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Subject: Twilight Struggle at 7:20 in the morning rss

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Bob Smithy

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While I am not a teacher myself, I did receive express permission from said teacher to bring in any games relevant to the period in American history being covered. He would review their suitability and add them to a list, and I would bring them into the class on the days after the final exams for class and explain the theme of the game.

I received Twilight Struggle this holiday, and while this game coincides perfectly with the most important and last unit of class, the short 46-minute periods make it seem like this would be a week-long game at least. Also, games like Tammany Hall and the 1860 presidential election game are easily adapted to play with each candidate having 2 people (campaign co-staffers) but T.S. would have a new U.S player each turn if played realistically. How would you recommend making this great game enjoyable for more than 2 people in a reasonable timeframe?

P.S. Class starts at 7:20 am.
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M Hellyer
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Maybe instead of playing the 7 cards per turn you reduce it to 3 cards per turn. I've only played it once 3 years ago and so don't remember specifics too well. Let them draw 4 - 5 cards, but they only play 3.
 
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Calavera Soñando
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How I'd do it in my classroom:

I have a smart board, so I'd get my network admin to improve the installation of VASSAL and then have a big projection of the game board up front.

Then, I'd simply split the class in half, deal each half their starting hands from a physical copy of the game, and have them each make decisions as a group. If you wanted to make it more complicated you could have a special phase where the U.S. team "elects" a leader to decide each turn what card to play, but frankly the game is complicated enough without adding in that extra layer of politics and negotiation.

I am sure that even if your teacher friend doesn't have a smart board, he must have access to a projector he can check out from his school library tech department, or there is a room on campus where he can reserve it.

All of that said, I am not sure I would pick TS for a classroom game, and I use games quite a lot in my class. I think the thing that makes TS great is the crescendo of tug-of-war from turn to turn, and all the bluffing and second guessing about the playing of a scoring card. If you have a big group making a decision then some of that tension and strategic pleasure will be lost.

Also there are some very nuanced challenges you may face anyhow - questions that really ought to be answered by your friend who is the teacher. First and foremost, time is the most valuable asset in a class and it ought never be wasted. Is your teacher friend merely inviting you in to fill a day that could otherwise be used for something more aligned with learning objectives? Because if it's just about filling space (and as a teacher myself, I have a number of issues with that) than why does it have to be a complex hobby game? Why can't it just be a dexterity game? Are the kids even going to be open and willing to learn a complex game on the last day of a semester? (And believe me, that is a dang important questions - because once they check out mentally and emotionally, you aren't going to get them back for something heavy, serious, and brain-burny like TS.) What is the size of the class? What age are the kids? (Are the games you are choosing age appropriate? Not in terms of censoring them from world events, but more in terms of their willingness to tolerate complex rulesets? Usually the younger the kids, the harder time they have concentrating on complexity.) Are these regular or honors kids? (Hate to say it, but this makes a difference too - having run games for regular and honors kids myself, I can say there is a marked difference in the understanding of difficult rulesets, and complexity of strategic actions in the game between the groups.) Do you have access to the technology I mentioned above? What is the familiarity of the kids with complex, hobby games? How willing and open will they be to learn a complex hobby game from a stranger? etc etc.

In other words, right now it sounds like you're in the brainstorming phase with your friend, which is fine. Just be aware that getting time in a classroom to share something with kids is a real responsibility and needs real planning, else chaos will ensue.
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Bob Smithy

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MScrivner wrote:
How I'd do it in my classroom:

I have a smart board, so I'd get my network admin to improve the installation of VASSAL and then have a big projection of the game board up front.

Then, I'd simply split the class in half, deal each half their starting hands from a physical copy of the game, and have them each make decisions as a group. If you wanted to make it more complicated you could have a special phase where the U.S. team "elects" a leader to decide each turn what card to play, but frankly the game is complicated enough without adding in that extra layer of politics and negotiation.

I am sure that even if your teacher friend doesn't have a smart board, he must have access to a projector he can check out from his school library tech department, or there is a room on campus where he can reserve it.

