimination not two turns after elimination. Other than the time issue everything else will stay the same!

Crazy? I actually don't think so. The pace of the original, as played by those in the know about the financial implications of aggression, was based on long periods of delay whilst fantastic and byzantine diplomacy went on and one built up the finances for action, punctuated by bursts of controlled violence! Pretty authentic to the period. For example, Charles V only started to lunge militarily into Germany in 1547. Thats turn 16 in the original game!

So, some of that will be lost. But I think the historical pace of religious conversion will be better served by halving the number of turns. The Lutherans can do less but the Papal forces have less time to turn back the tide. Above all the game will be playable.

We will take a whole Sunday. I will umpire the game so they don't need to have full cognizance of the rules, just the essentials. Even if the time change does not quite work they will have been thrust into the essential geopolitical situation and balance of power of the early 16th Century, and will have tasted the joys of role-playing the position of statesman. If only we had enough 16th Century costume in the Drama props cupboard...

I will report back on the results anon.

I do use lots of other simulations in the History classroom too. Some are invented from scratch (a simple Russian Civil wargame for instance), others are modifications of other people's packages. Some are based on materials going back as far as the 70s.
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Sean M
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Very ambitious, I'm looking forward to the report!
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Jim F
United Kingdom
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Good luck Mike
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Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
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Lucky students!
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Brian Current
United States
Carmel
IN - Indiana
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Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie? - Outlaw Josey Wales
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I would love to see some unfiltered session reports from some of the students (new players not using geek-speak). How about extra credit for some of those? They could email them to you and you could copy and post them.
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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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Thats an interesting idea, and I will try to get such comments. I am expecting to do this a week on Sunday.
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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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We had a bit of a warm-up for A Mighty Fortress last Monday night.

It was the Parents Evening for Year 6. This is the night when prospective parents and kids from next year's Year 7 (age 11 to 12)
school entry tour the school, listen to some propaganda, get wowed by what a dedicated and super place it is, and generally get seduced into putting us first over other local schools. In case you are wondering, the school where I teach is a state secondary covering the ages 11-18. Parents in the UK have a priority right to a place for their child at the state school of the catchment area in which they live, but they can apply to other state schools.

So, my idea was that a group of 6th Formers playing the boardgame "Renaissance" (Asmodee) in the History area would look like an attractive discussion point for parents who had dropped in for a chat and in order to see our area of the school. Sadly I don't have a copy of Wallace's "Princes of the Renaissance" or we would have been playing that.

I explained the rules to the 5 students (most of whom will also play in the Mighty Fortress big event shortly) in about 35 minutes. We started playing at around 18.00 and the first parents arrived at 18.50. I think it did amuse and intrigue the parents, though I was so engrossed in the game I did'nt notice much! My head of department did the meeting and greeting. The last parents left at around 20.30 at which point we wrapped the game. The students had really enjoyed it, I had got a few teaching points out of it ("Renaissance" is not meant to be a strict simulation but it has its values as an impression), and the thirst for the forthcoming big game was stoked up.
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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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I am finally running this on the 3rd January. The class have played my game "Reformation Europe", which is a self-designed variant on Origins of World War II using point to point links for placing Influence rather than free placement. I have used that with successive classes for about 6 years now, to very good effect I think.
I am toying with the idea of setting up a laptop cam in a side room so that the students can come and record their thoughts as they play. I will then post that as a video so that you can see their reactions to the experience. This was inspired by a recent excellent video posted here on BGG that a group made based on their play of Twilight Imperium.

PS for British teachers out there: Gove/Cameron, stuff your performance-related pay where the sun don't shine! Its not what the profession is about!
 
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David McCarthy
United Kingdom
Northampton
Northamptonshire
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I fully agree with your final sentiments here Mike. We should be teaching our children not turning them into statistical data for an education system blindly rooted in performance tables.

I coach children in the 15-17 year age group that are constantly fighting to strike a balance between enjoying their childhood and achieving their ever-escalating academic expectations. It seems so far removed from my own school days and not in a way I find positive.
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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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Its happening tomorrow...
I am a little nervous. Will it hold their attention? Will I be able to explain the gist of the rules in a short enough time?
Great students playing though. I have 2 to 3 per team. Academically able and on my side. Hope they are still on my side at 5.30 pm tomorrow.
Camera is at the ready to record some of it for posterity, the Geek and the school network.
My son is in my Lower Sixth group, and as the most experienced player leads the Habsburg team.
 
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Mike Smith
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Wigton
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BoardGameGeek » Forums » Gaming Related » Games in the Classroom
Re: Using a complex boardgame in teaching History at 6th Form level (17 year olds)
No costume sadly. A local theatre group would have obliged but they had nothing 16th Century. Plenty of tricornes a la Prince Charming... So if I do this sort of thing again it will have to be set in the 18th Century...
 
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Mike Smith
United Kingdom
Wigton
Cumbria
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Well I ran this in January as planned, and though rather exhausting it worked well enough. The game rules were still a tad too complicated despite me making fairly complete summary sheets for all. My son's team ran away with it (Habsburgs), not unexpectedly as he is an experienced gamer. It took us about 8 hours.
The group have just sat their exams, but there was no Charles V question in which to use their game-acquired knowledge of the balance of power in the 16th Century... Thats absolutely not the point though.
Cutting the number of turns in half seemed to work pretty well! I might try this with an experienced gamer group.
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Jim F
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Congrats. I don't think I'd have the patience to do this.
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Mike Smith
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Thanks Jim. If you are up for more very long games, though closer to Earth this time (whistle) then I really must organise a day (or two) playing Virgin Queen (or indeed Here I Stand) up here. If interested, I want to do this in July (after term ends) or first two weeks in August. Subscribe to this Guild: Cumbria Board Gamers for news as I try to get the ball rolling on it...
 
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