Back in July I posted Gaming
Our Way Through History: Part 1
- an article about… well…
gaming my way though history with my
kids as part of their studies in world history using The
Story of the World
series of books by Susan Wise Bauer (from Peace
Hill Press). Gaming
Our Way Through History: Part 1
covered the ancient world and
corresponded with Volume One of the series of books. This second part
corresponds with Volume Two of the series, which covers the medieval world from
the fall of Rome to rise of the Renaissance.
To quickly reiterate I was
looking for games to supplement and reinforce the readings – preferable with a
strong thematic elements, ideally games with maps showing the region, and some
way of portraying the dynamics of relationships and interactions between
different peoples and cultures, the relationships of power and authority within
those various societies, as well as understanding the decision-making processes
concerning the distribution of resources, etc…
We actually finished the book
months ago but a clever combination of procrastination and hope that I might
get to play a few games I’d hoped to play but didn’t at the time we were
reading about it kept me from getting this done. As we’re about to finish up
the third Volume this afternoon, I thought it best I get to posting this as
I’ll have one for Volume Three to finish up shortly!
There wasn’t really any mention of Ireland in the books so
far – but Volume Two did start off with Early Britain after the Romans left…
and that fairly close…?
The object of this game is to promote your candidates to be
the Ard Ri (High King) of all Ireland. This is done by controlling two of the
four kingdoms (though for a three player game we only played with three). It's
fairly easy to control one kingdom and each player generally controls one by
the end of the second round. After that it becomes a bit of a hard, nasty slog
as you try to simultaneously try to unseat another king while trying to defend
you own. The frustration this caused reduced the kids to tears on a couple of
occasions. It may be tricky to talk them into playing this one with me again
any time soon... Usually I seem to play new games with the kids and then
sometime later in the week we play it again with Amanda in the evening. I
played this with the kids in June and still haven’t played it with Amanda…
While most of these games were played at the time we were
reading about the relevant period of history, this one was not… it was one of
the last ones we actually played and didn’t get to play it until we were well
into volume three – this is because the game wasn’t released until late
September. The game is
Publishing's first foray into boardgames. In the game King Arthur (the
“historical” King Arthur) has just died and the players represent members of
the King's court trying to gain influence among the Welsh, Scots, and
Romano-British to unite them against the invading Saxons (and, ultimately, get
themselves crowned King – or Queen!).
Well... that's the fluff anyway... It had a nice map showing
historical political regions of the period.
While I thought the game was really interesting, the play
itself was quite a bit more abstract that I was expecting from Osprey. The
decisions being made weren’t decisions a noble member of a royal court would be
making, they were about which card to play when to get the most coloured cubes
in an area.
This game tied in nicely with
our reading about the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire and how Constatninople
surpassed Rome and for a time became the most prominent centre of trade and
culture in the West at the beginning of the time period we were covering. The
players are merchants in Constantinople that win, ultimately, through gaining
victory point which can be gathered through different means – building stuff,
shipping goods, donating stuff to the government… There are a lot of different
ways to win and lots of options and ways to spend money in an effort to produce
more goods and make more money…
We played it a few times.
The game itself seems fairly deterministic – there is very little
randomness (other than the draw of shipping cards) and very little player
interaction – you never trade with each other and there is virtually no way to
mess with what other players are doing – other than scooping up limited
properties before other players can. Everyone starts with the exact same stuff
and just tries to gather as many victory points as they can before the game
ends. While we’ve played it a few times and been able to try out different
strategies, I feel eventually one would figure out the best way to do it and
there would be little else one could do.
I would have loved to have
tracked down a copy of Justinian
to try out while we were reading about Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire
(as an entire par tof a chapter was devoted to Justinian and Empress Theodora …
alas, I was unable to…
Samarkand: Routes to Riches
This is ostensibly another
merchant/trading game but not like other trading games – like Parthenon or
Ostia or Constantinopoilis (all of which we had played previously) where there
is a lot of actual trading going on either between players or within the game
and managing money and stuff… this is more about area control (building “trade
routes” to sources of material goods) and marrying into the right families…
Still… had a great map of the middle
east and gave a sense of the relative location of different peoples and the
trade routes that were developed to carry goods back and forth and that the
people of the middle ages DID do a lot of trading back and forth (and weren’t
always fighting WARS!)