All of that said, I am not sure I would pick TS for a classroom game, and I use games quite a lot in my class. I think the thing that makes TS great is the crescendo of tug-of-war from turn to turn, and all the bluffing and second guessing about the playing of a scoring card. If you have a big group making a decision then some of that tension and strategic pleasure will be lost.

Also there are some very nuanced challenges you may face anyhow - questions that really ought to be answered by your friend who is the teacher. First and foremost, time is the most valuable asset in a class and it ought never be wasted. Is your teacher friend merely inviting you in to fill a day that could otherwise be used for something more aligned with learning objectives? Because if it's just about filling space (and as a teacher myself, I have a number of issues with that) than why does it have to be a complex hobby game? Why can't it just be a dexterity game? Are the kids even going to be open and willing to learn a complex game on the last day of a semester? (And believe me, that is a dang important questions - because once they check out mentally and emotionally, you aren't going to get them back for something heavy, serious, and brain-burny like TS.) What is the size of the class? What age are the kids? (Are the games you are choosing age appropriate? Not in terms of censoring them from world events, but more in terms of their willingness to tolerate complex rulesets? Usually the younger the kids, the harder time they have concentrating on complexity.) Are these regular or honors kids? (Hate to say it, but this makes a difference too - having run games for regular and honors kids myself, I can say there is a marked difference in the understanding of difficult rulesets, and complexity of strategic actions in the game between the groups.) Do you have access to the technology I mentioned above? What is the familiarity of the kids with complex, hobby games? How willing and open will they be to learn a complex hobby game from a stranger? etc etc.

In other words, right now it sounds like you're in the brainstorming phase with your friend, which is fine. Just be aware that getting time in a classroom to share something with kids is a real responsibility and needs real planning, else chaos will ensue.


No class time would be lost, this would all be after the last unit of the year. It's an Advanced Placement class (college class in high school), and I already have 2 of my classmates in regular board game groups. It would have to be a physical board, as a tradition is to have movies being displayed in addition to any other activities. I think you we're assuming that I was a teacher, when instead I'm just an overly involved student. Change any of your opinions?
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Calavera Soñando
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Hdnggrnchrg wrote:
MScrivner wrote:
How I'd do it in my classroom:

I have a smart board, so I'd get my network admin to improve the installation of VASSAL and then have a big projection of the game board up front.

Then, I'd simply split the class in half, deal each half their starting hands from a physical copy of the game, and have them each make decisions as a group. If you wanted to make it more complicated you could have a special phase where the U.S. team "elects" a leader to decide each turn what card to play, but frankly the game is complicated enough without adding in that extra layer of politics and negotiation.

I am sure that even if your teacher friend doesn't have a smart board, he must have access to a projector he can check out from his school library tech department, or there is a room on campus where he can reserve it.

All of that said, I am not sure I would pick TS for a classroom game, and I use games quite a lot in my class. I think the thing that makes TS great is the crescendo of tug-of-war from turn to turn, and all the bluffing and second guessing about the playing of a scoring card. If you have a big group making a decision then some of that tension and strategic pleasure will be lost.

Also there are some very nuanced challenges you may face anyhow - questions that really ought to be answered by your friend who is the teacher. First and foremost, time is the most valuable asset in a class and it ought never be wasted. Is your teacher friend merely inviting you in to fill a day that could otherwise be used for something more aligned with learning objectives? Because if it's just about filling space (and as a teacher myself, I have a number of issues with that) than why does it have to be a complex hobby game? Why can't it just be a dexterity game? Are the kids even going to be open and willing to learn a complex game on the last day of a semester? (And believe me, that is a dang important questions - because once they check out mentally and emotionally, you aren't going to get them back for something heavy, serious, and brain-burny like TS.) What is the size of the class? What age are the kids? (Are the games you are choosing age appropriate? Not in terms of censoring them from world events, but more in terms of their willingness to tolerate complex rulesets? Usually the younger the kids, the harder time they have concentrating on complexity.) Are these regular or honors kids? (Hate to say it, but this makes a difference too - having run games for regular and honors kids myself, I can say there is a marked difference in the understanding of difficult rulesets, and complexity of strategic actions in the game between the groups.) Do you have access to the technology I mentioned above? What is the familiarity of the kids with complex, hobby games? How willing and open will they be to learn a complex hobby game from a stranger? etc etc.

In other words, right now it sounds like you're in the brainstorming phase with your friend, which is fine. Just be aware that getting time in a classroom to share something with kids is a real responsibility and needs real planning, else chaos will ensue.


No class time would be lost, this would all be after the last unit of the year. It's an Advanced Placement class (college class in high school), and I already have 2 of my classmates in regular board game groups. It would have to be a physical board, as a tradition is to have movies being displayed in addition to any other activities. I think you we're assuming that I was a teacher, when instead I'm just an overly involved student. Change any of your opinions?


Then, I think it's awesome to see such an enthusiastic kid sharing the hobby in a meaningful way with his classmates. My experience with those AP types is that they will probably be more than willing to learn a conflict rich and competitive game no matter the time of year (in fact, the AP kids in my own classroom this year would slit each others throats for more points). Have you considered DIPLOMACY? It's just as historically meaningful (WWI), and is far more interactive. When I use it, I split the classes into groups of seven and run simultaneous games.
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Domenic
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Bringing in a game and explaining the theme sounds totally different than using class time to actually play a game. Assuming that the latter is what was intended, I still wouldn't try to adapt Twilight Struggle to classroom play. I played my first game of 1989: Dawn of Freedom a couple of weeks ago, just two of us who had played TS before, but in a chaotic environment. It took more than four hours, which is more than you have total over a week. Group discussions will necessarily make your game take longer, plus you'll be playing with people unfamiliar with the system.

How do you plan to spread the game out over multiple days? The classroom is being used for other things the rest of the day, so you can't just leave the board out. If you're going to take notes and pack it up every day, you need to allocate time for that too. (This also means that bringing in more boards -- aside from the cost -- isn't a viable solution to the problem of converting 2 player to many-player.)

In short, I think TS would be a great game to make a presentation on, especially after you've played it a few times and can better comment on how the mechanics of the game support the theme, but actually trying to play it as a classroom exercise sounds like a bad fit.
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Bob Smithy

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dommer2029 wrote:
Bringing in a game and explaining the theme sounds totally different than using class time to actually play a game. Assuming that the latter is what was intended, I still wouldn't try to adapt Twilight Struggle to classroom play. I played my first game of 1989: Dawn of Freedom a couple of weeks ago, just two of us who had played TS before, but in a chaotic environment. It took more than four hours, which is more than you have total over a week. Group discussions will necessarily make your game take longer, plus you'll be playing with people unfamiliar with the system.

How do you plan to spread the game out over multiple days? The classroom is being used for other things the rest of the day, so you can't just leave the board out. If you're going to take notes and pack it up every day, you need to allocate time for that too. (This also means that bringing in more boards -- aside from the cost -- isn't a viable solution to the problem of converting 2 player to many-player.)

In short, I think TS would be a great game to make a presentation on, especially after you've played it a few times and can better comment on how the mechanics of the game support the theme, but actually trying to play it as a classroom exercise sounds like a bad fit.


I could see that, or maybe using the late-game rules that came in the manual to make it shorter. Setting it up wouldn't be a problem, as I get to school 20 minutes early, have that class first, and the teacher is always in the room preparing stuff anyway. Just take a picture of the board at the end of the class and have each hand of cards be put in a plastic bag, worked well enough for the Risk (gasp!) that we did a few years ago. We do have 2 weeks to play this (our class'es final exams are middle the month, everyone else's are at the beginning of next month), so a full game isn't out of the question even with discussion
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say "em-cee-crispy"
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Hdnggrnchrg wrote:
Just take a picture of the board at the end of the class and have each hand of cards be put in a plastic bag, worked well enough for the Risk (gasp!) that we did a few years ago.
I regard the digital camera to be the greatest gaming accessory invention of the last decade; for instance, it made it possible for my group to play 18xx on a regular basis - using a photo as a record of the board position between sessions.
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Calavera Soñando
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I just wanted to suggest an alternative...