Knights of Charlemagne
Thematically pretty light… but I
had the game (picked it up for $5 years ago), and we did read a chapter on
Charlemagne… There were some names of actual French Cities and castles on some
of the cards…? Play is fairly abstract – as with most Reiner Knizia games. (I’m
not saying abstract games aren’t good – I did enjoy playing this game – as I do
most Knizia games – but there wasn’t a lot of history to be learned from it…)
There are cities and fortresses
with numbers and colours associated with them. Players have a handful of cards
with a colour and number associated with each. They take turns playing these
cards, deciding whether they want to play it on the associated city or
fortress. The player (or side – as in a four player game there are simply two
sides) with the most cards on the city or fortress wins it and claims the
points for them. The player (or side) with the most points wins…
In addition to the chapter on Charlemagne, we’d read Charlemagne
and the Paladins
- one of Osprey Publishing’s Myths and Legends books
– which do a pretty good job of looking at various versions of the legends they
cover and tying them into the actual historical events that may have inspired
Tales of the Arabian Nights
While not at all historical we did read about the Tales of the Arabian Nights in The Story of the World - when we read about Abu Bakr and the spread of Islam and Bagdad becoming the center of the Islamic Empire. It was a very LONG game in which we each took on the role of one of the Heroes or Heroines of the tales and went on adventures around the world that was known to the traders and explorers from the middle east. We played it in the summer and I made no notes at the time - I remember it being fun, but taking a LONG time to play. You had to gain a certain number of some sort of points before returning to Bagdad... I remember thinking we could have played to half the number of points and it still would have been a fun and challenging game, but wouldn't have taken so dang long!
King Arthur: the Card Game
As with Knights of Charlemagne
this was thematically pretty light and fairly abstract… based more on legend
than anything historical, really - but we did read about King Arthur in The Story of the World, so....
It is a card game where you take turns playing cards in sets of matching
colours of a number equal to or greater than the foe you want to beat (many of
the foes are mythical creatures – Dragons, etc…). once you have defeated foes
you can use them to gain trophies, which get you victory points, which
determines the winner at the end of the game.
Not every game I break out to play with the family is a
winner... Yeah... that's my kids crying...
The game is supposedly set in the 1265 (Second) Baron's War
where a number of Barons led by Simon de Montfort rose up against the King of
England in an attempt to reassert the Magna Carta.
In the game player's play a Baron and their retinue and
basically try to kill their opponents and control cities around Evesham to gain
victory points... the board is modular (and thus could be different every time
you play – which might be great for replayability, but not great for learning
historical geography) and theme is pretty weak and there's this totally random,
plan-wrecking, plague/fog phase that utterly frustrated everyone.
When the plague or fog wrecked the plan I had had at the
beginning of a turn I would just sit back and go "well... how to I
minimize THIS disaster..."and moved forward - and very quickly I came to
realize that you can plan all you want in the strategy phase, but half the time
that plan will be wrecked by the plague/fog phase and you just had to roll with
it... The kids spent so much time planning in the strategy phase and would have
their plan all sorted out... and when the plague wrecked that plan they just
couldn't see past that and readjust their plan to lessen the impact of the
utterly craptastic situation they then found themselves in...
One of our most played games this year was Dominion. I've included it here because we played it while we were reading about medieval times and it has a medieval theme... sort of... you are supposed to be a monarch and trying to gain control over lands and titles.
But the history-learning value of the game is just about zero. it's about drafting cards for their effect in the game and ultimately gaining vicotory point cards to win the game - while the cards are called "Estates" and "Duchies" and "Provinces" and all the other cards are ostensibly improvements you can make to your kingdom "Villages", "Markets", etc. They could easily be named anything else and be just as playable...
Great game - played it lots - not much history there.
Looking to the east we read a
bit about the Ming. This was a fairly abstract game Where you had to draft cards you would then use to move your diplomat around the kindgom trying to gain influence in towns and regions.
San Gimignano - playing the heads of aristocratic families
trying to build the most towers in the medieval town of San Gimignano... (now a
UNESCO World Heritage Site).
The game plays super quick - so we played it twice! This,
our second game, was much higher scoring and much closer – The Boy eked out a
win with 8 towers to the 7 towers that both The Girl and I managed to build. The
theme was pretty weak and the game really just a fairly abstract strategy game
involving area control through placement of tokens representing the families
influence in the guilds and building of towers when you have influence in four
different connecting guild areas.
I’d posted this picture on facebook and my sister commented
that she’d actually BEEN to San Gimignano during her trip to Italy a few years
ago – they apparently have really good Gellato there…?
This we ended up playing a little later – long after we were
done reading about the period. Amanda and The Girl didn’t get to play this one as they were at
dance class the afternoon I got around to organizing a game.
The game isn’t tied to a specific historical event or
location. It takes place in a non-specified kingdom in which the king has died
leaving no clear heir and the players represent the houses of various noble
families within the kingdom with a claim to the throne – which is something
that happened and we read about. While the Kingdom isn’t named, the map looks
somewhat like Northwestern Europe and has names that sound like they could be
French-ish cities… and the overseas areas you can send troops on crusades to
(Constantinople, Syracuse, Acre, Jerusalem, etc) and place you can send
expeditions to (Ceylon, Spice Islands, China) are all historical locations.
In the game you have to end up controlling half the cities
in the kingdom or have the most Influence points at the end of a set number of
turns or when the influence pool runs out. Influence is gained mainly through
controlling cities, but I have a feeling it could be gained elsewhere (it’s
been a month since we played…). While there is a strong military component –
gathering resources through taxation, building armies and trying to conquer
cities, there is also a strong political element where players vie for various
titles within the realm at the assembly of Barons – where various laws and
titles are voted on by the players, which then have an affect on the game.
Being the head of the Assemble – or the Head of the Church have considerable
Playing out the Hundred Years war with Joan of Arc. The Girl
was France, The Boy played England and I Had Burgundy.
It can be played with up to six with the additional players
being Flanders, Brittany, and Navarre - which would be a really fun game!! The
long game (10 turns) with six players would be an all day event... but it would
be wicked fun!
We played the short game and The Girl utterly crushed us!
She had 31 Pretender Points at the end, The Boy had 30 and I had 20!? I took a
large chunk out of Flanders in the last turn, but there was no way to catch up
to the points The Girl had accumulated throughout the game holding Paris as
long as she did....
Basically worker placement and influence gathering with a
fairly strong 15th century theme... Henry V trying to consolidate power in
England and go fight in France to win back lands lost earlier in the Hundred
I though the game was fun and there were lots of choices and
potential paths to victory. I started out really slow - but gathered up lots of
friendly nobles, built up my knights and castle - all of which counted for HUGE
points in the final tally... though it looked like I was trailing for the
longest time because I wasn't going after quick points for fighting in France.
We also have the Lancaster:
expansion, but haven’ had a chance to play it yet. I’d like
to play just the base game a few more times before adding to it.
This was a fairly complex (but fun!) game of planning,
resource management, influence gathering and area control set during the Wars
of the Roses. So much going on!
Cards were drawn at the beginning of the game to determine
who everyone would be. Amanda and I were Lancasters and the kids ended up being
the Yorks (I think I was King Henry VI and his followers, I forget who everyone
else was... Edwards or Richards, I suppose...). So you kind of end up playing
on a team, but points are tracked individually and there can be only one
Though, technically, a Lancaster was king at the end of the
game in 1500 (Henry Tudor, I guess?), the kids crushed us in the points race -
Finnegan was miles ahead of everyone, Keira also had over 100 points and Amanda
and I were back in the 80-90 range (me, being dead last)!?
There was a clever system of resource allocation - which was
done on an individual player board behind a screen so your foes could not see
what you were up to.
It’s been a couple months since we played it, but I recall
the combat seemed a little deterministic. If I recall correctly it was
basically who ever had the most stuff in the area won. While I despise combat
mechanisms that seem completely random, I do like a bit of chance and
randomness built into a system. There have been plenty of historical examples
of smaller forces beating much larger forces through some combination of good
leadership, guile, bravado, well-drilled troops able to execute precise
maneuvers, and blind, dumb luck!
This was a fun game of building roads and cities and temples
in Peru prior the Spanish invasion. The box description may be a bit off - it
said it should take 1.5-2 hours to play... took us closer to 3.5... I realize
it was our first game and stuff and it takes more time when learning a game...
but after the first round everyone pretty much knew what they were doing and I
can't imagine getting it down 1.5 hours!? It was fun enough to keep us all up
to 11pm to finish it off!
What was really neat was the very same day we were reading
about the Inca, a fellow whose blog I follow posted
about his trip to Ollantaytambo
- which was pretty cool to see! I
never cease to be blown away by the feats of engineering and manpower ancient
In The New Science we played scientists in the 17th Century
competing to gain the most Prestige points to become the first President of the
Royal Society. It's a very strategic game as you have to research and
experiment areas of science to make discoveries - then you need to decide when
to publish - publishing gains you prestige points needed to win the game, but
also makes the information/technology available to other players who can then
use it to further their own endeavors. And if others are researching the same
field they might publish before you and then all that work was for naught as
they get the Prestige Points... I played Gottfried Leibniz, The Girl played
Johannes Kepler, Amanda played Gallileo Galilei, and The Boy played Athanasius
I liked it a lot. Each scientist has three "energy"
points each turn and decides how they want to spend their energy - researching
new areas, experimenting/testing areas already researched, writing up and
publishing findings, gaining influence in four areas (Religion, Government,
Enterprise, and Science - publishing findings for certain things requires some
influence in these areas - for example to publish Heliocentrism you need to
have 3 influence in religion - because otherwise you'll be excommunicated and
forced to recant your findings - like Gallileo was). Moving on to other levels
of research required knowledge of lover levels - either through having
researched and experimented yourself or other people publishing it.