What if you specifically scheduled a day after school where kids could come in and try the game? Make it voluntary and advertise it, but get the teacher's support as well. You'll have fewer participants but this will make it easier rather than harder.

Does your school have a game club? If not you ought to start one. If you made it an official school club, you could even do fundraisers and get multiple copies of games like TS so simultaneous games can happen, and you'd be eliminating the wheat from the chaff - the kids who show up will genuinely be interested in what you are offering and willing to learn, and the kids who don't will be those kids in the class for whom gaming is just not that interesting and who might otherwise be disruptive to what you're trying to do.
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M Hellyer
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I taught a civics class at 7:30 AM of 40 students from different high school grade levels. It can be a challenge jump-starting them into activities that early.

In addition to the other good ideas suggested regarding playing Twilight Struggle in the classroom, I would propose another possibility.
1. Divide the class into 3 teams. All play the U.S. side. You, the teacher, play the USSR side. Each U.S. team has a President, VP, Secretary of State, and the rest of the team designated as Congress. President has tie-breaking powers making team decisions. Secy of State reports the team's actions.
2. Streamline the game by pre-selecting only specific important historical events and use those cards.
3. You (USSR) take your turn, then each of the 3 teams, playing the same U.S. hand, simultaneously take their turn.
4. Continue play through 2 or 3 class sessions, you playing against each of the 3 U.S. teams.
5. Top grades go to the U.S. team that has done best on the scoring chart at the end of play.
6. Have a discussion after each game play briefly reviewing the real events and the decisions made by the classroom teams versus the decisions made by the real governments at the time.

This would require a good deal of prep by you to set up the most significant historical events, and balanced gameplay and scoring opportunities. Also, it would be great to be able to show each team's gameboard on a display screen such as a smartboard.
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James Fung
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I like Michael's #6 because that's the whole point of bringing Twilight Struggle into the classroom: to illustrate certain events and understand why people did what they did historically.

I'm not so sure about reducing the number of cards per turn. I'm no Twilight Struggle expert, but most of the game for me is thinking:

- This is a really awesome event for me.
- This is a really awesome event for my opponent. I need bury it or mitigate it somehow.
- I also need to find time and OPs to secure countries before Scoring X happens.

There isn't much time if there's only 3 cards per turn.

I'm also ambivalent on rewarding grades based on the score. 1) The goal of the US player isn't to maximize score, but to maximize probability of winning. This is especially true in the early game, where taking VP hits to contain the Soviets pays dividends in the middle and late game. 2) Grades should be rewarded on understanding of the material, not who rolled better coup/realignment dice or who played the game better.
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Bob Smithy

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First off, I am not a teacher. I am a student. I do not give out grades, and the time that we would be playing the game would be after final grades have already been determined.

I like the idea of splitting the superpowers up into president/congress/secretaries. Maybe have the roles like this:

1 President: only one allowed to discuss with both Congress and Cabinet about this turn's issue. Can veto 2 card choices by Congress per turn. Chooses headline event before congress looks at cards, cannot be overruled on headline event.

3 Secretaries: look at hand of cards, advise president on what to do. Can over-rule 1 veto by the President each turn.

5 Congressmen: looks at cards and setts order of actions. Can over-rule presidential action if 4 out of 5 members vote in favor of over-ruling.

Change rolls after every round, the final 2 presidents are decided at the end of the 8th round by the 8th round congress. President chooses his advisors in the final 2 rounds

Soviets have changed names, of course.
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Mike Smith
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Bob. Some possible suggestions from someone who is a teacher and who does use games/roleplay/simulations regularly in the classroom.

Though Twilight Struggle is relatively simple and a great game, it is mechanic heavy for what it delivers in historical simulation terms for a relatively game-inexperienced group. You don't learn much about the individual crises, and the overall veracity of the Cold War model it posits is arguable (as the designers freely admit), though that could be a good thing with a group with enough knowledge to be able to discuss the validity of the model. I absolutely applaud your aims, and using games to teach is very appropriate if set up and used in the right way (before and after the giving out of grades!).