More importantly My partner Amanda - BSc (Honors, biology),
Msc (Toxicology) and a research administrator at the University of Saskatchewan
- liked it and thought it was a fairly accurate representation of how research
The only odd this, historically speaking, is some of the
scientists weren’t actually contemporaries; Galileo Gallilei and Isaac Newton
are two of the scientists that can be played – Isaac Newton was born the same
year that Galileo died!
But it was
a fun game that captured the essence of what was going on and had lots of
things we could discuss – about how the printing press and the ability to
publish findings really made all this scientific advancement possible.
As we’d read about Magellan’s
journey around the world and Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India and the opening of
the East to sea trade I thought this game might fit right in. ostensibly it is
supposed to be a game of up to four rival European trading companies vying to
control the trade in an extended (fictional) archipelago in the Southwest
Pacific. Once I opened it I discovered
it was supposed to be taking place in the 1800s… ah well, it’s a fictional
archipelago – we can just as easily pretend it was taking place in the 16th
century!? The theme was pretty weak and the game really just another fairly
abstract strategy game involving area control through placement of towers
determined by drawn cards… It wasn’t terrible. I didn’t go out and buy this one
specifically for this history program (this was yet another of my $5 ebay finds
from a number of years back which were generally bought with the idea of using
games as part of a future homeschooling plan…).
A medieval-themed game of tile-laying where you build cites
and roads and score points for the completion of said cities and roads. A fun
game and great for developing an ability to see patterns and find the most
optimal use for a tile that you draw on a turn. But of limited history-teaching
In this game players represent
one of our powerful families in late medieval/early renaissance Italy. In our
first game I played the Medicis, The Boy played Gonzaga, and the Girl played
Este (The Visconti are the other option).
Multiple paths to victory –
simply taking tiles and expanding your territory worked out really well for The
Girl gaining her a considerable resource base while the Boy and I were building
armies – though somewhat conservatively and not making much use of them – other
than to hold onto them for defence.
The combat seemed a little deterministic. There was a strict
procedure to follow and you could tell before entering a battle if you would
win by looking at what your opponent had there.
I think the game’s meant to be played considerably more
aggressively than we played it.
This is a quick little card game
where players take in the role of a rich family in a late medieval/early
renaissance (fictional) European city of Tempest (I imagine it in Italy…) vying
for prestige by being the biggest patron of the arts, science, religion, and
exploration… (I like any game where patronizing the arts is a good thing!) I
thought it fit with our medieval/renaissance theme…
The play is a fairly abstract and involves collecting of
little coloured wooden cubes (which represents “accomplishments”) and cards
(which represent “protégés” or fame gained through accomplishments?) which
provide varying amounts of victory points which are tallied at the end of the
game to determine the winner.
The ones we didn’t quite get to…
Lion rampant is a great tactical
miniature game of medieval combat. I had really hoped we’d get in a game or two
while reading about the medieval period. I spent a fair bit of time painting up
forces to use (Here’s one: Under
the Bunny Rampant Banner
) we just didn’t get to sitting down for a
game (for whatever reason…).
We did play the game BEFORE we
started reading about the medieval period – to try it out when I first got it:
Rampant – First Game
. Hopefully we’ll get to playing it again
(Also a new game from the same
author called Dragon
has just been released this week. I pre-oredered it and
expect it should be arriving shortly. It includes fantastical units – orcs,
elves dwarves, dragons, etc.)
It would also have been fun to
get some smaller scale skirmish games in using Song
of Arthur and Merlin
Song of Blades and Heroes
- or larger scale ones using De
, but again… we just didn’t get to it…
Set in 1338, you apparently start out playing peasants and work your way up to being par of a rich trading family. It looked interesting. We sat down to play it one afternoon but didn’t end up having time to play it. We didn’t even end up reading all the rules. It felt very much like they were written in some other language first and maybe something was lost in the translation. I’d like to have a go at it sometime, we just haven’t had a chance yet.
Another game I have that I've wanted to play for some time but we just didn’t get to. It’s a two player
game, so… not so useful when there are three players...
I also would really have liked to find a game about the conquests of the Mongols or one about medieval India...