However, in this case I think you would be better setting up and running with the teacher's help a crisis conference style roleplay based on a real or imaginary crisis of the Cold War. You give them roles (President, Chief of Armed Forces, Chief Envoy to UN etc.) and feed them news bulletins and ask them for their reactions. There does not need to be any rules as such, just role briefings that contain geopolitical/military info. . This is where this kind of exercise scores over boardgames - no rules to teach and get in the way. Traditionally you don't give all the relevant info to all of the team members so that they are forced to share info and start discussing.
This could be run with opposing US and Soviet teams, or just one where you as umpire decide what the opposing team would do and incorporate it in the news bulletins. You could base it on the Cuban Missile Crisis, but if any students knew about the real crisis hindsight gets in the way of them reacting spontaneously to events as they occur. I have run such a game many times with teams ignorant of the real Cuban Missiles Crisis as my way of introducing that Crisis to them. Students tend to be much more aggressive than the real participants, but that in itself leads to talking points afterwards.

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Bob Smithy

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Mantuanwar wrote:
Bob. Some possible suggestions from someone who is a teacher and who does use games/roleplay/simulations regularly in the classroom.

Though Twilight Struggle is relatively simple and a great game, it is mechanic heavy for what it delivers in historical simulation terms for a relatively game-inexperienced group. You don't learn much about the individual crises, and the overall veracity of the Cold War model it posits is arguable (as the designers freely admit), though that could be a good thing with a group with enough knowledge to be able to discuss the validity of the model. I absolutely applaud your aims, and using games to teach is very appropriate if set up and used in the right way (before and after the giving out of grades!).

However, in this case I think you would be better setting up and running with the teacher's help a crisis conference style roleplay based on a real or imaginary crisis of the Cold War. You give them roles (President, Chief of Armed Forces, Chief Envoy to UN etc.) and feed them news bulletins and ask them for their reactions. There does not need to be any rules as such, just role briefings that contain geopolitical/military info. . This is where this kind of exercise scores over boardgames - no rules to teach and get in the way. Traditionally you don't give all the relevant info to all of the team members so that they are forced to share info and start discussing.
This could be run with opposing US and Soviet teams, or just one where you as umpire decide what the opposing team would do and incorporate it in the news bulletins. You could base it on the Cuban Missile Crisis, but if any students knew about the real crisis hindsight gets in the way of them reacting spontaneously to events as they occur. I have run such a game many times with teams ignorant of the real Cuban Missiles Crisis as my way of introducing that Crisis to them. Students tend to be much more aggressive than the real participants, but that in itself leads to talking points afterwards.



Ask for the input mike, but the goal of this was not to learn anything about the Cold War from a board game. In the scenario I was proposing, the U.S history has been covered at a collegiate level already. So this is just a way for a group of people to do something fun for our final days in class, still using our recently learned knowledge about the Cold War. I know of at least 4 people who would love to play this, and the grand total might come out to around 7-8 after we actually bring it in. I was trying to include as many of them as possible in at one time, so there wouldn't be more watching than playing.
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Mike Smith
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Got it Bob! Good luck and fun!
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M Hellyer
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BoardGameGeek » Forums » Gaming Related » Games in the Classroom
Re: Twilight Struggle at 7:20 in the morning
fusag wrote:


I'm not so sure about reducing the number of cards per turn. I'm no Twilight Struggle expert, but most of the game for me is thinking:

- This is a really awesome event for me.
- This is a really awesome event for my opponent. I need bury it or mitigate it somehow.
- I also need to find time and OPs to secure countries before Scoring X happens.

There isn't much time if there's only 3 cards per turn.



The reason I suggested reducing the # of card plays per turn is that playing a complete game could easily go on for a week or more. My first gameplay was with another experienced gameplayer, and it took the two of us about 5 hours to play the game. If you have a week or more to devote to this, by all means go for the full monty. However, if you need to pare it back a bit, reducing the # of plays is a way to do that: you keep the most essential, interesting, and informative events, but you structure it so you can move through the game and reach a conclusion in a relatively do-able amount of time.

Oh, and the reason for the grades is as an incentive and reward. There's no penalty for the teams that don't score best, just some kind of extra credit points (or free sandwich or other prize) for the team that does.
 
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